Mystery novels follow a formula. The good ones, at least, the ones that drive your addictive tendency. A person arouses an inkling of suspicion. There. You’ve spotted the culprit. Much too easy. Might you find them in the person least likely? Same problem. Typically, the culprit’s somewhere in between, and you punch yourself for missing the breadcrumbs that lured you to the treasure chest of evidence right under your nose the entire time.
Funny that’s not how it works in ordinary life. These days, my life’s been just shy of the murky realm of a dream in a dream.
I can explain.
Foregoing the steadfast preparation of finals embarked upon by the teeming throngs of students seated in lively clumps around us, their din casting a net over the green-tinted lamps, Houtarou and I pursued the elusive patterns of dreams. He spurned me on this voyage of the mind.
“I dreamed about you again last night,” he said.
Part of the reason why I keep falling for him, I think, with the same syringe-induced adrenaline of a beloved drug, and a backbreaking assurance that no one can best him, concerns his mind. Following the pinpoints of his thoughts, locating the nebulae on the maps of his galaxies, proves daunting to his closest friends. You’d think I’d have an easier time of it, harboring the secret of my love for him as I did for seven grueling years.
Alas, if you had put such a question to me the day before yesterday, that would have been my answer.
I played his words back in my head like a favorite song. He’d dreamed about me, and not for the first time.
Careful, Satoshi. Don’t kid yourself.
“What was I wearing?” I said.
Submerged in the fog of words, his eyes flicked up, catching the winking amber of the waning evening light.
“Nothing, as usual.”
At long last, all of those restless trots to the bathroom that robbed me of my sleep were enacting their vengeance upon me.
“You need some schooling on your joke delivery, Houtarou.”
Slamming his book shut, he swept his book-bag from the back of his chair.
“If you call my loving you a joke, then I guess we’re two jerks screwing around.”
A halting decrescendo, a stuttering minor chord on a piano, echoed in my head as he ripped his book-bag over his shoulder, swerving on his heel.
Matching him step for step as he stormed the length of the morgue-like study hall, I wondered what sort of picture we painted. If Mayaka saw us, I knew, she’d blanch with terror at such a naked display of emotion on Houtarou’s face. And not just any emotion, but something akin to lovesickness, a bile the heart nor the stomach can begin to digest.
Seizing his wrist, I pulled him to me and kissed him. His tears, warm and earnest, sluiced down my cheeks. Rubbing them with the pads of my thumbs, I gave voice to the secret kept for so many years, allowing myself the galvanizing pleasure of memorizing his face, the wonder in his eyes, the astonishment curdling in the enchanting hollow between his eyebrows. Had he thought to tell me before now, I wondered?
“I tried. You’re so dense, Satoshi.”
Like I said, my life’s far from ordinary.