My mom always jokes that I was swimming before I could even walk. While I’m not so sure I believe her, the first memories I have are surrounded by water. The sun on my skin and the sand shining in the distance. It’s funny to think about because every little thing feels like I’m drowning, and it’s been this way for a while. Swimming is the only time I feel like I can breathe, irony I guess. Everything seems like too much, too fast and I don’t know how to keep up with it so I pack it in and press forward but… I’m not handling it. Not well anyways. Every last one of my emotions seems to boil down into anger, frustration and then tears. It’s like clockwork, and no matter what I do I only seem to fall deeper into the cycle.
I’m never good enough. Not since I left, keeping up my grades was challenging in Australia. Keeping up with the other swimmers...that was a whole other story. I was still a kid, but I was lonely and isolated and frustrated to tears about every single day. I shouldn’t complain. The opportunities I got while in Australia were numerous. The best coaches, the best competitors, the best facilities. And yet I still couldn’t keep up. I went from one of the top ranking swimmers in my area to basically dead last with just a plane ride. And whether it was the stress, overworking myself, the isolation, or just plain and simply that I wasn’t as talented as I thought, I’m still not sure. But I endured.
I only came home once a year, and on the very first time I returned, I learned a lot of things. One. That friendships don’t fall back into place so easily with all that time and distance. And Two? No matter what fancy training, what grueling diet regimen, what extreme lengths I go to, to be the best? I will never be as good as Haru. And it’s my fault not his, but I’m bad at...everything and most of all my feelings, so taking it out on Haru is the only thing I know how to do. I didn’t visit my friends after that very first return. And I didn’t come back to school in Japan until I was already a second year in Highschool.
To this day I don’t really know why I decided to return. Sometimes I think I was closer to my host family than I am my own blood, but that’s….for another time. And it’s my fault more than my mom’s or my sister’s. They were always trying to reach out to me, and I pushed them away because that’s what I do. Even when every part of me screams that the isolation is killing me I still...I don’t know why I do it. It’s easier to admit here, I think, with everything else far far away. Which is weird because, honestly, things had gotten harder when I had went to Australia the first time. The mind is a weird thing I guess.
I didn’t make friends in Australia. Not really, I had a hard time communicating with other kids at first, and there was a lot on my plate so I just...kept a distance. After all the kids I spent the most time with would eventually be competitors anyways. I didn’t need any more rivals in my life. It didn’t help that as I got older I started noticing I wasn’t like the other boys in the training program. As we got older, and they talked about girls, I realized I wasn’t interested in them at all. I didn’t have to pretend or try to blend in with them though, as stated before, we weren’t friends. I didn’t fall into the clique with any of the other. Eventually though, I caught up. My swimming got better, my body was a force to be reckoned with, but being out of my home country for so long...one can only deal with so much homesickness.
Samezuka wouldn’t have really been my first choice, but I couldn’t bring myself to show my face back at Iwatobi and frankly, I’d been learning all my lessons in another language for years by then, going back to Japanese would be basically a cake walk. Wrath and Pride are my pitfalls, to be perfectly honest. So going head to head against Haru again….wasn’t my best of plans. Whether it was because he threw the race, or because he was in shit shape, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to figure that out. (He threw it) Either way that felt worse than not being able to beat him at all. Like ash on my tongue, like I was someone to be pitied.
Now I pretty much have two modes, I can admit that now, Asshole and Over Emotional Crybaby and of course it was that first one that came out of this scenario. It’s where I was stuck for a long time. It took, a year, getting into an actual physical fight with Hary and accidentally disqualifying myself and my competitors from an official race for that to wash over. Sort of.
I did make friends again, slowly but surely. Coaching Rei, and rooming with Nitori. And things seemed better with Makoto, Nagisa and Haru. I was healing.
Things were still tense with the others, we were meant to be rivals after all. With Sousuke coming back things were better. While there was still a lot of baggage there, honestly my fault for being basically the crappiest friend on the face of the planet, it got easier. At least until I learned he was hiding his injury from me. I was angry. Probably more angry than I had been in a while, more than I expressed to him at the time. All that talk and everything and he might as well have been making it a moot point. The injury was awful, but the more he pushed the further his ultimate goal would get from him, if it were possible at all. And yet he still insisted. Against my better judgement, I still kept him on our side, after all, there were just some mountains a person had to climb and he was determined. I wanted him to reach his goals, for him to recover, but he wouldn’t do that trying to prove whatever it was he was hurting himself over.
At the end of the day Haru was still my most powerful driving force and he seemed to be so very out of it. Without Haru….I wasn’t sure there was a point to going forward and that’s when it sort of hit me like a train. Nothing was worth it without Haru by my side, and when recruitment letters started floating in, it hit me just how likely that dream was to fall apart. Haru was...spiraling, and I’m awful with emotions, and talking, and just about everything, but I did have one thing. Connections to people in the industry, and a vision.
My goal wasn’t to push my dream on Haru. The absolute last thing I wanted was for the Haru to blindly follow me down a path that would make him unhappy.
Haru’s happiness was far more precious than my own, when I get right down to it. Whether that’s my own inability to take care of my own shit, or just because of this...thing that was growing inside me when it came to Haru I still don’t know. And I have had a long time to work it over in my mind. Sort of relentlessly really. I don’t know what it was, a combination of everything I guess, but something about that trip to Australia seemed to work. Everything slotting into place, but it meant once again I was going to be apart from them.
I was going back to Australia, or I had planned to. The packing was going fine, and I only cried about it a little, no matter what Gou has to say about it. It all faded though, because instead I ended up...somewhere else. I don’t belong here and the maybe locking myself away and avoiding integration as much as possible isn’t the most mature of solutions, but we’re here now. Might as well make the best of it.