It’s one of those nights where breathing hurts. The air feels too clean, like you’re pouring bleach down your nose. I’m freezing; what of my pantyhose remains is prickling and sticking to my goosebumps. Walking with blood running into my eyes is hard enough, and the gravel along the edge of the parking lot is certainly no help, so I’m holding my stupid, ugly shoes by their straps. My feet are cut up and dirty and cold and wet with dew, but I don’t really care.
Sitting at the edge of the parking lot, I avoid eye contact as people pass on their way from the bar back to their cars, or down the street toward the bus stop. I feel sickening. I feel like a big pile of dog shit, like actual garbage. I can’t believe earlier in the evening, I somehow thought I looked good. Pretty. I looked at myself in the mirror in the bar’s bathroom and I gave myself a painted smile. I felt confident. That was so fucking stupid. I look like an ugly guy in a cheap dress. I’m embarrassing. I’m sad. Seeing me would ruin anyone’s night. Now, with all the bruises and cuts and with my too-ugly-to-even-laugh-at dress all torn up, I’d ruin anyone’s week. I’d be doing the world a favor if I just…walked off. Walked off the end of the world or something.
A car pulls into the parking lot. I curl into myself, hiding in myself, as its headlights cut through me. Once it turns enough that it’s not blinding me, blinking, I see that it’s my dad’s car. I somehow still have it in me to sigh from deep in my chest. The car pulls diagonally across a couple of parking spaces. As the engine cuts out, the door throws open, and Osomatsu comes stumbling free. He gets one foot on the asphalt before he notices that the car is inching backwards; grimacing, he slams his hand against the gear shift. It doesn’t budge.
“You have to have your foot on the brake. How did you even get here?”
Osomatsu manages to get the car into park. He throws himself out of the car, tripping slightly as he goes, yanking something small and rectangular from his back pocket. When I realize it’s one of Karamatsu’s butterfly knives, I can’t keep my eyes from rolling.
“Who did this?” He asks as he storms up to me, eyes darting everywhere. In a fluid motion he grabs the back of my head and pulls me down into his chest. “I’m gonna fucking kill ‘em.”
“Don’t.” I grumble. I don’t deserve to be comforted, but I let my hands meet in the small of his back anyway.
“I gotta.” He growls.
“Please don’t.” It comes out softer than I mean it to. He relaxes slightly beneath my arms. “I just want this to be over. Please.”
The hand holding the knife goes slack at his side. Lazily, he slips it back into his pocket. His arms wrap around me. I didn’t realize how cold I was until I felt him. He rocks us both gently for a few moments. I don’t want to cry. I could, but I don’t want to. Instead, I bitch.
“You can’t drive.” I mumble. “And I don’t mean you don’t have a license, I mean you suck at driving.”
“Like I was gonna take a bus after that call.”
Afterwards, no one in the bar would look at me. They saw what happened—they knew—and they all kept their eyes low, thinking, why did this douche have to come here and make the night awkward for everyone. It took so long to force the bartender to notice me, even though I was bleeding and drooling and all over the bar. He pretended not to notice my face as he slid his own cell phone over to me. By the time I was done, I had to wipe it off on the hip of my dress. I held it out to him, and he gestured to the counter. He didn’t want to touch it. Makes sense.
“I wanna go.” I grumble into Osomatsu’s neck. He nods. One arm still wrapped around my hip, he gently guides me the short distance to the passenger seat. The gravel kind of hurts, but my feet are too numb to feel it properly. Oso opens the door for me, like we’re on a date or something. It just makes me sadder.
When he comes around to his driver’s side, his hoodie’s off. He drapes it over my shoulders carelessly before jamming the keys in. Again, he tries to shift gears with his foot off of the brake.
“I’m getting blood on this.” I murmur, pressing his hoodie to my skin, sapping its warmth.
“That’s fine.” Looking over his shoulder, he pulls out, dangerously close to skimming the next row of cars. Once he’s out on the road, I can relax a little. Even Osomatsu can drive in a straight line. “Do you wanna go to Urgent Care?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Do we need, uh…one of those kit things?”
It takes me a second to figure out he’s talking about a rape kit. I grimace as I shake my head, my wig flopping a little over the frozen rims of my ears. “I, uh…” Every part of this evening has shown just how scummy and unworthy of existence I am. Osomatsu and I…we do…stuff. We’re not really dating. We’ve never talked about exclusivity. But I still feel like shit as I mumble, “There was a guy, and I thought he knew…yaknow, that I’m a guy, but I guess not…and then we uh, we went into the bathroom and when he saw, he got…mad.”
Osomatsu’s grimly silent. Lights coming down the opposite side of the road light him up briefly, and I can see the tense set of his jaw. It’s disgusting, seeing him look like that. I deserve it and I still fucking hate it.
“That was really stupid. That was really, really stupid, Choro. Like, even I wouldn’t do that.”
“I know.” I seethe. “Obviously.”
“You shoulda let me kill him.”
“He left. And anyway, watching you get your ass kicked by a guy with a hundred yen knife sticking out of his shoulder wouldn’t really fix anything.” He takes that quietly. We’ve both made good points. I fiddle with the heat. We drive in silence for a few minutes.
I don’t want to cry. The only thing that could make me hate myself more right now is crying.
“You can wipe your nose on my hoodie.”
“I’m sorry.” I whimper, doing so. The tears are itchy on my chapped cheeks.
“Not like I’m gonna wash it.”
“No—I’m sorry about tonight. I…” I don’t have anything else to say. Oso’s hand leaves the wheel to squeeze my bloodied knee.
“How come you never dress up like that for me?” It’s too dark to see, but there’s a smile in his voice. “I bet you looked incredible earlier tonight.”
“I just look like a bony dude in a cheap wig.” I set my hand over the vent, just so I have something to do.
“Shut up. That’s what you’re gonna do to pay me back. I wanna see this whole outfit put together properly. Maybe I can take you out on the town. Show you off.” He gives my knee a reassuring squeeze. “You know, if you wanted to dress up like a chick and bang strangers in bars, you coulda invited me.”
“I wasn’t…I didn’t think you’d…” I can’t say it. I can’t say what I thought he would feel with both of us knowing I did it anyway.
“I don’t care if you do other people.” His voice loses the humor for a moment. “I care that you take care of yourself. Please tell me you’ve never gotten into anyone’s car or gone to their apartment or anything.”
“Like…how do I say it…if you don’t care about yourself, that’s one thing. But if you care about me, you should care about the things I care about, and I care about you. Does that make sense? It’s kinda like you don’t care if I have to go through losing you or seeing you…like this. And that’s worse than just about anything anyone could do to me.” He sucks his tongue as a means of punctuation.
“You’re oddly lucid.”
“It’s the adrenaline. And I mean it. If you wanna keep putting on women’s clothing and hanging around in bars, I’ll go with you. I’ll be your bodyguard.”
I chew my lip, tasting the mingled blood and lipstick. We make a jerky stop at a red light; Osomatsu throws his arm protectively across my chest. “I would probably feel better about myself if you weren’t being so uncharacteristically nice and understanding.”
The bus ride out here took the whole evening. Osomatsu took maybe an hour to drive out—I guess he was speeding. I count myself lucky he didn’t get pulled over. What an idiot. …That’s not fair. I’m the idiot here.
Together, we zoom down the straight, empty roads. In fast forward like this, the highway’s actually pretty. Kinda. Out of the city, there are stars freckling the dark sky overhead. They look frozen in place, like once the sun comes out, they’ll melt and dribble down and burn the asphalt like acid rain. The idea that the night’ll be destroyed in just a few hours, that it’s gonna be washed away in the sunrise, it’s comforting.
Osomatsu’s face doesn’t lend itself to seriousness. It’s too soft. In profile, revealed in swaths of light from the cars dotting the road, he looks a little handsome. It doesn’t suit him at all.
I ask a question I really don’t want to ask. I’ve been so selfish tonight already. “How badly would I have to fuck up for you to not come save me?”
He shakes his head lightly. He doesn’t think. “I’ll always come. You can fuck up as badly as you need to.”
I lap at the wet scab on my lip nervously. “…You, too. I…”
I feel like if I say something Choromatsu-like, it’ll unclench the fist in my chest. But I kinda like the fist in my chest. Instead, I let my forehead drift sideways, ‘til it’s pressing lightly to Osomatsu’s soft shoulder. My heavy breath echoes off of him, tickling my chin.
“You can sleep. I’ll wake you up when we’re home.”
“Okay.” I let my eyes fall shut. His warm smell is thawing my sinuses. I can breathe again.