a momentary interaction

Who We Used to Be (2): Rough

The phone call was a mistake.

Izaya knows that. Izaya knew it was a mistake as he dialed the number, could feel the certainty of his own error settling itself into his veins as he worked through the familiar sequence. It was like a prophecy, as if he could see disaster spelled out as his fate too clearly for even his contrary nature to save him from. He was doomed as soon as he dialed, as soon as he reached for his phone; maybe he was ruined when he scrolled through his old contacts, maybe his fate was sealed the moment he powered on his old phone. He doesn’t know. He spends the night thinking about it – over and over and over, in the silent hours of the night with nothing but his too-fast breathing and the dark of his ceiling to keep him company – but he finds no relief for himself, no comfort even in telling himself the lie that he won’t call again.

He can’t stop thinking about it. It was such a short thing, to weigh so heavily on his mind: a few seconds of a ringtone, a breath and a word; and now he lies awake through the endless hours of midnight and beyond, trembling with the adrenaline he thought he was done with resurrected by the sound of Shizuo’s voice ringing in his ears. He sounded the same, unchanged by those months since Izaya left; he sounded impossibly different, calm and relaxed as Izaya can never remember him being before. Was his voice lower, was his tone a little rougher? Is Izaya imagining the shadows of cigarettes on that one word he caught, or the beginnings of a cough on the inhale Shizuo took as he answered? Was he at work, Izaya wonders, was he in the street with Tom at his side and Ikebukuro streets under his feet, or was he at home in the narrow confines of the apartment time has surely stripped of any of Izaya’s fleeting effects upon it? Izaya retraces those few syllables of sound, unravels them down into their component parts and structures them back into their original form; and finds them stripped of their meaning, like the gilt of some toy worked off by too much childish enthusiasm. They’ve become sounds in his memory, mere noise without any of the power they brought originally; and Izaya is left with just the meaninglessness of that one word of polite greeting and an ache in his chest as if from want of air, or like the pain of sensation returning to a long-numb limb.

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