They just didn't understand. No one understood. These faces all around Aoi that were blurred-- blocked off like some crime scene -- because he just couldn't care less about them.
But he used to.
On stage, his fingers rested on the chords of his electric guitar. He was waiting for the drummer, Kai, to begin the song with the loud cymbals. Meanwhile, Aoi watched the crowd, who all sounded so eager to be here. They cheered, and shuffled around as if they just couldn't stand still. Their faces were all blocked off in his vision, but Aoi was sure that they were smiling. If only Aoi could return their smiles, genuinely. But all Aoi could do was let himself be blinded by all the bland lights. Why so many lights that meant nothing? He stretched the corners of his mouth into what was his best impression of a smile. That was when he heard the song finally begin. Not that he really cared.
There was a time in Aoi’s life where the guitar meant everything to him. It was his life. A cord that was attached to his heart. Yet, as he got himself to play for the crowd…it was as if that guitar was nothing but a meaningless piece of scrap. Something you'd find in a wasteland. It wasn't really worth holding. It was heavy, and yet he felt empty. There wasn't a single spark within him. The chords that he was strumming was simply a logical sequence. Written down on a paper somewhere far away.
At this point, Aoi was simply an observer. Looking around him, with complete indifference. This song sounded like instruments blending together. In fact, that's all a song really was. Just instruments. Nothing else.
Aoi’s mind flatlined.
At one point of the song, Uruha brushed up against him. Or, at least, he thought it was Uruha. The face was blurred like something abstract, but there was only one person who did that to Aoi. It was a gesture that he was all too familiar with. It used to give him chills. Man, it would warm his heart, actually. The two were an unofficial…couple? Could two people really feel love and attraction towards each other? He had already forgotten what that was like. He wondered what were the mechanisms behind it. Was it gears that turned or something? Was the heart just a bunch of metal pieces? Not that he'd put the effort into researching all of this. It wasn't really worth it.
Aoi’s heart flatlined.
When the show finished, Aoi simply walked out to the backroom, not even thinking to do anything special for the fans. Fans. They were just pieces of folded paper with a wooden handle. Not much to it, really.
Nothing mattered. Everything in Aoi’s life was as dull as a plastic blade. He couldn't really feel, couldn't cry, couldn't enjoy. It was a big strain to get that two seconds of feeling-- to pull something, anything out of his heart was like a challenging battle of tug-of-war. He had to really dive into something that used to fill him with joy in the past. Like, a song that used to make tears well up in his eyes the whole way around. He'd feel a little bit, if he was lucky. But any feeling that Aoi would strain out of him quickly dissipated like defective fireworks. It hurt the middle of his forehead to squeeze out emotions so hard. There was nothing but pain in return. Hello, brain? I'd like to speak with your manager?
Aoi and Uruha were lying in bed together at a hotel after the show, unclothed. The hotel was extra fancy-- fancier than what the band was used to. The rooms themselves looked regal, with golden-rimmed furniture everywhere. Although it was probably fake gold. Fake promises. Like flowers that would smell nice, but were actually made out of plastic.
In bed, Uruha was slowly trailing his fingers on Aoi’s side. Yet, that's all it really was. Just fingers poking at his skin.
"Yuu, what's been going on with you lately?"
Aoi turned towards his bandmate, "What do you mean?"
Uruha shuffled a bit on the mattress.
"Every time that you've slept with me, you'd be so passionate, and honestly take my breath away. But this time, it seemed like our love-making meant nothing to you. In fact, it was just dull. I feel like it was completely one-sided."
Aoi looked at him with the same blank expression that he'd look at everyone else with. "...I didn't really feel anything" he admitted, bluntly, and uncaring of Uruha’s hurt expression.
"What do you mean, you felt nothing??" The other guitarist's voice slightly rose with hurt.
Aoi didn't care enough to choose his words wisely.
"It just didn't feel like anything, I guess. Physically, emotionally…nothing. Sorry." It was the truth. Physically, Aoi did eventually reach climax, but he only felt the tightening of his abdominal muscles. He never actually felt any pleasure with it. Same with trying to connect with Uruha. In the past, he'd feel this amazing bond with him, and when they made love, this bond would feel like it would become stronger. He could feel Uruha’s heart, and connect with it. His moans were like music to his ears, and he wanted nothing more than to show that man just how much emotion and love he felt towards him. Uruha was always like a God in his eyes. But this time around, Uruha was just a person. Another one of those blurred out faces that all looked the same. Aoi’s movements were basically rehearsed, they didn't have any fluidity or meaning behind them. There was no tension that he could feel between them, either.
Soft sobbing erupted from beside him. Again, he couldn't really care to look at the details of the face. But obviously, Uruha was crying.
"Tell me that you love me, Yuu." his voice was cracking, filled with an emotion that would, once upon a time, send Aoi immediately comforting him.
"I love you, Shima." He said this as sincerely as he possibly could. Unfortunately, it just wasn't sincere enough. The words sounded blank, and had nothing behind them at all. That's because, as much as Aoi wished he could, he didn't really feel anything. His heart stayed at the same rhythm. He remained a simple observer. He scanned over Uruha’s blurred face, his eyes shaking a little, as if trying to find something that would spark something inside him. But there was nothing. The world was an empty, white room, disguised to appear as something more. Looking at Uruha was like looking at a doll. A doll that was once a human, which Aoi used to absolutely love and cherish.
Aoi’s soulless words seriously meant nothing. It led a crying Uruha to just get dressed, and leave the hotel room without saying anything more.
Aoi should feel hurt by this action. He should feel like a spear was rammed into his side. Damn, that would hurt! But anhedonia was something that held captive…everything that Aoi once was. It left him unable to feel anything at all. Unable to enjoy himself, love his friends, cry during sad events. Everything was a chore…being alone was easier.
Aoi hadn't checked his messages in a while. His phone kept making noise with notifications, but Aoi was void. A dust particle floating in the air.
His life stopped.
How about he just continued to lay here, in bed, doing absolutely nothing at all? That's what doing everything else was like, so it made no difference. He could just lay peacefully, watching the rain stream down the large glass window. Simply watching. Wishing that he could be as fluid as all of that water.
At that moment, Aoi imagined himself in an outdoor environment, holding a giant bubble filled with water. And resting on top of that thin bubble, was a vibrant orange lotus flower. The orange lotus stored all of his emotions, his sexuality, and his passions. Within his vivid imagination, Aoi looked at it with a kind expression. Soft, like silk. This flower was his to nurture, and to take care of. So then, how could it possibly get so gunked up with this…black goop? That's right. Aoi blinked, and suddenly, he saw blackness covering the petals. The flower looked like it had been through an oil spill. He'd been grieving this whole, entire time!
Aoi’s kind, gentle expression remained. There was no way this lotus could ever wither, after all. He just had to take better care of it. It had been through trauma, and in the end, it was all Aoi’s fault. He should have never abused drugs. He knew that well, and yet he let himself go. The blackness on the flower smelled like all the guilt and the shame that he held onto. Could he make it up to the orange lotus? Maybe.
And so, he did his best. Aoi simply started to scoop the slimy darkness off of the flower's petals. Carefully, taking it all away. All the bad stuff, everything that blocked the flow of his life. Everything he wanted to let go of.
"I'm sorry…" he murmured to the lotus, as if it could hear him.
When he was finished, the bubble popped. The orange flower gently fell onto his hands. The soft petals caressed his palms, as if thanking him. It was warm.
And that was when Aoi laid it to rest. He turned to the pond that was behind him, slowly knelt down, and put the clean lotus onto an empty lily pad.
A nearby koi fish picked it up on its back. It swam towards the back of the pond. This is where the rest of the lotus flowers were. These plants were of all sorts of colours! Red, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and purple. They were all clean, and waiting for the arrival of the refreshed orange lotus.
When it finally arrived, Aoi woke up from his imagination.
Still in his hotel bed. But this time, something felt different. Were those…actual tears rolling down his cheek? His eyes were wet. His heart clenched, and he had a lump in his throat.
This is what emotion felt like. This is what it was like to feel things. He remembered! It's what made life worth it. It's what gave meaning to everything he did.
Aoi should have never abused drugs, but that was in his past. He'd long since forgiven himself for that. Humans make mistakes, right? Heck, even monkeys fall from trees! Life goes on. This was something that had happened, because it needed to happen. And he felt stronger from it.
The engine of Aoi's life started up again.