You have nightmares—one nightmare, a reoccurring one—that plagues you most nights.
You and your brother are on a little boat, one speck in a vast sea of murky grey. The water you rest upon is stagnant. It fills you with unease.
Every once in a while, your brother peeks over the edge of the boat to look down into the water. He’ll crane his neck far, too far, to peer at the grey. You wonder what he sees. All the times you’ve tried, it’s just been dark, nothing notable to keep looking at. Maybe he sees something else, you think. Maybe there’s something down there I’m not supposed to see. You’ve tried to ask a few times, but no sound escapes the shapes your lips form. Sometimes you think that’s for the best.
For a while, that’s all there is—the boat, the grey sea, the rocking synced with your collective breathing, the silence. Sunlight breaks through clouds you never realized were there. It’s not very strong, but the heat is enough to make you sweat a little. You lick at your top lip. You taste salt.
“Oi,” your brother breaks the silence. He does this every time. One syllable, called out in a quiet voice that sends a chill down your spine. You’ve only heard that tone a few times in person. You look over at him. He’s standing with one foot propped up on the edge of the boat. He isn’t facing you.
“I’m gonna jump.”
The first few times you had this dream, you’d tried to call out to him. Don’t go, you’d scream, don’t leave me. You remember the heat of the breath on your lips, whispers of words that wouldn’t, no, couldn’t, shouldn’t make it to him. It’s not like you want to stop him if that’s what he wants, but you’re selfish. You still try every time.
Not like he’d listen if he could. You knew long ago your brother had already made up his mind.
“There’s somethin’ down there,” he tells you. “I wanna go find it.” You can’t understand why he’s leaving you. You can’t understand why he can’t just take you with him. You can’t understand why he won’t just stay .
All you can do is sit in silence as he lifts one foot, then the other, and disappears over the edge of the boat. You don’t bother with getting up to look after him. The water is too dark. All that’s left now--the boat, the grey sea, the rocking synced only with your breathing, and new, the light sound of rain pattering down on the water--does nothing to fill the empty space across from you.
Waking up from the dreams is always the worst part. Your arms ache, although that’s probably not a side effect of your subconscious so much as it is one of your job. Your throat is dry. Your eyes are wet.
A quick glance at the alarm clock by your bed says it’s 3:29 in the morning, which is fantastic, because it’s near impossible for you to fall back to sleep. Scrubbing at your eyes, you shuck on slippers and head out to the kitchen.
The apartment you’ve been so generously allotted by management is small. Saying it’s comfortable is a stretch. Your refrigerator is crammed in the corner of a room only designated as separate from the rest of the house by a shoddy excuse for a bar. You think it’s stupid. There isn’t even enough room to put any stools there.
You think a lot about the stupid bar-table-wall disgrace, how all it does is house piles of mail and copies of Volleyball Monthly . You think about it too much. It’s poetic, really. Something about how it’s not what it’s supposed to be but at the same time is everything it shouldn’t...you’re not sure. Doesn’t really matter. You almost failed literature anyways.
The refrigerator itself, crammed in the very back corner of your stupidly sectioned poor excuse for a kitchen, is almost empty. You make a mental note to go grocery shopping later in the week. A huff of a laugh escapes you for making a mental note of something you’ll inevitably forget until it’s almost too late. Well, whatever. Takeout exists for a reason, and you don’t want food in the first place. You know what you’re at your refrigerator for.
Two and a half beers later, you’re on your terrace, hunched over the guardrail like some Disney villain surveying an unsuspecting village brimming with smiles and singing animals. This, quite obviously, isn’t a fairytale, but you like to entertain oversimplifications and romanticized metaphors. Makes the low moments feel less miserable.
Sometimes, though, you do feel like a villain, or at least a minor antagonist. You wonder how many people think you’re a piece of shit. You remind yourself that’s not something you care about.
The last few swigs of your third beer go down smooth. Crunching up the can with one hand, you head back inside. You crush all your cans. When the habit started is a fuzzy memory tucked behind years of forced forgetting, but it doesn’t matter. Six paces before a serve. Bleach roots every three weeks. Crush beer cans. Habitual.
Your walls are bare, save for a painting from one of Sunarin’s artsy-type friends he met from God knows where and a small, framed photo of your family. This, too, is probably some sort of poetry-in-motion-slash-life-imitates-art bullshit they teach at university. You don’t know many people who went to university. Maybe Aran-kun could find some deeper meaning in the lack of decoration spread across your walls. You force the thought of bugging Omi-omi about it out of your mind. Freakish wrists and dark curls loom in your peripherals.
You need to sleep, but sleep never comes easy. The bed is too far away. The couch is accessible. You need to wash your face. Your slippers make that weird sticky rubber on wood sound as you pad over to the bathroom. Humidity envelops you, and mixed with the light buzz from the three beers from crushed cans, walking hardly feels like walking as much as it does swimming. Nothing really feels real. You can’t remember the last time you’ve felt truly grounded. It’s 3:49 a.m.
Flicking on the bathroom light, you reach for one of the little bars of face soap you snagged from various hotels the team has made pit stops at on their nationwide tour of victory, or something. A bottle clatters to the floor. You’ll pick it up in the morning probably.
Everything is fuzzy but the faucet is cold and metal and you want to hold onto it until the joints in your fingers lock up. The water that flows out of the spout isn’t grey. You struggle to understand why you find so much comfort in that. It’s just water. The splash on your face reminds you of something you can’t quite place. The soap lather in your calloused hands conjures imagery of yellow and green. A jersey worn loose. A jacket zipped to the chin. It feels as if all the moisture in the air has dissipated. Only heat remains.
You look in the mirror. One of Japan’s top setters stares back.
You shatter the mirror.