Chapter 37:

I can't forgive myself.

Light of my darkest eve

“To be perfectly honest… I didn’t remember a thing from after the first punch. The rest I’ve pieced together from the testimony of the one witness and my own ‘statements’ while I was still in psychosis.”
“There was a witness?”
“Yeah, poor girl. Heard she was still in counselling when I left for good. Apparently it was… bad.”

I had finished recounting the story of my first psychotic episode to Hanji. While most people would likely be horrified, she looked on with fascination the entire time. Which, given who Hanji is, isn’t exactly surprising.

I, however, have not been enjoying retelling the most traumatic experience of my life.

We had decided to skip cake and walk straight home, since it was starting to get late and we didn’t wanna keep the old man working past closing time. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly feeling sweet treats while telling the story of how I murdered four people.

“Is that how you got off, then? The girl testified that it wasn’t your fault?”

“That, and the fact that they don’t hold people responsible for actions committed during psychosis. Instead of years in prison, I was put through months of psychological evaluation and therapy before being shipped here.”

Thinking of the poor girl who witnessed everything makes my blood run cold. The scene she described was something out of a horror movie. Four corpses covered in blood, bits of skull and brain littering the floor. And in the middle, a schizo with blood coating his whole body, continuing to punch the dead bodies as his fists get more and more destroyed.

As well as the four I killed, I likely ruined another life that day. I’d like to apologise to her one day, but it might be better for her if I simply never show my face again. I can only hope she comes out of it all okay.

“Y’know, you mentioned one thing that you didn’t really expand on?”
“The girl you and one of the four assholes were after, you said they hurt her. What was that all about?”

Hanji’s sudden change in expression, from curiosity to surprise, tells me that the colour likely drained from my skin the second she asked the question. It’s one I was hoping to never have to answer.

“She… she was a good friend of mine. We’d been close for a long time, and I think there was mutual feelings between us. But the other guy… he didn’t take her rejection well. I don’t know exactly what they did, but…” I swallow hard. It’s difficult to even talk about. Thinking of her face that day… it’s sickening. “When I saw her the next day, there was no life left in her eyes. She barely even said a full sentence, but when she spoke every word made me sick. Whatever they did to that poor girl… she never recovered. Her mum found her hanging from the ceiling a week later.”

I had downplayed her role in everything when first recounting, but it didn’t feel right to lie to Hanji. Not that she’d have hesitated to do the same.

“So these guys you killed… they traumatised your girlfriend into suicide, harassed you for months and beat you down in public?”
“That’s… about the half of it.”
“So… why do you still feel guilty? It doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong.”

I look at her with utter confusion. I know she struggles with the concepts of right and wrong, but I thought she had a decent enough grasp on people to understand why killing four teenagers is wrong.

“I… I murdered four people, Hanji. With my bare hands. I lost control of my own mind and slaughtered people. What about that could possibly not be wrong?”
“Taro… they traumatised you so bad they surfaced your schizophrenia. You’re not to blame.”
“You don’t understand, Hanji. I’m dangerous. A killer.”

“I’m a killer too, remember?”

I lose her eye and look at the ground. I… don’t know what to say to that. Of course, Hanji was forced to kill her own mother. But that…

“That’s just… different.”
“Of course it is. I was of sound mind.” I look up to Hanji again, but remain speechless. What’s she trying to say? “Taro, I actively made the decision to kill my own mother, in a way I knew she could never possibly survive. I decided that. And I had no remorse. You had no control for reasons you couldn’t even predict. If either of us is dangerous, it’s me.”

I once again have no answer. Reasonably speaking, she’s correct. I couldn’t have prevented that situation at all, but she could have chosen a less lethal method. By every stretch of logic, her actions make her a much more dangerous person than my own. But how could I ever believe that? After seeing the faces I was greeted with once that episode ended. The hatred in the eyes of the parents who’s children I’d killed. The fear hidden in the forced smiles of my own family. The pity in the voices of the doctors who were forced to deal with me.

“But… society will never forgive me. People will never look at me as anything but a dangerous schizo boy who could snap and kill at any second.”

“So what? Fuck society. Fuck the judgmental pricks who don’t know what they’re talking about. Fuck the pitying assholes who look down on you. Fuck the ignorant bastards who treat you like a threat. Fuck each and every person who thinks you don’t deserve forgiveness. Fuck them all to hell and back. There’s only one person’s forgiveness that you need, and that’s your own. Fuck everyone else.”

There’s a fire in her eyes and a passion in her voice that I almost never see. She’s not just trying to make me feel better. She believes every word she’s saying, from the depths of her soul.

Have I been looking at this all wrong? I’ve been obsessed with punishing myself for what I did, with letting society’s judgement of me rule my self perception, but… is it really okay for to me to be okay? Can I…

“Can I really forgive myself?”
“You have to if you ever want to live.”
“No buts. I may not have the best grasp of ethics or whatever, but even someone as broken and twisted as me knows you’re not a bad person. You hate hurting people. You always want what’s best for others. Hell, you tried to kill yourself just so you wouldn’t hurt me. Maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about, but someone like that… I think they deserve to live. I think they deserve to be happy.”

I try to respond to her words, but a lump forms in my throat. I feel my eyes fill with tears, and I fail to stifle the crack in my voice.

“Y-you mean it? You really think that it’s okay for me to live?”
“You don’t gotta cry about it, you big baby. Anyone with an ounce of common sense would say the same.”

Despite the harshness of her words, Hanji embraces me in a hug, there in the middle of the dark and empty street in the village. To her, this hug probably doesn’t mean anything. It’s just what you do to make someone feel better. 

But it means a lot to me. It means that there’s someone in the world who will still forgive me. Someone who still “cares” about me. Even if it’s in her own selfish way.

Through the splutters and tears, I manage to start speaking again.

“Y’know, one day, I swear I’m gonna marry you.”
“You sure you wanna make that promise? I don’t forgive people who break ‘em.”
“Good thing I always keep my promises then. I won’t break it.”

It feels like hours pass as we stand there in one another’s embrace. Maybe it was hours. Maybe it was minutes. Maybe it was no more than thirty seconds. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s time that’ll always be near and dear to me.

Maybe Hanji’s right. 

I’ll never forget the things I’ve done, and I’ll never stop worrying it'll happen again.

But in time, maybe… maybe I’ll learn to forgive myself.

Thanks to the selfish, arrogant, vindictive, sadistic, uncaring, sociopathic girl in my arms, maybe I can let myself live again.

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