As the car hurtles down winding roads, I stick my head out the open window to take a breath of the crisp mountain air. I feel like I might throw up. “Don’t you think we should slow down?” I yell out hopefully, but there’s no response from the front. I’m beginning to regret accepting Katsumi’s invitation to ride in his car.
The rock walls on either side of us begin to narrow with dizzying speed. I sit back properly and stare at the back of Katsumi’s head; even from the rear, he gives off a strange aura of determination. His hands are tight on the steering wheel, and I know his foot is pressed just as firmly on the gas pedal. Sitting beside him in the passenger seat, Tadashi gazes calmly out the window with a vacant but thoughtful air.
Katsumi brakes hard, throwing us all forward, and makes a sharp turn. I cover my ears, wincing at the sound of his skillful death-defying flair. Thankfully, the road soon begins to straighten out, and a guardrail appears where the rock wall breaks away to our left. Tadashi glances over his shoulder, as if to check that I’m okay. He gives me a relaxed smile, brushes some of his incredibly long blond hair out of his face, and turns toward Katsumi.
“Katsu, let’s take a break, okay?”
“Okay.” Our driver gives a slightly disappointed sigh and begins to slow down. My sigh, in contrast, is one of delirious relief.
Some ten seconds later, Katsumi pulls over at the side of the road. He gets out immediately and wanders off to find a private place to release his bladder. I take my time escaping the car, moving slowly so as to make sure I won’t actually throw up.
Once I get out, I see Tadashi a few feet away, leaning against the roadside guardrail. I join him, taking deep breaths. He shyly offers me a cigarette, but I decline, and he chooses not to light up either.
“I don’t know how you can do it,” I say after a moment. “He’s crazy.”
“He is,” Tadashi admits. “He has a death wish. But this kind of thing is good for him, you know? Going for a ride lets him clear his head, release his aggression, satisfy his fantasies. If he didn’t do this, he’d probably be dead already.”
I shake my head. “Honestly… you really go with him every time?”
He smiles a little and nods. “Every time.”
“Aren’t you afraid he’s going to kill you?”
“Yeah, I’ve thought about that. But whenever I start feeling afraid I just think, if I’m going to die, at least I’ll die with him. You know? It’s better that way for both of us. Besides, I think he needs me. He can’t do this kind of thing alone.”
“That’s kind of messed up,” I say.
Tadashi smiles again. “We’re both pretty messed up people.”
“No, you’re pretty normal, it’s Katsumi who’s crazy… Anyway. I forgot to tell you this earlier, but I really like your hair.”
He brightens. “Thanks! I do too!”
“It’s so long.” I laugh and reach out to touch it; the longest locks come down to the middle of his chest.
“It is long,” he agrees affectionately, “And I’m not planning to cut it anytime soon. I like it this way.”
Katsumi comes back to us asking for a cigarette. Tadashi offers him one and lights it for him, and he wanders off in the opposite direction to take a smoke. Strangely enough, he’s the type who needs to smoke alone… and now that I think about it, he’s also a solitary drinker. I wonder about that for a silent minute.
“See, he needs this kind of thing,” Tadashi says.
“Yeah. I know what you mean. His eyes aren’t so wild anymore. Wait till we get back in the car, though…”
“It’s okay, Haku, I’ll tell him we should turn back and head home. You seem like you’ve had enough excitement for one night.”
“Thanks for your consideration,” I say. That’s Tadashi – always looking out for those around him, the epitome of kindness and compassion. I always wonder how he and Katsumi ended up so close, seeing as how they’re so different from each other. But then, maybe they aren’t so different after all…
“You should consider it a pretty big honor, getting to go for a ride with him,” Tadashi comments. Then he sees the look on my face and laughs quietly. “It means he’s willing to die with you. That says a lot.”
“Maybe I’m not willing to die with him,” I suggest.
He shrugs. “For Katsumi, that’s besides the point.”
I think about that for a while. “Say, can I ask you something?”
“It might be kind of rude, but I’ve been thinking this for a long time now…”
Tadashi nods encouragingly.
“Are you in love with him?” I ask quickly. Embarrassed, I keep my eyes locked onto his, searching for any hint that he’d taken offense, but there’s none to be found.
Instead, he looks at me with surprise and gives his usual gentle laugh. “What kind of question is that?”
Before either of us can clarify, Katsumi is back. He looks at us, says, “What’re you waiting for?” and gets back in the car. Tadashi follows him, glancing over at me with amusement.
“Katsu, I think we should head home…”
After a minute I too return to my seat. Part of me is terribly unwilling to do so, but Tadashi and Katsumi both deliver – the car turns around. I say a silent thank you and do my best to enjoy the rest of the night, thinking about what Tadashi had said to me.
Maybe I should be willing to die with these two…