She had informed me of her extended hospitalisation with unexpected indifference. Though I was worried, it seemed like the patient herself had anticipated as much, so I was a little relieved. I’d only admit it inside my heart, but I had been rather beside myself with worry.
On Tuesday afternoon after the supplementary lessons, I went to pay her a visit. The supplementary lessons were about to come to an end too.
“There’s only a little more than half of summer vacation left to go huh!”
She said only that with a tone that could have been considered lamenting. As though she were trying to convey to me that that alone was regrettable.
Outside, the sun was shining. The air-conditioned hospital ward was like a shelter that protected us from the sun’s rays, but it made me uneasy for some reason.
“Was Kyouko alright?”
“Aah, yeah. I get the feeling that her glare has somehow become more piercing than last week, but maybe your persuasion worked like a tranquilliser, so she hasn’t lunged at me yet.”
“Stop talking about my best friend like she’s some beast.”
“You must have yet to be glared at by her with those eyes. So she’s pretending to be a cat, huh. A feline beast then – maybe a lion.”
I hadn’t talked to her about last week’s incident at the bookstore.
I poured the canned peaches I had bought as a gift into a dish, and dug in with her. Somehow or other, the sweetness of the syrup brought back memories from when I was an elementary schooler.
While gnawing on the abnormally yellow peaches, she gazed outside.
“Why did you come to the hospital on a day with such good weather like this? You should play dodgeball or something outside.”
“First of all, you called me here. Secondly, I haven’t played something like dodgeball since elementary school. And thirdly, I don’t have anyone to play it with. While considering the three aforementioned points, please choose which you’d rather I do.”
“Greedy huh – then, I’ll let you have the last peach.”
With a childlike smile, she stabbed her fork into the peach and stuffed the whole thing into her mouth. I carried the plate and the can to the sink at the corner of the ward. It seemed like there was a system where the nurses would clear it up if I left it here. They would even bring out food too – if not for the illness within her, this could have actually been a VIP room.
As part of the VIP room package came my tutoring at no additional cost. Today too, despite finding it a bother, she took down notes seriously. I had asked her once before about the necessity of her studying. Since she wouldn’t be taking exams or anything. She’d replied that if her grades went to tatters, it’d make the people around her think that something was strange. I understood, and realised why I had never felt a special need to study no matter the situation.
Today, her magic show was postponed. She said that it wasn’t possible to keep on preparing new productions after all. And that she was preparing the ace up her sleeve, so I should look forward to it, and so-
“I’ll wait with my neck stretched out.”
“How are you going to stretch your neck out? You mean like getting someone to pull on your head?”
“So you’ve gotten so dumb that you can’t even understand a figure of speech? Now you have a virus in your head too huh, how awful.”
“The one that calls someone else dumb is the dumb one!”
“So I was mistaken huh – I said that it was because you have a disease, but it wasn’t a disease.”
“There’s no mistake, just die! Since I’ll be dying too.”
“Could you please not take advantage of the confusion to cast a curse on me?”
It was the same playful conversation as always. Being able to have meaningless conversations like this delighted me. Because it felt like such an atmosphere that allowed for poking fun at each other had become proof of an everyday that wouldn’t change.
As expected, I – who was relieved by something so meaningless – was probably lacking in that thing known as human experience.
She began to write something in the ‘Disease Co-existence Journal’, and so, for some reason or another, I shifted my gaze to a corner of the ward. I wondered if it was because of the attachment and accumulation of the illnesses of the patients from before that it had become discoloured.
“Does ?????-kun have any plans for summer vacation?”
I was in the middle of turning back to face her when my name was called, and so my gaze returned to her sooner than I had expected.
“Probably just coming here, and reading books at home. And homework too.”
“That’s all? You should go and do something, it’s summer vacation after all. How about going on a trip with Kyouko in my stead?”
“I don’t have the qualifications required to enter a lion’s cage. And weren’t you going on a trip with Kyouko-san?”
“It’s kinda impossible thooough. My hospital stay has been extended, and that girl is busy with club activities too.”
So she said, smiling a lonely smile.
“I wanted to go on one more trip y’knooow.”
Her sombre words made my breathing stop for a moment.
And in that instant, I saw a black haze creep into the room. I felt the foul something that had been slumbering within my heart’s core make its way up my throat. Hurriedly, I took a gulp of tea from its PET bottle, fighting the urge of retching it out. What was that just now?
I mulled over her words inside my head. Just like how a detective in a novel would’ve done with an important character’s lines.
It was probably because I was making a troubled face. She withdrew her wry smile, and tilted her head to the side.
The one that was puzzled was me.
So why was she doing that?
The moment I realised it, it flew right out my mouth.
“Why, did you say that like you’ll never be able to go on a trip again?”
She looked like she had been caught off guard. She made a face like a pigeon that had been shot with a peashooter.
“…………I said it, like that?”
“I see – guess even I have thoughts that appear like that hu~h.”
I wondered just what sort of face I was making. The unrest that had buried itself deep within the depths of my heart since my last visit swelled, and at last threatened to burst forth from my mouth. Desperate, I tried to cover my mouth with my hands – but my mouth moved before my hands could.
“You’re not going to die, right?”
“Huh? I’m going to die though. We’re all going to die, me and you included.”
“I don’t mean that!”
“If you’re talking about what happens once my pancreas breaks down, well of course I’ll die.”
“I don’t mean that!”
Slamming my open palms onto the corner of the bed, I jumped onto my feet without thinking. The chair I’d been sitting on toppled over, filling the ward with an unpleasant metallic clang. My eyes were locked onto her own, unflinching. This time, she made a face that was undoubtedly one of shock. Even I was shocked at myself. Just what did I just do that for?
I strained my parched throat for the last vestiges of my voice I could muster.
“You’re still, not going to die, right?”
Since she was still in shock, the girl didn’t respond, and silence fell upon the ward. Fearing the silence, I continued to speak.
“You’ve been acting weird for a while now.”
“You’re hiding something aren’t you? It’s obvious you know. Playing Truth or Dare, and suddenly holding onto me too. And when I asked if something had happened, your reaction was weird. You made such a weird pause – did you think I wouldn’t think it was strange? Even though it’s become like this, I’m just concerned about you because you’re suffering from a major illness.”
I had rattled on and on, speaking so fast I couldn’t recall what I’d said. I was out of breath by the time I was done. But there was another reason as to why I hadn’t drawn breath. I was perplexed. About her, who was hiding something, and myself, who had decided to involve myself in her affairs, too.
Staring at the girl who still had the look of utter shock on her, I – who operated on the principle of calming down when someone else was more upset – composed myself a little, and re-seated myself on the chair. My hands slowly loosened their grip on the bedsheets.
I looked at her face. Her eyes were wide open and her lips were sealed shut. Perhaps she would run away and try to sweep everything under the rug again. I wondered what I would do if it came to that. I wondered if I would have the courage to pursue her further. And I wondered if there would be any meaning to it if I did.
Just what……did I want to do?
An answer derailed my train of thought.
Normally, she would quickly cycle between a variety of expressions. That was why I expected nothing else but her dumbfoundedness to soon give way to another vivid expression. But I was wrong.
This time, the colour of her face changed really slowly. The corners of her sealed lips curled upwards with all the haste of a snail. Her wide-open eyes slowly narrowed, like curtains drawn to mark the end of a play. Her cheeks – frozen in shock – began to melt, stretching themselves out.
She made a smile that I could never imitate even if I spent the rest of my life trying.
“Shall I tell you? About what happened.”
I was as nervous as a child about to be disciplined.
She opened her large mouth, and with a look of bliss on her face, responded.
“It’s no~thing at all. It’s just that I’ve been thinking about you.”
“Yup, about you. You see, we really played Truth or Dare because I was thinking of asking something trivial. If I had to say it, I was thinking about how great it would be if I could get along better with you.”
I asked with a voice tinged with scepticism.
“Really. I wouldn’t lie to you after all.”
It may have been lip service, but even so, I couldn’t conceal my relief. My shoulders gave way at once, having been sapped of their strength. I knew I was being gullible, but I chose to believe her.
“Naaah, I’m just thinking that I’m really happy right now. I might even die.”
“That’s no good.”
“Do you want me to keep on living?”
Still looking at my face, she laughed, abnormally happy.
“Wo~w, I’d never have imagined that you’d need me that much. It’s a great blessing as a human y’know, for me to probably be the first person needed by you, a shut-in.
“Just who’s a shut-in here?”
This was all I could manage as a retort; my head felt like it might explode from the embarrassment. My concern for her was something I didn’t want to lose, something that I probably needed. But while that was the truth, the embarrassment involved in voicing my thoughts went far beyond that of simply thinking them. It felt as though all the blood in my body was rushing to my head. It was almost as if I would really die. Somehow, I forced myself to take a deep breath, and let the heat escape my body.
Smile unchanging, she continued with a rhythm that seemed to indicate she hadn’t the slightest intention of giving me pause to recover.
“Since I was acting weird, you thought that I was about to die? Without telling you.”
“……That’s right, your hospitalisation suddenly got extended after all.”
She started laughing loudly, convulsing so violently I thought she might tear off the drip attached to her arm. I couldn’t help but take offense at being the object of such fervent laughter.
“You’re the one at fault for saying easily misunderstood things.”
“But I’ve said it before! That there’s still time! Otherwise, I wouldn’t do something like practice magic y’knooow. But as for what you said earlier, I wonder why you got bothered by a little pause between my words. I think you’ve rea~lly been reading too many novels.”
Once she was done speaking, she started to laugh again.
“Don’t worry, since I’ll properly tell you when it’s time for me to die.”
And then she burst into laughter yet again. Having been laughed at too much, I became a little strange too. It seemed I had somehow made a grave mistake, and was now being confronted about it.
“Make sure to properly eat my pancreas once I die alright.”
“By any chance, could it be that you won’t die if your bad parts were removed? Shall I eat it for you right now then?”
“Do you want me to live?”
“Very much so.”
In my case, I was glad that I was a human whose honest words looked like jokes. Because if my truly, truly honest feelings were to be conveyed, I, who had come to neglect getting involved with humans, would get so embarrassed that I’d never be able to show my face again.
I didn’t know how she received it, but she jokingly said, “Ya~y, I’m so happy,” and spread both her arms out towards me. The face of the girl that seemed to be enjoying herself made it look like she was joking.
“Haven’t you recently begun liking the body heat of others too?”
The words she said between giggles must have been meant as a joke. That was why I decided to respond with my own converse joke – accepting her words honestly.
I stood up, approached her, and jokingly wrapped my hands around her back for the first time. “Wahoo,” she said in a joking manner once again as she wrapped her arms around me. To ask if there was any meaning to it would’ve been unsophisticated. One shouldn’t seek logic in a joke.
We stayed in the same position for a while before it occurred to me that something was strange.
“Hm, guess Kyouko-san isn’t coming at this sort of timing today, huh.”
“That girl has club activities. Actually, what do you think of Kyouko?”
“I guess, a demon that’s trying to interfere with our getting along.”
The two of us laughed, and I took the opportunity to let go of her body, but it was only after she gave my back one more tight squeeze that she let go. We drew apart, and joking till the very end, we laughed till both of our faces turned red.
“Speaking of dying, y’know.”
She broached the topic once the both of us calmed down.
“Bringing something up like that has probably never been done before huh.”
“Recently, I’ve been thinking that I should get started on writing my will.”
“Isn’t it too early? Like I thought, were you lying about how there was still time?”
“It’s not that, you see, I’m going to have to revise and correct it many times, since I want it to look neat. That’s why I’m going to start writing it down.”
“If it’s like that then I guess it’s fine. Since it does take more time to edit than write a novel.”
“See, so I wasn’t wrong after all. So look forward to reading my completed will after I die alright.”
“I’ll look forward to it.”
“You mean you want me to die sooner? How horrible. Or so I’d say, but since you need me, you wouldn’t want me to die hu~h.”
She was grinning, but since I was about to reach my limits emotionally, I stopped nodding my head honestly. Even though I frowned at her with unamused eyes, she continued to smile, undaunted. Perhaps it was the symptom of another condition.
“That’s right, since I made you worry needlessly, as an apology I’ll let you be the first one I have fun with when I’m discharged.”
“Seems rather self-important for an apology, huh.”
“You don’t want to?”
“It’s not that I don’t want to.”
“?????-kun really does have that part about you huh.”
I wondered which part she was talking about, but I sort of understood myself, so I didn’t especially ask her about it.
“On the day I get discharged, I’ll be heading home first, but I’ll be free after that, so it’ll be in the afternoon then.”
“What are we going to do?”
“Hmm, what should we do – won’t you be coming over a couple of times before I get discharged? Let’s think it over.”
Just like that, I gave my consent. Afterwards, in the two weeks before her discharge, the plan – which she had decided to call a “promised date” to my dissatisfaction – had turned into a visit to the beach, something she had hoped to do. Additionally, we would drop by a café somewhere, and she would perform for me the magic trick she was still in the midst of practicing.
Truthfully, when I promised to go out with her after she was released, I was worried that something gravely serious would between then and the day of her discharge. But the days up till then passed with nothing of the sort happening. Just this time, I thought perhaps that it was just as she said – I had been reading too many novels.
Within those two weeks, the supplementary lessons had ended, and we welcomed summer vacation. I paid her four visits. On the first, I ran into Best-Friend-san. On the second, we laughed till her bed trembled. On the third, she threw a tantrum when it was time for me to return home. On the fourth, I wrapped both my arms around her back. Not a single event did I get accustomed to.
We made plenty of jokes, shared plenty of laughter, made plenty of digs at each other, and gave each other plenty of respect. It shocked me – otherwise the eternal onlooker – how I had come to love the everyday we spent like elementary schoolers. Just what in the world had happened?
I’ll say it for the me looking back on the present. I was delighted to be getting involved with a person. It was the first time I’d done so since I was born – being together with someone, and not once think that I wanted to be alone.
While surely being the most sentimental in the world about getting involved with a person, my two weeks had been compacted into her ward. They were only four days, but those four days made up the entirety of my two weeks.
Because they were only four days, the day of her discharge arrived right away.
On the day she was to be discharged, I got up early in the morning. I was fundamentally an early riser – I’d wake up early whether it was rain or shine, no matter if I had any plans for the day or not. Incidentally, the skies today were clear, and I did happen to have plans. I opened the window, and could almost see the morning breeze drive out the stagnant air in my room. It was a good morning.
I washed my face downstairs, and headed to the living room just as my father was about to depart. I gave him a few words of appreciation, and with a smile, he gave me a pat on the back before leaving the house. He was energetic all year round. I had always found it strange that that sort of father could have a child like me.
My breakfast had already been set when I arrived at the dining table. Thanking my mother for the food, I took my seat, and said “thanks for the food” once more to the meal on the table before I dug in for some miso soup. I was quite fond of the miso soup my mother made.
While I savoured her cooking, my mother – who had finished washing the kitchenware for now – sat down before me, and began to drink from her cup of hot coffee.
As of now, the only ones that called me “you” in such an unceremonious manner were my mother and Best-Friend-san.
“So you’ve got yourself a girlfriend huh.”
Just what was this person saying first thing in the morning?
“Then, you’ve found a girl you like huh. Whichever it is, bring her over next time.”
“It’s neither, so there’s no one to bring over.”
“Hmmm, I was so certain.”
I was wondering what brought this about, but perhaps it was just her parent’s intuition working. Even if it had come to some outrageous conclusions.
“So, it’s just a normal friend huh.”
That wasn’t right either.
“It doesn’t matter whichever it is. I’m happy that someone who looks at you properly has appeared for the first time.”
“You, did you really think I couldn’t tell when you were lying? Don’t look down on mothers.”
Feeling grateful, I gazed intently at the face of the woman I could no longer underestimate. My mother, who – as a far cry from me – carried a strong light in her eyes, seemed really happy. Honestly, how humbling. The corners of my lips couldn’t help but curl. My mother continued to watch television whilst drinking her coffee.
Since my plans with the girl were scheduled for the afternoon, I spent the morning reading my books. It still wasn’t yet the turn of ‘The Little Prince’ that I had borrowed from her. I lay on my bed, reading a mystery novel I had bought a little earlier.
Time passed right by, and before noon arrived, I’d changed into a simple outfit and left the house. Since I had wanted to go to a bookstore, I arrived at the station much earlier than scheduled, and visited a large bookstore nearby.
I bought a book after milling around for a while, and began heading to the café where we had agreed to meet. It was just a short walk from the station, and since it was a weekday, the inside of the store was relatively empty. I ordered an iced coffee and sat myself down at a seat beside a window. There was still about an hour till we were supposed to meet.
The store was air-conditioned, but the summer heat still clung to my body. Taking a gulp of the iced coffee, I felt a pleasant sensation – it were as though the coffee was circulating throughout my body. But were that truly the case, I’d already be dead, so it was ultimately just an issue with my imagination.
Having borrowed the powers of the cooler and the coffee to clear my perspiration, my stomach grumbled. As I led a healthy lifestyle, I got hungry precisely when noon arrived. The thought of getting something to eat crossed my mind for a second, but since I had promised to have lunch with the girl, I held myself back. It would’ve been a pain to be brought to another all-you-can-eat buffet right after I’d satisfied my appetite here. She did have that part about her after all.
Recalling the two consecutive days that I had unwillingly joined her for lunch, I smiled. So over a month had passed since then, huh.
I decided to quietly wait for the girl. I placed the paperback I had been reading earlier onto the table.
Naturally, I thought of reading it, but unexpectedly, for one reason or another, my gaze turned outside. I didn’t understand why. If I had to pick a reason, I could only say that it was something I just happened to do. It was a reason that was unlike me, but reminiscent of the girl’s carefree nature.
Under the harsh sunlight, all sorts of people were coming and going. A male in a suit looked particularly hot. I wondered why he wouldn’t take off his suit. A young female wearing a tank top was headed towards the station with light steps. She probably had something fun planned. There was a high school aged male-female pair holding hands. They were one of those couples. A mother pushing her child in a stroller was……
I thought about it, and was taken aback.
Those people walking outside the window would surely never have any relation to me in this lifetime – beyond the shadow of a doubt, they were strangers.
I thought about why I was thinking of them, even though they were strangers. Something like this would never have happened before.
I’d always thought that I wasn’t interested in the people around me. No, that was wrong. I had decided not to be interested in them. That sort of me-
Without thinking, I ended up laughing to myself. I see, so I had changed this much, huh. It was amusing, and so I ended up laughing.
The face of the girl I was supposed to meet today came to mind.
I had been changed. Without any doubt, I had been changed.
On the day I met her, my nature as a human, my everyday, and my views on life and death all became variable.
Aah, that’s right, if I were to ask her, she’d probably say that with all of the choices I had made up till now, I had chosen to change myself.
I had chosen to pick up the paperback that had been left behind.
I had chosen to open the paperback.
I had chosen to speak with her.
I had chosen to teach her how to do library committee work.
I had chosen to take her up on her invitation. I had chosen to eat with her.
I had chosen to walk beside her. I had chosen to go on a trip with her.
I had chosen to go wherever she wanted. I had chosen to sleep in the same room as her.
I had chosen truth. I had chosen dare.
I had chosen to sleep on the same bed as her.
I had chosen to help her eat the remainder of her breakfast. I had chosen to watch the street performer together with her.
I had chosen to suggest magic to her.
I had chosen to buy an Ultraman for her. I had chosen the souvenir to buy.
I had chosen to answer that the trip was fun.
I had chosen to visit her house.
I had chosen to play shogi. I had chosen to pull ahead of her.
I had chosen to push her down. I had chosen to hurt the boy that was our class representative.
I had chosen to let him hurt me. I had chosen to make up with the girl.
I had chosen to visit the girl. I had chosen the gifts to bring.
I had chosen to tutor the girl. I had chosen when to return home.
I had chosen to escape from Best-Friend-san. I had chosen to watch her magic tricks.
I had chosen to play Truth or Dare. I had chosen the question to ask.
I had chosen not to escape from her arms. I had chosen to press her for answers.
I had chosen to laugh with her. I had chosen to embrace her.
No matter how many times I had to do so, I would have chosen the same.
Having undeniably chosen of my own free will even though I should have made different choices, I was here. Different from the me of the past, I was here.
I see, I understood now.
No one, not even me, was truly a reed boat. To be swept away or not – we were the ones to choose.
The one who taught me that was, without a doubt, her. The girl that was supposed to die soon, but even so, continued to face forward more than anybody else, and went about making her life her own. The girl that loved the world, loved people, and loved herself.
Once again, I had that thought.
The cellphone in my pocket vibrated.
“I just got home! I might be just a little late, sorry (sweats). I’m putting on something cute for you after all (lol).”
I saw her message, and after thinking for a little bit, I replied.
“Congratulations on your discharge. I was just thinking about you.”
A response to the message I had jokingly sent came right away.
“Well aren’t you saying something unusually delightful! What’s wrong, are you sick? [winking face]”
After a pause, I replied.
“Unlike you, my body is healthy though.”
“How horrible! You’ve hurt me! As punishment, give me a compliment!”
“Nothing comes to mind though – I wonder if the problem’s with me or you?”
“It’s you, 100%. Come on, get to it.”
I placed my cellphone on the table, folded my arms together, and thought. A compliment for her. Something about her that I could compliment – there really were a mountain’s worth of those. Surely so many that my cellphone’s memory wouldn’t be able to store them all.
Having met her, I’ve really learnt plenty of things. She taught me things that I hadn’t known till now.
Exchanging messages like this was one of those things she’d taught me. Because I had learnt for the first time the fun of having conversations with people, I chose words that seemed like they would elicit interesting replies from her.
To begin with, what was amazing about her was her extensive personal magnetism, which was something that seemed to have no relation to her life expectancy. Surely, she had always been like that. Of course, thoughts were moulded little by little, and words increased in richness bit by bit, but the basis for them probably had nothing to do with whether she would die in a year or not.
She, as she was, was amazing. And I thought that that was truly amazing.
I’ll confess it, that every time I was taught something, I thought that she was amazing. A human that was the polar opposite of me. The things that the cowardly me, who only ever kept to himself, couldn’t do – she was a human that could nonchalantly say and do them.
I took my cellphone into my hands.
You are a really amazing person.
I had always thought so. But I was never able to find the right words.
However, I understood it then.
Then, when she taught me what it meant to live.
My heart had been filled with the girl.
“I really wanted to become you.”
To become a human that acknowledged people, to become a human that was acknowledged by people.
To become a human that loved people, to become a human that was loved by people.
When I put it into words, I could only find them too fitting for my heart – such that they permeated throughout that organ of mine. Naturally, I ended up lifting the corners of my mouth.
Just what should I have done to become you?
Just what should I do to become you?
What should I do?
At last, I realised. If I remembered correctly, there should have been a saying that carried the same meaning.
I thought for a bit, and upon remembering, I decided to present that to her.
“I want to brew the dirt under your nails and drink it.”
I typed it out with the intention of only typing it out, and deleted it right away. I realised that just this wouldn’t be interesting. Even though they would have made her delighted, I got the feeling that even more suitable words existed.
Now, thinking once more, the words surfaced from a nook, no, perhaps the core of my memories.
Finding those words was a delight. So much so that I had even become proud of myself.
There were no words more perfect than these to present her.
The words that embodied my everything – I sent them to her cellphone.
“I want to eat your pancreas.”
I placed my cellphone on the table and waited, looking forward to her reply. Something like looking forward to someone’s response – surely, it was something the me from a few months ago would have found unbelievable. But since he had chosen to become the me of the present, he had no right to complain.
I waited earnestly for her.
However, her reply never came.
Only time passed, and my hunger only grew.
When the time we’d agreed upon arrived, I instead began looking forward to the response she would make when she appeared.
However, she never arrived either.
For thirty minutes, I continued to wait without much concern.
After an hour – and subsequently two – had passed, as expected, I started to become restless with worry.
When three hours had passed, I tried giving her a call for the first time. She didn’t pick up.
When four hours had passed, the scenery outside had turned to that of evening. I left the store. I knew that something had happened, but I didn’t know what. Though vague worries plagued my heart, I had no means by which to erase them, so I sent her a message. Having exhausted all my options, I decided to return home.
When I reached home, I started to think that – just maybe – her parents had forcefully brought her somewhere else. It was the only way I could soothe the fears that had gripped my heart.
I was restless the entire time. It would’ve been great if time all around the world had come to a stop right then.
I came to that thought while watching television, still worried, and about to fill my stomach with the dinner before me.
At that moment, I learnt for the first time why she hadn’t shown up.
She had told a lie.
I had told a lie too.
She had broken her promise of telling me when it was time for her to die.
I had broken my promise of definitely returning whatever I had borrowed from her.
I would never again be able to meet her.
I saw the news.
My classmate Sakura Yamauchi had been discovered collapsed in an alley in her residential district by a resident in the vicinity.
An ambulance had been called to take her away immediately after being discovered, but despite desperate attempts to resuscitate her, she had breathed her last.
The programme’s newscaster read only the truth, without the least bit of sympathy.
Without thinking, I dropped the as of yet unused chopsticks I had been holding onto the floor.
She had been discovered with a commercially available kitchen knife embedded deep into her chest.
She had become the latest victim in the series of random attacks that had caused a commotion from before.
The criminal – some person I didn’t know from somewhere I didn’t know – had been caught right away.
She had died.
I had been depending on it.
I had still been depending on it at this stage.
I had been depending on the one year’s worth of time she had remaining.
Just maybe, even she had been doing so too.
At the very least, I had been mistaken about the reality that no one’s tomorrow was guaranteed.
I had thought that it was a given that the girl who didn’t have much time left would’ve had a tomorrow.
I didn’t know about myself who still had time, but I had thought that the girl who didn’t have time would’ve been promised a tomorrow.
What foolish logic it was.
I had fully believed that the world would indulge only the life of the girl who had not much time left.
Of course, something like that that wouldn’t happen. It didn’t happen.
The world didn’t discriminate.
It refused mercy to its inhabitants – be they humans with healthy bodies like me, or that terminally ill girl who had a foot in the grave.
We had misunderstood. We were fools.
But, could anyone mock us for misunderstanding?
A drama that had its final episode determined wouldn’t end until its final episode.
A manga that had its cancellation decided wouldn’t end until its cancellation.
A movie that had a preview for its final instalment wouldn’t end until its final instalment.
Everyone should have been living while believing that. They should have been taught as much.
I too had thought that.
I had had believed that a novel wouldn’t end until its last page.
Perhaps she would laugh, saying that I’d read too many novels.
Even if I was laughed at, I didn’t mind.
Even though I had wanted to read it till the very end. Even though I had meant to read it.
Her story had come to an end with the remaining pages still blank.
With all the build-up, foreshadowing, and red herrings neglected.
I’d never be able to find out a single thing.
The result of the mischief with the rope she was setting up too.
The contents of the magic trick she called the ace up her sleeve too.
What she really thought of me too.
I’d never be able to find out.
…………That was what I had thought.
Because she had died, I had given up on that.
But I only realised later that that wasn’t true.
Even after her funeral, even after there was nothing left of her but bone, I hadn’t gone to her house.
I had shut myself in my own room, and passed the time reading books.
In the end, I required almost ten days to find the courage and a reason to go to her house.
Just before summer vacation ended, I remembered it.
The several remaining pages of her story – there was perhaps just one way to read them.
The thing that could even be called the beginning of me and her.
The ‘Disease Coexistence Journal’ – I had to read it.