After that first session, I found myself thinking about Tadayoshi more often than I should have been. I wondered why he had insisted on having me as his primary therapist instead of another of the staff members who was undoubtedly more wise and experienced than me. I also wondered why it was that he never spoke to anyone. The handful of times that I had talked to him, he seemed a bit quieter than most boys his age, but certainly not anti-social.
Then, I also couldn't stop thinking about the way he would stare at me as if he knew what I was thinking. It was unsettling how every time I would pass him in the hallway, he would stare at me with those omniscient eyes. For the next week, our subsequent sessions continued on in a fashion similar to the first. I would talk about my life, family, and friends and he would listen and silently judge whatever I was saying.
It was like our roles had reversed. Every time I knew I had a session with Tadayoshi, I would get nervous butterflies in my stomach. As unprofessional as it sounds, I had even thought once or twice about canceling one of our therapy sessions just so that I wouldn't have to sit through it.
But once the sessions started, and Tadayoshi and I were sitting across from each other, my nervousness melted away. There was something about him that put me at ease and allowed me to open up. When I was talking and I could feel his eyes on me, the nervousness came back. I knew that when he looked at me, he was judging me. Not necessarily in a bad way, but as though he understood the things I was thinking but couldn't say out loud.
Sometimes I felt we had a deeper connection than simply patient-doctor. I just felt that he understood me.
And then I realized that I was being a horrible therapist. Subconsciously, I had been unloading all of my hopes and fears onto this young man who was lost and alone.
I was thinking all of this over a konbini bento in my office one afternoon when there was a knock on the door. "Come in," I called, grains of rice shooting out of my full mouth.
I was joined by none other than the object of my thoughts. Tadayoshi trudged in, a little more sullen than usual. "I know we don't have a meeting today..." he mumbled before I could say a word. "It's your lunch break, though, so you're free, right?"
I nodded, trying to swallow down the food that was forming a large lump in my throat."What's up?" I said, coughing down the last bit of rice.
Tadayoshi shrugged. "Not much." He pointed at my plastic bento box. "Is that tonkatsu?"
I nodded and pushed the bento towards him. He eagerly pulled the chopsticks out of my hand and picked up a piece. I knew how bad the cafeteria food was here. That's why I always bought a bento on the way to work. "Ugh," He made a face, "This is horrible..."
"It is?" I took the chopsticks from him and ate another bite. "What are you talking about? It's delicious!" It was definitely better than anything I could cook.
"Why don't you get your girlfriend to make you one?" He took the chopsticks away from me again and began eating the fried pork.
"I don't have a girlfriend."
"I would make you a bento if I wasn't stuck in here," he commented lightly.
I tried not to read too much into what he had just said. "Are you a good cook?" I asked, watching as he continued eating like he never had before.
He nodded once. "I'm a great cook."
I smiled, finally learning something about the young man. "It must be killing you having to eat the cafeteria food."
"You have no idea. It makes this disgusting bento seem good."
"Hey," I pouted. "Those are the best konbini bentos in town."
"This is a konbini bento?" He asked, lifting it up and examining it as if it was some sort of prize.
I looked at him strangely, wondering what he was doing. "Yeah..."
"Then this is my first konbini bento." He continued examining it.
"Your first?" I asked incredulously. I couldn't believe that any sixteen-year-old had never had a bento before. I was beginning to wonder how rich this kid was.
He nodded. "Yeah. My dad never let me have konbini food growing up. Now I can see why..."
I smiled to myself. He was finally opening up more about his life. I took a moment to glance at the clock and noticed that my lunch break was drawing to a close.
Tadayoshi must have noticed too, because he put down the bento and stood up, "I should get going."
"Okay," I stood up to show him to the door. "We have a session at 1:00 tomorrow."
"Yep," He said, smiling at me. It caught me off guard for a moment. That was first time I saw him genuinely smile, outside of the laughing fit he had when he first arrived.
"I'll see you tomorrow then." We waved at each other before I shut the door. Unlike in our usual sessions, today he had opened up. Albeit, it was only a small bit of information in passing.
I sat down and reached over to pick up my bento and finish eating before my break was over. I shook my head, incredulous. The bento was completely empty except for a pickled plum.
The next day, I found myself skipping my lunch break to go get take-out from a restaurant down the street.
Arriving back in my office, I set the warm bag of food on top of my desk and began unpacking it. Tadayoshi would be there soon, so I began opening containers. At the time, I didn't know why I was going out of my way to please him. In my head, I reasoned that it was simply because I wanted him to open up and talk about himself more like he had the other day.
I sat down in my chair, eagerly awaiting Tadayoshi's arrival. It occurred to me then that maybe this had been a bad idea. Somewhere deep down, I think I realized that I didn't just want him to open up to me. More than anything I wanted to see that smile again. That grin that spread from ear to ear and caused his eyes to unconsciously close. I cursed at myself. My motives were questionable, and if there was anyone in the world who could see through me, I figured it was probably Tadayoshi.
I was about to stand up and throw it all away when the door to my office opened.
"Am I early?" Tadayoshi's face looked confused as he looked at all of the food piled on top of my desk.
I shook my head.
"What's with all of the food?" He scratched his head and sat down.
Suddenly, I felt shy and awkward. "It's for you."
His eyes widened briefly before his face returned to its normal stoicness. "For me?"
I nodded again, not knowing what to say.
"Why?" He questioned, suspicion leaking into his voice.
"Uh," I didn't know what to say. I thought for sure he would see through me and my motives. Although on the surface I tried telling myself that my main concern was getting him to open up, that wasn't the truth. I just wanted to make Tadayoshi smile once more.
It seemed, however, that he truly believed that I was trying to coerce him into talking by offering food. He eyed me wearily before sliding one of the Styrofoam take-out boxes across the desk, closer to where he was sitting. I offered him a pair of chopsticks.
"I just thought you would like something decent to eat. I know the food here is bad." I tried to explain to him, but he didn't seem to be listening.
He continued eating silently.
I had nothing to stay, so I just sat and watched him eat as if this was his last meal.
"How is it?" I asked finally. For some reason, his silence made me nervous. Part of that nervousness was because I didn't know what was going on in his head, and the other part was because I had honestly expected him to be happier about the food.
He shrugged. "It's okay."
My heart sank a little. I had gone completely out of my way to please him and he showed nothing but indifference to it. I would be lying if I said it hadn't hurt my feelings.
He looked up then and must have noticed my crestfallen face. "No, I mean it's good. A lot better than that bento."
I could feel my face light up a little then. "It's not bad then?"
Tadayoshi smiled a little then, and I think he saw through me at that moment. It was a bit of a relief knowing that he understood the truth behind my motives.
With Tadayoshi's understanding, my own feelings of foolish returned. I felt like a little kid again. In my head, I couldn't figure out why his happiness was so important. Of course, I cared about all of my patients. Even Nishikido, who had dented my desk that morning in one of his tirades.
But with Tadayoshi, it was different. Never had I gone so far out of my way to ensure a patient's happiness. It had been like that since he stepped through the doors of the clinic. Even that first night, I had tried my hardest to make him laugh and feel comfortable. More than anything, I had an uncontrollable urge to make him happy. And it was bordering on unprofessional.
"It's good." I thought I could see a blush on his cheeks. "But, I could still make something better," He smiled, his mouth full of food.
"Maybe you should be a chef," I commented. Part of my job as a counselor was to help patients decide what they wanted to do in the future. It was always a relief to Murakami and me when we were able to send a patient off into the world with a job or a chance at a decent education.
He tilted his head in thought and swallowed his mouthful of food in one giant gulp. "I don't think that would work."
"Why not?" I asked, hoping that I wasn't pushing him. "You don't like to cook?"
He was thoughtful for a moment before speaking, "I do. I think I am actually happiest when I am cooking." A sad smile crossed his face for a moment.
I considered him for a moment, knowing that there was something he was leaving out. "If you love it, and you're good at it, then of course it will work out."
He shook his head. "Its not really that I don't want to. It's just not an option for me."
"Sure it is. I can help. We'll get you into a culinary school or a job as a chef's apprentice. Murakami-Sensei writes really good recommendations," I was babbling then, oblivious to the way Tadayoshi had clenched his fists and jaw.
"It's no good," He gritted out. "When I leave here, things will just go back to the way they were." His voice grew cold and angry.
I didn't know if I had said something I shouldn't have then. Or if I was still pushing him by continuing. "Tadayoshi, isn't that why you're here? Don't you want to change things?"
"You don't understand anything," He crossed his arms over his chest. This was the first time I had seen him angry, and unfortunately, his anger seemed to be pointed at me.
"How can I understand if you never talk to me?" After the words left my mouth, I realized how much it sounded like I was pouting.
He bit his lip. It seemed as though he wanted to talk. "Even if I wanted to be a chef, there's no way it would ever happen."
"My father wants me to take over the family business," He turned his head, and looked out the window.
"Tell him that you don't want to," I suggested. "It's your life and you are the only one who has control over it."
He chuckled bitterly. "No one ever tells my father no. He gets what he wants when he wants it."
"Well, then you can be the first." I smiled at him, but he didn't return it.
"You really don't get it, do you? Just forget it." He stood up then and I noticed that it was already ten minutes past when our meeting was supposed to end.
"I want to help." I stood up too.
"Don't worry about it." He smiled a bit and shut the door behind him.
I wondered how I could possibly not worry about it.
I didn't have time to stress and worry over Tadayoshi, though, as the door opened and Subaru popped his head in.
"Are you done finally?" He asked, wandering slowly into the room.
"Yes. Sorry for making you wait." I motioned for him to sit down
He sat down and shoved his hands deep in his pockets. "It's okay. I understand how it is."
He gave me a weird grin that sent shivers up my spine, and I wondered what the meaning behind that face was. Tadayoshi's departure was still on my mind then, so I paid that grin very little attention.
"How are things going with your new roommate?" I asked, opening the folder that had been pulled from my file cabinet earlier. I always tried to note his progress on paper.
"Good. He seems like a nice kid. Quiet."
I started writing something down, but Subaru interrupted my thoughts. "Do you and Tadayoshi talk about me?"
I nodded, "A little."
"What did he say about me?" He asked eagerly.
"It doesn't matter," I shot him a look. "You are not to do anything suspicious to him."
Subaru laughed again. "Suspicious? I've been on my best behavior!"
"Is lying down naked on Tadayoshi's bed while you look at pornographic magazines really your best behavior?!" I asked, recalling an episode Tadayoshi had shared with me.
He tried not to smile and shrugged his shoulders. "It's my room too. I should be allowed to sit around naked if I want."
I gave him another look. "No more."
The rest of the session passed by quickly, although Tadayoshi and our session that day never left my mind.
Subaru stood at the end of our session and turned to me, "Don't worry about Tadayoshi. I won't touch him. I can understand your feelings."
"Huh?" I questioned.
"You know, having feelings for someone but not being able to do anything about it because of social boundaries."
It was a rare moment when Subaru opened up about anything personal. Ninety-five percent of the time he was laughing and joking. It was hard to take anything he said seriously. I had a feeling this time, though, that he meant it. I knew that he was confessing his feelings about Yokoyama.
I was caught so off guard by that confession that I completely overlooked what he was suggesting. That perhaps the feelings that I had for Tadayoshi went beyond the boundaries of good bedside manner.
As I got ready to leave work, I noticed Murakami was also taking off his white coat and gathering up his belongings. We both took a train at the same station (although he always went westbound while I went east), so I decided that I would wait for him.
I watched as he bundled up tightly in a warm coat. I noticed that, likewise, Maruyama was also watching him.
"Bye-bye Shin-chan!" He shouted at the older man, blowing a kiss.
Murakami grinned and caught the kiss before noticing that I was watching them closely. His face changed almost immediately and he growled at Maru, "Stop that!"
Maruyama wasn't phased by his gruffness though and continued smiling and waving, "Bye Bye! Yasu-kun too!"
I laughed and waved back. Then, Maru did some weird pose and Murakami was yelling at him again, "You're a nurse! Start acting more professional!"
The nurse finally decided it was time to stop acting silly and get back to work, so Murakami was finally able to leave. "Sorry about that," he apologized. Whether it was for the air-kiss I had witnessed or for Maru's behavior, I wasn't sure.
"Don't worry about it," I said, and then was immediately reminded of what Tadayoshi had said earlier. Once I started thinking about it, I couldn't stop.
"Are you okay?" Murakami asked me.
I nodded, though it was clear I was distracted by something.
"Its that Tadayoshi kid, right?" From the tone of his voice, I could tell it was more of a statement than an actual question.
I nodded again. I realized how unprofessional I had been lately, and I knew I couldn't tell Murakami any of that. He was my boss, after all.
I was troubled by my session with Tadayoshi today. Though I knew I shouldn't get close to a patient, I found myself drawn to him. It was to the point where even outside of work I knew it would have to stop, and soon, before I risked losing my job. I was torn between trying to keep my job and trying to make someone happy.
I realized, then, that there was a way that I could do both.
"Shingo," I began. "Can I take a patient out of the clinic for a few hours?"
He looked over at me, confused. "Like a field trip?"
"Yeah, sorta like a field trip." I commented.
"Well that depends," He began.
"Who it is and where you are going. I would have to say no if you were planning on taking Subaru to a strip club." Murakami joked.
"No. Its nothing like that. It's Tadayoshi," I started again.
Murakami sighed. "I figured as much. Do you know what you're doing?" He asked me, patiently.
He patted my head. "Well, I will trust you then."
I smiled up at him brightly. I promised myself then that when Tadayoshi left the clinic, he would be happy and free to pursue his dreams. All the worries I had been carrying with me since my early meeting with Tadayoshi had been lifted.
"Wanna race?" I turned to Murakami grinning. I knew he would say no, so I took off before he had the chance.
"You're cheating!" He shouted after me as he ran to catch up.