Written for LiveJournal's 30_kisses themed writing challenge community. Theme: #14, radio-cassette player. Beta reviewed by HawkClowd.
Remembrance of Things Past
Eiri glared at the radio-cassette player. It was a stupid, obsolete piece of crap, and Shuichi was an idiot for keeping it. But Eiri felt even stupider for breaking it.
That morning, Shuichi's mother had delivered yet another box of junk that Shuichi had left at his parents'. When he first moved in, all that Shuichi had brought with him were his clothes, CDs, his precious keyboard, and a few posters that Eiri had magnanimously let him put up in the spare room. His mother had boxed everything else up willy-nilly as soon as she'd realized that Shuichi had moved out permanently and started bringing the boxes over to Eiri's in dribs and drabs.
Eiri knew that offering his help and the use of his much larger car would have sped things up, but he didn't. Getting Shuichi to do something with his belongings other than strew them all over the apartment or let the boxes pile up while he ignored their existence took a lot of effort. Eiri didn't want to make bringing more of Shuichi's stuff over any easier.
But now that a new box had arrived, curiosity about Shuichi's childhood and a desire for a break from writing had led Eiri to take a peek. He'd found the radio-cassette player beneath stacks of old homework, scrawled lyrics (he really didn't want to look at those), and loose photographs. He'd set the photographs aside to look at later and removed the radio-cassette player.
He checked first to see if there was a tape in the player, and there was. It was from a kid's show that had been popular about a decade ago. He cleaned the outside of the player; the case was old and dusty after being stored in the box for so long. Just pressing the play button would indubitably cause thousands of motes of dust to fly in the air, aggravating his allergies beyond the extent to which his smoking already aggravated them. He didn't need that.
He pressed down firmly on "play", expecting to hear the high-pitched theme song (it had been Tatsuha's favorite show, not his), but the button stuck, and nothing happened. He pressed harder until the button flew off, exposing wires, gizmos, and a piece of metal he didn't press for fear that he'd never be able to type or write again after it gouged his fingertip.
He panicked. What should he do now? He couldn't throw the player out. Shuichi would realize – eventually, if not right away - that the box had held more than papers and photos. Besides, he might stumble across the thing when he went to throw something else out. Eiri could put the radio-cassette player back in the bottom of the box and hope he wasn't around when Shuichi unpacked it. But once Shuichi took a closer look, it would be obvious that something was wrong. Maybe he'd think that it had been damaged before it arrived, but it was equally possible that he'd remember exactly what condition it had been in when he last used it. Shuichi was overly protective of anything having to do with his beloved music, unlike most other areas of his life; just look at the fuss he made when Eiri bumped his disused synthesizer or used his MP3 player.
Eiri rummaged through cupboards and drawers throughout the apartment looking for some tape. He used to have a dispenser in his office, but it kept disappearing. He suspected that Shuichi used it to tape his stage outfits together in order to avoid prosecution for indecent exposure, but in the meantime it meant he had to hunt every time he needed tape.
He eventually found some, but not until he'd engaged in a fifteen-minute search during which he discovered a pair of toenail clippers, a handful of origami cranes, a bunch of coupons, several half-used and dried-up tubes of lubricant, six glow-in-the-dark condoms, and a package of tinsel. He tore off two pieces of tape and used them to keep the button in place. The button would fall off again anyway once it was pressed, but at least he'd done the best he could. He only hoped Shuichi would see it that way too.
He was about to lower the player back into the box when he heard the front door open and sneakers hit the floor. He placed the player in the box but didn't have time to cover it up before Shuichi dashed in, gave him the same hug he gave him every night, and yelled, "Honey, I'm home!"
Eiri winced and rolled his eyes at the oft-heard greeting. Shuichi loosened his grip on Eiri, glancing at the box as he did. "I see my mother brought more of my stuff over," he said. Eiri figured that the truth of this remark was self-evident enough that no response was required.
"Huh," Shuichi said, looking more closely. Eiri tensed up, fervently hoped he wouldn't notice the cellophane tape or try to push "play". "I guess my mother didn't know that this thing doesn't work anymore. I meant to toss it." He picked it up and dropped it in the trash bin under the kitchen sink without a backward glance.
Eiri shook his head, annoyed that all his work and worry had been for nothing, but then he relaxed as he realized that Shuichi would never know about the damage to the radio-cassette player. "Did you want to—" he started.
"Nothing," Eiri said, thinking better of it. Asking Shuichi if he wanted to keep the tape when he'd discarded the tape player might reveal more than Eiri wanted to, including why Eiri was interested in music from a kid's show that had aired when he was twelve.
Instead, Eiri snuck into the kitchen after Shuichi went to bed, retrieved the cassette, and buried it at the back of his desk drawer. He still owned a Walkman, and even though the music was from Tatsuha's favorite kid's show, not his, there was no harm in revisiting a simpler past - before New York, before Kitazawa, before life became so damn complicated. He didn't think Shuichi would mind.