“You make me feel like I’m not good enough”
Takaki knew all about making mistakes. He was practically a pro at it. All it took was one small lapse in concentration and he would miss a dance step, forget a lyric, take a wrong turn, say something thoughtless. He could mess up anything.
Mistakes were easy. Apologizing for them was hard.
He thought about this as he laced up his shoes in the dressing room. The magazine shoot was over for the day and he was the last one to leave. The room felt so much bigger, and emptier, than when there had been nine people crammed inside. The shoot had gone well—they didn’t even need to do any reshoots—so they were all free to go early. No more work left.
Hikaru had cornered him before he’d gotten his shoes on. Everyone else had left.
“Hey, do you wanna go eat dinner with me?” Hikaru had asked. It had seemed like a casual invitation. No pressure, nonchalant. But thinking back, Takaki realized Hikaru must have been nervous, worried that he’d be rejected. He had his hands stuck in his pockets to look unconcerned. Because anxious Hikaru was usually a ball of energy, unable to stop moving.
Takaki felt dumb. He’d only realized all this afterwards when he was alone in the room with nothing else to contemplate but his shoelaces. It had been more than just a mere invitation to dinner, but he didn’t even give that a chance.
“No thanks,” he’d answered bluntly without so much as an explanation. At the time, he was thinking about the leftover salad in his fridge, and how he’d just promised himself the other day that he’d stop eating out all the time. Trying to make healthier food choices. He hadn’t considered Hikaru’s feelings at all. What a careless stupid mistake.
Hikaru had gotten angry. Of course. “You’re so confusing,” he’d snapped, his voice dripping with fury. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do anymore.” His hands had come out of his pockets. Clenched into fists by his sides.
Takaki had been clueless. “Huh?”
And then all the anger had drained out of Hikaru, replaced with disappointment. “You make me feel like I’m not good enough,” he’d said quietly. For you implied. And then he left, leaving Takaki with only his thoughts for company.
He tightened the knot on his shoelaces before standing up again. In hindsight, he was pretty sure Hikaru’s invitation had been an apology. An olive branch to patch up their already bruised relationship. And Takaki had rejected it without a second thought, probably smashing everything to pieces.
It was too easy to make a mistake.
“You make me feel…”
Takaki’s intense wall-staring was interrupted by Daiki’s voice and his finger poking the side of his cheek incessantly. Takaki winced and jerked back. “What?”
“You’re sorta spacey today,” Daiki said. “I was just checking to see if you were still here. The staff just said we’ll be able to get in the booth soon.” They’d been waiting for a while for the staff to fix a technical problem so they could record their radio show. Takaki’s thoughts had drifted back to Hikaru in the meantime.
“I’m fine,” he lied. Actually, there was a pit in his stomach whenever he thought about Hikaru’s words. Words that he realized he deserved, but they still hurt nevertheless. But mostly, he was angry at himself for being an idiot. It’s not like he didn’t want to eat with Hikaru. They’d always had fun together in the past. Laughing, talking, joking around. He liked spending time together, getting closer and closer.
He missed that.
“You sure?” Daiki replied as his eyes scrutinized every bit of Takaki’s face. “Because you don’t look it. How do you feel?”
How did he feel? That was a good question. “I feel like I’m a kid who’s taken the training wheels off my bike too early and I’m about to crash.”
Daiki let out a somewhat surprised and amused chuckle. “That was… strangely poetic for you.” He stood up and stretched. “It sounds like you’re in love.” The staff began motioning for them to finally get to the booth and start the show.
That would be just his luck.
“…like I’m not good enough”
Takaki didn’t spend a lot of Saturday nights at home. Usually he had plans with friends or he’d go spend time at the beach. But it was rainy today and his friends were busy. So he settled in for a quiet night on the couch. There wasn’t much in the fridge to cook with, so he just decided on a small dinner of miso soup and rice. He turned the radio on for some music but then remembered that it was time for Hikaru and Inoo’s radio show. It had already started but he’d only missed the first couple minutes. They were laughing about something before Hikaru started reading the next letter from a listener.
The sound of his voice sent Takaki’s brain back to thinking about his mistake. It had only been two days, but he hadn’t seen Hikaru since then. Despite that, he couldn’t forget what Hikaru had said: you make me feel like I’m not good enough.
He remembered now what Hikaru was apologizing for. It was something so trivial, Takaki almost wanted to kick himself for getting angry in the first place. Hikaru had actually forgotten his birthday this year. There wasn’t a single word from him. Not a “happy birthday” or “have a good day” or even a “hello.” Takaki remembered how he’d been so hurt by that, even though it felt selfish to expect something. They’d been spending a lot of time together for the past few months. Talking a lot more, even outside of work. He felt like their friendship was deepening, maybe into something more. That’s what he—they?—had wanted.
Or maybe he’d just imagined that, he’d thought, when Hikaru had forgotten. When he’d made him feel unimportant. Like he wasn’t even worthy of an afterthought. So he’d taken his hurt feelings and lashed out, directed them back at Hikaru full force. Another mistake.
He accused Hikaru of not taking things seriously enough, not treating their relationship—whatever it was—like it mattered. He had been angry. He had said too much without thinking it through or considering any consequences. It had broken whatever fragile thing they had. He had broken it. Not Hikaru. He had made Hikaru feel like nothing he did would ever be good enough.
Which wasn’t true at all.
They hadn’t talked much since that argument. Not until Hikaru had approached him with that invitation to dinner.
Takaki switched the radio off, having realized that he was automatically tuning their voices out at this point. He couldn’t listen to Hikaru and Inoo read letters and joke around anymore. He wanted to fix things, but he didn’t know how.
How could he apologize for ruining an apology?
He took his empty dinner dishes and dumped them into the sink, letting them soak in the soapy water, watching as they sank down to the bottom.
“…make me feel…”
Takaki held the phone to his ear and listened to it ring. He tapped his fingers on his mattress while he waited. It felt like it was taking years to pick up.
“H-hello?” a sleepy voice answered on the other end.
“Keito,” Takaki responded, suddenly sitting up now that he was talking to someone. “I need some advice.”
“Do you know it’s 3am?” Keito sounded slightly grumpy.
“Of course,” he answered. “That’s why I called you. You’re the only one who’s nice enough to answer the phone this late. I really need some advice.”
There was a moment of silence and then Keito half-laughed, half-sighed. “True. But you could have called Ryosuke because apparently he’s still awake.” His voice continued but sounded further away as if he’d moved the phone away from his mouth briefly. “Why are you still up? I thought you were done playing your video game.”
“One more level,” Takaki could hear Yamada’s voice answer distantly.
Takaki thought it over. “I think I’d rather have your advice anyway.” He paused and added. “I’m sorry for bothering you.” Being thoughtless was what got him into this mess and calling Keito late at night was rude. He felt like a horrible person.
“It’s oka—” Keito was interrupted by his own yawn. “It’s okay. What’s the problem?”
Takaki explained quickly about the whole situation with Hikaru. It was kind of embarrassing to admit his mistakes and his feelings, but Keito didn’t judge. He listened patiently like he always did.
“So how do I tell him I’m sorry?”
“Well, uh, maybe start with I’m sorry? But really, it sounds like you’ve already given this a lot of thought. You know how Hikaru feels, don’t you? You didn’t really need to call me to figure that out,” Keito answered him calmly, like he was a wise old mentor wondering why his student asked questions he already knew the answers to.
Takaki sighed and sank back down to his bed, his head sinking slowly into the pillow. “I guess that’s sorta helpful.”
Keito laughed. “It’s the best I can do at 3am.”
“Thanks,” Takaki said and smiled, even though Keito wouldn’t be able to see that. Keito told him goodnight and then muttered something about having to rescue Yamada from his video game now. After Takaki put his phone away, he stared up at the shadows falling across his ceiling while he mulled over ideas. And when it finally hit him, he jumped up out of bed to get started.
“Wow, you look like you didn’t sleep last night,” Chinen said, looking concerned as he found Takaki in the practice room.
“I didn’t really,” Takaki answered cheerfully. “I feel surprisingly awake though.”
“Okay,” Chinen said warily. “Just don’t collapse during practice or something, okay?”
“Sure,” Takaki nodded. He scanned the room as more of their bandmates came in. “Have you seen Hikaru, by the way?”
“In the dressing room,” Yuto answered as he bounced by.
Takaki dashed out towards the room across the hallway, hitting his shoulder on the doorframe in his haste. When he got there, Hikaru was the last one inside, all alone as he finished changing into his clothes for dance practice.
“I need to talk to you,” he blurted out before Hikaru even had a chance to turn around and notice him. “I’m sorry.”
Hikaru gave him a blank look to mask whatever he was feeling. Not happy, not sad, not angry. Just blank. Takaki faltered a moment, wondering if Hikaru would rather he just leave him alone. But then he reminded himself, that didn’t matter. He needed to apologize even if Hikaru said to go away forever or something.
“I’m sorry I say things without thinking,” he began, “and I do things without thinking. I hurt your feelings because I was—am—an idiot.” Hikaru didn’t say anything but there was a tiny flicker of emotion in his eye. Takaki couldn’t stop now. He pulled a folded up paper out of his pocket and handed it to Hikaru. “The truth is, I do want to go out to eat with you. All the time. And it’s okay if you never remember my birthday again. I don’t deserve it. I just want you to know that you’re way more than ‘good enough’ to me. You’re great. You’re excellent. You’re awesome, fantastic, wonderful, and a whole lot of other words I’d need to look up in a dictionary.”
Takaki missed hanging out with Hikaru. He missed listening to Hikaru ramble on about music stuff Takaki didn’t understand. He missed how Hikaru would eagerly ask him questions about the different places he’d travelled to. He missed trading cooking tips and swimming tips and even hairstyling tips. But most of all, he just missed feeling comfortable and content with Hikaru, a feeling that went beyond words.
Hikaru unfolded the paper and couldn’t stop a small laugh from slipping out. “This is your apology?” He held up the scrap of paper covered in Takaki’s messy handwriting and decorated with some poorly scribbled designs. It said coupon: free dinner at any restaurant, valid forever. I’m sorry.
“…yes,” Takaki admitted, suddenly feeling self-conscious for putting together such a childish apology. He didn’t know what else to say.
“I accept,” Hikaru answered as he neatly folded the handmade coupon up and put it safely away in his wallet. “But only if you accept my apology too.”
“You didn’t do anything to apologize for. It’s all in the past,” Takaki said, shaking his head. The birthday thing was over and it didn’t matter to him anymore. Continuing to be angry would be petty. And he was working to be better than that.
Hikaru laughed. “You know what? This apologizing for apologies is kinda silly. Let’s just- let’s just start over.” He stuck his hand out and gave Takaki the most radiant smile he’d ever seen. “Hi, I’m Hikaru and I really like you a lot.”
Takaki took his hand. “Nice to meet you. I really like you a lot too.”
It was a nice moment, but quickly interrupted by Chinen sticking his head in the door to remind them that the choreographer wanted to start practice. Even after Chinen quickly disappeared again, Takaki was a bit slow to let go of Hikaru’s hand.
“Hey, maybe…” Takaki began with a bit of hesitation, “do you want to eat with me today after practice?”
“Sure,” Hikaru nodded. Takaki was so relieved to see that happy look on his face again. “But…” he hesitated a moment, “instead of going to a restaurant, let’s just cook at my place? I’ll teach you a new recipe.”
There was no way Takaki could hide the smile on his face as he agreed.
“You make me feel like I’m not good enough.”
But I’m trying my best to change that. Because you’re much more than just “good enough.”