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everything or nothing; all of us or none

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Hitokado Fumiyomi - it is a name that is both yours and isn’t. You understand the purpose of it, of course, know that “Fabian Michael Hildmann” would be unwieldy, hard to say - you know your name would get twisted into something else anyway, so you simply change it. Hitokado Fumiyomi - the syllables aren’t yours, aren’t you, but that’s just as well. After all, you’d left.

After all, you’d went away.

It was easier that way; it could feel like a clean cut with a hot knife, severing Fabian from Fumiyomi, Fumi-sama from Fabi. It is easier that way, to lose yourself in a library, when the voices speaking to you are in Japanese and not German, when the characters these books are written in are a different script, a different direction, a different style.

It is easiest when there is nothing to remind you of them. It is easiest when there is nothing that tethers you back, when young women smile at you, drawn by your quietness, drawn by your charming smile and genteel nature. It is easiest when the smell on the air isn’t what you expect it to be, when tones are unexpected, when it is all new and sharp and real.

But this newness is a double edged sword; the knife that cut Fabian from Fumiyomi cuts you all the same, slices you up, as each time you find yourself marveling on the newness, everything you are learning and seeing and experiencing, you cannot help but compare it to the way things used to be, the way that things perhaps should have been.

And yet, what option had there been? Germany was drowning you, drawing you under the surface, water closing over your head as you inhaled it and choked on it - no, that wasn’t fair. Germany had never done anything to you, except have that person in it, and even that was far more a benefit than it had ever been a curse.

You are used to, now, the slightly smitten glances, the way that these young women seem to see you as interesting, as handsome, as charming, and yet even they open themselves up for comparison. If these women could, why could they not? What had the difference been?

Had it been time? How long the pair of you had known each other, the familiarity - had they only seen you as Fabi, a little boy with a charming smile and bright eyes? Could they not see who you had become, not separate these ideas, these people, these notions? Would they see Hitokado Fumiyomi differently, the gentleness to your gaze and the way you draw others into your world, a world of books and poetry, a place built by words, for words?

On occasion, eyes locked out a window focused on nothing and seeing nothing that is actually there, you find yourself wondering what they would think of you, these women who find reasons to speak to you, if they knew how wholly your thoughts are caught of another, how often your daydreams do nothing but take you back to a place you’ve left and a person you turned your back on. Would they still find you alluring? Would they still search for something to say to you, to draw you back into the library and speak to them?

You can’t be sure - the idea is a little exciting, in a way so little is, but you know it is only because you have not once - not ever - managed to get that person from your mind, from your thoughts, not completely, not entirely, not meaningfully. You hide them, sometimes, from yourself, bury your focus on them under other things, but they are there - they motivate you. They are the reason you are here, after all, and so everything you do is tinged by them.

Perhaps that is unkind of you - perhaps that is self-serving, pushing the blame for this off onto them, as if they did anything, as if it weren’t you. But they are not here, and you are; it will not hurt their feelings, so far as they are, so removed as they are, so ignorant as they are - though, of course, that too is your fault, given that you have never told them anything.

It is hard to imagine the two of you being in a different situation than you are, and yet not hard at all: it is easy to imagine the pair of you walking together, your fingers laced together, “Liebling” falling from your lips, “Schatz” from theirs, yet altogether too difficult to truly imagine what it would feel like; it is easy to imagine the pair of you going somewhere that they had always favored (you, after all, knew so many of them, because you had made it your business to know these things), yet altogether too difficult to imagine why you were there; it is easy to imagine the pair of you going to the same home, the same place, living together, yet altogether too difficult to imagine what it would be like to wrap your arms around them, their warmth against yours.

Any ideas of the future you had wanted to build with them are all too often contrasted with the memories of your chubby limbs thrown around their neck, the pair of you stumbling and tripping, locked together, childish laughter bright in the air. Any ideas of the future you had wanted to build with them are blocked by the way you had grown up with them, awkward, gangly teenaged limbs looking more like a unicorn foal’s than your own - and when you remember these things, you suppose that you can perhaps understand why they have never seen you that way.

Not that you know, of course, that they don’t.

No - you’ve never given them that chance, never given them that right, never put yourself out there, that vulnerable, that open, that free - you have never told them. You never dared breathe a word of the love that filled your chest, smothering you, that drove everything you did, the way you never failed to try to impress them, so that they would smile at you, so that they would look upon you favorably. You simply found a reason - any reason - to leave, to run away, fearing that one day more would make your heart burst, make the words spill from your lips, ruin the friendship that you had so painstakingly built because they could not shift their view to see you differently, yet had no option with the simple existence of a confession.

You do not write letters home - at least, not often. Well, of course, there is the internet, and so you do not need to, even if you wanted to get in contact with them, with any of them and not just them, but you prefer this way. There is something romantic about it, about pen to paper and the deliberateness of ink marking its way across pure-white paper, so you prefer this way, despite the cost to send things back to Germany, despite the water and the thousands of miles of land between where you are and where home is.

Letters come back even less frequently. You are sure, if you gave them your Twitter, you would hear from them - they would follow you, interact with you - even use the limited translation feature to try their best to understand the tweets that, too often, would be unintelligible to them. Another barrier between the pair of you - words that you can speak that they can’t, a whole writing system that you know and they do not, proof writ of the ways that the pair of you have drifted from where you were, from where you were meant to be, at their side.

Letters come back less frequently than yours go out, but each letter from them is worth its weight in diamond, more precious than any published work you have ever laid hand upon. There is, after all, no way to compare its worth in more meaningful, more precise terms. There is only the longing it inspires in you, the way your chest aches as if you have been struck, the way you read words again and again as they indelibly print themselves in your memory.

It is no wonder you cannot stand that dream demon, cannot stand the way he tries to put others down - there is nothing you want to see in dreams, after all. Nothing you want to experience. The dreams are bittersweet, often so much more bitter than sweet, twisting memories once innocent to be something less so, reminding you of what you cannot have. There is nothing you want to give him; nothing you want to see, and your disgust is both real and protective.

There is nothing you want to see, but there is - far more so - nothing you would want to risk him seeing. You do not know the exact ways that he works, of course, and have no interest in it, no interest in experiencing it for yourself or finding out that you are right in what you expect of him. You will not be touched by him, metaphorically, literally, or otherwise, and your disgust functions as a shield to keep him away, especially as it is returned. If he thinks that your dislike is based on that, then he is welcome to; you never clarify.

Your phone vibrates, at your side, silent and small, barely notable other than the fact that it is in contact with your skin, as your shift comes to an end. The little angel makes a tweet and you, of course, like it. You read it, too, glad for the distraction, the way you are brought back to reality by the simple fact that you were touched, the way you can now pull yourself out of this chair and make your way through the library to find your way home.

It is empty, as always; you are alone, as always. Quiet and peace are your friends and your worst enemies, and this day is no different than any other. You make your way through a place inhabited by none, not even ghosts of the past, other than yourself; you drop the mail on the counter, not sparing it the barest glance, until you have made something to eat, until you have made sure everything is in order.

Much of it is irrelevant, as it always is, and little of it interests you. And yet, at the bottom, there is a familiar scent, a script you know better than even your own, as it addresses the letter to you and you alone. You are so careful as you open it, trying to keep even the envelope from tearing.

Letters do not come to you, frequently, from home, and come to you even less frequently from them, and yet it seems as if today is a day given from the Gods themselves, for a letter has come. Its contents are as mundane as ever, an update, a challenge to read even so as your mind switched from one language to another, reading the German you had learned first and deeply preferred after weeks of not speaking a word of it other than in your thoughts.

It is not until the end that your attention is drawn more meaningfully to the words and what they say, what they express, to you.

                   “You’ve always liked Bertolt, haven’t you?”

It moves you more than it should that they remember these things, that they remember your favourite poet, and perhaps even that you like poetry at all, given that you have known them all but all of your life. The answer is yes, anyway.

                  “I’ve been reading more poetry lately.”

A selfish part of you hopes that it is so that they can be closer to you, more like you, share in your hobby - because they miss you. But there is no other preamble before their words are not their own, but a poem you know well.

                  “Vielleicht begegnen
                  wir uns wieder,
                  aber da,
                  wo du mich verlassen hast
                  triffst du mich
                  nicht wieder.

Its meaning doesn’t escape you, whatever language it is - no, that’s not true. In fact, its meaning escapes you quite easily, the significance of it. It is only the words themselves that you can translate, but they leave you cold as ice, uncertain as smoke.

Have they learned that which you had tried so hard to keep hidden? Have they grown tired of you? It is these dark options that haunt you, first, a fear that not only is there no hope of the pair of you ever loving each other but the equally intense fear that their friendly or familial care of you has turned to disgust.

It is only later, much later, sitting by yourself, one hand rubbing the spot in the middle of your forehead that too often pains you, that an equally frightening idea occurs to you. Perhaps, after all, it is not a statement of parting, not a farewell, not an acknowledgement that, if the pair of you were to ever meet again, that you would be but strangers.

Perhaps, perhaps - perhaps, it is the idea that they may come to you.

You do not know if you should be excited. You do not know if you are excited. Ice fills your veins, again, freezing you in place, as you wish, as ever, they were more clear - that you knew them better, that you trusted them better, that you could understand without trying.

Uncertainly, you pull a piece of paper close to you. You do not write letters home often.

But tonight, you have to do something.

Hitokado Fumiyomi is not Fabian Hildmann, in the end, and you do not know which you need to be, which you should prepare for.

Just as always, they have managed to ruin you, to leave you restlessly adrift, lost and confused. And yet, despite this, despite the fact that perhaps this marks a side of you that does not love himself or take himself seriously, you have never loved a feeling more.

You have, after all, never loved a person more than you love them.