There are some people in your life you wish that you never even met. Sometimes they are bad people, sometimes they are people who treat you badly. Sometimes they are people that you can’t help but hurt. And though Josh may fall into some of those categories – perhaps all of them – it is not for those reasons that I wish with all of my heart that I never set eyes on him.
At first I didn’t even know he had gone. I woke up in his Leo Palace, a pain in my head, an emptiness in my heart, and still I didn’t realise.
I peeled my face from the pillow, the cloth pulling at my cheek, the blood having clotted into a black bond between my skin and the cotton causing me to cry out. But rather than Josh running to my bedside, there was nothing but the sound of my tears.
At a first glance there was no sign of him being gone, the apartment was the usual jumble of crumpled shirts, Domino’s boxes and empty happoshu cans. But there, stuck to his TV, the 42 inch screen that was so incongruous in that miniscule apartment, his one extravagance, a note. I didn’t even have to read it. I already knew what it said. ‘I’m sorry Mari, but I have to go.’
There was no evidence of his state of mind in the letter; his usual scrawl, like an inky spider crossing the page, showed no signs of fear, stress or emergency, but as I stared at the eight words on the page and the three deep scratches down my face in the mirror, three marks that would never fade, never heal, I knew what he was thinking. Because I felt the same thing too.
I thought about running, heading to family in Kyushu, finding a job in Tokyo, but I knew that the people Josh had run from would find me. I was guilty, as my face would always betray. And so, in a state of futility, in an acceptance of my fate, after checking his fridge and finding nothing but an old bag of edamame and yet more beer, I picked up the key he had left on top of the dirty microwave and went to the conbini, bought onigiri and cup ramen, and returned to his apartment to wait for them to find me.
It took me a day before I could even check the newspapers, look online, fearing I would discover the worst.
Eventually I opened his laptop. From then I spent my time refreshing his Facebook, checking his messages, checking his emails. At first there was nothing. But on the second day the correspondence began to arrive.
“Hey buddy!” Jude. “I’m guessing that as you’re not in work you’ve taken a ‘holiday’. Let me know if you need anything.” “Hey pal, don’t worry about work. I’ve squared it with the boss for you to take a few days. Have a good time!” “Hey man, I’ve sorted everything with you-know-who. Give me a holla!”
That last message filled me with hope. Things were going to be okay. Jude had spoken to them, he had talked to that crazy bitch, and it was, in his own words, going to be okay.
It explained so much. I had been waiting, waiting, waiting for the door to bang and to find a couple of hoods at the door ready to do… well… something. But they hadn’t. And that made sense. It was all over, and it was just a matter of time until Josh read that message and came home.
And so I went back to the conbini, bought some more ramen, some more onigiri, a few beers, and set about cleaning the apartment ready for him to return. To me.
But still… nothing. Nothing at all. Until.
The sushi was eaten and the beers got drunk, and once again I curled up on his futon, the sheets no longer freshly laundered, and after a habitual check of his messages – just his mother “All right Babs? How you doing? Give me a Skype sometime if you get a minute in your hectic lifestyle? Love you xxx” – fell asleep.
It must have been two, three in the morning when I heard a key scrape in the lock.
“Josh!” I jumped out of his bed and ran to the door, but instead of finding him there, smiling awkwardly, I was met by a slightly scruffy old man and two policemen, all three of whom seemed taken aback to see me.
After what seemed like many hours and many cigarettes at the station – Who was I? How did I know Josh? Who were his friends? What was I doing there? – they finally explained.
“Yes, that’s him,” I said. His body, his skin that had always been a translucent white, now had a bluish tinge. Other than that deathly pallor, other than the welts on his body, he looked like he could have got up off the table and given me a hug. But he couldn’t.
Hikers had found him. In Gifu. In a cold, cold cave, all alone for three days, bleeding internally to death, so the coroner said. They had been exploring, searching for something interesting.
But all they found was his body.
Yes, I wish I had never met Josh. Because if I hadn’t, perhaps he would still be alive.
And so I went back to his apartment and cried. All night. And in the morning, as the white sun poured through his net curtains, I wondered what I could do next. Because what can I do? I can’t go back to my life. I have scars on my face and a deeper one on my heart, and everyone knows what I have done.
Because people are watching me, I can feel it. And I know it’s you. I can feel your blame, your aspersions. You think it was my fault. But, you aren’t so innocent out there, oh dear reader. You’re into this up to your fucking neck. Josh, Christ, our savior has gone. And now I, we, are in hell on earth.