Epilogue (Part V)

Previous: Part IV


V.

“The earth is on fire” used to be a metaphor.

Something to dramatize, to clarify, something to make things real in the way we understand realness. Now, it’s just truth. Now, the forests burn, the fields burn, the books burn, the waters boil and the plants die and the heat chokes up our perfect, invincible, powerful bodies and there’s no going back.

There’s no going back.

There’s slowing, and there’s adapting, if we care enough to do that. But the fire is here to stay.

“Metaphorically speaking,” you prompt hesitantly. And my first response is to laugh.

“You’re a writer,” I say. “So you tell me.”


Next: …

『because we will meet again』


rainy season memories

alone on this night
rainy season memories
return to haunt me;
though we cannot see the stars,
their light shines through the downpour.


i see the light

i see the light
reflecting off a strand of silk that dances
but is still anchored, dances
but is still strong
and i close my eyes
afraid to look out the window at night because i don’t
know who will be there
waiting
or watching

i toss and i turn but it’s not the crickets that keep me
and your desperate words come and i call
and your voice
raw and breaking like i’ve never heard
painful and low because you didn’t know who else to talk to,
you’re sorry
but i’m not
i was never sorry

and i hit pause when you’re in the water
pause to stare at that stupid beautiful tattoo
branding it into my memory, it
means something to me
but i don’t know what
and we write and we write and we talk
until the last thing you write, those silent words
‘you mean the world to me’
and i have to swallow my heart again


anesthetized

shaking
to the point where i feel nothing
though others say it’s rolling like a boat, i
i just hear the demons
they’re banging on my bedroom door now
and i’m numb
hollow

part of me wants to invite them in, but i
can’t find my feet in the night
awake at 4am, my soul is wandering
ungrounded
homeless
i can’t feel pain and i’m not afraid
but this is when we are most vulnerable
you know

and in the end our souls alight
although the demons always visit twice
and you return me
to our shared dreamscape and we sleep
filling our voids with each other
and learning
to feel pain again


typhoon and aftermath

heat
as from a hair dryer,
filling the room
like steam I cannot see,
the warm cloud of your breath
expanding between us
enveloping
disguising
the morning fog rolls in around us
and your feet kick up the dust
and i follow
without seeing, i follow

the ocean throws up a mist
a salty spray that lingers on my tongue
and as it begins to rage, the fire comes
all sparks and embers and smoke-induced tears
and i think of you,
though no one would understand why

the stardust in the sea still glitters,
a reflection of the universe in your heart
and the flames lick at the shoreline and i,
i do not know what the waves are made of anymore
i do not know what i am made of anymore

i must be dreaming, i think
this scene is too fantastical
if i survive, it will become a nightmare
but you will be in it,
so i think i will not mind

i lay in my bed finding the empty space beside me
and the heat fills it, the waves wash in to fill it
unseeing
undreaming
phantom earthquakes tighten me like a screw
but at least they do not hurt, for the waves
the unknown waves soothe my scars
and reflect your eyes into mine

and i drift off to sleep, determined to dream
even if it will be another nightmare this time


Painting Dreams and Nightmares

dreaming unexpectedly,
her tears fall into the sand
thick ropes weave between our feet
as we walk into a foreign land

on fire, all of us and them
but together we still see
together we still see our dreams
and make them reality

she paints with the fibers of a noose
illustrating her nightmares from inside
and still we walk through the door to love her
so that we can say we tried

where we’re going, I won’t know
until I sleep tonight
but until I close my eyes this time
again I’ll hold you tight

until I close my eyes this time,
again I’ll hold you tight…


angels and demons, and goddesses

dripping just like blood,
the rain off her umbrella —
she speaks, and I dream;
if such a goddess exists,
why must she come to haunt me?


night visitors

sleep
like a night visitor,
a foreign stranger
who never planned to stay…

it was never meant to be this way.

i lay awake, trapped in dreams
and beside me you’re still feverish
you ask me if it’s night or day, and i say both
but it’s neither.
unsatisfied, you close your eyes
and something in me just can’t look away.

we spend our moments standing on a bridge
together wondering if we should burn it
“maybe this way we won’t have to choose…”
but the choice was already made for us
and we were too late to see it.

don’t tell me i’m naive.

if it must work out by the end i’ll make it work
but for now, we’re locked in separate dreams
hovering in the same space, our hands
just out of reach of our bodies
and our eyes
your eyes
glistening like stars in the night.


nothing else

with no other choice
I embrace your darkened form
in the strongest rain;
for you and for everyone,
there is nothing else but love.


black and blue

glowing black and blue, the quiet night
and a beaten man is sprawling on the floor
from his back he gazes at the stars
and we gaze back at him, silent and torn

there truly could have been another way

he dreams of you and I watch him
knowing how much it would mean to hear your voice
but on this night you cannot speak
and I cannot speak for you, though I cry

he reaches toward us with his open hand
and we know he wants to join us
but you can’t bear to pull him to his feet
and we watch as he stands up alone

and we watch as he stands up alone —

because he needs to live another day


because we will meet again

laying here beside you,
and afraid to say goodbye
the sun burns itself out,
reflected in my eyes
if only there could have been another time
the world revolves around us still
and everything just comes and goes
like waves crashing on the shore, we rise to die, and I
I’m not afraid
because if our universe returns to the beginning again,
then we are nothing more than immortal

your voice echoes in the night
compounded by your pain, but it’s alright
we both believe that it’s alright
even the fall of a great star is beautiful,
and gives life to those who see it
and the day must break again,
you call my name and bring tears to my eyes
summon me, wingless, to the sky
we knew our lives were a mockery, a chase played out in reverse
so we broke it like a mirror and made our own game out of glass
even the shattered fragments driven deep into our skin came alive
we did our best to live, that time

and now new times are coming,
they will always come
we put our foreheads together and close our eyes
and as the shooting stars sing their songs, we cry
out of fear but unafraid
because there was never anything to be afraid of but ourselves
so I whisper my farewells without regret
and you hold onto your reply, waiting
for our next chance to speak and hear, waiting
for our next chance to no longer be alone, waiting
for our next chance to rise.


Epilogue (Part IV)

Previous: Part III


IV.

You want to tell your grandchildren that you did your best one day – well, have you? “It’s not about you, it’s about us…” This isn’t a relationship. It’s abuse.

You try, I know. But it’s hard for you to understand that simple fact, the simple state of things, because you’re the one in power. You get to choose what you see and don’t see, what you do and don’t do. You get to decide who lives and who dies. And we don’t. With one flick of a brush you unknowingly consign hundreds, thousands, to their deaths before they even lived, before they even got to view this insane, beautiful world with their own eyes, and meanwhile you can’t stop talking about how much you value human life as if the two questions are not the same, as if the answer is not the same. The courts of the world to come will lock you up for child abuse and murder, and you’ll still be as confused as ever. That’s not me, you say before your ancestors. I didn’t abuse my children. I didn’t kill anyone. But you already have.

We are all perpetrators. If I repeat myself ten years from now, will you then understand?

If the words spill out of the mouth of your beloved grandchild, will you then understand?


Next: Part V

Epilogue (Part III)

Previous: Part II


III.

I know what you’re doing.

I know what you’re doing, and I need you to stop. We need you to stop. I see you scripting your self-fulfilling prophecies and pasting them on the wall, both of us watching as they burn slowly and fill your room with ash. I see you waking up every morning to your own new version of prison, of hell, and you’re like a writer resigned to death row, asking for the pages upon which you sign not your admission of guilt, not your embarrassed apology, not even your suicide note – you just ask to sign your last goodbye. I want to speak to you, to show you that this works, to show you that it can be done and that even if it can’t we have to try, but you won’t see me. You have the right, you say. To not see me.

Well, fine. You have the right to not see me. And you have the right to die. But you don’t have the right to drag me down with you.

Open your eyes and start trying. I still believe in you – even if you don’t.


Next: Part IV

Epilogue (Part II)

Previous: Part I


I don’t know how to talk to you.

I don’t know how but I know that I need to. There is no other way. But when we face each other I can’t figure out how to speak without hurting, how to listen without hurting. I’m afraid – for you, and for me. Listen, you whisper, and I stop listening because I don’t want to hurt, I start speaking because I don’t want to hurt, and you gaze at me with dull, empty eyes. Waiting. Watching.

You listen to me, I say, what’s wrong with you? After all these years you still can’t get it through your thick skull that the sun does not rise for you, that the stars do not shine for you, that this world you live in was never yours. You didn’t create it yet you’re arrogant enough to end it – how stuck-up and entitled can you be? You can’t understand that we are all one, that borders are our failure and our lasting legacy is shame, that hatred is a construct you embraced just to make the story more exciting because all you want is action, all you ever cared for is entertainment, you hold onto your power and pleasure with your dying hands and even the screams of your children won’t convince you to let go.

Maybe I’m the arrogant one. Thinking that I can succeed where your children have failed is absurd. I stop abruptly and you still stare at me in silence, unmoving, unreadable. And behind you the wildfires rage and the books burn and I wish, I just wish you would just turn around to see it but you don’t.

Well go on then, I say. Your turn. Write the next page – pick up your pen and write.

I dare you.


Next: Part III

Epilogue (Part I)

As the human story is being scrawled on the wall by empty, desperate hands I reach for you. Because it’s not too late but it’s also not forever. We write until our hands bleed, until our pencils and pens and paint run out, until our wasted ink pools at our feet like blood. This is it, you say. And I can’t help but laugh.

We’re fools if we think we won’t be stopped. In the realm of eternal life, there is no room for writers.

Still, you keep turning the pages like a reader enraptured by the book, lapping up every word, excited for the next chapter that isn’t there. You shoulder the sky and write your own, urging the story forward precisely when it doesn’t want to, and before you know it you’re writing your own epilogue. Our epilogue. You look back at what you’ve created and only now do you realize: this isn’t a drama. It’s not a fantasy, it’s not a thriller, it’s not even a crime novel. It’s just an utterly predictable tragedy.

“I didn’t mean to,” you say. Well, you wrote it. And you of all people know that stories can’t be taken back.


Next: Part II

Chasing Life With You (Chapter 18)


Standing alone on the porch, I gazed out at the trees and the lake beyond. The waters were calm as usual, and the sun was just beginning to set, lighting the glittering surface on fire. Above, birds chirped and sang rhythmically. I drank in the peaceful scene.

The flow of time that summer had been intense – so much had happened. But every second had been worth it. I knew that now. There was still much more ahead, but I had learned the value of taking stock, of turning away from the future to enjoy the present and the past – and right now, there were much more important things on my mind. It was pointless to wonder what might happen next; time would not stop for me.

That being said, at the end of the month, I was planning to go home. Summer wouldn’t last, and besides, I had things to take care of. Re-evaluating my life, for one. Reconnecting with old friends. Learning to cook. Saving up for a guitar. For once, I had plans, actual plans – things I wanted to do, places I wanted to go, people I wanted to see – and not before it’s too late, but because they were long overdue. There was something new I was chasing now, and I refused to be stopped. For the first time in a long while, I was feeling inspired by an image of myself – and there was no one to ride that momentum forward but me.

Someone called my name from inside the house, bringing me out of my peaceful thoughts. Sighing lightly, I gave the lake a bit of a lingering glance. Part of me wanted to hike down to the shoreline – but now was not the time. I turned around and went into the kitchen.

Katsumi was sitting on the living room couch, one of his acoustics resting on his thigh. Tadashi was seated across from him. It was a full week since he’d returned home from the hospital, and he was feeling up to singing again. He looked up as I walked over and gave me a slow, gentle smile.

“Where’s Aliyah?” Katsumi asked, looking around.

“Hold on, I’m coming,” her voice called.

Footsteps pounded down the stairs, and then Aliyah joined us in the living room. She waved her phone at Tadashi, displaying a digital calendar. “I just called. You have therapy tomorrow, but I have a company meeting, so I can’t take you.”

“Thanks,” Tadashi replied softly. “Katsu will take me.”

Katsumi grinned. “Anyway, sit down. We’re ready to start.”

“Oh, okay.” She came over to sit beside me.

With little hesitation, Tadashi tapped out a slow beat and started to play. After a moment Katsumi joined in. I watched and listened as they began to sing, a combination of music and voices that I hadn’t heard in a long time, and I couldn’t help but smile.

What a wonderful thing, I thought to myself. I’m glad it’s not over yet.

It’s not over yet…

At least, they weren’t. And neither was I.


『Best Tanka Collection ~Season of Change~ 』


painted dreams

color-changing leaves,
painting now my destiny –
the wry smile I show;
my internal haunting, now
self-fulfilling prophecy.


beating memories

at that sandy shore
where I left my soul behind –
time has come and gone;
the season’s hesitation
like the clock within my heart.


痛みの夢

stardust in the sea
wash across nocturnal eyes –
is there beauty still?
living within a lie, this
inescapable torment.


dimensions of love

dimensions of love –
side-by-side to sleep or wake,
we gaze at our skies;
like incandescent feathers,
your heart-shattering presence.


永遠の歌

永遠へ
雷の音
すぐ帰る
その瞬間に
君だけ想い。

the sound of thunder
ever swiftly returning
to eternity;
in that single instant I
I can only think of you.


and you looked into my eyes

bracing autumn winds —
as if we were, I smiled,
trying not to cry;
and you looked into my eyes
and you told me to let go.


As If “You And I”

like the shifting sand
the time blurs into my eyes —
as if “you and I”…
chasing our reality,
in this world we make our own.


condemned

waiting for this lie
to self-destruct and vanish
like a falling star;
condemned for eternity,
I forever watch this path.


Chasing Eternity

working day and night
for a future I can’t see —
leaf-blown fantasy;
still chasing the horizon
that will never end for me.


pilgrimage

a long journey’s end —
collapsing beneath the stars,
that light which guides me;
to the warmth of one’s own home,
finally able to rest.


begging, drowning

gasping for our breaths,
we’re drowning in this ocean —
of tears, of silence;
begging for another chance
that is not our chance to give.


waiting for another world

grasping at straws, I’m
waiting for another world –
hoping, then falling;
as the seasons turn the tides
within the fire in my heart.


burning borders

burning, falling trees
that exist just here and now –
is it then my time?
to move from zero to ten,
to grasp this, our world, anew?


blurring edges

anticipation
of the slowly rising sun —
dreamy summer days;
closing my eyes and praying
for the seasons to return.


breathless

the air in my chest
caught between rhythms of death
like the halting wind;
chasing after my own dreams —
at least, that’s what I believed.


separation

we knew it would come
but we thought we had more time –
so goes history;
now, in our separate lives
we reach out for what we’ve lost.


(wild)fire

as the dark ash blows
and her eyes begin to close —
how can we still love?
even in times such as these,
even in this cursed place?


rebirth

seeing your shadow
is like a dream to me now —
a misty autumn;
who would have thought, after all,
that you would now live again?


contentment

falling one by one
we are embraced by the waves
that first gave us life;
without feeling abandoned
we walk homeless and alone.


synesthesia

wandering alone
in the moment the rain stops
the beautiful sky;
brought to life by your music,
the scene that haunts me tonight.


Chasing Life With You (Chapter 17)


We returned to the room together in a soft silence. Aliyah was sitting in the corner, doing work on her laptop. She looked up as we entered.

“Katsumi,” she said. “One of my acoustics is in the car. While you were gone I asked the nurse if it’s okay. She says no singing and no amplifying, but otherwise, if you want to play…”

He stared at her for a second, completely expressionless. “Oh… alright. Thank you.”

Aliyah moved to get up, but Katsumi raised his hand slightly to stop her. “Give me your keys and I’ll go get it,” he offered. He took the keys from her and vanished out the door without giving me a second glance.

Aliyah looked at me. “You two were gone for a while,” she said.

I sighed and went to sit next to her. “Yes.”

“Did something happen?”

“Yes. He cried, and then so did I.”

She nodded. “It’s hard.”

Is it hard? For you?”

I didn’t mean to be rude, even though the question apparently came out that way. But Aliyah didn’t seem to mind.

“Tadashi and I are good friends,” she said. “I don’t think it’s hit me yet. I’m trying not to think about it.”

“How long have you known him?”

“I met him a few months before he and Katsumi signed with my company. I was at a small local concert – just for personal pleasure, I wasn’t scouting or anything – and the two of them were one of the opening acts. Afterward, I bumped into Tadashi in the back parking lot. Katsumi had gone to speak with the stage manager, and Tadashi was by himself moving all their equipment out. I offered to give him a hand, and in exchange he tried to buy me a drink. At first I thought he was hitting on me, so I said no – I’m not interested. But eventually I realized he was just genuinely trying to be friendly and repay the favor. He gave me his phone number and we ended up meeting for coffee the next day. We started talking and became fast friends… He’s done a lot for me since then.”

I nodded. “He’s done a lot for me, too.”

Aliyah smiled. “It’s easy to be friends with Tadashi, I think. Show that you’re good-hearted, and he’ll move mountains for you. Katsumi is the same way, but he’s so much harder to get to know.”

“Tell me about yourself,” I said after a moment. “I know you’re their manager, but that’s all…”

She laughed. “What do you want to know? I’m in artist management. Spend a lot of time traveling. When I’m not, I live alone, the next town over. Unmarried, unattached. Used to have a cat. Dropped out of college to try to make it in the backstage of the music industry. My favorite color is purple. I don’t like tacos. My sister’s a hotshot lawyer, and I’m deathly afraid of heights. I had a concussion when I was 14 and lost my sense of smell. Movies can’t make me cry, but I can force my own tears in seconds. I don’t know, I’m running out of facts – is that enough for you?”

I was impressed. “How do you do that? If somebody asked me about myself, I could probably only come up with one or two things.”

“It just depends on how fast your brain works, and how well you interact with people. My mind runs like a professional sprinter. Focus on a topic and it’ll run itself to exhaustion – so to keep from getting exhausted, it jumps from one topic to the next, constantly. It’s how I distract myself from situations like this.” Aliyah waved her hands around at the hospital room. “Just don’t think about it. Think about something else. Do work.”

I contemplated this for a while. “Well,” I said slowly, turning to glance at Tadashi in the bed, “I can’t think of a good metaphor for my brain, but I just know that I’m not like that. I can’t just stop thinking about something. Earlier… I couldn’t stop thinking about what this whole situation would be like if Tadashi hadn’t called me here.”

She asked what I meant by that, and I explained the story of how this summer had come to be. “What if he hadn’t called me and made that offer?” I said. “I wouldn’t be sitting here in this hospital right now. I wouldn’t even know that anything had happened to him. If something… if something’s wrong with him, if he dies, or even if it wasn’t like this at all, but he got into a car accident… I would never know. Isn’t that… strange?”

Aliyah listened with care. “I don’t think it’s strange,” she said, “but it is hard to bear. People generally like to feel in control, but we intentionally forget that there are so many things we have absolutely no control over. Like injury, like illness, like death. That’s just how it is.”

Katsumi returned at that point, interrupting a conversation that had taken a sudden philosophical turn. He walked in with the guitar slung over his shoulder and a soft, sensitive look on his face.

“Welcome back,” I said.

“Thanks,” he said in reply. “I don’t know what I should play…”

“Play one of your songs,” Aliyah suggested. “Maybe he’ll wake up.”

Katsumi found a chair, pulled it up to Tadashi’s bed, and sat down with the instrument on his knees. It was a left-handed guitar, I noticed – which meant that Aliyah was probably left-handed, too. Not that it mattered. It’s funny, the mundane things that the mind latches onto to ground itself. I watched as Katsumi closed his eyes in thoughtful concentration.

“Okay,” he said after a moment. “Here I go…”

He started to play, slowly and quietly at first. The song was familiar – something off their first album, I thought, though I couldn’t remember the name of it. Katsumi bent slightly over the guitar, focused, his fingers starting to fly, and something about the scene nearly brought tears to my eyes.

Playing alone, voiceless, in a hospital room of all places, with Tadashi unconscious in the bed beside him, Katsumi didn’t look wild or crazy at all. He just looked forlorn.

Next to me, Aliyah started to cry. I put a hand on her shoulder. I empathized, but I was all cried out, and Katsumi was too. I stared at him as he played with hard eyes – Katsumi, the cross-handed black-haired musician, inseparable with the idea of Tadashi, with the idea of music, the man who allowed himself to feel everything

This is what this summer comes down to, I thought. This is what I came for, and this is what I’ll take away.


Midway through his fourth song, Katsumi abruptly stopped playing. Aliyah and I raised our heads to look at him, surprised. He gazed back at us with a tortured expression.

“We’re supposed to play this part in unison…”

“You can play something else,” I suggested softly.

Katsumi shook his head. “No… no more. I’m done.”


Chasing Life With You (Chapter 16)


Sometime in the late afternoon, their manager arrived at the hospital.

Her name was Aliyah. She was tall and broad-shouldered, athletic-looking, with dark blue-rimmed glasses and a tan messenger bag at her side. Her hair was black like Katsumi’s but slightly curly; she wore an off-white, generic brand-name T-shirt and jeans, and I caught an initial glimpse of a tattoo climbing up the back of her neck. She entered the room in a rush, halted almost immediately, and stared at Tadashi for a moment in the same exact way I had.

“Aliyah,” Katsumi said, getting up from his seat.

“Katsumi,” she replied. Her voice was low and hesitant, strained. “Are you okay?”

“No.” Katsu pointed to me. “This is Chas.”

We shook hands. The introductory small talk came and went with no one really paying attention to it. I remembered the plans I had made, to call Aliyah and ask her for permission to write publicly and properly about Katsumi’s and Tadashi’s music. None of that matters now, I thought. Not anymore… not until this is over.

“Sit down,” Katsumi invited. “You got here so quickly…”

“Naturally,” Aliyah said. She glanced over at Tadashi, then at me, then back to Katsumi. “How long has he been out?”

“Since this morning. Around 7:30.”

“And they don’t know why.”

“Not really, no.”

“At least it doesn’t look like he’s hurting,” I commented slowly.

Aliyah looked at me. “You’re Tadashi’s friend from back in middle school? Cheng-han, right?”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“He’s told me about you before.”

I was surprised. “Really?”

“Yeah. If he talks about his childhood, he talks about you. Inevitably.”

“Oh.”

“I heard you’re a freelance writer.”

“Before… I was going to ask you if I could write about them and their music.”

Aliyah nodded. “When this is over, we’ll talk.”

“He’s a good writer,” Katsumi cut in.

I looked at him, startled. “What?”

“Chas is a good writer,” he restated simply.

“When have you ever read my writing?”

“We looked you up once. Me and Tama. It wasn’t so long ago.”

I considered that for a moment. “It’s kind of weird knowing that anybody can just look me up on the internet and read everything I’ve ever written… I hadn’t really thought about that until now.”

“Anyway,” Katsumi said, “Chas is a good writer and a good person, so you should let him write about us. That’s my two cents.”

Aliyah smiled. “You, on the other hand, can’t write for your life.”

Katsumi flushed at her teasing. “Hey! It’s not essays or newspaper articles, but I write great songs. I write music.” He started to go on, stopped himself, and deflated slightly. “…Tama’s the one who can’t write anything at all.”

In an instant he looked like he was about to cry again. Aliyah and I glanced at each other, both of us wondering what we should do, what we should say, but luckily, the problem was solved for us. Katsumi stood up abruptly and started heading for the door.

“I’m going for a smoke,” he announced.

“Okay,” Aliyah said. “I’ll stay here with him…”

Katsumi paused in the doorway and turned to look at me. “Chas. You coming?”

I choked down my surprise. “Yeah. Sure. Let’s go.”


The two of us found an empty bench in a park area across the street from the hospital. Katsumi passed me a cigarette, and we lit up and stood around smoking.

“I shouldn’t smoke,” Katsumi said after a long while. “It’s not good for the environment, and it’s not good for my voice.”

I made a small sound of acknowledgement. “So… you wrote all of your songs?”

“Yeah…” He sighed. “All the lyrics, almost all the music. You hear me say that, it sounds like Tama’s pretty useless.”

“…But you can’t do any of it without him.”

He swung to meet my gaze, his eyes bright and full. “No. I never could.”

We tapped out and discarded our cigarettes. Listening to short bird calls and the dull roar of city traffic, I thought quietly for a while. Both of us knew we should probably go back, but there was something I had to say, and Katsumi seemed to recognize that. He waited.

“You know, Katsumi…” I began. “I was mistaken about you.”

“How so?”

“I thought you were crazy. I thought you were so hard to figure out, so wild and complicated. I made up all of these explanations in my head, and all these ideas and metaphors for how to understand your personality – but they were all wrong. I see that now. You aren’t hard to figure out at all.”

Katsumi considered this. “Well, if you think so…”

I pushed on. “Over the past couple days, everything suddenly started to make sense to me. You aren’t complicated. You’re the exact opposite of complicated. You let yourself feel… everything. You think and feel and react genuinely to everything, and you don’t hold back. If you’re angry, you let yourself be angry. If you’re sad, you let yourself cry. If you’re not okay, you say that you’re not okay. It doesn’t matter where you are or who you’re with. You’re just you – always you – and that’s how you live. It’s not how most people live, which is why for the longest time I thought you were just unstable and crazy, but that doesn’t matter. It’s how you live, and that’s the bottom line, isn’t it?”

Gazing thoughtfully at the ground between us, he answered slowly, “…That’s right, Chas. That’s the bottom line.”

“Tell me something, Katsu. That day, a week or two ago, when you woke up screaming… what was your dream about?”

He looked at me with slight, wary surprise. “Why?”

I waved my hand to indicate the hospital. “It was this, wasn’t it? You dreamed about Tadashi?”

For a long moment he did not answer. I watched him, intent but at the same time uncertain if my intuition was correct.

“No,” he said at last. “No, the dream wasn’t about this… but it might as well have been.”

Before I knew it Katsumi was in my arms and crying, and as I embraced him fiercely I felt tears on my own face and I closed my eyes.