“Hurry! We’re gonna be late to the ceremony!” Tegoshi shouted from the hall.
“Just a minute!” Shige shouted back from the bathroom where he was trying to rein his unruly hair.
“If you’ll make yourself look any better than that I’ll have to drag you back to bed and we won’t go anywhere,” Tegoshi warned sticking his head inside. The man’s hair was platinum blond but longer than what it used to be when he came back from Europe.
“Ok.” Shige finally let his hair be and went to the hall to put his shoes on. They both wore black suits and though they were quite different, there was still a certain couple look about them.
“It’s gonna be fine. I promise,” the blond said fixing Shige’s tie even though it was perfect already. His hands were caught and pressed to the taller man’s chest for a moment, then released.
“I know,” Shige replied trying his best to hide his nervousness.
It was sunny outside and rather windy which made Shige hear some dramatic instrumental soundrack in his head. Despite the lack of time, they walked slowly, savouring the route that would soon become obsolete. At least Shige did, Tegoshi was probably just matching his pace, he never was that sentimental. The walk to the campus was silent.
Guys in suits and girls in hakama were bustling animatedly near the main hall. Some were eyeing the two of them curiously but most were too caught up in the occasion to care. They didn’t stick around much and the ceremony was just about to begin anyway.
They took their seats at the back on the hall. Shige didn’t hear any of the speeches, the sound faded out at some point. His mind was flooded with memories of the past 4 years. There was so much to it. Shige glanced at Tegoshi. The blond looked perfectly calm but he was wondering if he was a little nervous too.
Their decision to come out publicly was something that came naturally but, within the next three years, there were times when Shige couldn’t stop thinking that they could have done it differently, that they could spare themselves and others some pain. Some days he missed the time he was invisible because now he was being watched too much – the judging glances on his back, the look of disappointment on his mother’s face, the cold stare of former friends.
There were times when it felt they were falling apart, but the further away they got, the stronger they found themselves being pulled back together, as if connected by some invisible thread.
Shige would never forget that one time they fought and Tegoshi slammed the door on him and ran off into the night. He found him half an hour later in a park kicking a ball viciously against a wall, his face dirty and his knee scraped. After that it was all “Sorrys” and “I love yous” and Tegoshi clinging to him like a lost child.
There was also that time when Tegoshi tore the ligament on his leg and couldn’t play soccer for several months. Doctors told him there was a chance of complication. He was devastated, angry and frustrated and snapping at Shige at every occasion. But eventually it healed and life seemed good again.
Sometimes it felt like they were playing a game they could not win, that they were simply too different but somehow every time they got through it stronger than ever. Sometimes Shige thought it would be much easier for both of them if they were apart but last night, when they made love silently and reverently he knew it was all worth it.
Suddenly, Tegoshi took his hand without looking his way. Shige realized that the speeches were over and now diplomas were awarded.
Tegoshi’s group came first. Shige watched mesmerized as the man gracefully stood up and made his way down the aisle. He walked with confidence and had his head raised high. Seeing him now, Shige imagined that he never knew the man, that he was just one person in the audience and was instantly overwhelmed by a lonely feeling.
“You alright?” Tegoshi asked as he took his seat.
Finally hearing his name being called, Shige stood up with much less grace than he was hoping for and went to the stage. Everything seemed blurred as if in a dream. People were staring at him as he walked back to his seat and it took a while for him to realize that he was crying. When he sat back down, Tegoshi leaned over wiping his tears with his thumb. He was smiling gently. At this point Shige didn’t care if people were looking. He just wanted this to be over.
After the ceremony they were standing outside the hall taking in the bright scenery of young guys and girls who were about to enter the adult world. There were many couples among them, smiling to each other and holding hands bashfully in a rare public display of affection.
“You know, though, you’re probably the only couple that made it through the whole course.” Shige turned around to see one of the graduates in an old-fashioned dark grey suit. He didn’t really know the guy, just saw him around the campus a few times. The boy looked nervous looking around as if he worried somebody would see him talking to them.
“I just wanted to say… good luck.” The boy finally said and quickly walked away. Tegoshi smirked.
There still was time before meeting Koyama and the others and they haven’t really decided what to do with it but they didn’t feel like hanging out here either.
“What’s with you today?” Tegoshi asked as they slowly began to walk away from the building. But he didn’t sound annoyed, more like amused.
“I’m sorry,” was all Shige could say.
“That’s no good. Today is supposed to be fun. Come on!” Tegoshi said and grabbed his arm.
Shige wasn’t sure where they were going but he was used to it by now. Soon they came to a big mall. Shige hesitated but he allowed himself to be pulled in anyway. Inside, they looked around surprised to find the mall was nearly deserted. Tegoshi instantly claimed he was hungry so they went through the food stalls getting snacks at several of them. All the vendors smiled at them patronizingly and Shige realized today was one of those days they didn’t have to be too careful. Today to everyone they were just two excited graduates so nobody would look twice even as Tegoshi clung to him and flirted.
They were walking along the string of expensive shops discussing the purchase of things they could never afford when suddenly Tegoshi stopped in front of a Photobooth.
“What? You don’t wanna go in, do you?” Shige said frowning.
“I do. Come on! It’ll be fun!” Tegoshi beamed at him and Shige’s resolve cracked.
“Fine. But I want normal pictures. None of that hearts and bows stuff.”
“Shige, that’s so boring,” Tegoshi said but then laughed as Shige made a disgruntled face. “Alright, alright, just don’t pout.”
They posed for the camera with brilliant smiles on their faces. When the pictures were done, Shige was about to leave the booth but Tegoshi pulled him by the tie and planted a brief but firm kiss on his lips. Then he let go and walked out leaving Shige standing there for a few moments dazzled. He had to wonder if the effect the man had on him would ever wear off.
After getting out of the booth, they brought ice-cream at a fancy Italian stall. Tegoshi picked vanilla and strawberry while Shige went for his usual green tea flavour. They went to sit at the big fountain in the center. It was cool and quiet, the only sound being the soft murmur of the water in the fountain.
“We should go soon,” Shige said but neither of them made any attempt to move. For a few minutes they sat in silence.
“Time flies so fast,” Shige said finally. “I can’t believe it’s over”.
“What do you mean?” Tegoshi replied with a warm smile and Shige felt a small hand on his “It’s just the beginning.”