The Opposite Space of One
You were one; always had been.
You were born into the Matsuno household on May 24, and your parents gave you the name Osomatsu. You were an active child - always a bit lonely, as there were not many children your age in the neighbourhood - but happy the way you were. Your parents could never stop themselves from showering you with affection, and you were most of the time not above using that to your advantages. Like that time you broke the kitchen apart to make a cake for Totoko, which she didn’t even touch and eventually gave to Chibita.
Honestly, you’ve never seen a fault in your childhood. You know yourself well enough; you were happy as an only child. You like being the center of attention and love, and when you stopped being able to get that from your parents, you turned to your friends. You are never the most responsible person in a room, and you fight everyone whenever you feel like it. You wouldn’t make a good sibling; you’ve never doubted that.
But sometimes in the past, the child-Osomatsu has asked himself, what if I had a brother? what if I had loads of them? would it be fun, or just a bother in the end? It was an only child thing, to think about that from time to time: you’ve asked Chibita once and he did that too. It doesn’t really go away when one grows up, it just retreats to a lesser position, to lend space to more important thoughts. But you don’t really use your brain for much things, so the idea returns more persistently. You let it be though, because it never does any harm.
Sometimes, however, it brings dreams. Not very detailed or vivid ones, just an image or an impression here and there. You feel almost funny leaving them behind in your wake, as if you would have taken them with you if that were possible, but you pay it no mind. The feeling fades away as fast as what you can recall from your dreams.
What remains? You don’t really know. You think it’s an impression of something a bit bigger, cozier, and more colorful. If you remember something from all this time you’ve spent dreaming, then it’s probably the notion of something more. Something that crowds your one.
It’s hard to explain that, because you’ve always been one.
Your life isn’t peculiar in any way. You grew up in a normal family, you went to school like a normal kid, then you stopped after highschool and found a crap job to add to the fund your parents provide you every month. You spend a not very small part of that fund on dirty magazines, comics, food and gambling, but your mom’s never let you spend to the last dime. You feel like there’s place for more than one person most of the time, but that’s just how luxurious your life is.
You, Matsuno Osomatsu, have a small circle of friends and acquaintances that you’ve known since your childhood. You still never bother with remembering new faces; afterall, you can’t manage too much at once, and all those new friends would just go to waste after a while. You’re fine with only knowing one single girl that is Totoko (who seems to tolerate you less and less every year, but you wouldn’t worry about that yet), going out for a drink at one single place that is Chibita’s oden stand, and working your crap job until, maybe, one day when you’re bored of your life. And not the kind of what-I’m-gonna-do-this-evening boredom either.
That’s Matsuno Osomatsu for ya’ll; wouldn’t change until someone’s burning his ass hair. You are stubborn and thick-headed and weirdly proud of that.
But, your life being not very peculiar implies that you have your ups and downs, your moments and days in the limelight. Your waking hours are full of random encounters and faces that don’t matter; you pay them no mind, as you do anything else really. You’re not unfriendly, and actually fairly good at conversations if you want to be, but memories about exchanged words slip away as soon as you say goodbye. Your reasoning is that the task of making small talks exhausts you, but you yourself know that’s bullcrap. You like running your mouth as much as flirting with the pachinko machine - a lot, to be frank. People are just not very special, that’s all it is.
That’s why you were a bit puzzled by the dude sitting next to you at Chibita’s.
The thing about Chibita’s oden is that it’s good. For real. You don’t even try to lie to the guy anymore; really, he deserves kudos for being able to cook you this exquisite food. Most of the time, an evening spent at Chibita’s stand consists of nothing but “This is-- holy shit, Chibita, this is good” and “Another plate over here, man.” You come to Chibita’s to stuff your mouth and get a bit of warm booze in you (your mom still forbids you from drinking at home, which makes no sense), not to look at passersby or other clients. You never do that, actually. A shout at people you know once in a while, yes, but the food is good enough to keep your eyes away from most other things.
Your neighbour on the bench sure caught your eyes, but he’d catch anyone’s eyes, really, with the way he was beaming ear-to-ear as if he’d just won a fortune at the pachinko place. That’s nothing of concern. What’s weird, is that you remember more than that about him: hair dyed brown and styled with care, eyes as bright as the lightbulb above your head and brows as thick as painted on, the worn leather jacket he wore comfortably, and his very rich voice. “Cheers,” he said, clinking his glass to yours enthusiastically, “for our brothers tonight.”
“You won something?” You asked him that after honouring him by drinking your share. He laughed and shrugged.
“My friends were at their debut concert today. They were fantastic.”
You raised your eyebrow at that. “And you’re here celebrating alone? Doesn’t seem like good friends to me.” As tactful as usual, Osomatsu.
“Can’t let them carry me too far off my road,” the guy replied. “They’re going until next morning. I have a family relying on me.”
“You have a dog.”
“Karappo.” He nodded. You bursted out laughing.
“Okay, Karappo Sr. You got me. Wanna go buy something for your canine kid? I’m going to the store right now.” You then called Chibita. “Oi, Chibita! How much is all of that?”
To your surprise, you and the stranger spent some more time together that evening at the grocery store, and then in another bar. The guy was painfully hilarious in the way he did and said everything; he seemed to know that very well and embrace it even. You laughed your way through the drinks and accidentally got smashed. He then helped you go home and gave you some aspirin before leaving.
“Bro, you’d look reaaaal gud in shades,” you said instead of goodbye. He laughed.
“You think? I actually like my eye color too much for shades. But thanks, really.”
What a cool bro, you’ve thought drunkenly that night before passing out. You’ve never seen the guy for a second time, but you never forget him. Something about that random encounter fits into your being easily, the same way being yourself always has. That makes no sense whatsoever, but you don’t mind. It feels like something you should have done a while ago but forgot entirely in the occurence of another event. Like you’ve accomplished a goal and now can relax for a while.
Days seem a bit shorter and life fits more; after a while, you get used to it and move on.
You, Osomatsu, are a lot of thing - a moron, a manchild, a piece of crap, a sad excuse of a son - but not an affectionate person. You know how to get on your parents’ good side and give your friends a pat on their back from time to time, but you never go further than that.
It’s not that you’re cold, as stated above; you just don’t form attachment easily. Most relationships feel, how say, flat to you. You either don’t need much from people, or they don’t give you what you want. Or both, most of the time. You don’t care much about that anyway: you feel fine enough the way you are.
The series of uneventful encounters continues without any hint of an end; as usual, you don’t mind. There are weird, unexpected moments of human decency that you appreciate, but nothing much to remember, except for that one time.
There’s always that one time. To everyone, you think. It’s a normal occurence in one’s life.
To think of it, maybe it’s the fact that the dude was green as a leaf, both because of how pressed he seemed and that fanclub T-shirt he wore underneath a plaid shirt. You were stuck in a bus stop near a gamestop or something like that, and didn’t pay much attention to the guy while he fidgeted with his glasses and checked the time repeatedly, until he spoke up to ask you what time it was.
“You have, like, three and a half clocks on your person,” that was your answer.
“I just wanted to check,” he said, and he seemed so nervous that you pitied him and told him the time anyway.
Maybe another reason for that time to become that one time, is that the guy was carrying half a shop worth of boxes (all featuring Hashimoto Nyaa), rolled up posters, cat-paw gaunts, lightsticks, magazines, and the likes. You haven’t met many idol fans, but you’ve kind of had an idea of how they would be. This guy exceeded even your imagination, however; but you didn’t judge him. You didn’t even mind it that much. It just seemed a bit unhealthy to you.
So you asked him. “Where’re you going with those, uh, things?”
He shrugged, lifted up one hand, “These are delivery goods,” then the other, “and these are mine.”
For some reasons you decided that pressing further was the way to go. “That’s pretty hardcore, innit? Must be hard to carry all that.”
“Sales’ve been down lately,” the guy replied. “I try to help however I can.”
You could have said “Cool, man, cool” and left the conversation at that, but instead you kept quiet (you can’t even remember why) and the guy rambled on for a bit. “You know, I used to want to be a manager. ’Twas a brat’s ambition, you know, how fans want to put their hands on their idols all the time… I stopped wanting that after that scandal concerning Nyaa-chan’s manager. Some seriously disturbing stuffs spilled out.”
“I don’t read newspapers very often,” you said, with half an intention to shut him up, but your words seemed to fuel him instead.
“He harassed her and threatened her… A fan gathered evidences and the whole community blew up. Nyaa-chan didn’t press charge, but she got a new manager. I think the fact that her career didn’t immediately collapse after that mess alone was amazing. She’s lost a lot of fans, but the international community is still fighting for her. She keeps thanking us whenever she can sneak a word out. She’s a great idol.”
“Yeah,” you said lamely. The guy was already aflame with passion for the subject.
“Yeah, right? She’s such a good person. The thing is, this industry is cruel. If she loses her career as an idol, she loses her whole life. There’s literally nothing else for her beside this. She relies on sales a lot.”
“So you… support her… by buying.”
“It’s the only way I know.” The guy looked almost sad. “Aside from picking fights on the Internet, of course. I’m also running a page clarifying misinformations and posting positive news.”
At that point, you were gone far enough that you can say anything and it would be appropriate. In fact, it would go against your nature to say something serious in situations like this. And of course, you being Matsuno Osomatsu, nobody would even care to blame you anymore.
Maybe it was pity. It sounds the most plausible. Maybe it was a crazy bonding moment that Gods have planned, or maybe you randomly decided that you liked the green guy with a too serious love for an idol. Maybe that was why you find his antics a bit endearing. Maybe, just maybe, that was why you put your hand on his not weighed down shoulder, and told him that he was doing good and you wished him luck.
“You know,” he said after a moment of astounded silence, “I don’t hear that often. People are mostly worried for me.”
“I wouldn’t go around worrying for a random dude I meet,” you replied with a smile.
“Yeah,” he took a breathe,” thanks.”
You have never been inclined toward doing good, toward comforting or, Gods forbid, caring for others. You do those things by convenience, not by a truly good heart, which has never been a part of your being. That was why you sat there for a while more after your bus had come and took off again, and the guy had gone on with his day and left you there alone. Saying that a good gesture feels strange to you is basically insulting yourself, but it is. Has always been.
You remember the guy for a long time.
Maybe, you think. Maybe. Maybe there has been a time in the past when you felt more inclined to care, for your friends or family, for an animal, anyone. Maybe there could’ve been a time like that. Would’ve been a time like that, if things had been a bit different from how they’ve turned out to be.
It took a bit more time for you to move on. It takes a bit longer everytime. It feels like you’re diving in deep water, and finding your way gets harder with time.
It took its time.
To think back of it, maybe you’re the person most fit for all of this existential crisis. The only hole in the plan is that it’s just not like you at all.
Maybe you’re at the low of your life - living with your parents, crap job, no plan for future, no partner, no new friends - and have the most free time on hand, so the task falls on your head. It just feels unfair to you. Like you’re bearing a bloodline’s curse and everyone’s looking judgingly at you. Like you’re being blamed for a group’s crime.
You don’t like having crisis. Even though, frankly said, your whole life has been a crisis, non-stop.
This, you are very serious about. You take enough care to keep yourself away from financial instability, go out enough to keep the world centered around you, do enough of your thing to avoid frustration. You’ve become the master of never changing. That’s probably the only thing you’re good at.
You don’t pick random fights either; you fight back if provoked and refuse to lose, but aside from that and catfights with Chibita, you don’t participate in brawls. It’s not fun being hurt, and there’s not many things worth being hurt for.
You, Matsuno Osomatsu, have a mental policy for fights. That alone is weird enough, considering you don’t have a policy for anything else but fighting. But it’s real, and you stick by it as much as you can.
You still did, even in that fight that feels like a lifetime ago.
One, don’t throw the first punch. You didn’t. You were pulled into it, figuratively said. The literal happenstance, meanwhile, was that the man in the old, sad purple Cat Grandma tee pulled you away from an incoming fist and you were suddenly a part of the chaos.
Two, don’t kill anyone. Kinda, you think. All the kills went to the Cat Grandma guy, if you didn’t miscount. You are still a bit surprised that you weren’t counted into that lot yourself.
The third part of your fight policy, Don’t linger unnecessarily, you didn’t respect. What you did, instead of that, was taking a Band-Aid offered by the man for your knuckles and refusing one of his cigarettes. The man’s voice was destroyed by the stuff he smoked. “Hmmm,” he croaked.
Somehow the sentence pleased him. He almost-smiled at you, and rasped out a whispering “Go on with your life.”
You pointed at one end of the street. “I’m going to the dollar store. If you’re going in the same direction, it’s gonna be awkward.”
The man shrugged and started walking. He seemed to have made peace with being awkward for a long time. You, however, don’t do awkward silence ever, so you told him after three steps, “You don’t look like a thug.”
“’M not one,” he replied, and blew smoke everywhere.
You both stopped at the dollar store, you bought two rolls of tape and a pair of scissors, he asked for a pack of cigarette by holding his empty pack up. He petted the store’s cat on the way out, and carefully went four metres away from it to blow out smoke.
“What was that fight?” You asked him, after you two were on the same way for another minute. He looked at his torn knuckles and the layers of Band-Aid covering them.
“My brothers got into something with some people.”
“Brothers?” You asked, just out of curiosity and a teeny bit of jealousy.
“I’ve three of them. All younger than me.”
“Is it fun?”
“That’s not the important part. “
You figured that much. Still, something told you that there was more to ask here. Not in a this-guy-is-interesting-and-I-want-to-know-his-life-story way, but in a way that someone with younger siblings would know. Logically speaking, the oldest child position should be stressful, with how you’re expected to take care of every one of your brothers and sisters, and you would (theoretically) have to take the blame for every misdeed. But you feel like there’s more to siblings than that; you often ignore the idea, but it makes up a part of your opinion anyway. You don’t know why; you never know.
But you decided to not ask, and instead say, “Y’know, you shouldn’t smoke. It’s not healthy.” That was what your mom taught you. You’ve heard about nicotine and dioxide carbon and gibbberish like that from the TV, but the basic has always been that smoking killed. Of all temptations, that to smoke was the one your parents managed to kill since your childhood. You’ve never even tried.
“Yeah,” the man replied simply.
“You wanna quit?”
He stubbed out his cigarette on a light pole. “I’m trying.” He mumbled. “I’m trying.”
You parted way at the end of the street, and of course, you’ve never seen the man for a second time since that day. The encounter doesn’t really leave your mind, though. Sometimes, while on your way to Chibita’s stand or taking off your shoes at the doorstep, you still remember him, and ask yourself if he has quitted smoking yet. His voice has been wrecked and he just didn’t look the fittest. The tendency to throw himself into fights for his brothers may be harder to tame, but you do hope he tries to do a bit less of that.
The questions come back so frequently that you’ve been tempted to go look for the man a few times. You’ve never actually done it, of course, but that just means you haven’t been done with this existential crisis yet. It doesn’t disturb your daily schedule, so you still let it be, but it’s a bit frustrating not knowing what you want to know.
You never move on from this, you think. You still remember him now, and you’ve realised that you’re worried. It’s unfamiliar and doesn’t happen ever, except for these times, and you’re weirded out a bit. You’ve never needed to worry about anyone. You often don’t surround yourself with people who worry you.
Days seem shorter and life fits more, but you have a faint impression that life has never really fitted you the way it should. You catch a glimpse of negative space in your dreams sometimes; that, along with all the colors and images, confuses you. You don’t really feel like you belong anymore.
It’s hard, very hard, to move on from that.
You think maybe this is the deconstruction of your existence.
Maybe it’s much more mundane than that, but the effect of all this thinking is emphasized tenfold in your small world. Maybe everyone goes through this at one time in their life. Maybe this is how the world is telling you to move, to go and look for something, instead of lazing around in a corner of the neighbourhood.
There have been a lot of ‘maybe’ for a while now, you tell yourself. You’ve done an amount of thinking enough for another decade of your life in a short period of time, and that kind of exhausts your free brain space. Existential crises are bad, and this one has been the worst so far.
Matsuno Osomatsu is not used to this, whatever it is. Not feeling like yourself. Not feeling like life is going the way it should be. Not having a definite answer, but a load of ‘maybe’. Not being able to forget the weird unfit feeling and let it go. This really seems like your undoing, the way it is denying a lot of your own definitions of yourself.
You don’t really feel like you anymore.
In a fit, you get out of your room and go. You pass by Chibita’s and Totoko’s but don’t come in to say hello; you don’t feel the need to do that. You leave the pachinko place after one or two minutes without spending any money. You don’t stop at any dollar shop or convenience store. You just go to Gods know where, searching for something. You’ve had a bout like this once in your childhood, which had scared your parents almost to their death, but you came back unscathed and they cried for a bit and all was well again. It was because of some childish notion of isolation, probably; this one, you don’t think you’re walking away from it the same person.
It feels like going away from yourself, almost.
You go, until you can’t realise your surroundings anymore. You go until you’re out of your world, your small, petty corner of the Earth. The shimmering thoughts pursue you even to this place. Maybe that neighbourhood isn’t everything about you like you thought. Maybe you’re really, truly independent from that familiar environment, that daily pattern, that circle of people. You really aren’t built by any of those things. That really isn’t everything about you.
The world feels wider; you feel smaller. There is a lot of negative space.
You never realised.
It’s already past six, you think when looking at your phone. Your parents don’t wait for you to come home anymore; they know better than that. Maybe I should go to a bar, you think. But you keep going.
You stop sometimes around eight at a crossroad. There is a small vase of freshly picked flowers on the ground near a light pole, along with a baseball cap and a wristband that has a big ‘14’ embroidered on it with great care. Both items seem to have been put there recently.
You take a deep breath under the streetlight. “Yeah,” you mumble. “Sorry.”
This feels like the end of the road for you. Or, maybe, like a sharp turn that you don’t want to take.
It’s always ‘feeling like’ and ‘impressions’ and ’maybe’ with these things.
You stand at the crossroad with the altar for a little longer, then return home. “I don’t think we’re gonna see each other again,” you tell the flower vase. “But, yeah, I don’t know. Nice to have met you.”
It would be lovely to say that your deconstruction finishes there, but the truth is that it continues. You spend a long time trying to find your way home, while staring at the mess that is your perception of things. The road home feels a lot longer than it actually is, even though that may be attributed to your below average sense of direction. You arrive home near eleven; the whole neighbourhood is deep in silence.
The feeling doesn’t go away. You don’t move on from it. You wake up the morning after your little excursion, still the same as before, negative space and all.
You have never really fit the way you could have fitted.
It’s a bit hard to get used to that idea.
You go for a cup of coffee with Totoko sometimes after the crisis. She wants someone to go with her as a pretend partner, so naturally, you volunteer. She even agrees to pay for her own drink.
The barista is a guy with a smile for show and very quick hands. He gets Totoko’s phone number easily, even with her (fake) boyfriend right next to her. To thank you for not stopping him from doing that, he gives you more sugar for free.
“Thanks, man,” you tell him. “I’ve had enough sugar though. Don’t really need these.”
The dude looks at you funny. “She’s not your girlfriend?”
“Truth is, no. She’s avoiding some guys, so I help her out.”
The dude smiles a pity smile. “Maybe you’ll have better luck in the future.”
“Hope so,” you laugh.
“You ever been here before? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you, but I don’t work here full-time, of course.”
“No. Isn’t this like, upper class only? I like shady bars better.”
The guy laughs, “Yeah, this place’s full of stuck-ups and people with good camera. You don’t look like you belong at all.”
For some reasons, you befriend that dude. His name’s Todomatsu (“This ‘matsu’?” “Yeah, that. How do you know?” “I’m this ‘matsu’ too. This is totally a thing, huh.” “Yeah, weird.”) so you pick up calling him Hokkaido. He’s your age, works three jobs but somehow is still able to make time for courting random girls he meets online or through friends. He gets rejected by Totoko, as every other male who has approached her has been; he seems bitter for a while, then gets better. He doesn’t like losing at all, but also knows himself pretty well, so he knows which battles to choose and doesn’t turn into his sore loser self too often.
You meet him pretty frequently at a souvenirs shop near the gym. He is always selling cheap glittery stuff to highschoolers from the school around the corner. You talk about horse racing and girls most of the time, but sometimes you find more proper subjects to speak of. After a week knowing each other, you invite him to Chibita’s oden stand to have a night out your style. There is a lot of drinking and laughing at Gods know what.
He opens up to you first. “’Ave you ever felt lonely?” He asks after a particularly violent laughing fit. You shrug and dig into your plate. “Not like, a lack of good girls in your life. Like, real loneliness.”
“How’s it?” You decide to fuel the words.
“Weird,” he giggles. “I’ve had a good grip on the way I thought, until I met some people, and suddenly I realise there’s nothing really attaching me to all this.” He waves at his plate. “It’s kinda scary, b-because I’m always in control, y’know? Suddenly I’m floating. It takes so long to get used to that. It’s like a chronic pain, to speak of it in a way.”
You look at your glass of beer for a moment. “Same here, to be honest,” you then tell him. “Been feeling weird for a while. You think this is some kind of disease?”
He laughs, “Yeah, sure. Existential Crisis Disease. Drown patient in rhetorical questions and vague hand gestures.”
“Gods,” you say, “was that the case there would’ve been a cure somewhere.”
“You wish, slowpoke.”
You two drink a lot more, and when you both stand up, an idea comes to you , that you should take Todomatsu home lest something happens to the guy on the way. He is smashed drunk anyway, so you offer to give him a piggyback ride. He, being himself, accepts the offer.
“Being lonely is dumb as shit,” you say to him somewhere on the road, “right, Hokkaido?”
He laughs weakly and slurs something like, “Can’t help it.”
Thanks a bit to you, Todomatsu comes home safe and sound. You give him a drunk, affectionate hug, then you say goodbye and shuffle towards your own home.
That night you sleep soundly, maybe thanks to all the alcohol you’ve inhaled previously. You and the guy see each other often enough, until he moves to another corner of this large city, and you meet him less and less.
You always remember him as Hokkaido the Lonely Guy, the same way you label that guy you met once Karappo Sr, or the man with a smoking problem Cat Grandma. They, and some other encounters, make up an endearingly messy part of you memories, which surfaces once in a while just because it can. You slowly accept that, and as you always do, let it be.
It still takes so much time to move on. But you have three quarters of a life ahead, and as Todomatsu said, you’re a slowpoke anyway.
It’s sometimes after all that, in another promenade in the city, that you remember about your one.
You, Matsuno Osomatsu, are one. Always have been. But for some reasons, the things you have aren’t for only one, most of the time. You have a too comfortable life for just yourself and a world too quiet with only one person. It feels a bit unstable now that you’re looking back from after all the crises, and it seems to be already collapsing with just some pokes from certains strangers.
That’s one thing, being one. Being lonely is another, “lonely” being the word you borrow from Todomatsu. You can’t explain the feeling, even though it’s been a part of you for a long, long time. You never know why it is the way it is, either, and you don’t really know if there is an answer. Maybe - always with the “maybe” - it comes from somewhere else, like an echo of possibilities. Maybe in thousands of random encounters that occur everyday, there could’ve been some people that fit into your life and fill it up. Maybe there was something in your childhood. Maybe there was something even before that.
It takes a very long time for you to get used to the feeling being there. You still wonder sometimes if Todomatsu still feels the same loneliness you have, or if Cat Grandma has quitted smoking. You take all these thoughts with you and take slow steps. They’re you as much as the gambling problems and dirty magazine preferences are.
You learn to accept that. After a while, you get used to it and move on.
“What are you doing?” He heard Choromatsu’s voice on his way out. He shrugged.
“Separating Totty and Jyushimatsu so I can get the warmest place to sleep.”
“You’re gonna get punched in the face by Jyushimatsu. He’s a messy sleeper.”
“Yeah? I’ve never get that.”
“Weird,” Choromatsu mused. “Anyway, good luck. Don’t wake me up, I have an early day tomorrow.”
When Todomatsu had finally let go of Jyushimatsu, Choromatsu had long since gone back to sleep. He laid down between the two warmest people, and turned a bit to find a comfortable position.
“That’s not your cookie, kitty,” Jyushimatsu murmured. It almost made him laugh out loud. “Yeah, sure,” he told his sleeping brother.
“Muscly kitty,” Jyushimatsu continued.
“Okay, that’s weird,” he countered with a yawn. “G’night, brother.”
And so he closed his eyes, and woke up./.