"You're not weak, just lost, " he says. He doesn't elaborate; he smiles as though he has a secret and I laugh because sometimes my thoughts are not my own. He exists in a world without colour, I decide. That's what makes him so vibrant when painted against my own. It seems he belongs here, frolicking with the pigeons, me attached to his arm - which is like a stick, thin and fragile. He'd snap if I applied too much force.
It's an illusion, though. Years of begging someone – anyone – to acknowledge that he's there have taught me that. He doesn't belong anywhere.
"You're wrong. Even I have somewhere that I must return to. " Bone-pale fingers stretch his lips into a smile. I blink. There is no mirth in his eyes, not today. Sometimes he's moody and simply watches me, a follower in the back of my mind. On the sofa.
It 's too quiet yet there's music playing. He touches my waist and I submit to the vast emptiness that lives like a parasite in me. Full of secrets and sorcery, full of sublime mischief. His hair smells like coconut and feels like earth against my skin. I pull fistfuls of it towards my nose and sniff. It's like a drug.
I love the innate understanding he has; he nods at the movement and kisses my brow. It was further up before but he decided he didn't like it. My forehead tastes like poison. Is there a difference between poison and venom? I want to ask him but we've already been through that skit today - the routine of his imparting wisdom to me, because really I know nothing if not that he knows everything. I'm repeating myself.
I know he loves me. He told me this, one day, in Japanese. Aishiteru. I looked it up on my computer. We were crouched under the shade of a dying tree at the park. It was April and the leaves were hiding everywhere. He told me they were in the water, waiting to be sucked up and tossed freely out of the wood, like slingshots. I laughed and shuddered as his breath tickled my ear.
He believes in the world - in magic and fairytales, though he doesn't think there are happy endings. Not in colour. Perhaps in monochrome, he informed me, where there are only two possibilities: things can be terrible or wonderful because that's all there is. I suggested grayscale then. He shook his head, disappointed.
"Grayscale," he whispered in the crook of my ear, words breathing life, "is without an ending."
I press a cigarette to my lips and it lights, brightening the dull room, full of cobwebs. His lighter hits the table with a quiet thud. Mindlessly, I reach to pick it up. The street is silent and I wonder why I can't hear my television playing; it is less than a metre away from the brick-coloured sofa, soft maroon in the twilight. I brush my fingers over the nuances of the fabric, aware that he is tracing my movements with his eyes. He takes the cigarette from me.
I remember being young, believing that cigarettes were meant to be blown, not sucked. The amusement on their faces when I told them. The light in my mother's laughing eyes. I remember being six, being nine, I remember being nothing. Born. Dead. I remember being him.
February. Smoke cascades to the ceiling in loose rings. I blow on it and cobwebs cover my clothes. "We're old," I remark. He says nothing, opting to stare at the muted television. "Am I still lost?"
After several eternities and a few seconds of stillness, I receive a reluctant smirk and his eyes open, black as tarmac. A hand grasps my hair, shifting it towards his nose. Coconut. The smell reaches me, though I'm barely close enough to touch his face. There is no logic here.
I take his hand, grabbing when he hisses and tries to pull away. I'm sure he has a fair idea of what my intention is, which is the reason for his resistance. I can force him when I want to. "It's not time yet. You're not ready." That's not the point. I've been wandering blindly in the depths of his eyes for an impossible number of years; suddenly I know that there's a destination and while that scares me, I'm impatient to reach it.
We return later, lips blue with cold and his arm supporting me as I stagger through the door. He was right: there's still something missing.
"Destination isn't enough; you still have no direction."
We're in a park. It's April, spring, and the tree is completely dead. The light is moving, above our heads and everywhere, accentuating the colours of the day. He is indifferent. I take his hand and kiss his forehead, recoiling as the taste of (liquorice) absinthe stains my lips, acid-blue. The leaves are out, stretching from the trees and laughing down at us. I giggle, and he does nothing.
A hand reaches to his face; bone-pale fingers stretch his eyes wide, shocked and weeping. I stare into the depths, looking inside him. Gray, I think, awed. Not of this world. Then, abruptly, I realize that I'm keeping him here, with me, selfishly. Everyone has somewhere that they belong and... mine is here. Here where things end and people leave.
... He wasn't right at all, was he? I never had a destination because I didn't stray; he's the only piece that doesn't fit and that means
He speaks then, interrupting my epiphany. "Grayscale-"
"—is without an ending," I finish, gripping his hand for the last time and speaking the word that paints the world, drenches him and it and me in overwhelming colour.
Aishiteru. (but, as someone once said, love is letting go)
I close my eyes, feeling safe because I know, finally, that I am no longer lost.
When they reopen, he is gone.