Comforting Kane has always been a difficult quest. Whatever I tell him, he stays upset, so I just sit beside him and hug him. Who knows how long we’ve been sitting on the corridor’s carpet, when I get a text. It’s from Iau, he can’t find us. I text back that I’m with Kane and where we are. In a few minutes he appears from behind a corner and heads to us.
He looks worried; damn, I feel so bad for causing trouble for him all the time. I wish the carpet on the floor would consume me so I could disappear.
But Iau just smiles gently and pets our heads. It hurts where he touches me. Burns like a stigma. I can’t hold it anymore.
"Iau, I’m leaving."
His eyes widen a bit and Kane sits up next to me, wearing a painful expression.
"Where are you going?"
"I’m leaving you. I’m leaving the band." I blurt it out and my eyes fill with tears.
"What, why? Keiji, did something happen?" Iau tries to hold himself together, but he kneels besides us and his hands are shaking.
"I told you, you can’t leave!" Kane yells in my face and is about to punch me but Iau grabs his arm in time.
"You knew about this?" He looks at the drummer with rage, twisting his wrist. "It’s because of you, isn’t it?"
"No, it’s not his fault!" I step in, holding both their hands. "Nobody’s at fault, it just happens."
"It is." Kane hangs his head and Iau lets go of his arm.
Goddamnit, I’m making a mess. I never meant to end up fucking things up more than before.
"Then go." Says Iau, his voice barely audible.
Kane lets out a muffled whine. My heart skips a beat and squeezes painfully.
That’s not how I wanted this to go. We’re still on tour.
I want to tell them this, I want to object; but he’s right. If I want to go, I just have to.
I stand up slowly; start walking away from them, my vision blurring.
Where do I end up, doesn’t matter. What happens next also doesn’t matter. Nothing matters anymore. I made an awful decision and now I have to bear the consequences.
Do I regret it? I have no idea. It certainly seems worse now than before, but who knows what would have happened if I don’t make this move.
Holy hell, I already miss them so much.
Now that I think about it, it’s strange how the three of us showed our love differently. Iau was so obvious; never missing a chance to show a caring gesture, either getting us gifts or just stealing a kiss time to time. Kane however, the best way to see how he loved us is to see his struggles; as long as he’s torn between his feelings and conscience, he loved us. But did I show my feelings properly? I’m not the lovey-dovey type and I don’t have the sudden impulses to act on my feelings. I do say what I think and feel, but isn’t that such emotionless? Do they think I don’t love them anymore? That can’t be, can it?
Fuck, I ended up somewhere in the city that I don’t know. In other words, I got lost. Hehh, it’s not like such a rare occasion though.
I pull out my phone from my pocket and stare at the dark screen. Other times I’d call Iau, but now that’s obviously not a possibility. Maybe call the others? Nah. Call someone else… anyone?
I look around myself to search for a clue or a sign that’d tell me what to do.
In that moment my phone starts ringing in my hand. I’m afraid to check the caller ID, expecting to be someone of the band or the crew, but it’s neither.
"Misa? Is everything okay?"
"Good day to you too, Kei!" A naughty voice sounds from the speaker. "Of course all’s fine, how ’bout you?"
"Ah. Okay. Well, I’m lost."
"Lost? Again?! Then call Iau."
"Why? What happened?" Now Misa sounds serious, I bet he even sit up properly in his chair.
"I left them."
"You did what? Wait, hold on, I’m gonna get you, just find a café and wait for me. And text me the address. No arguments."
I’m defeated. I hung up and look around to search for a place to sit in. Nothing. I’m in the middle of the suburbs. Ah, a pastry shop; no, a tattoo salon. Both?
I sit at a table on the terrace and get myself some ice cream while I watch someone drawing a little further inside. They’re probably the tattoo artist; interesting. They have short black hair and bright light blue eyes.
Oh, I almost forgot to ask for the address.
"Excuse me, could you tell me the address of this shop?" The artist looks up with a blank expression. "I’m waiting for a friend but he doesn’t know where to come." I explain, in hope of appearing less suspicious.
The other tears away a bit of paper from their notebook and writes the address on it.
"Thank you." I nod, which they requite.
What a strange person. Maintaining a tattoo salon and a pastry shop at the same place too.
I text the address to Misa and resume to eating my half-melted ice cream.
I’m surprised Misa called me just now, I wonder if the guys texted him because of me.
Misa… It’s been a while since I met him last time. We rarely get to meet with our jobs, so it’s always a pleasure. But not this time, I guess.
I met Misa when I moved to my grandma’s. He was the neighbor’s son, and because we’re at the same age, we got along pretty well. We were both interested in music, though I’m in making it and he’s in writing about it. We pursued our dreams, and turned them into reality. What a fairytale. Misa’s always been my best friend, even more.
I’m lost in my thoughts and despair when a car stops in front of the shop and Misa gets out of it. He looks breathtaking as ever, with his short pastel pink hair and sparkling mud-brown eyes. He wears a gray shirt and black canvas pants, and hides his eyes behind shaded glasses.
He waves at me with a puckish half smile and approaches my table.
"Kei, I found you!" He embraces me and sits in my lap. "How are you doing?"
"Why did you call me initially?" I turn my head to avoid his eyes.
"I felt like hearing your voice. Is there a problem with that? Did something happen, Kei?"
"You could say that…"
"I left the band."
"And what about your boyfriends?"
"I left them too."
Misa gives me an unbelieving look, and I can see how he tries to hide his disbelief.
"I just have to ask: why on Earth would you do that?"
"I thought I was doing something good. But I was wrong."
"You made a bad decision."
"What motivated you?"
"Apart from my stupidity?"
"Yeah." He giggles.
"Well, I saw Kane suffering – more than before –, and Iau seemed so tired with our shit. I figured that if they were okay before they met me, if I leave, it’d be good again for them. But apparently that’s not how it works."
"Genius." He comments, rolling his eyes and he finally sits on a chair at the table.
"I know, I was just so desperate! I hate to see them so unhappy. But I think I even made things worse."
"Kei. Why don’t you just go and apologize? You know, like normal people?"
"I think it’s too late for that. Even if I did now, it’d be awkward for the rest of our lives."
"Hmm." Misa nods agreeing. "What do you think, how Iau and Kane are handling it?"
"I have some bad feelings about that."
"No question. Can I be the first to write of this?" He smiles viciously.
"Are you out of your mind? I’m not even sure Montaro and Hoshi know it yet."
"Okay, chill, it was just a joke."
"A horrible one."
"C’mon Kei, think of it differently: now that you’re free, you can date me!"
"Because I said so."
Misa resumes drinking his melted shaved ice. He seems deep in thoughts. I know him well enough that I can tell what he’s thinking. And also, I’m thinking the same: what now?
As for my career, I can focus on my other projects, but what about my personal life? What about my future?
"We’ll figure something out." Speaks Misa, like he’s been reading my mind. "I can write a fairly scandal-free article of your departure, but I’ll have to talk to your manager first. I’ll initiate this immediately." He starts tapping on his tablet while he continues. "As for your broken heart, it’s not something public, so there’s really nothing for me to do about. Unless you want me to heal you." He winks at me and turns back to the device.
I know he’s trying to cheer me up, but I’m on the verge of crying my soul out; and I’m still lost. I’m so thankful to Misa; I wouldn’t know what to do without him. But it’s out of the frying pan, into the fire: I’ve been leaning on my bandmates for so long, and now that that’s not an option, I’m doing the same with Misa. It’s just unfair of me.
They always say it’s okay to ask for help, but doesn’t that spoil you?
I’m only realizing it, but ever since I was little, there always were people to take care of me, I’ve never needed to take care of myself. On the long run, it built up my guilt to the point that I’d rather bottle up my feelings than express them. Unless I’m playing my guitar or I’m singing. That’s when I get rid of the frustration.
But all of this isn’t helping me now.
"Oops." Misa interrupts my thoughts, frowning.
"What is it?"
"I exchanged some mails with Jay, and she’s furious."
Jay is the manager of Future Island, and I guess she just got the information. Poor Misa, the bearer of bad news.
"She said that you have to finish the tour at least, you have no choice, or she sues the hell out of you."
"But I can’t… I can’t face them again!" I panic, and Misa’s expression shows that he’s thinking hard.
"Jay said that there’s four more stops of the tour. They’re all in different cities and she said that the others already left with the bus to the next one. If that makes you feel better, I think she chewed out the others in anger." He cracks a laugh but I can’t relate. "Okay, I have a plan."
"Huh?" Now I’m interested.
Misa’s so smart, I was sure he’ll come up with something. Though I’m relying on him again…
"It’s three more weeks until the end, and you have to do it. I’ll go with you. We’ll stay in a different hotel and I’ll accompany you everywhere. Except for the stage, of course. But I may have a solution for that too… Anyway, I won’t leave you alone with them, and they won’t do anything during performances, right? And in three weeks, I’ll write that article with Jay, so it’ll be a clean departure. At least from the outside."
"I really can’t ask you that." I’m quite shocked he’d do this for me.
"Nah, you see, I got to be the first to write about this… It’s business! Do you know how much this story will sell?"
"Oh, I see."
"Yeah." His smile is shaded for a moment. "So, are you in?"
"Yes. If you’re with me, I can do it. I think. I hope so."
"Of course! Now let’s do the preparations and get going." I nod.
I pay for the sweets and get in Misa’s car. He lets me drive, because he’s busy both on his phone and tablet.
I only hear glimpses of the conversation he’s having.
"Mary, my dearest, I have an assignment for you! No, you won’t hate me for it… I’m your boss, okay? You know that photographer you love so much… Yes, him. I have a job for him… I know he’s an artist, but it’s personal and important. What was his name again…? Mary, please, do this favor for me… As I said, it’s very important. It’s a three-weeks job with four gigs. He has to be on the stage… I’ll discuss that with him! Please? Thanks… Yeah, yeah, I owe you big time! Muah!"
I feel bad just after listening to him begging. Misa never begs. But he did it for me.
He walked away. Kei just walked out of our life. And I couldn’t stop him. And Iau didn’t say a word. He just got up and went wherever. I couldn’t move. The next thing I noticed was Hoshi dragging me on to the bus. The others were already sitting there, and for some reason Jay was there too. I sit down, wanting to be left alone with my despair, but Jay starts yelling.
"I just got told about what’s happened! How could you let Keiji leave?! No. He hasn’t left. He can’t!" She’s talking to herself… "His contract binds him, so he just can’t!" She starts laughing. I think she lost it.
"Jay, calm down…" Starts Iau.
"I am calm! You! And you!" She points at Iau and me. "It’s your personal shit again, right? I told you to separate the two things."
"Look who’s talking." I’m not in the mood to argue, but I think I hit a sensitive spot. "Ugh I mean…"
"That’s why you should know better than this! You all know my story, so learn from it! Wait, I’ve got a reply…"
She stares at her phone for a while, her fingers twitching in her bleached hair. She types fast then turns back to us.
"Okay, problem half solved." She seems more relaxed, the frown almost disappeared. "He’ll finish the tour. And then he can leave without a scandal."
"What?" Iau’s mouth is hanging open.
"He’s coming back?"
"If you mean forever, I don’t know. For the next three weeks, yes. After that, it’s up to him. And I guess it’s up to you and Kane too, if you can solve your problems. But there’s no contract keeping him any further."
"I’m sad to hear that. Then start looking for another lead guitarist."
That’s it for me. I stand up and grab Jay. Iau doesn’t interfere, like he’d usually do.
"How can you be so practical?!"
"It’s my job."
"To be this insensitive?" She leans closer, her eyes shooting lightning.
"How many times I’ve offered my help? How many times I’ve listened to your problems together or separately?" I let go of her. "You know very well that if I can help, I do. But if Iau says you can’t solve the problems this time, I’m not gonna argue."
"It’s fine." She pats my back. "I suggest you two start talking again first, and figure out what you want to do about Keiji. Good luck!"
We look at each other with Iau, but he averts his eyes.
There really isn’t even anything to talk about. He blames me and he has all the rights to do so. But to see Kei again at the next gig… Will we talk? Will he even look at me?
I think Iau is having similar thoughts, judging by the painful expression on his face. I know Jay is right and I also know that she really wants the best for us, the individuals and the band as well. I never thanked her enough for putting up with us. She’s the best, but we don’t appreciate her enough. Damn, I really am the worst. How can I treat people so horribly? It’s not intentional, but that doesn’t mean I’m not at fault. I really should change. I promised Kei many times that I would, but I never did. I’m starting to realize that it’s not only needed because of him and Iau, but generally. I keep wondering, would it have helped if we sat down one more time to talk?
I want to blame Kei for leaving us, breaking up the three of us, but I know that the one at fault here is me. If I could have just gotten used to our extraordinary relationship… How will it be when we meet again?
The rest of the car trip is spent in silence. Misa thinks of necessary preparations as he calls it, and I’m scared – scared of facing my exes again. Hah, this sounds ridiculous, it’s only been a few hours since I left the hotel on my own. I try to imagine their faces when we meet again; anger, sadness, hatred, what will I see? And I’m a disappointment to the rest of the band and to Jay too. I’ve always loved to voice how it’s my career, but Future Island hasn’t just been my career, it’s been my home.
The sun is settling down by the time we arrive in the next city. Misa booked us a room in a hotel near the band’s. He leaves me there alone and tells me to stay there while he meets Jay and confirms a few details about the next performance. I’m lying on the huge double bed but I can’t stay still; at first I’m just throwing myself around but eventually I leave the room and go outside. I stand around on the pavement, lighting a cigarette, looking around, when I notice a familiar face approaching seemingly aimlessly.
Seeing Iau wandering alone, he seems as lost as I was when I ran away today. Is he… lost? No way. He’s just probably taking a walk or something. Crap, he started walking in my direction. I’m such a coward. I ran back to the hotel lobby.
The next morning is so painful, I don’t want to leave the bed. I barely could sleep last night, so by the time I actually dozed off, it was almost morning.
Misa keeps nagging me, half dressing, half trying to wake me up.
"Kei, the photographer can be here any minute now, and you’re supposed to have a rehearsal for tonight."
"You know, it breaks my heart to see you like this."
"Misa…" He sits on the side of the bed and I turn to him. "I’m sorry, you really don’t deserve this." I sit up and I can feel my face puffed up from crying and the lack of sleep.
"You look like shit."
"C’mere!" He hugs me and holds me like I’m a child.
It actually feels good. Comforting, safe; Misa’s always protected me ever since we became friends. I guess I’m like a little brother to him. Both of us being only children, it’s understandable.
We stay like that for a minute then he releases me.
"Go take a shower, get dressed and I’ll see you at the restaurant. I hope Lais will be there too by the time you come."
"You hired a photographer?"
"Yup! He’ll accompany you when I can’t. Both of us will be there at the rehearsal and he’ll be up on stage with you during the concert."
"Can you even do this?"
"He’s working for the magazine and I got permission from Jay."
"Thank you. I’m so afraid to face them again."
"I know. But I’ll be there, I won’t leave your side. And when I have to, Lais’ll keep an eye on you. Now let’s get ready."
He stood up and left me sitting on the bed.
I know he considers me family, but the things he does for me… I’ll never be able to repay him.
I take a quick shower and put on my jeans and t-shirt. By the time I finish, I really feel hungry so I head to the restaurant. It’s pretty crowded so it takes me a minute to find Misa. He’s sitting at a table with a blond guy, discussing something with hand gestures. I approach them and Misa smiles.
"Lais, let me introduce you to the band’s solo guitarist, Keiji. Kei, this is Lais, a genius and incredibly talented photographer." The other turns to me and we shake hands.
"Guitarist, for now."
"Hm?" I confuse Lais.
"I don’t know what Misa told you, but right now I’m not on good terms with the rest of the band. I left them but I have to finish this tour."
"Actually…" Lais turns a little red and avoids my eyes. "I think your friend here told me more than enough."
"He’s more than desperate to help you, with any means."
"Misa?!" I also turn red. What the hell could he told Lais?
"Oh, come on, I just wanted to make sure you’ll be in good hands."
"This was very sudden." Continues the blond. "First, I’m an artist, I’ve never even photographed a live event like this. Second, I had to leave abruptly for such a long period. I don’t know if this really was the best option."
"I couldn’t come up with anything better…" Misa hangs his head. "I need to look at the situation from a business point of view too, but it’s Kei who needs my help, so you’re right: I am desperate. But you’re a great photographer, and I’ve heard so much about you from Mary, I couldn’t think of anyone else."
"Fine." Lais closes his eyes. "But I need to know everything. Sure, I’ll take pics, but I guess you should give me some instructions about the band members; I have a feeling it’s even more complicated than it seems already."
"You’re right. Two of the other members are my exes." I exhale heavily and Misa panics to me reveling it to a stranger.
"You’ve dated two of the members too?"
"Yes. I mean at the same time."
"The three of us were together."
"Oh. I see. I got freaked out for a second that you two timed them."
"Oh, man, you sure are in the worst situation."
"So, what do you expect from the band to do when you meet them?"
"I have no idea. Will they kill me?"
"Kei!" Misa sits up in his chair.
"Guys, I’m not a bodyguard." Lais puts up his hands.
"You don’t need to be." Misa turns to him. "I’ll be with Kei as much as I can, but during the performance it’s just impossible. That’s the only time we have to rely on you alone. I don’t think they’ll do anything when they’re playing, but just in case, be there so Kei can turn to you if something’s up."
"Damn, that’s brutal." The blond thinks hard. "And I thought my relationship is difficult."
"You have someone?" I blurt out curiously.
"Hm? Yeah, my boyfriend… he’s gonna go mad that I left him for weeks." He laughs nervously.
"Don’t you or he have business trips sometimes? How long is the longest that you two haven’t see each other?"
"No. And years." Lais laughs but he seems more like about to cry.
"Oh, sorry, I shouldn’t have asked so much."
"It’s fine. I’m gonna call him a lot, so I hope we survive this."
"It sounds very serious to me. Misa, are you sure we have to do this and cause trouble to Lais too?"
"Don’t worry, really." The blond smiles. "I’m just overly worried for some reasons. But we’ll manage, I’m sure."
"But tell me if you have to leave. It’ll be okay, I understand that being with your loved ones is the most important. Ugh." When I finish my sentence, I feel my chest tightening.
"Kei, for fuck’s sake, you made yourself sad." Misa reaches over the table and pats my cheek. "Ahh… I know it’s still a fresh wound but it’s not gonna be okay like this."
"Keiji." Calls Lais. "All of us have their own difficulties with love." He looks at Misa and then at me. "I won’t be giving undesired advices, but I understand. And I’ll do it. I’ll look after you on stage. If anything bothers you even the slightest, just tell me and we’ll do something, right?" Misa nods.
"You can count on us. Now if everyone’s ready, let’s head to the stadium."
"Yeah, you know, the rehearsal."
I have to meet them again. And I have to meet them very soon, too soon. As Misa said, it’s a fresh wound.
"Hey, Keiji, breathe regularly."
"Huh?" I lift my head to see a worried Lais.
"Oh, sorry, habits…" He laughs.
"All right, then let’s go." Misa stands up and Lais follows him.
A cab is waiting for us outside and we get in, heading to the stadium, sitting in silence. It only takes like twenty minutes to get there, but for me it seems only mere minutes. I don’t have time to gather my thoughts, to get myself together. Misa opens the door for me as I get out of the car and we exchange a meaningful look. We both know it’s going to be unpleasant now, but I have to do it.
We go inside, Lais following us with his photo equipment, and Jay is the first we run into.
"Keiji, I couldn’t believe you’ll really come."
"Well, as things are between you and the two other… But I’m glad you’re here, I won’t have to sue you." She’s smiling but I don’t feel any kindness from her words.
"How are they…?" I dare to ask.
"Go see for yourself." She continues as I stand around hesitantly. "They’re like walking crap. And I see you’re like that too."
"You’re welcome. Now go and do your fucking job. Your guitars are on the stage already."
"You put them up?"
"And here’s your monitor, let me help you putting it on."
She puts the small device on the back of my jeans and helps me with the wire. When it’s all set, she begins to push me inside the hall and I look at Misa for help. He picks up my pace and walks with me, Lais on my other side. It really feels like they’re my bodyguards. It seems like Jay thinks something similar because seeing us she cracks a laugh.
"I see you’ll be fine."
"You think so?" I turn to her, but she already headed forward, shouting instructions to the crew.
We enter behind her and I see the others up on the stage, not talking like we usually do during practice sessions. They look at us and Hoshi is the one to grin and wave to me, Montaro nods. Iau and Kane just turn their heads.
It hurts, but what did I expect.
The bassist puts down his guitar and comes to greet me.
"Keiji!" He quickly hugs me, patting my shoulder. "I was afraid I won’t see you again, so I was relieved when Jay told us you’ll finish the tour."
"Hoshi, I’m so sorry…!"
"Nah, don’t be. I totally get you, it’s just unfortunate that you have to leave the band too."
"You really don’t hate me?" His eyes widen for a moment then he grins.
"What are you talking about? I never would have dreamed that this would happen, but if you think it’s the best for you, I support you fully."
"Thank you. Though I doubt my decision, but…"
"Wait what? Don’t tell me you have second thoughts?"
"I think… I made a bad decision."
"Damn, we should have talked yesterday morning, right?"
"I don’t know if that would have helped."
"Well, it’s already like this, so… let’s make this a trial."
"Yeah, the rest of the tour. We’ll have to hang out some nights until it ends, so just see if you guys really can’t fix this or you can."
"Are they mad?"
"Hmm, how should I say? Montaro keeps saying he’s too old for this." Hoshi laughs loudly. "The other two just closed. I guess they have their own thoughts. You should ask them."
"No way." I take a step back.
"You won’t know otherwise."