Sowing and reaping
Tadashi loves Asuka and Asuka loves Hideki. What next? Read on
Chapter 1: Tadashi
There she was again, her sight dreamily wafting in the direction of Hideki almost as naturally as Tadashi’s own sight made it a habit to lose its way every now and then to find Asuka. On the surface, they appeared to be three ends of an equilateral triangle; each equidistant from the other and in synergy, forming what has become their perceived identity. But it wouldn’t take long for a keen eye to discern the impending cracks that papered over them from above almost as thickly as the subway system showed up on the Tokyo map.
Tadashi met Asuka when he was 9 years old. She joined his school as a transfer student from Takamatsu and was made to sit beside him on her first day of school. Amidst all the bullying in school, Tadashi found solace and emotional connection in Asuka’s company. Asuka found a friend who helped her with her studies. Their friendship stood through school, high school and now university. Rather, Tadashi ensured it did. Whisper it, but he’d gotten admitted to Tokyo University, the pride of Japan. But this fact remained securely hidden in his personal locker on the lower side of his desk as most of his other secrets did. The letter of admission was symbolically lost in the deluge of coloured papers filled with his feelings for her. Pursuing Economics at Meisei university wasn’t such a bad thing, considering his gaze could still caress the sight of her for a good 6 hours a day.
It was at Meisei Hideki made an entrance into his story and swept Tadashi’s Asuka off her feet. Hideki was everything Tadashi was not; he was charming, sociable and carried himself around people like a delicate feather gracefully floating in the sweet spring air. He had a mysterious aura around him that gripped people’s curiosity. Tadashi saw Asuka’s eyes light up the first time she set eyes on Hideki; the same way his did when he saw her walking into class every day with the beige sling bag embracing her slender frame.
There remained that visible air of awkwardness between him and Hideki that the latter could never comprehend. How could he? Tadashi gradually did warm up to Hideki; he didn’t really have an option. He could either vanish from Asuka’s circle of aspiration or be a part of it. And this circle of hers steadily centred itself around Hideki. 3 years of college past, things hardly changed. Neither Tadashi nor Asuka professed their feelings and remained smitten to their respective love interests.
Looking at Asuka’s gaze take its usual path towards Hideki, Tadashi put his head down on the desk and closed his eyes. A myriad of familiar thoughts and insecurities took centre stage from all corners of his mind. They always ended up with him blaming his failure of Kuni; the Japanese god of love. This time was no different; maybe slightly different.
Behind closed eyes and in his own world, Tadashi relentlessly hurled abuse at Kuni. He’d made it a point to imagine himself standing in front of the god, writing abuse on a stone and hurling it at the mythical being. Higher the degree of his insecurities; more the number of stones he hurled. And he never opened his eyes till he sucked some sense of catharsis from this visual exercise of his. Today, he’d already thrown over 40 stones and his jealousy still stood there at the centre of his mind like an old banyan tree that refused to be uprooted. He kept throwing stones and counting them; and in the process, dozed off into a rageful slumber.
Tadashi was walking in a graveyard on a howlingly chilly night. There was a storm that wailed all around him but somehow, he did not feel the chill or soak in the downpour. The beads of rain almost seemed to vaporise a nanosecond before making contact with him. He had no idea where he was headed to, but his feet carried him forward of their own accord.
He walked straight to a cedar tree in the middle of the graveyard. Its leaves were unaffected by the storm around it like Tadashi himself. The leaves shone brightly against the dull blanket that surrounded it; almost like an impressionist painting trying hard to convince a viewer of the beauty of the glimmering leaves. A burly, warm hand placed itself on Tadashi’s shoulder and a voice accompanied it. “Beautiful. Isn’t it?” said Kuni and took a sip of rum off a shoddy flask in his left hand. Tadashi took a small step away and looked at this drug addict of a man with moderate caution. Kuni looked at Tadashi and offered the bottle of rum; maybe this was his way of making up for all the lost prayers in Tadashi’s colourful letters of love.
“Excuse me. But do we know each other?” Tadashi asked.
“You called me a bastard like a minute ago asked me if I ever heard all your prayers. You hurled 43 stones at me to be precise. Don’t you recognise me?” Kuni replied, finishing the counting he was doing on one hand.
Tadashi took a moment to connect the dots. His mind could not string together any sequence of words that he felt appropriate. His intuition told pricked at him with the truth that went unacknowledged in this visceral picture ensuing before him.
Kuni walked to the tree and took a single leaf from it. It was an odd leaf, in the shape of a heart and pale orange, with a small hole that ran through it. It had a very faint glow about it that made it stand out. Kuni walked back to a puzzled Tadashi, held up the glimmering leaf and looked keenly at Tadashi. He placed the leaf in Tadashi’s pocket and gave it a small pat. “Here’s the answer to all your prayers” he said.
“This is a leaf from the tree of love and you are hereby owner of this leaf. After all those years of you throwing expletives and stones at me, here, have it and shut up already. ” He said and took another sip from his bottle of rum.
“The person who smells this leaf will fall in love with you. Now go and do the rest. And please stop cursing my mother. She’s the one who wrote your name on the leaf” Kuni added. “Use it carefully and make that Asuka girl understand your feelings for her while she inhales the dust from the leaf” he said. Kuni offered Tadashi one final sip of rum, which was ignored by a Tadashi in delight, lost at the scene unfolding before him. Tadashi’s mind started to revisit the infinite number of ways he had already planned to propose to Asuka. Looking at the kid lost in his imaginary world again, Kuni walked quietly into the storm and clicked his fingers.
The professor’s cold palm woke Tadashi from his slumber, which transitioned from rage to ecstacy. Tadashi was shivering with excitement in his sleep and the professor had little idea of what to make of it. Still dazed and confused, Tadashi touched his blazer and felt the rustle of a dry leaf in the pocket. His eyes nearly popped out from their sockets and the professor looked at him as puzzlingly as Tadashi looked at Kuni in the dream.
His prayers were finally answered! Asuka, the love of his life was finally going to be his. He closed his eyes and revisited every one of Kuni’s words. He whispered a “thank you” to the god of love and quickly arrived at a plan of action. As soon as the class concluded, Tadashi packed up his backpack, slung it on his shoulders unusually; so as to not damage the leaf and made a dash for the lockers. Asuka stopped to ask him where he was headed to. To which he smiled and replied with a simple “You’ll know. Soon”
Tadashi rushed home, opened his secret drawer and took out a crisp pastel green paper with fresh black ink. It was the latest letter he had written to Asuka. He pasted it with the leaf over the Murakami book he had bought for her. He looked at the magical leaf, which still had that bizarre warm glow about it. He took a deep breath, packed it all in a small bag and headed out. He walked up to Asuka’s home, left it at her doorstep and headed back home with his heart beating faster each second.
He sat up all night sipping coffee and expecting a call, but nothing happened. His mind raced through with a million visualisations of how the scene would unfold. After each scene ended, he gazed at the door till he got bored. His restless mind then moved to the next imaginary scene. At 4 in the morning, his doorbell finally rang.
Chapter 2: Asuka
Asuka sat at her classroom eagerly searching for the sight of Hideki with his spiked hair and thick-rimmed spectacles. He was usually on time and was barely ever late. He still did have 5 minutes to make it to the class though. Her heart disagreed. She wanted to see him right now. Today was the day of her big plan and she wanted to execute it before the class started. But by the looks of things, 3 minutes were too short a span to make decent conversation with Hideki; let alone break the thick shell of mystery that surrounded him perpetually.
Unfortunately, Hideki arrived a minute after the professor started her economics class and her invitation had to wait for another hour. She became more and more restless, but the sight of Hideki diligently taking notes and focusing intensely melted her insides. She liked how Hideki had no clue of her stealing stares at him throughout the class. She thought about what she would do if he caught her one day and to that, she had no answers.
Tadashi seemed lost in a world of his own and slept off in the class. The professor woke him up and he looked dumbfounded. “Some erotic dream maybe. I hope he wasn’t dreaming about me though” Asuka thought. After all these years of togetherness, she clearly knew Tadashi fancied her. She caught him writing letters to someone on coloured papers and managed to steal a glimpse of her own name engraved in black in on one of the letters. She thought about the proposition on the day, but every stream of thought that started with Tadashi always ended with a picture of her kissing Hideki. There was no use. Tadashi was a nice person to have around, but her heart belonged to Hideki and his suave aura.
At the end of the class, Hideki walked out along with the professor and initiated a conversation over an assignment. Trademark Hideki; always full of questions and insights about global finance. Asuka got up to tail Hideki and corner him before he made his dash to the next class.
While her heart raced ahead in anxiety, she turned to look at Tadashi, who was in an unusual hurry to rush out of the class. She stopped him in his tracks and asked “Where are you off to genius? To get some tissue paper?”. He smiled and replied “You’ll know. Soon” before dashing off into the thick crowd. Asuka winced and thought “He’s so weird”.
Hideki finished his discussion with the professor and started to walk briskly towards his next class. His flawless spiked hair waved around in perfect tandem with his gait. This was her chance. Asuka quickly walked up to him and greeted him with a polite “Hi”. Hideki unrolled his warm smile and greeted her back.
“So Hideki, the exams are in a week and my knowledge of global finance is really low. Can you please help me by giving me a quick overview if you are free today?” she asked.
Hideki looked up to an imaginary cloud on top of him, then right into asuka’s eyes, contemplated for a bit and replied “Sure. I have a class now, though. Can we catch up at 6pm?”
Asuka’s eyes lit up as she fumbled for a reply. She responded with “No. I have to head to the market to gather some veggies for tomorrow. Mom and dad will be dropping by late tomorrow. Can we meet at my place today at 8 pm in the night? I’ll treat you to some nasi goreng which you teach me global finance?”
Hideki contemplated the proposal and eventually agreed to it. Now that her plan was finally in motion, Asuka rushed to the market with a wide smile on her face. She collected her vegetables and groceries and then headed to the dry cleaner to collect her lucky purple dress. It had always been lucky for her and she hoped it might prove lucky for her again.
She also brought some scented candles and fairy lights along the way. She read about the right ambience evoking romance in the most disinterested of people. And, she did like candles. She brought a pack of lavender-scented ones as she knew Hideki liked Lavender. Moreover, it matched with her dress and seemed like a good idea. She low-key hoped that Hideki himself wore that purple sweatshirt of his.
She headed home and made all preparations for dinner. She played her favourite playlist while going on about making the veggies. She then had a bath, wore her favourite purple dress, cleaned up the room and lit the scented candles. And oh! She changed the playlist to Hideki’s favourite romantic jazz. She knew he would love it. He was always one inclined to the more classical of tastes. She wasn’t particularly into jazz, but her intense desire towards Hideki made her slowly fall into the genre; almost akin to the way she lost her heart out to him.
She rehearsed the whole routine in her head. They would have dinner together and then they would sit together while Hideki would try and make sense of global finance with Jazz playing in the background and setting up the mood. She would maintain close proximity with him at most times and would keep touching his shoulder and hands whenever possible. The article she read about seduction recommended this as a very strong move to depict interest.
As a last resort, she would place her hand on his and ask him if he wanted to kiss her. She knew she would probably have to end up with this as Hideki was a very well behaved guy and rarely allowed his emotions to get the better of him. She tried to look into his eyes to discern his thoughts multiple times, but her cheeks blushed a flush pink every time she made eye contact. Tadashi had even teased her about it. So she barely every sustained her eye contact with Hideki for more than 2 seconds. During those two seconds, she felt like she jumped off a plane. Her heartbeat so fast and tongue dried up so much, she almost always had to down a bottle of water after looking into his eyes. Moreover, she did not want the entire class to know of her admiration for Hideki. Little did she know everyone already knew from the flush in her cheeks when she looked at him.
She sat at her chair eagerly waiting for her man to show up while practising the dialogue repeatedly in front of her mirror. It was 11 now and there was no sign of Hideki. She messaged him a couple of times, but there was no response. She pondered calling him but decided against it. She sat down on the table, looking at the forlorn door she hoped would bring her alive with a gentle knock or two; much like Tadashi.
She finally fell asleep in her sofa waiting for Hideki, who never showed up.
Chapter 3: Hideki
The Yamanote line was unusually busy today and Hideki almost missed his morning train to college. While getting off too, he lost precious minutes in the metro station. He ran towards his class. He hated being behind schedule. Exams were just around the corner and he had to make an impression on Professor Yakuta. It was almost time for the exams and he needed the professor to have an active, refreshed image of him in his mind. This always worked wonders in the evaluation. He always ended up with more marks than he usually would have.
He walked into the class a minute late and quickly settled on his desk. Although he actually arrived to the university on time, he deliberately entered the class a minute late. He’d read about this theory in a book about influencing people through behaviour. This made professor Yakuta and the people in his class notice him explicitly. He could feel Asuka’s glance piercing him like an arrow that never lost momentum. Sometimes, he did feel like she was cute. He knew very well she fancied him. But in his own mind, Hideki had been with better-looking girls before, so courtship with Asuka was not an option. Sara, his previous girlfriend had been the heartthrob of his entire district. In comparison, Asuka was just a weird girl from a small town who tried too desperately to woo him. She was to him, unrefined in her approach and too easy a game.
But being the person he is, he never let Asuka fade to the extremities of his social circle. Unbeknownst to many, Hideki had four lady friends he would engage with physically every now and then. But two of them had gotten too clingy and such was his appetite for fornication that he could no afford to cut down on the number of options he had.
Thanks to his super gorgeous looks, which he was completely aware of, he was frequently approached by a lot of pretty girls in public places like restaurants and subway lines. But entertaining such folk in public places would break the “reserved and charming guy” tag he had. He did not want to display his lustful side to the world. Some times, he would be approached by homosexual guys too. And it took a great deal of composure to diplomatically shun them away without appearing curt. Hideki hated homosexuals and despite his mature thought, he could never make peace with the idea of fornicating with another man. He even quietly beat up Rakuza, a guy from his old school who took fancy to Hideki.
To Hideki, Asuka was an unexplored option at best. She was reasonably cute and generally did not say no to anything he proposed. She was clumsy in communication and could not twist an argument in her favour like he could. She was also timid and usually shied away from confrontation. In his experience, these were the perfect kind of people to have a physical relationship with. Hideki could always control the narrative of the relationship and could lead them down any lane he wanted to. They always listened to him, blinded by their attraction towards him, coupled with their own lack of assertiveness. He knew if he asked, she would not resist. But he did not want to be the one to ask. Where was the fun in that?
Asuka walked up to him after he made an impression on Professor Yakuta and surprisingly invited him over to her place. She asked him to teach her global finance in exchange for a plate of nasi goreng. This was it! Hideki knew this was the night his endgame with Asuka could be achieved. He wavered for a bit before accepting to the proposal. This was a trick he learnt from the book he read about seduction. Little did he know it was the same book Asuka was also reading to woo him. He was pretty sure he did not need to do anything as she would have everything planned. All he had to do was to simply play to her script and at the end of the night, he would have a new partner to explore sexually.
After class, he went over to Shiro’s house and engaged in celebratory coitus with her. Shiro, like Hideki was an ultra sexual woman whose husband worked in Inayuka and visited her on the weekends mostly. Weekdays, when his classes ended early, he headed to her place generally and engaged in wild lovemaking; sans the love. He met her at a grocery store in his neighbourhood once and his charming personality worked its way up her vulnerable and love-deprived self in a week flat. Right from the first handshake, Shiro knew she wanted to submit to his deceptively strong grip.
After he left Shiro’s place, Hideki went to the dispenser at the metro station and slipped in a couple of condoms into the pocket of his purple sweatshirt. He knew girls adored him in it. He knew he’d need them today. He looked into his mirror at the washroom, adjusted his hair and started for Asuka’s place.
Asuka’s place was a deserted condo in the last line of housing across the Inadeji section of the city. It was a run-down place she got for the cheap. It was a house that was set to be razed within a year and commanded no real value. Hideki could not wait to see how the events of the night would unfold. More often than not, it always ended up in him tearing the girl’s clothes apart and sending her to sexual heaven. He loved to see the struggle on a girl’s face right before she made a move on him. This to him was more satisfying than the act of fornication itself.
He had finally arrived at Asuka’s house and got a peek of her in a purple dress. This was another sign of confirmation; she had dressed up for the night. He even caught glimpses of candles. He could not wait to see the struggle on her face and tear her pretty dress apart. The way he saw it, Asuka was not sexually active. Which meant that post today, she would totally submit to him. He imagined tearing up her dress and pinning her soft body to the wall and got lost in the train of thought for over a minute.
A distant metro line snapped him out of his sexual fantasy. Hideki checked his breath, laced his perfume and walked up to her door when he hit something with his leg. There was what looked to be a neatly wrapped gift with a greeting card on top. He picked up the book and opened the greeting. It was addressed to Asuka. A love letter from Tadashi. He always wondered why Tadashi liked Asuka. For a seasoned player in the matters of romance like him, all it took was a small conversation to understand others’ intentions.
He read the letter. It had a lot of events pertaining to Tadashi and Asuka’s past and he found some of the messages even touching. But this was not going to happen. He knew it. He saw how actively Asuka got repelled by Tadashi’s antics in class. There was no way she was attracted to him. He peeped through the window and stole a glance at Asuka again. She looked cute and his intentions for the night quickly came back to his active memory.
A small leaf with a faint glow slipped out of the greeting and fell gracefully to the ground. He picked it up and looked at it curiously. The leaf had “Tadashi” engraved on it. But the eerie glow about it really put Hideki off. He turned the leaf around a couple of times and finally put it near his nose and sniffed it. The leaf crumbled into white dust instantly and made its way to Hideki’s nose. He tried to sneeze it out, but he wasn’t able to.
Suddenly, his mind buzzed out and he lost all train of thought. He did not know where he was standing. He looked into the window and saw Asuka in a purple dress. Why was he standing outside Asuka’s house? He had no clue. He walked a bit back towards the metro station, where there was a public tap and washed his face. He tried to remember where he was going. His heart was pumping fast and his skin was warm. He was trembling with excitement like his heart was calling for something, or rather someone.
He closed his eyes and saw a fuzzy blurred face. His heart started beating faster. The fuzz slowly faded away to reveal an oval-shaped face with oiled hair and blunt features. Hideki’s heart beat faster and faster. He knew this man. Of course, he knew him. It was Tadashi! But why was he seeing Tadashi? The thought crumbled as quickly as the leaf did and his heart ached for Tadashi again.
He suddenly remembered where he was and what he was doing. He was headed to Tadashi’s place to confess his feelings for him and to make sweet love to Tadashi. Tadashi was probably not openly gay, but Hideki’s feelings for him were so strong, he knew not what else to do apart from to own up and wait for Tadashi’s reaction. Maybe the passion of his kiss would make Tadashi see through his love for him.
He sat on the bench at the subway station for almost an hour thinking about what he would do when he faced Tadashi. The mere word “Tadashi” gave him goosebumps and set his heart on fire. He would have to kiss Tadashi today at any cost. He HAD to! There was this intense craving for this man that Hideki could not understand. He tried to reason out this intense infatuation for a while but ultimately gave in to the craving. He boarded the train and reached Tadashi’s apartment. It was 4 in the morning and there was not a soul around. Hideki, his heart beating faster than ever, took a deep breath and knocked on Tadashi’s door.