She was the first person I ever loved. She never knew it. For a long time, I didn't myself. But back when we were young, when all things seemed possible, when my mother was still alive, I fell in love with her. She was the only one who never seemed afraid of me. I was entranced by her charm, disarmed by her straightforwardness.
And then she fell in love with Kaji, and I knew when I saw her with him that she was lost to me and always would be.
Later on, when I fell in love with Gendo, it had been a relief. Gendo turned out to be a far greater mistake, but at least I had him in ways I couldn't have with Misato. Gendo twisted my soul, but it was Misato who broke my heart.
In the war we fought together, we were enemies just as much as friends.
She struck me twice and pointed a gun at me once. I loved her in those instances at the same time that I hated and pitied her. That was what life was like with the Angels. You loved those you hated; hated those you loved. Everything was complicated, for the adults as well as for the Children.
She was a genius at what she did. I can't count the number of times she saved the world. I created the science, but she was the one who used it, using her soul as the fuel to keep the long and detestable war going. I knew how much it devastated her to send the Children. She did it unfailingly.
And then the world ended. I found her but lost the Evas. She lost the Children but found Kaji. Then she lost Kaji as well and then there was just me.
I knew when I saw him with her that their reunion wouldn't last. A man's love can be trusted, but his loyalties are never guaranteed. Strange that after yet another apocalypse, some patterns still endured.
Just because you're chasing him doesn't mean you have to leave.
He'd paused at the doorway then and gave me an ironic smile.
I never thought you cared, Ritsuko. Did the fact of the world ending change you just a bit?
I shrugged. Maybe it did and maybe it didn't. But it certainly hasn't changed you and it certainly hasn't changed Gendo.
He'd smiled sadly then and shouldered his duffel bag.
Take care of her, Ritsuko. You're the only one who can.
Nearly a year would pass before I would see him again.
I'll never know why I stood by her in all the months that followed; never know how I bore witnessing her grief. Maybe in the end it was because grief was the tie that bound us—the terrible and familiar intimacy that never seemed to end.
It happened on a Saturday evening and we'd both been drunk when it happened.
She'd leaned over suddenly and kissed me.
I'd never been more surprised in my life.
I'll never know what possessed me to kiss her back. Maybe it was the sweetness of the alcohol. Maybe it was the softness of her lips. Maybe it was the fact that she was the one who'd broken the heart my mother said I didn't have.
Whatever it was that possessed me, I kissed her back. And when she hesitated, I kissed her again.
She never hesitated again after that.
It startled me that we became lovers so easily; startled me that there was a naturalness in our being together. I knew the contours of her body—the scientist in me recognized them as abstract reflections of mine. But the woman in me reveled in the difference—reveled in the tangible revelations of skin against skin, flank against flank.
But it was the scientist and the woman in me both that realized the absurdity of our being together—that refused to acknowledge our newfound intimacy as anything beyond convenience.
Do you think it's pathetic? I asked her once.
She looked at me for a long moment then turned away.
Yes, she said. We're absolutely pathetic.
I didn't stop our later recklessness; didn't discourage her advances. We'd been through so much danger we needed to create our own risks. Or maybe I didn't need the risk. Maybe I just wanted her—wanted her badly enough to have her make love to me anywhere she wanted to, in the base, in my lab, in her office.
Doctor Akagi, could you come to my office please? She never gave me anything except the slightest of glances.
Five minutes later I'd be at her door. Five more minutes later I'd be on her desk, her hands on my breasts and her tongue in my ear. She would laugh quietly. Tell me, my untouchable Doctor, where do you want me to touch you now?
Nothing in my life had ever fazed me: not my mother's death; not Gendo's betrayal; not the world's destruction. But a look from Misato could shake me to my core—set my soul trembling until it showed in my hands. They were never steady when they held her; never steady until she held them in hers.
She would tease me about Lieutenant Ibuki; question my aloofness to my assistant's devotion. I never knew what to make of her remarks. They were too casual to be spurred by jealousy—too deliberate to pass as mere banter. And she knew, perhaps more than anyone else, how I could never return my subordinate's affections. The only thing that had ever evaded the manipulation of my mind and the domination of my will was the heart I was reputed not to have. The mind would have chosen Maya; the will had already chosen Gendo. As for my non-existent heart: the only reason I didn't have it was because she'd taken it a long long time ago—taken it without knowing it and never returned it since.
She would tease me about my coldness, but she was the only one who ever saw through it. She understood the wildness in me—felt it when my love-making turned ferocious, took a violence that sometimes frightened even me.
Why do you let me do it? I asked her once. The bruises on her skin were inkier than the shadows.
She'd smiled at me and said, Because I'm the only one who can.
My voice had trembled then. Misato...
Shut up, Ritsuko, she told me tenderly, shut up and fuck me again.
There were times when I watched her sleeping, times when I was seized by a longing I refused to name. Then I would remember the days she lay unconscious, those days when my world had dwindled to the outline of a single bed. I hadn't realized until then how simple happiness could be. How it could take the shape of the sound of one's name, the syllables the barest whisper on a resurrected beloved's lips.
I knew she liked staying in my flat; liked being in the space even in my absence. I caught her once, going through my room. She didn't know I was there. The tender reverence with which she touched my things felt like fingers around my throat. Her very presence in that room was a violation. With her careless black hair and her laughing eyes, she was a splash of vitality that didn't belong to my world.
But I would die without her in it.
I thought I knew where we were going. I thought I knew I was safe. Everything had come between us: life, death, work, men. There was nothing left to hope for; the certainty was my guarantee.
But it hurt more when we became lovers. Being with Gendo was degrading, but there was a trick to being with him. It was all about finding how much lower you could go, how much more desperate you could be. But Misato cared. It was her tenderness that hurt me.
Maybe it was the scientist in me that wanted to quibble—that wanted to analyze and classify and say her love wasn't enough because it wasn't the right kind. Or maybe it was the woman in me—the one that wanted more than the remains of her heart.
Maybe, even there, I was my mother's daughter until the end.
I was waiting for the moment of disillusionment—waiting for the moment that would rescue me. There was so much about her that would disappoint: the drinking, the waywardness, the obstinacy.
But I'd miscalculated. I'd known her most of my life. What was there left in her that could turn me away? What was there left in her that could force me away from the beauty of her soul, from the courage in her that resisted all brokenness, including mine?
I allowed my intimacy with Gendo, knowing he would leave me, knowing he would use me. The anticipation of betrayal was my shield.
I allowed my intimacy with Misato, thinking she would leave me, thinking she would look for Kaji. But this time, the thought of betrayal wounded me, pierced what had already been broken. Only Misato had ever done that.
Only Misato ever could.
Still, I could have withstood it. There was safety in non-reciprocity, regardless of how precarious. What frightened me was her happiness: how the drinking stopped; how she noticed Lieutenant Ibuki's feelings for me. We were the dead and the abandoned. What we had was not supposed to leave room for joy. But what we had made me hope—and hope was the one commodity I could not afford. In a world blown apart by madness, it was a commodity none of us could afford.