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  The same damn place, every time. If he disliked it, he never showed it to Saya. Gregg was a creature of habit. Very much so. And so here she sits in the parking lot of Subway, tapping her fingers along the steering wheel.
  
Which one this time, the BMT? A salad, or a wrap? They offer soup, too, how many times has it been this year? You could order for him, like a foreign restaurant, you know what he's going to order anyway. It never changes. It never fucking changes it never changes it never changes it never--
  
Saya leans back and looks at the ceiling of her car, taking a deep breath in and holding it. Anxiety experts say to let it go slowly through the mouth. Seven in, four out. It's only when she is startled by the knock on her window that she jumps and turns to her boyfriend smiling at her, letting out that trapped breath.
  
She twists the keys, killing the engine and pushing the door open as he steps back to give her space to exit. The same greeting, a kiss on the cheek as he takes her hand towards the restaurant.
  
“How was your day?” he asks, Saya gives a non-committal shrug and an “Mm.” - okay. Same as always. “Today was Film Theory,” Gregg continues, “It just seems like all we do is watch movies and discuss what we think, which isn't really teaching us anything..”
  
He pulls open the door and waits for her to go first, he had manners, after all. After Saya walks in, Gregg steps past her towards the line to order, and she scans him from behind. He wasn't unattractive, far from it, he was short, which always came up in conversation, his complex about being under six feet wasn't far from any topic, though he was taller than her.
  
Good Jewish genes, she thinks. What the hell does that mean? Curly black hair? Circumcision? He wasn't practicing, as far as she knows as she stands beside him, scanning the list of sandwiches.
  
Kosher. Gregg wasn't too interested in following that part of being Jewish, not that she could fault him for it, pigs are rather delicious, and nothing here was kosher. His mother would kill him if she knew how often..
  
He steps up and starts his order, even though the server smiles and entertains the man he's seen at least once a week. Saya doesn't open her mouth, but her tongue moves as she recites Gregg's order to a T:
  
“Footlong meatball, on wheat, no cheese, except for the parmesan, please.” She watches as four meatballs are scooped onto bare bread on one half, another four on the other half. Saya smiles to herself, thinking it must be a company policy – four meatballs, no more.
  
Gregg turns to her: “What do you want, babe?”
  
Saya's mouth opens but hitches for a moment. Food, real food? At a sit down restaurant where people serve you? Just.. pick something. They're all the same, just say anything. Shaking her head clear, she smiles at the server. “Ham and cheese, on wheat.”

--

  Lan doesn’t like being alone with his thoughts. Most people would view the shower as a form of solitude – to sing, to think. Thinking only ever leads Lan down some sort of dark road. It’s for that same reason he keeps the TV on at all times, even when he sleeps. With someone else in your head, it’s much easier to not have to worry about your own consciousness creeping in.
  
Thus, he keeps his shower tonight as quick as possible tonight, pulling back the curtain, the mirror hadn’t even had enough time to fog all the way up by the time he steps out. There’s a line in terms of self-depreciation, no matter what you think of yourself inside. His shoulders slumped, standing naked in front of himself. Lanky, gaunt. Lan tilts his chin up and pushes his wet hair back behind him. He used to think he was at least passable once, but the bags under his eyes, he inhales, eyes dropping to see his ribs visible.
  
You used to swim. Before. Now, he simply felt himself drifting from place to place. Apartment to store. Apartment to therapy. Apartment to.. he pulls a towel from the rack and starts toweling himself off as he makes his way to the dresser in his bedroom.
  
Lan sets the can of beer on top of the dresser, hesitating for a moment before pulling open the drawer to his underwear. Boxers. Easy. Confusion crosses his face.. Do I really only go to two fucking places? It didn’t really surprise him, but once dressed, he tosses the empty can in the trash where it clanks around with last night’s. Luckily his “keeper” never really asks or peers into his trash. There would be ways to hide that, too.
  
Lan pads barefoot into the kitchen and grabs another, opening it as he makes his way back to his couch. He had nowhere to be, but he kept his watch on anyway, which he glances at. There was that nagging itch in the back of his mind that the end of the month is coming up. That sneer by proxy flashes by and Lan’s fingers dig into the can, feeling it start to give. Not that he would deign to visit me in person. That’s why he has.. helpers, isn’t it? He twists the dial on his watch to its calendar, it was next week. Guess he should get his story straight over the weekend, huh?
  
Not that Lan will remember anything in a few hours. How many people has he told “past 3pm I may not remember anything..” and at first they find it cute, a drinker, maybe I can fix him.
  
And then they leave. And Lan is always left wondering why.
  
Because he doesn’t remember.

--

  Saya, on the other hand, was starting her weekend. She didn’t have plans, but having nothing scheduled was better than the part-time work she dreaded doing next week. The program offered exactly what she wanted: teaching English in Japan, and her parents helped her out so she could do her graduate studies here.
  
She heads into the convenience store, the attended greeting her cheerfully. She smiles and nods, picking up a basket and heading through the aisles. College back home was.. easier. Stupider, if she was being honest. Everyone goes in a coddled child: your own place, your meal card, get these books, this computer, gain weight and fuck around for a few years, not knowing what they want to study – until the last minute in which they pick a department and blam, now you have an English degree, and no idea what to do with it, she thinks.
  
Though honestly, she thought of herself as a coddled child still. She worked, but only part time. She only knew how to cook properly with ingredients here that she put into her basket for use over the weekend, because she had to ask someone to teach her how. Not because she wanted to learn, but because she had gained fifteen pounds in her first month because all she would do is live off pre-made stuff in this very store. Delicious and cheap, like all fast food. Maybe a bit healthier, but.. no one mentions the graduate 15. She frowns, pausing as she looks down at herself. Twenty.
  
She was conversational in the same way a toddler in Japan is. Yes, no, hello, goodbye, I am, this please, delicious! More please! Cheers! It helped that she lived in what was a sort of.. ex-pat community. Saya wasn’t far from one or two others that had more of a grasp of the English language than her minimal Japanese.
  
Thankfully her translator was nice, and the kids were young, so they all thought she was pretty and foreign. At least those are the words she picked up. Or chose to hear.
  
Saya places her basket up on the counter as the employee tallies up about 1500 yen in groceries. That was an odd quirk, she chuckles to herself, budgeting in a foreign country was fun. How far can you make your dollar go? I suppose 1500 isn’t so bad.
  
The man rattles off a very long word - numbers past two digits were.. tough - motioning open palmed to the register’s total. 1549. Fishing in her wallet, she pulls out a banknote and the rest in coins, placing it on the tray beside the register. So strange and sterile. No touching. No accidental grazes. Greetings from afar, masks, anonymity. It can’t be easy to be that tall if you want to disappear. It was so far from what she was used to back home. The employee places her change in the tray as she takes both it and her bag towards the exit.
  
Saya stops before the automatic doors as they open anyway, brow furrowed. Why had her neighbor’s image come up just now?

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About the author

drac

Bio: apologies for everything about me, it might get better.

updates will be once a day for the next seventy days since i am migrating from another platform and have those chapters - and more - ready to go. (from 8/9)

feel free to come hang out in the discord, if you like.

[email protected]

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