Mornings always began with ritual.
Water was first drawn in the shower and left running until it was hot enough to steam the mirrors with the door closed.
Next came preparation of the tea. Three cubes of sugar and a teaspoon of honey. Despite the arthritis, his hands never wavered or shook when he prepared his morning tea. His doctors told him that it was due to muscle memory. He found that amusing, considering his condition.
He watched the cubes melt into the hot tea as he poured it into his cup. The honey disappeared in a swirl as he stirred the cup with his spoon, the motion hypnotizing his eyes.
Blinking his eyes, he looked around until he saw the signs on the cabinets and doorways: “Prepare the water, prepare the tea, drink the tea, shower, dress and prepare for work.” He looked down and saw that the tea had already grown cold.
“Shit,” he sighed before shuffling back to the bathroom to shower. It was going to be one of those days again.
Disrobing as he re-entered the bathroom, he turned and waved at the blurry image of the man in the mirror. As he expected, the man stood there and waved back.
“You need to find the others, Hanz,” the man in the mirror said. “Nothing else is going to happen without them.”
“Okay,” he replied in his best english. “See you later.”
Opening the sliding glass door, Hanzo climbed into the hot shower and rinsed himself clean with the warm waters.
He stepped before the mirror after toweling off and wiped away part of the condensation, revealing another younger man staring back at him.
“I’m going to ride the train today,” Hanzo said excitedly in japanese.
“You always say that,” the man replied. “You always do that. Every morning, without fail.”
Hanzo nodded, smiled and walked out of the bathroom and into a massive walk-in closet filled with hundreds of shoes and outfits. There was a full length mirror every ten feet, allowing Hanzo to get a good look at himself before he went off to work.
He selected the Ernesto Zegba Bespoke gray suit with the pinstripes and began going through the drawers to select his undergarments. His mind became lost staring at all the hundreds of different colors and patterns available.
“Jesus, you’re really fucking crazy aren’t you?” the man in the mirror asked.
His attention snapping back to the present, he smiled a little and finally chose a dark pair of expensive socks and boxer shorts.
“Crazy? No. Better now,” Hanzo said with some confidence, causing the other man to shake his head slowly in disbelief.
“Yeah, I’ll believe that shit when I see it.”
When he was finally dressed, Hanzo grabbed his wallet and phone that sat on a small table by the front door.
The car was already sitting at the curb of the cul de sac, ready and waiting for him to enter.
“Ready for work, Mr. Tugaraki?” Taji, his chauffeur called from inside the car.
Hanzo waved, smiled and entered the back of the car. “Always ready,” he said.
His mind wavered as he stared at the skyline in the distance, not noticing the man in the mirror talking to him again.
“Don’t take your crazy pills this time, Hanz,” he said with the older man barely registering that he was being addressed, much less being told what to do. “They make this kind of shit harder for the both of us.”
Another part of the ritual revealed itself when Taji’s voice came through the intercom. “Sir, your meds are in the drink holder in front of you.”
Suddenly remembering the meds, Hanzo unstoppered the lid, isolated two capsules and popped them into his mouth. He downed them dryly, closing his eyes and trying to envision a world without the strange things he kept seeing and hearing.
They’re just in your head, he kept telling himself. None of these people are real.
“Why don’t you just take the meds first thing in the morning, genius,” I asked him from his reflection in the rear passenger window.
“Trying…get better,” he offered.
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Taji said, unaware that he was carrying on a separate conversation altogether.
The drugs were taking an effect, he noticed, when he finally arrived at work. Taji dropped him off at the side entrance where an armed guard stood watching everyone who approached and checking their ID passes.
Upon sight of him, the guard stepped aside and called the elevator for him.
Hazo made his way through the building’s corridors, offices and break rooms, greeting many of his employees cheerily as he went. He stopped only in the men’s restroom briefly to look in the mirror and wash his hands and face.
The man in the mirror said nothing, knowing what was about to happen next. Hanzo stared back for a long moment before finally responding.
“I getting better,” he said in a definitive tone before turning around and walking back onto the cubicle farm on the twentieth floor. Two other men by the sinks looked at one another in confusion.
One manager after another walked up to Hanzo and either complimented him on his suit or went on about one business matter or another. Tugaraki simply nodded and smiled, seeming to take very little interest in anything other than just his stroll through the office.
Seeing the large wall of glass on the far end of the corridor, Hanzo began to launch into a dead run. Smiling and waving as he went, Hanzo Tugaraki leapt through the glass, shattering it instantly.
Everything seemed to slow down and freeze as he fell through the air towards the sprawl of New Tokyo below. He closed his eyes and savored what little silence he still could even if, deep down, he knew that this would never end for him.
“See you next time, Hanz,” I said. “See you in the next one.”