I'll carry you
It had been a few days. I stopped seeing him at my train station. At school, he would avoid me. Honestly, that was what I preferred. Maybe I could have at least asked what his name was out of politeness but then he might have misunderstood it as a sign of me being friendly with him. And I did not want that. There was a hierarchy in our class. In our high school. Like in every high school across the world. It was a world of animals, consisting of prey and predators. The guy I met at the train station belonged to the popular group. I did not belong to any group. He was liked by everyone because he was tall, handsome and had a good functioning brain. Whereas I was hated on by everyone because I was a loner, weirdo and loser according to them. That would explain the ruthless bullying that I was experiencing since starting high school. It was the same in middle school. The other students saw me as an easy and weak target. But my silence did not mean frailty. I was just exhausted due to other circumstances outside of the school grounds. One day they will regret their wrongdoings. They will realise that karma was a bitch. And she will come for them, one after the other.
It was the 137th time that someone had thrown my lunch into the trash bin. I reached into my bag, but my purse was gone too. I looked around and saw the same group of girls looking my way and then looking towards the windows. They had thrown my purse through the window and into the bush underneath. I walked down the stairs, making sure not to bump into anyone. While I was passing other students, I could hear them talking about him. They were whispering of him having a crush on a girl. But he never told anyone about her except to his best friend. I had no idea who that best friend was, and I did not intend to find out because I was not interested in those matters. I was able to find my purse and bought a curry bun from the school’s store. I finished my lunch off by drinking some orange juice. The rest of the day went by fast and I took the train back home.
I saw him standing outside of my train station. It looked like he was waiting for someone. He was holding his bicycle and was staring at his shoes. I ignored him and walked away but then turned around again. I was right. He had lifted his head and was directly looking at me. I guess I could listen to what he wanted to say to me. It was probably an apology anyway.
“Can I talk to you for a second?” he asked. I nodded my head and reduced the volume on my phone. One of my earphones was already out of my ear. He suggested to go to a café or a nearby park. I chose the latter. I will always choose a place with less people. He was walking in front of me and I was quietly following him. The streets were busy. Schools had just finished. Parents were picking up their children and students who were old enough were hanging out with other students. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom. He sat down on a bench and told me to do the same. I chose the bench next to his. A single streetlamp was separating us. He went through his hair with his hand. He was clearly nervous about something. I hoped he did not want to confess to me that he was in fact my stalker.
“I don’t know if you remember but you met someone this past winter,” he started. I thought about it for a second, but no one specifically came to my mind. It was definitely not him. I would have remembered. “It was an elderly man over in the next town. He had fallen down and dropped his groceries. They were oranges and apples. No one helped him up or even asked if he was okay. But then a girl stopped by and helped him get back on his feet and picked up his fruits for him. She even walked him back home to make sure he was alright,” he continued. A lightbulb lit up in my head.
“Ah, yeah. That was me. I remember now. What about it?” I asked.
“That was my grandfather. I was there too when you dropped him off. He invited you in, but you refused, saying that you were getting late for something. What surprised me the most was that you were actually smiling at him,” he said. I was taken a back for a second. Did he just really say that the most surprising part was that I was smiling? Was he making fun of me?
“I’m leaving,” I said and stood up from the bench.
“Wait. Why?” he asked surprised.
“Because you are an arrogant idiot,” I told him.
“Okay. Sorry. I’ll take that last part back. I am telling you all of this because I want to be transparent with you. You wanted to know why I was being friendly with you and why I insist being friends with you. It is because of my grandfather,” he quickly said and gestured to me to sit back down again. “He said that he could tell that you have a gentle and kind-hearted soul. And he was glad to meet you.”
“How is he doing?” I asked and interlocked my fingers.
“He passed away a week later because of pneumonia. It was really sudden. His last words to me were to find you and make friends with you,” he said with a bittersweet smile on his face. His eyes had lost their usual cheerfulness. They looked sorrowful and glum.
“Wait here,” I ordered him and left by myself. If I saw correctly there should be a taiyaki stand somewhere in this park. I walked around for a bit and found it. Unfortunately, there was a line. And the line consisted of students from my high school. I put my head down and stood in line. Laughter and chatter was all around me. It made me antsy. I bought one red bean taiyaki and returned to him who had listened to me and was still sitting on the same bench when I left. I threw the freshly made fish-shaped cake to him and he caught it midair.
“By the way, you never told me your name,” I said and picked up my bag from the bench I left it at.
“My name is Akimitsu Eichi,” he told me. His eyes returned to their normal self.