an affinity unspoken

If you asked him, Kaidoh couldn’t have told you whether he’d followed Momo or Momo’d followed him, same high school, same university, and the same sales job at a sports equipment company, far from the glorious dreams of their youth. It’s been over ten years now since they walked onto the court together, locked hot gazes, knowing it meant something but not knowing what.

It is Saturday night, and the two of them are out for dinner, as is their custom. Kaidoh takes a long drink of shochu, and Momo puts his hand on his thigh. “How long have you loved me?” he asks, like he always does.

“I don’t,” Kaidoh says, like he always does. Momo’s hand slides further up, and Kaidoh can feel his pulse quicken. Momo’s hair is long now, hanging down into his eyes, later sticking limp and wet to the sides of his face, the back of his neck, between Kaidoh’s fingers. “Stop it,” Kaidoh says now, and Momo does, leaning back, picking up his beer and then setting it down again.

The first Saturday, they hadn’t meant for it to happen, or at least Kaidoh hadn’t, he didn’t think. The trains had stopped, Kaidoh’s apartment was closer, it had been innocent, or at least Kaidoh thinks it was innocent, was anything? When Kaidoh closed the door Momo had pressed him against it, had looked into his eyes without saying anything, and Kaidoh had put his fingers in Momo’s long hair and kissed him hard, over and over again.

“How long have you loved me?” Momo had asked.

“I don’t,” Kaidoh had told him, and then kissed him again.

They went out every Saturday night after that, and Kaidoh would drink too much shochu and Momo would drink too much beer and they would stumble to each other’s apartments and kiss clumsily in the dark. Once when they were in middle school Kaidoh had stumbled into Momo in the dark, and his pulse had sped up.

“How long have you loved me?” Momo always asks.

“I don’t,” Kaidoh always tells him. When he closes his eyes sometimes he sees the boy he first met on the court, more than ten years ago now, and his heart pounds in his chest and he knows it means something.

Momo is staring into his half-finished beer. Kaidoh’s shochu is barely touched.

“Do you want to play a match?” Kaidoh asks.

It’s late, and the gates to the courts are locked, the lights off. They scale the fence, like they used to when a ball went over, whenever Tezuka hadn’t been looking. Kaidoh drops his racquet and swears, checking it for scratches. Momo is shrugging out of his suit jacket and rolling up his sleeves. Kaidoh can see his muscles flex, the veins thick under his skin, and his mouth feels dry.

Kaidoh wins the first two games, Momo the next three, Kaidoh another two. They don’t say what they’re playing to. Kaidoh is breathing hard, and his shirt sticks to his back. Momo’s hair hangs wet and limp, sticking to the sides of his face. It’s his serve. He bounces the ball, looks up, bounces it again. He picks it up, and he looks and Kaidoh, and then he walks to the net.

“When we handed in the forms for our choice high schools, I stole yours out of the teacher’s room and copied it,” Momo says. “In high school I asked you which university you were applying to, and in university, remember, you told me which companies you were sending your resumes to, but in middle school, I saw the stack of forms sitting on your teacher’s desk and I took them, I clawed my way through them until I found yours and wrote your schools down like a dirty secret.”

Kaidoh’s breaths are coming more evenly now, but his heart is still pounding loudly in his ears. He drops his racquet, and he walks slowly to the net. “Are you sorry?” he asks.

“No,” Momo tells him.

Kaidoh threads his fingers through Momo’s hair, pulls it back, softly. When his long hair is out of his eyes, he looks like the boy Kaidoh met on this court, all those years ago.

“How long?” Momo asks, for the last time.

“Always,” Kaidoh says.

Momo looks at him, and he doesn’t say anything. He takes Kaidoh’s hand, and Kaidoh can feel his pulse quicken, and he knows now what that means.

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