“Don’t you think it’s weird,” Tooru said with his phone against his cheek, “that we don’t have summer break this year.”
“You mean that you don’t have a summer break,” Hajime corrected from across the Pacific. “My university is off all summer long.”
Tooru rolled his face into his pillow and huffed into the fabric. “You don’t have to remind me every time, you know.”
“And you don’t have to be such a brat about me not coming back to Japan.”
“I’m not being a brat. Besides, I don’t have time to hang out even if you were here. I have so much studying and practicing to do, so there.”
Hajime gave a small chuckle on his end of the phone, and Tooru felt his heart being pulled across oceans to where Hajime was in California. Though it was the early evening for Tooru, it was well past midnight where Hajime was. Tooru was looking forward to being only four hours ahead of his boyfriend instead of 16 hours.
They had exchanged pictures and jokes, but the time difference weighed heavy on the both of them. There was limited ability for in real time smack talk. During Hajime’s school year, their late night talks were few and far between. Tooru knew he could ask for more. He knew Hajime would give it, with minimal complaint.
“The big move is coming up fast,” Hajime said. They had been talking about the process endlessly. When Hajime had been going through his testing and visa process, Tooru had been by his side.
Tooru looked at the calendar on his wall. He was set to head out in a little less than 3 weeks. Each day felt like an eternity slipping through his fingers.
“Too fast. Thanks for leaving me, I mean thanks for going through this process first so I could do it better than you,” Tooru said, his sing song voice sure to make Hajime roll his eyes.
“You have it so freaking easy compared to me, stop complaining,” Hajime retorted with no real passion.
“I don’t have you here to hold my hand and comfort me when I’m banging my head on my desk because I can’t remember a simple grammar point.”
Tooru heard Hajime exhale out of his nose, “I was not banging my head on the desk because I didn’t understand something. It was because you never let me study in peace.”
The memory made Tooru smile, and his messy heart ached again. He looked at the calendar on his wall. With all of the paperwork finally finished, he felt better about the upcoming move now that his visa had been processed and glued into his passport.
He had sent a photo of it to Hajime the other day, lamenting how the black and white photo didn’t capture his charismatic essence.
Hajime must have noticed that Tooru’s head was somewhere else. “You're just gonna let me win that one,” he asked.
“I’m feeling gracious today,” Tooru replied. He heard Hajime yawn. “I should let you go,” Tooru told him.
Hajime hummed in Tooru’s ear. “You haven’t told me about your amazing exploits of the day, yet,” he argued.
“I can always tell you that tomorrow,” Tooru reasoned.
“It’s more fun to hear about it on the same day though.”
“You’re stalling, but I won’t have you blaming me when you wake up late and get grumpy about wasting your whole day sleeping. The horror. The shock. The angst-”
“Fine, fine attack me for wanting to talk to my boyfriend on his birthday,” Hajime jabbed.
“You’re so sweet when you think I’m not paying attention.”
“Have a good time tonight. Don’t over do it.”
“You know my whole personality revolves around-”
Tooru heard a thunk on the phone, and Hajime said, “you know what, never mind, but don’t complain to me when you’re in pain tomorrow.”
They were both stalling for time with their back and forth. The illusion of closeness was going to dissolve as soon as someone hit the end button. Every time they said goodbye, Tooru wondered what the hell they were doing. They both knew what direction they were running in, separately. Sometimes the years of friendship weren’t the foundation of their relationship. Sometimes, It felt like an old suitcase packed to the brim, capable of bursting open at the slightest touch.
“I won’t complain if you go to sleep,” Tooru offered.
“Fine, fine,” Hajime agreed. Tooru heard Hajime’s sheets rustle. “Happy birthday, Tooru.”
“Goodnight, Hajime. Have filthy-”
Tooru heard the beep of their call disconnecting.
“You guys,” Tooru sniffed in the corner of the Japanese style karaoke booth, eyes shut tight. He didn’t exactly remember the walk from the restaurant where they had pumped Tooru with drinks to the karaoke room, but he supposed that didn’t matter. He was with Mattsun and Makki.
He opened one of his eyes and noted that Yahaba had joined them for karaoke. Kyoutani also sulked next to Yahaba. That was fine, Tooru supposed.
“Why isn’t Watari here,” he whined.
Yahaba scoffed into the microphone, “You know he moved, right? It’s important to me that you know this, or did you pickle your brain on your first legal night of drinking?”
Mattsun and Makki, the picture of sober, laughed at Yahaba’s verbal assault. Mattsun, the closest to Tooru, patted his forehead.
“Did you really forget that Watari is going to school in Yokohama?”
“Of course not, I just wish he was here.”
Makki leaned over Matssun to look at Tooru, “How cute of you to miss your underclassman.”
Tooru sat up, maybe too fast. “Wait, wait, wait,” he said, turning to face them. He grabbed Mattsun’s shoulder and shook him.
“I remember what I was going to say.”
Mattsun pried Tooru’s hand off of him, but Tooru just planted it back on him. “Stop that. I need you for balance since I’m using my magnificent brain for other things right now.”
“Hurry up before you forget again,”Makki goaded.
“Anyway-” Tooru had to pause because he did forget again,”-what if like. Like well, Iwaizumi is like in Southern California, right?”
They nodded, pretending they were tracking.
“What if I like, what if I left early? Went to Argentina. Well, no not exactly, I would be going to Argentina early. I’d arrive in Argentina at the same time as planned. I wouldn’t know what to do in Argentina if I went that early. Like, I would get bored, you know? Or maybe not, I don’t know.”
Mattsun leaned his head back to hit it on the wall before telling Tooru to get to the point. “The FUCKING POINT,” Makki corrected.
“Uhhhhhh, yeah. I think I’ll go. Get on a plane,” Tooru finished. It made perfect sense to him. Why shouldn’t he go.
“Okay but if you’re not going to San Juan early,” Mattsun tried to reason out, “where are you going?”
Yahaba’s song finished, and he passed the mic to Kyoutani. He had queued up some hard rock song.
“Weren’t you two listening,” he asked into the microphone, “he obviously going to go see Iwaizumi senpai.” He turned his attention back to the screen and sang poorly, but with enthusiasm.
Mattsun and Makki let out matching, “ahhhh,” sounds. They both looked at Tooru with pity.
“I could do it, you know!”
“We don’t doubt, but maybe-”
“Maybe you should be sober when you make this decision,” Makki said, watching Tooru trying to fish his cell phone out of his pocket.
“It’s past the business day anyway,” Mattsun tried.
“It’s okay, I booked my ticket through a company with a call center, I’m sure,” Tooru said when he managed to get his phone in his hands.
“I’ll be outside,” he told his friends, trying to race for the door.
He heard Mattsun and Makki get up behind him, but Tooru took the only pair of slippers. His friends would have to put on their real shoes.
In the hallway, he quickly found the stairs and headed down to the lobby. His legs felt funny, but he managed to make it down the stairs just fine. Once he settled down on the booth in the lobby, he searched for the phone number of his airline.
“Hello,” he said in English after the line picked up, “I would like to change my flight.”
Three days later, Tooru closed the door to the taxi that had dropped him off in front of Hajime’s apartment complex. The flight had been long and LAX had been congested. He had taken a train as close to as he could, but the rail system in Southern California was near nonexistent.
So, the taxi had been expensive, but the chance to surprise Hajime was worth any price. His mother had simply laughed at him when he told her that he had drunkenly changed his ticket.
“I don’t understand why you didn’t think to do that in the first place? What difference was three weeks of practice going to make,” she had asked.
Tooru found that he agreed with her. He had been so focused on being ready for his tryouts in Argentina that he never stopped to realize it would be possible to see Hajime. It had been so long since they had seen each other. His tunnel vision was well known by those who loved him, but Tooru seemed to forget it all the time.
Hajime’s apartment was a small distance from his campus. The outside was an ugly grey. He walked down the path from the sidewalk to the small courtyard. The small patch of grass looked like it had been recently cut.
Tooru found the stairs up to the second floor and searched for Hajime’s unit. He counted the apartment numbers out loud to himself like a song. His heart felt like it was going to run to Hajime without him. The tug he had felt in Japan had evolved into a crushing, ever shrinking cage. It squeezed him so hard he could barely breathe. His fingers were sweaty and cold. His knee was twinging, surely a symptom of his excitement.
Maybe he was also scared. Scared that despite the regular phone calls and emails, he and Hajime were growing apart. Maybe the battered suitcase carrying their shared experiences was broken. Maybe the wheels were falling off. Maybe his Hajime had changed in ways he hadn’t been able to see firsthand.
He arrived at Hajime’s unit, no longer singing his song. With his frozen hand, he knocked on the door. The door opened after a moment, but it was one of Hajime’s roommates that opened the door.
Tooru’s English wasn’t terrible, but he was still embarrassed, “Is Iwaizumi home?’
The roommate nodded, “onesec,” he replied, the words running together. The couple of seconds standing alone in front of the open door were excruciatingly slow. He heard someone coming down the hall.
His heart flew out of his chest when he saw Hajime for the first time in over a year. His arms were noticeably thicker or perhaps it was the tank he was wearing. Tooru wasn’t sure if his hair was longer or shorter, as he took a step forward saying, “Surprise Hajime!”
Hajime looked at Tooru, up and down, paled and shut the door.
“What the fuck!” Tooru began beating the door, “What the fuck, Hajime! I flew all the way out here to see you!” His rational brain wanted to whisper some great truth to him, but now was the time for emotional Tooru. It was time for an emotional, pissed Tooru.
He hit the door over and over for about a minute. He tried not to cry, but he could feel the tears leak out. It had only been a couple days since their last phone call. Was Hajime mad Tooru had ignored a couple of his calls? He had texted him excuses, had that not been enough? His surprise plan was backfiring before him.
“Stupid Tooru flying to a foreign country with zero explanation,” he told himself and stopped knocking on the door.
When he began to wipe his eyes, he heard the door open again.
Without looking up, Tooru said, “Iwaizumi Hajime, I’m going to kill you-”
“Oi, why are you crying,” Hajime asked.
Tooru snapped his head up. Hajime was standing in the doorway, so very close to him for the first time in ages. Tooru closed the gap with his fist into Hajime’s stomach. Hajime let out a whoosh of air and grabbed Tooru’s arm.
“You closed the door on me! Me! Your kind and caring and sweet boyfriend who got on a plane just to-”
Hajime pulled Tooru closer to him and kissed him on the cheek. His breath smelled like-
“Hajime… did you… did you shut me out of your apartment so you could go brush your teeth,” Tooru laughed.
“What the fuck are you doing here,” Hajime asked pulling Tooru into a bone breaking embrace. Tooru could feel Hajime shaking slightly.
Tooru sniffed, “I wanted to surprise you.”
“You surprised me, alright.”
“So your first instinct was to lock me out of your apartment,” Tooru said as Hajime released him. In the corner of Hajime’s eyes were tiny pinpricks of tears. They looked more like the concept of tears than actual tears.
“Okay, I’m sorry. I wanted to be the more put together one,” Hajime explained. “Just a little revenge for surprising me.”
“Hajime, I always look better than you,” Tooru told him, putting his arms over Hajime’s shoulders. He pulled Hajime close so they were nose to nose.
“Maybe in whatever alternate reality you live in. The one that says showing up at my door unannounced is fine, I guess.”
Hajime closed the distance between them. For the first time in a long time, Tooru felt free of the suffocating longing he felt. The taste of Hajime’s toothpaste on his lips and tongue felt better than the train announcing his stop after a long day. Hajime’s strong hands pressing into his back felt like they were trying to merge them together so they would never have to be apart again.
Hajime pulled back a little, planting a few extra pecks against Tooru’s lips. Tooru groaned in an unsexy way when he noticed some of his snot had got on Hajime’s face.
“Maybe,” Tooru admitted, “maybe you are more put together than me at this moment.”
Hajime wiped his face and wiped the snot on Tooru’s face, “you are so fucking disgusting. And your breath is like death.” Hajime pulled out his handkerchief. Instead of handing it to him, he began wiping the snot from Tooru’s face.
“Don’t be mean to me, Hajime, you used up all your asshole points for the day,” Tooru whined, but let his boyfriend clean him up.
Hajime folded his handkerchief back up and shoved it into his pocket. He grabbed Tooru’s hand and pulled him into the apartment. The door opened once more that day, as Hajime’s roommate scurried away.