Monthly Archives: February 2012

nicolas cage weekend!

Forget what I said about people on the Night Shift being “normal”.  If I’m the only example you’re ever going to meet then I’m certainly representing the opposite.  When asked what my plans were for the weekend, I replied that I’d be having none other than a “Nicolas Cage Weekend”, of course!

Courtesy of bornrich.com

Now, now, I know what you’re going to say about Nicolas Cage and his acting skills, but one thing you can’t blame him for is lack of variety.  Take, for instance, his portrayal of an OCD con artist in Matchstick Men and the “morally compromised” detective in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans.  Who does roles like that?  I find it hard to think of many who do…

While his action movies aren’t always successful or interesting (not even I can stomach The Sorceror’s Apprentice), Cage sometimes puts his own spin on things, supping Jelly Beans in Ghost Rider or imitating Travolta’s acting in Face/Off.

He also takes on scripts with surprisingly strong concepts – Knowing and Next come instantly to mind.  Why no one enjoyed Next is actually beyond me.  It’s based on Philip K. Dick’s The Golden Man and everyone knows you can’t go wrong with a Philip K. Dick, so what’s the problem with this one?  He is honestly better than Matt Damon in The Adjustment Bureau!

Still not a Nicolas Cage fan?  Well, the key to appreciating his performances is through the eyes.  Look at his eyes.  Like Ethan Hawke, Cage has that nice guy look about him, a look that tells you he has been through some shit, despite all the millions.


“one more day”

Goodness, I forgot about this one!  Here’s another Uraboku fan fic I wrote a few months ago.  It isn’t as polished as “The One Who Loved Ashley”, though it was far easier to write.  The story centres on Shuusei again and gives him a fleshier background (no pun intended).

And the reason for my interest in Shuusei’s health?  Well, I can’t think of a male character in any series where their thinness is constantly questioned.  While all anime characters are designed to be typically thin, it seems that eating disorders in guys is an overlooked issue.

* * *

+ One More Day +

Shuusei stared at the soup in front of him.  Aware that his refusal would be awkward for the others, he raised his left hand, and with slightly trembling fingers, grasped the handle of a wide silver spoon lying quietly on the tablecloth.  Vegetable soup, he thought.  You can eat vegetable soup.  He dipped the spoon towards the light brown liquid and skimmed its creamy surface, hesitating for a second, before bringing the spoon to his lips–

‘Seriously, don’t tease him!  You know he doesn’t get it!’

Startled by laughter, Shuusei hastily lowered the spoon, as if the gesture had embarrassed him; he gazed from the glistening soup to the lively expressions of Yuki and Tachibana.  Apparently, the latter had referred to a joke in the past which Yuki no longer remembered.  Resting the spoon in his bowl, Shuusei considered pushing his chair away from the table and excusing himself, only to feel a pressure leaning softly on his thigh.   He side-glanced his partner Hotsuma, whose face appeared to be engaged with the conversation around him, betraying none of his anger or inner concern; then he glanced at the place on the tablecloth where Hotsuma’s hand was pressing down – down and down on his thigh beneath the table.

Stay and have a good time… and eat the goddamned soup! 

His lips pursed together, caught between an urge to smile and cry.  His sole reason for being present this evening was to spend time with the others.  Apart from Takashiro, and sometimes Tsukumo, the others had barely seen him, stealing what moments they could during meal-times or by knocking on his door when they felt he was free.  The police had been especially vigorous of late, requesting Shuusei as a ‘clairvoyant’ now that they actually believed in him.  They were as uneasy as ever, though, cautious not to trust what he could do until there was sufficient indisputable evidence; but they always changed their minds once the results came, grimly pleased with the justice he had brought them.

Silent, Shuusei placed his hand over Hotsuma’s, treating the warm, trusting grip in the manner he usually would when testing the spheres.  The habit itself made him tense.  Had he really worked so much that it could influence his conduct here, in less formal settings?  He raised the glass near his soup bowl and sipped the ice-cold water.  In his mouth, it tasted metallic and bitter.  He swallowed with difficulty.  Prior to a séance, he would settle his mind as he clutched the spheres that would let him into the past, clearing his thoughts of everything but the details relevant to the case.  He called on this method now, to eradicate the mood that was fast invading his mind.  He wanted to be alone.  He wanted to be in his room, more than anything.  But he tried to suppress this need so the evening could be spent with the other Zweilt Guardians.

‘Shuusei,’ asked Toko, leaning forward from her place at the table, ‘what’s the matter?  Are you ill?’

Worried eyes turned to Shuusei in an instant.

Startled, he shoved Hotsuma’s hand from his thigh and threw them a quick smile.  ‘I’m just tired,’ he said.  ‘I think I need to rest.’

‘Certainly, Shuusei-kun,’ replied Tachibana, on everyone’s behalf.  ‘Make sure to visit the kitchens later.  Katsumi will heat up your food.’

* * *

Shuusei was careful to lift the specially softened fabric as he unbuttoned his shirt, treating the scars as if they still throbbed with pain.  Despite the numerous skin grafts designed to censor the damage, they were ugly to look at and felt like the hide from some strange, foreign creature.  He listened for the sound of footsteps in the corridor; there were none to be heard.  Relieved, he shed the rest of his clothes and stored them in the lockers before entering the bathing hall.

In truth, Shuusei could not handle bathing with other people.  While Hotsuma had not forbidden him to show the scars across his shoulders, there was something almost shameful in allowing them to be seen, like the world was being told a most hideous secret – even a glimpse of these scars could resurrect the lingering guilt of his fire-wielding partner, causing him to dwell incessantly on the past and how he should never have hurt Shuusei.  With a strangled smile, Hotsuma would often reach out and touch the snaking weals on the dark, injured skin, and always, he would apologise and swiftly turn away.

A hand twitched up, rubbing at the tension building in his throat.  Blinking, he washed his body in silence and smoothed his narrow limbs over and over with soap.  He was thinner than he should be.  Although his friends were polite and pretended this was normal, he knew that his health was frequently on their minds, weighing his body through intimate gestures and offering food with obsessive regularity.  Shuusei would accept their “fussing” with a ready smile, though he had come to the point where he loathed all physical contact, even going so far as to dump a long-term girlfriend.  Rinsing his skin, he replaced the toiletries on their original shelves and strolled towards the communal bath, wiping the side of his face.

His dread of eating came from childhood.  On a daily basis, his parents would snipe and argue in front of their only son, explicit with their hatred of having to care for him.  They would bang his plate on the table and endlessly tally the mounting expense, never once addressing the tense young boy who would force himself to eat in an effort to please them.

Back then, he was still considered a burden, no matter what he did.  Thinking he could lessen the strain somehow, regardless how small, Shuusei endeavoured to do his best at school and returned with invitations from prestigious academies.  Rather than rejoice, however, his parents would fight over who should attend the parent-teacher meetings then row from the stress of always hearing compliments.  By the time he was ten years old, his parents had abandoned any semblance of a proper family, taking their meals in separate rooms and reserving the brunt of their anger and resentment for when they were forced to actually serve him.  With this lonely routine in place, it was easy for Shusei to dispose of his meals or claim that he had eaten before coming home.

I want to disappear…  Please let me disappear…

Pausing in bathrooms or checking dim reflections in vehicles and windows, he would say these words as he studied his face.  His cheeks had sunk.  His wrists were too slim.  And he could hide in the clothes he had been wearing a week ago.  Instead of alarm, Shuusei felt something almost close to triumph, the feeling he would have felt had his parents thought to praise him.

Then his parents announced his impending departure: some man named Giou had paid for Shuusei to leave their house.  Despite how the prospect should have made him feel relieved, he remembered the tears which had gathered in his eyes, the way that his throat had seized up with anguish.  They were just being spiteful, he thought.  They would never resort to that!  But the man with pale, flowing hair smiled kindly in the background and soon stepped forward to take him away…

Shuusei winced as the water lapped against his scars.  He rarely thought of his parents.  He had died a few times since he had last seen them.  Memories of their malice were naturally faint, not as sharp as they once might have been.  Stroking the harmless scars, Shuusei closed his eyes and strived to recollect a different set of memories – anything to lift the slow, rising ache.

He chose that day he had woken up in hospital.  A breeze from an open window was ruffling his hair, cooling the sheen of sweat lining his forehead, while the chime of a regular heartbeat measured the anxious silence.  It was far too bright, he recalled, and he was paralysed with pain, unable to place the source of its burning, yet the shadow of Hotsuma had ineffably calmed him, made the sunlight bearable.

Made him want to live.

‘You didn’t eat, did you?’

Cringing, Shuusei sank to his chin in the water, hiding his shoulders.  ‘Hotsuma,’ he said, ‘I’ll be out in a minute.’  He waited for the footsteps to leave him alone; instead, they approached and stopped just behind him.  He touched his chest instinctively, to conceal the worst of his scars, and shied away from the Zweilt as he entered the water.

‘Tell me,’ said Hotsuma, ‘why do you do this?’

Shuusei smiled.  ‘I don’t know,’ he answered honestly.  ‘Let’s make something up?’

‘I can’t live without you,’ continued Hotsuma, in no mood to joke.  ‘You do understand that?’  He brushed possessive fingers along his partner’s collarbone, moving leisurely up the skin of Shuusei’s neck until they neared his jaw-line.

The gesture caused Shuusei to freeze; his heartbeat had quickened.  ‘H-Hotsuma,’ he stammered.  ‘D-don’t…’

‘Please,’ Hotsuma mumbled, ‘I want you to live.’

Tears escaped, joining the water.

‘Of course,’ said Shuusei.



jealousy knows your name

Back in the days when I used to be unemployed and free from the grasps of the Night Shift, I became obsessed with “Uragiri wa boku no namae wo shitteru” (“Betrayal Knows My Name”) and tried my hand at writing a story based on one of its characters.

The character I chose is none other than Usui Shuusei, better known as “the Eyes of God” by his fellow immortal counterparts and generally seen looking handsome in the background whilst casting spells of defense with two floating orbs.  What makes Shuusei more special than the rest, however, is the fact that he constantly endures the numberless guilt trips suffered by Hotsuma, who accidentally injured Shuusei during an attempt to commit suicide.  To me, the kind of person who could save a friend’s life and rarely says a word about his own personal demons has got to be interesting.

So I started writing about Shuusei.

Unfortunately, I never did get the story done.  The writing style required is pretty difficult – present tense has always been a challenge for me.  Nevertheless, let me share what little I managed to achieve in that time between going to work on the Night Shift and doing all the ‘important’ things that working adults do.

This part-story is dedicated to a writer aptly named thelastunicorn, who has published stories on the pairing of Shuusei and Hotsuma (not my outlook, though I wouldn’t say “no”…)  After reading the masterpiece that is “Soft Side”, I remember contacting the writer merely to gush like a fan-girl about their stupendous writing, only to hear how they had to publish through LiveJournal instead of the more popular fanfiction.net because of cruel feedback.  Now fan fiction writers aren’t necessarily known for the art of writing stories, but thelastunicorn is good and deserved better treatment than what they received.  Feedback can be cruel but it should never be jealous… let us hope all those haters get boyfriends and girlfriends!  Or at least a cat…

 * * *

+ The One Who Loved Ashley +

First Glimpse

Indicating where Shuusei should stand, Isuzu observes the Zweilt’s movements with clinical interest and focuses on the clipboard held firmly in front of him.  The Eyes of God can see everything, even into the minds of people like doctors, so Isuzu keeps his disapproval a secret, simply pointing to a chair not far from his desk.  Reluctantly, the boy sits and waits for Isuzu to finish writing his notes.  Without looking, the doctor can sense that his patient is anxious, unwilling to discuss what was read on the scales.  He smiles and asks, ‘No change, then?’ ignoring, for the moment, any physical symptoms.

He refers solely to the Zweilt’s psychological health, concerned with identifying the cause of his persistent thinness.  To be a Zweilt, you have to meet certain requirements, like having a natural talent and also possessing the strongest of wills.  While Isuzu may not be involved in selecting these future candidates, it is plain to him that this one must be flawed, since none should ever place self-destruction over duty.

He studies the angles of Shuusei’s whittled frame and wonders how to broach such an awkward diagnosis.  In previous lives, the Eyes of God had always struggled with eating disorders, vomiting from the stress of uncensored visions or denying food as a desperate form of control.  Isuzu rubs at his jaw, scratching at the stubble, and twirls a ballpoint pen fluidly through his fingers.  This is all in the archives at the main Giou residence, and the evidence is before him in plain flesh and bone, so why is it hard for Isuzu to say something?

Shuusei, you’re ill: let us help you.

As if to save Isuzu the hassle, Shuusei removes from his blazer a teal-coloured cell-phone and flips it open with a business-like air.  A message from Takashiro, Isuzu assumes; there is always some query from the local police.

‘Understood,’ Shuusei eventually nods, ending the conversation.  He replaces the cell-phone in the breast of his blazer and smiles a little in the doctor’s direction.  ‘I have to be going now.  Shall we talk about this later?’

Isuzu stands; there might not be a “later” and the both of them know this.  ‘Usui-kun, we’re worried.  Can’t you see what you’re doing here?’

Shuusei still smiles, though it flickers for a moment as he thinks of an answer.  ‘I’m fine, Dr. Isuzu,’ he decides.  ‘Thank you, once again, for seeing me.’

*  *  *

‘Explain,’ demands Hotsuma, as soon as Shuusei exits the office.  He is leaning against the wall with two satchels at his feet, posture suggesting a bitter kind of patience.  ‘Well?’ he continues, holding out the satchel belonging to Shuusei and trying to read his partner’s expression.  ‘You’re always with that doctor when there’s nothing even wrong with you.  Damn it, are you sick?  Or is it something that I’ve done?’

Dismissing the palm resting lightly on his forehead, Shuusei replies, ‘You never pay attention,’ and strides down the hallway to the mahogany staircase, which he gracefully descends two steps at a time.  Only when Shuusei is clear of Twilight Mansion does he glance at the Voice of God trailing behind him.  ‘Don’t be such a mother-hen,’ he chides.  ‘Isuzu just wanted to talk.’

‘Is it anything serious?’

‘No.’

‘Then why won’t you tell me?’ Hotsuma glares.

They walk to school in silence, neither willing to argue, and join the stream of students along the main path.

For the second year running, the sakura blossoms are out early: a sign that the city will have a sweltering summer.  As they near the school grounds, petals whirl across the streets, littering the roads with endless shores of pink and frosting the hair of rushing commuters.

Shuusei used to like this time of the year.  He used to view the brevity of life as a beautiful thing, seeing the petals in the form of human lives as they danced through the air to their final place of rest.  But the sight of all these petals now makes him unbearably sad.  They force him think of the times that he nearly lost Hotsuma.

‘You’re having an affair with Isuzu, aren’t you?’

Shuusei gives the Zweilt a quick thump.  ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ he says.

They pause at the gate, staring towards the building where they spend their days apart.  Crowning the school is a marble clock, gleaming in the sky like a vigilant moon: its face reads quarter-past seven.

‘Shit, that’s early!’ cries Hotsuma, in reference to the time reflected on his watch.  He jumps as Shuusei’s hand glides up and settles on his hair, gentle as a feather.  Hotsuma reddens, eyes darting, checking to see if someone has noticed.  ‘Shuusei, what are you–’

‘Hopeless,’ murmurs Shuusei, a petal between his fingertips; it flutters to the ground and joins the others scattered around them.

‘H-hey!  Where are you going?’

‘To meet a new student.  I’m giving him a tour.’

‘Then what about me, you bastard!  What am I supposed to do?  It’s not even eight!’

‘You’re the one who followed me.  You figure it out.’

Shuusei strolls away to the sound of Hotsuma swearing.  Hopeless, he thinks, with a melancholy smirk.  Truly hopeless.

He enters the locker hall to change his shoes then heads for the principal’s office.  The school is calm, old in its stillness, and nothing like the atmosphere of Twilight Mansion.  Within its walls is the only place where Shuusei feels distant from just about anyone who has yet to pass a lifetime.  It has always been this way, since Takashiro cast the spell.

‘Usui-kun, good morning!  I was hoping to find you.’

Faintly, Shuusei smiles at the middle-aged man approaching him on the corridor and provides a shallow bow in response to the greeting.  ‘Sir, how are you?  Is the new student here yet?’

‘Yes,’ the principal beams, swelling with a pride that Shuusei finds unusual.  ‘What a shame he had to transfer, but another school’s loss is another one’s gain.’

They proceed to an office where the door is already open.  The principal enters first, followed by Shuusei, whose gaze disregards the opulent settings in favour of the boy standing next to the window.

‘Yamada-kun,’ says the principal, gesturing to Shuusei, ‘your new classmate is here to show you around.’

The boy slowly turns from his view of the courtyard.  His face is delicate, like a girl’s, and framed by ebony hair too masculine for his features.  Instead of smiling, he considers Shuusei with strangely guarded eyes.

‘Yamada Toru,’ he bows, ‘pleased to make your acquaintance.’

*  *  *

Takashiro stares at the inspector sitting nervously opposite.  ‘What leads you to conclude that this case is paranormal?  Apart from suicide and the absence of any notes, these victims seem to me like the type to end their lives.’

‘So it may seem,’ responds the inspector, reaching timidly across the paper-strewn table to point out the entries in each victim’s journal, ‘but their writing starts to sound more and more positive.  These people were actually getting better, so why would they want to kill themselves?  Why would they even go that far?  Their families simply wish to know.’

Takashiro drops his stare and lingers on the photo of a leather-bound memoir, a jotter plastered with stickers, a diary concealed as a textbook.  ‘Inspector,’ he says, ‘did the victims ever keep a journal online?’

‘No, the journals were written by hand.  None of the victims had a journal on the internet.’

‘Would this strike you as eccentric?’

The inspector shrugs.  ‘People write things down; not everyone needs a computer.’

‘I suppose not,’ mutters Takashiro, and peers at the photos with slightly narrowed eyes.  ‘Inspector, show us the journals.  Our specialist will see them.’


people

Hearing what they say–what they think –

is no different to counting the waves

of a troubled sea or the veins in a leaf

being blown by the wind.

 


yoga flame…!

I’ve started doing yoga with the help of YogaVidya, a site I discovered whilst browsing YouTube.  After months of fretting about my sedentary lifestyle and the negative effects it was having on my health, I thought of ways I could exercise without leaving the apartment.  Having jogged on the spot and star-jumped in the kitchen to no avail ( and lots of broken crockery), I eventually settled on yoga, a pretentious-sounding name from the mouths of middle-class housewives but the only sport I could manage in a small, confined space.

And before you ask me any questions, my knowledge of yoga is zilch.  I don’t know what a “sun salutation” is or why “dog down” is called “dog down”.  I just know that it’s incredibly relaxing, despite the funny shapes, and gives you this notable energy and poise you wouldn’t expect from a slow-talking man with a sitar.

First video I watched was “The Beginner’s Yoga Class 20 Minutes”.  The instructions were clear and easy to follow, even with your eyes closed, and you could understand the benefits of what you were doing simply from the way your body responded.  From stretching your leg, you could sense it feeling “longer”, a result which makes yoga seem like an intelligent form of exercise as it requires you to contemplate what you are doing to your body, rather than just doing it.

Even though the session lasted 20 minutes, it didn’t really feel that way.  Contrary to certain beliefs, yoga is easier to include in your daily routine than you think as it passes by in an instant when you’re deep in the moment.  I found myself thinking less or not thinking at all.  It has made me interested in doing yoga more and possibly reading up on what it all means (but not too much or I’ll never get the yoga done!)

Give it a try – really good for the Night Shift!


valentine’s day at the human body exhibition

Today I decided to get a life and booked a couple of tickets for The Human Body Exhibition.  While it’s not a common place to spend Valentine’s Day with your boyfriend, it certainly gives the two of you something to talk about.

Real human beings, cast and preserved for educational purposes, are the stars of this exhibition.  You see this immediately when you enter the first dimly lit room: a man stripped of his skin, mid-stride, athletic – strangely alive.

According to one assistant, the bodies come from China, where cadavers, unclaimed, are surrendered to science under Chinese law.  The chemical process these cadavers go through went a little over my head, I’ll admit (filling veins and arteries with plaster then dissolving the tissue in chemicals; taking up to a year to chemically preserve a body that will last for decades; etc.), though it made me sad how people could become this way because no one had come to claim them.

Interestingly enough, most exhibits were male, with only one female, and a section contained some foetal specimens, which you could avoid by turning left if that kind of thing upset you.  Not ones to get upset, we explored the whole exhibition, reading the little plaques and staring at the intimate portraits whilst barely saying a word.  About halfway, I turned to my boyfriend and confessed how strange the exhibition felt.  ‘It makes me hungry,’ I said, with no shame whatsoever; the sight of glistening muscle can make you feel that way near lunch-time.

All in all, “The Human Body Exhibition” is worth a glimpse.  Can’t say it lasted very long (it was over in an hour), but it’s the right length of time to pay your respects to a group of anonymous people who may or may not deserve being displayed to the public.

x x Happy Valentine’s Day! x x