They met. A former rock star with a lot of bad habits originating from his flashy past and a guy who got rats in the attic. Sometimes it happens and just like that, two persons who are absolutely not suitable for each other meet.
It was a Friday night, at the place where Natsu played guitar and sang old songs that probably no one still remembered. An old shabby bar with a small stage. It was half past two when he finished his work and he decided to leave after taking a few shots and retrieve his salary. A salary that was only enough to eat and pay the rent of his old flat –or better said, the one-room place he had occupied for years now.
He reached the bar where only one customer was left, sitting by the counter. His dark bangs were covering his eyes –red eyes Natsu noticed. His hair was messy but a relaxed smile was tilting his lips when he said, “I heard these songs before. They were popular when I was younger.”
Natsu knew it too, how popular his songs had once been, when people like him and this customer were younger and the world had been brighter and great chances had seemed to be everywhere. But now, everything was different. Every day promised nothing. It was the reality. But Natsu didn’t have anything or anyone to fault but himself. He had always had the control over his life, and what he had now was the result of his own actions. That was what he put himself into.
“I once was rich and famous,” Natsu said as he sat on the stool next to the stranger. “Right now, I'm not rich and famous anymore. But I still love singing.”
The dark hair man took a sip from his glass of vodka before he started telling Natsu about him. He was working as a high-school teacher and his name was Ryu.
Natsu had always felt a little bit shy whenever people recognized him, since they mostly recalled about his drunken speech from his last concert and how he had then jumped naked inside the artificial fountain in the stage. He had certainly finished his career in a memorable way. Thinking about it, he really had nothing to regret.
With Ryu, he didn’t feel shy however, not even when the guy said, “I remember you were naked.”
"That was me,” Natsu confirmed, feeling strangely proud with himself.
Life isn’t a straight road but has some twits. We meet people. We leave people. And sometimes, they leave us. But every new twist has some surprise in store. On this ordinary night, in this regular bar, and after a usual evening at work, one meeting with a casual customer triggered a complete change in his life. Natsu had never thought someone like this could have happened. But he hardly spent time thinking in the first place. He had always preferred living his life and enjoying every moment in his own special way. And that was what he once again did.
They kept on talking, with ease, sharing memories from their past and discussing about their present, but never broaching the future, as it seemed they both had nothing more but blurry plans for it.
They met again the next day, in a dark alley where Natsu felt no confidence walking in alone –not that he was a coward or possessed something that would attract the attention of thieves anyway. He just felt like something in the air was weird.
But he still walked in when the familiar figure appeared from nowhere, as if he had fallen from the sky. Maybe from a balcony nearby, Natsu guessed, but he wasn’t sure of anything. The man’s voice was deeper and lower than the previous night, and he had a big hat covering his head. He was different, but Natsu had recognized him instantly the moment their eyes had met.
“Ryu!” He called. “I’m the guy who sang the songs that were popular when you were younger.”
Ryu furrowed his eyebrows in a way that confused Natsu. The guy in front of him looked like Ryu, but there were no signs of the friendly smile of the schoolteacher with a delinquent past he had met last night. The man’s eyes were very sad, as though he was bearing the weight of the whole world on his shoulders.
They heard a strange sound coming from deeper the dark alley, and Natsu was sure it was a wolf or Volverine or just someone with fangs who wanted his blood. All of his thoughts seemed to be obviously reflected on his face, as the Ryu with melancholic eyes approached him to secure, “I will save you don’t worry. I’m living to protect people.”
Natsu felt relieved after hearing this short and kind of pathetic speech. This guy he had liked at first sight surely had a good sense of humor, and some experience in courageously walking alone in dark alleys apparently. He also seemed to hold a soft spot for cosplaying.
This time, he told Natsu that his name was Bem and that he was just a monster. He usually had a very big head with horns and was all green. But he wouldn’t transform, he assured, so as to preserve Natsu’s fragile nervous system. Natsu felt grateful, since he had always been a very sensitive guy. They spent some time together, walking their ways out of the dark alley to join the illuminated streets. Natsu lit a cigarette and instantly, Bem disappeared.
“Bem?” He called. “Where are you?”
“I’m here,” he heard the answer come from the closest tree, where he found Bem sitting. He had been very fast to climb up there.
“What are you doing there?” Natsu asked, puzzled.
“I’m guarding the order of this city.”
“Oh, fine,” Natsu shrugged. “I’ll smoke here if you don’t mind. I’m too old to climb. My back and just everything, you know,” he added while patting his back and trying to look like he was about to fall to pieces.
Bem made a strange noise and judging from the sincere smile on his face, Natsu figured it was a laugh.
“You can’t be older than me.”
“And how old are you?” Natsu asked.
“Very old,” Bem replied shyly, a respond that didn’t match his face, which didn’t have one wrinkle.
They talked a little bit longer, about saving the world and the police station nearby. They both knew well the detectives working in that department. It seemed Bem was good friend with him but Natsu can’t really say the same. Every of his encounters with the police was the result of his lack of friendliness with the law.
As Natsu looked at Bem’s sad but crystal clear eyes, he thought that if he shared his stories involving the police with Ryu, they would probably laugh and mock them together. But he couldn’t do that with Bem who apparently preferred to protect the public order and probably wouldn’t be amused at all. This sudden thought caught Natsu by surprise. In his head, Bem and Ryo were two different people when in reality, it was the same guy, Natsu was sure of that. So weird, but strangely nice at the same time.
Natsu felt relaxed and liked the company for the first time after so long.
“I have to go,” Bem said when a shriek was heard from the dark alley.
“Okay,” Natsu replied, but already felt lonely.
He watched as Bem hid between the dark brushes to appear again after a second. “I will say hi to Ryu for you. Right now, he’s sleeping but he will be happy to know you are thinking about him,” he said before disappearing into the darkness of the night, leaving Natsu absolutely dumbfounded.
Sleeping? What does he mean?
Natsu's life wasn’t full of events, mostly the same things repeating day after day. He lived such a boring life, singing the same songs over and over, as he was absolutely unable to write anything new. So, every new encounter was great for him. On Fridays, after his shift at the bar, he usually drank with Ryu and listened to his daily life full of high school gangs fights. Sometimes, Natsu met Bem in dark alleys or sitting on trees, where he stated to be guarding the world. He reminded Natsu of a big bird with sad eyes.
One fine morning, Natsu decided that maybe, he could write a new song. Something about friendship and strange relationship, about weird people and a forgetful guy who slept in a very inappropriate time.
He still didn’t understand the situation with Ryu and Bem. He was sure it was the same person but every time Natsu met Bem, the latter acted like Ryu was someone else. And it was the same with Ryu, behaving as though he wasn’t Bem.
Natsu first believed it might be a strange game Ryu liked to play, to help him relax maybe, and avoid the stress his work potentially brought him. Or maybe he had just always wanted to save the world but felt shy to talk about it when he wasn’t perched in a tree? Natsu really had no idea. But it was both confusing and inspiring.
He already had a chorus and a melody in mind, and now just needed a new microphone to record the song since finding the old one in his mess had become an impossible task. He was at the electronic shop near his place, trying to find one he would like, when the shop assistant offered his help. Natsu’s eyes fixed on the guy’s face and he recognized him instantly.
“Ryu! Or Bem?! Certainly Ryu,” he deduced out loud while trying to understand who exactly was in front of him.
It earned him an awkward look from the shop assistant. “My name is Nagano Hitoshi. Maybe I can help you?”
The question left Natsu speechless. Hitoshi’s dark eyes were staring as if he was seeing him for the first time, and it drove Natsu crazy.
“What’s going on?” He asked.
Hitoshi looked around, his soft hair moving along every turn of his head. “I don’t know. Are you looking for something special?”
“Yes,” Natsu answered. “I’m looking for a friend. A weird and crazy friend. It seems like several persons are living inside of him. Can you imagine?”
Hitoshi shrugged. “I doubt I can help you with that. Maybe you can buy a camera to take pictures of this friend?”
Natsu ended up buying a camera instead of the microphone he had come there for, thinking that maybe if he got some photos of Ryu, Bem and Hitoshi, he could corner his friend and ask for an explanation. At least, he hoped to receive some enlightenment.
Now that Natsu knew where Hitoshi worked, the next step was to find out where he actually lived. Since he didn’t have to work in the bar tonight, he decided to look around the trees nearby and spent an hour trying to find Bem, without results. Hitoshi hadn’t been at work that day, and everything seemed to be so useless. Why didn’t he just ask this unpredictable guy for his address, a phone number or at least where to find him?
“What are you searching for?” He suddenly heard a voice, so close that it startled him. Natsu was absolutely astonished to see his friend with a plaid shirt.
“Hitoshi?” He tried.
“Nah, Hitoshi is sleeping. He’s the annoying one and such a joy killer. I’m Hajime. And what are you searching for? Did something happen here? Like something really serious?” Hajime’s eyes were shining as he interrogated him.
Natsu looked around but found nothing to give as an answer. Hajime seemed eager to help and Natsu felt he would just leave if he said nothing. So he blurted the first thing that went through his mind. “My ex broke my heart here.”
“Oooh,” Hajime hummed his compassion. “Girls,” he said with a sigh.
“Yeah,” Natsu nodded. “And boys.”
Hajime raised an eyebrow. “Boys?”
Natsu just smiled shyly. Life could be so unpredictable sometimes.
They went to a small café. Hajime started flirting with two of the waitresses there, and managed to make Natsu embarrassed with his lame and cheesy pick-ups lines. Hajime was fun to talk to. He was such a light and joyful guy.
It made Natsu wonder what kind of person it was he had first met in the shabby bar he worked at. One thing was certain though. He would never get bored in the company of such a friend.
Definitely an unpredictable guy!
His new friend was full of surprises. He had different faces and a lot of interesting stories to tell. It seemed like Natsu had four friends at the same time. The only thing they had in common was their face, while their lives, their interests and their characters were all distinct and different.
It wasn’t very hard for Natsu to distinguish them all anymore. Ryu was a serious guy who didn’t talk a lot, and when he did, it mostly was about his students. He preferred listening. He liked music but wasn’t a big fan. It was actually quite difficult to understand what really was on his mind. He was a riddle.
Bem on the other hand was kind-hearted and had the most sincere smile Natsu had ever seen. He was full of desire to save and protect humans. He sometimes acted like a child and others times talked like the wisest person in the world.
Hitoshi was the most ordinary out of them all. He preferred to avoid Natsu, which could be because of the dark shades he always wore, even during the night, or maybe his clothes or his messy hairstyle. Natsu had no idea but it was a fact that Hitoshi didn’t like him and he never tried to hide it.
As for Hajime, he was amazing and fun to be with. He was a little bit jumpy and lame sometimes, but always had a lot of stories with unforeseeable endings. Out of the four, girls liked him the most.
Every time Natsu tried to ask one of them about the others, he always got the same answer.
“He is sleeping.”
Hitoshi kept on ignoring him all the time and Natsu felt resentful. He didn’t understand what Hitoshi had against him. Natsu wanted people to like him. He liked to be showered with admiration and support. It was a state of mind he had developed when people had loved his style and his songs, when he had been famous and had gathered millions of fans. Until they all disappeared and everything had been taken away, his desire to compose, his manager, his money, his band.
Natsu hadn’t been a gift back then, most like a pain in the ass for all the people around him. But he was different now. He was even trying to be nice sometimes. So when someone didn’t acknowledge his efforts, it both confused and annoyed him.
Hitoshi was a weird guy with a boring hairstyle and yet he had this expression in his boring eyes when he looked at him, as though Natsu was the one mad instead.
Natsu had been waiting for hours in front of Hitoshi’s workplace when he realized the guy wouldn’t come. His co-workers, the one with slick hair and an ugly face, gave Natsu his address even though it was against the rules of the place. But that knowledge apparently gave the weird co-worker a strange and quite disgusting satisfaction. Natsu decided he didn’t like this man at all.
Finding the old building of small flats wasn’t very hard. There were many grey cats whose eyes were shining in the darkness of the night, as they were waiting for some food near the closed doors. Natsu tried to find his way without walking on one of the cats and he accidentally cut his hand on an old piece of iron that was sticking out of the worn wall.
He cursed all the faces of his new friend in his heart along with that stupid thing popping out of nowhere, probably with the only intention to kill him. The sight of the thin line of blood was so bright that he found himself on the verge of fainting.
Natsu finally saw the name on the door and rang the doorbell with his uninjured hand. Slow footsteps were heard, as if the one inside was in no hurry to get to the entrance, and it took almost twenty seconds for Hitoshi to open the door. Natsu at least had supposed it was Hitoshi, but judging from the glasses, the inaccurate hairstyle and the white smock the man was wearing, he probably wasn’t right. The guy had a friendly smile and an attentive expression in his eyes.
“Are you searching for someone?” He asked.
“Hmm, I…” Natsu stuttered, suddenly speechless. He felt unsure of his presence here and who was in front of him right now. “Hitoshi?” He finally asked.
The friendly smile disappeared from the man’s lips. “He is sleeping.” A frown wrinkled the pale forehead as he noticed Natsu’s hand. “You are bleeding.”
“Not really,” Natsu proudly shrugged, as if he had just come back from a battle and hadn’t lost to the wall’s attack.
“Come inside. We should take care of your hand to prevent an infection. It could be dangerous.”
As he followed the man inside, Natsu curiously looked around. The apartment was small. There was a table in the middle of the room, full of small bulbs and flasks containing colorful liquids. It reminded Natsu of a laboratory from a Science movie.
“I’m Natsu,” he introduced himself, thinking it was appropriate to tell his name since he still had no idea how it worked inside of that guy’s head.
“Wakui-sensei,” the man said while taking hold of a small bottle, probably antiseptic Natsu guessed. “Wakui Masakazu.”
A new name, Natsu thought, and so a new person without a doubt.
While the man was taking care of his hand, Natsu decided to ask, “You are a doctor right? So you probably have answers to some of my questions?”
A half-smile stretched Wakui’s lips and cold shivers run down Natsu’s spine.
“You can try me,” the man politely said. They were sitting near the weird laboratory with the suspicious bulbs and Natsu suddenly felt like some Guinean pig under these intense dark eyes that seemed like they were trying to read something inside of Natsu’s brain –probably the doctor would be disappointment when realizing how empty it actually was.
“So, I have a friend,” Natsu started and Wakui nodded. “He’s a little bit weird. I mean, every time I meet him, he acts like a different person, using different names and having different personalities.”
“You think he’s making fun of you?” Sensei asked with his face and eyes serious, and Natsu thought in indignation that this moron might have really made fun of him every time after all. But…
“No,” he said as he remembered many details and different expression he had caught on the crystal clear eyes. Even this doctor was too real to be just a joke. “I don’t think he is pretending. I’m almost sure that he has some problems. Like many persons in his head and they are taking turns when the others sleep.”
“Yes, that what he says. They are sleeping.”
Wakui crossed his hands in front of his chest. “It reminds me about a few cases in international practice. Have you ever heard about multiple personality disorder?” Natsu shook his head slowly. “It’s when someone has inside of him a few other persons, and each have his own history, knowledge and life. Sometimes, they know about the others’ existence. But sometimes, they don’t. People with such disorder can forget some moments of their life. So when your friend meets you, for him it’s for the first time.”
Natsu nodded. Every of sensei’s word made sense. This man was his friend but it was a new meeting, which had required them to introduce each other again.
“How should I act? What should I do?”
Wakui frowned. “What do you mean?”
“How can I help him?” Natsu asked desperately, one word in the long speech having caught his attention. ‘Disorder’. So it was like a disease.
“In this case, the only help you can offer is acceptance. If you want to give your time to this friend and support him no matter how many people exist inside of him, you should accept every of his personality, and take them all seriously.”
“What if one of them doesn’t like me and I don’t even know the reason why?”
The doctor shrugged. “Sometimes it happens. He is a little bit crazy so I doubt science can have answers to every turn of his weird mind you know?”
Natsu didn’t like Wakui’s way of talking. It was too haughty, as if he thought that Natsu shouldn’t waste his time with such a friend. It implied something along the lines, tell me who is your friend and I will tell you who you are. The man probably believed that both Natsu and his friend were a little bit insane and not worth his time. And as to confirm these thoughts, he looked at his watch, glanced at the table where all of his materials were resting and set his look back on Natsu.
“He is not crazy and weird,” Natsu said and realized how stupid his indignation was as if was confronted with Ryu, Bem, Hitoshi and Hajime’s face. Wakui-sensei was one of them. Acceptance. “I like all the persons in his head.”
That was the last thing he said before Wakui showed him to the door. And Natsu realized that Hitoshi wasn’t the only one who disliked him.
As he thought about sensei’s words, Natsu was trying to figure out what to do next. He even googled the disorder he had been told about but ended up clicking on a link popping out of nowhere instead, attracted by the mouthwatering images of Chinese dishes. So he had found himself sitting in the middle of his small flat then, with a plate of steaming Chinese noodles and shrimps, and thinking about his next action.
He had a friend now, a real friend, or better said a few friends considering the circumstances. But they were all real and that friendship meant a lot to Natsu. He believed that Wakui was wrong, because Bem, Ryu and all the others were not crazy. They were not a burden to him but rather gave him so much. He now had someone who listened to his music, someone who cared about his life, and someone who spent time with him and had fun together with him.
Natsu’s life had been empty for so long. There had been a time when he had had everything and his career, money and the stage had been the only things that had ever mattered to him. Only music had hold such importance to him and he had loved it, the moment he could have conveyed his emotions and feelings, the moment he could have shared with others his creations and passion. At that time he still had the ability to create.
Natsu didn’t remember how it started. Before he knew it, he just couldn’t write or compose anything. Even strumming on the strings of his guitar had found no result, the melody sounding off-key, strange and cold. While he could still sing his old songs, the capacity of creating anything new had been lost. He had become empty.
Until he had met his new friend and found inspiration in him. It was really difficult to explain how exactly, but it had a huge impact on him and since then, a melody had been playing in his mind, again and again, fresh and new. It was a little painful, just like some of Ryu’s memories, but hopeful in the same way Bem’s belief in humanity was, and also playful as if to match Hajime’s smile. It even carried some of Hitoshi’s indifference.
Natsu wanted to do something, to show his gratitude, because he believed they were so right to each other. Natsu and all of his friend’s personalities that lived in one body. Hitoshi’s body.
His name was Nagano Hitoshi, and he didn’t like him, which could be because of Natsu’s weird behavior. He was always waiting for Hitoshi after work and stalking him to his flat, while constantly saying overly lame and stupid things. Whenever Natsu mentioned Bem and the others, it always caused a deep frown on Hitoshi’s face. Unlike everyone else, he never said they were sleeping. It seemed he wasn’t even aware of their existence.
It scared Natsu a little bit. What if Hitoshi would disappear from his life, along with the others? What would he do then?
Sometimes, he would talk about his worries with Wakui-sensei. Probably, the latter might have started to like him, or just accepted the fact that he wouldn’t be able to stop Natsu from coming over again and again and that it was almost impossible to show him to the door again.
“I’m wasting my time with you. I have work. And being your personal therapist is not part of my job!”
Natsu didn’t bulge at the words and remained comfortably seated in the old armchair. “I never had one actually. So I like the feeling of telling you about my problems.”
“But I have a big problem about it. I can’t stand listening to your annoying whining!”
Sometimes, when he looked at Wakui’s dark eyes, Natsu thought that he wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley.
Natsu finally resolved himself to talk with Hitoshi about his concerns. Attempting to be friends with him by telling him how he spent his day and trying to converse hadn’t shown much results, so he decided to share what really bothered him instead.
“Don’t disappear from my life!” He suddenly said as soon as he entered the electronic shop, not finding in him enough patience to wait for Hitoshi to finish his shift.
Hitoshi turned around and walked away, but Natsu followed him. “I’m serious!”
“So what? I never was part of your life to begin with.”
“But you are! The most important part of my life.”
Hitoshi looked angry as he said, “How can I be part of anyone’s life when I don’t even remember my own life?”
“But I do remember it, all the recent happenings in your life. Because when you’re not yourself, you are with me.”
“That’s not something I should be happy about. Why are you following me all the time? You think observing someone like me is entertaining?”
“No! I told you already. I don’t want you to disappear from my life. You are important!”
“I’m just crazy!”
“Don’t talk like sensei! Sometimes, he is just so full of himself.”
“One of you.”
Hitoshi looked bewildered as he asked, “How many me do I have?”
“I know just four or five,” Natsu replied. “But sensei said there could be more.”
“More?” Hitoshi made a step backward. His face was so pale that Natsu started to worry.
“They are all my friends, you know? So choose your words carefully when you’re talking about them.”
“Let me tell you about Ryu first,” Natsu said with a smile and started relating about their first meeting, and all the others first meetings that had followed.
The bright light from the window made Hitoshi wince. The view was unfamiliar and it took his brain a few seconds to proceed where he was waking up this time.
It was far from being the first time but he still couldn’t get used to his blackouts. It was horrible to never know where he had been, to always wake up in unfamiliar places with strangers calling him with names that weren’t his.
His friends used to always prefer the others, because they were more fun to talk with, to spend time with. Because they weren’t ordinary and boring like Hitoshi was. So he had always been alone, without friends, without anyone who cared about him. Only his mother, though sometimes he felt like she was looking at him but never really saw him.
He had started to sleep more often, to wake up and never understand what happened, where and with whom. His life had become a succession of fleeting moments. He woke up, went to work at the electronic shop, and slept again to wake up right for the time to go to work again. Everything he had been doing whenever he was sleeping, he had no idea of it. It had been killing him before, but he had come to stop caring altogether. He couldn’t change anything anyway. So he had decided to hide deeper in his own ignorance.
Until he had met Natsu.
Hitoshi scanned the tiny flat he had woken up in. There was a small table in the middle of the room, crumpled note sheets scattered on the floor and an empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s not far. He found his jacket and put in on, readying himself to leave.
“Hitoshi,” he heard from behind and turned to the grey chair to meet Natsu’s dark sleepy eyes.
“Buy me a sandwich with double cheese. My headache is killing me,” Natsu winced.
“It seems you had a blast yesterday with…” Hitoshi raised an eyebrow.
“Bem? Really? I thought he doesn’t drink.”
“It was a first. I just thought he should relax sometimes. I assured him the world would still survive one day without him.”
Hitoshi smiled. With Natsu looking right back at him, recognizing him, accepting him, he thought that maybe he could also learn to accept himself. Acceptance, that was what he had always been seeking for, without even realizing it. But staring back at those sincere and friendly eyes, Hitoshi really felt like he could accept himself after all, for the very first time in his life. Because he had found someone who accepted him. All of him.