Muda suddenly came knocking on my door on the evening of the Hina festival.
He wasn’t drunk, and he didn’t seem like he was in a particularly bad mood either. As the sun set in the horizon, he showed up at my door step saying, “I left; Watanabe-san to look after the store, so I don’t have to go back tonight,” before he took me in his arms.
It was unusual for him to just come without calling first. I suspected that he might have been hoping to catch something by showing up unannounced, but his expression gave nothing away.
He was impatient though as he sat down, wrapped me in his arms, and began to kiss me. Even though his actions had a natural flow to it, it was strange how rushed he was being.
“What’s wrong?” I forced a smile on my face as I stiffened my body and tried to turn my face away from his kisses.
“You’re acting like some starved wolf. Did something happen?”
“No, I just wanted to see you, that’s all.”
“Well, you could have at least called me first.”
He didn’t reply to my comment and just whispered in my ear, “It’s been a while since we had a night out together. Why not tonight? It is the day of the Hina festival, after all.”
“What does a night out and a Hina festival have to do with one another?”
“It’s a day to celebrate women.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. How ridiculous. Do you plan to get me drunk on amazake?”
“How about wine in place of that?”
“Either way, if you were going to ask me out to dinner, then you didn’t have to do this kind of thing as soon as you stepped into the door… hey, let me go, will you? I’ll go take a shower; I want to wash my hair.”
“You don’t need to do that.”
“I was just about to get ready to go to work. It’s always like this, isn’t it? Whenever I finally get in the mood to actually work, you show up and get in the way.”
He chuckled and leaned down to lightly bite down on my earlobe. I felt his breath on the back of my neck.
I felt his hand slipping under the thin black sweater I was wearing. Since I wasn’t wearing anything underneath, I felt his hand directly on my skin. Even though I didn’t feel anything emotionally from it, I could feel my nipples hardening.
“I’m not in the mood for that tonight.”
“Well, I’ll change your mind. All you have to do is lie down. Come on now, just relax…”
“I said, no!”
Irritated, I put both my hands against his chest and tried to push as hard as I could. Muda, however, just grabbed both my hands in jest and pressed me back into the sofa.
He lifted both my arms into the air and I couldn’t move my body.
“I don’t want this.”
“You’re lying, Mio. You want me all right.”
“No, I don’t. Don’t push your luck. If you think I’ll always go along with what you say, then you’re in for a big awak…”
He covered my lips with his, and my words were lost.
The afternoon had an air of spring with its warmness, but after the sun had set, a slight chilliness had swept the apartment. I had the air conditioner turned off, so it was a bit cool. I didn’t have any socks on, so my toes were cold, and I had even been starting to get the urge to go to the bathroom… despite that, I could feel the places where he was touching me begin to warm. I hated the part of me that was being affected by this.
I put a scowl on my face and turned my face away from him as I tried to escape his kisses, but he easily captured my lips time and time again. He didn’t even seem irritated by my lack of enthusiasm as he continued sensual kisses. If you put aside the fact that his breathing was slightly uneven, he wasn’t any different from his usual calm self.
Even the way he caressed me was no different from usual. It was the way he always did it. Although they were fervent, each move felt somewhat cooly detached. Each movement was driven by a calm focus…
He always had the upper hand. He didn’t know what it meant to lose. When it came to holding me down on the sofa like this, it felt as if he would forever remain the victor.
I didn’t know what it was that gave him such confidence. Was it the foolish belief that there were as many women on this earth as there are stars in the sky and that he could easily make any of them his? Or was it simply that he had an insatiable lust for pleasure that was so overwhelming that it made him blind to reality?
He continued his caresses. I closed my eyes and let my thoughts drift. I could feel my body begin to physically react to his touches. I knew full well how pleased he would be that my body was responding to him, and yet, I was helpless to stop it.
In an instant, the creases that had become etched between my eyebrows from hate took on a different meaning. I could feel a moan bubbling up my throat, and I bit down the inside of my cheek to keep it from coming out. I was doing my best to hold them back, but they continued to try to fight themselves out. The harder I fought, the deeper I could feel myself falling.
I questioned myself again and again in my mind why this could happen, but I didn’t have the answer to that question.
I remembered back to the story of a woman who tried to bite off her tongue in the midst of having sex with a man she wanted to cut ties with. It was a story that I had heard from Misao a few years prior.
It was a story about a distant relative of a lawyer acquaintance of Misao’s. She had been having a sexual relationship with her superior at work. Eventually, a man she truly cared for appeared in her life, and so she attempted to use that opportunity as a means of putting the affair with her superior behind her; things didn’t go as planned though. Every time she tried to bring up the topic, he would reach out to her, and every time, it would end with her not being able to say goodbye.
She couldn’t help but feel deep hatred at herself and one day, as she was having sex with him, she decided to die and bit into her tongue. She wasn’t able to successfully bite it off, but blood began to pour out from her mouth, and he, in shock at what had happened, quickly called an ambulance.
When Misao had first told me that story, I wondered if there was such depth to a hatred that could lead to someone wanting to bite their own tongue off. At that time, I wondered why she had to resort to that. If she hated what was happening, why didn’t she just end things with her and that man? Why did it have to come to the point where she tried to bite off her own tongue?
In this instant though, I kind of understood what she was feeling at that time. It wasn’t the fact that I was letting a man who didn’t move my heart to have his way with me that was so distasteful; and it didn’t have anything to do with having loose morals either. What couldn’t be forgiven was the fact that this traitorous body would respond to each caress from a man I didn’t love. I felt so disgusted with myself that I wished I could drop dead on this spot.
After he had gone through the motions of gently caressing me on the sofa, he lifted me as if I weighed nothing and took me to my bedroom.
“No,” I said as I thrashed my legs.
Although my body was trying to accept the physical sexual release that was fast approaching, my mind was rejecting it, and the imbalance that gave rise from this led to me saying this.
Despite having said that word though, a part of me was looking forward to it. I could feel the animalistic part of me that was seeing Muda not as a man with a name and a face but just as a male animal reaching out to him.
He laid me down on the bed and took off my clothes. I did nothing more than lay on my back and glare the ceiling as he did so. I could feel tears forming in the corners of my eyes. My heart was rejecting everything about this man in front of me, and yet my body was embracing him. It felt as if my body had separated from my mind.
In the deep corner of my heart, I was thinking about Shougo. I was calling out his name. I couldn’t help but think: why wasn’t this person who was doing this to me Shougo? My heart froze at that thought. My mind flashed back to when he held my hand, and the feel of his lips as he kissed my fingers… knuckles… and palm.
Although what I felt then hadn’t been lust, in that moment, I had felt a deep, deep ecstasy. I also felt a wash of relief come over me, like the kind that gave rise when animals burrowed in a nest together. It was a quiet happiness that came from the realization that I wasn’t alone. It was a feeling of deep satisfaction that made me want to cry out…
Ever since that day, I became afraid of touching him. Whenever I accidentally touched his arm, I came to quickly draw away as if I were trying to run away.
Even though I kept my distance, from time to time, our eyes would meet, and his eyes would have a sparkling serenity to them. Whenever I felt his probing gaze, I felt a rush of warmth. Even though he wasn’t touching me, I felt a heat as if he had. Every time that happened, a sinful joy would take a hold of my heart.
Muda continued to persist with his caresses. His touch has a slow relaxedness to it that made me want to ask him to just get on with it.
He was looking down on me. It may just be that each caress was an insult, his way of telling me that he was the one who was making my body respond, and he was the one who would make me cry out in the throes of passion.
“I’m sick and tired of this,” I spit these words out as I buried my face in the pillow. I could feel tear after tear stain the pillows. “Why do you…”
“I want to see you turned on,” he said. “I want to see the Mio who wants me.”
“I don’t want you though. Can’t you understand that?”
“Oh, really? Is that right? Are you sure? Don’t lie to me now. Liars fall down to the pits of hell, you know. See? Can’t you feel how much you want me…”
The way he said this, I sensed a slight contempt in his voice. I continued to fight the heat that was building in my body with everything that I had.
In my heart, I was crying out to Shougo. I wanted to see him. I wanted him to cleanse me from this disgusting person I had become.
Muda had begun to take off his clothes. His breathing was uneven. I couldn’t help but think how similar that sound was to a pig snorting as it rolled around in mud.
The bedroom curtains were still open, and I could see from my window the sun that had begun to set. The light hadn’t been turned on, so the room was slightly dark and an ink-washed darkness spread out before me. I couldn’t even see clearly the outline of his body as he shed his clothes.
He stepped out of his pants, and reached for his underwear. As if I were waiting for this moment, I sat up abruptly. My hair was in a disarray and I was still naked as I got up off of the bed.
And with that, I said in a low voice to this man who was standing in front of me in his underwear:
“I’m sorry, but please leave.”
“What are you so upset about?”
“I’m not upset about anything. I just told you again and again that I didn’t want to sleep with you, didn’t I?”
I felt something stretch to a ripping point and snap. Silence swept the room.
He was standing beside the bed in silence. I thought what a humorous scene this made. He was standing there in only gray briefs and black socks…
Muda let out a short chuckle, “You said you didn’t want to sleep with me? You said that.”
“Yes, I did.”
“You’ve never said something like that to me before.”
“I’m not in the mood to argue with you about it, so please leave.”
He didn’t answer. He stood motionless and looked at me. I was still naked.
“Or what, do you intend to rape me? Are you going to rape me or leave? Which one is it going to be?”
“Okay, fine. I got it.” He said in a low voice.
His voice didn’t quiver in anger. In the dimly lit room, I saw all the power draining from his body, and he aged ten years before my eyes. His movements were sluggish as he slowly put on the shirt that he had just taken off, and zipped his pants.
He ran his fingers through his hair to straighten it. He bent down to pick up the watch that had fallen on the floor. Without putting it on, he shoved it into his pants and he left the room without another word.
I heard him putting on his shoes at the front entrance, as well as the creak of the door as it shut behind him. My ears strained to catch the sounds. I couldn’t hear anything more after that other than the sirens of an ambulance as it passed by.
I was still undressed as I dashed to the front entrance, locked the door, and put the chain in place. I closed all the curtains in my apartment, jumped into the shower, and scrubbed my body.
My hair was still wet and I only had a towel wrapped around me as I reached for my cell phone to call Shougo. He picked up after the fifth ring.
“Where are you right now?”
“I was just buying some things at the local convenience store. What about you?”
“I’m at my apartment. You said that you didn’t have work tonight, right?”
“Well, no I don’t, but… hey, did something happen? You don’t sound like…”
“…I want to see you.”
Silence crackled on the other line. I could hear the sound of lively music and the faint, muffled sounds of people talking in the background.
“It’s the same for me,” he replied. “I want to see you too. Let’s meet.”
“Now. Is that okay?”
“Of course. Should I go over to your place? Or would you rather meet somewhere else?”
“Can I go to your place?”
“Or would I only be intruding?”
“You’re welcome here, it’s just… it’s really small. You’ll be shocked by how small it is. If you’re okay with that, then…”
I smiled and replied, “of course that’s okay.” I told him that I’d call him when I was in the neighbourhood vicinity before I ended the call.
His apartment complex was tucked away in a part of town that was nearest to the Sakurashinmachi station on the Denen City Line. I had a hazy recollection of him having told me where it was, but I had never been there before.
I wanted to see what his room looked like. This urge stemmed from a genuine curiosity and nothing more than that.
If an older sister were to visit her younger brother’s place, it would probably be from two possibilities: her younger brother had caused some trouble of sorts, or just because she was curious about where he was living and what kind of life he was leading. And in that moment, my feelings were clearly for the latter.
That being said, I could pretty much guess what I would come across. His room would probably be unbelievably messy with faded curtains, half-heartedly stacked books and magazines, bed sheets that hadn’t been changed in months, a kitchen overflowing with dishes that had traces of food crusted over, and a CD case that was in a disarray…
It was probably the case that his apartment was going to be like what an ordinary young man living alone would have. What I wanted was to blend into that scenery and drink cheap instant coffee from a dirty cup as I talked to him about trifling things.
And as I did so, the feeling of each and every caress that Muda had done would fade away in no time… I was sure of it. I’ll lean against his chest, and I would be able to release all the tension that had built up inside me. It would be like a small animal that had returned back to its warm den…
I went to Sakuramachi station by taxi. After I had paid the fare and gotten out of the taxi, I used my phone to call him once again. He seemed to be laughing about something when he picked up the phone.
“Why are you laughing?”
“Because…” he continued to chuckle as he said this. “right in front of me is a beautiful woman wearing a trench coat with its collar standing up who’s talking to someone on the phone.”
In surprise, I looked around me, and I spotted him leaning against a telephone pole no more than fifty metres from where I was. “I figured you’d get off at the station, so I was waiting for you. What do you want to do? Do you want to continue to talk on the phone like this? Do you want to follow me as we talk? That would be pretty interesting, don’t you think?”
“No, I won’t follow you.”
I felt a warm ripple through my heart.
“Because I want to walk with you while holding hands.”
I saw him smile shyly from afar. “Holding hands won’t be enough.”
“What do you mean?”
“I want to hold you in my arms.”
Numerous cars sped by. The car headlights illuminated his face in the darkness. The night city gave off the air of spring.
Driven by feelings that were threatening to break loose, I quietly hung up the phone and began running to him. The wind, that still had a bite of coldness to it, whistled in my ears as I ran.
I ran up to him, and I stopped abruptly in front of him. I didn’t know what to do next, and just looked up at him as I gasped for air. His eyes sparkled as he laughed; I joined in.
In the next instant, our arms naturally reached out to wrap themselves around our waists, and without even a millimetre of space between us, we began to walk in the direction of his apartment side-by-side.
It was a small, seven story apartment complex. He said that the rooms varied in sizes, but most were one bedroom apartments. Most of the residents were students or single people working for the food industry. At this time on a Sunday, there were a smattering of lights from the windows.
It was neither new nor old. Even though it wasn’t far from the station, it was almost unusual how quiet it was here. We took the elevator up to the fifth floor, and walked down the hall to his apartment which was at the end of the hall. The door clicked closed, and we were enveloped in silence.
To the right of the entrance was a small kitchen and to the left was the bathroom. Beyond the mosaic-patterned glass door was a seven tatami-sized Western-style room.
The kitchen was clean, and the dishes were meticulously stacked. There were no unwashed glasses in the sink. The only thing that was on the kitchen table was a lone coffee can.
When the glass door was opened, there were gray blinds that had been drawn on the window that was facing a small veranda. There was no bed– just a single bed mattress and a bed cover that matched the color of the blinds; this was also the make-shift sofa.
On the black long, narrow table was a laptop. Notebooks and paper were stacked neatly on and under the table. The only other things in the room were a small CD player, a small television, a VHS player and a foldable round table. There were only the bare basics and nothing more. There was no sense of the grime that came from a person living there. The necessities were there, and you could get the sense that there was someone probably living here, but there was no unique touch to it.
“This was the complete opposite of what I expected,” I said after I took a good look around the room. “I didn’t know you were such a neat freak, unlike me. If it were me, it’d probably take me a week just to clean and organize my room to this degree.”
“I know a magic spell,” he joked. “I cast a spell to make this room turn clean in an instant right before you got here.”
“Right, and I’m the Queen of England.”
“Haha. Would you like something to drink?”
“I have a feeling that if I asked for a daiquiri with crushed ice, you could make it happen.”
“I have a pretty limited selection. It’s either instant coffee, beer or cheap whiskey.”
“Well that’s a relief. I’d like some beer then.”
He nodded and pulled out two cans of beer from a small refrigerator in the kitchen and handed one to me.
We clinked cans and said cheers. We exchanged a shy smile as we drained the cans. He turned on the CD player, and the sound of an electric guitar filled the room.
“So you live here by yourself, huh?”
“You study here, do your laundry here…”
“I do that plus read books, and watch rented videos here. Not only that, but I dry the laundry here, and from time to time, I even cook meals for myself.”
“You go to the post office, the bank, and supermarket by yourself… You work part-time at Tadzio, and make enough to live off of all on your own. On top of that you go to school and study at home… that’s pretty amazing.”
“I’m impressed, that’s all. How can we be related and yet so different? When it comes right down to it, you’re pretty straight as an arrow. Your life has a stability to it, and you’re someone who can live independently.”
“It’s not really that it’s stable, per say; I just got used to living on my own, that’s all. Anyone who was brought up in a similar environment would have probably turned out the same way. There’s no helping it. If you want to live, you need to do everything by yourself. It’s the same for us young people, along with elders who are in their eighties and nineties; it’s not a matter of age.”
“You have a strong spirit. It truly is strong; that’s the feeling I have.”
He chuckled and gazed at me. I was sitting beside him on the make-shift sofa. “I stopped thinking about things in terms of whether one’s strong or weak a long time ago.”
“It’s humans who are strong and weak. And it’s also what it means to be human. It’s messed up, you know? Everyone’s on the same boat. Everyone is always going on about how things have gotten worse lately compared to the past, but it’s not just the generation that has made it so. From the very beginning, humans are messed up beings, and even the person themselves can’t predict how they would act if something were to happen.”
“I shouldn’t have expected any less from a philosopher,” I smiled. “I admire that part about you. You’re a brother I’m proud to have.”
“A brother, and a lover.”
My eyes widened, and I closed my mouth that had opened to say something else. He continued to gaze at me unwaveringly.
“I’m not a lover?”
“Hey, could you not say things that fluster me?”
“Is it inappropriate to have a brother as a lover?”
“In normal circumstances, I don’t think there would ever come a time when someone would make their brother their lover.”
“Mio-san, do you know why incest has been banned since ancient times?”
I pretended to be deep in thought. “It’s God who banned it, isn’t he? He banned it, and it was only afterwards that the law got involved.”
“I’m an atheist, and I’m out-of-touch when it comes to the law.”
“What are you trying to get at?”
“Are you afraid of me?”
I let out an exaggerated laugh. I placed the can of beer I had been drinking on the floor before I poked him in the cheek.
“Me? Afraid of you? There’s just no way. Don’t be ridiculous. I care about you very much, more so than anyone on this earth.”
“It’s the same for me,” he replied as a soft smile formed on his lips.
The strained atmosphere softened.
“Hey, I stopped by the convenience store and bought some rice balls and a sandwich. Do you want some?”
I felt the tenseness draining from my body, and I suddenly felt light. I pushed myself forward from the wall and replied, “Sure, I’ll have some. To be honest with you, I’m starving.”
“Oh, then would you rather go out to eat?”
“No, that’s all right. It’d be too much trouble to go outside now when we’re already here; rice balls and a sandwich will do.”
We sat beside each other as we shared the rice balls and sandwich and drank the instant coffee that Shougo had made. I used the remote control to turn on the TV. There were some small time TV personalities who were making a fuss, and as we watched the show, we cracked jokes at the expense of the people who were on the screen and we rolled around in laughter.
I downed my second can of beer. I lit a Marlboro and enjoyed its taste to its fullest.
I was dressed in black jeans and a black turtleneck sweater. I leaned against the wall lazily as if I were at my own house. He made me a watered down whiskey. He said he had an apple too, so I peeled it and sliced it into quarters. The sweet scent of apples permeated the air.
I took a small bite of the apple with a crunch. I closed my eyes as I said, “Thank you.”
“I feel as if I’ve been cleansed from head to toe. I’ll be fine now. Thanks to you, I feel brand new.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Yeah…” I nodded, and swallowed the apple I had crushed. “…just before I came here, Muda showed up…at my apartment.”
He reached for the remote control and turned off the television. A quietness settled in the room.
“I’ll be straight up with you. He came over to my house to have sex; that’s all he was there for. He just suddenly showed up at my doorstep without even calling me first. He was like some sex-starved wolf. At first, I thought there was no getting around it… but part way through, I suddenly didn’t want to anymore. I was so disgusted by the idea that I felt nauseated.”
Shougo remained silent. I returned my half-eaten apple onto the plate.
I kept my gaze down on the apple on my plate. “I feel so dirty… as if no amount of scrubbing could ever get rid of the dirt.”
“There’s no need for you to think that way.”
“Maybe so, since I’m the one who chose to live my life this way, after all. But I became sick of it all…”
I shook my head. “I didn’t do it. I made him stop before he could and asked him to leave.”
“Oh,” he said. “I’m glad.”
“Are you really?”
“Of course. I feel sick to my stomach just to picture you and him together.”
“If you tell me to never see him again, I wouldn’t, you know.”
He didn’t say anything in return. He crossed his legs and pushed back his hair as if it irritated him. “I don’t want to talk of stuff like that.”
“I just don’t.”
“Don’t run away. It’s because it’s you that I can be honest like this, so don’t run away. Tell me the truth.”
“I’m not running away. It’s just…”
“It’s just what?”
“If I were to start telling you to not see Muda-san and to cut ties with him… there’s no putting a stop to it. If I started saying things like that, I have a feeling that I’d start digging into the past and doing something stupid.”
“Like tracking down every man you’ve ever had sex with and taking a swing at them. That wouldn’t even be enough so I’d round them up, pour gasoline on them and lit them on fire. No…it wouldn’t just be those you had sex with. It’d be all the men you’ve ever kissed… anyone who’s even so much as hit on you…”
I was at a loss of words. I looked him full in the face with wide eyes.
He continued, “I can’t stand any of it. Any man who’s ever so much as touched you… you’re mine, and I’m yours.”
He grabbed my arm and made me turn his way. He was biting down his lower lip with his teeth, and he left out a frustrated sigh. He then pushed back his hair again before releasing me and burying his face into the side of his arm. “I’m sorry,” he said in a small voice. “…there must be something wrong with me.”
His shoulders were shaking slightly. It was my first time ever seeing him like this. This person in front of me was someone who had bared his feelings. There was also no denying that this person in front of me was my biological brother. He was my brother, and yet… not. He was like a lover, but at the same time, he was someone who could never fully become one… he was a mysterious being…
I was swept by intense feelings as I reached out and touched his shoulder. It was slightly clammy. I could feel his body heat from my palm.
“Turn this way,” I said in a hoarse whisper.
He lifted his head slightly and gazed at me; his eyes were red. There were no tears, but he had a expression as if he were ready to start crying at any moment.
“You silly fool,” I said and smiled lightly. A small smile formed on his lips in return.
Our eyes locked before they drifted to each other’s lips. In the next instant, the distance between us began to close in.
We hesitated, and stopped mid-way, moved apart, but then began to lean forward once again. Our lips were so close, but it felt as if the distance wasn’t getting any closer.
His hand reached out, and I felt it rest on my nape. With that, our gazes locked again.
“A kiss… nothing more,” his voice shook as he said this.
The kiss that I had been waiting and longing for for the longest time was a brief, awkward one.
TO BE CONTINUED…
[NEXT: Chapter 12 – 234- – 255]