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backdrifter: I won NaNoWriMo 2009! (nanowrimo 2009)
[personal profile] backdrifter
12 - 12 - 10
DECEMBER 12 2010
4:04 PM

INTERVIEWER: [quietly] This is Doctor Harold Lay with patient Ryan Kamizaki, session number one (1). Today is Monday, December twelfth (12), two thousand and ten (201). Patient is male, Asian, currently twenty-two (22) years of age. [pause] Good afternoon, Ryan. My name is Doctor Lay.
SUBJECT: Hello, Doctor.
INTERVIEWER: How are you feeling today?
SUBJECT: Not very much.
INTERVIEWER: Any aches or pains, sundry complaints?
SUBJECT: I have a headache right now.
INTERVIEWER: I’ll let the nurse know when I leave, Ryan.
SUBJECT: I have a headache right now.
INTERVIEWER: Please, Ryan. [paper rustles briefly] I see it’s your birthday today. Happy birthday. How old are you today?
SUBJECT: You know how old I am. Your paper says so.
INTERVIEWER: Indulge me.
SUBJECT: Twenty-two (22). [snort]
INTERVIEWER: Congratulations. [more rustling paper] You’ve been doing well on your medication, I see. I would even venture to say that you seem a bit animated today.
SUBJECT: I guess. [pause] What are you going to do?
INTERVIEWER: I like your curiosity. I’m here to talk to you about your life, Ryan. In fact, I’m going to do very little talking. I will ask you questions from time to time, but you’re going to tell me all about your life, about your thoughts and ideas. This will be in strictest confidence, and you need never tell me anything you don’t want to tell me about.
SUBJECT: And what if I never want to say anything?
INTERVIEWER: Then I will sit here for the allotted amount of time we have together in complete silence, if that’s what I have to do. I am not here to bully or pressure you. I want you to feel comfortable.
SUBJECT: It’s funny that you want me to be comfortable, Doctor. To me, anyway.
INTERVIEWER: And why is that?
SUBJECT: Oh, come on. Are you really going to play this game, Doctor Lay? Doc? [snort] Are you really going to pretend as if you’ve lived under a rock for the past five years?
INTERVIEWER: You know the game as well as I do, Ryan. Answer the question, if you would.
SUBJECT: I’d rather not.
INTERVIEWER: That’s fair enough. [clearing of throat] I’d like to talk, then, about your childhood, if you’ll pardon the cliché.
SUBJECT: Ask away.
INTERVIEWER: I want to ask about— [papers rustling] —Victor. Victor, right? Victor Nasri? [long pause] Ryan, are you alright? [long pause] Ryan.

[5 minute break]

“This little shit today, you would not fucking believe it,” Victor swore as he strode in, Ryan already inside the apartment ahead of him and pulling off his shoes by the heels. Maya and Jack were already on the couch—the front door opened directly into the living room in a display of bizarre planning—with Maya’s socked feet kicked up on Jack’s stonewashed jeans. Ryan thought Jack looked like a tool, because Victor had told him exactly what a tool looked like (the flannel shirt was a dead giveaway this late in the 90’s), though he hadn’t mentioned Jack’s name.

“Ryan, don’t pull your shoes off like that without undoing the laces, you’ll mess ‘em up and Ma’ll have to buy new ones sooner,” Maya said, flapping her hand at him before returning her attention to Victor. “Why, what happened?”

“Ryan was sitting on the bench minding his own business, and this kid was like, jumping at him every time he tried to get up, yelling some shit like ‘Kamikaze! Kamikaze!’ or something. Racist little motherfucker.” Victor swore a lot when he was angry, and right now he was angry on Ryan’s behalf. Ryan rode the thrill of each taboo word like a wave, twiddling his fingers happily where Jack couldn’t see him doing it.

“What!” Maya shrieked, turning on the couch and heels coming down off Jack’s lap. “What a little asshole!”

“Ryan, kid,” Jack drawled, reaching to grab Ryan by the top of the head and give it a little shake, “why didn’t you just punch him out or something? Don’t you take that kung fu shit?”

“Karate,” Ryan corrected under his breath, but Jack didn’t hear or care.

“That’s not what he’s learning martial arts for, Jack,” Maya said, and Jack shook his head.

“Then what the hell’s the point? The whole point is self defense.” He leaned forward, releasing Ryan’s head. “Listen, Ryan. Ry. The next time—haha!” Maya thwacked him in the side of his head, but it didn’t faze him a bit as he continued. “The next time some little cocksucker talks to you like that, you fuck ‘em up, one two punch! Or kick ‘em, whatever you kung fu motherfuckers do.”

“Jack, don’t talk to my little brother like that. He’s eight,” Maya pleaded, curling both hands around Jack’s hairy wrist.

“Tell Victor here, he started it,” Jack said, pointing with his free hand. Just like Jack to shift the blame.

Victor rolled his eyes. “I don’t talk like that around him usually, Jack,” he said, taking the third seat on the couch next to his friend. “With you, it’s nonstop, like all you know is how to curse.”

“Whatever, Miss Morals,” Jack snorted.

“I bet that’s where Danny gets his mouth from,” Maya accused from his other side. “I have you over so goddamn much.”

“Now wait a minute, wait just a goddamn minute, that’s not my fault! You ever listen to your dad once in a blue fuc—a blue moon, you ever listen to him? Man talks like he grew up in Compton!”

“Oh, shut up, Jack,” Maya said with a laugh, falling against his shoulder to press her face to the flannel there. “You know I don’t mean it anyway. Come on, let’s go out again in the neighborhood.”

“You know what I’d rather do,” Jack said in a low voice, talking close to Maya’s ear.

“My parents are home. My brothers are home,” Maya said, just as low. “Come on, we can go to the park…” An even smaller voice, trying to make it so Ryan couldn’t hear, though he always could. “…Find a spot…”

“Oh yeah?” Jack asked, smirking with half-lidded eyes.

“Yeah,” she said, smiling back with the same kind of eyes and tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. “Come on.”

“Just go, already,” Victor groaned, pointing to the door. “Me and Ryan have better things to do than listen to you guys talk about ess ee ex.” Ryan didn’t say anything about how he knew how to spell, or how his parents had given him a Birds and the Bees book that he’d briefly skimmed.

Maya giggling and Jack bumping into things, the both of them escaped into the hallway, and then they were off Ryan’s radar.

“Anyway, Maya was totally lying,” Victor said, patting the couch cushion just vacated by Jack. “She just wanted to get out of the apartment with Jack. Your parents took your grandpa out to see Museum Mile. Your brothers’re still here, though.” Ryan hopped backward to fall into the seat next to Victor.

“I still can’t believe that little bastard,” Victor said from between ground teeth. “No fucking manners. He had no fucking right, dancing around you like a little fucking savage.” His arm pressed tight around Ryan’s shoulders, his fingers digging into his waist. “No fucking right at all.”

Victor looked down at Ryan, his gaze almost scary in its intensity, in the desperation in which he seemed to search Ryan’s. Whatever he was looking for, he seemed to find it, because he began to pull Ryan onto his lap, hugging him with both arms now, a tight bear hug. “I’m gonna protect you, Ryan Kamizaki. I’m gonna protect you from all the assholes in the world, big or little. If anyone bothers you, I’ll be there to knock ‘em back, because I swear to God, you don’t deserve any of that.”

His fingers began to thread through Ryan’s thick hair now, caressing his scalp lightly as his arms crossed over each other. “You hear me, Ryan? You don’t deserve it, and I’m gonna protect you.” His big face was pushed cheek to cheek against Ryan’s now, his breath condensation on the lobe of Ryan’s ear. Ryan didn’t know what else to do; anything he said would be stupid, and anyway he wasn’t sure where this was coming from, so he just hugged back, as tightly as he could. His other hand stroked Ryan’s back as though he were the one who was upset, and he hid his face in the faded cotton shoulder of Ryan’s Batman T-shirt.

Eventually, Victor released his tight hold on Ryan, shifting so Ryan lay between his legs, back against Victor’s belly as they watched afternoon cartoons. Victor seemed calm, but Ryan wasn’t sure he would be able to forget any of what Victor had just said or done.

“Forward stance,” the instructor said, pacing the mirrored room with his hands folded behind his back. “Punch!” The class punched as one, surging forward with only a few stragglers. “Punch!” he commanded again, and the class obeyed again. Ryan was at the fore of the class, and with each punch he saw Dillon’s dirty face connecting with his knuckles. “Punch!” Imaginary Dillon went down.

“Side block!” the instructor barked, and Ryan saw Dillon getting up to return the previous punches; each successful block added a crack to Dillon’s already flawed face.

“Open palm strike, low block and step back into cat stance!” The strike strangled the ugly words in Dillon’s throat, where they died alone as Ryan blocked and stepped away.

“Stop.” The instructor approached Ryan, and Ryan’s heart thudded; the instructor passed him, and he breathed a sigh of relief. Himura-san was only correcting the boy in the back, a hopeless white boy whose parents had probably only enrolled him as an anti-bully measure (and a failed one at that). Andrew or Jacob or something like that. Ryan congratulated himself, reminded himself that he was one of the best in the class, that he had no reason to worry. He was normal, never one to attract the instructor’s negative attention.

“Kamizaki-san.” It was Himura-san, standing behind him now. “You’re being sloppy today. You’re stepping too far into your forward stance, and your punches are not straight. They’re off center.” Himura-san came around, and nodded at him. “Do the first warm up.”

Forward stance! Ryan slid his foot forward swiftly, toes curling inward, and he was already surging gleefully into the first punch when Himura-san tapped the calf of the leg left behind him. “Do you see how taut this is? Do you see all the space between your toes and your heel?” Embarrassed, Ryan pulled his back foot in. No, he hadn’t noticed his sloppy work today.

“Is there something going on at home?” Himura-san asked, though the question wasn’t very pressing; Himura-san was a native Japanese, not given to emotional outbursts or nosing into personal business. “Please, Kamizaki-san, do not get sloppy. You’re one of my better students.” He flashed a smile at Ryan, the lines at the corners of his eyes crinkling, and Ryan relaxed. One of his better students. He was not Andrew or Jacob or something like that, or any of those other wannabes in the back row.

Still, he watched his form more closely the rest of that day’s class, hyper-aware now of his stance, of precisely where on imaginary Dillon his knuckles cracked into.

Maya picked him up alone after class that day, and the bus ride home was silent. Maya seemed preoccupied, and Ryan couldn’t help but think of how if it had been Victor picking him up, he would have been not on a bus full of shouting children his age and younger. He’d be at Häagen-Dazs, or the park, or somewhere fun, and Victor would be telling him stories or calling him smart or lifting him up in the air only to blow raspberries on his stomach when he landed, or all of the above. And he wouldn’t be too old for it, because whatever Victor wanted to do was cool, wasn’t stupid. He couldn’t be teased for hanging out with a teenager who listened to the right music and wore the right shoes.

But he was stuck with his sister, and his sister was probably thinking about Jack, and making animal noises for him. Ryan wrinkled his nose just thinking about it by proxy.

When they got home, there was no Jack, no Victor lounging on the living room furniture, and Ryan reasoned with himself that it was ridiculous to expect Victor to be there every single day. Victor did not live just to keep him company. Instead, Kenny and Danny were both watching Cartoon Network. Kenny was on the floor between the couch and the TV as he smashed his Simba toy against his Buzz Lightyear figure in a fight he wasn’t even paying attention to, and Danny was draped belly-down on the couch, enormous bare feet hooked over the arm of it, knuckles dragging on the floorboards. He was only eleven, and already there were signs of the man he was yet to be. Ryan hated how inferior Danny made him feel just by looking at him.

“Hey, Kamikaze,” Danny said with a smirk, barely looking up from the TV screen.

“That’s your name too,” Ryan snapped. The Dillon incident had been over a week ago now, but Danny wouldn’t let it go. He would corner him when Ryan happened to be sitting down, and then jump around him yelling Kamikaze! Kamikaze! He and Kenny were the only ones who found it funny, and Kenny only because Kenny was seven and he just wanted Danny to think he was cool. He didn’t understand why he was laughing, ever.

“Whoa, chill, both of you,” Maya said, putting an open palm out in the air between the two boys. She gave Ryan an especially odd look. “Aren’t you normally mister peaceful? What’s going on with you lately?”

Ryan ignored her, swinging into Kenny’s room to drop his bookbag off. With their grandfather in his room, he’d been forced to bunk with Kenny, even after he’d pleaded with both his parents, even after citing that Kenny kicked with cold feet at night. In his frustration, he would kick Kenny’s toys around the room, would pull things off the walls and leave them in Kenny’s empty toy box. He hated the sky-blue walls he was forced to now live in until Grandpa left, but he hated Kenny and his stupid vacant stares more.

Ryan reached into the toy box, surprisingly filled with toys that someone had probably made Kenny pick up for once, and he selected John Smith of Pocahontas fame. When he strolled back into the living room, Maya was already gone, leaving just the three brothers. “Hey, Kenny,” Ryan called, holding John Smith aloft. “Hey. Look.”

Kenny looked.

Ryan snapped off one of John Smith’s arms that only moved up and down by pulling it out to the side, and as Kenny’s jaw dropped, he yanked at the other. Instead of pulling off the socket, the plastic whitened and creaked, and then John Smith was an amputee just above his elbow.

Kenny shrieked before he started crying, scrambling to his feet butt-first and charging at his older brother with flailing skinny arms. “You broke it! You broke it! Take it back, take it back, you broke it!”

“I can’t take it back, dummy, it’s broken forever!” Ryan retorted, and when he pushed Kenny away, Kenny didn’t fall back, instead falling into a forward stance; he took karate as well, albeit in a younger, lower class. So Ryan threw the plastic carcass at his head, striking him in the eye. If Kenny had been crying before he was bawling now, forward stance forgotten as he clutched two-handedly at his injured eye. John Smith and his little plastic limbs lay forgotten, ready to be kicked under a chair or table.

“My eye!” Kenny moaned, staggering backward until he fell onto the couch where Danny’s legs had been. Danny was no longer supine, sitting upright now to watch the action.

“Jesus Christ, Ryan,” Danny remarked, and it sounded like he wasn’t sure if he was impressed or disapproving. “Right in the fuckin’ eye. That wasn’t right, man.” Ah, there it was. So even Danny Destructo had a limit, a line he didn’t cross.

“Whatever, I’m sick of looking at him,” Ryan muttered, sauntering back to the bedroom he shared with Kenny. “He deserved it.”

In the end, Kenny was fine; he didn’t need to go to the emergency room, and in fact he didn’t even need to leave the apartment. Instead, he was confined to the couch for the rest of the day, pressing a freezer bag full of ice cubes that kept needing to be changed to his swollen eye. He switched the hand that held it often, his arms tiring easily, his mind impatient. He kicked out every time Ryan passed him; Ryan would just make wide arcs around the couch whenever ne heeded to go by.

His mother was unhappy about it. “I don’t know what’s the matter with you lately. What happened to my quiet son? Now you’re throwing things and breakings things and pushing your little brother.” She sighed heavily. “Is something bothering you? Was it that Dillon boy?” she guessed. “When he called you that name?” Ryan shook his head, staring at her elbow, and she made a loud exasperated noise. “Well then, I don’t know what to do for you but tell you that you better shape up, mister. I don’t tolerate that kind of behavior, you understand? Neither does your father.” It was like she had to remember to add his opinion in, and it was true that she ran the household.

“Kenny just bothers me,” Ryan said finally, and his mother told him something tart about how that was no excuse, and his punishment was going to be big.

It turned out to be that he wasn’t allowed to hang out anymore after school, and at first Ryan panicked to think he’d be forced from Victor’s company. Then Victor volunteered to be the babysitter, picking up all three kids—Kenny got out earlier than Ryan, and Danny went to a different school entirely—and staying with them at home. Ryan’s parents viewed Victor as a sweet, well-meaning boy, and so they agreed to his proposal. This also left Maya more time with Jack—or Jack more time with Maya, if you looked at who Victor was really doing a favor.

“You and me, eh, kid?” Victor said the first day of picking him up officially. Kenny was hanging off one gargantuan hand, chewing savagely on a lollipop that Victor had probably given him when he was picking the brat up earlier. Victor was too kind. Kenny ruined the fun of having Victor pick him up, and it was no more of a party when they rushed to where Danny’s “gifted and talented” program was held to pick him up, either.

“I’m eleven,” Danny announced sourly when they came for him. “I’m too old to be picked up.”

“Then why’d you wait for us?” Ryan wanted to know. “You know so much, you could’ve just taken the bus like a grown-up.”

“Attitude, little man,” Victor said, putting a hand on his chest briefly. “Chill.” He gave Ryan a quizzical look. “Danny’s just at that stage where he wants to be his own person, is all.”

“Legally, I’m allowed to travel alone in the city now,” Danny said, hooking his thumbs under the straps of his backpack and drumming his fingers on the nylon. “’Cause I’m eleven.”

“Yeah, well, your parents are paying me to pick up three kids, not two, so come on, Dan. I’m not so bad, right?” He motioned Danny over.

“It’s not you, it’s them,” Danny muttered as he obeyed, and Victor didn’t say anything else as they headed to the subway. Danny dragged his feet while staying a good three feet behind them, Kenny kept darting ahead and then waiting for them before he took off again, and Ryan stayed right at Victor’s side, hand held securely in the larger one.

“You gonna marry Victor or something?” Danny taunted from behind them, and Ryan turned bright red, whipping his hand away and to his side.

“He’s just trying to rile you up,” Victor told him, patting Ryan’s back. “Looks like he’s doing a good job, too. Don’t let him bother you, kid.”

“Hey Victor, I think my brother’s in love with you,” Danny continued, loud enough that some of the kids in other babysitters’ care were glancing over now, and Ryan’s eyes burned laser lines into the concrete of the sidewalk.

“Cool it, Danny,” Victor warned, looking over his shoulder.

“He’s a total fag for you,” Danny crowed, a little bounce in his step now as he walked closer. “He—”

“That’s enough!” Victor snapped, coming to a halt. Kenny skipped too far ahead in front of them, and waited where he stopped, watching from afar. Ryan stopped only a pace or two behind Victor. “Leave your brother the hell alone!”

“I was just jokin—”

“Here. Here, you’re eleven, right?” Victor pulled a crumpled dollar out of his hip pocket, and fished a pair of quarters out of his other one. “Law says you can be alone, right?” He grabbed Danny’s wrist, holding it palm-up to slap the money into his hand. “Take the bus home. Take the subway if you want. Your parents will understand.”

“I—what?” Fear flickered in the back of Danny’s eyes. He could talk a big game about how he was eleven and independent, but he’d never taken the bus alone, much less navigated the subway system. “No, Victor, I’m sorry—”

“He’s sorry, Victor,” Ryan whined, watching them both. He always liked it when Victor defended him, got mad for him, but this was different. This had a tinge of danger to it, and he didn’t like seeing Danny afraid as much as he thought he would have. “Let him come with us. He’s sorry. He’s sorry, he’s sorry. He’s sorry.” He touched the back of Victor’s hand, and Victor seemed to deflate a little bit. “Please, he’s sorry.”

Victor relented at last, and Danny handed back the dollar fifty, subdued. Victor gave his shoulder a squeeze, an apology between men, and turned to continue their trek to the subway station, but this time Danny’s trailing two feet behind him seemed more like an act of submission than rebellion.

When they arrived at the apartment Danny retired to his bedroom to do homework without quips or procrastination, and Kenny—though Victor’s outburst had had nothing to do with him—sat down just as quietly with the short book he was expected to read for school, TV off. Ryan was just as ready to settle into his work, but Victor held him back by the shoulder, shaking his head. “Come on, Ryan. We’re gonna head to the park.”

“My mom said I wasn’t allowed out after school,” Ryan said, still not letting go of his bookbag.

“Your mom’s not home for hours, neither’s your dad. And Maya and Jack are doing whatever the hell somewhere else.” Victor’s entire body pointed toward the front door.

“What about my brothers? You’re babysitting them too—”

“Yo, Danny!” Victor called, leaning into the hallway. “I go out for an hour with your brother, you think you could watch Kenny?”

“Yeah,” came the answer, disinterested and casual.

“There you go. Problem solved, let’s go.” And Victor whisked Ryan out the front door and down the stairs. He took Ryan to Central Park this time, pulling him past the benches, past the paths and people out to a shaded corner of a lawn that Ryan couldn’t remember the name of (he found it difficult to remember the names of any of them, though).

“We just need to relax,” Victor said as they sat down in the grass, a sharp edge to his voice. “Just chill out. Get… Get away from it all. That kind of stuff.” He lay back on the grass, blades of green tickling the sides of his very faded hoodie. He exhaled hard, and then he seemed to relax right before Ryan’s eyes, his whole body sinking into the ground. Ryan sat by his ribs, watching his face.

“Danny makes you stressed?” Ryan asked, leaning back on his straightened arms.

“No,” Victor sighed, looking up at Ryan through the fingers that lay slack over his face, palm up. “That was wrong of me, I shouldn’t have—I don’t know, Ryan. He shouldn’t have been messing with you like that, either. You should be able to do whatever the hell you want without people bothering you.”

“ By that kinda logic you could kill somebody without people bothering you, but then you’re bothering somebody else,” Ryan reasoned.

Victor laughed, a big laugh that made him curl over onto his side and his arms flop in front of him. “Too smart for me, I keep telling you.” He faced away from Ryan now, and Ryan tried grabbing a handful of fabric to pull him back into place, but instead Victor yanked him over his waist. Ryan landed on his shoulders, not too hard, feet in the air as Victor’s fingers started scrabbling across his midsection. He laughed hard as he fell completely onto his back, and Victor knew by now all the places he was most ticklish—just to the inside of his armpits, at the sides of his waist. His shirt was pushed up, and Victor pressed his mouth to Ryan’s navel to blow a raspberry, which made Ryan screech and writhe, laughing until his face was red.

“You’re the best kid ever made,” Victor said breathlessly as he came up, and Ryan was still laughing, still feeling phantom fingers dancing on his clothed middle. He wished he didn’t have to remember having brothers, even having a sister sometimes. He wished the only feeling he knew was that of being with Victor, because when it was just the two of them he felt—valued?

“I’m sorry if I scared you today,” Victor whispered, and he lay his enormous, adult-size head on Ryan’s chest, the span of his fingers wide on Ryan’s damp stomach. “I yelled a lot. Sorry.”

“You don’t scare me,” Ryan whispered back, looking up into the branches that shaded them. “I—” I love you. Something inside him held that much back, told him without being sure why that it was not quite the right thing to say, not the appropriate thing. Victor’s proper adult response would be to tell him that he didn’t really love him, not like that anyway, or to ruffle his hair, or something disappointing like that. Ryan wasn’t sure what wouldn’t disappoint him, though.

“I’m glad I don’t scare you,” Victor murmured into his skin.

“I love you,” Ryan blurted out, despite everything in him that had just been telling him not to.

Victor didn’t say anything for a moment, his entire body seeming to pause, and then he said something into Ryan’s belly-button, which muffled the words.

It was dark when they returned, and although Ryan’s parents weren’t angry about it, they weren’t pleased, either. They asked Victor to not take Ryan out again like that, and he agreed.

June 2011

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