Chapter 38:

“Room 304, Night”

VISUAL SHOCK - sometimes you have to promise not to fall in love~

Kaori slipped as I broke free from her kindness.

I tried to grab her to stop the fall but ended up going over as well.

We tumble to the floor; she screams in shock.

My arms entangled to protect her.

“Are you ok?”

“I’m fine! You?”

She’s more alarmed than I am. I got my forearm under her head, so I know she’s safe, but I can already feel a bruises building at my wrist and elbow. My other hand pressed flat into the floor by her waist.

Her scent tinged with panic envelops me… sour and sickly.

Kaori notices the position we’re in and gets flustered, but makes no move to get out from under me. Her thigh only shifting slightly against my side.

All my fears dissolve in this moment. Are we finally going to?

I lean in to kiss her…

“Not now Tai…”


My memory conjures up the karaoke night. The jeering crowd, marking up another kill for the Snow Queen.

An eruption from the common room, the same people laughing now. Mocking my moment of failure. Their comments about my romanticising orientalism, fetishising the exotic, come back unbidden… more wounding than before.

I stiffly pull myself up.

Kaori sits where she was lain.

We remain in silence for an eternity.

“I should go…” if she said more after that, I don’t think I comprehended it…

Every murky fear and doubt clouding my mind spews forth in a hail of bullets.

She’s graduating. I’m leaving. All we do is take up each other’s time. It doesn’t mean anything. Everybody hates me. I nearly went bankrupt. My parents will be disappointed. I'm going to fail. I might have to drop out. This was a waste of money. All my savings are gone. Years lost on a childish, idiotic obsession. A decade of dreaming, destroyed. I’m just like my brother. What’s the point. I’ll be forgotten. We never kiss. We never say how we feel. We keep ending up like this. What even are we?!.

Kaori, arms full of clothes we love - the only thing I have ever loved more than what they represent - like a deer in headlights, soaks up every word.


An empty room on new years, surrounded by memories of my own failure, picking at an open self-inflicted wound. Only a tissue thin wall separating the tears of soulmates…


The first firework - lonesome in the night sky - shines down upon the desolation I wrought, celebrating my juvenile stupidity.

“Happy New Year!”

The celebration downstairs at its peak.



I screwed up…


Fear and doubt, clouding my judgement and ruining everything in a torrential downpour of bile and venom.

I wasn’t stressed, I wasn’t struggling… where the hell did it all come from?

A stubbed toe? A mild panic over sending things home? Idiocy cost me the one thing I’ve come to really care for.

I can’t even look at the collection I’ve amassed. Relics of my past self.

I barely even wear most of my wardrobe anymore. I just schlub around in my most comfortable scruffs at home or in work wear when I go out. Most days flitting from class at college to lessons at the language school.

No time to change.

No time for visual kei.

No time for…

Thoughts of Kaori consume my every waking moment.

On New Year’s Day, her family’s car picked her up in another fancy kimono. I assume she was obligated to go do all the traditional stuff with them… something I missed out on with her. Something I’d dreamed desperately of…

Serves me right.

The days go by, and she avoids me in the dorms.

Using the laundry room at different times, leaving later or earlier for class… her year-long booking in the library cancelled.

I can’t even catch her at work.

At first, I give her space, but the ache draws me to speak to her…

“Kaori, could I have a momen-”

…she walks by without a word. Not a single crack in her mask of silent shunning.

After that, she stops teaching altogether.

“Ms. Kobayashi is on leave.”

That’s all I can get out of the manager.

He's containing it, but seems furious about things, so I offer to cover her English classes at least.

“That would help, but we will not be paying extra.”

I take it he knows something of the reason for her absence, but cannot afford to lose two teachers.

Bowing my acceptance, I trudge home in the snow.

Like before Deadmen, I pray that giving her space is enough. That time will make things right again.

We have Brabanter Griffin at the end of the week, so I re-enact what worked last time. Slipping her ticket under the door, a letter explaining everything briefly, an email with my thoughts more in detail.

I’m tense in the queue. Alone.

Miserable in the crowd. Alone.

Despondent on the way home. Alone.

What should have been a gig to remember, several superstars doing a revival of what made me get into the genre, the person I love by my side to bask in every moment…


…I walk home - hours across the city - the dark, cold, winter night biting at my skin.

The thought passes that if I can make myself sick again, maybe she’d come save me, then we can work things out, have an emotional reunion and everything will be ok…


I’m so disgusted with myself…




I kick and wail and beat my head against the concrete of an underpass. My frustration and impotence too much to bear. The stink of the canal behind, the rumble of a late bus overhead, the throb of grazed and swollen skin…

How did I… why did I fuck things up so bad?!.

More intrusive thoughts… the water, cold and inviting…

I curse and writhe and hate myself for being this weak and wound up.

How dare I have worried about Kaori over a long shower when I’m acting like this… a tantrum in the street because things aren’t going my way.

I scream under the bridge as the next flow of traffic roars above…

The dorms are silent when I get back.

The lip of my letter still poking out from under her door.

She’s not even in her room.

I clean myself up and go to bed… hoping to sleep forever.


Morning comes.

Day passes.

Night descends.

Next door remains silent.

A week on, results come in, I did worse than I expected, but still passed… barely.

Too much time spent talking in English with Kaori brought my Japanese grade down. Getting socially ostracised didn’t help either. Neither does teaching English and not going out on my own, but I keep doing it.

I’ve got nothing else now.

Nothing at all.

More time passes, a fortnight maybe?

It all blurs into one mess of classes I’ve stopped paying attention in. Lessons I only teach out of obligation.

One night I finally snap.

I hammer on Kaori’s door and do my best to not shout in the hallway.

She doesn’t answer, furthering my feeling of necessity in speaking with her. What was rage turns to sorrow and I cry in the doorway. Even as others come to see what the commotion is, I carry on until I notice the letter is still there.

She’s not in?

How long has it been?

Where is she?


I slam my door shut on the rubberneckers. Snickering fills the hall. Comments come thick and fast in every corridor and classroom.

“Guess he got dumped!”

“Serves him right, creep!”

“He was always a weirdo!”

Screw all of you.

I walk out of class.

I sit in the quad for the fresh air for a moment, but memories flood my senses…

tak tak tak

The ghost of Kaori disappearing off to work…


Her sweet scent with bitter notes of coffee, invisible strands of hair glide past my cheek…

I choke on nothing and run back to the dorms.

I haven’t had a panic attack in ages, but I grip my chest and sink to the floor as soon as I’m in my room.

I stay there for days.

I stop going to class.

Only running to work last thing.

Accruing complaints for lateness.

God, I’m glad this year doesn’t count towards my degree., that I self funded the whole thing.

Self assuring thoughts nearly a month too late.

I finally give in and message her…

My thumbs aching from typing for hours…

The first couple come up read, eventually, but then the rest remain blank…

I don’t know if I’m blocked, but I keep going, screaming into the void…

Hysteria makes me incapable of keeping pace with my thoughts…

I try calling, but her phone rings out, then stops connecting…

She must have turned it off…

I give up…


I’m sorry.

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