When the sun set that day, events seemed to take a full one hundred eighty degree turn. In other words, things seemed to go back to normal. Katsumi and Tadashi came downstairs together at around five to start prepping dinner, and they both were acting completely like their usual selves – as if the dream, the wild awakening that morning, hadn’t happened at all. They said nothing about it. I watched as the two of them fluidly moved about the kitchen, bantering and laughing, Katsumi with no trace of the prophecy on his mind and no sign on his face that he had cried. Their abrupt reversion to normalcy was in itself strange, but I accepted it without complaint. Forget my confusion; I was just glad that the earlier tension in the house had disappeared.
I turned on a music program on the TV and lounged on the couch. After exploring the contents of the fridge, Katsumi went out to the garden to pick some vegetables for dinner, and he came back with a feast. Tadashi was obviously delighted. He tied his hair back and the two of them set to work, and I relaxed for the next half hour as delicious aromas began to fill the house.
At some point in the midst of this calm atmosphere, I heard Tadashi suddenly call out my name.
I fumbled for the remote and paused the show. “What?”
“Come here,” he said. “You’re gonna learn how to cook something.”
I yelped. “No!”
“This is easy, promise. Just come here!”
“I’m going to ruin it,” I vowed.
“There’s no way to ruin this,” Tadashi laughed. “Get over here.”
I turned off the TV and reluctantly plodded into the kitchen. Katsumi was busy cutting corn and squash in wildly impressive ways; I looked over at him, wide-eyed, wondering how he managed to not cut his fingers off.
Tadashi pulled me over to the stove and gave me a pot. “Put water in it,” he said. “From the sink. Fill it a little over halfway.”
I filled it up and brought it back over to him.
“Put it on the stove,” he said. “Make sure to center it, okay?”
It turned out that all he wanted me to do was boil some green beans. He’d already cleaned and cut them; he just had me boil them, and that was all. Still, I’d never done it before, and I stood over the pot embarrassed and fuming as I tried to figure out whether or not they were cooked yet. Tadashi stood next to me the whole time, giving basic advice, all the while smiling gently and trying not to laugh.
“See, Chas,” he said when I’d finished, “easy, right?”
“Maybe, but anything harder than this and I’ll ruin it,” I replied adamantly.
Tadashi shook his head. “That’s what everybody thinks about everything they don’t yet know. See, you’re letting me teach you guitar, you’re letting me teach you how to cook – doesn’t it feel good to learn something new? A couple weeks from now you’ll be laughing at how much you underestimated yourself.”
“Boiling green beans isn’t cooking,” I said. “Holding a guitar isn’t playing it.”
“There’s a first time for everyone and everything in this world,” he replied.
I scratched my head. “Maybe, but…”
Katsumi came up from behind and threw his arm around my shoulder, startling me. He looked at the plate of green beans I’d just boiled, and then he looked at Tadashi and threw his head back and laughed.
“You made Chas do it,” Katsumi grinned. “That’s so funny.”
“It’s not funny!” I objected. “Gross, your hands have corn juice all over them, don’t touch my shirt!”
Katsumi ignored me. “You look nice with your hair tied back,” he said to Tadashi.
Tadashi blushed a little. “Thanks.”
“Ahem,” I interrupted, “can I go back to my show now?”
I managed to escape back to the living room, but before long, it was dinner time. As usual, we all moved out to the porch to enjoy the meal. Tadashi loaded my plate with the green beans I’d cooked, accompanied by a dipping sauce he had made, and I enjoyed them thoroughly.
“Aren’t you proud you made something that tastes good?” Tadashi prodded me from across the table.
“A little,” I admitted. “But it’s mostly your sauce that’s good.”
“It needs more salt,” Katsumi cut in.
I laughed at hearing his typical complaint. Yes, I thought, he’s gone back to normal.
After we finished dinner, Tadashi surprisingly brought out a couple of cases of beer.
“We bought it at the market the other day,” he explained. “Do you drink?”
“Not really. I’ll just have a little.”
He poured me some, and then filled a glass for himself and sat back down.
“None for you?” I asked Katsumi.
He shook his head slowly. “No.”
“Katsu drinks alone,” Tadashi explained to me.
He leaned back and started to drink, and the three of us sat around the table in a soft companionable silence, watching the sun dissolve over the trees.
I’d never gone drinking with Tadashi before, so I had no idea how he might react to alcohol. Everyone reacts differently, I knew – some people get crazy, some people fall asleep, and so on. It turned out that Tadashi was a silent but very happy drunk. As the evening wore on and he kept pouring himself more glasses, he spoke less and less, but he couldn’t hide the flushed smile on his face. I watched him a bit warily out of the corner of my eye, surprised at this new side of him that I hadn’t seen before. The feeling of normalcy surrounding dinner had left me.
At some point, as the world around us fell into a deep, glowing darkness, Katsumi struck up a conversation.
“He gets a bit wild sometimes,” he said to me, nodding at Tadashi sitting between us. The person in question didn’t seem to hear a word he’d said, still just smiling absently off into the night.
“Drinking?” I asked.
“Yeah. He doesn’t drink often, but when he does, he drinks a lot. And he gets ridiculously happy. He does it to get happy, I think. To momentarily push away the sadness.”
I nodded. “A lot of people do that.”
“It’s no good,” Katsumi said. “But we all need something like this once in a while.”
“Are you going to let him just keep drinking?”
He shook his head. “At some point, he’ll get really crazy happy and start acting up. After that he’ll throw up and pass out. Happens every time.”
It didn’t take much longer to reach that peak. While I was talking with Katsumi about something or other, Tadashi suddenly started trying to kiss him. Katsumi laughed and pushed him away a few times, but after a minute or so he gave in, leaned over, and kissed him back. I blushed and looked away in amusement. Not long after, true to Katsumi’s word, Tadashi looked like he was starting to get nauseous.
“Take him upstairs, would you?” Katsumi asked me. “I want to stay out here a bit longer.”
I helped my ridiculously drunken friend to the second floor bathroom, cleaned him up, and got him to bed.
Afterwards, I thought I might go out to the porch again, but as I entered the kitchen I saw outside Katsumi’s lone figure and something inside me paused. I stared at Katsumi’s back and bit my lip, wondering. He was, for the first time all night, partaking in the beer Tadashi had left out on the table. I watched him drink for a moment, nodded silently to myself, and turned around.
After everything that had happened that day, it was no surprise he wanted to be alone.