“God, I just saw this fucking cute
hunk of bah-day!” her voice was a squeak in my ear, a bubble-gum flavor of
noise. I felt my lips turn downward in an unintended scowl.
Kids. They’re all annoying.
“Oh. M’gawd. He’s looking a’me.” She hissed into a phone barely the size of
her hand. “What should I do??”
I rolled my eyes skyward. Teenagers, it
occurred to me, really don’t know how to go about first impressions. Then I realized her gaze was directed at me. I
scoffed quietly, and pulled my jacket around the loose white shirt—a ‘blouse’ that frames my ‘sculpted
frame’ like I’m an ‘Asian god,’ as my female coworkers cheekily tell me.
Sasuke-dear’s just a rich lady’s porn dream,’ our manger would chime.
Strange, really. He’s usually a strict
guy, but pretty laid back on breaks—and perverted as hell when a favorable subject comes up. One’d guess he was
about my age, with his badly mismatched eyes—eyes that scream ‘contacts,’ but never change—under faintly mirrored sunglasses. Gray hair, well-kept frame,
he doesn’t look to be thirty.
Doesn’t act it, either, unless he’s working...
I am looking at the girl in a dress that
matches the color of her voice—bubble-gum—and I see she’s wearing a dark denim jacket that comes from the
‘designer stores’ that sell cheap clothes with long names...names that make up for the lack of fabric and reason—it’s
just an extra penny from an in consumer.
She looks like a kid.
She smiles at me, and I hear her phone
click shut. Off. You getting serious, girl? I have to wonder.
It’s not a surprise when she steps
in front of me, trying to stop me with a dainty, golden-brown hand. “Hey,” she greets. I bet she thinks her voice
is sexy. Thinks it’s sophisticated with that low, cat-like murmur. She’s all new, though. Sounds like she lacks resolve. Sounds
too much like a poster-girl and not at all like a world-driven woman.
I meet her gaze and let my lips curl downwards.
She stumbles for a second, and I walk right by. My pace is steady despite the morning traffic.
She huffs a little at my lack of interest,
and she takes a few angry, decisive steps forward. “I was talking to you!”
Amused, I look back at her cutely scowling
face. She’s not beautiful. Not by a long shot. But not ugly, either. She’s pleasant.
Most girls are.
Nevertheless, she irritates the hell out
of me. “I noticed.” I call. A flash of an Uchiha smile, and I look
forward again. Behind me, Bubble-Gum sighs girlishly. I hear her cell pone click open, and I realize she’d never hung
up on her friend.
It’s probably why she had the nerve
to call out in the first place. The reason why she didn’t let her greeting
fall flat when I didn’t return it.
“...he’s such a hottie...”
but I’m already gone. The noise of traffic, the dull murmur of voices around us, it’s not possible to keep up
with a single voice. So I’m back to my own thoughts, vaguely listening for something that might come in handy.
The walk to the department store’s
not too bad. Gives me a chance to clear my head from the subway, from the bike ride to
that underground train. All in all, I’m traveling for an hour and a half,
but who the hell cares when it saves money on insurance, gas, auto-payments, and god knows what else?
It occurs to me that most of my coworkers
could stand the exercise, and the world could benefit from less pollution.
That, and if I hadn’t walked, I wouldn’t have the time to hear the news, wouldn’t be able to feel the pulse of people moving
around me. Sakura tells me that me wanting to be around them is a good sign; she
says that it means that I want to feel some kind of connection with them, but that’s just Sakura. Ever optimistic, ever sentimental. It’s just a thing, with
no meaning beneath it.
So I’m listening vaguely to the fools
around me as I walk, uncomfortably warm with my jacket on. It’d be too bothersome to attract any more attention, after Bubble-Gum. I feel too conspicuous.
I walk down the sidewalk with my hands
in my pockets. My head’s down. I doubt anyone’s paying attention to me now.
“Get yer pap’rs here, folks!”
the voice is bright as gold to my ears. I twitch at the noise, and almost look at the kid yelling. “Tabloids, The Star, World Times. Magazines, Time, Newsweek, we’ve got it all! Stop by and take a look, will ya?” my eyes betray me, and a smiling
face swirls into focus. Blond-gold hair under a floppy hat, bright blue eyes, an even tan despite the cloudy summer. Crooked
smile, soft features and a knowing look that caught me by surprise.
A true salesman, he whirls in on me in
an instant. “Hey there, sir,” he bobs a little, even tips his hat. A smile tugs at my lips, but I scoff instead.
The idiot’s just putting on a show. “You wanna buy a magazine?” any hint of courtesy drops after an instant,
and his laughing eyes beg an answer.
“No.” I reply, and start off.
He catches my arm with a cheerful grin
and unruffled laughter. “Oh?” he pulls me closer, and I become conscious of strong, faintly outlined muscles beneath
the ridiculous outfit. “You want some real entertainment, eh?” his
eyes won’t stop laughing, “Well, I’m just the guy to get it for you!” his foot flips open a plastic
door, and with dirty shoes he pushes a magazine out of a stack, kicks it up, and snatches
the pamphlet with one hand.
It’s shoved in my face before I can
see what it is, but the kid’s already talking again.
entertainment enough for ya, right?” his eyes danced with mirth.
I managed to back up a step or two, and
the pictures in the open magazine came into focus.
Two men, both half-dressed, groped at each
other in an unexpected portrayal of a drug-frisk.
I sputtered. “Excuse me, I didn’t
say that I want your—”
His grin filled my vision. “What,
isn’t this yer type?” he laughed quietly, and dropped the magazine—kicked it behind the plastic door and
shut it with a snap. “I figured you for a, you know,” he made a fluttering gesture with one hand while the other
tugged self-consciously at a stray lock of hair.
My eyes were cold, I could tell, and he
glanced nervously up at me for a second before laughing uproariously.
“Well, most doors swing both ways, you know?” he sniggered, and ducked under his little booth to open another barely-visible door.
“How’s this for your standards, huh?”
But I was already gone, walking down the
So much for clearing my head.
* * * * *
I leaned against the beaten old couch,
too tired to get my drink from the fridge. I glanced at my pants, trying to gauge whether or not I had my cigarettes with
me. Immediately, I realized that my slacks weren’t nearly as pristine as they usually are. Meaning I’d forgotten
to iron them...again.
it all...I thought. I shoved my hand in my pocket, fumbled around for the lighter, and blindly reached for my cigarette
box. Shit...why’d I have to leave it on the table...? My eyes soon confirmed
the position. I heaved a sigh.
My fingers itched for something to hold,
my body craved the feel of thick, smooth smoke to soothe frazzled nerves. My lips twisted into a grim smile.
I’d seen a fifteen-year-old—maybe
sixteen—kid chatting on her cell phone, puffing away like the old housewives do, on my way to work. She was stopped
at a light. Me, I was on the sidewalk, jacket slung over my shoulder, trying to simultaneously straighten tie and shirt. Couldn’t
help but wonder...do I look that stupid, with my mouth slightly open? Always yielding to a thin cylinder of paper and old
leaves and shit I wouldn’t care to think of.
It sure catches us...predictable mystery
and consoling ease. It’s only a
few dollars a pack...like sodas...It’s only something to do with your hands.
But I’m tired now, and I don’t
want to move three feet to get the things. Nevertheless, my hands itch for it, my mouth yearns for it...my eyes stray that way.
I’ve never thought about quitting.
Seriously. It’s easy to ignore Sakura—my old girlfriend from high school—when she rants about every smoker’s
suicide wish. Right. Suicide. Only the weak would resign to that sort of escape.
I’ll just take the habit.
Eventually, I’ll get up and get the
damn pack...’till then...
Not a moment passes, and a smell drifts
into my consciousness. The faint odor of tires, smog and paper. A memory’s triggered. That pervert. All I can think
of is his crooked smile, tousled hair...Good god, what kinda street-vendor wants to
look like some paperboy from the turn of the century?
My mind wanders.
Minutes tick by, and finally, I give.
I lunge for the little box—white
and black—to dispel an image of his knowing wink.
* * * * *
When my feet get tired, and my lungs ache
too much, it’s time to take a break.
Despite the rain, or maybe because of it,
I wanted to go outside not even an hour after my previous lapse in work. It smelled heavily of rain, dust and some amount
of mold. The best of the air was damp and smoggy at best, but that didn’t stop me from staying out of doors. Walls all around me gets suffocating after a
So I lean against the wall in my little
alcove, one foot resting on the railing across from me and the dumpster, and one firmly on the ground. Occasionally, a drop
of water will fall from the roof, and my eyes will follow the path.
“Kids.” The voice caught me
by surprise. Cigarette between two lips, I almost bit through the fine paper. “Fuck ‘em all…” the
voice trailed off. “Always starting a habit they can’t stop.”
I almost choked on my cigarette.
“So, ya sure I can’t sell you
a magazine or two…?” leaning against the stone wall, hand pressed lightly against the jagged surface.
I straightened, and towered over the boy.
“Don’t you have a booth to guard?” I asked quietly. My coworkers have told me that when I’m angry,
my voice is ‘sexy as hell, smooth and silky as smoke.’ I have to wonder if that’s what this guy thinks.
But he just laughs at me. “Nah, they
only lemme do that part time, buddy. They say I’m only good for early mornings—annoying enough to wake ‘em
up, but not clever enough to sell ‘em at lunch or later.” He laughed ruefully, and pulled his hat off his head.
His hands twirled it around like a little top, and my eyes followed the movement. He tilts his head thoughtfully, and murmurs,
“They pro’lly only let me work then ‘cause they don’t wanna get up,
I growled quietly, but he doesn’t
seem to notice. “So if you’re off, why are you trying to sell me something?”
The wind blew restlessly, and I found myself
wanting my jacket.
The kid grinned. “Well,” his
eyes twinkled, “It occurred to me that it might be a good conversation starter.” He laughed at my dubious expression,
and continued. “That, and I thought it’d annoy the hell outta ya, and I wanted ta see wha’cha’d do.”
I rolled my eyes, dropped the cigarette,
and absently ground it into the cement. “Yeah?” I asked, quiet still. I retrieved another from the pack and lit
it with one easy motion.
Even though I see a blink, he just laughs
again, and I feel color rising in my cheeks. He’s more of a kid than I am, the scrawny little—
“How come’s a guy like you workin’ at this dingy little place?” his words are honestly curious, but something tells me he’s
asking more from boredom than a true desire to know.
I scoff. “What’s it to you?”
a raindrop falls, but I pay it no mind.
“I’da put ya as a company man,
myself. Retail? You must suck at customer services.”
My eyes narrowed, and the smile that
had been growing until that moment fell. “What gives you—”
people reply to questions, f’r ‘xample, and most people like porn.”
I sputter, and he laughs some more. “What
do your perverted magazines have to do with—”
“I mean, fashionable clothes I can
get, but this place? It’s just a dressy place with no cool clothes, no good
music or nothin’, and a sharp kid like you’s workin’ here?”
he shook his head. “It’s a waste.” The wind starts to pick up, chilling the air more than before.
I glare at him, but he doesn’t seem
to notice. He just keeps twirling that fucking hat of his. “Who are you to decide what’s good for me?”
He winks at me, and I think I see a hint
of real mirth, not slap-stick humor. He’s getting a kick out of me. “I mean, you gotta be some rich little brat, right? I just can’t figure why you’d be here and not someplace with a little, you know, class and reputation.”
Suddenly I’ve got the urge to blow
smoke in his face. With a smile that stretches across my face, I do so, and he sputters. “Listen, kid—”
But it isn’t long before he recovers,
and he coughed lightly before interrupting. “Naruto. My name’s Naruto.”
I shot a glare at him. “Yeah. Whatever.”
This Naruto, I don’t much care for him, but he won’t send me back in
that hell hole so easily.
Finally, I take in the rain. It must have
started a minute ago, it’s so thick and heavy now. The sound of it falls above us, on the little alcove that offers
precious little shelter from the long, cold streaks of water. Hat donning Naruto wrinkles his nose as thunder fills the sky
with its brilliant rumble. The kid squeaks a little.
“Fuck the weather, too…do cities
ever get clean, nice days?” his voice lowers, and the smell of rain seems
to fill him up with doubt. His shoulders sag, and his eyes darken.
“Not from around here, are you?”
I find myself asking, and inwardly I wince. I shouldn’t prolong conversations with trash like him. After all, what would
my manager think?
His laughter is rough as lightning,
and mine is smooth and light…except for the brief clash that comes like uneven rain. I’m getting wet, but I don’t
really notice. It won’t fully occur to me until I’m indoors, getting warm, and my clothing starts to stick to
damp skin. For now, it feels cool—good—on my too-warm feet and arms. I find myself thinking, it’s been a long time…since I’ve been this kind of cold.
Even this crappy drizzle of water causes
a weather change.
Naruto, I noticed, was rubbing busily at
his arm. Like a kid, he had numerous notes written just under his wrist—notes that sprawl around the surface like a
half-drawn bracelet…He curses quietly, and I repeat my question…
“Jackass. Where’re you from?”
He doesn’t look at me, so I can clearly
see the irritation in his eyes at That question. I get the feeling he’s asked it a lot. “Nowhere. Why, ya curious, Prissy Whore?” his grin returns, a little lopsided, and he pulls his cap down to block the rain.
I didn’t notice when he put it back on.
I see there are splotches and streaks of
gray-blue all around his forearm—the sleeves were pulled up to avoid stains—and I wonder what kind of ink he could
have used that’d blur so much. Then I wonder why I care.
“So what if I am?” I scoff,
and as I flick away my cigarette, he snatches my hand. His unoccupied fingers fly towards his hat, and he easily pulls a pen
from behind one ear.
He’s a card, this Naruto…to
The pen, I see, isn’t meant as an
instrument of pointing or indicating. It’s for me, writing a quick sprawl of
a message that’s barely legible. His mouth forms the words—like he’s a fucking elementary student—and
I jerk my arm away just as he’s pulling up his pen. The ink trails down my wrist to stop at the beginning of my palm.
I’m wet, I realize, and cold. I frown.
“The rain on your arm…”
Naruto says. “When it smears up? It looks the same as when someone’s crying…the lopsided grin’s gone.
He’s just looking at me now, and I shift uncomfortably.
“Idiot. Nobody cries that much…”
the streaks were too many to read the upside down words by then. I remember the cold, and once again wish for my jacket. The
wet shirt surely clings more than a blazer would.
Laughter again. “No shit, fuckass.”
Juvenile. Profane, juvenile curses only. He continued in a more thoughtful done.
“Ya must’a cried a lot, then, to realize that…” Piercing blue eyes pin me there, and I start.
I rub at the smearing pen-marks, and it
dawns on me. He hadn’t used a ball-point, after all. The wide streaks and
thin connections could only be made with a brush. A Chinese—fuck, Japanese—calligraphy
pen. And a know-nothing like Naruto had one, on hand, when I barely use mine. Locked
in a cupboard, safe and dry. My grandmother would be pleased…she always insisted that only gifted calligraphers should bother with the Art. Geniuses like Itachi. Fools were better left to watch, and marvel.
My mother always encouraged me, though…she’s
always been too soft…always was too soft. She used to say, ‘everyone is an artist, mother…even the rain has a hand with which
to draw. And like the rain, we can dabble in any art we wish.
I begin to comprehend the situation as
it truly is, and I know now that this particular fool had gotten under my skin. He’d gotten me to think of faces that’d
barely registered a week before—the anniversary—from old photo albums. I snarl. “Who the fuck are you to
know anything about me?!” my voice is loud. Uneven as his thunderous roar.
I’m not like the rain. Not like my dainty mother or her genius son.
Naruto only returns my irregular reply
with raucous laughter, and I fight the urge to throttle him. My dead cigarette is still clutched between two fingers, and
I throw it at him. The ash catches him by surprise, but there isn’t much of a spark…not in this weather. He yelps anyways, and runs into the metal railing that bars the ramp. Dozens of raindrops fall,
and the seat of his pants are soaked. I laugh, and he glowers. Icy blue orbs now, his damned eyes.
I gesture toward the door, and his eyes
flicker across the red and white sign. Employees only. “If you’d like
to buy something, come on in through the front.” He knows as well as I do that that’s a good half-block around
the department store. His smile fell, and icy eyes turned smoky with anger. “But we won’t accept loitering, or
“Fuck you, bastard—”
But my cold feet are telling me that my
break’s up, and I’ve turned the knob by then.
Through the door.
“—me for a—”
Done and done with that.
* * * * *
I leave work later than I’d intended
upon. Cassie, one of the night shift, was late again. As a college student—and being a year younger than me—she
thought ‘class let out later than expected’ was a good excuse. And
it might have been, except for the smell of smoke and light beer that radiated off her.
Kakashi, despite being the perverted manager
that he was, had been discretely looking for new blood to keep hours going.
So it was six thirty before I was
off, and after a menacing stare gifted to my errant coworker, I left, urgent as ever to catch the next bus to the subway.
No time for walking, today, if I wanted to get home before eleven. But the closest bus stop, I found, was deserted. Not another
bus ‘till seven fifteen—the height of dinner rush. By that time, it’d be faster to walk.
With every step, I silently cursed Cassie
and her midday drinking. People, I know, go out of there way to put me in a bad mood.
The rain that’d followed me all day reaffirmed its presence within minutes of my hurried walk. And I don’t have
an umbrella—with any kind of winds, the flimsy things are useless. So my walking slows to an indifferent crawl. I’m
going to be wet anyways, so there’s no need to hurry…none at all…
I’m drenched within minutes and even
my hair carries full streams of water to the street.
the weather, indeed…
“Oi!!” a voice behind me bellows,
and I look back. The long-limbed kid behind me’s holding a magazine over his head, and I easily place the bedraggled
kid as the brat from before.
Naruto, wasn’t it?
He catches up to me in what feels like
a blink of an eye, and his cold hand snatches mine, again. He pulls me along at a break-neck run, saying something I can only
catch half of.
“—a store, jackass—”
my eyes narrow. “—flooding and shit—” my mind whirls. “—delays all over…”
so he continues like that, and I gather there’s a bad storm brewing. My lips twitch. A bad storm that we’re running
The message—his message—on
my arm must be completely gone, now. Pity. I hadn’t gotten a chance to read it.
Finally, we turn just as the shower picks
up pace, and Naruto’s yelling something ahead of him, now. We flew up a loading dock—the entrances to this particular
building is a good deal away…all of them are. I know this, because I chose my evening route based on that fact.
In the mornings, I’ll take 36th street, and in the evenings, I’ll take Stuart…I
don’t want to deal with any more people by the end of the day. I want silence, so I walk where there are never many
people, or traffic. The mornings are fine to hear news from my neighbors…it’s good to listen in, then. But evening
chatter is full of personal gossip or plans, not information.
Naruto’s pounding on the door
now, shouting something indistinct. I put a hand on his shoulder—and suddenly his hat’s almost pushing into my
eyes—to try and tell him, give it up. No one’s going to come.
It was ridiculous for him to even expect
someone to get us out of the downpour, but here we were—away from the subway—standing
at a back entrance to a mall, waiting to be let in. Preposterous.
But miraculously, the door opens. And an
earnest, slightly anxious face appears in the crack.
Naruto raises a dripping hand to tip his
hat. “Yo.” He greets, and the tight expression softens as the door is spread wide.
“Come on, then, in with ya!”
the voice, with its round face and warm eyes…it all speaks of a motherly temperament, to me. Nothing like my bird-like,
beautiful mother. “Before the rain gets in, now!”
We shuffle inside with a quiet ‘thanks’ from Naruto and a nod from me.
“God, Naruto, I thought we got you
in already! Weren’t you treating Sher to coffee earlier?”
So he has friends, after all. I glance
at the blond for a minute.
He’s laughing, and trying to shake
his hat dry. With the motherly girl’s help, he eases out of the best and gingerly puts it on a hanger to dry before
meeting my gaze. He holds out his hand and widens that crooked grin.
“I was helping out a stray,”
he confides with a wink. His words aren’t directed at her, even though he answers her unspoken question. “Figure’d
he’d catch pneumonia, walkin’ about ou’ there…”
His friend shakes her head and eyes me
with exasperation. This kid, I realize, must be in high school…she’s certainly a year or two younger than Naruto
is. I watch her mouth as she speaks, and wonder if she brushes her teeth at all. “Well, off with your coat.” She
snaps, and my blazer’s off and on a hanger before I can protest. “You can get it back once the storm’s over…”
so with that untrustworthy note, she scampers back a few feet where a less-than pristine couch lay in its faded glory.
Naruto whistled, and ran over, his hand
dangling the wet, tearing magazine. “Here, I looked at this earlier.” He grinned. “Why don’cha leave
it in the break room for your coworkers ta enjoy an’ make mischief over?”
I glance at the girl, who laughs, and Naruto
runs back with a satisfied smile lighting his face.
The room we’re in must be the storage
area, but Naruto calmly pulls my hand again—the same one as always, the one with the faint traces of ink, and we’re
Naruto drags me through a maze of boxes
and bundles, and picks up a conversation I believe he wanted to start earlier. “Some people are good enough to let poor,
wet people in…even through an employees only entrance.” His smirk was
triumphant in the dim light.
I didn’t say anything, for a while.
Finally, we reached the clothing store, and after that, the great hallway that leads to other shops in the mall. Shopping
center. Whatever the hell it is.
“You owe me coffee,” Naruto
shouts back tome. I wince. There may be a low roar of voices, but it’s not too loud to hear the guy in front of me…
I snort, and wonder if he’s trying
to earn back what he bought for the mysterious Sher. “I owe you nothing, asshole…”
but I follow him anyways. Coffee doesn’t seem like a bad idea, when you’re cold and wet…
So that’s how I wound up sitting
at a little table-- barely two feet in diameter—across from the kid who’d tried to sell me porn earlier.
Gay porn, at that.
I’d wound up buying him some intoxicatingly
sweet brew he’d said was ‘white mocha’ with straight, black coffee for me. I think he poured some of his fowl brew in mine, because it tasted too
sweet for my preferences. This alone had me drinking less quickly, and unoccupied mouths tend to run in coffee shops. Mine included.
The blond picks up his cup and starts drinking.
“So wha’s yer name?” Naruto asks after he’s surely drained the entire thing. He sighs with satisfaction,
and I wonder how he could guzzle the hot liquid and then eye a passing couple’s steaming cinnamon rolls. He seemed more
interested in food than my conversation, but I felt the need to reply.
“Sasuke.” I pause. “My
name’s Uchiha Sasuke…” I sipped the sweetened beverage in my hand.
His laughter took me by surprise. “Fuck,
you say it like they do in a James Bond movie…so what’s
your name, ass?”
I’m scowling now. “Whore.”
He laughs outright. “My given name’s Sasuke. Family name’s Uchiha.”
He quirks a strange little smile, and I find myself explaining before I can decide not to. “I’m just saying it like you’re supposed to—like Japanese people do.”
Naruto stares with laughing blue eyes.
I want to hit him. Badly. “No shit. Ya know, I’m part Japanese…Uzumaki Naruto’s my full name.”
he grins. “But like an American I usually say it’s Naruto Uzumaki.”
He laughs cheerfully, and says, “God, when I was little, kid’s’d
mutilate my name by sayin’ stuff like NaRUto Oooze-monkey…it drove
me nuts. So for the longest while, I just told people to call me Blue.” His shoulders shook with his chuckles. “But then I’d got people callin’ me Red, Gold or White instead, ‘cause of whatever ‘funny’
reason they could come up with…it was still better ‘n ooze-monkey, though…”
he eyed a passing student—their arms were laden with a dripping textbook and a tray of warm cookies. “You hungry?”
I snorted. “You?”
He grinned in reply.
“Right, then.” I sighed, and
wished he could calm his raging stomach. We stood up, him with his hands tucked into pockets and me fumbling for my wallet.
I came up with the pack of cigarettes instead.
Naruto made a face. “Suicide in a
box.” He commented. “You’re not planning on bartering for our
food, are you?”
I laugh dryly and he looks at me strangely.
“I’m getting my wallet.” I sneer, and he rolls his eyes.
“Stupid Sasuke. That’s in your
I laugh now, frigid as ever. “What,
you marking me up for a pocket job?”
He looks annoyed at the assumption, and
we wait in line with our uncomfortable silence. Occasionally, I’ll sip my fowl coffee, listening to the conversations
around us…those useless fools who couldn’t care less about who hears
them. Such petty talk is beneath me, but they should care more about the face they show to the public.
My own mother taught me that…long
before my father reprimanded me publicly for the very childish behavior she warned against. As a result, those people who
attended our family reunion always thought of me as a senseless fool with a charming—childish—disposition…
my mother had said. ‘Don’t talk of family matters where you can be
easily overheard, dearest. Those things are meant to stay in the family. Please
do your best to remember that…’
eight. After only a few weeks, I should have remembered that family reunions aren’t
meant as gossip grounds.
And then, ‘Dear, he couldn’t remember for that long…it wasn’t even an important matter! He’s only
eight years old—’
I trust next time, you’ll keep your silence?’ I nodded quietly, and my brother puts his hand on my shoulder. He
doesn’t smile. ‘There’s a good boy. Just watch after your brother, Itachi. Make certain he doesn’t
do anything shameful.’
Most children don’t know the meaning
of the word.
I glance at Naruto with suspicion and glower
forebodingly. The blond, preoccupied with choosing the best of delicacies off the menu, didn’t notice. I smolder quietly.
Something about the kid makes me remember
Things I’d rather forget.
The second order of coffee, I find, was
due only after an excruciatingly long wait in line. Fortunately or not, I was cold enough to finish the previous cup. I order
black tea and Naruto another mocha with cinnamon rolls for two and a sandwich—presumably to share. I wordlessly swipe
my debit card and punched the credit option.
Knowing how hasty my newfound companion
had proved himself to be, I ask leisurely, “Can you send the rolls with the drinks?” the girl, barely into high
school, if my guess serves me right, blushes furiously at my request and I smile coolly. With one hand, I push a strand of
hair out of my eyes and let the smile widen—just a bit.
She stammers a bit, and nods, breathless.
Behind her, an older cashier rolls his
eyes, and shoves a plate—the sandwich—forward. I nod my thanks and sign the slip of receipt. Carefully folded,
the yellow copy is preserved in my pocket. By this time, I notice, Naruto is half-flirting with the older boy fixing our drinks.
“Add a little cream to the black,
would ya?” he’s asking. “Sweeten up the nasty stuff—” I shove the plate into his hands and he
yelps with surprise and winks at the boy. “It’s awfully bitter alone,
ya know?” and the young man laughs. Dark skin, hair and eyes, he compliments Naruto’s gentle tan and golden hair
beautifully. I find myself scowling at the two.
“Why are you here?” I ask, ignoring the cashier. Let the fool talk of personal issues here if he so chooses…
And he smirks at me, motions with his head
for me to take the tray of rolls and rinks as he devours the sandwich. “Lookin’ for my dream.” He grins
widely… “How ‘bout you?”
My mouth is dry, my body cold. I narrow
my gaze and murmur, “…my dream isn’t here.”
He looks at me strangely, and we’re
almost to the table. “Maybe,” he notes, “You aren’t—”
“It’s in the”
“part of the world I can’t
reach.” I smile. Cold. “My purpose…well. I don’t have one.”
He’s looking at me in a manner no
one’s showed since—
smiling gently now, and fiddling with his hat in one hand…the sandwich he finished a good minute before. “Come
on, share that armchair with me? Our table’s already been filled.” He gestured towards a squishy green chair.
Its matching neighbor was occupied with a pair of squabbling middle school kids, with their parents standing off in line behind
us, by the looks of it.
Sitting. With the idiot boy who’s most likely crushing on me.
“No. I’ll stand.” Naruto
pouted at me, and walked over anyways. His expression clouded for a minute, and I knew something was up. He smiled liquidly
at me, and his eyes twinkled. “Here, let me hold your cup,” his voice, normally so agitatingly loud, turned sweet and smooth…pleasing, really.
I glower. “No. I’m not—”
But his nimble hands’ve grabbed the
styrofoam cups and he’s launched in the opposite direction. “Ooooh, which of these is mine…?” an innocent
little question that caused the surrounding people to giggle behind open palms.
I tread forward reluctantly. Hesitantly.
“Naruto, quit it—”
But even with his hands busy, he’s
not a complete ditz. So I wasn’t prepared for him to tumble towards me with
two full drinks in tow. Laughter sparkled in his voice as he called out musically, “Oh no, I’m falling…!”
And so he pushed me down, tray and all,
into the overstuffed chair, and thusly pinned me down by sitting on my legs. I couldn’t help but notice the surrounding
people’s laughter, and I felt a flush cover my face.
…now they’d all assume we’re…
“Bitch.” I mumble, still red.
He laughs cheerfully and winks. “Ho.”
He leans in so our faces are barely two inches apart when he says it, and I can’t help but laugh.
Coldly, menacingly. “Idiot…”
but he’s heard that too many times.
“What am I doing here, you asked? Hmm…” he took a sip of the left cup. “Ugh. This is yours…”
and a sip of the right. “Mmm…much better.” He settled comfortably into the cushion—and me. Finally,
he pushed back a little, putting his face closer to mine, too.
Entirely too intimate for my tastes. I
“Well,” his voice lowers a
little, and the people across the table from us are undoubtedly assuming that we’re having a conversation better suited
…this bitch is manipulative as hell…
“I’m not from here,” he purrs, and snickers at my expression.
His smile’s gone now, and the playful,
sexual behavior tones down a little. A serious conversation, now, by looks of it. Everyone around us turns their ears in,
and listens for a word, a snatch of our lives.
I know why my mother told me to keep my
Nobody should have to endure those
“I grew up in
a fuck-ass little town where everyone knows everyone else’s shit.” I rescue a hand from behind his back, and take
my tea from him. It’s hard to believe that anyone can be trusting enough
to tell a stranger off the street such a…
…story about themselves.
What a fool I’ve found. “Nobody listens, though, so whatever the fuck you do, it’s all there but no one ever listens…they just hear what they want,
only what they want and…” he takes a shuddering breath and almost drowns
himself with coffee. I pat his back when he leans forward, and he coughs a little.
He stays in that position
a little longer than necessary, and it occurs to me that our image as a ‘couple’ has been solidified in every
I remove my hand as
he leans up. “Fuck, I’m dizzy now…” and he leans against my retreating hand, capturing it there. I
try and twist it out, and he moans quietly. “Oh, don’t quit that…my back’s really sore.” He
gestures with his free hand, moving his entire palm in a roundabout circle. “Like that. That feels good.”
“I never knew
my parents.” He said it so quickly, so suddenly that I almost lost the train of thought. “I grew up between foster
families, moving in and out of one home after another so that every. Fucking. Family had me
before I was eighteen.”
He laughed dryly, and
for a second he sounded like me. “They used to joke about it, sometimes,
sayin’ shit like, ‘you’ll have the monster next, if you’re not careful!’ Like taking care of
a kid’s supposed ta be punishment or somethin’…and if someone
broke a particularly nasty rule, they’d be stuck with me for a good month
or two before the mayor or someone decided, ‘enough’s enough. Next, please…’” he took a sip
of coffee, and put a piece of cinnamon bun in his mouth to chew thoughtfully.
“I think it must’ve
been in my parents’ will or something, ‘cause I wasn’t ever sent out
of our little town.”
He made a face. “God,
this’s really sweet…try some.” He tore off a sliver and dangled it in front of my mouth.
I winced away from it
and waved it away. “No…I don’t like sweets…”
He blinked. “Then
why’d you order two…?” a puzzled, childlike expression overtook his engaging face.
I laughed, and rubbed
a quick circle in his back. He purred audibly. “I thought you might want to take it home.” I murmured quietly…
He chortles, rich and
full… “In this fuckin’ weather? Shit, I’d be lucky if it
even looked like a bun, by then!” he giggled. “It’d be nothin’
I had to grin back.
He sounded like a real kid… “So, um, I eventually turned eighteen. I didn’t run away—not for lack
a tryin’, though—and they gave me a small amount of money from the state…ta keep me goin’ ya know…so
they wouldn’t have ta feel bad if I wound up on the street after awhile. ‘cause, ya know, most kids do fine on their own…if they’ve got parents to pay for their bills when they’re hard up, or to
He trailed off, and
I took advantage of his lapse to take a drink. “Too bad for you…”
In a moment’s
notice, his sad, reflective expression changed to one of annoyance and rage. “Bitch, don’t even go there—”
“Go where? No one has a perfect life, brat.”
I’m telling you about me, so you’d better listen…” he choked
on his drink again, but I didn’t bother patting his back. “I moved here, ‘cause I think there’s more
I snort. He ignores
here I am…workin’ as a shitty magazine vender…” he laughed dryly, and smiles a little. “I managed
to make the huge” his voice is so dry here, I can almost taste the sarcasm,
“amount of money my benefactors gifted me with last for a good while. But…there’s
only so much a guy can make on part time commission, and fuck, money goes quick with utilities an’ shit…”
He ran his hands through
his hair, and smiled ruefully. “The lease on my apartment ran out a few days ago.”
Ah, we come to the reason he’s been bothering me…I look at him accusingly, but he’s
busying himself with a piece of the cinnamon roll. I can’t imagine how he’d still be hungry…
He clears his throat,
and smiles a little. “So I’ve been hopping houses again,” he laughed. “Just like when I was a kid…”
his smile flickers, and I wonder how it can be that bad. At least he had somewhere to go… “You know, Mary? The
girl who let us in. She put me up for a day, helped me get some of my stuff from my apartment an’ shit. But her parents,
god, they don’t want their girl stayin’ with a guy outta high school,
especially if he shows up with next to no clothes and absolutely no cash.
“I mean, they’re
worse than lotsa folks, askin’ about shitty stuff like jobs and future plans,
and they take one look at me and my face and decide that yeah, their daughter can’t
hang with a nobody like me. So ‘fore breakfast’s even over, I’m out the door again…”
I smile at him, somewhat,
and he softens a little. “You’ll find something to do.” I say gruffly.
An annoyed spark lights
in his eyes. “Hey, your place’s gotta be short on people, with how
late you were,” malicious, this brat. “Why don’t you get me a
hire trash like you.” I say stiffly, and he sputters. I nearly get coffee on my drying shirt.
While he’s still
wiping his mouth, he starts to talk. Just like the bitch he is. “Ya could
be a little more sympathetic, you know…”
I’m pushing him
forward, though, pushing him out of my way. “I bought you dinner. Now get the hell
out of my face.” So he’s got no choice but to move or fall backwards—and hit his head against the stone
floor—so he scrambles quicker than before.
Out of the corner of
my eye, I see him wrap the cinnamon roll in the ad from the tray. Saw him clutch it close to his body and hesitate, just a
He brought me through this mall, I can get myself out. Show me something once, and I’ve got it forever.
Just like my brother.
—who wants only
The whirl of people
around me thins as I make my way to the clothing shop, grows weak as smoke as I pass through the employees only entrance without
for him. The dark and
stormy clouds pour rain down, I can hear it, and the winds are screaming their howls, not just spreading them. I pull on my
jacket, listen for his running feet, but he’s turned, headed for the old couch, like before.
He’s left the
roll on the table, by the magazine of reputable content, but I’m out the door. My feet pound through the water, and
I feel safe for a blessed instant.
Nobody will be here,
in this kind of weather.
Most people have gone
indoors, sheltered themselves away from the elements that should damn well kill them.
I would that it did.
“Fuck you, Uchiha!” he’s yelling, and I realize my peace has been shattered again by
and tilted smiles. “Get back here!” his words, so meaningless to me, are nothing but sounds
through the rain.
For a bitch, he runs
pretty quick in rough elements. I have to wonder if he’s had experience.
His footsteps are loud
in my ears, nothing but a thunderous tap and scream against pouring water. And he’s covered by thick lightning, in my
eyes, trained only for the light that will never touch him.
‘Sasuke, you are only for the dark.
Run as far as your feet will take you, but I know where you’ll wait.
“Stay for me.
“Live for me, and give me your undying love and
“Your genius” oh how he loves that word “is not for this
“It’s for mine.”
Damn him, damn
them, damn my fucking body.
As the thunder shakes
our street and fills my heart with dread, I feel tight pressure around my chest, warmth and strength in an embrace I imagine
can give. I start, nearly
throw him from me, but the weight is more than I expected.
“You fucking disappoint me, brat…” he’s saying. “We were getting dry, damn it…”
And I laugh. And laugh,
and laugh. “You’re curious.” I accuse.
He looks at me funny,
and that crooked smile is weighed down by so much rain. “So?”
I laugh at him, laugh
only here to hear it. You want to know why I’m so fucked up, right?”
His wordless reply
in the way of a tight
squeeze, a warm hug that for a minute dispels the cold around me.
I’m still laughing,
but I start to walk. I take his hand with my ink-stained one, and swing it gently through the water.
now, golden whore,
I’m telling you
what no one has ever heard.”
My voice is quiet and
strong, and he has to slow
his breath to hear.
I look at him, and he looks at me.
“My mother fucked
since before I was born.”
lilt-like smile that
tears my face
spreads to my eyes.
“But our father is the same;
he is my mother’s
In my dreams, he could
have been close,
like my Itachi, for
I loved my brother
than ever my father.
“You, with your
pale, brilliant eyes,
your engaging ways,
you think you know sorrow.
You know less than you
The hugeness of a city
until darkness falls,
and only the beating of your
can be heard.
“My brother tells
tales. He walks without
a word in his head,
with pain in his eyes
that no one can see,
each blackened orb
filled with blood and
dozens of black nights.
For who could
listen, when my dainty
as she did?
soft of curve and of
she never chides, never
lifted her hand
against even my father,
who darkened her
pretty face as many
did yours, am I right?
You look so pale, beloved
has the wind taken your
They teach the children
in houses such as mine.
They teach the
young and guileless
to speak in half-truths
or lies when the young
things would rather take
their open hands in
song or dance.
“In my dreams,
the blood is still red.”
He swallows, and looks
to interject, but I see the
dreams of death and
madness coming about me
once more, so I hurry
past him, hurry along and
wait for the words to
“Before my brother
took her white throat
in his grown, adult-like
before I fled his shadow
at a moment’s notice,
before I stood in a
pool of empty blood,
(and was it empty, whore?
Was it truly?)
before I came
to you, golden bitch
blackened and speechless
and full of
I seized a thought that
has never left me.
Family will desert you.
There are no ties that
Pride will lead to destruction
Smile full and wide
and take the sun into your grasp
if you can.”
The words leave me then, and I’m
alone as I haven’t been in a long while. My heart feels so empty, so full of regret, and he just stares at me with wide
“I want a cigarette…”
I mumble, and he stares at me some more.
“…shit…” he murmurs,
and rubs a wet hand through dripping hair.
I roll my eyes. “You can go home,
now. Go back to your friends and would-be family.
“You don’t want to know me.”
the world will flee your footsteps as only I will trace them…’ he
A sputter, and a shaky laugh. “Fuck
you, asshole…” he mumbled, but I could hear him perfectly. It’s only to be expected, really. You can’t
tell people stories like my shit and hope for them to stay. “You have no fucking right to tell me what I want!”
So he takes my hand, my ink stained hand,
and pulls it up, pulls me back and holds me close.
Our lips meet for an instant, numbing me
and filling me with him and his taste.
The fucking idiot.
“You don’t know me.”
I return, and he laughs some more.
Winks. “No shit, Sherlock.”
And I can tell his breath is still uneven, still shaken. “But you don’t know me,
either, and my life ain’t a basket of roses…”
He left things unsaid, then?
The expression of a perfect bitch.
past is no worse than mine.” he declares, and smiles unevenly. “And I, for one, am willing to be your…uh,
friend.” He pauses. “Take the sun…if you can,” he wipes his lips self-consciously. “And I’ll
sure as hell—”
“You can stay with me.”
Let him die like the rest of them, if he’s
And if he doesn’t…
“You shittin’ me?”
Bright laughter, bright eyes, bright
“You don’t do anything half-assed,
do you?” Naruto mutters, and pulls me closer. “You ain’t gettin’ away from me, Sasuke.”
It’s a while before I have my next
cigarette…and the first thing I do is blow the putrid smoke in his face.
He deserves it, for bringing me home.
Bringing me back to where old ghosts linger,
and back to find both of us with damn awful colds.
I can give him…smoke to hide the
lies, food to hide the emptiness, company to hide the pain. And news to fill his ears of stories that don’t fucking
The past is the past.
Where my dreams are.
…but maybe, just maybe…
There’s a kid who can help me find
* * * * *