The art of apologizing has been lost to a great many in the western parts of the world. Many times, people will overuse the phrase, “I’m sorry,” when they are not, in fact, sorry. Some use the phrase in lieu of “Excuse me” when they bump into someone at the grocery store or make some other minor mistake.
It’s a common practice for many to think that the act of apologizing is to simply state “I’m sorry,” and yet they are baffled when the offended party asks them, “What do you mean, ‘you’re sorry?’” In such cases, it apparently is not enough to simply say sorry.
Another group will say that they are sorry in hopes that it may absolve them of some portion of guilt due to a poor decision made on their part, or they hope to somehow mitigate, or lessen, the consequences. How many children will say that they are sorry as a way to manipulate their parents to lessen the discipline they are about to receive? That behavior, if never corrected, will manifest itself in adults who don’t know what it truly means to be sorry.
—The Lost Art of Apologizing by Dr. Jonathan Franz (2009)
Kato woke up. He looked at the time, 4:59. He had an hour to sleep still. He got up and went to the bathroom and came back and laid in his bed, wide awake.
Kato spent a lot of time thinking about Takahashi. He also thought about what Murata said. Leave it to me to piss off my only two friends in this life, Kato chided himself. First person he’d run into would likely be Murata. He thought for a while on how to apologize. Then he wondered when he would find time to apologize to Takahashi. He didn’t feel that he was totally in the wrong with either of them, but he conceded that he wasn’t totally right either. He concluded that he simply lacked the ability to communicate properly and he would try again with both as soon as he could.
Murata gave Kato a nod as he sat down. Kato looked at him, trying to assess his mood.
“Good morning,” Kato offered.
“Good morning,” Murata replied.
“I’m sorry—” Kato started before he was interrupted.
“Kato-san. It’s too early for this,” Murata said.
“Oh.” Kato looked back to his food.
After a minute of silence, Murata spoke up. “Apologize to your seme first, then you can apologize to me.”
“What makes you think I haven’t already?” Kato asked.
Murata simply glared at Kato.
“Never mind,” Kato said.
The two ate in silence.
Kato walked into class. There was still 5 minutes before class started. Takahashi was at his desk looking at his book.
Kato walked up to Takahashi’s desk and leaned against the wall. He looked at Takahashi.
Without looking up, Takahashi asked, “Yes?”
Kato felt very guilty that things were not comfortable between him and his seme. He sighed. “I wasn’t being a very good uke. I wasn’t supportive.”
Takahashi put down his book but didn’t look up. “Yeah?”
“What I said came out wrong.” Kato paused for a moment then looked down at his feet. “I’m not going to leave you. But I will be sad if we are forced to be apart for a while.”
“Me too,” Takahashi said quietly.
Kato didn’t know what else to say so he went to his desk and sat down.
The morning’s math class had a short lecture and a bunch of bookwork. Kato kept his mind occupied and busy. He headed down to the “bathroom of doom” during break. He glanced over his shoulder to see if Handa was following him, but he only saw Takahashi.
While he was at the urinal taking care of business, Takahashi came in. He simply went over to the sink and started playing with his hair.
Handa walked in and spotted Kato, giving him a wink. Kato immediately looked over to Takahashi, who was glaring in the mirror, obviously watching Handa’s every move. Handa entered a stall and closed the door behind, much to Kato’s relief that there wasn’t going to be a fight this morning.
He went over to the sink next to Takahashi and started washing his hands. He looked at Takahashi who was still trying to fix that pesky cowlick. With wet hands, Kato reached over, saying, “Here. Let me do it.”
“I can do it,” Takahashi protested.
“You should have done it this morning,” Kato nagged as he batted Takahashi’s hands out of the way and started to work on the cowlick.
“I did. But when it dries out, it goes back to this.” Takahashi grumbled.
“Well, you probably need a bit of gel to retrain it,” Kato said.
“I hate gel in my hair. Makes it all stiff.”
Kato chuckled as he worked the cowlick over. “There, should be better. Seriously, get some gel and just retrain it.”
Takahashi sighed. “Fine. Let’s go back to class.”
After chemistry class, Kato sat down for lunch. Murata sat down a minute afterwards.
“I’m sorry—” Kato started again.
Murata glanced over.
“I apologized to him already!” Kato protested.
“I didn’t say anything,” Murata said. “I overheard a little of that this morning.”
“He doesn’t seem mad at me right now. I hope he accepted my apology. I was sincere but he didn’t say anything.”
Murata spoke softly and with feeling. “Kato-san. My friend. Just remember what I’ve told you. Be supportive and think of him first more often. It will all work out. You’ll see.
Kato responded, “But, I am sorry—”
“Stop,” Murata interrupted. “There’s no need to apologize to me.”
“But you said I could after I apologized to Takahashi-san.”
“No need to. I’ve already forgiven you.”
“I see,” Kato lied.
“I’ve always been quick to forgive. I even forgave Handa-san, in my heart.”
“What?” Kato exclaimed.
“I can’t pretend to know what makes him tick, how he became that way. It doesn’t mean that I’m not cautious around him, but I’m not going to hold a grudge.”
“Kato-san. Holding a grudge is like holding a burning coal, tightly, in your hands and expecting it to hurt someone else. The only one it hurts is you.”
Kato looked over at Takahashi, who never looked back. “I think I understand, Murata-san.” He wondered how many coals Takahashi was holding onto so tightly, and for how long he’s been doing so. He also wondered if there was a way that he could help Takahashi let them go.
With afternoon class out of the way, Kato waited for Takahashi at the entrance of the dorm so that they could walk together to the Sports Complex.
“Good afternoon, Takahashi-san.” Kato was attempting to be pleasant.
“Hello,” Takahashi replied.
They started walking. Kato couldn’t read Takahashi again. Takahashi simply wore that neutral face of his. It was almost the look of callous indifference, but Kato was pretty sure beneath the façade was a fire simply waiting to be unleashed.
After a few minutes of silence, Takahashi was the first to break it. “I haven’t been a very good seme, Kato-san.”
Kato looked over and immediately objected. “That’s not true! You’ve been so kind, and patient, and even trying to help me when I’m a stubborn ass that doesn’t deserve it.”
Takahashi walked wordlessly for another minute. “That may be true. But I’ve never been a successful seme. On my ninth, and it’s all turning out the same.”
“How so?” Kato asked.
“We’ll fight and argue until one of us gives up.”
“Not going to happen,” Kato argued.
“Kato-san. Listen to me. All those ukes. I don’t think it was their fault. Look at the lowest common denominator: Me. It’s always me. I just fuck everything up, every time.”
Kato didn’t feel like arguing about this right now, so he just looked down at the ground as he walked.
Takahashi stopped, causing Kato to stop after two steps and look back.
Takahashi simply stood there staring at Kato. After a few moments, Kato simply had to ask, “What?”
Takahashi looked like he snapped out of whatever he was thinking and resumed walking. “Nothing,” he said.
Kato got instantly upset. “Don’t lie to me, goddammit! You said you wouldn’t do that.”
“If I say it’s nothing, then just fucking accept it as nothing and leave me be.”
Kato was silent for a moment. “Maybe you are right,” Kato continued. “Maybe the problem really is you.” Kato didn’t know why he said that, but he instantly regretted it.
Takahashi stopped for a moment, looked down to the ground and simply sighed. “Yeah” was all that he said.
They walked in silence both lost in their own thoughts. Kato became sad. His heart ached. He wanted to be close with Takahashi but he, yet again, squandered those precious moments with that mouth of his.
“I’ll see you after class,” Kato offered.
Takahashi didn’t even look back as he walked off. “Yeah,” was all he said again.
Kato was sad. He would rather follow Takahashi, even just to watch him play and be in the same vicinity but he had to go to the tennis courts which were on the other side of the complex.
Half-way through the class, there was an announcement over the public address system that all students are to report back to the dorms as the Sports Complex was closed for the rest of the day. Kato was surprised. After putting the stuff away, he went to the entrance of the Sports Complex to wait for Takahashi but there was staff there telling everyone to not stand around and go back. He reluctantly left.
He returned to the room and grabbed a snack out of the bag of treats. He realized that there wasn’t much left. He had eaten out of it sparingly, so that it would last. He couldn’t, in good conscience, rely on Takahashi for this. It didn’t seem right of him to expect anything more. He needed to find out how to sign up for extra chores or whatever so he could make a little money, and even maybe surprise Takahashi with a gift.
He looked at the time and it was 3:30. He sat and read more of his least-favorite book ever and then it was time for dinner. He noted that Tachibana wasn’t home yet. So, he went to dinner.
At dinner, he noticed Takahashi’s whole table was empty. That’s odd, he thought.
“Do you know why the Sports Complex was closed early?” he asked Murata.
“Nope,” Murata replied.
Kato looked at the two other boys and neither looked up.
Kato ate in silence. He had an uncomfortable feeling come over him as he wondered if something may have happened out at the Sports Complex.
Tachibana still hadn’t returned by the time Kato went to take a shower. The boys in the showers were all abuzz with news about some huge battle that took place between a bunch of semes at the Sport’s Complex. Kato’s heart instantly dropped. What he feared the worst had happened.
He returned to his room, sat in his chair, and started crying. He felt like his heart was ripped apart. A whole month without Ken, thought Kato, and he cried harder at that thought.
After a couple minutes, there was a knock at his door. He bet that they were coming to interrogate him now. The headmaster knew he was in league with Takahashi.
Kato quickly wiped away his tears and dried his face with a towel. He looked into the mirror quickly and his eyes were puffy. It was so plainly obvious that he had been crying. He became very nervous. He opened the door.