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Pas de Deux

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            You saw him every night at the bar across from your apartment: the man in the red sweater, sporting a messy bowlcut and a puerile grin. Eavesdropping on his drunken conversations with nearby strangers quickly became your favorite distraction – or in other words, your favorite way to forget that you spent just as much time at this bar as he did.

            On this particular night, he’s ranting into his beer about some sort of family dispute. Most of the other patrons have long since stopped listening to him, but you can’t help but find yourself fascinated by his barely coherent griping. Something about baseball in outer space? But that couldn’t be possible; you must be hearing wrong. Normally you’ve kept your distance from him and simply listened, but tonight something feels different. It might be the alcohol in your own system, but you feel the urge to finally introduce yourself to this man.

            Before the wiser part of your brain gets a chance to stop you, you pick up your drink and navigate to the empty stool beside the red-sweatered man. It’s a few moments before he notices you, but when he does he falls utterly silent. Then a grin spreads across his face.

            “Hey, were you actually listening to what I was saying before? It’s no big deal. My brothers are the ones who are the best at sports, not me. I mostly drink from the sidelines. Actually, I just mostly drink all the time.” He laughs and takes a swig of beer. “But anyways, you’re the best looking guy here! You could be hitting on girls instead of listening to me. I could be hitting on girls instead of listening to me! Maybe I’ll actually talk to a girl tonight – hold on.” He leans away and heaves onto the polished wood floor.

            Two minutes later, you’re standing together on the sidewalk outside the bar, trying to ignore the icy rain that falls around you. You can’t believe you offered to walk him home after the bartender forced him to leave.

            “So,” you begin, “how far away is your house? Should I walk you or find a bus?”

            The man just laughs. “There’s no way I’m going home tonight. It’s not like I have to get up in the morning, or really do anything important. I’ll just wander around out here for a while, okay? Maybe go to the video store and watch something in the back…” He steps off the curb and promptly slips on a patch of ice. “Crap,” he moans. “My jeans are all wet.”

            It’s snap decision time. “I guess you could… Listen, my apartment is right across the street. If you won’t go home, at least sleep on my couch for the night. You can borrow a pair of pants if you like.”

            The man’s eyes widen as he gazes up at you. “Really? I mean, it’s not as fun as sleeping on a girl’s couch but it’s better than nothing. What’s your name, by the way?”

            “Kiyoshi. What’s yours?” You offer your hand.

            “I’m Osomatsu.” He grasps your hand and pulls himself up from the icy street. For a moment, he stares at his hand in yours, then rips his hand away and gestures for you to lead on to your apartment. Taking his cue, you stuff your hands in your pockets and cross the street. Something back there seemed a bit off: you hope he isn’t one of those guys who gets weirded out by physical contact with the same gender. Osomatsu follows you up the flight of stairs to your apartment without speaking, but when you finally unlock your door and invite him inside, he lets out a shocked gasp. Oh no – you forgot about the posters on your walls.

            Before you can cut him off, he runs up to one of them. “Wow, this is Mikhail Baryshnikov! I love him! I used to watch his videos all the time when I was younger; I wanted to dance just like him.” He turns towards you, his expression innocent. “Were you a dancer before?”

            Your brain struggles to speak through your shock. What are the odds that a stranger from your local bar would be… Is it possible that he might be… “Yeah,” you manage. “I used to dance. Not anymore though.”

            Osomatsu frowns. “Yeah, me too. I don’t miss it, though. It’s too girly for me.” He plops onto your couch and begins to pull his pants down. “Ah, I hate wet denim,” he mumbles. “So cold and uncomfortable.” You quickly turn away and dash into your room, mumbling something about finding him dry clothes. You doubt if he heard you.

            Safely in your bedroom, you close the door behind you and lean your shoulders against it. What kind of mistake did you make bringing this guy home? He was a dancer at one point, but now he’s such a starch manly man that he can’t get through a sentence without mentioning it. Strict masculinity is the last thing you need right now. The last thing you’ve ever needed, really. It’s just that so many people want you to have it. And this man, Osomatsu, really is kind of good looking, in an out-of-shape frat boy kind of way. He’s not your type, but the inexplicable innocence written into his eyes fascinates you. You feel a knock on the door behind you.

            “Hey Kiyoshi-san, I accidentally may have thrown up on your floor. Sorry. Also, my legs are cold.” Dragging your mind back into the present, you dig out a pair of sweatpants from your dresser and a mop from the back of your closet.

            Twenty minutes later. Your floor is mostly free from vomit and Osomatsu is curled up on your couch, wearing your sweatpants. His eyelids are drooping, and you’re about to excuse yourself and go to bed when he begins to talk, his voice a drunken slur.

            “You know, Kiyoshi-san, I’ve seen you at the bar a lot. You’re always sitting alone. And whenever I see you sitting alone, I always think: why him? He’s probably the most beautiful man on the planet and he’s alone. It’s no wonder I’m alone, if he can’t even find a guy to date. I mean, a girl. That’s what I meant to say.”

            You freeze in place, and glance over your shoulder at Osomatsu. He looks barely awake. He probably won’t remember any of this tomorrow morning. Best not to think anything of it, but you can’t help yourself… “Don’t be so down on yourself, Osomatsu-san. You’re pretty good looking yourself, and fun to listen to. Any guy would be lucky to date you. I mean, any girl.” With that, you leave him in your living room.

            The next morning, you stumble out of your bedroom to find Osomatsu still asleep on your couch. You figure he’ll have the mother of all hangovers when he actually wakes up, so you slip past him and into the kitchen to brew some tea and cook some semblance of a breakfast. Snippets of last night drift through your mind as you crack eggs into a frying pan: did Osomatsu really pay attention to you from across the bar? Was he really a dancer – and if so, why did he suddenly decide that dancing was “too girly” for him? And why was he so adamant about wanting to date girls…

            You hear footsteps behind you, and whip your head around in time to see Osomatsu’s sleepy eyes travelling up your back. You turn back towards the eggs to hide your unexpected blush. “Hey, Kiyoshi-san,” he says. “Thanks for letting me sleep here last night. Your couch is way comfier than mine.” He clears his throat. You flip the eggs. “Maybe next time you’re at the bar, we can hang out more. It would be nice to talk to someone other than myself and you’re… you’re pretty cool.”

In response, you drop a fried egg onto a plate and hand it to him. “Eat up. It will help with the hangover.” Osomatsu takes the plate and leans against your kitchen counter, picking at his food. You pour your tea and take up a similar position, eyeing him curiously over the steam flowing from your cup. There’s something he’s afraid to say, and you completely understand why he’s afraid. You’re scared too. “Osomatsu-san,” you begin, “do you have a girlfriend?”

The man across from you laughs. “No, not yet.”

“A boyfriend, then?”

Osomatsu gags on his egg. You grin at him. There’s his weak spot. “Of course not! Why would I? But out of curiosity, do you have a boyfriend?”

“No,” you reply. “Not yet.” Osomatsu stares at his plate, and you stare at Osomatsu. So he loves Baryshnikov, and has never dated a girl, and here he is eating breakfast at your house and wearing your pants. It’s almost funny. Osomatsu looks like he’s about to say something, but he’s interrupted by a ruckus outside your window.

“Osomatsu-niisan, where are you? We know you come here every night. You can’t avoid us forever.”

“Come out, BROTHER! Mom is worried about you. Don’t suffer all by yourself, come home!”

You rush to your window to see two figures, each identical to each other and to the man staring in your kitchen. “Osomatsu, do you know those people out there?”

He nods. “Those are my twin brothers, Choromatsu and Karamatsu.”

“You’re a triplet?”

Osomatsu laughs, rubbing his nose. “Actually, I’m a sextuplet. Those are just the only two of my brothers who get worried when I don’t come home. I should probably let them know I’m okay.” He leans out the window beside you. “Hey, you two! I’m up here, and I’m fine. I’ll be down soon.”

Once again you’re standing outside with Osomatsu, trying to keep your balance on the icy sidewalks. His two brothers run to his side, and the one in the green hoodie turns to address you. “Thanks for taking care of him last night. We’re always worried he’ll run off after some girl and get himself arrested.”

You try to hide the amused expression that fights to dominate your face. “He talks about doing that a lot?” You say.

“Oh yes,” the blue-shirted brother chimes in. “Our BROTHER is a hopeless romantic at heart. He longs for love more than any of us.” Unnoticed by the other two, the blue brother pulls his sunglasses down his nose and winks at you. “Alright, family, let’s return home. I hate leaving Jyushimatsu unsupervised for too long.” The three of them walk away together, and you realize that Osomatsu is still wearing your sweatpants.