“Here, they call them.. us, hikikomori.” He scratches the back of his scalp, looking at Saya. “Does that mean anything to you?”
She had heard the term in the past, but never really in her early-children line of work. She figures it out on her own anyway. “Hermits, basically.”
Lan nods, “Kinda the same thing. If society is here,” he holds up one fist, “then we..” He pauses and frowns a bit. “..they, are here,” holding up his other fist away from the first. “Sorry, my therapist is trying to kind of dissuade me from using it as describing myself. A mind-over-matter exercise, I guess.”
He drops his hands back to his lap, “The less I think of myself as that term, the more I can be okay believing it.”
“But you're right.. you don't see me leave, you don't see me arrive. Not much has changed,” Lan admits. He takes a drink from his beer, then looks at the television on mute. “Do you.. have any questions for me? I can keep going, but I figure I've been talking for a while..”
Saya taps her thumbs against the water bottle, thinking, forming the questions.
“Is it by choice? Or is something keeping you from going outside?” she asks.
His brow creases but Lan shakes his head. “It's not.. fear of the outside. I can walk around just fine. Talk to shopkeepers, our landlord, it's.. I don't need to.” He gestures behind her to the kitchen. “Reo and I went shopping for food for the month, I have water, electricity, internet..” His hand moves from doorway to TV to pointing behind himself at the desk.
“So where does that.. come from?” She points at the can on the coffee table, Reo yelling at his brother before their little meeting reminding her.
He hisses in a breath and tilts his head again, holding back the answer, the truth is the truth, he thinks. “The.. same place you pick up prescriptions. I just happen to pick up cases of beer alongside it. When you have a lot of medications that your father is okay with paying for when you say 'autopay', cashiers don't really care.”
Saya nods, it made sense with what she heard before, if Lan's bills were paid by Reo or his family, there wouldn't be any worry that he would drink. But he's hours away from supervision, and obviously it's not working.
“I've been wavering between deleting his info from the site. His credit card information. Without that, I'd.. there would be no options. I haven't really come to that yet. And he hasn't noticed.” Lan says.
There's no way he wouldn't have noticed by now, she thinks, Reo would have seen to that. Willful ignorance? “Go on, not.. about this. The drinking, I mean..” Saya pauses a moment and wants to ask about the woman herself, but nods towards the computer. “You said you turned to that?” She didn't find it uncommon, the Japanese just had their name for it.
“Well.. with school, I just sort of.. stopped. I got my equivalency, and after that started taking other classes online. Mom brought in enough for us in an apartment like this, and I sort of.. drifted away. It takes a lot of discipline to actually do classes on your own rather than attend them.” Lan drink some from the can and crosses his arms over his chest.
“And I think she knew, that something changed in me when they divorce happened. So she would push about education, or a job, I'd be evasive..” Lan sighs and shakes his head. “..I was an asshole. I was a bum, a leech. I am now, nothing's changed.”
He looks at Saya, or at least she thinks he is until she realizes he's looking at the pictures on the counter behind her. “And.. in 2013, she got.. really, really sick, but that was.. my.. “
Lan swallows and tilts his head back as another can empties and he stands up, stopping next to her, his long fingers nudging towards her bottle. “More, or.. stronger?” He sort of chuckles as he keeps going, another can in the bin, another cracking open.
“No.. no, I'm okay..” she replies.
A small clink behind her makes her turn as he holds out one of the pictures of her to Saya. The woman in question was laughing to something off-screen as she rubs a big black lab. “She loved dogs. Couldn't live without them.” Saya takes the picture and examines it.
His mother was bent at the waist in a tank-top, sunglasses, the dog just as happy as she was, her short hair curling under her jawline – shorter than his at this point. She was slim, maybe shorter than herself.
Lan walks back to the center of the couch but his balance is starting to waver as he places two fingers on the arm of her chair, holding there for a moment before resuming his path to sit in the middle again, opening another beer.
“That was..” he tilts his head back. “2004? Five? We had him.. somewhere around there.”
Lan rests the can on his ankles, sitting cross-legged again, inhaling through his nose as if he were mediating, but his stare bore right into the muted TV in front of him.
“Imagine this.. no.. imagine you've grown up with a woman as your hero. I don't mean comic books, or movies, someone right there. That you come home to every day. You do the shopping, the cleaning, the groceries, she does the work, the rest. And more and more that she pulls herself up by her bootstraps, she realizes her son is less and less like her. That he is this.. parasite.” Lan glances over at her, smiling slightly, though he doesn't quite believe it: “Paraphrasing.”
“But I'm 18, 20,” he continues, “and things are the status quo. She pushes, you bob and weave. Evade. 'I'll do this' or 'I'll do that tomorrow,' or 'next week'. You become practiced at it.”
“And so it goes. For year after year, more than a decade.”
Lan looks over at Saya, motioning to his own face that has a dulled, practiced expression on it.
“And you realize you're thirty, and you have thrown your life away.”
The two sit in silence for a bit as Saya processes what she's heard so far, but one comment sticks out.
“You said she got sick.. a few years ago?” she asks, before looking up at him again, pulling back a bit.
Lan's eyes had taken a hard, angry tone at that, even if they were staring straight ahead.
“Yeah.. she got sick.”
- a recovering disaster? / twitter: @rgdrac
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)
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