II.

    It wasn't that he didn't know.  He did.  From that first day at the lake, black water choking his mouth as he coughed his way back to life, before the chaotic mess of his early childhood, Gackt had been aware of his own strangeness.  Sometimes he would squeeze his eyes shut, clamp his hands over his ears and pray for it to go away, but he learned that in the eyes of others, such behaviour just made him appear stranger.  That was in early childhood.

His subsequent withdrawal, at school and much later, led to his being called vague, stand-offish, weird.  He didn't mind being treated differently, or even being lonely.  He frequently imagined himself alone forever, in the silent swirl of a snow storm, or sinking down into a dark sea.   But he found himself at times mysteriously frightened.  Crowds made him uneasy.  He hated the subway.  When people crowded him, pushed at him, he became convinced for terrifying moments that they could push right through him, push into him, take him over.

By the time he began to emerge from his isolation, he had lost the ability to relate to people in normal ways.  He couldn't be friends with women because he ended up in bed with them.  If he was attracted, and he always was to his friends, he experienced an impulse to conquest that was both superficial and irresistible.  The few times he genuinely fell in love with women, he shied away from the emotion, knowing from experience that if he pursued it, he would be accepted and then after not so long rejected because he was simply too strange.

So his tentative friendships were all with men, though men in general were more inclined to dislike him.  He gravitated towards a particular type, young, gifted, beautiful.  He liked Taka for the same reasons that he liked Kami.  But more than that, because Taka was real.  Taka was part of the real, crowded, dirty world.  He lived in it, he liked it.  He made it seem vibrant and appealing.  Taka hailed taxis and Taka took the subway and Taka hung out with his band, wearing jeans and a t-shirt and doing whatever he pleased to do.  Taka showed his emotions to others openly, smiling widely when he was happy and raising his voice when he was angry.  Taka had a laugh that was uninhibited and infectious.  A casual grin that made Gackt feel shy.

Taka's friends, the band, in Gackt's scheme of things they were nothing, a mess of jumbled images and shouted noise.  Shuse taking Levin in a headlock, Koji laughing and skimming his fingers across the top of Taka's hair.  At first Gackt had been confused by their manners.  He had watched Taka and his band together as if from a remote distance.  But slowly, with the detachment of one for whom solitary observation has become second nature, Gackt came to a series of brief conclusions.  Levin was friendly.  Koji was the type Gackt would have liked if his eyes hadn't been blind to everyone but Taka.   Hiro and Shuse were both cruel towards him, but it was only Hiro who truly disliked him,  because only Hiro shared that sense of distance with him.  In a room full of others, he and Hiro recognized one another.

When Taka said to him one night, "Do you want to just--forget it and--" leaning against the side door of his car, Gackt said, "Yes.  Yes."

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