“I doubt it.”
“You’re seriously not going to tell me what happened?” He looks up, offended. “I tell you everything.”
“Sure you don’t.”
“Don’t be fresh.”
“What’s really going on, Kenji?” I study his face, his weak attempt at humor. “You seem different today. Off.”
“Nothing,” he mumbles. “I told you. I just didn’t want to leave James.”
“But that’s not all, is it?”
He says nothing.
I look into my lap. “You can tell me anything, you know. You’ve always been there for me and I’ll always be here if you need to talk, too.”
Kenji rolls his eyes. “Why do you have to make me feel all guilty about not wanting to participate in share-your-feelings-story-time?”
“I’m just—I’m in a really shitty mood, okay?” He looks off to the side. “I feel weird. Like I just want to be pissed off today. Like I just want to punch people in the face for no reason.”
I pull my knees up to my chest. Rest my chin on my knees. Nod. “You’ve had a hard day.”
He grunts. Nods and looks at the wall. Presses a fist into the mat. “Sometimes I just get really tired, you know?” He stares at his fist, at the shapes he makes by pressing his knuckles into the soft, spongy material. “Like I just get really fed up.” His voice is suddenly so quiet, it’s almost like he’s not talking to me at all. I can see his throat move, the emotions caught in his chest. “I keep losing people,” he says. “It’s like every day I’m losing people. Every goddamn day. I’m so sick of it—I’m so sick and tired of it—”
“Kenji—,” I try to say.
“I missed you, J.” He’s still studying the mats. “I wish you’d been there last night.”
“I missed you, too.”
“I don’t have anyone else to talk to.”
“I thought you didn’t like talking about your feelings,” I tease him, trying to lighten the mood.
He doesn’t bite.
“It just gets really heavy sometimes.” He looks away. “Too heavy. Even for me. And some days I don’t want to laugh,” he says. “I don’t want to be funny. I don’t want to give a shit about anything. Some days I just want to sit on my ass and cry. All day long.” His hands stop moving against the mats. “Is that crazy?” he asks quietly, still not meeting my gaze.
I blink hard against the stinging in my eyes. “No,” I tell him. “No, that’s not crazy at all.”
He stares at the floor. “Hanging out with you has made me weird, J. All I do is sit around thinking about my feelings these days. Thanks for that.”
I crawl forward and hug him right around the middle and he responds immediately, wrapping me up against him. My face is pressed to his chest and I can hear his heart beating so hard. He’s still hurting so badly right now, and I keep forgetting that. I need to not forget that.
I cling to him, wishing I could ease his pain. I wish I could take his burdens and make them mine.
“It’s weird, isn’t it?” he says.
“If we were naked right now, I’d be dead.”
“Shut up,” I say, laughing against his chest. We’re both wearing long sleeves, long pants. As long as my face and hands don’t touch his skin, he’s perfectly safe.
“Well, it’s true.”
“In what alternate universe would I ever be naked with you?”
“I am just saying,” he says. “Shit happens. You never know.”
“I think you need a girlfriend.”
“Nah,” he says. “I just need a hug. From my friend.”
I lean back to look at him. Try to read his eyes. “You’re my best friend, Kenji. You know that, right?”
“Yeah, kid.” He grins at me. “I do. And I can’t believe I got stuck with your skinny ass.”
I break free of his arms. Narrow my eyes at him.
He laughs. “So how’s the new boyfriend?”
My smiles fall away. “He’s not my boyfriend.”
“Are you sure about that? Because I’m pretty sure Romeo wouldn’t have let us come live with him if he weren’t a little bit madly in love with you.”
I look into my hands. “Maybe one day Warner and I will learn to be friends.”
“Seriously?” Kenji looks shocked. “I thought you were super into him?”
I shrug. “I’m . . . attracted to him.”
“But Warner still has a long way to go, you know?”
“Well, yeah,” Kenji says. Exhales. Leans back. “Yeah. Yeah, I do.”
We both say nothing for a while.
“This shit is still super freaking weird, though,” Kenji says all of a sudden.
“What do you mean?” I glance up. “Which part?”
“Warner,” Kenji says. “Warner is so freaking weird to me right now.” Kenji looks at me. Really looks at me. “You know—in all my time on base, I never saw him have, like, a single casual conversation with a soldier before. Never. He was ice cold, J. Ice. Cold,” he says again. “He never smiled. Never laughed. Never showed any emotion. And he never, ever talked unless he was issuing orders. He was like a machine,” Kenji says. “And this?” He points at the elevator. “This guy who just left here? The guy who showed up at the house yesterday? I don’t know who the hell that is. I can’t even wrap my mind around it right now. Shit is unreal.”
“I didn’t know that,” I say to him, surprised. “I had no idea he was like that.”
“He wasn’t like that with you?” Kenji asks. “When you first got here?”
“No,” I say. “He was always pretty . . . animated with me. Not, like, nice animated,” I clarify, “but, I mean . . . I don’t know. He talked a lot.” I’m silent as the memories resurface. “He was always talking, actually. That’s kind of all he ever did. And he smiled at me all the time.” I pause. “I thought he was doing it on purpose. To make fun of me. Or try to scare me.”