The remainder of that first year continued in a similar manner, and I spent my time mostly studying and attending therapy sessions, and occasionally hanging out with Kazama. It would be a lie to say that my aggressive tendencies diminished dramatically, but I did feel that I had developed a little more control over the darkness in my mind, and consequently regained a bit of confidence in myself.
Throughout that time, I consistently tried to apply my study of anthropology to myself, and in doing so both distanced myself from my anger and brought myself to terms with it. It’ll be alright, I told myself, because time will continue to flow. And with time, this bout of fury is bound to dissipate. That’s how things are. Nothing lasts forever.
Those were the words I repeated over and over to myself, hoping to drive the rage out of my system before it fully overtook me. Despite the positive effects of those lines, they also held a bit of melancholic truth that seemed to bite me in the back where I was not prepared. Sometimes when Kazama invited me to spend time with others, I was reminded of the group of four that Ono, Maeda, Noguchi and I had been. And when I thought of the way we split up, and the way that Ono drove a wedge in between us and into my heart, my chest stung a little. Nothing lasts forever. Will you stay by my side?
But though I was still broken from my experiences in high school, Kazama seemed to be picking up my pieces and holding me together through his own will. I was afraid to admit it to him, but it was true that I could not fully trust him. I was afraid of hurting him, and I was afraid of being hurt by him. Despite that, Kazama continued to laugh cheerfully from beside me, as if showing me that he was not afraid. It felt as if he was telling me that even if I could not place my faith in either of us at the moment, it would be alright, because he would do it for the both of us. And his devotion was something that I could never be thankful enough for, because it gave me hope to keep believing. Believing that I could one day rid myself of this ceaseless anger, and that at that time, I’d be able to make connections like other humans, like a real human. Then, I would finally be able to remove the mad dog from my name, the monster that could only lash out at others. And I wanted to say that I was ready for that time.
“Kuroda, Kuroda!” Kazama called my name excitedly, bouncing up and down in his steps.
“I can’t believe the year’s ending already… We’ll be sophomores soon!”
“Right,” I stated, “It’s already been that long, huh…”
“Yeah,” he replied, “let’s hang out to commemorate the start of spring vacation!”
“Oh, alright.” After a pause, I added, “Where do you want to go?”
“Aye,” he laughed, “let’s go to an arcade! Just like when we were in high school.”
I pondered a little over his last comment. Was it a common occurrence to go to the arcade with friends after school? It was not something I had experienced before. Although I had spent time with friends back then, it typically did not extend long past the end of our classes, and rarely did we actually go somewhere for fun. Thinking back on it made me question what our relationship had been even further, and it left an unsettling feeling in my stomach. In the past, I had said that I wouldn’t mind even if we were only together to fight, but that didn’t feel so right anymore. I was at a loss for words. The discomfort in my stomach rose to my throat and threatened to seep into my mind, but I tried to hold it back. I clenched my fist, slamming it into a nearby wall. Unlike before, when the stinging would trigger the fury in my heart, I had begun to associate the sensation with bringing myself out of my dark thoughts, and back into the present. Although it was not the best method, it served to bring me back to my senses sooner, similarly to the stench of gasoline. My therapist had reminded me that as long as I could remove the tension from my system in a healthy way, I was on the right track.
Kazama gazed at me, with an expression I could not read. I was about to throw out some excuse for my behavior, but before I could, he patted me on the shoulder. “Always high on the tension, huh?”
“Let’s hurry along,” he grinned. “The arcade has those punching machines, you know?”
He faked some punching motions in the air as he spoke. “They’re perfect for relieving stress.”
I let out a sigh of relief. Kazama was always the same. Whether I was in a good mood, or feeling depressed, or even filled with anger, he was always understanding. If I didn’t want to explain, or just didn’t know how, he would laugh it away. He was consistently a pillar of support, building a comfortable place where I could return to. I hadn’t had the heart to rely on him, but I was slowly getting used to it. I was preparing to open my heart up again, and I thought if it was him, perhaps I wouldn’t be let down so harshly this time around.
“Yes,” I responded, “let’s go try them out.”
Kazama laughed again, and his untiring chatter continued all the way until we reached the nearest arcade. Despite his loudness, it was comforting to hear his voice, and I felt that I could listen to him speak forever.