?

Log in

 
 
14 March 2011 @ 03:12 am
ignore this, f-list, i just need to post it here  
...because it's members-locked on my community and I need people to read and comment on it. AGAIN. D: I couldn't edit the post on the comm so I've no choice but to repost. :/

Title: The Downstairs Cat
Pairing: Hiroto/Shou
Genre: AU, Romance
Rating: PG
Summary: This story follows Hiroto's emotional journey with a man he calls the downstairs cat, a strange neighbor he chanced upon one morning in autumn.
Note: Emotional as in dealing with emotions, not the dramatic kind of emotional. XD






It was autumn when I first met the downstairs cat. He was wearing an oversized grey parka and sleepy eyes hidden behind thick rimmed glasses. The soft looking waves of his brown hair were sprinkled with tiny specks of dust. His feet were bare. I was on my way up the staircase to my apartment when he emerged from behind his door cradling a plump tabby in his arms. “Good morning,” he greeted, smiling as if he had known me for years, when in fact it was only then that I found out there was a human being inhabiting Apartment 104. Until then I had always thought it was vacant. It gave off that feeling, you see. By that, I mean that lonely, almost eerie vibe that sent shivers down the spine of anyone who believed in the abandoned-house-swarming-with-ghosts kind of urban legend. The apartment’s door was like any door in that corridor, only shabbier. The number plate was almost unreadable and people only relied on the commonsensical fact that it was in between 102 and 106 to tell that it was, without question, number one-zero-four.

“Good morning,” I said back, bowing a little before taking the first step up the stairs, determined to get away from the strange looking man as soon as I possibly can.

“Don’t go just yet!” he said, tugging at my sweater, putting me to a stop. “Where do you live?”

I turned back around to face him. “Second floor,” I said. He didn’t look dangerous or anything, but I thought it wasn’t a good idea to tell a stranger, even one from the same apartment complex, specifically where I lived.

“I live here,” he answered, pointing to his door, still smiling like an old friend.

So? I wanted to answer, but out of politeness what I ended up spouting was a mere “I see.”

“Would you mind if I visit you some time?”

“What?” I asked, seriously weirded out. “Why?”

“You look like a nice guy,” he said, petting his cat adoringly. “I like nice people.”

And so it was.

That same day he followed me up to my apartment just to ask if I had a little food to spare for someone who had not eaten in two days. Back then all I could think of was how pathetic this person was. But I could not, for the life of me, say no. Underneath the huge T-shirt and the discolored pair of sweatpants, he had the body of a twig. His skin only made it worse. He was so pale that, given the right props and costume, he could easily pass for a ghost.

“You have a nice place,” he said as he stepped into the flat, leaning forward to put the obese feline down.

“Let me guess. You like nice places too?” I said, sounding effortlessly disinterested. One might ask why I even bothered talking to him when I could have easily made him feel unwelcome instead. It was most likely out of social obligation. Or probably, in simpler, less compassionate terms, pity. I headed to the kitchen while he made himself comfortable on the couch, picking up his cat again and petting it as it lay on his lap. I pulled the fridge door open and looked for something to feed my uninvited guest. How odd. I had only been in this apartment for a couple of weeks and my first visitor was a stranger.

And a man, at that.

Great. Just great.



The downstairs cat’s name was Shou. There was never a mention of a last name, just that monosyllabic tag that may or may not have been his real name. Not that it mattered. I never found the need to know his complete name. Or his age. Or where he was from. Or why his world seemed to be limited to that tiny apartment by the staircase.

When I came home from my part time job, a few days after this initial encounter, I found him sitting by my doorstep, asleep. His head was buried in his arms that were resting on his folded knees. The clinking of my keys must have sent missiles homing down the island of his dreams because he suddenly roused from his sleep. Through half-lidded eyes he flashed me his characteristic smile and with a low, rasping voice, said hi.

“Hey,” I said back, slotting the key into the doorknob. “If you’re here for dinner, sorry but all I have is a bowl of instant ramen.”

He laughed, as if I had just told him a good joke. “No, no. I didn’t come here for food,” he said, shaking his head, trying to contain his laughter. “I just came to see you.”

“Eh?”

“My cat doesn’t talk, you know?”

I snorted.

“Also,” he paused to put his glasses on, “I don’t have a TV.”


This went on for days and days. He came to my place at least three times in a week, sometimes with his cat, sometimes without. But always with his bare feet and his blithe ways. Soon it was winter and he was still coming back. In fact, it was during this season that he began to stay over more often than before. I didn’t understand how I was any different from his cat when I barely conversed with him. Our exchanges were relentlessly brief and rarely did they go beyond what was being aired on TV at the time.

Once he went to my apartment before midnight to ask if he could sleep over. “Don’t you have a bed?” I asked, stifling a yawn.

He scratched his head and smiled rather shyly. “I do,” he said. “But it's too cold tonight. I don’t have a blanket.”

Resigning with a huff, I opened the door wider to let him in. And I wondered what wrong I could have possibly done to the world to suddenly end up being somebody’s babysitter.



One Saturday morning in April, there came a knock on my door. I had then only woken up and was fixing myself a light breakfast of spinach and carrot juice. I ran to the door and peered through the tiny peephole, although there was really no need for that since I never got any visitors other than Shou. No classmates, no girlfriends, no family. Just the downstairs cat and his fat tabby.

“Good morning,” he greeted, a wide grin stretching across his face. He lay the cat down on the doormat and walked in. “I brought some oranges.”

“You shouldn’t have,” I said, taking the small bag of oranges that he was handing over.

“You’re welcome,” he laughed. He sat on the kitchen floor as I unloaded the contents of the bag into the fridge. “I went to a farm in Shizuoka two days ago. You seem to like fruits so I thought I’d bring home some for you.”

I snorted at his line. Bring home, echoed my mind. Like this apartment was his home. “What were you doing in Shizuoka?” I asked.

“Picking oranges.”

“And?”

“Just that. Some of my relatives live there. I thought I’d pay them a visit. And pick some oranges, while at it.”

“For free?”

“It’s my uncle’s.”

“Ah.”

“I’m sorry I can’t buy you anything Hiroto-kun,” he said, his mouth twitching into a restrained and somewhat embarrassed smile.

I looked at him, his words taking me aback for a moment. “You don’t have to buy me anything.”

A low chuckle fled his lips. “Of course I do. I’m practically leeching off you. And we’re not even related or anything.”

“That’s all right, Shou-yan,” I answered. And I meant that. It really was all right. It didn’t make much sense to me and it probably didn’t to him either. But for whatever weird reason, it didn’t matter that he was taking advantage of my so-called good will.

Not anymore.


There was one thing I did not tell Shou: I was allergic to oranges. So that a few hours after consuming a piece, I found myself dealing with an agonizing pain in the stomach. Luckily I still had antacid in my medicine cabinet. As the pain gradually subsided, I thought about the downstairs cat, imagining him holed up in his apartment, blanketed with the dim yellow light from the bulb hanging from his ceiling, still cradling his plump tabby in his scrawny arms. Such thoughts ran through the course of my mind as I fell into a shallow river of dreamless sleep.

When I woke up it was already sundown. The day’s last ray of sun slipped through a gap in between the curtains, the orange-tinged sky illuminating from behind them. What was it with this day and the color orange?

I decided to go downstairs for a walk. Each step of the staircase was either a yes or a no—an answer to the question flitting around in my head: whether or not to ask Shou if he wanted to go for a walk. Before I even reached the last step though, which would have been a yes anyway, he appeared from behind his door, this time without his cat.

“Hey,” he said, smiling broadly.

“Hey.”

“Going somewhere?”

“For a walk, yeah.”

“Mind if I come?”

I found myself smiling back in response.

Spring was finally here. The cherry trees had started to bloom, filling the air with the delicate scent of their flowers. We walked side by side, him and I, with nowhere to go in particular. It was a quiet stroll in an equally quiet neighborhood, the distant passing of the train the only sound reaching our ears. The gray asphalt was speckled with a pale pink. It was a color so fragile it felt rather awful to walk on the petals and crush them with the soles of my boots.

He was the first to break the silence. “Are the oranges good?”

“Yes,” I lied.

“I’m glad. I have nothing else to give you,” he chuckled.

“I told you. You don’t have to give me anything.”

“Everyone has to give something back somehow. Otherwise…”

“Otherwise, what?

“Otherwise, people would grow tired.”

I stopped on my tracks and faced him. “I know what you can give me,” I said.

He too stopped walking. “What?”

“Words.”

“Words?”

“Yes. I want to know you. So tell me.”

“Tell you what?” he asked.

“Anything. Just tell me.”

“If I told you, won’t you get tired?”

I shrugged.

We continued walking, reclaiming the wall of silence that had collapsed just moments ago. We reached a small, empty playground where an old cherry tree grew, its branches awash with the dainty little symbols of the season. I moved towards it and leaned on its sturdy trunk. Shou, on the other hand, took a seat on one of the rusty swings.

“Spring is my favorite season,” he said. When I didn’t answer, he went on. “Summer is next. Not the heat. I like summer when it’s about to end. I like the rain. I also like autumn. And winter. But spring will always be my favorite.”

“Why?” I asked, getting on my feet. I stood behind him and grabbed the swing chains.

“Sakura,” he said. “I like sakura.”

“Go on,” I urged. I decided I was not going to ask him questions in fear of asking the wrong ones. Why such fear even existed was far beyond my mind’s grasp.

“I like cats too. But I had to give away my three other cats because I had nothing to feed them. I used to work but I got sick, so I quit my job. But then I got too used to not doing anything I lost the drive to find another one. I couldn’t depend on myself so I depended on other people. I have no family. Not in this town.”

“You’re a lazy scumbag, in other words,” I quipped.

He chuckled. “You could say that. I was probably a leech in my previous life.”

“And in your next.”

“Yeah. And you would be a sakura.”

“A flower?”

“No. A tree. Just like this old one right here.” He pointed to the old tree proudly standing a few meters away. “And you will make people happy because that’s what you do best.” He pushed his head back to look at me, the corners of his lips curling into a smile.

“You’re not going to be a leech in your next life,” I said, turning my gaze down to meet his. “You’re going to be a cat. A lazy, fat, good for nothing cat.”

He lifted himself a little from his seat. And before I knew it he was already kissing me and I was kissing him back. Shyly, at first. Fervently the next—just like the summer heat he so disliked. As with everything, that kiss, no matter how sweet, had to end. And as it did, he spoke again. “I like autumn,” he said, his palm lightly grazing my cheek. It was warm. Sunbeam warm. “You found me in autumn.”




Author’s Notes:

This story is a mess. I have a harmless obsession with the Japanese concept of amae and I have tried to use it in many of my stories. According to the Japanese, amae is a concept unique to them and from what I have learned there is not a single word in the English language that can equate to what the Japanese word means. For the benefit of non-Japanese speakers though, I resort to using dependence to somewhat explain it. It’s basically what Shou does in this story and it exists in Japan in the form of mother-child, owner-pet, and senpai-kouhai relationships. I don’t know if I was successful in portraying it though since it’s a concept alien to me.

Anyway, enough about that. The metaphors I used in the story are the oranges and the sakura, of course. In China and Japan, orange is used to symbolize happiness and love. The sakura, on the other hand, is an omen of good fortune and is also an emblem of love, affection and represents spring. Cherry blossoms are an enduring metaphor for the fleeting nature of life or 物の哀れ (mono no aware). Autumn and spring are also symbolic. I chose cat because Shou, and most Japanese, like cats. The use of a cat here was to make their relationship seem like pet/owner rather than lover/lover because, again, it's amae. I probably shouldn’t be explaining these things but it might be confusing to some, so might as well. :) My interpretation of the prompt is apparent, I think, so I won’t explain that anymore. XD

That’s about it, I guess. I hope some of you enjoyed reading it in spite of everything. And if you did (or didn’t), please do tell. Comments are the only payment we get for killing our brain cells in writing these stories, so please. ♥ That's right, I'm begging. XD

P.S. I DON'T WRITE ALICE NINE FAN FICTION ANYMORE. But all my stories are posted on daydreammachine . You have to join to read though, although a few of them are public.
 
 
 
debbris: falling;debbris on March 13th, 2011 07:44 pm (UTC)
So if I pay you with my less than appropriately put gratitude for a fic definitely worth reading, would you accept it?

I dnt make sense, I know.

This is adequate, in a sense I feel the kind of annoyance Hiroto felt ( although at first, I was hoping it was him being the leech).

I'm not the one who can speak much of the grand world of metaphors/grammars but you can write well. No typos spotted and honestly, this is a good read.
真愛bottlemeasunset on March 13th, 2011 07:49 pm (UTC)
Hehehe. Of course, I would. :D Thanks for reading and commenting :)
supermeriissupermeriis on March 13th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
I really like these kind of stories ^^
And I love this pairing, they are so tender
Please keep on writing, it lightens my day so much
Thank you ^^
Pirate_Mozart: Shoupirate_mozart on March 13th, 2011 08:26 pm (UTC)
I liked it! It's fun to read and think about the metaphors--and it's fun to read without the metaphors ^^ I like how their relationship progresses without really progressing, and yet... they somehow move forward. :D
vanilla_lillyvanilla_lilly on March 14th, 2011 04:42 am (UTC)
I really liked it! very cute
haidogirlchibi_takeru on March 14th, 2011 07:52 pm (UTC)
I love this! *v*
Will this have a continue?

Shou is so cute! And Hiroto so nice guy!
puss_nd_bootspuss_nd_boots on March 15th, 2011 02:13 am (UTC)
The subtle development of the relationship worked very, very well, so that when the kiss finally happened, it was both surprising and inevitable. Nice job!
Katia-san KoharaKatia-san Kohara on May 23rd, 2011 05:06 am (UTC)
When I first started reading this, I thought Hiroto was the downstairs cat...it was hard to picture him as the main guy. XD This was really cute though. :)