I got off of work in the wee hours of the morning after Tadayoshi arrived. One of the downsides of working night-shifts was that when I got off at 4AM, I had to wait an hour for the trains to start running again.
On the way home, I stopped at a konbini and bought some cup noodles. I was nearly dead on my feet as I unlocked my apartment door, and immediately stripped out of my work clothes.
"Tadaima," I called out, though no one else was there.
My headache had subsided somewhat by this point, but my whole body was tired.
I quickly made the cup of noodles and flopped down on my couch. Grabbing the remote, I began flipping through the channels. There was nothing on during these early hours except infomercials and news programs. I decided on the latter. As I slurped up my noodles, I felt my eyes drifting shut. I could hear the anchor woman speaking clearly as I stifled a yawn.
"Today, Japan's top restaurant mogul Ohkura Hideo was scheduled to hold a press conference announcing the heir to his empire. Late last evening, however, spokesmen for the magnate announced that the conference was canceled due to a family emergency.
"If you'll remember, the last family emergency occurred five years ago when a young man stepped forward with claims that he was Ohkura's illegitimate son.
"We caught up with that young man, Uchi Hiroki, as he left school last evening..."
I turned off the television. I was in no mood to listen to the affairs of people who had more money than common sense.
I didn't work again for three days. During my time off, I decided to visit my family in Hyogo. It had been a few months since I'd been home for a visit and it was probably long overdue. My sister had just had a baby recently, so that mixed with my homecoming had turned the weekend into a family reunion of sorts.
Like usual, my love life had become on of the hot topics at the gathering.
"Sho-chan!" My aunt rushed over to hug me. "Do you have a girlfriend yet?"
That had to have been the fiftieth time that someone had asked me that question. I was torn between embarrassment and exasperation.
"Of course not," One of my other aunts piped in. "He's gay."
Both women started cackling like something hilarious had just happened. My sexuality had long been a source of entertainment for bored relatives.
In college, when I was dating that girl from Hokkaido, my mother had insisted that I bring her home for a New Year's celebration. What she promised would be a small family get together turned into a huge party with over 100 guests. The most humiliating part of the evening was when my great grandmother leaned across the table and said loudly to my mother, "Kazuko! I thought you said he was gay!"
I will never forget the look of horror that crossed over my date's face.
"Leave him alone, you nosey aunties!" My sister scolded them. She was holding the baby closely cradled on one hip, trying to keep the relatives from snatching.
My aunts pouted and left, mumbling about how she always ruined their fun.
"Thanks, sis," I smiled as she handed me the baby.
"No problem, bro." She ruffled my hair the way she had been doing since we were kids. "I missed you."
From the time I was little, my older sister had always protected me. One time in primary 4, some classmates were picking on me and she had her boyfriend put them in garbage cans. Of course, I often got made fun of a lot for letting my sister fight my battles for me. But I didn't care. I was always thankful.
I don't really remember a time when I didn't look up to my sister. Even more than my parents, it was only when she was disappointed in me that I felt the lowest. She's also the only person that I have shared secrets with about my love life.
Two years before this gathering, I had tearfully confessed to my sister one night after our parents were in bed, that I had absolutely no interest in women.
"It's okay, Shota," She reassured me, wrapping and arm around my shoulders and bringing my head in to rest on her shoulder. "It doesn't matter who you like."
I know that she thinks I'm gay, but I can't honestly say whether or not I am. I've never had a boyfriend, or even met a man that I would consider dating.
"You know," she began, smiling as I sniffed the baby's head. "If you have a boyfriend, you could always bring him here. I'll make sure mom doesn't invite the entire family over."
"I don't have a boyfriend. I already told you. I don't even know if I am gay."
"You're a psychologist. Aren't you supposed to recognize the signs of denial?" She took the baby back from me.
I could feel myself getting angry. She was the person who was supposed to be on my side, and like everyone else in my family she's making gay jokes and butting in on my personal life. I shot her a look. "Even if I was gay and I did have a boyfriend, I wouldn't bring him here."
I remembered then why it had been so long since the last time I returned home. I used to be able to shrug off all of the gay jokes. I used to be able to ignore the constant questioning of why I wasn't dating anyone. Or whether or not I ever planned on getting married. Or any other question that was no one's business but my own. Each time I came home it got harder and harder to avoid the questions and shrug off the humiliation.
"Come on, Shota. Don't get mad. I just want you to be happy. You know, have a nice husband, maybe some kids someday..." She smiled.
"You want me to have kids? Fine. I'll start with yours." With that, I took the baby and stormed off into the sea of relatives, annoyed at my sister for pushing the relationship thing.
The whole weekend I hadn't thought once about our newest patient, Tadayoshi.
I came back to work Tuesday morning to find that, like usual, everything was pretty much the same as when I had left. On the one hand, its nice to know that everything runs smoothly when I am not around. Though, it also makes me feel a little as though I am not needed.
"Good morning," I greeted somewhat grumpily, noticing that Yokoyama was pouring himself a cup of coffee at the nurse's station.
"Good morning," he answered as he puckered his lips to take a sip of his coffee.
"Do you live here?" I asked him, half-serious.
"Yasu," Murakami greeted, coming to stand next to us. "Good to have you back. You're gonna be busy today."
He handed me a list of all the patients I would have to see that day. There was a new one. Tadayoshi. "Eh? What's this? My patient load is already full..." I muttered. My relaxing weekend was ruined by nose relatives and I was in no mood to work this hard.
"He refused to see anyone else," Murakami shrugged.
"I see," I muttered, wondering what was going on in that kid's head. Honestly, he had already lasted longer than I thought he would.
I headed over to the coffee maker to grab a cup before I had to start the day.
My first patient that day was Nishikido Ryo.
I've probably already wasted enough time giving the back story of Subaru. And now you're probably wondering why I am bringing up yet another patient when this is supposed to be a story about Ohkura Tadayoshi.
But, Nishikido also plays an important role in this story, you see. His importance will come later, but for now I think it is important to explain to you exactly who he is.
Nishikido Ryo was our newest patient before Tadayoshi had arrived. He had been at the clinic for around two weeks by this point of the story. Technically, he was not brought in by Yokoyama, but the officer did recommend our services.
When Nishikido arrived, his left arm was bandaged into a cast. The sixteen-year-old had been shot. And like Subaru, I suspect that the whole ordeal was yakuza related. Also like Subaru when he had first arrived, Nishikido was addicted to drugs.
The only difference between the two young men was that weaning Ryo off drugs proved to be a difficult task. There was also a major difference in attitude.
I knew when Ryo arrived because, like always, he barged his way into my office without knocking. I looked up and smiled warmly at him. "Nice to see you today, Ryo."
He sneered and plopped down in my chair before putting his feet on my desk. "You're finally back, huh?"
I nodded and motioned for him to remove his feet.
"Look," he began. "My arm's hurting real bad right now." He lifted his casted arm.
"Well, then you should ask a nurse for some acetaminophen." I replied calmly, already knowing where he was going.
"That stuff's not strong enough." He pouted. "My arm hurts again ten minutes later. Can't you give me something stronger?"
"Anything stronger is prescription and addiction forming. You're a drug addict. Besides, I can't write prescriptions."
"Couldn't you talk to Murakami? You guys are close, right?" He was starting to get worked up and I knew I would have to call for help soon.
"I can't do that. This isn't a matter of friendship. What you're asking is unethical." I replied calmly, though my fingers were inching closer and closer to the phone. Drug addiction was not Ryo's only problem. He also had serious anger management issues.
"God dammit." He shot out of the chair. "I'm in pain and none of you doctors will give me any medication. That's what's unethical!"
"You're not in pain. You're going through withdrawal. There's a difference." I picked up the phone. "Are you going to calm down now, or are do you want to be on lock down again today?"
Ryo kicked over a chair. "This place is worse than a prison." With that, he turned to leave, slamming the door shut behind him.
I sighed. My sessions with him were really going nowhere. He was too angry to talk to anyone, let alone a shrink like me. The best solution, I thought, would be to wait until he was ready to talk. Calling him back in to finish our session would be pointless.
I settled back into my chair. My next appointment would start in a half hour. I finished off my coffee in a leisurely manner before standing up and stretching my arms over my head. I glanced over at my clock, lowering my arms and adjusting my tie, I walked over to my file cabinet.
Inside, there was a brand new, almost empty folder full with Tadayoshi's name on it. I'd noticed that he still hadn't given a last name.
There was a knock on my door then. "Come in," I called as I turned from the file cabinet and sat down in my chair.
"Sorry I am a little early," a voice said shyly from the doorway.
I looked up from the file I was putting together and noticed Tadayoshi standing awkwardly. "It's no problem. I wasn't doing anything important anyway. Why don't you sit down?" I motioned to the plush leather chair across from my desk.
He nodded and walked over to the chair, sitting down. He didn't say anything, instead looking curiously around at the walls. He smiled faintly at my poster of a kitty dangling from a rope with the words 'hang in there' printed in bold letters.
I didn't want to push him into talking, so I waited patiently for him to speak first. When he was finally done surveying the room he turned to me again, "So, what exactly do we do here?"
I shrugged. "We talk about whatever you want to talk about..."
"I don't have anything to talk about," he commented.
"Well, how about we just get to know each other then? Do you have any brothers or sisters?"
Tadayoshi just shrugged in response. It was clear that he had no intention of opening up to me. Not today anyway.
"Okay. I'll tell you about me, then." I smiled warmly at him, hoping to put him at ease. "I was born and raised in Hyogo. I have an older sister who acts more like an older brother. I went to Kobe University as a psychology major. After graduation, I moved here and accepted a job with Murakami. And I've been here about 2 years now."
Tadayoshi nodded, interested. "Do you live alone?" He asked.
"Eh? Like pets?" I scratched my head. "I used to have a goldfish named Sushi but I forgot to feed him..."
He laughed at me, "No. Not pets. Like a girlfriend..."
My stomach did a flip and I felt myself blushing. Unlike pesky family members, Tadayoshi asking about my love life made me feel oddly nervous. "N-no. I don't have a girlfriend."
He smiled again. "Why not? You're a good looking guy..."
I felt myself blushing again. "I don't know. I just don't have a girlfriend. Not really interested in one."
He looked at me then, and I could see the cogs turning in his head, as though he was thinking hard about something. It occurred to me then that maybe I had revealed more in that statement then I had intended. Suddenly I felt all the insecurities and doubts surrounding my sexuality returning.
I cleared my throat, trying to shake away the weird atmosphere that had formed. "Is there anything else you want to know?"
He shook his head no, although it was clear he was paying more attention to his silent thought processes than to what I was saying. For some reason, I had the uncanny feeling that he was judging me.
"Why don't I show you around, then?" I stood up, desperate to get out of this situation. If there were more people around, then maybe his attention would be placed elsewhere.
"Okay." He stood up and followed me.
Although I was moving quite fast, he took his time, still silently observing me and everything in my office. In the hallway, he quickened his pace to match mine more.
"I'm sure you've probably figured this place out a lot since you've been here for a few days," I commented.
"No, I've been in my room most of the time." He commented, shoving his hands in his pockets. He was wearing the same designer jeans he was wearing when he had arrived.
"How are things going with Subaru?" I asked, curious as to whether he had been behaving himself while I was gone.
"He's okay. He's hardly ever in the room. Always talks to that cop that's always hanging around a lot."
"He hasn't tried anything, has he?" I looked over at Tadayoshi's face, looking for any signs of lying.
"No. Well, he walks around the room naked a lot, but other than that, he's fine."
I nodded. I cared a lot about Subaru, and if he wasn't a patient, I would consider him a friend. But I also knew what a struggle he was having with his addiction. And having a young, attractive roommate was probably not helping much with his recovery process.
We continued down the hall, passing Nishikido's room. I suppose Subaru was definitely a better roommate that him. I shuddered at the thought of living with someone who was in a constant state of disgruntlement.
"Who's that?" he pointed.
I turned my head and noticed Maruyama standing in front of a mirror making faces. "Him?"
"Yeah. I see him all the time. What's his deal? He's a crazy patient, right?"
"Crazy?" I wondered aloud. He was definitely a bit strange. "He's not a patient. He's a nurse..."
"Nurse?" Tadayoshi asked incredulously.
"Well, yeah, why else would he be wearing that nurse's uniform?" I questioned, as though it was completely normal for a grown male to be wearing a women's nurses uniform that looked more like a slutty Halloween costume than a real uniform.
He raised an eyebrow at me, as though I had just said something completely ridiculous.
"He's harmless, really. Just a bit eccentric." I laughed. "Good morning, Maru-chan." I called to the older man.
Maruyama turned to me and smiled, dimples appearing. "Good morning, Yassu." He said lovingly, straightening his nurse cap and saluting.
We continued down the hall. I shook with laughter as Tadayoshi glanced back over his shoulder at the nurse. His reaction to Maruyama was amusing to say the least.
"Doctor Murakami is kind of a hardass though. Why would he let such an unprofessional guy work here?" Tadayoshi scratched his head.
"Well," I began. Most people often wondered the same thing. There were even rumors going around that Murakami and Maruyama were lovers. But even if that was the case, Maruyama is great nurse. And that is the reason why Murakami keeps him around. His gentleness and goofy sense of humor put patients at ease. He was a favorite around the clinic. "Give it a month, and you'll understand."
We had reached the cafeteria by this point, which meant it was my cue to leave. It was almost lunchtime, and my next appointment would be starting soon.
"Enjoy your lunch. If there's anything you need, please let me know." I turned to leave, but I could still feel Tadayoshi's eyes on me. I would have to get used to this feeling if our sessions were to continue.
On my way back to my office, Murakami pulled me aside. "How did it go?"
I shrugged. "It went fine..."
He raised an eyebrow. "So you guys talked?"
"A bit." I turned to open my door, wondering why Murakami was so curious about one of my sessions. He usually took very little concern in the psychological side of treating our patients.
He blocked my door. "He talked?" He asked again.
"Yeah," I reiterated, mildly annoyed that he wasn't letting me into my office. "Why?"
"He hasn't said a word since he arrived. He filled out admissions forms, and hasn't come out of his room once accept to eat."
"Weird. He's kind of quiet, but he talked."
"He must have taken a liking to you," Murakami suggested as he bid me goodbye.
After Murakami left, I found myself smiling.