Throughout the following weeks, I was forced to accept the extent of my rage and my control over it, which remained disappointingly low. It wasn’t long before I decided that I needed to try a new approach, and built up the courage to apply for a therapy session from the flyer I had seen prior. I was afraid, because I didn’t want to expose my vulnerabilities to another person; I didn’t want to be sprawled out across a thin surface to be examined. I didn’t know if I could trust them. Yet despite all that, I felt I was losing to myself, and wanted to believe that perhaps a professional could pull me out of the darkness that had kept me bound all those years. Holding on to that hope, I made my way to my first therapy session, my lips trembling from nervousness.
“Hello, you are Kuroda Hanzou, correct?”
I nodded slightly, keeping my head low. My eyes glanced about the room and ultimately settled at the table between the therapist and I, because making direct eye contact felt increasingly unsettling, and I couldn’t maintain it. “...Yes.”
“Well, Kuroda,” the therapist started, “it may be difficult to do this right now, but try to get comfortable, even if just a little.”
I caught a glimpse of his face, and he smiled softly, as if reassuring me that there was nothing to worry about.
“To start off,” he asked, “why don’t you tell me a little about how your day has been?”
It was a simple question to ease me into the process, but I still felt as if something in my answer would be wrong, and that I’d be caught off guard. Despite my thoughts, however, the entirety of that first session was rather straightforward, and the therapist did not pry into topics that I shied away from. Unlike my vivid expectations of scrutiny, it was more of a basic conversation, and I hardly addressed the more concerning aspects of my condition. It was slow-paced and natural, and although I wanted to improve my self-control quickly, I found the nature of the session relieving. By the time I had left, I thought to myself, that it may not be so difficult to bring myself to go to future sessions. Outside the counseling building, I stopped for a moment and closed my eyes a little, breathing in the fresh air and the soft fragrance of nearby flowers. “When you think of your future, I hope that you will see progression towards a more positive place.” Am I finally taking a step towards that direction?
* * *
I turned across the table to look at Kazama, who was gazing leisurely over the room, his head propped on both hands. “What?”
He turned to look at me, his light brown eyes glinting under the reflection of the lights. “We’ve known each other for quite a while now, right?”
“...It’s been a few months,” I replied. “Why?”
“Just wondering,” he said, “why won’t you let me call you Hanzou?”
“Or at least, if you don’t like it, you can call me Akihito,” he followed. “Almost everyone calls me that.”
He paused, staring at me questioningly. “Is there a specific reason?”
In my mind, a brief image reappeared, and I tried not to think of it, to remove it from my memory. “Hanzou.” It was a sweet voice, followed by tinkling laughter. “Can I call you that? I like the sound of your name.” Back then, I had been flustered, but it was a positive emotion, and I readily accepted it. I believed that calling each other by our first names meant we were closer, and that we had a mutual relationship. That’s why I had easily called all of them in that manner, despite never having done it before and feeling nervous. Yet, I realized that that gesture had hardly meant anything near that value to them. Somehow, I didn’t want to tarnish the significance that I had placed in our names even further, despite the fact that it had already been done once before.
“Well I… just don’t think I’m ready yet,” I replied, a little hesitant to explain. I didn’t want him to misunderstand, but I couldn’t bring myself to call his name until I could truly call myself his friend. And where I was, I couldn’t trust myself.
Responding in such a way to his friendliness, I was almost afraid to confront his gaze. What if I’m wrong? What if he thinks I’m denying him? What if he leaves me? The thoughts that filled my head were endless, and I couldn’t help but fall into that same fear that often occupied my mind. I hadn’t wanted to get close to him, nor anyone else, and yet upon catching a glimpse of belonging, I was afraid to let go. “I’m...sorry, Kazama.”
“Oh man,” Kazama exclaimed, startling me a little. “Was that too much? I didn’t mean it like that!”
He brought his face to my level, and I realized that his expression was worried. “Please don’t say you’re sorry, Kuroda! I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
Then, smiling softly, he added, “Let’s go at your pace, yeah? I won’t bring it up again ‘till you’re ready.”
An immense surge of relief flowed over me, and I was almost able to return his smile. “Thanks, Kazama. I appreciate it.”
His smile broke into a grin, and he patted me on the back roughly. “Sorry for dampening the mood,” he laughed. “Want to grab something to eat after class?”
The sudden offer caught me off guard, but I nodded slightly. “Sure.”