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The Stars And The Moon

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It was always Teruki Hanazawa’s firm belief that he should be independent. The tumult of youth brought challenges that he worked to equip himself for. And when he tripped, fell, and lost his way, he would always think of some way to fix it.
But then, curled up in the middle of his unlit apartment, tears welling in his eyes, he wasn’t quite sure what to do.

He thought he knew what started it. He overheard his classmates discussing a party. He used to go to parties, he remembered. And he used to hate them. And he was sure he would hate them now. In the midst of the noise and the drama, the air was heavy with what affected him now, enveloped him--loneliness.
He was lonely, and there was nothing he could do about it.
He was surprised it took him so long to notice. Like an evil spirit, loneliness seemed bound to him, reaching into every part of his life with an intangible grip. But this wasn’t something he could see, nor something he could exorcise. It was a feeling.

He really tried to keep a level head about it. At school, he was fine just brushing it aside. He was okay on his own, he told himself. But when he came home to nothing and no-one, it sprung back--that he wanted companionship, that maybe he even needed it. He was lonely, he was alone.

He was lonely when he was ‘friends’ with everyone in school. He was lonely when he commanded a gang. He was lonely when girls swarmed him. And he realized the moment he landed in front of his broken school, his heart as bare as his head, that he was alone. Nobody wanted to look at him. Nobody cared. He used to be the only person in the world who was really, truly special. Of course he was lonely then. He was alone in a class all to himself. But now he really was just a commoner, and he still felt lonely.

Was loneliness a common thing? Did the girls he used to date, the ones that he only knew by face, feel lonely? Did they come home to nothing and nobody, and did they cry? Was that why they clung to his arm like it was their last lifeline? What about the kids who hosted parties? Did they stand in the middle of a room of people, everyone’s eyes on them, and feel like they were being condemned to solitude? Did they try to collect all those people in the hopes that they could be fulfilled? And if they were all lonely, these common people, these people just like Teruki, did that make him less alone?

He was confused. He felt weak. He felt vulnerable. He wished he could fill the hollow feeling in his chest by himself. He thought he tried it before, expanding his ego to fit the gap inside his heart, inflating it again and again and pretending like the gravity of that emptiness wasn’t taking away more of him each day. But he was no fool. He knew he needed to do something.

But what should he do? Was this a bad thing? Was it a problem? He didn’t want to feel lonely, but did he need to? He couldn’t run away from himself, he thought, but what was he doing all those years before, then?

He was pretending. He was pretending to be a star, made up of beauty and light and power, a thing that needed nothing but itself to burn and burn and burn. But now he thought that maybe he was like the moon, which shone only because something somewhere managed to hit it with its brilliance. His curtains were open, but only the electric glow of the city filtered through his window. Tonight, there was a dark moon…

But where were the stars? Not just in the sky, but people who were stars, like Teruki once thought he was. Did they exist, really? He thought about Kageyama. Brilliant Kageyama. His light was blinding, he alone could be the sun--but was that his own light? Or the reflection of the love for him? Were people only stars in the presence of others?

Did it matter? Was he even making sense?

He kept asking himself, Why am I so lonely?, but he realized he needed to ask, What do I need to do to not be lonely?
He didn’t want someone to cling to his arm. He didn’t want someone to make small talk with him. He didn’t want someone to ask him deep questions, either. He wanted someone he could be honest with. He wanted someone he could understand. He wanted someone whose light could shine on him, and he could shine back.

He wasn’t crying any more, because crying wouldn’t fix things. He didn’t know if any one thing would fix things. But he did know that he was going to work to stop feeling this way. He picked up his phone. He opened up the contacts. He looked at all the names he couldn’t remember. One by one, he deleted them. He didn’t know what he was thinking, but he knew this was what he needed to do.

He fell into a rhythm: select, forget, delete. Select, forget, delete. At the end, every person he cared to know fit on a single screen. Somehow, he felt less alone now, among people he could recognize.

His thumb hovered over a name. Kageyama. He knew it was late, but his loneliness didn’t. He called Shigeo.

It rang. It rang. It rang. It rang. And then it stopped. And then Shigeo spoke.

“Hello, Hanazawa… it’s late… are you okay?”
His voice was as soft as usual, but slurred. He might have been sleeping before. Teruki began to regret his decision, but he continued.
“I’m okay. I had a question for you.”
“Hm?”
“Are you lonely?”
There was no verbal response. Only the gentle rise and fall of breath, accelerating and then slowing.
Finally, Shigeo replied, “I… I don’t think so,” holding onto the last syllable as if to say more.
“But I think I used to be.”
“I see.”
“Maybe… I’ve always been. Until I really thought about it, now.”
“Really?”
“...Does it make sense?”
“Hm...”

Teruki considered Shigeo again.
When he first met him, he seemed impossible. There was be no way in. No way out. His face was a mask. His body was a barrier. He had a star inside of him. A supernova of emotions, death and birth in equilibrium. The atmosphere did not crush him, it did not sweep him away. He was immune.
But then how did he shine so brightly? If he did not let his light leak out? If he did not let others’ light in?
Teruki realized Shigeo wasn’t invulnerable. He was the moon and the stars. He gave out love, and he received it, and he reflected it. He was made of love and light. And each day with him, he grew brighter and brighter. He was strong enough to keep so much in, yet strong enough to let the right things out. He was genuine.

Breaking the silence, he breathed out, “Kageyama, you’re amazing.”
“Huh? No, I’m just average…”
“But you aren’t really.”
“I’m not understanding…”
“Nobody is as strong as you are.”
Shigeo fell silent.
“I’m still lonely,” Teruki confessed. “Even though you’re so much more alone. I’m just not as strong as you, in that respect.” He paused. “Maybe I shouldn’t tell you all this. Sorry, Kageyama…”
Shigeo stopped him, “No, it’s okay…”
“Is it?”
“It is… I mean, I was lonely for a long time… I couldn’t read the atmosphere, I couldn’t be a part of anything… but then I thought about you, and the Body Improvement Club, and Master, and all my friends…”
Teruki felt a twinge in his heart, admiration and jealousy intertwined.
“I could be wrong in saying this, but I think I found people I can be myself with, even a little… There’s not much more I could ask for…”
Teruki was washed in melancholy but filled with love. “It makes me so happy to hear that, Kageyama. Thank you.”
“I’m glad too…”
They were silent again.
Shigeo’s thoughts wound into words. “Hanazawa, I hope you don’t feel lonely someday.” He was uncertain, but offered, “If you do, I’ll be here for you…”
Shigeo was so sincere and careful and lovely. Teruki’s heart felt a little fuller.
“Thank you, Kageyama. Anyways, you should get some sleep. Good night,” he said, hanging on to the reply.
“Good night, Hanazawa. Sleep well,” Shigeo responded. They listened through the speakers for seconds after. Then, Shigeo hung up.

Teruki let his hand drop to his side, exhaling.
“Ah, Kageyama…”
He looked out into the flat skies once again, polluted with light. Behind a cloud, he thought he could see the glittering of a distant star.
He still felt out of place in a crowd. He still didn’t understand why. He still wondered if he was normal, if this was part of being a commoner. He still wanted to know if he should be lonely, he still wanted to know if he was strong or if he was weak. And he still wished that his apartment was filled with sounds other than his own. But he felt lighter. He was lonely, but he was not alone. He didn’t have all the answers, but he did have hope. He did have a friend.

And he could feel himself shining, quiet but present, a star and a moon.