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Radio Silence

Chapter Text

August 1, 2000

Yo. So my mom got me this little journal to write down my thoughts and stuff, but I don't really know what's best. I feel kinda childish even writing all of this - I'm going to start college tomorrow, for God's sake!

I'll just describe myself. Maybe someone someday will find this and think I was some slightly interesting guy. Maybe not.

I'm Yoyo. I'm seventeen, turning eighteen in September. I was born in Benten-cho, but I'm moving to Shibuya to attend their college. I'm going to be studying something to do with science. I'm not sure yet. I have bright red hair that reaches my shoulders. It looks a little girly. I'd cut it but I'm pretty cool with wearing it in a bun. My mom says it makes me look handsome. My favorite color is green. My best friend's name is Mew and I'm gonna miss her a lot since she's not even going to college. I'm excited for college but also nervous since I have to share a dorm with a total rando. I'm an only child, so I've never had to share anything in my life. I'm kinda spoiled. I guess I can share my PlayStation with my roommate when I bring it to the dorm. I have two controllers so we can play something two-player. I don't know.

I'm definitely writing my thoughts just as they come, huh? There's a lot on my mind so I might be here awhile. It's my last night in Benten-cho before I head to Shibuya. It feels weird that I'm growing up so quickly. I definitely don't feel almost eighteen. My room is pretty much empty at this point, and it's for sure left a weird feeling in my gut. I don't even have my computer set up anymore, which is sad because if I wasn't writing in here I'd be chatting with Mew or playing some computer game. 

I really don't think I can keep a journal.

 

August 2, 2000

My mom woke me up bright and early to drive me to the campus. She made me a big breakfast and everything, which was nice but nearly made me feel sick. She works so hard and I want to be grateful and appreciate everything she does, but I also don't wanna throw up on my way to college.

Should I be embarrassed that I can't drive? I'm not. It really doesn't affect me. Everything in Benten-cho is a walking distance away, which is good because I'm trying to maybe lose some weight and get outside more. It's pretty refreshing just to walk from place to place, but getting a ride from your mom isn't nearly as embarrassing as other kids my age think it is. 

Besides, my mom and I like the same music. Isn't that the coolest?

As we got closer to the campus, I found myself fiddling with the radio stations until I stopped on a signal I'd never heard before.

"'Sup?" the voice on the radio asked, as if I could answer him. I turned it up a bit. "It's Beat from Shibuya College! Y'all ready for this ill track?" 

I rolled my eyes at how cheesy this guy sounded. His voice sounded so exaggerated, like an anime character or something. He couldn't be legit.

"This is 'Birthday Cake' by Cibo Matto! Spin the beat, Professor K!"

That actually got a laugh out of me. I felt like I was listening to something from an alternate dimension. And then the music actually began. And it was pretty awful. The song ended as soon as we parked, and as I stepped out of the car, I knew it wouldn't leave my head ever again.

Chapter Text

August 2, 2000 (part 2!)

Oh man! I had to put this down and get unpacked. Today has been a big day. Also that stupid Birthday Cake song is still stuck in my head. I can't make out a word of it which drives me nuts. It's just noise. College radio is weird.

The dorm building was packed full of students and parents trying to get into rooms and get themselves together. Thankfully, growing up in a big city got me pretty used to that sorta thing.

I made my way to my dorm, where another boy greeted me and my mom and helped us unpack. He had big rectangular glasses and BRIGHT red hair and a pair of headphones around his neck. The headphone cord kept getting caught as it unraveled. When he shook my hand, I wasn't expecting to feel the cool leather of his gloves against my palm. It instantly made my face get hot. He had a firm handshake that made me feel like the bones in my hand were being shuffled around.

I looked down at my paper for my room assignment. "Are you Beat Goji?" I asked.

He raised an eyebrow suddenly. "Don't say my last name. It sends a shiver down my spine." He even pretended to have a cold chill.

My mom laughed a bit. I was just confused immediately. Beat was probably joking about his last name, but he acted deadly serious about it. He didn't even crack a smile.

Goji. Now where have I heard that name before?

"Wait. Beat as in... on the radio here?" I asked nervously as my mom started unpacking boxes.

He rolled his eyes. "Unfortunately. Sorry you had to hear that."

"I mean, it was fine-" I began, but stopped myself when that Birthday Cake song played again in my head.

Beat was kind enough to help me figure out a way to organize my stuff, which was sweet but I felt kinda awkward because at times he'd just take over and get all control-freaky. He was super nice to my mom and hit it off with her almost immediately, which was weird. He just had weird vibes in general.

After what felt like ages, we were finally finished. My mom left, but not before ushering me into the hall and smothering me with kisses. I love her to death, but it just felt a little weird.

She headed home, leaving me and Beat alone.

"Didn't really get to introduce myself earlier. Sorry," Beat said, actually smiling a little bit. Nah, it was actually more of a smirk. There was something almost sinister about it. He extended his hand again, and I saw his nails were painted black.

I shook his hand. "It's cool, man. Uh... I'm Yoyo. I'm from Benten-cho. What about you?"

"Shibuya born and raised," he replied, glancing down at his nails. He laid back in his bed. "Benten-cho is so legit though. I love skating there."

My eyes suddenly lit up. "You skate?"

He nodded. "I mean... I do aggressive inline. I did roller derby for a bit. I had a skateboard but my dad broke it trying to do a kickflip." His smirk grew wider, and he was now counting his skating experiences on his hand. I did a double take. Did this guy have SIX FINGERS?

"D-do you have six fingers?" I asked meekly. My train of thought about skating hadn't even left the station. His stupid hand distracted me.

He began laughing. His laugh was weirdly cute. I felt my face grow hot.

"Yeah, I do." He grinned and held his left hand up, as if to reaffirm. Yep. Six fingers. "I'm a genetic freak."

"That's tight," I replied in awe, surprisingly not grossed out by this. What a weird guy. "But... you mentioned skating?"

"Yeah. I'm mostly doing inline these days," Beat replied. "It's a lot of fun." He sat up, crossing his legs. "What about you? Do you skate?"

"Used to," I mumbled. "I got too fat." 

It was true. I put on a bit of weight that I regretted in high school, and just knowing that I wasn't taking care of myself made me feel awful. I got better about it, but I gave up a lot of my interests in the meantime.

Beat was silent. I scanned him up and down. He was fairly thin, but his arms, which sat in his long legs, looked like they were sorta strong. They were dusted with freckles, which was weird to see on someone who wasn't a small child or a natural redhead. His bright red hair (the color of KETCHUP!) wasn't fooling me. I didn't want to be jealous of him already, but just looking at him was enough.

"I mean, I'm still into skate culture," I offered. "I read Thrasher."

"Dude. You could totally skate now. I can reteach you if you forgot." The grin on Beat's face had grown.

I nodded. "That would be cool. Just not tonight. I'm pretty tired from unpacking." I leaned back in my bed, feeling the cool sheets hit my arms.

He yawned. "I'm always tired." But instead of sleeping, he just stood up and walked to where his computer was set up. He had one of those iMac computers where the sides have colored see-through panels. They were orange. It was awfully fancy. He plugged in his headphones and went silent. All I heard was loud electronic-sounding music and the clicks of a mouse.

I decided to get on my computer too and check AIM. I missed Mew, and judging by the 3 missed messages, she did too.

MewInBlue: yoyo did you get in the dorm yet? how's college? ur so grown up :,) im not gonna cry! i promised i wouldnt!

MewInBlue: hows dorm life? sharing with some random person? is he a total weirdo? pls answer so i know he didnt kill u haha

MewInBlue: yoyo please…

 

I smiled. Mew was so sweet and funny. We had been friends since about the fourth grade, and I had a feeling she'd be my partner in crime for as long as we live. We chatted online all the time, even when we saw each other in person back home.

 

TheRealYoyo: sorry yo, talking to the new roommate. he's a little weird but he's chill. his name is beat and he skates and DJs and has 6 fingers

 

I looked over at Beat. He was beginning to tap his fingers along with whatever song he was listening to, and that escalated quickly into a pretty dorky version of the robot. He probably thought I wasn't looking.

 

MewInBlue: UR JOKING. 6?????

TheRealYoyo: he showed me

MewInBlue: did u vomit?

TheRealYoyo: lol no. i wanna ask him more about it though. like does it work? does he buy special gloves? I MUST KNOW

MewInBlue: if i had 6 fingers id have an xtra fingernail to paint

TheRealYoyo: he paints his nails

MewInBlue: omg he sounds like a rudie

TheRealYoyo: rudie?

MewInBlue: yeah so basically some skaters in shibuya decided 2 start doing graffiti and getting into legit gang wars. cops r everywhere especially on weekends. ppl call em rudies cause theyre rude lil punks. its insane

TheRealYoyo: hm he's from shibuya and said hes been skating awhile

TheRealYoyo: should i be worried for him?

MewInBlue: YIKES stay safe!!!

TheRealYoyo: y

MewInBlue: don't hang around him outside. if he wants u to do something illegal with him just say no!

TheRealYoyo: doubt hes a troublemaker. he just seems like a music nerd who skates

MewInBlue: also, if you land in jail, ill legit WALK to shibuya to kick ur ass yoyo

MewInBlue: black painted nails are a staple of the GGs gang from shibuya. they may or may not have killed another gang. 

TheRealYoyo: how do u know this???

MewInBlue: i read the news. unlike u. stay safe man

MewInBlue: i love you

 

And then she signed off. 

My stomach dropped as I shut down my computer and crawled into bed. Did I love her too? Of course I did. As a friend. But did I have romantic feelings for her? I wasn't sure. I never said anything like that to her anyway. Did those feelings exist in someplace I didn't know about?

Chapter Text

August 3, 2000

When I woke up this morning, Beat was still on his computer. My back ached from the stiff dorm bed.

"Morning. Did you sleep well?" Beat asked, pulling his headphones off.

I groaned. "Not really. This bed is like a brick."

Beat smirked. "Yeah, I couldn't sleep at all on that thing. So I didn't sleep at all." His smirk grew into a laugh. He stood up and immediately sunk into his bed, ironically enough. "What's on the agenda for today, freshman?"

"Aren't you a freshman, too?" I asked. Come to think of it, we never talked about anything involving college last night, just skating and his weird genetic mutation. He looked a lot older than me anyway. Maybe it was just his height. Or the fact that I still looked like a 12 year old boy.

He nodded. "Yeah. I just like to assert my dominance."

"Wait, what?"

"Oh my God. No. That came out bad." His hands immediately flew over his face, which began turning bright red. Almost like his hair. I tried not to stare at him, but it was hard not to. This was the most I'd seen him emote. "I meant, uh, I just like to-"

I chuckled. "No, no, I knew what you meant! It's whatever, yo. Just caught me off guard." I began pulling out my agenda for freshman orientation, which was in the pocket of the sweats I had worn to bed. "Let's see… 10 am, we have a seminar-"

"I'm skipping that," Beat interrupted. "I already know it's going to be stupid."

"Alright. 11:30 is lunch, and then 1 is the trivia game."

Beat combed through his short bangs. "Lunch is fine. Skip the trivia game. I heard it's lame."

"What's so lame about it? Says here you can win prizes, like a water bottle or a lanyard or gift cards to buy pizza. I like all of those things."

Beat sighed. "It's not like the trivia is impossible to figure out. And that card can maybe pay for one pizza."

Gotcha," I replied pensively, glancing back down at the agenda. It wasn't like I wanted to go to these things anyway, but the prospect of skipping was still new to me. "And after that… nothing."

He sat up. "Sweet! Let's just skip all of that and go someplace off campus. But we have to be back for lunch." Beat turned towards his dressers and began pulling out some clothes. Yesterday, he was wearing a bright yellow T-shirt with kanji on it and a pair of baggy blue jeans. Since he hadn't slept, he was still wearing those same clothes. It looked like he had pulled out a black shirt with some sort of band logo on it and a pair of cargo shorts for today.

Not that I was staring or anything. The way his hands picked up things and displayed them was just so interesting to watch. He had nice looking hands. I immediately turned back and began getting dressed myself. Why was I going to skip all of these freshman orientation things? Just to run the risk of getting in trouble?

"You ready?" he asked, standing behind me as I pulled on my yellow Vans. I may not skate anymore, but I'm never gonna give up skater shoes. They just look so dope.

I turned around, looking at his outfit. In addition to the clothes, he was now wearing an oversized pair of bright green round sunglasses. I couldn't even see his eyes through them.

"Yeah. But… don't you need your actual glasses?" I asked.

I'm sure Beat had raised an eyebrow, but I couldn't tell behind the giant glasses. "Huh?"

"The rectangular ones you had on yesterday?" I continued, even beginning to use hand gestures. He had to be joking, but the way he joked was so deadpan. It was hard to tell if he was joking or legitimately stupid.

"Oh. Those," he suddenly answered. "I don't need glasses at all, actually."

"Then why do you wear them?"

He grinned. "'Cause they make me look cute. C'mon, let's get outta here."

Beat led me behind the building, into the parking lot. My heart began racing. I thought about what Mew had told me, about gang wars and painted nails and just saying no if I got pulled into a sticky situation.

But I didn't want to seem like a baby, either. I didn't even know what was happening yet. But my legs shook so hard that I had to lean against the wall to keep my balance.

When we left, I hadn't noticed Beat was wearing a backpack. As he set it down on the ground to unzip it, the stuff inside made clinking sounds.

"What's in there?" I asked nervously.

"Oh, just some none ya," he replied, digging around.

"None ya... what?"

He lowered his sunglasses and glared at me. He looked legitimately pissed off all of a sudden. "None ya business!" he finally said, pulling out the stuff he wanted.

The stuff in question was spray paint. He handed me a can, and I rejected it. "No, I don't do graffiti," I muttered, voice shaking.

He smirked and began shaking a yellow can. "You make it sound like a bad thing. Graffiti is art," he said fondly, pulling the cap off and tossing it aside. He pulled his glasses off and stuck them on top of his head.

"Are you really going to paint the back of this building?" I asked, watching in awe of his sheer stupidity. "You know you could get pulled out of school for this, right?"

Beat nodded. "Could get pulled out of school for a lot of things. This is nothing."

He began his first stroke with the paint, slow and steady. I watched as he tapped his feet to some nonexistent music and almost fidgeted a bit as he continued adding paint to his graffiti. He stuck his tongue out, deep in concentration as he painted each stroke as if he'd done it a million times. Had he done it a million times?

"This was the perfect time to do this," he commented as I looked over his shoulder. Yellow paint dripped onto his shiny leather boots. "Nobody's in the building. They're all at that dumb orientation."

He finished up with layers of green paint, then stepped back to admire his work. That was fast.

"Jet Set Radio," I read aloud. "What is that?"

Beat leaned over and picked up the cans, emptying them into a nearby trash bin. "It's the college radio station here. The one you heard me on yesterday?"

"Oh," I replied, beginning to walk. "Why'd you vandalize a building with it, then?"

Beat followed. "To spread the word." His glasses weren't on his face anymore, and there was a glimmer in his brown eyes. "My professor for radio told me to advertise. So I did."

"That's kinda illegal," I muttered.

"So are most things, but you don't see me freaking out about them. It ain't that deep, Yoyo." Beat pushed his glasses back onto his face and grabbed my hand. "Now come on, we gotta get off campus before they catch us sneaking around."

Without a response from me, he began running, dragging me along. How did he run so quickly with that heavy backpack, rattling and hitting his lower back with every step? It was astonishing.

We made it to the city, which was just beginning to wake up. Business people started shuffling in and out of buildings and there weren't as many cars on the road as I had seen when I was heading to the dorm yesterday. As we walked, he removed his hand and began scratching the black nail polish from his nails.

"You can never be too safe," Beat said, leading me into a store. He kept his head down, still scraping away at his nails.

"Whoa," I remarked. Beat had led us into a huge record store, full of all kinds of music. I couldn't see his face, but I could tell he was beaming.

He split off and headed straight for a section full of rap CDs, fingers quickly shuffling through the sections. I saw that his nail polish was practically gone. "What kind of music do you like, Yoyo? I can get you a CD if you'd like."

I thought for a minute. "I really like Eminem."

Beat wrinkled his nose immediately, as if he was disgusted. "Really? You don't strike me as the type of guy to even like rap. He's kinda lame, anyway."

"I think he's awesome," I replied, taking a spot next to him to look through CDs as well. "What about you?"

"I listen to everything," Beat said, pulling out a CD and admiring it. The disc had orange and red artwork and a drawing of a woman on the front. The cover read Viva! La Woman. "Like this. This is Cibo Matto and they're one of my favorites." He analyzed the back cover. "Not sure if they're really 'rap' though..."

It was my turn to look disgusted. "They did that weird birthday song, right?"

He nodded. "What an amazing song that was. They're really talented. I've never heard anything so chaotic in my life."

"You can say that again," I mumbled. "It's just noise."

"Yoyo! You bite your tongue!" he replied fake-dramatically. "I'm buying this CD for us. And then you will realize what real music sounds like."

I said nothing, but I followed him up to the checkout counter, where a goth girl with a nose piercing and big hairclips in her bangs scanned his CD. She looked pretty scary, but somehow Beat knew her (or he was just cool enough to be able to talk to anyone).

"How's it hangin', kid?" the girl asked. "Still causing trouble?"

Beat shook his head and smirked. "No time for trouble. I'm in college, Cube. And I've gotta keep an eye on this one." He put his arm on my head as if I were his armrest.

It made me feel weird, but not in a bad way. I was really happy to spend time with him, even if he was joking around with me.

As Cube bagged the CDs, I noticed Beat had put another CD on the counter. It was one of Eminem's, The Slim Shady EP. How did he grab that so fast without me looking?

"Thanks for that, yo!" I said, grinning as we left.

"For what?" Beat asked, opening his backpack and slipping the plastic bag inside.

"The Eminem CD?"

Beat winked. "Who said that was for you? Cibo Matto is for you." And then he flicked the messy bun I had pulled my hair up into.

I knew he was playing around, but it made me feel great nonetheless. Mew and I would hit the shops in Benten-cho, but for whatever reason we never ended up buying things for each other (with the exceptions of birthdays and Christmas, of course). Was this just what roommates did? I suddenly felt like I had to step up my game.

And I did. Right next to the record store was a little cafe specializing in bubble tea. I tried to be suave, but I felt as if I was sweating buckets when I asked Beat if he wanted to go inside. Why was I so nervous? This was my cool artsy roommate. He already got me something and I wanted to return the favor. The words barely escaped my lips.

"Yeah, I'd be down! I love bubble tea." He grinned his classic mischievous grin and we walked inside, where I paid for two bubble teas: chocolate (my favorite!) and black tea (his choice).

We sat down and began drinking the tea through those big thick straws. It was so much better than the tea they had in Benten-cho. I had a feeling I'd be returning again.

"Thanks so much!" he said, taking a sip and immediately getting one of the tapioca pearls in his mouth.

I cocked an eyebrow, trying to act cool with him. "For what?"

He swallowed the pearl whole. "Only I can play dumb like that," he said, placing the toe of his boot on my shoe under the table.

We sat in the cafe and talked for what felt like hours. We hadn't learned much about each other outside of our skating interest and the weird stuff he did. I learned that Beat was half-Japanese on his dad's side, but had more of his American mom's facial features and somehow inherited her freckles. His hair was naturally black. He had been skating since he was 7, but his favorite style is definitely aggressive inline because of how fast he could go and how many tricks he could pull off. He got consistently average grades in school but was lucky enough to get a full ride for college thanks to his dad's work.

"Where does your dad work?" I asked.

He looked down into his tea and didn't say anything for awhile. "Government," he finally said. 

"What part?"

Beat sighed. "Well, he's the mayor of Tokyo-to."

"You're kidding!" I exclaimed. "Your dad is Rokkaku Goji?!"

"Be quiet!" he suddenly snapped. He took a minute to calm himself down. "Yes. My dad is Rokkaku Goji. He's awful. But I won't get into that yet. My last name is Goji on all of the school's documentation. But I prefer to use Ereki as my last name when I get the chance." He grabbed a pencil from his backpack and wrote the kanji for his name on the back of the receipt. I noticed he was left-handed.

"Oh, that's cool," I remarked, feeling emotional whiplash from how quickly he got angry and calmed down about his dad. His handwriting was so smooth and nice, despite being left-handed. "So is Ereki your mom's last name or something?"

He chuckled, finishing the kanji. "Nah. She had some American last name. I doubt it would work with my name, anyway. 'Ereki' means electric and I think that's a good descriptor of my personality." He passed me the receipt and looked up, brown eyes twinkling. "What do you think?"

I smiled. "I think it has a good flow to it."

"Right?" He grinned and glanced down at his watch. "Damn, 11:15 already? We should start heading back for lunch. And I gotta drop this backpack off at the dorm."

I nodded and stood up, grabbing my cup and the receipt he had written his name on. "That's cool. I had a lot of fun today, even if we only went to two shops."

"Hell yeah," he replied, holding the door open for me and following closely behind. I folded the receipt up and slipped it into my pocket.

Chapter Text

August 4, 2000

Oh my God! Oh my God! Yesterday was so crazy. I barely wrote a thing. I'm starting to really enjoy journaling. Maybe Mom was right about something.

Anyway, my heart is still racing from what happened yesterday, so let's do a quick rundown. After we left the cafe, Beat and I were immediately stopped by a police officer. I noticed he slipped his hands into his pockets, not before moving his sunglasses on top of his head.

"Good morning," the cop said.

"Morning," we replied monotonously. Well, he was monotonous. I think my voice cracked.

"There have been reports of youths causing trouble this morning. I'm just checking in to make sure."

"We visited those last two shops back there," Beat replied. "We're just out shopping." He was so calm. It was as if he'd done this a million times. He pulled his hands from his pockets and put them calmly to his sides. I did the same.

"May I see your bag?"

"Do you have a warrant?" Beat asked.

The cop silently pulled out a warrant. I didn't see much of it, but Beat nodded as he skimmed the paperwork. He handed his bag to the cop. I gulped, worrying that he'd get caught for something. Beat stood, almost looking proud of himself as the cop began pulling things out. The two CDs he had picked up were in the bag, as well as a handful of spray cans and an empty aluminum water bottle.

The cop examined the bottle. "Did this contain alcohol?"

"No, sir."

"Are you underage?"

"I'm 18," Beat replied. "My wallet is in the front pocket of the backpack with my ID."

"Were these CDs stolen?"

"Receipt is in the bag."

"And what about these cans of spray paint?"

Oh, God. How was this going to pan out?

"We're on our way to help paint furniture for a friend of ours," Beat replied almost immediately. I sighed in relief. "She lives downtown, so we thought we'd stop and go to some shops on the way. And my friend here" - he wrapped his arm around me when he said this - "has never seen Shibuya-cho for himself!"

The cop put the items back in the bag and handed it to Beat. "You're free to go now. Stay out of trouble," the cop simply said. "Thank you." He said something into a walkie-talkie as he began walking the other way.

We began walking back to campus. "Oh, my God," I said, jaw on the floor. "What was that about?"

Beat shrugged. "Cops are just like that sometimes."

I thought back to what Mew had suggested and the graffiti I'd seen Beat do earlier. "Why did you lie to that cop?"

"Who says I lied?" He turned around, pushing his sunglasses down the bridge of his nose. "We are going to a friend's house to paint furniture. And you have never seen Shibuya-cho."

"Are you serious?!" I glanced down at my watch and pointed to it. "We wanted to be back by now!"

"And if that cop didn't look through my shit, we would be back. Eating nasty cafeteria food. Surrounded by a bunch of fake people." Beat kept his head down as he walked. "I didn't tell you earlier today, but that really wasn't how I wanted to spend time with my new roommate."

"What did you want to do, then, besides go to those shops and vandalize that wall?"

"I don't know." He sighed. "Right now, I just want to blow off some steam. I need to. And you're coming with me."

Beat led me down an alleyway which had seen more than its fair share of graffiti. In the darkness of the alleyway, I didn't see that he grabbed my hand.

We walked for what felt like miles. My feet were starting to hurt, but Beat stomped on in those big clunky boots.

Finally, we made it to a small house in a pretty gross-looking part of the city. I immediately regretted going with him, but I was torn. I also wanted to stay as close to him as possible, because he was interesting. He was nice to me and he bought me gifts and made me laugh. His handwriting was gorgeous, and his voice was so sweet. I felt like my heart was in my gut because every part of me was pulsing.

Beat knocked on the door three times. There was a moment of silence, and then a boy with long brown hair and a beanie answered the door.

"It's Beat! We thought we lost you!" the boy hollered into the house as he answered the door. "Gum! Get over here!"

As if on cue, a blonde girl in a short dress began running to the door. She wore big platform sneakers too. She sort of reminded me of Baby Spice if Baby Spice was, well, less of a baby.

"Beat!" the girl who was presumably Gum exclaimed, giving Beat a huge hug and nearly knocking him off his feet. Beat chuckled as the two led us into the house.

"The guy in the blue beanie is my friend Tab. Tab, this is Yoyo," Beat explained. Tab waved to me, and I saw his nails were painted black like Beat's were earlier.

"And that's Gum," Beat continued. Gum shook my hand. Sure enough, her nails were black, too. Oh my God. I was in the presence of potential murderers. Well, according to Mew and her crazy conspiracies.

"Take a seat anywhere you like," Tab said. He pulled something from his pocket that was in a plastic baggie. I didn't see what it was when he handed it to Beat, but it made me feel sick to my stomach just seeing it.

"I brought y'all some paint," Beat added, opening his backpack and producing cans. Gum grabbed them and put them in an empty milk crate that lay on the floor next to an old radio and a few tapes.

"Are we painting furniture?" I asked, heart pounding in my ears at this point.

The two laughed as if I'd told the greatest joke they'd ever heard.

I clenched my fists. "Beat! Did you lie to me?"

He kept laughing. Tab walked into the room, holding something else. He immediately joined his friends in laughing.

"Yoyo," Gum said, wiping tears from her eyes. "How do you like college so far?"

"I've just moved in?" I asked. How did the topic change so quickly.

She invited me to sit with her on the floor. "Is it a big change from Benten-cho?" she asked.

"How do you know where I'm from?"

Gum laughed again, pulling her knees to her chest. I could see her panties. "You don't think I use the internet?"

"Huh?!" Where am I?!

"I use AIM too, ya know!" Beat interjected. "And so do these guys."

Tab stood up and began passing around small pieces of waxy-looking paper. Once everyone had one, he sat down and opened the baggie. 

"I've told them all about you," Beat continued, deeply inhaling the vapor of the bag. "Nice. Who'd you buy from, Tab?"

"Cube had some," Tab replied.

"No shit." Beat grabbed some of whatever green stuff was inside and began stuffing it into the paper, rolling it with such delicacy and perfection that I could've watched him forever, if not for Gum trying to talk to me.

"Yo! Earth to Yoyo!" she hollered, waving her hand in my face. "You look a little lost."

I was. Where was I? What was this stuff? What was happening?

"This is initiation," Gum said, as if she was reading my mind.

"Initiation?!"

She nodded, turning on the radio. "I can help you roll yours if you'd like." And without me even asking, she began rolling mine up. God, that dress was way too short for her. I felt disgusted with myself by just looking at her. It's really not like I was staring. Her clothes just didn't fit, plain and simple.

"Anyway," Beat replied, pulling out a lighter and lighting his. He stuck it in his mouth and exhaled, blowing a cloud of smoke that smelled pretty awful. I wanted to throw up. He began passing the lighter around, and everyone lit theirs and puffed on it.

I fumbled pretty bad when the lighter got to me. I didn't know what to do. At home, nobody did stuff like this - kids my age didn't even own lighters or weed. Was this weed or marijuana? I'd never smoked anything in my life. I couldn't flick the lighter, and yet again, Gum had to help me without me even asking.

I felt like I sat there for ages after it was lit. My hands were shaking so bad that I was worried I'd drop it and spill ashes into their already-dirty carpet. What was I doing here? How did I get peer pressured to do something even though I considered myself so unmoved by all of that garbage? Why was I letting my best friend down? Why wasn't I just having fun?

The radio began playing some electronic song with a weird beat. Beat leaned over to turn it up, and I recognized it as one of the songs he'd been blasting last night. "The music just turns... me... on..." he sang along softly, taking another hit.

I found myself shaking even more. It felt like I was in the Twilight Zone.

"Take a hit of that and maybe you'll feel better," Gum suggested. Ugh, this girl was too helpful for her own good.

"Anything to calm down, yo," I muttered, inhaling and feeling the smoke fill my lungs. I released the air, suddenly feeling just the slightest bit lighter.

The three immediately began hooting and hollering for me and my grand achievement. "Go, Yoyo!" they all cheered. I took another hit, smirking a little bit as I did, and the cheers only grew louder. And then, nothing but the occasional exhale and the sound of the radio.

Then, Beat spoke softly. "Welcome to the Shibuya GGs. We hope you enjoy your stay."

Chapter Text

August 5, 2000

So I guess I'm in a gang now. Yikes.

I really don't remember a lot that happened after that. It all felt like a blur to me.

My eyes are burning so bad right now. I feel like I've got something in them. I keep rubbing them, but that only makes it worse. I looked in the mirror and did a double take at how red they were.

But here's what I remember:

-Gum, at one point, painted my nails black. The color is already chipping off.

-I ate a lot of chips. Almost an entire bag. Like, I'm surprised I didn't get sick at Tab's house. I only know this because I had a stomachache and crumbs all over my hoodie.

-Beat invited me into the backyard and handed me an old skateboard. I got myself to balance on it, but I think I fell pretty hard because there's a huge scrape on my elbow.

-I had a meltdown. I had never had a meltdown. Somewhere along the lines, I think it was all just too much for me. I'm exhausted now from it.

I had woken up in a cold sweat, worried I'd missed a class, but thankfully it was only 10 am and the freshman orientation activities began in the evening. I heaved a sigh of relief at the realization that I had some downtime. Maybe I'd check AIM and chat with Mew until I had to go.

Everyone was still asleep, I assumed, except for me and Tab. Tab was sitting on the floor by the stereo, reading a magazine.

"Hey, Tab," I whispered.

"What's up?" he asked, putting his magazine down.

"I uh, hate to impose, but can I use your computer? I wanna check AIM."

Tab nodded, standing up and leading me into his bedroom, where his computer sat on a rickety old desk. "It might take a minute to boot up, but it'll be okay. We have a pretty crappy signal here. Sign out of AIM when you're done, though, alright?"

"Thanks!" I replied as he left, quickly typing in my login details and checking my messages. Nothing new. Mew hadn't tried to talk to me since last night, when she said she loved me and then signed off. She hadn't been online since. Her away message was mildly concerning as well. It read:

"Lately I have desperately pondered, spent my nights awake and I wonder what I could have done in another way to make you stay."

What did that mean? It was about me, wasn't it? I kicked myself in the leg as I logged off, wondering what I could've done in another way to make her talk to me. But I couldn't. I knew that once she knew what kind of trouble I had gotten myself into, she'd hate my guts. I didn't want to live a lie around her, but I didn't want her to get mad at me, either. At least I had Beat and his friends, I guess, so I wasn't completely alone.

I couldn't get up from the chair. I felt like I was trapped. My heart was pounding, and I felt absolutely sick to my stomach. Was it still all those chips I inhaled last night?

My eyes began scanning Tab's room. For as small as it was, it was really dope. That seemed to calm me down a bit. He had his walls plastered in posters and magazine cutouts of bands and all things related to skating. He had a blue toolbox on his nightstand, overflowing with all kinds of things. I didn't know he was a handyman. 

And then his bed. My heart is still pounding as I write this. I still can't believe I saw this with my own two eyes.

Beat was asleep in Tab's bed. Shirtless.

I immediately covered my eyes, feeling like I saw something I shouldn't have. I live with the guy, but last night, he pulled an all-nighter. And when he got dressed, I saw his back, but not his chest. His chest was all freckly, too, and he slept on his back with an arm over his eyes. His bright red hair was a mess, sticking up in all directions. I got up as quickly as I could, suddenly not feeling trapped anymore.

I closed the door behind me and began walking back to the campus, cursing myself out in my head for whatever reason. My eyes still itched.

What was wrong with me? Why was my heart racing so much? I wasn't nervous, but my face and body were so hot. It felt like I was going to suffocate. As I walked, I practically ripped my hoodie off, feeling the cool breeze on my arms. My stomach felt like it was sloshing around in my body, and my heart only raced more.

Would I have acted like this if it was a girl in bed? If Gum was sleeping? Shirtless?

Somehow, that thought made me feel even more disgusted. Gum was honestly sort of gross to me. She kept getting too close for comfort, and her dress was the size of a shirt. Sure, I guess she was cute, but that was it. Mew was cute, too. But in the sort of way you think that a fictional character or a passerby is cute. It didn't mean anything.

My mind wandered to Beat as I opened the door to my dorm building. Was he cute? Of course he was. My mom said he was cute, right before she wished me goodbye and good luck. But was my mom's opinion mine? Not necessarily.

I booted up my computer and locked the door behind me. I began searching the Internet for some information to prove to myself that I wasn't going insane, but nothing seemed to help me calm my mind. Everything just made me feel even weirder about this whole thing. I heaved an angry sigh and flopped into bed, giving up on the day.

Chapter Text

August 6, 2000

I must've fallen asleep for good when I got back to the dorm. I woke up to the sound of music softly playing from Beat's side of the room.

I didn't know what time it was, but the sun was just beginning to peek out from behind the window blinds. I squinted and saw Beat sitting straight up in bed, legs crossed and looking completely relaxed. His big rectangular glasses had returned.

He looked so zen. Was he meditating or something? Sleeping while sitting up? At this point, nothing he could do would be weird enough to even phase me. The music sounded pretty chill to me. I watched him stick his head up, peering through the gaps in the blinds and being careful not to open them too far, still under the impression that I was asleep. And as smoothly as he began, he laid back into the bed, turning the portable CD player up a few notches.

And that damn birthday cake song came on. Beat pulled the blanket tighter to his chin and rolled over, all while the chaotic noisiness of the song blasted in his ears.

What a guy.


When I woke up, Beat was gone. I turned on my computer and saw someone new had added me on AIM. Someone with the username "BeatTheClock". I rolled my eyes, knowing it was him and thinking about how silly it was that we never exchanged usernames in the first place. I wasn't even gonna question how he found mine out. That guy worked in mysterious ways.

As soon as I added him to my friends list, he began to spam me with messages.

 

BeatTheClock: hey

BeatTheClock: hey freshman

BeatTheClock: where are you right now?

BeatTheClock: if you dont answer imma eat my glasses

BeatTheClock: mmm crunchy

TheRealYoyo: im in our dorm? where did you go?

TheRealYoyo: weirdo

BeatTheClock: well

BeatTheClock: not a fan of the insults but

BeatTheClock: im at the radio station

BeatTheClock: they got computers here

TheRealYoyo: where is that

BeatTheClock: check your campus map bro

 

I fished the map from the pocket of my sweats and began studying it. Since we'd been skipping the orientation events, we hadn't been to any of the buildings on campus, which made nothing familiar to us. The radio station wasn't its own separate place, it was in the basement of some building with a weird name.

 

TheRealYoyo: be there soon

BeatTheClock: be where soon?

TheRealYoyo: the station???

TheRealYoyo: hello??

BeatTheClock: oh lol

TheRealYoyo: one of these days someone is gonna think u legit have a bad short term memory

BeatTheClock: well theyd be right... i am senile...

BeatTheClock: its so bad... i cant even remember my name...

 

I felt myself blush for whatever reason as a smile grew on my face. Why was he so funny? I loved this stupid joke he kept up with me. I couldn't let him know that, of course. Or could I? I had to be cool about this, and let him know he was funny in the coolest way possible.

But how?

 

TheRealYoyo: lol

 

Perfect.

Chapter Text

August 6, 2000 (continued cause I ran out of room on the last page)

I began my trek across campus to see this radio station. I had brought my portable CD player to college with me, and I knew it would come in handy on this lonely walk. On a complete whim, I had put in that Cibo Matto CD that Beat bought. I was expecting him to have taken it with him, but it was back in its case on the shelf above his computer.

The walk surprisingly wasn't that long. Shibuya's campus was pretty average-sized, and since everyone was busy with orientation activities and whatnot, there were no massive crowds to cut through. I had put the CD case in my backpack and was examining the list of songs on the back, trying to figure out what songs were what. I made it through a pretty cool-sounding song called "Apple". There were these thumping drumbeats in the background, which seemed to balance out the light, airy lyrics and instrumentals. Surprisingly, I found myself bobbing my head along with it. Maybe Beat was onto something. But maybe not about that birthday song.

As the intro to "Beef Jerky" began, I stepped inside the building. Nobody was there, and it was pretty small. I looked around and found a set of stairs leading downwards into a dimly-lit hallway. As I walked down the stairs into what felt like an alternate dimension, the song only got weirder. I ripped off my headphones in confusion and stuck them around my neck, looking for the station.

The station, surprisingly, looked pretty legit. I paused the CD player and looked inside. Beat sat at the desk, laughing and talking to who I assumed was the professor. The red "on air" light wasn't on, so I headed inside. Beat immediately leaped out of his seat and pulled me into a hug. My heart jumped.

"So glad you made it! 'Sup?" Beat asked, grinning and pulling me out of the hug. I took a close look at his outfit - eccentric as usual. He was wearing a gray shirt (tucked in, as usual) with some band logo on it ('NIИ'? I assume that's a band), cargo shorts, his leather work boots, and one fishnet glove under his usual biker gloves. A long silver wallet chain led from his belt loop to his back pocket. Today, his nails were painted lime green, and his big rectangular glasses hung from the collar of his shirt.

I glanced over and saw his professor, who could've easily been a skater, too, in his college years. The professor had black dreadlocks tied into a messy ponytail and a pair of tiny red sunglasses hanging out on the tip of his nose. He looked strangely well-dressed in his white button-down shirt and pressed black slacks. I suddenly felt underdressed in my sweats.

The professor stood up and offered me a too-tight handshake. "You must be Yoyo! I'm Professor K."

"Just K?" I asked.

He nodded. "Well, DJ Professor K, if I'm on the air." He laughed way too hard at his own joke as he took his seat.

"I was telling him how much of a music fan you were, Yoyo," Beat told me, pulling his glasses on.

I raised an eyebrow. "I'm not as much of a music fan as you, Beat."

"True. You only listen to Eminem."

Professor K's eyes widened. "Eminem? What songs?"

I felt my face grow hot. Who knew talking about your interests was so embarrassing? "'My Name Is' is pretty good."

Professor K smirked. "Too popular. But I accept it."

"If you like Eminem, check this out." Beat stood up and walked to the shelf behind him, which overflowed with CD singles. He filed through them until he found the one he wanted. "I know you're gonna dig this," he continued, putting the disc in the stereo and pressing play. He slunk back into his seat, looking awfully proud of himself.

The song began with some robot voice, saying something like "intergalactic, planetary". Then the drums kicked in, and Beat and Professor K began nodding their heads rhythmically. I crossed my legs in my seat, trying to pay attention to this new song. It was a rap song, with a pretty interesting looping beat and some weirdly intense drums. There were three different rappers, each playing off each other seamlessly.

I was paying attention and the song was pretty cool, but I couldn't stop staring at Beat, who was getting really into the music. His eyes were closed as he mouthed the raps, so he didn't know I was staring so intently. Then that dorky robot dance of his came back, and I stifled a laugh. And then he and Professor K sang a line together out loud, but I was so lost in the music that I completely missed what it was. I'll have to see if Beat has that song on a CD so I can relisten to it and write it down. It sounded pretty cool.

The song stopped. Beat pulled the CD out and put it back in that usual meticulous way he did. "What did you think?" he asked me.

I blinked, suddenly unaware of how much I'd been staring. "It was, uh, really good! Who was that?"

"That was the Beastie Boys!" Beat said, returning to his seat. He pushed his rolling chair slightly closer to me, and whether it was intentional or not, I suddenly felt my heart race the way it did when he did anything interesting. What was happening to me? "One of the first white American rap groups to make it big. They started out as a punk band. They were pretty big here for awhile. Did you know they filmed the video for this song in Japan?"

"I didn't know that," I said softly, my presence being a mere shadow in this conversation.

"That song has been pretty heavy in our summer rotation," Professor K said. "And the video was dope."

"I know! MTV's played it nonstop. Will this song carry over into the fall?" Beat asked.

"Depends," Professor K replied. "'Body Movin' could have crossover appeal as the next single. We'll have to see if they put out a video for that, too."

It was all Greek to me. I zoned out so bad, keeping my eyes somehow focused on Beat. I knew he was geeking out about music with his professor, but none of the words he said about it carried any weight to me. I wasn't a music nerd in the slightest like he was. Somehow I knew that I could listen to him talk about anything for ages. He was just that interesting to me. Hell, if he told me in detail about the most boring experience of his life, I'd listen as if my life depended on it.

But why? What was so cool about him, really? He was a weirdo, a rebel, a specimen for me to try and understand and dissect for as long as possible to no avail. Some parts of him were a mystery. Other parts were so out there and so strange that I couldn't help but accept it all at face value. Everything he did would make someone angry, and maybe I was at first when he got me to smoke with him and watch him do graffiti and sneak out with him.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how much I wanted to spend time with him. I didn't care what we were doing. I wanted to see his mischievous little grin and the way his eyes lit up when he got excited and the ways he chose to express himself. I wanted to hear his thoughts and talk to him more like we did at the boba place.

I felt around in my pocket. Yep, still had the napkin where he wrote his last name. Why did I keep that???

My heart was pounding so loud, I could've sworn he heard it. He only moved his chair closer to me and put a hand on my shoulder suddenly.

"Everything alright?" Beat asked.

I felt like the room was spinning. I hadn't noticed how humid it was in here, despite his hand being strangely cold on my shoulder. I ripped off my jacket and sighed. "I'm fine."

"You look pretty sick," he insisted. "Do you wanna come with me to get some water bottles from the fridge?"

I nodded weakly and stood up. He put his arm around me, leading me out of the room and down the hall.

Oh God. Please don't let me puke on his boots.

 

Chapter Text

August 6, 2000

Beat led me into a small room where a mini fridge sat next to a row of Mac computers like his, each one a different color. He pulled out two bottles and took a seat on the floor, leaning against the wall and stretching his long legs out.

"You seem kinda... out of it today," he said softly, opening my bottle then his. "Something wrong?"

I glanced up at the ceiling, wincing at the brightness of the fluorescent lights.

"You didn't have to come with if you weren't feeling alright, y'know," he continued. "Was it the weed or something?"

"I'm fine," I said finally. "Don't worry about it. It's nothing."

Beat took a sip of his water. "Doesn't seem like nothing."

"It's nothing," I repeated, hearing my voice get quieter.

He shrugged. "You can tell me anything, y'know."

I managed a half smile and looked up at him. "Thanks."

"Anytime, man."

The room was silent. Nothing but the humming of those damn overhead lights.

"Can I vent to you?" he asked suddenly.

I nodded. "That's fine."

"Okay. Wow. So this has been a long time coming," Beat began. "I've been working with Professor K for awhile on the radio station, and I did a lot of on-air work during the summer, but I just feel like it's so..."

"Fake?" I asked.

He grinned and nodded. "Exactly! I have to say all this shit, use all this slang... He wrote me a script. It just seems so phoned-in. I wanna be real, y'know? Like this should be more raw."

"Yeah, I heard your broadcast on the way to the college. It was pretty lame-sounding."

"Sorry you had to hear that." Beat chuckled. "I will never use the word 'ill' in my life ever again." His smile faded as he sighed. "But I've got mad respect for K. He's amazing. And if I bring this kinda thing up to him, I don't wanna come off as some awful guy. I already feel like people think that."

"Are you kidding? You're not awful. You won my mom over on move-in day."

He scoffed. "Well, that's one. It's just hard getting what you want without stepping on anyone's toes."

I thought back to Mew and how pissed she'd be if she heard I was technically in a gang now. "Believe me, I know. You've just gotta be able to stand your ground and see his side of the story, too."

"You're right," he said, as if he hadn't thought of that before. "Yeah, I'll talk to him soon. 'Cause I just want this radio station to feel legit. I know deep down he does too, but he's just out of the loop with what's cool, I guess." Beat smiled and pulled me into a one-armed hug. "Thanks for letting me vent. It's just been eating me up since I started this stuff over the summer. I don't wanna be a jerk. But I wanna do what I want."

"No problem, yo. So do I," I replied, grinning. I still had a lot weighing on me, but I felt a bit better just spending time with Beat.

"I know I told you a lot about me, but I barely know anything about you," he said, pulling me from the hug and changing the topic. "So what's goin' on in Yoyo's world?"

"Well," I began, pulling the CD player from my pocket. "I'm listening to that Cibo Matto CD you bought."

His eyes lit up and his smile grew. "That's one of my favorite albums! Do you like it so far?"

I nodded. "'Apple' was really good. I've barely started 'Beef Jerky', though."

"That's definitely a weird one," he informed me. "Really listen to those lyrics."

"I'll be sure to do that," I replied. "And then, well... Something is bugging me."

"Oh?"

I let out a deep sigh. "So, uh, my friend Mew was my best friend in Benten-cho, and we were inseparable, and she said she loved me a few nights ago over AIM and hasn't been online since." Whew.

"That's weird. She's just straight up gone offline?" Beat asked.

"Yep."

"Did you reply?"

"No," I said. "I-is that bad?"

"Depends."

"On what?"

"Do you love her?"

"Of course I love her," I muttered.

"Why do you love her?"

I paused for a moment. "I love her because she's been with me through thick and thin for years. She's always going to be there for me."

Beat took a breath and crossed his legs. "That's what friends do."

"But what if we were more than just friends?" I asked.

"Do you need to be?"

"Well, not really..."

He nodded slowly, as if he'd just uncovered some deep truth about the world. "Then there ya go."

"But why would she tell me she loved me?" I asked, laying down on the carpet.

Beat laid down next to me. I felt his hair brush up against mine. "Maybe because she loves you, idiot."

"Okay, not a fan of the insults," I joked, throwing him a playful punch.

He threw one right back. "What was the context, anyway?"

I sighed. Was I prepared to dish this out? "I told her about you and she just warned me to stay safe."

Beat scoffed. "Safe from me?" He almost sounded offended.

"I don't know! She came up with all this conspiracy theory stuff about gangs and murder and-"

"Gangs?" he repeated.

I nodded. "She's totally trying to scare me. She's not in college and she's never been to Shibuya, so she's just misinformed about it all."

"You know we're in a gang, right?"

"She doesn't know that. Well, she knows about the Shibuya gang wars."

"There are no gang wars in Shibuya. That's just some scare tactic bullshit the government used to throw me and my friends in jail just for how we expressed ourselves. And besides, my nails aren't even black anymore." He held up his hand as if to reaffirm. "No way anyone could know I'm a GG." He turned his head to face me. I could smell the mint on his breath. "No offense, but your friend sounds crazy."

"She's not usually like this. She's just scared for me, I guess. But now it's scaring me that she's gone AWOL."

"Have you tried to message her back?" Beat asked. "Try that."

"I've been too scared!" I nearly shouted. "What would she do if she found out the kinds of things I've been up to lately?"

"In a perfect world, she'd respect your wishes," Beat replied. "But I get why you're hesitating."

I nodded. "It's a lot, but I'll try to message her when we get back to the dorm. I just didn't know how to respond."

"Good on ya."

We both smiled and were silent for awhile. Then, Beat spoke again.

"I hate being single," he muttered.

"Why's that?" I asked.

He stood up and began pacing. "It's the loneliness."

"I feel that." I thought to how I'd been single for almost 18 years of my life. "Did you have a girlfriend?"

Beat nodded. "I went out with Gum, believe it or not."

I tried to hide my cringing face, but it was no use.

He grinned. "Your face says it all."

I threw my hands over my mouth. "Sorry."

"No, I know what you mean. She's kinda... gross, don't you think?"

I nodded. "I wish she wore a dress that fit and didn't show her whole ass."

"Right?!" He began laughing, stopped in his tracks. "The breakup was mutual, but it sucked anyway. She was my first."

I said nothing and instead thought about how I felt nothing towards Gum or even my best friend Mew. Was that normal? Just the thought of it made me feel weird.

"Gum's still one of my best friends, obviously," Beat continued. "But we have a history. We used to talk all the time, and now with college, I'm not gonna see her that much. She gets on AIM, but not often." He sat atop a table, holding his chin in his hands. "I wanna get back together with her. But I don't know if I love her anymore. I mean, romantically."

"Then don't." I took a seat next to him on the table. "Who says you need a girlfriend, anyway?" I was practically talking to myself at this point.

Beat let out an extremely deep sigh and crossed his legs. Then he turned to me. "Have you ever dated anyone?" he asked.

"No," I responded. "Why do you ask?"

Beat's face immediately went red. "Uh. No reason. Never mind."

I was confused. Why did he ask that and immediately act like he shouldn't have?

A knock at the door brought me back to reality. Professor K stepped into the room. "We're going live in 10. Do y'all wanna help pick out some songs?"

Beat nodded, answering for me. "Hell yeah! Let's go." He leaped up from the table, suddenly brought out of the weird embarrassment he'd felt not even minutes ago. I followed him and Professor K back down the hallway to begin the broadcast.

Chapter Text

August 6, 2000

Beat and I picked out some singles to play on the broadcast. Well, it was more of me watching him enthuse about everything he wanted to play. It was really cool getting to hear his thoughts about music. He just knew so much.

We had thirty minutes worth of music laid out before us, and it was pretty exciting just waiting to go live. Professor K even trusted us to run it by ourselves! He said Beat was mastering this, and despite Beat's humility, I saw his face go a little red at that.

"We're live!" Beat said to me, his smile infectious. He turned on the mic and reached for the first single. "This is Beat from Jet Set Radio, laying down some classics from the 90s! Now playing 'Lovefool' by the Cardigans!"

And then the music began. It was such a sweet sounding pop song. Beat was singing along and dancing around almost immediately. I couldn't help but laugh, and he laughed along with me.

When the second chorus kicked in, however, I felt my heart drop. Those lyrics were so familiar.

"Beat," I said, surprised at my sudden loudness.

He stopped in his tracks. "What's up?"

"Those lyrics. That's Mew's away message."

He pulled at the collar of his shirt. "Yikes."

"Yikes?" I repeated. "Should I be worried?"

"Well, this song is kinda about being in love with someone. But they're not really loving you back," Beat replied matter-of-factly. "Hence the name."

"Oh, God." I put my head down on the desk, defeated. Beat put his hand on top of my head and stood up to play the next song.

"Hey, don't freak out about Mew, okay?" Beat said softly as the next song began. "Girls will be crazy sometimes. Hell, maybe you've dodged a bullet."

I gulped and stayed silent. I knew I hadn't done anything bad to hurt her, but I just felt like a jackass. Was she dropping hints that she had feelings for me the whole time? Was she ripping her hair out in agony right now over the fact that I'd left her hanging for so long? God, what was I supposed to even tell her?

The rest of the broadcast went okay. Beat played some really cool songs and was able to interject his own non-scripted commentary. I still felt pretty awful, but seeing him so happy and in his element made me feel a lot better. He was a pro at this, for sure.

And then he asked me if I wanted to go smoke with him. And I said yes without thinking.


Beat and I hung out at Tab's place after we practically ran there from the studio. He insisted on holding my hand the whole time there, which was a little silly but made my heart flutter for whatever reason.

"Why does my heart race so much when we hang out?" I blurted out, feeling the summer breeze fill my lungs as we ran.

"I have that effect on people," Beat replied, flashing me his signature grin. "Do I make you nervous?"

I bit my bottom lip. "No, not that. It's... excitement, I guess." And it was totally true. I was always excited to see what adventures we'd go on next. The fear of what Mew would think always loomed over me like a dark cloud, but somehow hanging out with Beat lightened that feeling. It was sort of ironic.

"I love hanging out with you, too!" Beat said, knocking on Tab's door.

Hearing that made the goofiest smile spread to my face. I felt like my heart was doing cartwheels. Why did I want his approval and validation so much? Was it really that deep?

A few minutes passed and the door didn't open. Beat shrugged and pulled a key from his pocket.

"You have the key to Tab's place?" I asked in shock, watching him turn the key and open the rickety door.

He nodded and opened the door, letting me come in first. "I guess they're not here," he muttered, shrugging.

"That's weird," I replied nonchalantly, looking around the small, vacant house. I turned to say something to Beat, but he started to disappear down the hall.

I caught up to him quickly. "Where are you headed, yo?"

"Tab's room."

"Huh? You can't just burst into someone's room, Beat!"

Beat scoffed. "It's not bursting in if he left the door wide open."

Couldn't argue with that.

He took a seat on the bed, but not before pulling out the computer chair and gesturing for me to take a seat. And without me even asking, he told me what he wanted me to do. "Log into AIM. I want to help you reply to Mew."

"We couldn't have done this in the dorm?" I asked, watching his gloved hands reach over me. He sure was quick to leap from that bed. He grabbed my hand to move it onto the mouse. I winced at how cold his fingertips were.

He clicked on the icon and waited for it to load. "Well, we wanted to smoke, didn't we? Can't do that in the dorm. Now, log in, and open the messages from her."

I gulped, hands shaking as I typed in my screen name and password. Why was he so adamant about helping me out with this? It was a lot weighing on me, but I'm not an idiot. I could've totally done this myself. I just wasn't sure how.

"What do I say?" I asked, showing him the message that had sat in my inbox for days. I couldn't even begin to imagine how Mew was feeling now that I'd totally gone AWOL on her.

"Tell her you love spending time with her," Beat replied.

I ran a hand through my hair and felt a few strands loosen in my grip. "How is that a good response to 'I love you'?"

"As if you had a better response?" he asked.

I let out a deep sigh. "I just feel like she deserves a little more than that. I mean, she's my best friend, dude!" An idea came to me, and I began typing quickly.

TheRealYoyo: i love you too!

Beat groaned. "Please say you're joking."

"What? I do love her!"

"You said yourself that you didn't."

I slammed the backspace button in frustration and turned around to face him. "Why are you making such a big deal out of this?"

Beat was quiet, which was pretty bizarre.

"Look. I really like how much you want to help out here. It means a lot, y'know? But I can handle this myself."

He crossed his arms and took a step back. "If you could handle it yourself, you totally would've by now."

I stood up from the computer, annoyed, and turned the chair so it faced Beat. "How about you write a response, then?"

"Maybe I will," he muttered, shuffling over to the chair and taking a seat. I watched his fingers fly over the keys.

TheRealYoyo: i love spending time with you. you're my best friend!

I read the message. "That's how you'd handle it?"

He sighed and erased the message silently, putting his head down on the desk in annoyance.

Oh, shit. "Don't be mad at me."

"I'm not mad," I heard him say. He pulled his head back up and fixed his bangs. "I just don't want you to get in a relationship with her."

"Why?"

He said nothing, then finally turned the chair and faced me. He had his hands over his face, but I could tell he was bright red again. "Because. It's no fun."

"Who says I'm even going to go out with her? She's my best friend."

"Girls have ways of deceiving you, Yoyo. They're all the same. Always after a relationship." He rolled his eyes and sighed, his shoulders rising and falling. "I just want this to get resolved, dude."

We were both silent for awhile, just looking around Tab's room.

"I'm just gonna reply with 'I love you too'," I said suddenly, getting up and making my way to the computer. "And she'll interpret that any way she wants. I just want to stop worrying."

So I did. I felt pretty bad that it took me ages to send four words to my best friend, but the deed was finally done.

Beat managed a grin, relieved that this was finally over. "Good job! Are you still down to smoke?"

I thought for a minute. "I think I'm going to hang out for a bit and see if she gets online. Is that cool?"

Beat nodded and stood up. "Dope. I'll go ahead and get us ready in the meantime."

Mew was offline. She'd been offline for a long time. I didn't want to worry about her, but nothing about this made me feel better.

And without thinking, I logged out and shut the computer down. I reached for the blue phone that Tab kept next to his desktop computer. My hands shook as I dialed Mew's number, the same one she'd had since we were kids, and the one I knew by heart.

I heard it ring on the other line. Three times.

The sound of the ringing ended when she picked up. "Hello?"

I felt sick to my stomach as I tried to muster out some words. Nothing was coming out except for my loud breaths, which only grew louder.

"Who is this? Hello?" Mew repeated.

I slammed the phone down and walked away, feeling even worse than before.

Chapter Text

8/1/2000

I bought this notebook pretty cheap at a corner store on a whim because I heard journaling is supposed to help you sort your thoughts and junk. I'm gonna have a lot of thoughts to sort when I start college tomorrow, so let's give it a whirl.

Facts about me:

-My name is Beat Goji (or Beat Ereki if you please)

-I'm 18

-I'm from Shibuya-cho

-I'm half-Japanese, half-American

-I'm not a natural redhead

-I've been helping out at Shibuya College throughout the summer with their radio program. I'm hoping to major in communications or something where I can work at a real-life radio station, but for now, I'm prefacing all my favorite songs with shitty outdated slang. It's kind of embarrassing to hear myself say "Spin the beat, Professor K!" on every broadcast. But it's a start.

-I'm a skater. I love to skateboard, rollerblade, and more recently, do aggressive in-line skating through town. It kinda freaks out the neighborhood when they see me barreling down the sidewalk and grinding down rails.

-I've also taken to doing graffiti in some pretty torn-up neighborhoods. Who cares if there's spray paint on an abandoned house that's already ugly? Graffiti is art, anyway.

Related to that, I'm the unofficial leader of the Shibuya in-line skating gang called the "GGs". What does it stand for? Even we don't know. Right now it's me, my genius friend (and plug) Tab, and my ex-girlfriend Gum. She and I are cool now, but I still worry about how things are going to change for our new friendship. We're all graffiti and music aficionados as well, but I'm the only one of us who's actually going to school for something. I worry about them sometimes - they're sort of ambitionless, broke stoners. But in a way, so am I.

My dad is the mayor of Tokyo, so by default I'm supposed to be next in line and be his perfect son. I really don't want that - he's an oppressive asshole who doesn't understand the importance of things like art and athletics. Instead he's been training the police department to be even more of pigs than usual. All the pigs are all lined up, for sure.

It's my last night living with my dad before I head out on my own, or fly the coop, or something like that. In between writing, I've been packing boxes full of clothes and CDs and all kinds of junk. The last thing that's gonna be a bitch to pack up is my brand new computer. I guess I'm pretty lucky my dad is rich, because he got me one of those really cool iMac computers. It even has orange panels. How cool is that?

And lastly,

-I don't think I can keep a journal.

8/2/2000

Woke up late to the sound of my dad yelling at me to get up and head to the campus. I didn't even have time to change out of what I wore to bed, but it didn't matter to him. What mattered was that we got there on time.

I'm writing this right now as I sit in the passenger seat, headphones blasting. I was listening to the mix CD I had made the night before. It was a short drive, so I made it about halfway through "Great Five Lakes" by Buffalo Daughter before Dad made me pull my headphones off and help unpack.

He had some dumb government meeting to go to, so he dropped me off at the dorm with all my boxes. How fatherly.

I'm not very strong, so it took a few tries to get everything up there. By the time I had made it inside and started unpacking all by myself, the door swung open. A boy with long ginger hair and a green hoodie stood in the doorway, his mom behind him. This must be Yoyo Murakami, my assigned roommate. They had loaded up a moving cart with their own boxes.

I walked towards them, trying to fix the cord to my headphones that kept unraveling as I walked. I shook the boy's hand, maybe a bit too firmly because I saw him wince a little.

"Are you Beat Goji?" I heard Yoyo ask. He pushed a stray piece of hair from his eyes.

Dammit. The school hadn't fixed my paperwork for my last name. I didn't want anyone knowing I was related to Rokkaku Goji, but my cover was already blown. I had to play it cool.

"Don't say my last name," I joked dramatically, cocking an eyebrow. "It sends a shiver down my spine." And for added impact, I shuddered.

His mom laughed at that, but the boy in the hoodie was unmoved. I immediately felt my face go a bit red, so I began helping them with their boxes, holding my head down as I did.

"Wait. Beat as in... on the radio here?" he asked me, almost smirking as he said it.

I sighed. "Unfortunately. Sorry you had to hear that." That was just part of the mortifying ordeal of being a radio DJ.

I began helping Yoyo and his mom figure out a way to organize their stuff. I was worried I was coming off as a bit of a control freak, but they seemed totally chill with me helping out. It felt like forever before Yoyo's mom called him into the hall to say one of the longest, most tearful goodbyes I'd ever heard. I wanted to be cynical, but I was somehow finding myself feeling jealous. My dad said nothing as he dropped me off earlier, and I'm sure an emotional farewell is the last thing he'd want to give me.

Yoyo came back in, closing the door behind him. I stood up and walked towards him, extending my hand again. "Didn't really get to introduce myself earlier. Sorry."

"It's cool, man," he replied, shaking my hand again. "I'm Yoyo. I'm from Benten-cho. How about you?"

I looked down at my nails, which could use a good top coat. The color was starting to chip off. "Shibuya born and raised. Benten-cho is so legit though. I love skating there."

I didn't see Yoyo, but I was sure that his eyes lit up at the sound of that. It surprised me - he didn't look like the type. But I know skaters of all kinds, so I could've been wrong. "You skate?" he asked me.

I nodded, counting the types of skating I did. Did I mention I had six fingers on my left hand? Yoyo didn't know that, and he flipped out.

"Do you have six fingers?" he asked me. 

I nodded. "Yep. I'm a genetic freak." What a weird turn of conversation.

Somehow we made it back around to talking about skating and I asked him about his experiences. Apparently he used to skate, but said he got too fat. Since when are you too fat to skate? I know a lot of bigger friends who get around just fine on a board, or on rollerblades, or on in-line skates. And besides, Yoyo wasn't even that big. Maybe a little stocky, but the baggy clothes he wore didn't help. I immediately felt sort of awkward for being so thin in comparison. He told me he still read Thrasher, as if that made up for it.

"Dude. You could totally skate now." I grinned, excited to share my skating expertise. "I can reteach you if you forgot."

But he said no and decided he was too tired. Which, fair enough, unpacking is exhausting. But I'm always exhausted. Another day for sure.

I fired up my computer and turned on some music. He silently got on his computer, typing away. Probably talking to someone online. I used AIM too, but I didn't have that many friends online. Maybe I'd ask him for his screen name?

I finished listening to the mix CD I had made earlier, feeling myself completely lost in the music. I love to dance - I can't help it. Before I got into DJing and skating, I hung around town and danced along with whatever music I'd hear. Shibuya was a pretty crazy part of Japan, and there was always some kind of cool music playing from a building. I knew Yoyo was preoccupied with his typing, so I shimmied and danced around in my seat, tapping my fingers.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched him shut down his computer and crawl into bed. I felt pretty bad for still being online and keeping the light in the room on. So I stood up, turned the lights out, and began working on the next mix to send to my radio professor. Then I'd go to bed. Freshman orientation events began tomorrow, and as much as I didn't want to go, I knew I probably should.

Mix for 8/3/2000

Professor K - let me know what you think.

1. Len - Steal My Sunshine

2. Cibo Matto - BBQ

3. Luscious Jackson - Naked Eye

4. Fatboy Slim - Praise You

5.  Buffalo Daughter - Great Five Lakes

Hoping to mix in some more American music this time around, but I understand if that's going to be difficult. Lots of crossover appeal, though. - Beat

Chapter Text

8/3/2000

Yeah, I didn't sleep. Hours passed before my eyes were burning from staring at a screen. It sure didn't feel like that much time passed, though.

I heard Yoyo getting up. Turns out he didn't sleep very well, either. The only difference was that he actually tried to.

"What's on the agenda for today, freshman?" I asked him. I knew there was some paperwork about the freshman orientation activities, but I must've left it at home because it was nowhere to be found. Not that I wanted to go do any of those things, anyway. I already had a plan to blow the whole day off and hang out downtown.

Yoyo paused and looked at me. "Aren't you a freshman, too?" he asked.

"Yeah, I just like to assert my dominance."

And instantly my hands flew over my mouth. What the fuck? What on earth possessed me to say that?

"What?" he asked.

"Oh my God. No. That came out bad," I mumbled. God, I felt like such an idiot. "I meant, uh, I just like to-"

He paused for a moment and began to laugh. And I felt my face only grow hotter. He had a really cute laugh, kinda like a hyena but in a less annoying way. If that makes sense. "No, no, I knew what you meant! It's whatever, yo. Just caught me off guard."

Then Yoyo began reading through the agenda, and nothing sounded interesting. Some seminar, lunch, a trivia game...? I knew we'd probably be back by lunch, but everything else sounded totally lame. So I let him know that.

Peer pressure is a bitch. I've definitely been convinced to do some bad things. But this, to me, is way different. I'd much rather get to know a person in a situation I create myself, not something we're forced to do. I knew that the orientation would be a waste of my time, so I wasn't going to go in the first place, no matter who I lived with.

The only difference was that something made me feel like I had to show Yoyo the city. I just felt compelled to, and totally out of nowhere. We got dressed and headed out, but not before I took care of some business. I loaded up my backpack with some cans of spray paint and made a beeline for the back of the dorm building, with Yoyo following.

I suddenly felt bad for him as I set my bag down and examined the wall. I really didn't want him to think I was some kind of terrible person who commits petty crimes. But this needed to be taken care of, and it was the perfect time since nobody else was around. I could tell how nervous he was about it, so I tried to joke around with him, but I think it came off as kinda dickish.

Graffiti came naturally to me. Before graffiti, I drew a lot and got really good at it. At home, I had sketchbooks full of all kinds of artwork I'd done. I don't feel very artsy, but it's something I've always been passionate about. Professor K, my radio professor, told me to advertise the radio station in a creative way, so here it was. I had picked shades of green and yellow to really make the graffiti pop.

I was totally in the zone. I would've felt a lot less awkward if I had been listening to music, but thankfully there was always a song stuck in my head for times like these. Today I had "Birthday Cake" by Cibo Matto stuck in my head, which kept me tapping my feet.

It felt like ages before I was finished. It was awfully hard to create when someone was literally looking over your shoulder. I took a step back to admire my work. Not my best, but it got the word out.

"Jet Set Radio," I heard Yoyo ask. "What is that?"

"It's the college radio station here. The one you heard me on yesterday?" I tossed my used cans in the trashcan and picked up my backpack.

"Oh. Why'd you vandalize a building with it, then?"

"To spread the word," I replied, putting my glasses atop my head. "My professor for radio told me to advertise. So I did."

"That's kinda illegal," Yoyo said under his breath. I could still tell he felt really nervous about the entire thing.

"So are most things, but you don't see me freaking out about them. It ain't that deep, Yoyo."

I put my glasses back on and took his hand suddenly, my heart racing. I felt like I wasn't in control of myself for a moment. "We gotta get off campus before they catch us sneaking around."

Chapter Text

August 8, 2000

I had no time to write yesterday! Yikes! Classes started and I've been so swamped.

Yesterday I had classes back-to-back, which was pretty hard for me especially since I was still a little high from hanging out with Beat the night before. I felt so exhausted and I wonder if it was obvious to my professors. Thankfully, nobody said anything to me. Maybe they just assumed I had allergies or something. Nobody's eyes should ever be as red as mine were.

I started with physics, right at 8 am. How unfair is that? My brain is barely awake enough to deal with all of that. But I pulled through and somehow flew through public speaking (yikes!), calculus, statistics, and biology. I made it back to the dorm and headed straight to bed.

I almost managed to fall asleep when my computer got a message. I sighed and took a seat, booting up AIM. If Mew had finally responded, my stomach felt like it was about to drop.

New message from: ChewingGum. Accept?

I rolled my eyes and felt my stomach return to its place. That had to be Gum, obviously. I hit accept and immediately the messages flew in.

ChewingGum: yoyo!

ChewingGum: wasssuppppp

ChewingGum: what r u doin

TheRealYoyo: just left class. tryin 2 nap

ChewingGum: lame

ChewingGum: wanna hang? 

TheRealYoyo: i will pass for today

ChewingGum: :(

ChewingGum: y?

TheRealYoyo: im very tired

TheRealYoyo: and maybe still high

ChewingGum: LMAOOO ok. we should hang soon tho

 

I felt myself gag. Gum grossed me out sometimes. But I didn't want to hurt her feelings.

 

TheRealYoyo: haha yeah

 

And then I turned off my computer and looked over. Beat was sitting at his computer, headphones on, blasting his usual tunes. I felt my face start to get a bit hot as I looked at him. He was totally in the zone, typing up God knows what.

He noticed that I was looking at him and pulled a headphone off. "'Sup?" he asked me.

"Um," I stuttered, taken aback by his immediate response. "Nothing. What's up with you?"

"Working on playlist concepts for the next radio broadcast," he replied.

"How were classes?"

"Good."

I sighed. "Good." God, the awkwardness in the air was so thick I could've cut it with a knife.

"Did Mew ever reply?" he asked me.

"Not yet, sadly," I replied, looking down at my keyboard. "But someone else messaged me."

Beat took his headphones off and sat them on his neck. "Who?"

"Gum."

He rolled his eyes. I looked closer and saw he was wearing the slightest bit of eyeliner. Has he never done that before?

"She was just asking if I wanted to hang with her," I continued.

"Right." Beat looked back at his computer, scrolling through the list he'd been working on. "All I can say is it's not worth it. She's just gonna try to use you for something."

"Like what?" I asked, probably sounding like a total idiot.

"Like sex?" he replied, sounding frustrated with how stupid I must've sounded. "Take it from someone who's dated her. We get along now as friends, but I'd never go out with her again. No matter how lonely I get."

The room was silent for awhile. Then he spoke again.

"What did she even say?" Beat sounded pissed.

I raised an eyebrow. "Like I said, she asked if I wanted to hang with her. And I said no."

He sighed. "Good. I'm glad you did." Then he began to pull his headphones back on. I stopped him suddenly, grabbing his wrist. He was acting weird, and out of nowhere I was determined to get to the bottom of it.

"What are you doing?" he asked, reeling back.

"What are you doing?"

He stood up and walked over to his bed, taking a seat.

"What gives?" I followed him, sitting on my bed that faced his. "First you have beef with Mew, then Gum. I understand you guys had your shitty relationship, but what gives?"

Beat was silent, glancing down at his chipped nail polish. Then he finally lifted his head. "Well, I guess this is a long time coming."

"Huh?"

"I realized that maybe I don't like girls as much as I thought," he mumbled.

I was even more confused. "So how does that factor into this? Like, I'm glad you could share this and all, but-"

"It's because I don't want to see you get hurt, okay?" he finally admitted. "It's because... it's because I like you."

If possible, my jaw would've hit the floor.

"Okay. I like you," Beat repeated, getting a feel for the words. "I think you're amazing. I think it's so cool how we've become so close lately. I hate that this girl thing has made things so weird. I don't mean to get so upset about it all, but I just don't want anything bad to happen to you."

I was still in shock. "Great. I... don't think I like guys."

"Okay." His voice was shaky.

"Sorry." Should I have said that? I felt my stomach drop.

He stood up. It looked like his legs were shaking. "It's okay. I'm going to go do my broadcast now."

And without another word, he got up and walked to the studio, slamming the door behind him.

 

Chapter Text

8/8/2000

Been too busy to write. And too stressed. A lot has happened and a lot of good things have happened but it's all just made me feel like it was for nothing, since I just ruined my friendship with Yoyo.

I've come to realize that maybe girls aren't who I should be going after, since I've only gotten fucked over every single time. 

From a few days of living with Yoyo and getting to know him - getting high with him, listening to music with him, just talking about nothing and everything - I realize that I've got a huge crush on him. Massive. Everything he does just makes me feel so warm inside. Just seeing him makes me feel so insanely happy. I was totally picking up good vibes from him, judging by how willing he was to spend time with me and ask for help with girl problems. But now I feel like I've done something wrong.

I admitted that I liked him after I badmouthed basically every woman on the planet. A bad move on my part. Because now he probably thinks I'm weird and gross and a freak for even mentioning it to him. I just want to throw up. I want to disappear and never come back.

So I went to the studio to clear my head and work on my next broadcast. I just can't focus on music right now, though, as much as I'm praying for a distraction to stop me from feeling like complete and utter shit.

I must've fallen asleep in the studio. My neck ached and my face felt cold from having it pressed against the cool desk. 

There was a loud knocking on the door. I turned around and saw it was Professor K, trying to get inside. I sighed, feeling my tired body struggle to stand and walk to the door.

"Beat, is something up?" he asked me, rushing through the door I had just unlocked.

I brushed my bangs out of my face. I knew I'd be lying if I said I was fine. I already had a feeling my looks would give it away.

"Is this broadcast really stressin' you out? Because I can give you an extension, if you're feeling too swamped." He took a seat and gestured for me to do the same.

I shook my head. "Nah. It's... personal stuff."

"Personal stuff?"

"You wouldn't wanna get into it. It's just stupid drama."

Professor K looked unsatisfied with that answer, but didn't say anything else. Instead, he changed the subject, which made me grateful for a distraction but also made me feel like I shouldn't have been so dismissive with my own emotions.

I had a conversation with him about music as per usual. I'm sure it went well. But it all sounded like radio silence to me - muffled by the humming of fluorescent lights and the deafening sound of my thoughts.

When Professor K left, that feeling returned to the pit of my stomach. I wished I had some way to go back in time and prevent myself from even catching feelings for Yoyo.

What even was so special about him? He was sort of dorky, antisocial, and really didn't know how to talk to girls. But despite those flaws, he was amazing. I just wanted to kick my own ass for being so stupid before.

Was he mad at me? There was no way to know unless I asked. But why would I ask and risk looking like some kind of bumbling idiot who can't accept that they've expressed themselves? How he interprets it is going to be his opinion. I can't change it or take it back. All I've gotta do is suck it up.

Somehow.