An intensive psychiatric program wasn’t necessarily the best place to make friends.
With that thought handled and squared away, however, Shinjiro decided that the strangeness of the matter was worth putting aside. After all, his therapist had told him that he needed to try and build new connections again, but hadn’t offered any plausible methods through which he could do that. ‘Joining local Facebook groups’ was the only recommendation he got, and while most of the care he was getting had been quite helpful, that suggestion fell flat.
Here in the city, Shinji felt isolated. Like everybody else had achieved a level of success and personal happiness that he couldn’t possibly aspire to at this point in his recovery. Especially people his own age. Out in Pirathon, he’d been able to seek out some kindred souls, but… Well, there was a reason he packed up and moved here. There was a reason the suggestion was that he build new connections ‘again’. Going into the circumstances that had left him so lonely would just send him spiraling, but the point was that he knew what connection felt like, and that it felt entirely out of reach in this environment.
He was doing better. He was. This program was helping. But… Well, it was these kinds of emotions which motivated him to walk across the lobby to the only other person waiting there. “So sorry if this is rude of me, but… You wouldn’t mind terribly having a chat with me, would you?”
“Huh? Uh, well… I guess not.” The boy sat there scratched at his cheek. “I’m not sure if we’re supposed to, though…”
“We don’t have to talk about anything clinical.” Shinji sat down by him, leaving one empty seat in between. “My name’s Shinjiro. Might I have yours?”
“It’s Kay.” While giving his name, he flashed a smile, and Shinji was taken aback for a moment. As somebody well-practiced in false smiles himself, this one was… Peculiar. It was wholly convincing in most ways, in fact, it looked more real than many people’s genuine smiles. But it still came across as if it wasn’t. As if a genuine smile from this guy was just bound to be much more striking.
“Thank you! Well, I suppose I ought to cut right to the chase. I’ve recently come up here from Pirathon for, well…” He gestured at the lobby around them. “This. And I’ve been having trouble getting to know anybody in the city. Is it possible you’re in a similar boat?”
“Huh. Weirdly similar,” Kay said, “Down to the town. I also came up here from Pirathon…”
“Ah! How do you find the differences between there and here, then?”
“It is pretty different, yeah.” Kay rubbed the back of his neck with a slight chuckle. “I think… I might like it better there? But I’m not completely sure. Maybe I just haven’t found the places I’d like here yet.”
“Oh, like restaurants? Or something else?”
“Ah, I mean… I haven’t found any restaurants I like here yet, sure, but that’s not exactly what I meant. In Pirathon, there was always the beach, and the nature trail. It was easy to be outdoors there.” He lowered his arm again, seeming to think things over for a moment. “Oh, and… This might sound odd, but the night sky is a more interesting color out there.”
“A more interesting color?” Shinji asked, “You mean, there’s more stars visible without the light pollution from the city?”
“Well, that might explain why the color’s different.” Kay shut his eyes. “I’m legally blind, so I can’t really make out the kind of detail to say ‘I can see more stars’. But it makes sense that I’d like a sky with more stars better…”
“That’s a funny coincidence,” Shinji noted, then began to backtrack at the confused face Kay made, “Not- Sorry, that isn’t what I meant. It’s that I’ve got one eye that’s blind as well. So the coincidence is that we’d both be waiting for our appointments at the same time. That, and the way we both came out here from Pirathon, yes?”
“That is a pretty funny coincidence. I wonder if we know any of the same people there?” Kay’s smile softened a bit, gaining some legitimacy. “Well, I didn’t actually know many people. But if you ever met Lana or Xani…”
“Neither of those names sound familiar to me.” Shinji pressed a hand to his own cheek and heaved a sigh. “But, despite what my actions at current may imply, I was never especially social. And if I ever did meet your friends, well, it’s doubtful I would have caught their names. I mostly only met people when I was working.”
“I know I’m the one who said we shouldn’t talk about it, but… Did this program change that, for you?” Kay asked.
“Frankly, yes. I was counseled toward making an active effort to find more friends, but I haven’t found any ways to connect within the city.” Shinji glanced toward the doors to the back area of the care center. “It’s, er… Well, don’t take this the wrong way, no? But most people out and about are a bit too emotionally healthy for me to feel at home with.”
“Hey now, don’t say that about yourself. I’m only a few sessions away from being better enough to go back to visit Pirathon,” Kay said, “So clearly, you can handle speaking with someone who’s close to being emotionally healthy.”
“Ahah, my. I’ve still got quite a ways to go until I hit any kind of milestone. I certainly… I had quite the crisis, I’ll admit.” Shnji took a deep breath, tapping his foot against the floor. “I, um. I don’t want to talk about that, though, myself. Regardless of if we’re ‘not supposed to’, I simply would rather avoid it. For now.”
“Of course. Sorry.”
“No, no, I’m sorry. Well... Not to make things more awkward, but have you got StarXSocial?”
Kay immediately turned bright red at the mention of the social media. “I do! But you can’t have my username!”
“Ah. Of course, I-”
“You can have my phone number, that’s fine. I just…” Kay’s demeanor swiftly calmed, but his cheeks stayed flushed. “I only have one person added on there, so I just used my timeline as a way to leave notes for her. It would be embarrassing to have somebody see that.”
“...Now that you mentioned it, my timeline’s not exactly the best representation of me either.” Shinji chuckled. “So, phone number, right? Perhaps I can help you find a place you’d like around here too. Restaurant-wise or nature-wise.”
“You’d really do that?”
“Of course. That’s what friends are for, yes?”
“Yeah… Yeah! Thank you, Shinjiro.”
“Call me Shinji. All my friends… do.”