Chapter 1: Arrival
A/N: Special delivery from ya boi! Did you order a Spicy Italian? ;) Thanks for waiting. Anyways, here's the first chapter. Hope you enjoy.
*Look at the Prologue for Tagalog words! Some of them are used in this chapter!*
Also, I do not own Eva or any of the songs/references stated in this chapter! Anno, Gainax, and le rest do.
"Son, this won't be the last time I see you. I'll be back," a familiar voice says to me. "I promise."
Looking at where the direction the voice is coming from, my eyes land on what seems to be...
Everything's clear now. I remember this day. The day I lost Dad. Forever. But now, I won't lose him again. Not this time.
I run past the people obstructing my view of Dad. Some grunt in annoyance, while some say nothing at all. It doesn't matter. I need to get to him.
"Dad!" I say. He doesn't seem to hear me.
"DAD!" I yell as I run. He turns around.
'Yes! I won't let him leave-'
Abruptly, everything starts to fade away. The people. The terminal. Dad. No. NO!
"Dad! NO! Don't leave! Please!" I beg.
Dad doesn't say anything to me at all. Shock spreads throughout my face as he just stands there, fading away...
I jolt up, slightly sweating. It feels like I'm sitting down on something soft and comfy. To my right is a round window that brings in soft, natural light into the room. In front of me, a small TV is playing Return of the Jedi. That's when I realize...
It was all a dream. Me chasing after Dad, everything fading. All of it. Wait a minute!
'I'm on a first-class plane suite to Tokyo-3.'
I suddenly feel nature's call beckoning me to the restroom, so I get out of my seat and slide the fusuma open. While smoothing out the wrinkles on my BoyzIIMen shirt and caramel-colored denim jacket I think to myself:
'I'm still not used to sliding doors.'
Once i'm done with my business, I glance at myself in the restroom mirror. A rather tall, tan-skinned clone's looking right back at me. So much for blending in.
When I go back to my seat the airplane intercom comes on.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. For any newcomers, welcome to Japan! If you look out to your right you can see the capital, New Tokyo-3."
I peer out the window. The most advanced-looking city I've seen comes into view!
All the small structures of the city are surrounded by a half-circle cluster of all the taller buildings, as if trying to protect it from some sort of harm. Dark green hills are spread here and there, while the clear blue sky is almost like a cherry on top for the entire thing.
In short, it's stunning. Every other place I've been to can't top the looks of Tokyo-3! Probably not even L.A. I take a pic on my phone to send to my family later.
"We'll be landing at the Tokyo-3 International Airport shortly, everybody. In advance, we'd like to thank you for choosing Nippon Air. We hope you enjoy the rest of your flight!"
Oh, man, I'm in Japan! Part of me is so nervous that I have the urge to open one of the emergency exits and end the jitteriness once and for all, while the other part of me is looking forward to the ramen shops and bathhouses.
So, to calm my nerves I pull out my phone once again, enter the passcode, and open my music. After a long day at school music was always there to soothe me, to take me away from the piles of assignments I needed to do later, or the lasting sting of insults from the so-called "popular kids". I tap shuffle on my instrumental hip-hop playlist and one of my favorites comes on. "Solitude", it's called.
The song starts with a smooth piano sample loop and a hit of soft brass at the end of each. The sound of a drink pouring into a glass is heard right before a sample from a certain anime about a crew of bounty hunters in the year 2071 plays. The femme fatale of the group then speaks.
"'They say humans are social animals; they can't live alone. But you can live pretty well by yourself... Let me tell you, instead of feeling alone in a group, it's better to have real solitude all by yourself."
Some more piano, and then... the beat.
'Huh, solitude,' I think to myself as I absentmindedly stare out the window.
Letting my thoughts wander, I remember the times I had with Tatay. Those late nights watching action movies, or the mall visits where we'd check out the latest sneaker drops. The seemingly endless hours upon hours of deep conversation we had about anything and everything.
He was my best friend. Someone who I could always talk to, who had my back in times where the cuts from my tormentors were too much. He would say,
'Keep your head up, anak. Stand tall.'
His advice always worked. I stood tall; I kept my head up. Until...
It was like a bullet train hitting you at full speed. It was so... unexpected. Out of nowhere. Nerv didn't even tell us how he died! Now, there's no more sneaker store visits. No more hours-long conversations. It's now just me and my family.
Sure, they did help me out. But it was like trying to fix up a fresh wound that never seems to heal.
And if that wound never heals, might as well just leave it be.
I'll always love my family. But friends... They're just liabilities. People that I don't really need.
But what Nanay said comes back to me.
'Am I wrong?'
With my anxiousness about none at this point, I take my first steps into Japan. Seeing what it looks like in videos and anime is one thing, but dang, seeing it in person is another! Everything down to the smallest detail is spotless - neat and tidy. People are walking about but it doesn't seem as busy as the LAX had been. I suddenly remember something after going through customs and currency exchange and all that, so I go off to the side and take out my phone. The government gave me a short briefing on someone named Misato Katsuragi. Apparently, she would be the one watching over me here. All I know right now is her name, number, and that she works for Nerv. I see a couple texts from her once I turn on my phone. It's cool that my phone has auto-translating tech, since I'm assuming that she's texting in kanji.
Misato: Hey Jeremiah! Hope you had a good flight. Ready to meet up?
'Seems like she knows about me too.' I quickly type down a response and send it.
Me: My flight was alright, I guess. Yeah I am.
Misato texts me back a couple seconds later.
Misato: K. If you're having trouble finding me look for a person with purple hair and a red jacket on. I'm inside but near the west parking zone.
Purple hair? Did I read that right?
"Looking forward to meeting you! :)"
If the purple hair wasn't odder, she sends me a photo of her in a spaghetti strap and short shorts! She has the peace sign up and winking at the camera. But the most outrageous thing was that she sketched an arrow with her phone pointing to… her, uh...
Hubunkalunkas. And right near the arrow she wrote in kanji, "Note the cleavage!"
I decide to put that message on read, resisting the urge to reply with something potentially lewder. I then spot one of those kiosks that you find in malls nearby once I put my phone up.
'Ah! I can look up a map of the airport to find Misato!'
'Hm... purple hair, red jacket, purple hair, red jack-'
My eyes land on the attractive woman from the photo, except now she has her back to me. It seems like she's on her phone waiting for a message back. So I send a text just to make sure.
Me: Behind you.
She turns around and...
I'm greeted with a pretty face and a smile that could warm up Siberia.
"Jeremiah Jante Cabrera?" She asks in almost flawless English.
"Oh! Uh, yeah, that's me." The frick? I wasn't expecting her to be this fluent! "N-n-nice to meet you."
Misato studies me for a little.
"I think you're jet-lagged. Come on, Let's get to my ride. I'll show you around my place after the drive."
"So, what do you think of Japan so far?"
"It's pretty nice I guess. Also very clean," I say while looking out the window.
"You know, I can speak Japanese just fine. I studied it at school." I add in Japanese.
"Oh! It didn't say you could in your file," she responds back. "Is it okay if I speak to you in Japanese from now on? For most of the time, anyways."
This is so awkward! Guess my first impression is a flop. I decide to let my mind just drift off in its thoughts, deciding to give up on conversing with my new guardian. After a couple minutes or so of just pure silence I covertly glance at Misato. I notice something. The pendant she has on. What's hanging from down there?
Is that a cross?
A Japanese Christian is pretty uncommon in Nihon. Opening my mouth to speak, I suddenly stop myself. What am I thinking?
Looking away from Misato and back to the window I repeat to myself,
'I don't need any friends.'
'I don't need any friends.'
'I don't need any friends.'
My thought loop ends when I feel a pair of eyes looking at me. The feeling of being gazed on lasts only for a little though.
'Friends are just liabilities, after all.'
The walk to Misato's apartment is mostly silent save for the sounds of our footsteps. Once we get to the front door of her place Misato says in a cheery tone:
"My place is a bit messy Jeremiah-kun, but it's nothing serious. I'll show you around!"
With a woosh, the door slides open.
And once I walk in, with shoes off of course, I am greeted with the sight of a
Beer cans are strewn everywhere. On the dining room table more cans are littered along with what looks to be half-eaten cups of spicy ramen. Trash bags are spread here and there. A leaning tower of dirty plates hold their domain in the sink, as well as a couple bowls.
'What Misato said is definitely an understatement,' I think to myself as she's tours me around the apartment. I hear fragments about her supposed penguin roommate, but so far, one thing stands out to me.
For one, a person living in this large of a place with no one else besides a freakin' penguin is... strange. To me, at least. Back in LA my place has three generations of Filipinos living under one roof. It's always crowded, noisy, and you sometimes have no privacy at all. Coming from a 14-year old, privacy is a big deal, if you know what I mean. My family, despite all the rambunctiousness they can offer, is tight-knit. Closer than peas in a pod.
Don't get me wrong, having space for yourself is a good thing. But living with too much space on the daily? This makes me wonder...
'Is Misato lonely?'
I immediately push that thought out of my mind.
Just then, I hear Misato's voice call me back from my pondering.
"Jeremiah? Helloo. Earth to Jeremiah?" A hand slowly waves up and down in front of my face.
"O-oh! Sorry. I zoned out for a little bit, heh. What were you going to say?"
Misato says that she's going back to Nerv and that I'm free to make myself at home. Once the front door closes, I go to my new room. Looking to my right I notice a desk with a lamp and a pencil holder cup. A swivel chair accompanies it. Placed right in front of the desk is a simple bed, with a rectangular window above it to its right.
It's a bare room.
Nothing catches my attention until I spot the moving boxes filled with my belongings, as well as the case holding my beloved acoustic-electric Gibson.
Eager to get settled (and to get rid of the hot dump in Misato's apartment) I quickly put down my backpack and luggage onto the bed.
Time to get to work.
Now of course, after two hours of straight-up cleaning, my now desert of a mouth's begging for manna. Even being used to cleaning up masses of clutter in my home, that mess was unlike anything I've seen. I open the fridge for a drink, and whaddaya know?
Almost everything in the fridge is just beer and instant food. Geez, has this woman ever heard of water?
'Now, since there's practically nothing but beer in the fridge, what should I eat?,' I wonder as I sip some water. 'Adobo would be nice. Ah, I would give up anything for some sinigang! No, no, something familiar to Misato. Maybe...
Pancit! Ah, that's it!'
I quickly gulp down the rest of the water then dash to my room to get changed. As quick as you can say 'Your Mom!' I pop out of my room wearing the same pair of jeans I wore on the plane here, but now with a black short-sleeved hoodie. Earth, Wind, and Fire's "I Am" album cover is printed on the front. Now at the front door, I take out my Oreo Nike SB Low's out and put them on, patting my pockets to make sure I have my wallet and phone on me. It's not the only pair I brought here.
Speedily searching directions for the nearest supermarket, I head out the door.
While pushing down the small cart holding actual food and ingredients for pancit, I'm about to self-checkout and skedaddle when I hear someone say in Japanese:
I see a kinda short, freckled, brown-haired girl holding (more like clenching) a little girl's hand. It could be her sister, maybe. It looks like the smaller girl's eager to go someplace else, while the bigger one struggles to subdue her restlessness.
"U-uh, yeah?" I say back.
"Sorry to bother you, but can you get that pack of pudding over there?" she asks, pointing to a vanilla pack above her. "I'm afraid I can't reach it."
Nodding my head, I easily get it and put it in the basket the pigtailed girl's holding, since her hands are both full.
"Thanks so mu-"
The younger girl cuts her off and butts in. "Come on, big sis Hikari! Let's go check out the toys!" She tugs her sister's arm in impatience.
"Be quiet!", Hikari, presumably, says through gritted teeth. In a much kinder tone she continues to me. "Sorry. My little sister can be such a hassle sometimes. Again, thanks a- Whoa!"
She's not able to finish her last sentence.
In agitation, her little sister takes off running while pulling Hikari close behind her. For a little girl, she's strong.
The duo of sisters soon turn a corner.
"You're all I need to be with forevermore..."
I'm back at the apartment now, and I find myself singing along to "Forevermore" by Side A. Throughout the entire time I was cooking, I got acquainted with Misato's penguin roommate. The red-crested creature started dancing to the music I was playing over my Bluetooth speaker, so I gave him a nickname:
I hear the front door swoosh open and a couple footsteps just as I put the final touches on the pancit.
"I'm ho- what is that smell? Are those sneaker drop boxes?"
Some more footsteps and:
"Jeremiah-kun, I never knew you could cook! Is that yakisoba? Oh, and I see you've cleaned up as well!"
Turning around I say, "Yeah, but this isn't really yakisoba. More like a distant cousin."
"It's a Filipino dish, called pancit canton. I used to cook it a lot back home for my little sisters. I'm used to cleaning anyways. I'm their big brother after all."
I almost slap myself for telling Misato about my little sisters but right then she replies:
"Can't wait to try it! Hold on, lemme change first."
She comes back a moment later with a yellow sleeveless blouse and short shorts, just like in the pic she sent me. Except now she's tied her hair up. A little revealing though.
"Alright, let's eat!"
"Yeah, let's eat..."
Flash forward some 30 minutes later, and I find myself sitting in front of a tower of beer cans and a halfway-finished wok of pancit. A booming burp after countless others fills the apartment.
"UURRRP! Wowzies, Jeremiah-kun! Dis Filipino food... ish... sssooo... good!"
"Thanks. It was nothing special, really."
"Whatever ya say! Today was a long one at work, so I'm gonna be on the telly."
She gets off from her chair and puts her dishes in the sink. Surprisingly, the slob has standards.
I see her hop on the couch afterwards, and soon, all I hear is the sound of snoring and TV commercials.
After some more cleaning and a video call with my family, there's one more thing I want to do. I grab my guitar, still covered by its case, and go out at the balcony, careful not to wake up the sleeping Misato in the process.
The Sun's setting rays soothe me with it's warmth once I slide open the glass door. An orange glow and the chirp-chirp of cicadas reminds me of my childhood spent in the Philippines. Where, after a hot, humid day outside with my siblings and cousins, dinners of epic proportions and a night of karaoke singing awaited us. When times were more carefree.
There's just a small circular table, padded chair, and a couple fake pine trees up here.
Taking a seat on the chair, I take out my Gibson. Even if I've spent almost 9 years so far with this buddy of mine it remarkably has no scuffs or scratches. Looking after this thing well is no easy feat, added on to living with a loud family. A quick tuning of all six strings and I'm ready to play.
Out of all songs I know to play one comes to mind instantly. "Without You" by Charlie Wilson. Tatay and I played this song together, with him handling most of the singing and I usually playing on the guitar, though we would switch roles often. Now that I remember, the sunset and everything... reminds me of the last time me and Dad jammed to this song together. I'm... without him now.
Ironic, isn't it?
The intro, a breath, then I let the music take me away.
"It feels like a lifetime
A thousand days have passed by
Since I held you close to me
If I could see that smile from my friend I know that I could live again
I need you here with me"
Everything about this part of the song is so true to what I'm feeling right now. Loneliness when losing your best friend. Longing to have them back. So I keep going.
"Heaven knows what to say
Even though for right now you're so far away
I hope and I pray
Somewhere in your heart I'll always stay"
It's coming back to me. His jokes. His laugh. Time seems to stop as I play, with all my loss and heartache pouring in. The things around me start to fade to darkness. It's just me and the music.
Before I know it, I reach the end of the song.
"Had to say just what I was feeling, girl
'Cause my sun doesn't shine
Sun doesn't shine without you..."
I'm thinking of what I should play next but that and a round of claps cuts off my thoughts. A certain purple-haired woman sporting a smile from ear to ear and a warm-water penguin meet my eyes once I turn around. The applause stops just as Pen-Pen starts waddling away and Misato says:
"You're just full of surprises, aren't you, Jeremiah? You can cook, clean, and you're a musician? Tell me, who taught you how to sing like an angel and play so well on the six strings?"
This lady… one moment she's sleeping like a baby and the next wide awake?!
I'm not used to other people watching me play besides family. It was usually either with Dad or by myself, so having my time with music eyed by someone else makes me feel uncomfortable. A little bit upset, too. In turn I don't respond right away. Instead, I use that time to put my guitar back in its case, prop it up against the table, and to walk over at the edge of the balcony railing. What Mom said echoes in my head again as I think of what to say.
"'Silly is it may sound, promise me you'll make friends, ok?'"
But why? Then again I don't wanna let Mom down, do I? So I just say,
A pair of footsteps grows closer, and from the corner of my eye Misato stands, also leaning on the railing. Not saying anything. I guess she's listening to what I have to say.
So, I go on.
"He and I were best friends. We were like brothers."
Not a word from Misato. I want to end the conversation at just that, but my mind-of-it's-own mouth tells her everything. From our shoe store visits. Jam sessions and late-night conversations. And the dream I had on the plane here.
"...So, after he died, I just... shut myself out from the small circle of friends I had. I... gave up, telling myself that I don't need them, and that I have my family."
Uncomfortable silence hangs in the air yet again.
'I bet she isn't even listeni-'
"You know, my Dad passed too."
"He.. saved my life," Misato continues. "But, after that, I stayed lonely for a while, like you. And before he died, he gave me his cross necklace." I notice that she's grasping her pendant as she speaks.
She was alone, like me?
"And he was always absorbed in his work. Barely batted an eye at me and Mom."
All I can say is:
"Yeah", Misato responds, nodding. She's now facing me instead of looking out into the now slowly darkening sky. "When I heard that you were chosen to come here, I decided to take you to my place right away. It's boring sometimes living in an apartment as big as this. So, let's try this again, Jeremiah-kun."
She smiles as she holds her hand out. In English she says, "I'm Misato Katsuragi. Nice to meet you!"
"Uuuh... I'm Jeremiah Jante Cabrera. Nice to meet you?" I greet back. Although I do say the last part rather unsurely. "I go by JJ, if you wanna call me by that instead."
"Ooo, JJ! That's a kinda cute nickname!" she comments as she ruffles my hair. "I forgot! Let's split up the chores. Oh, and maybe we can watch a little bit of anime after that?"
I smile and say back,
'Wow. What a first day. I think I'm all settled in for right now. Pen Pen sure is a good dancer, and I made my first friend in Japan,' I say to myself as I flop down on the bed. 'Better get to sleep now. Misato said that I'm gonna have a long day ahead of me.'
A rosary prayer later, I find myself drifting off to sleep. One last thought makes its way through though.
'Japan may not so bad after all. And maybe, just maybe, I'll let the wounds heal.'
A/N: Long first chapter, eh? Tell me what you think in the comments! I'll see you in the next one. Peace out.