underxstood said: this may or may not come off wrong but I want links.
a summer memory
The weird thing about Port Island is, despite all the weird shit that happens at night, it maintains a degree of popularity in Japan and abroad. One summer saw an uptick in tourists from the Mediterranean. People from all over came in droves and rented out just about every hotel in the city. They stormed the city in a wave of cameras and sandals, immersing themselves in a culture so foreign and in a way, contrary to their own.
I met him that same summer. He told me to never call him by his name so out of respect, I’ll refer to him simply as. He owned a restaurant near the harbor. I scoped it out one day; it looked like a factory. His wife and two sons emerged from the back, shitloads of chinaware in tow. The guy’s Napoleon compared to them, especially his wife. But they were all good-natured people, good conversation and laughter abound.
For that reason I kept coming back, each visit unraveling something different about them. As it turned out, they were Sicilians that learned Japanese through translations of old Alberto Moravia novels. They found their way to Port Island through mob ties; the guy used to run for the Mafia. Funny, that.
I stopped by one afternoon, just like any other. Upon entering, I ended up being assaulted by the smell of traditional Sicilian cuisine. The scents, the spices—the gastronomy. I stepped inside and saw that he had customers, probably his first in a long while, if not ever. He calls me to the back, where the whole gang were busy breading swordfish meat.
He handed me a skillet and directed me to the stove, turned on the gas, and told me what to do. Make sure this is that and that is this, simple stuff. He went out front with his wife and began entertaining the patrons in their native tongue. His sons, on the other hand, stayed with me in the kitchen. Before he left, he took off his apron and tossed it my way. I donned the mantle of chef, my newfound identity lapidated. Dinner was a hit. He even let me keep the apron, only on one condition: I had to work for him and his wife. Pay was scarce and the work environment was what you’d expect from an ex-gangster. But I got to cook. And that’s pretty cool.
a time you looked at the stars
The Dark Hour comes. No surprise there. People transmogrify as I watch. The beach is empty. The silence amplifies the waves’ roar against the pier.
I fetch some things to kindle a fire: debris and an oil drum to stuff it all in. I pull out my lighter and flick the wheel, but it’s not cooperating. Going caveman, I guess. I find two stones nearby; they’re shaped like kidneys. Rubbing them causes friction, which gets the job done. Accomplishment in my bones, I lie on the sand and stare at the sky.
In the minutes after, all I see is darkness. Green subsumes to black. Little specks of ash dot the horizon, twinkling like they are stars. Because they are. Each and every one of them. Smoke as deep as the ocean steal the night from the Dark Hour. And I gaze into my creation, phasing into dreams by the lull of the sea.
something you don’t talk about much
I gave him my shoulder. That’s what brothers do. We give our all.
He gave me happiness. That’s what brothers do. We keep each other afloat.
Miki died, a decade to the date. He wastes no time talking about her on any other day. Protection, getting stronger, feel good stuff. But not today. He doesn’t want to hear it.
We return to the wreckage. The city hasn’t done anything with the orphanage since it burned. The property’s condemned, not that it stops us from going closer. He sits on the rubble, starts talking to himself. He begins his speech this year the same as always. Sounds like a coach motivating his team. But those brazen words lose their luster. He lapses into self-pity, tears, and then nothing. Language fails him. The ruin surrounding us has become part of us. We reflect on that.
He gathers his sweater and leaves. I follow. I’ve learned not to say anything; I don’t have any right to.
a recent journey
It was supposed to be an island getaway. The shores of Okinawa, replete with sunshine and a people that live seemingly forever. The first mistake was letting Aki plan things out. He decided to rent a boat. Some wooden piece of shit.
It’ll be like roughin’ it, he said. You need to man up, he said.
The two of us and Kirijo set off to Okinawa. It was a Friday. By Sunday, we were halfway to Hawaii.
But I double-checked the coordinates, he said. I found these maps for a bargain, he said.
Kirijo demanded a receipt; it read: “P—’s Practical Pranks.” I swear she froze the entire Pacific in a fit of rage. Stranded, we drifted for days until we reached Guam. A sea current expedited things, which was nice. On Guam, we caught a ride from a fisherman and he ferried us over to Okinawa, free of charge.
Naturally, we left Aki behind. But he writes to us every now and then, so not all is lost.
something you don’t talk about much
Tried my hand at wrestling once.
Varsity team was holding open tryouts. It was weird because those guys usually kept to themselves, like a frat for burly dudes in leather jackets. Which is, you know, what fraternities are.
Had nothing to lose, so I decided to check it out. My knowledge of wrestling is pretty limited, but I do know the basics. For one, you have professional wrestlers. Caught some of the All Japan broadcasts back in the day. Misawa, Kobashi, Hansen—whenever they stepped inside the ring, you were in for a fight. Hard hitting, blood, pageantry, it’s theater with muscles.
But collegiate wrestling is a different monster. I found out why.
We were instructed to wear our gym uniforms. Not many people showed up. Had a girl, though. Nice legs. The captain told me to step inside the circle. My opponent was some slovenly looking dude. Reeked of piss and vinegar and week-old shorts. And I had the honor of getting him on the floor. That was the rule: slam the other guy as hard as you can. Anything goes. The judges were all smiles.
I steeled myself, got into position. Figured it a piece of cake. He was bigger than me, but his coordination was awkward. Exploit the flaws in his posturing, grapple him into submission. Add in a taunt or two; it just looked cool. Simple as that.
We were given the ready and before I knew it, he turned me around and buckled his arms round my waist. Lifted me over his torso, perfect arc and everything, and dropped me on my upper spine. The captain checked his stopwatch. Six seconds, Aragaki. That’s a record. N— gets the last spot. That was it. No fanfare, just a chorus of laughs guiding me back to the locker room.
I see N— around the city from time to time. No hard feelings, I always tell him. After all, in what kind of world can you get mad at someone that had you beat in six seconds? Maybe he just watched more pro wrestling than I did. Who knows? I’ve tried justifying what happened. But my thoughts always lead to dead ends. Inconclusive, unsubstantiated drivel. And they stink too. He left me with defeat and body odor.
At least it was a step up from the usual misery. I couldn’t stay bitter for too long.
⊰ XX ⊱ — Twenty Questions? She blinked. His idiosyncrasy addled her at the most—as an android, she had a difficult time grasping the mannerisms of others and their way of reacting, in an act of defining their own individuality. The Hierophant’s trait could be defined as someone… resilient? Her pallid visage softened, wondering if the term was correct. Cyan hues glimpsed up at the towering figure, a vivid gleam of dubiety glowed in her irises. A rare insight of lingering humanity, especially from someone who was too frigid to be one. They were no longer fixated on the autumn scenery but paying close attention to Shinjiro.
“I have never indulged in this ‘Twenty Questions’ activity you speak of; however, I do not believe it is befitting to the current subject. I just had a peculiar interest in you. Besides knowing about your Persona and how you initiate in battle, I do not know you well as a person besides from my mere observations and theories.” There was a pause, registering the stultified mien he wore. There was consideration, wondering if she was somewhat bringing ‘death by boredom’ to him. Striking up a conversation wouldn’t be a simple task for Aigis; she heard of ‘puns’ and ‘inside jokes’ but she couldn’t grasp the concept behind those. They were meant for ‘friends’ anyway, right? There was the smallest of a sigh elicited from the apparatus, discombobulating even herself. “—I’m not very good with holding any interesting ‘chatchit’, so forgive me if I’m ‘killing you with boredom’.”
The droid stood up; winter would be approaching soon at this rate. The crisped whispers of the gale reminded her of it, leaving behind a chill as it carried along the dead folioles hued with the wonted colors of autumn: saffron yellow and vermilion red. Normal people were quite vulnerable to even the slightest change in temperature, she thought to herself. Despite the extra layer of his jacket adorned with his trademark beanie for extra warmth, their were risks of catching a cold even if the weather wasn’t too harmful for a mid-September evening. “—It is 10.56 Celsius degrees. Catching a cold would not be the best scenario, especially as the full moon approaches, I would imagine…”
“—Perhaps we could play this ‘Twenty Questions’, you mentioned earlier? It’s not like me to pry into other business, so it’d only be fair; however, I don’t believe I’m that intriguing.” Her voice held no emotions, a usual tendancy of Aigis. She reached for the knob of the entrance and turned; already she could hear the bay of a familiar shiba inu, greeting them home. Most of the members were dispersed, without a living soul wondering in the lounge with the expectation of Koromaru, wagging his tail in exuberance. He trekked forward, wishing for a pat to the head.
Everything happened so fast. She asked, he rejoined, and suddenly the word ‘chatchit’ became a permanent fixture in his mind, no key or lock able to repress it. Somewhat bemused at the direction their conversation took them, a scant look of interest began washing away his scowl, eyes widened by interest and a splash of life to a face in need of some. He wanted to ask her to say it again, but that would be condescending, not his intention in the least. Tossing his paper-stuffed knapsack aside, Shinjiro ascended the stone steps and leaned against a ledge near the entrance.
It also begged the question: Were the others in on this? He pondered. Of the group, Makoto, Mitsuru, Fuuka, and Ken seemed least likely. Way too funny for Aki, he mused, and Takeba’d rather talk my ear off than anything. He pegged Junpei, but remembered how often the cap-wearing junior would blanch in his company. As for Koromaru, emerging from the shadows of the dorm, not totally outside the realm of possibility, but he knew the dog had better things to do.
Like sitting at his feet, tongue frothing over with saliva. It was a nice sight to come home to, made him feel like a middle-aged man returning from a hard day’s work. Devoted family and a hot meal waiting for him at the table. And all of them wore cardigans. Neither old nor a stickler for sweaters, he would have to let the thought pass. Still, Shinjiro got on one knee and showered Koromaru with pets, rubs, and light scratches. In that order, as even dogs were particular. Koromaru knew what he liked and made no effort in hiding it. Every evening, they followed the same routine: arrive, dinner, and walk. Even as the temperature began to drop, summer spilling over into autumn with subtle variations, they never once deviated from schedule. Like a brother from a radically different mother, Koromaru and Shinjiro shared a bond unlike any other. They were cathartic for one another, useful tools in the grieving process. And both had plenty of it to spare.
Having his fill of affection, the dog went over to Aigis, tail still wagging. Shinjiro rose back up and slacked right back on the ledge. “Seems like he’s taken a shine to you,” he said, “makes sense when you think about it.” Another cool breeze passed as he spoke, causing him to tucker his hands. The cold and his body hadn’t been getting along; he blamed the drugs. They were always his scapegoat for when things went awry, but his reasoning in that capacity was justified; suppressant abuse ravaged his immune system, making him suspect to a number of ailments, especially influenza. The peacoat and beanie ensemble helped mitigate things, though they were not always successful. He opened his mouth.
“You can understand dog talk. He speaks dog. It’s like…” he paused, gleaning the pages of his mental cookbook for an analogy, “fried okra and bouillabaisse. Weird as shit, but it gets the job done. As for twenty questions, I guess you’ll just have to…” Take cover. “Fire away.” Koromaru whimpered.
What was he, the Chairman?
Another scary looking man at the police station today. Was everyone visiting when her dad was free? Would Nanako ever get the chance to sit in her dad’s office, with him and Ojisan, and learn things so she can write what she learned down on take your child to work day?
It was nerve wrecking, how many people came in and out, and how many of them looked pretty scary. Especially the man with a hat. He seemed like he could be really mean. He wasn’t like Kanji, who would smile in an instant at her. But a rather…intimidating look. Maybe he would smile more if she offered him a snack?
Reaching in her small lunch box, she pulled out a chopped up piece of carrot that she and her brother grew with pride. Sliding off her seat, and leaving her belongings in place, she quietly approached the stranger, just with the honest intent of making him look a little less scary, and held out the carrot for him.
"—H-here…its good. Its good for you."
People come, people go. The story of life told through automatic doors. And in a police station, of all places. They came and went, officers with outdated guns strapped at the waist and civilians, mostly housewives and the elderly. Shinjiro watched them go their separate ways from where he sat. He had little else to do, having perused the selection of magazines to his right. Napping was out of the question—the din of footsteps kept him up—and the same for grabbing a bite to eat.
Usually a firm believer in breakfast, Shinjiro had to skip it if he wanted to get a spot at the precinct. So far, so good. First on the waiting list. Problem was, the detectives were all busy. The receptionist guided him into an empty room with off-white walls, giving it an industrial feel. Being there caused him to shiver, so he put on his beanie for protection. The chill went away before long.
One hour, two hours, he lost track. Somewhere in that span of time, a little girl emerged from one of the offices. The crack in the door revealed a man with rich stubble, no younger than forty by his estimates. Shinjiro presumed the girl to be his daughter or something of the sort. And in her possession was a carrot, which she offered with quavering hands. A fine carrot, the kind that could make any meal complete. She had taste.
“This seems too good to be true,” he said, injecting a little humor in his voice. “So what’s the catch?” Making children laugh wasn’t his forte, but he could at least try his luck. What could go wrong?
[ 誰だれ ] — Bringing back out the lighter on the assumption the hunched man hadn’t seen it before, he was slow to nod for the cigarettes. It wasn’t really his flavor, and if his brother found out, he’d be surprised if he didn’t find himself locked up. Nonetheless, out of town, out of mind. Or something like that, Tatsuya told himself.
”Not that far.” Not handing over the lighter, he only lit it up and held it out for the stranger to make use. For good reason Tatsuya didn’t let it go to anyone. “Just a couple cities over. Sumaru.”
Cigarette lit, ashen grey in the space, he lit his own, taking his own drag while pocketing the lighter. Even if it wasn’t a habit, having something to calm the nerves meant something.
Shinjiro lit his cigarette. He had his own lighter though compared to the stranger’s zippo, it wasn’t anything special. A pretty generic make as far as lighters go, the kind found in corner stores the world over. And unlike his, the zippo yielded a nice flame. Not too much, not too little, but a fire it was. He thanked the stranger with a nod, taking an extended drag in doing so.
Most smokers he knew were hasty but he took his time, letting the carcinogens marinate inside his lungs. Dispersing to every part of his body, coolness glazed over his aching muscles. White smoke exhaled, carried away by the easterly wind. The sight made him grin. He needed that.
“Sumaru.” He eased into the bench. Inhale. “Friend of mine’s a boxer, goes there for meets. Never been there myself, though.”