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New eBook Release: When Ai Met Yu

After being published in five parts on my own blog, it's time for this story to come to a wider audience. My first attempts at both a re...

Sunday, 30 April 2017

When Ai Met Yu; Part 2 - Kansai Reservations

Airnori Uchida is a freeter trying to begin his working life in Tokyo - he is also gay, and struggles with understanding where reality and fantasy must separate. By chance, he meets up with an old friend from university in Yoyogi Park. A country boy from Kansai, Airnori and Yusuke Ishinori become firm friends, and Yusuke even saves Airnori from his gym teacher’s perverted attentions.

Read Part 1; A Country Boy here.

----

That – regardless of my being rescued by Yusuke and Sayaka-sensei’s intervention – was one of the worst days of my life, but it showed Yusuke as a true friend. When I asked him why he’d been so willing to help Sayaka-sensei, his reply surprised me.

“You were the first one to show me kindness. I wasn’t going to let some pervert break that goodness in you.”

Both of us stayed with the Sports Club. Neither of us were gonna quit because some pervert coach was using it for his own ends. If we did quit, it would be a kind of victory for him. We weren’t gonna give him the satisfaction of knowing he’d frightened us off ‘his path’. I got elected coach one time, and I ended up guiding the school volleyball team to victory against both another class and another university in succession. Yusuke kept up a respectable presence and record, but his heart was set on the arts.

There was this one time we went to each other’s rooms. When Yusuke visited my house, Hiroe took to him at once and Dad was more than friendly. Later said he liked the look of him, and complemented me on my choice of friends. My room was a little bit of a tip in those days, but I managed to keep it from overflowing everywhere. Yusuke’s room was the model of neatness, something I later strove to emulate in my post-grad days staying at home. Things bumbled along well enough, and we were firm friends, calling each other ‘Ai’ and ‘Yu’ almost all the time. We both graduated successfully, and we promised to keep in touch. But neither of is kept that promise. I was busy, he was busy. At least, that’s what I thought. And it had been like that for around six months.

But that day in the park, we sat and talked. The reason he hasn’t gotten in touch was that his father had been taken ill. Liver cancer. It’d been caught early by a doctor overseas, and they’d come home so his father could live comfortably in a familiar environment while undergoing treatment. Yusuke had taken time out of his life to help the rest of his family; his mother and sisters. Things had improved, and apparently he’d come to find me again. I didn’t have such a noble excuse. I’d just been caught up in searching for a job and lost track of time. He asked whether I’d pursued my mangaka promise; all I could tell him was that I still drew but didn’t pursue anything seriously. He understood.

Finally, he invited me to have dinner at his apartment. He would only be in Tokyo for a few more days. I agreed, phoned home to make sure no-one would be worrying about me, then helped him get supplies. His apartment was neat and tidy to a fault, and as we ate, we told each other about how things had gone. To be honest, I thought there’d be some weird coolness. But there wasn’t. We flowed back into our chatty habits, and talked about everything from the latest shopping trends to our family lives. Yusuke was grinning like his old self again in no time, and so was I come to think of it. Finally, as we finished desert, Yusuke asked a question he later said had been lingering on his lips since he recognised me on the bench.

“Ai, would you like to stay in Kansai for a while? Maybe a few weeks? I’ve got my own house down there now, and there’s more than enough room.”

“Me? Stay with you in Kansai?” Since it was Yu asking me, I didn’t need to think long. “I’d love to!”

“Good, that’s settled. We’ll coordinate between us, and your family’ll have one less mouth to feed.”

“Ha! That’s the Yu I remember.”

“And you’re still the Ai I remember. Cool threads.” he prodded my jacket.

“This? Hey, it’s an off-the-peg thing I got at sale. Dated by jetset standards.”

“I like it. Makes you look sexy.”

I blushed so deeply that Yusuke burst out laughing. Suffice to say I really regretted not keeping in touch, and I was more than looking forward to some time with Yusuke in Kansai. Everything was arranged within the week, and a fortnight later I was taking a series of trains down to Kansai for a holiday which would last around three weeks.

Yusuke met me at Kameoka’s main station and we drove off in his own little car. In Tokyo, things are so crowded that cars are impractical – I have a bicycle or walk. But he said that a car could be managed in Kameoka. His home was a two-bedroom house set among fields with a view of both the town and the surrounding hills. It was more than pleasant, with all modcoms, and he was the perfect host. I insisted I contributed to the housework, an offer he accepted with a slight stiffness. I guess he expected me to be a classical guest and let him wait on me hand and foot. At least, that’s what I think, but I’m not that up on historical traditions.

It was a few days into my stay that I first met Yusuke’s sisters. He had three – one older and two younger, with the youngest still being in elementary school. His older sister was married to one of the local farm managers, and so had been on-hand to help Yusuke’s father through his illness. I was invited to visit, and I really enjoyed talking with everyone. Yusuke acted as host, and his mother was a dear. I particularly liked talking with the youngest, who was eagerly anticipating moving from elementary to junior high school.

We all went for a walk later, and I ended up walking with Yusuke’s second youngest sister Hana, a shy girl still in senior high. We were approaching a natural river, and Yusuke was jokingly telling his youngest to watch out for skulking kappa, when Hana spoke to me.

“It’s nice to meet you at last, Airnori-san. Yusuke-chan’s told me so much about you. You’re a real friend.”

“Thanks. I try.”

“It’s good to see him connect with someone at last. In high school he was always such a loner. Even during his university time here, he kept to himself.”

“Really? I’d expect a girlfriend at least.”

The sister stiffened slightly. She seemed embarrassed. I rushed to reassure her.
“I’m sorry if–”

“It’s fine. I was just a shock. I can tell you as you’re his friend. It’s not a big deal for us. He’s not into girls.”

“Not into... You mean he’s gay.” I tried not to sound judgemental, as what right had I for that kind of attitude.

“Hmm. He’s known since high school, and told us at once. Dad was shocked for a while, but we’ve all adjusted now, and we love him as much and more. He didn’t get close to anyone as he wanted security in his life before opening himself up to.... Well, back then, things were still uncertain for LGBT people. It’s different now, but he’s still nervous at times. He’s completely assured as to who he is and who he can love. You know, for a weird moment once, I thought he had a crush on you, the way he talked about you.”

My stomach twisted. I looked directly at Yusuke, who was talking to his two sisters while his mother looked on as any loving mother would. But the man kneeling next to his little sister had changed in my eyes. I didn’t know what to think. I knew I’d felt close to him, but I’d always assumed he liked the girls. He certainly didn’t have trouble interacting with or charming them at Wasada. All my preconceptions of what gay men would and should be had been hit by a sledgehammer. This guy was only a little slimmer than me, a normal-looking man with an average voice and a manner to fit what the uninitiated might see in him. Neither of us were chubby tough guys or bishonen beauties. We were just guys.

That evening, I opened my Mizuki manga and stared into it. It looked so hollow now, like watching a photograph of yourself before you’d worked off the excess fat. I looked at this one scene where.... God, I felt sick, so sick I almost tore it up. Kagami came back into my mind, and I scrunched the manga in my hands. It was then that the door opened and Yusuke was standing there. I was shocked, and quickly stuffed the manga under my pillow.

“Yeah Yu? Is something up?”

“I wondered why you’re up so late.”

“Late? Is it late?”

“Ai, it’s past midnight.”

“Oh right. Yeah. Listen, Yu, can we take a walk tomorrow. Somewhere we won’t be disturbed.”

“Sure.” Yusuke looked puzzled. “There’s this nice country walk. I’d take my little sister along it. I tell her there’s tanuki hiding round there.”

I laughed and bade him goodnight. Then I lay down on my pillow and tried to get to sleep. I didn’t sleep well that night.

The following day, we went for that walk. It really was a deserted path, and we were soon on the top of a hill looking out over the valley. It was breathtaking, but I was too distracted to notice the view that much. Yusuke saw this too.

“Ai, please tell me what’s wrong.”

It took all my courage to say it. “Yu, are you really gay?”

I didn’t know what I expected – indigence, surprise, a cold silence. Instead Yusuke shrugged and smiled.

“Yeah. Next question?”

“That’s it?!” I just exploded. “You’re gay, Yu! Gay!”

“So what? It’s not a big deal.”

“How the hell is it not a big deal!?”

“Ai, it’s the 21st century. If I want drama over my sexuality, I’ll go to America.”

“It’s... That’s...” I shuffled uncomfortably. “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way. You see, I’m gay too.”

“Oh.” Yusuke smiled. “Finally admitted it?”

“What–!”

“I knew for a while. You’re so confident around everyone, but I could see you getting a little uncomfortable around some of the guys in class. Not like other people might be uncomfortable. It was like you wanted to say something, or were just embarrassed. Then there was Kagami.”

“That sick bastard.”

“Yeah. I think he targeted you because... Well, that’s the past. But if I needed any proof before today, it’s that manga you had. I’ve known some men who just looked at those things out of curiosity, but it’s mostly something more than that.”

“You saw it?”

“Yes. Stuffing things under pillows may work at home, but I’m not so easily fooled. An artist’s eye can identify many art styles, and bara has its own touch in... certain places. I’m only surprised you read that stuff. It’s hardly realistic.”

“It’s all I’ve got. That or those bishonen pretty boys who look like stick figures. Or those ‘Onee’ on TV who walk and talk like girls. Tell me, do I look like a girl to you?!”

“You shouldn’t judge yourself by their lights. I never did.”

“How the hell are you so confident?”

“I’m me. That’s all there is. Who I choose to love doesn’t have anything to do with the essential Yusuke Ishinori. Any more than it should affect what makes up Airnori Uchida.”
We both stood in awkward silence for a while, then Yusuke grinned. “Come on. There’s this wonderful view you’ve just got to see.”

The walk passed on, and I almost forgot for a while. But back in Yusuke’s home, I felt suddenly unnerved. What the hell was I thinking? This guy was way out of my league, and who was I to him? Some guy from university whom he’d helped out of a tough scrape. I couldn’t help thinking what Hana had said about him was exaggerated in some way. Sitting in the living room, looking out at the garden, I didn’t hear the door open behind me. I didn’t notice anything until a pair of arms were gently wrapped round my torso.

“Hmm? What...?” I saw who it was. “Yu? What the hell.”

“Shh. It’s alright.” his voice was soothing. “I know what you must be feeling. Tell me, did Hana tell you?”

“Y–yeah.”

“She never exaggerates. I.... Back in university, I liked you, Ai. A lot. In fact... Yes, I’ll say it. Since then, it’s become something far more. I think it’s become something quite deep.”

“I...” I was speechless for a few minutes, then found my hands interlinking with his without thought. “I guess I really liked you too, Yu. A lot. I didn’t really think of myself as gay before I left university. I thought it was just that the girls weren’t my type. But the only ones I’d ever liked were guys. And it became more obvious when I was out and looking for work.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t push to become a mangaka.”

“I’d rather a steady job.”

“You’ve got talent, Ai. Don’t waste it.”

“Hey, aren’t you changing the subject?”

“Perhaps. Listen, Ai, I don’t want to force anything.”

I nodded, and without thinking I took his hand and kissed it gently. The rest of the day passed in awkward silence, and I went for a run before dinner. Once bedtime came, I went to my room and just sat there for some time. I didn’t know what to do. It was as 11PM approached that the door slid open and Yusuke came in. He was in his bedtime kimono, and knelt in front of me.

“Ai, I know what I said earlier, but...”

“I know. So what’s your preference? Seme or uke?”

“Neither.”

“Eh? I... But.... Oh God.”

I clutched my head. Weird visions of what I’d seen in all those mangas flashed through my mind – seme, uke, mouth, rear, hand... It felt like the cacophony of some twisted death metal musician.

“I.... I don’t know how.” my voice was shuddering. “I don’t know.”

Yusuke’s response was to open the door, pull in a double blanket and mattress and spread it around us. He then slipped in under the quilt beside me, reached under my pillow, grabbed my manga and threw it into a corner. We sat there for a little while, and all I could do was repeat myself.

“I don’t know how. Don’t know.”

“I don’t either.” said Yusuke. “How about we find out together?”

Yusuke reached across, pulled me gently towards him, kissed my cheek. I pulled him to me and kissed him hard on the lips. He didn’t go limp or sink into my arms as I thought he would, but held his ground and gave as good as he got. I didn’t know what to do, so I just shuffled around before letting go and lying down. I was shaking my head, and Yusuke later told me there were tears in my eyes. I don’t know why I would’ve been crying then.

And that’s where my narrative began. The two of us lying side by side, me scared stiff of doing anything. Yusuke reached for my chest, then for my cheek, caressing it with such tenderness.

“It’s alright, Ai. I’m here.” he then added with a sly smile. “But I don’t do anything major without condoms.”

I laughed. It was a good response. And as I’d brought a packet of them in my luggage, the mood was unbroken. That night.... I don’t think I could adequately describe it. It was like the manga, and yet its own thing. Neither of us were seme or uke, I didn’t end up pinned to anything and forced to submit, nor did I force Yusuke to do anything. It flowed naturally, as if it were meant to be.

The next day, I found a bin on the outskirts of town, checked to see no-one was watching, then brought my Mizuki manga from its shopping bag, tore in two at the spine and pushed the pieces as deep as they would go into the bin. No more pretend. No more fantasy.

“Just us two now. Right, Yu?”


Next week, we switch to Yusuke’s point of view. As Airnori’s sojourn comes to an end, Yusuke realised that they need each other, and decides to visit Tokyo to find out for sure. Next week; Part 3 - Tokyo Resolution.

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