Imagase Wataru is my avatar. He is a character in Mizushiro Setona’s Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese series, the namesake of this site and the beautiful distress* of wordy, difficult love.
Imagase’s way of being dramatizes the casual bravado and deep uncertainty that underlies so much contemporary choice-making, especially as concerns relationships and togetherness. The casual bravado speaks to how easy it is to obsess under conditions that make it unwise, costly to feel with any degree of depth. Wading through the everyday it is to live, it can be cosmic to be seized by want, arrest with joy. Deep uncertainty, in this case, relates to sustenance. Imagase wants more than anything to be moved, but is terrible at keeping it.
Imagase trusts the strength of his own feelings now, but he does not trust the tomorrow and forever that depends on everything else besides. And those things he does not trust, those things in which he has no confidence, he assumes are the things that people want. Forever, normalcy, stability are beyond the capacity of his self-imagination as a twisted, perverse individual. These are things that terrify him to wish for, to give. He is no good when it comes to ordinary promises.
But when it comes time for him to articulate the ways things have been, he is fearsome, even while trembling. With all his desperate, broken yearning, all his tumbling out of himself, he spills, sudden and slow, into his lover’s heart. “There’s no way you’ll ever find someone who loves you more than I do, is there?” “When you wear light blue, it makes my head spin.” “You should be more confident. I’m telling you as someone who’s only ever had eyes for you.”
Then he has the gall to act like he’s just passing by for company.
Imagase is a hateful, irritating creature with the tenacity of a child focused on a single object. The simultaneous playfulness and cruelty that he displays as such is not lost to his adult self. The conditions and escape plans he appears to improvise are as much a way of giving senpai (his beloved) a provisional way out as they are a measure taken to protect his over-invested heart.
Imagase specializes in one-sided love. His love for senpai and the bond they share remind me that no one set of feelings can ever equal another. All love’s unrequited, but this is perhaps besides the point when it comes to choosing to be with others. “Life…feels so long” when the only certainties are loneliness, death, and taxes.
At one point, Imagase says to senpai that he keeps his own apartment for storage and as a place to think. I often think of Imagase thinking. I wonder if he rehearses his emotions as he schools himself for loss. I wonder how much of him is tempered in extra-diegetic space, how terrifyingly raw he can be in his real time self.
It is no surprise to me that the majority of the narrative voice belongs to senpai. Imagase doesn’t narrate. His faulty filters leave little room for externalization. Like a true modern, he has no devils or angels outside of himself.
Imagase is a well of so much I love instinctively. I want to hold and kiss and bite the mess out of him.
Loving Imagase is a way of loving myself, of forgiving my abusive cowardice and the way I hoard loss. When I hold him to my heart and breathe, I can see futures with others and keep fear at bay.
*taken from Jill Scott’s “Love Rain.” Original line: “You are the beautiful distress of mathematics.”