Chapter 6: Side Profiles and Irises (6)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
It was a night on the weekend, and crowds of people swarmed all around Shinjuku. Shin was still not used to the crazy population density of Tokyo. The theater was right by the ticket gates after exiting the station. It was the only place they could meet, and an endless sea of people extended as far as the eye could see. Shin arrived five minutes ahead of their meeting time as he looked around and felt someone tap him on the shoulder.
“Hey, how’s it going, Nacchan?”
Shin couldn’t react for a moment because Tatsuki was wearing a baseball cap and a pair of acrylic-framed glasses. Just like a celebrity under cover—… He sort of was one already, come to think of it. Shin saw him five days a week, making the rarity of his appearance nonexistent, and so it really numbed his senses.
“It’s me, it’s me.” Tatsuki playfully pointed to the tip of his nose. “I got into a bit of an accident. Can you wire me some money?”1
His voice was loud as usual. Didn’t it reduce the effectiveness of his disguise if he opened his mouth like he usually did?
“Why ya tryin’ to scam me the second ya see me?”
“Because you gave me a look like ‘Who are you?’”
“I was just a bit surprised. I never thought ya’d care about these things off work.”
“I wouldn’t do it if it were just me, but don’t you hate getting attention, Nacchan?”
So it was for me? Shin thought. He wished he could have said, Thanks, right after, but his thought pattern got caught up between the questions Should I thank him? Or not? and he missed his timing.
“Plus, it’d be rude to the comedians if people start noticing me inside the theater.”
“Oh, is that so.”
But he could say things like this without thinking.
“Alright, let’s go inside~”
Tatsuki took Shin’s hand extremely naturally and pulled him along. Obviously, he was only doing this because the place was so packed with people, but it surprised Shin to have a man hold his hand without any hesitation, and he had to shake Tatsuki’s hand off.
Tatsuki turned around to look at him with a puzzled stare.
“Sorry… My hands are sweaty.”
“Huh? It’s fine, it’s not a big deal.”
Tatsuki didn’t sound like he was just saying it to be polite—that he really thought that it was fine. Maybe Shin was making too big a fuss over it, but it moved him a little to hear Tatsuki say that. Yes, there were times when Shin would recoil from the outsized directness in his words, but Tatsuki wouldn’t lie about something stupid to maintain appearances for a superficial relationship. Shin thought that maybe people liked Tatsuki so much because they could trust his honesty. Shin was happy to be treated so nicely, but it also weighed on him a little. Because it meant he had to accept a piece of the person’s heart. But the broadness of Tatsuki’s heart also made him comfortable.
“Anyway, I’m the one holdin’ the tickets! Why ya takin’ the lead here?”
“Oh, you’re right.”
They took their seats in the back row reserved for staff and their guests and waited for the curtains to rise as they sipped the cans of beer they bought from the concession stand.
“Huh? I thought you couldn’t drink, Nacchan.”
“It’s just somethin’ I say because I usually got stuff to do or I’m called in for work.”
The seats gradually filled. The theater made their pre-show announcements over the speakers, and Shin could feel the noise and the excitement for the show swelling in tandem. Little by little, the barometer climbed upwards.
“Thank ya,” Shin whispered, the bitter bubbles moistening his lips.
“For Motor Coil.”
“Oh, it’s fine. I had a lot of fun having them around. …And I learned something too.”
“Huh? Ya gonna be a comedian?”
“Hmm, I know an announcer who’d be better at it than me~ Though he’d never do it~!”
There were no blinding studio lights here to drive away the shadow and haze. The profile of Tatsuki smiling somehow looked more mature than usual in the dimness of the theater. He had his eyes trained on the curtains on stage.
“They told me that standing up there scared them so much they could die.”
“I can see why. Oh, I heard that ya dun get nervous at all.”
“Yeah, I’m a nerves virgin.”
“Dun say it like that. Is it ’cause ya think ya ain’t failin’?” Shin asked. “’Cause ya never had setbacks in your life?”
“There’s no one who’s never faced setbacks in their life. Do I really look that full of confidence to you?”
“Ya look like ya sail through life.”
It sounded similar enough though.
“Not really… If I mess up, it’s not like it’ll kill me. I’m an announcer, not a bomb squad member.”
“An’ I wouldn’t want ya on a bomb squad either… So what did ya learn?”
“That I don’t know what it means to be so scared you could die.”
Tatsuki turned abruptly to look at Shin. It was dark, but somehow there was a light in Tatsuki’s eyes. Shin could clearly the irises of his eyes, even behind the glasses, like light streaming through the contents of a kaleidoscope. Shin caught his breath and dropped his gaze to the can of beer in his hand. That was also the first time Shin had ever heard Tatsuki whisper so softly.
I dun know anythin’ about ’im. That’s not a surprise, I guess.
“—But they said that Souma-san understood it.”
The stage lights turned on, and the opening act appeared with the curtains still down.
“Oh, it’s starting!”
Tatsuki returned to his normal self and joined in on the light applause.
Shin wanted to ask why Sakae’s name came up and what Tatsuki learned after everything, but he couldn’t.
“Ahhh, that was such a great show!”
The approximately 2-hour show ended, and Tatsuki stretched himself out in satisfaction.
“I laughed enough for a month~!”
“Haha, if ya laugh in the next month, ya get a bat to the bum.”
“Seriously~? Guess I’ll have to spend the next month thinking about my dad.”
“Huh? …Did he pass away?”
“Nope, he’s doing just fine.”
“Then why your dad?”
“When you’re banging someone, but you don’t want to come yet, don’t you think about your dad? That’s the most effective way for me.”
“Ya totally went off on ya own tangent… I’m gonna pop into the green room. Wanna go?”
“I’ll go, I’ll go~”
They stopped into the green room, the air full of excitement after coming off a performance. The Motor Coil guys noticed them right away.
“Tatsuki-kun, thank ya so much for today.”
“Hey, great show, guys! It was hilarious!”
“Ya gave us a place where we could relax and nap, and thanks to that, we didna trip over our words.”
“Nah, I caught a few slips here and there. I’m an announcer, so I’m real strict about these things~”
When Shin went to greet the other comedians he knew, they mentioned that the audience was extra lively today.
“The guy laughed really loud, an’ his reaction was so over the top. I thought that ya brought an extra with ya.”
“Yeah, yeah, I wondered if Nawada was thinkin’ about us an’ brought ’im along to help us feel better.”
“Even if I bombed, I’d be okay.”
“Dun say it like a pad commercial, ‘Even on heavy days, I’d be okay.’”
“Sorry, were we too loud?” Shin asked.
“What comedian ain’t happy with people laughin’? Everybody was real relieved at the nice mood in the audience. When people clap an’ nod along, it’s like the best peace of mind we can get. Like we ain’t wrong in doin’ this.”
“When Souma-san comes to watch, the pressure’s crushin’ an’ terrible.”
“Yeah! I’m like, whoa, his eyes are like a hitman~! And I’m just shakin’ all over.”
The comedian chuckled wryly and added, “But it’s fine too. Fear an’ nerves are somethin’ we need. It helps pump me up an’ go, I’m gonna blow his mind today!”
“But yeah, come with that friend of yours, we’ll improve even more.”
“Oh! We gotta give ’em a name! The North Wind and The Sun~”2
It was too apt a name.
“That’s pretty self-explanatory.”
Shin and Tatsuki exited the theater. The night was clad in neon lights and fraught with heat from the afternoon.
“Ahhh, my glasses are fogging up. I’m starving! Let’s go eat!”
“Sure. Whaddya feel like eatin’?”
Shin pulled out his cell phone to try to find a place in the area that would meet their needs, but then Tatsuki made a suggestion.
“A senior colleague at work brought me to a really good place the other day. Let’s go there.”
“What’s the name of the place? I’ll call an’ ask if they have free tables.”
“Nah, it’s fine, it’s fine. Let’s just go.”
“But it’s the weekend. It could be full.”
“Then we’ll just walk around and find another place. There are tons of restaurants in the area.”
“If we just pick a place, the food might be ’orrible.”
“Then we leave and move on to another place. Today I feel like leaving things in the air~ We’re not at work, so we don’t have to plan everything perfectly.”
An announcer was a fairly stringent job with a lot of rules, but here, even in (a poor excuse of) a disguise, Tatsuki looked freer than anyone else on the street. It was a sweltering clear night after watching a comedy show where he had laughed his head off, and he was walking to go fill his empty stomach. He didn’t care if he had to wait, if he came up empty-handed, if he picked a bad restaurant—none of it was a waste of his time, and nothing would dampen his spirits… The profile of his face was that bright and powerful. Even though to Shin, he considered it a failure if things fell through because he didn’t plan everything beforehand.
“Nacchan, I bet you’re real popular~”
“Wha? Ya snarkin’ at me?”
Tatsuki wasn’t the type to make snarky comments, but Shin couldn’t help but scowl.
“I mean, you never get annoyed about making reservations, you just pull out your phone and take care of everything. And earlier at the green room, you took the time to hold open the door. You’re so dashing~”
“They’re just habits I learned for work.”
It could also be called the determination of a menial staff worker.
“I know that it probably comes naturally to you, but you don’t have to do any of that around me.”
“But as rotten as ya are, ya still are a presenter though.”
“Oi, oi! I’m super fresh and lively! Anyway, I really hate it when people act all stiff because of ranks and seniority. When I was a new hire, there was a girl, a camera assistant, who had gigantic camera bags hanging from both her shoulders, so I offered to help carry one of them, but the camera operator totally chewed me out for it, saying that it’s her job and that I shouldn’t interfere.”
“Well, of course. It’s her job.”
If Shin was that camera assistant, it would only be an unwelcome favor.
“Really? But I didn’t offer to help because she was a girl. When you’re working as a team, and there’s one person who’s saddled with gigantic bags and one person who’s empty-handed, you should take your share of the work, right? More importantly, I feel like it’s a natural human inclination that comes even before work.”
“But she signed up to be a camera assistant knowin’ full well it’s a physically hard job, right? And there are lots of times when ya gotta tough it out by yaself.”
“Of course, there’s no question about that,” Tatsuki said firmly. “But when you have to tough it out by yourself and someone helps you out, it becomes a nice little memory, don’t you think? If someone thinks that helping someone out is spoiling them, then that’s their problem.”
Tatsuki was not incredibly pure, nor was he incredibly unselfish. Flip his generosity around, and he could be called just plain insensitive. He had the craftiness to use his image and his effect on people to serve his own needs. One way or another, he could be careless, forgetful, shameless, and irritatingly loud. He was a man, still young, made of flesh and blood with flaws and weaknesses just like anybody else, but he could speak out and say such words without any false pretenses, and it was still very much Tatsuki. They were the same age, but he was so much different from Shin. He was a splendid, a clever, a worldly 27-year-old—and there was probably so much more to him that he barely scratched the surface. But there was only one 27-year-old here who made Shin unable to contain himself at this moment, and that person was Tatsuki.
What’ve I done all this time? Dun I have somethin’ I hafta do too?
His sudden impatience was a kind of energy, and without knowing what to do with it, he gave Tatsuki a hard headbutt to his back.
“Hey, ow! What are you doing!?”
“I wanna hit ya, I really wanna hit ya, so I wondered if I should…”
“You did hit me!”
As they argued, they arrived at their destination. Luckily, they could be seated right away. Tatsuki took off his baseball cap and ran his fingers through his hair to fix it first. Then he ordered pretty much all meat dishes, ignoring the appetizers and salads like they didn’t exist. They clinked their draft beers and got down to the business of eating and drinking.
“These stewed chicken wings are amazin’. The seared beef too.”
“I know, right?”
“The table’s covered in all brown stuff though.”
“Oh, you want veggies? How about fries then?”
“Ya needta eat somethin’ green.”
“By the way, I was hosting a movie premiere the other day,” Tatsuki said as he munched on a chicken wing in his hand. “The floor manager there mentioned that he used to work on GoGo a long time ago.”
“Will you get mad if I continue talking?”
“I dunno, I ain’t heard it yet.”
“He called Souma Sakae a heartless producer.”
“Oh, you’re mad.”
Shin thought that it was only natural that people would say that. But he wondered why Tatsuki purposely brought up the subject. Speaking of which, he didn’t understand the true motives behind Tatsuki’s mysterious words from earlier either.
“He said that when his mother suddenly died, he let him know that he would go back for the funeral, and Souma-san just looked at him like he was an insect and said, ‘What?’”
Shin remembered that incident. It had happened about three years ago. The staff member had left to attend the funeral and never came back. He was someone who had “jumped ship.” Shin didn’t know what kind of conversations were held between the network and the production company, but Sakae never said a word about it to the staff, like the guy was never there in the first place, and so no one had ever asked about it. It had happened during a time they were preparing for a special, when everyone was essentially zombies, and no one had the time to really pay attention to it either. Anyone who skipped work without notice was deemed to be unconditionally vile, and it was an unpleasant thought that the guy still worked in the industry.
“Excuse me, I’d like the beef stuffed shiitake mushrooms please,” Shin told a waiter.
“That’s still something brown.”
“Shuddup. …Anyway, I think that Souma-san wouldna said anythin’ if she was in critical condition.”
“What do you mean?”
“I understand the guy’s feelin’s to see his mother one last time, but when someone dies, nothin’ really changes even if ya rush to their side. Maybe Souma-san thought, ‘What can ya do by rushin’ over there?’ It prolly sounds heartless, but I guess my thoughts lean that way too.”
“You understand everything about Souma-san, huh?”
“If that were true, I wouldna be strugglin’ so much. Even today—”
There was a sound of a light snap. A bare chicken wing was in Tatsuki’s mouth, and the bone at the tip had snapped in two.
“Whoops, I bit down without thinking.”
Tatsuki placed the bones on his plate like nothing had happened. Shin caught a glimpse of darkened blood-colored marrow in the thin cross section, and for some reason, it made him feel a chill. Tatsuki licked the juices off of his fingers, not caring about how he looked, and called out, “Nacchan,” licking his lips.
“Even when I’m wearing glasses, you never make eye contact with me.”
He startled Shin. With his words and with the light in his eyes, like dulled metal, half-covered by the plastic frames. Shin didn’t think that Tatsuki could make such a face. Was he drunk? If he was sober, then what were the feelings that made him look like this? Shin wasn’t sure if Tatsuki was the Sun or the North Wind anymore. He blew hot and cold all by himself.
“Oh, hey, Tatsuki.”
That was when a man in a suit stopped in front of their table.
“Oh, hello, how are you doing?”
He didn’t appear to be a random drunk viewer, but someone who worked at the network.
“You having a singles party? The girls gonna show up soon? So you immediately use this place as soon as I tell you about.”
“Nah, it’s just a guys’ night out with staff.”
“Seriously? Can I bother you for a second then? I’m drinking with the sports commentator Ibaraki-san. You’ll probably do play-by-plays in the near future, so you should meet him and introduce yourself.”
So the guy was an announcer too. And he completely ignored Shin to push his own agenda. From the moment that he heard that Shin was staff, without any ill intent, he disappeared from his field of vision along with any consideration for him. It was completely normal. If Shin wanted any acknowledgment from the presenters, he just had to work harder to get it. That was why it didn’t really hurt his feelings. He realized all over again how much of a minority Tatsuki’s type actually was. But Tatsuki was still young. It wasn’t a nice thing to say, but the industry could still poison him in the future, and maybe he would naturally draw a line and treat him the same as all the others. It wasn’t an issue of rank, but one of cliques and in-groups. Of who was in the light and who was outside of it. Shin would probably be sad if that were to happen.
“Sorry, right now I’m—”
Tatsuki looked like he was going to turn the guy down, so Shin rushed out of his seat and said, “No, no, please, go ahead. I have a phone call I need to take, so I’ll be outside.”
It was just an excuse he had made up, but when he reached the register, his cell phone really did ring. It was from a director who was a senior colleague of his. He went further outside the restaurant and pushed open the door to the emergency staircase. Lights and signs flickered glaringly in the muggy night air. The city was loud and bright and chaotic; it was like television itself.
“Sorry, where can I find the P2 cards?”
“They’re in the desk to the right of the lockers, in the uppermost drawer.”
“Let’s see, drawers, drawers… Oh, found them. Thanks.”
“We’re on location from tomorrow evening, correct? I had planned to prepare the supplies in the afternoon.”
“No, I have another shoot in the morning for something else. It’s nothing big, just some quick snapshots for an article.”
“Huh? Then I should go with you.”
“Nah, it’s fine. I haven’t operated anything on my own for a while, so I’m losing my touch.”
“Do you need someone to carry bags for you?”
“You’re really such a hard worker, Nawada.”
“Why are you saying that all of a sudden?”
“Well, just that I’m quitting GoGo after next month.”
Shin tightened his grip on the phone. New ADs would give up and quit all the time, but this person was a veteran director, someone they depended on as their main force. Shin had learned countless number of things from him.
“I can’t believe it. Why are you quitting?”
“I’m already in my forties, and the work’s really getting to me. Yeah, there’s the physical aspect of the work, but sometimes I feel like I’m just not keeping up with the humor of the younger generation. I feel like it’s probably about time for me to move on. I’m kinda done with TV for now, so I asked the company to move me to the production of things like advertisements or training videos.”
“—But that’s just half the real reason.”
“You know, I first got into this business because I love variety shows. I had a lot of confidence in my artistic and technical sense. When it came to shots and composition, I never once thought I was inferior to anyone in my generation. …But at our show, we have Souma-san, right?”
“I don’t care if I have someone younger than me as my boss. I’m outsourced staff, so I’m perfectly clear on that point. But Souma-san… If he was only just a tyrant, I would be fine. I could write him off by thinking he can’t do anything. But he’s not. I’ll rack my brain writing and re-writing a scenario some 20 times over again, but Souma-san will take 10 minutes to fix it up and turn it into something brilliant. The same goes for how he composes a scene and his edits too. And the way he directs the dialogue in the studio. That’s why the performers trust Souma-san more than they trust the directors. I’ve spent a lot of years cursing him and telling myself that I’ll make something better, but after all this time, I think maybe I’m just too tired, or maybe I’ve finally realized that I can’t surpass him. …Yeah, this is all my own self-satisfaction, but in this line of work, once you lose your love for it, you can’t keep at it any longer. It’s like making a soup stock out of your bones. I have nothing left in me anymore, so no matter how much more I try to boil it, there’s no more flavor I can extract from myself. If I think of it that way, I don’t feel so bad about it.”
“It could be that you’re a little tired. Maybe after a break, ya might find yourself recharged.”
He knew that his words sounded empty, but he still had to say them. The man was such a good and talented director. Shin loved so many of the episodes that he had filmed.
The director laughed wryly—he didn’t believe it for a second. But that he didn’t outright reject his words was probably his kindness for Shin.
“I know that it might not mean much coming from me, since I’m giving up, but you should try making your own videos, Nawada. Shape them into something you want to see. It’s incredibly valuable to get a feel for your sense while you’re young. You really love GoGo, so maybe you’re satisfied with being an AD for life, but I would like to see you aim to put your work on the air at least once, even if you just think about it. At least, I want to see the video that you make air on TV.”
Was it a grateful thing to have his senior colleague who was like a mentor to him say something like this? No, wait, he was extremely grateful—he was just shocked by the announcement that he was quitting that he didn’t know what to think about everything he said. Shin placed his arms on the railing and looked down at the crowds of people below him. He had been employed for 5 years now, and all sorts of people had come and gone at the show. Whether to work on a different show, to leave the industry all together, to get married, or to take care of aging parents. He still had so much to learn, but before he realized it, he had watched so many people leave before him. Would he have to leave the show one day too? Or would he have to watch Sakae leave? —No, that would never happen. The day that Souma Sakae left the show would be the day that Go Go Dash ended.
Shin squeezed his arms, pressing his nails into them. When he had received his tentative offer from the production company, his first choice, he fully believed that he had nothing to worry about. All he had to do was work towards what he wanted and toss away the fears and hesitation. Even though life after finding a job was much much longer than anything else he had experienced.
After ending the call, Shin let himself get lost in his thoughts as he thought about things without any answers. After a while, he returned back to the table to check on Tatsuki. If he was enjoying himself, Shin would say a quick goodbye and leave. Tatsuki wouldn’t think that Shin was in the way, but Shin felt uncomfortable joining in on their conversation. Anyway, clearly it was a far better choice for Tatsuki to take this opportunity to build a rapport with this sports commentator.
Shin headed back towards the table, and the friendly laughter—wasn’t there. He only heard words like, “what a disgrace” and “lazy good-for-nothing.” Shin got onto his tiptoes and looked over the partition separating the tables. He saw Tatsuki, the announcer from earlier, and an old man with streaks of gray hair and an imposing presence. He was probably the sports commentator Ibaraki-san. His face was entirely red, and he kept slurring his words. He was obviously incredibly drunk.
“How ca~n any~one who wants to do play-by-plays not have ever heard of Moriyama Tomio!?”
“Now, now, Ibaraki-san.”
The senior announcer had to repeatedly try to pacify the commentator.
“He’s still in his twenties. He wasn’t even born yet when Moriyama-san was active…”
“He could fire a ball like lightning from right field to third base. The sound of the ball the moment it hit the mitt—it would send chills down your spine. The air even trembled. There’s no better outfielder that I’ve ever seen, and yet he’s never heard of him…”
“I sincerely apologize for my ignorance.”
Tatsuki was completely calm and showed no signs of distress.
“I will study up on my sports knowledge until the opportunity comes to sit in the announcer’s chair next to you.”
“All these young announcers, you probably just think studying is memorizing the list of pro baseball players. As if just drilling the name, career, and their records in your head is enough, but I can’t feel any actual emotions from that. Just because you’re a little good-looking, you were able to get this job. Maybe you’re just wrapped up in all the fawning you get, like all those TV personalities.”
“Now that’s just a generalization. I’m a colleague, so maybe I’m biased here, but he’s a very good announcer. He’s even the sports anchor for us at The News.”
“I’ve never watched it.”
Whoa, whatta pain in the neck. What’s with this guy?
There were troublesome performers in all sorts of fields, and Shin didn’t care if they ranted at length at him to his face. If he did something wrong, he would acknowledge it and fix it for next time. Everything else, he just ignored. In any job, there could be unreasonable people that he just had to deal with. There was nothing he could do but tell himself that there were people who were reasonable and they surely understood him.
But Tatsuki was sitting there right before his eyes taking all of this verbal abuse, and Shin didn’t know where to channel the sickening feelings that he felt. When Sakae had ridiculed Tatsuki, Shin could only think, Why, and he couldn’t move because of his bewilderment and apprehension. But right now he thought, What the hell, as he clenched his fists. Why did Tatsuki have to listen to some old man chew him out for his own ego? It was weird. Just a little while ago, they were laughing and having so much fun at the comedy show, enjoying some great food and drinks together, but then all of a sudden, someone he didn’t know had to interrupt them, and his mentor announced that he was quitting. Maybe the alcohol he wasn’t used to drinking was surging through his head, because he was ready to lose his temper.
Dammit, I wanna say somethin’. I wanna say it right to his face. Who the hell do ya think ya are? Baseball ain’t the only thing that sports announcers needta know. They hafta to talk about soccer, sumo wrestlin’, track an’ field, an’ swimmin’ too. Ya ain’t even seen ’im on TV, and ya dissin’ him for what? Go watch ’im just once when he’s talkin’ about sports. Once is all it takes to understand how good he is.
“—How can anyone trust such a flashy looking announcer. I sure can’t. You probably just fool around all the time.”
Shin’s patience snapped taut, like a thin piece of string being pulled from both sides. Just as the final thread was about to break, Tatsuki noticed that Shin was there.
In an instant, Tatsuki raised his index finger to his lips and gave a smile that said, I’m sorry. Shin had only ever seen his cheerful smiles bursting with energy, and this was another first that he had seen of Tatsuki. Shin crumpled his face and turned around to crouch down in an aisleway. Tatsuki had exerted the discipline to be humble and not say a word back to the commentator. If Shin were to barge in under the influence of alcohol, it would only make the situation worse.
I know that. I know that, but still…
“Come on, Ibaraki-san. Let’s go, okay? See you later, Tatsuki.”
Shin watched as the announcer hauled away the shitty old goat who started grumbling even more incoherently. When he returned to the table, he saw that the beer that was half full had turned completely flat.
“Welcome back.” Tatsuki gave Shin his usual smile and reported happily, “Senpai said that tonight would be his treat! Yay~ Maybe I should order a bottle of champagne.”
“…What the hell is that?”
“Huh? Because it’s a special treat.”
“That ain’t what I meant!”
Shin chugged the lukewarm, bitter-tasting beer in one swig and slammed the empty mug on the table.
“It pisses ya off right!? Hearin’ all that said to ya face.”
“Huh? Not really. Anyway, the guy was drunk, and I can’t deny that I haven’t studied enough. I’m completely fine. I don’t hate people who speak their minds. Aren’t they much better than the ones who smile to your face but talk trash behind your back?”
He wasn’t pretending to be tough. If Tatsuki said that he was fine, then he was fine. But Shin didn’t understand why this felt so much harder than putting up with that old man.
It was because Shin realized that Tatsuki didn’t need him to follow up and comfort him. That Shin couldn’t do a single thing for Tatsuki.
I know that. I understand completely. I can’t do anythin’ special for nobody.
The feelings of worthlessness and shame carried over from his phone conversation. They welled inside him, and he cried. Even though he was told that he was a hard worker, he hadn’t left any distinguishing mark that said, Nawada Shin was here. That was why Tatsuki, who challenged everyday face forward, felt so far away.
His tears didn’t spill over in streams. They just welled from his body and seeped through his eyelashes.
“Huh? Wha? Wait, what’s wrong? Why are you crying all of a sudden!?”
Why did Tatsuki have to announce something so insensitive so that the entire restaurant could hear him?
“Shuddup! You’re so loud! Lower your voice, ya dummy!”
Shin flipped open his wet towel and used the clean side to wipe his eyes.
“Are you a maudlin drinker?”
“Just leave it alone.”
“Booze and Tears and a Man and a Man.”3
“I thought it would be easier to stop if I distracted you.”
“…Yeah, I guess.”
There was no use brooding over this idiot who looked as though he had nothing to do with what was going on. But he wasn’t just an idiot, and that bothered Shin.
It was true that his tears did dry up. Shin placed the wet towel on the table, and Tatsuki got up and said, “Let’s go.” Then he suddenly covered Shin’s head with his baseball cap.
“Huh? What about the champagne?”
“I don’t like it that much.”
“Then whatta we doin’?”
“Let’s go drink somewhere else.” Tatsuki grabbed Shin’s hand and started walking off.
“Drink somewhere else? Where?”
“My place. Let’s spend the money for our food and drinks on a taxi~”
Tatsuki suddenly hustled Shin into a taxi. Shin was fine with it, if that was what Tatsuki wanted to do. He had time until tomorrow morning.
However, Shin didn’t know what to do about Tatsuki still holding onto his hand. Currently they were in the backseat of a taxi, their hands resting on the middle seat with Tatsuki gripping on to him. And of all times, he smoothly gave his address to the driver and fell silent afterwards. Shin had no idea what he was thinking. Maybe Tatsuki was drunk too. Maybe he was too absorbed in his thoughts and didn’t notice how unnatural this was. As a test, Shin tried to carefully slip his hand out, but Tatsuki gripped it back tightly again.
“Huh? Whatta ya doin’?” Shin said without thinking, and the taxi driver glimpsed back at them in the rear mirror and asked, “Excuse me?”
“Oh, sorry, it’s nothin’.”
Shin hissed a low “Oi” at Tatsuki, but he just returned a cool and composed “Yes?” If Shin were to ask Why ya holdin’ my hand? he was afraid he would get an outrageous and unexpected answer back. Tatsuki was only wearing his glasses right now. What if the driver were to figure out that he was Minagawa Tatsuki?
But wait, it ain’t really a problem I needta be worryin’ about. He’s the one doin’ it on his own accord. Wait, but, but…
Shin’s head and cheeks were burning up so much that he couldn’t think straight. Maybe he really did drink too much tonight. In the air-conditioned car, his sweat clammed up, moistening their hands pressed together, but Shin didn’t find it unpleasant at all.
“Who was your phone call from?” Tatsuki asked.
“A director for GoGo.”
“Hnn, I’m glad.”
“Well, if it was from Souma-san, you would leave again.”
The palm of Tatsuki’s hand felt like it was radiating a heat higher than his body temperature.
“But it was someone else, so I’m glad.”
“You keep bringin’ ’im up. Whatta ya tryin’ to say?”
“Hmm, I’m not entirely sure myself.”
In contrast to the levity of his words, Tatsuki’s grip on Shin’s hand almost hurt.
“But earlier, you were angry and crying on my behalf, right? It made me happy. It made me happy, but I thought, ‘Ahh, this didn’t happen when Souma-san chewed me out.’ I forget about things pretty easily, so I don’t really hold grudges. And it surprised me a little. Even now.”
Shin pulled the baseball cap down over his eyes so that he couldn’t see anything. This guy was weird. Shin had a feeling he would say something even more incomprehensible when they got to his apartment, but Tatsuki probably wouldn’t let him get out of the taxi right now or let go of his hand. And Shin, unable to bring himself to use all his strength to shake Tatsuki off, had been a little weird himself a long while ago.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- It’s me, it’s me is an infamous telephone scam in Japan.
- This refers to the Aesop fable about the North Wind and the Sun, who always argue over who is stronger, so they compete to see who could get a traveler to take off his cloak. The wind blew, but the traveler wrapped his cloak tighter. The sun shone until he took the cloak off from the heat.
- This is a play on the song Sake to Namida to Otoko to Onna (Booze and Tears and a Man and a Woman) by Kawashima Eigo.