meanwhile
#1
Her earliest memory is like a dream she cannot pin down with words. An overexposed photograph, a mistake her mother would have never made. Her mother whose photographs hang on one wall in her student apartment, black and white against the white wall, an occasional burst of green, of pink.

White walls, a door opening into the puke-green corridor of her parents' first and only home together. She remembers sharing a balcony with another family, being best friends with their little boy Babak. Remembers his name and his face all these years later though he's grown now. They would not recognize each other if they passed each other in the street.

White walls, a door opening, and the sunlight bearing in her father. In her memory he is the tallest thing in the room, a mountain. Youth made nothing of the bruises beneath his eyes or the pelt grown on his jaws. Memory brings with it emotion though and the emotion she felt was elation.

Sixteen years later, she can pick a tracer of that memory out of the array on her wall. Black and white the same as most of them, her father barefoot and wearing linen pants, a linen shirt, his glasses, sitting on the floor back against the wall, her graceless arms around his neck, one of his hands clasped against the back of her head, tendons visible through the skin.

She had forgotten she had it when she was unpacking her things. From time to time she thinks of taking it down. Solidifying the schism between them.

As much as she cannot forgive him, she cannot bear the thought of forgetting him, either.

---

The other night as she was cutting across Ueno Park to reach the train station, her skin crawled. No reason for it. Class ran over so the sun was setting on the other side of the mountains by the time she stepped out into the open air but the night itself was clear and warm and it smelled of rain and cigarette smoke. Nothing out of the ordinary. Yet that sixth sense, that third eye, it knew something she didn't, and so she walked faster.

A man about her height got on the train. This was nothing new. Naomi was tall by anyone's standards, taller than both her mother and her father. Supposedly her grandfather on her mother's side was very tall. It must have skipped a generation. Nor was the fact that the man was wearing a suit worth noting. Naomi ignored him until he spoke to her.

That he spoke in English took her attention, already snared, and shook it.

"You look familiar."

She stared at him and hoped he interpreted the stare as uncomprehending. Her eyes dropped after that. They stayed down even when the man switched to Japanese.

"Ah, that's what I thought. You're the professor's daughter."

She swallowed hard and took a breath hard and did not meet his eye.

"You've mistaken me for someone else," she answered in the tongue he'd chosen.

"Is that so?"

"Yes."

The train sped along, the trees and the buildings outside muddling into a paste from which she could glean color if she focused, green and gray. Plenty of air in the train car but his presence was stifling it from her.

"Perhaps you're right," he said in English as the brakes squealed and the train began to slow with its approach. "My apologies."

"No apology is necessary," she said in Japanese.

When the doors opened the man stood and picked up his briefcase and disembarked the train. Naomi breathed fast and looked around to see who else was in the car with her. No one she knew. Other students, other men in suits, everyone on their way home or on their way out and she wanted more than anything to call her father and tell him what had happened but she had not forgiven him and besides what if that was what the man in the suit hoped would happen.

So she sent out a group SMS to her band of miscreants, five beer mug emojis and a question mark, to which David responded with a question as to location. Masami asked where did he think. It was settled. She was not going home. Not yet, and not alone.

---

The summer she was thirteen years old, a man she did not know tried to follow her home from her friend's house. She was on foot and he was in his truck. Naomi had never seen him before and she did not know his name. Some of the words he hurled out the window at her, she had never heard before. But she was afraid, and she started to walk faster, and when that didn't work and the man just accelerated the vehicle to keep up with her, she broke into a run. Took a shortcut through a stranger's yard to lose him.

That summer, her little brother was in Tokyo with her mother. He was still at that age where it was important for a boy to be with his mother. Her father would have been just fine on his own, but Naomi had fitful dreams when an entire continent and an entire ocean separated them.

He was at work when she called him, but the cadence of her crying brought him home. Hitching breaths punctuated her account of what had happened. No, he didn't touch her. No, she didn't know who he was.

Her father was so tiny compared to the rednecked asshole. His clothes could have come from the boys' department. He wore glasses even though contact lenses were a viable option. Naomi hadn't gotten a look at the stranger's license plate. All she knew was that it was a truck, and it was red, and the things he had said to her from the cab of his truck made her feel afraid.

When he returned late that night, her father had a split lip and a missing fingernail. She was afraid to ask what had happened, so she didn't. She just sat at the kitchen table and picked at her nail polish while her father made hot chocolate, with cinnamon and chile the way his mother used to.

---

If she could forget, she would not have to drink so much.

She cannot forget the last time she saw him. How she missed her connecting flight in Dallas and could not rent a car because she was not old enough so she had to take a bus and that had taken so long. How when she finally arrived in fucking Miami it was late enough at night that the local buses weren't running so she had to call a cab. None of the doors in her father's house were locked.

The silence that wasn't quite. Calling out "Dad?" like she expected an answer, receiving none. That yawning sensation, a warning, before she opened the door to the basement.

She was a child then and yet before she saw what his body was concealing, the smallness of it rattled her.

In her dreams, shadows grabbed at him, knocked him down, dragged him off into an abyss. Her mother took them as a premonition. Her mother hadn't answered her phone for days. Her mother was dead.

Her mother's arm was hanging off the side of the table, fingers twitching, grave dirt in the air.

"... Daddy?"

---

She cannot forget, so she threw her phone into the Arakawa River on her way to meet her friends and lied to them, again.
Look. I have school. And RP. And all my other time is taken up by sheer, unreasoning panic. I don't have time for Reddit.
-- ixphaelaeon
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