Grasping These Fleeting Memories
Day 1: Tuesday, Time: 8:00 PM
Tomorrow is the Tanabata Festival, where Hikoboshi 🌠 and Orihime 🌠 will meet up once every year. I should be excited, but I can’t help but feel sad. Hopefully, my fake smiles will help me avoid all the questions my family and friends are going to ask me.
I don’t usually write diaries, I think they’re a very girly thing. But my doc recommended this for me, a tiny hand-sized diary with a flower pattern decorated on the front. Weirdly, I am fond of this diary. Better not let anyone see it tho, my friends would most definitely tease me about it. Me, a functioning male member of Japanese society, fondly carrying and writing in a teenage diary.
Anyways, I digress. Sorry to the future me who’s reading this.
The doc said I was lucky to survive. Something about a fatal blow to my head that should have killed anyone. I can’t really remember the details but the doc tells me I was a victim of a drunk hit and run last night and they found me with my skull open after skidding 30 meters across the pavement. They could tell it was that far because they measured the blood trail.
“It’s a miracle he’s alive”, “we had to operate for 12 hours on him”, “He’s 24? Young bodies are truly invincible”, and “you’re definitely getting a promotion after this”. All these rude things I heard when I was half unconscious. I should be grateful tho, they did save me.
Doc tells me I got a very rare case of injury-induced amnesia. Rather than losing my memory outright, my memory slowly slips away from me. Doc says it's even crueler than death or normal amnesia, it saps away at the core of the human, their memories, and therefore their existence. Doc says I have an estimated 3 days. I know he’s lying, he’s being generous.
The only person that knows about my injury is my girlfriend and soon-to-be fiancee, Sawako. She found me while walking to my house and immediately called the police and ambulance. I admire her strength, if I found her like that I would have probably broken down and cried for a few minutes before realizing I had to call someone.
We were planning our Tanabata celebration during the weeks leading up before this and she was so excited for the festival. When we talk she would always talk about her childhood memories from Tanabata and summer festivals. Her normally cool and stoic face would usually glow with life, her eyes would sparkle, and she would have a beautiful little half-grin.
Luckily for me, the day after Tanabata is actually our 3rd anniversary. I plan to propose to her at midnight tomorrow, the time when the romantic Tanabata ends and our anniversary begins. I want to propose to her with a sweet Ringpop. I know it seems really lame and cheap but, trust me, I know her, she would hate it if I spent our money on some useless diamond ring. Whenever I try to buy her something fancy she always asks for the price, glares at it for a few seconds (probably counting digits), then pouts at me with her signature “I’m angry at you but thanks for caring about me” eyes. Don’t tell her, future me, but sometimes I tease her with high prices so that I can see that expression, cause it is probably the cutest thing I’ve seen in my life. Anyways, she’s frugal like that, and for good reason. We’re quite poor. She would love the Ringpop tho, she’s a fanatic for western-style things and they don’t sell these Ringpops in Japan.
And for whoever is snooping in my diary after I left it on a desk or dropped it. Don’t judge, I can feel your judging eyes. Hey! Why do you even have this diary. If you want to judge something then judge this!
[Showcase Image #1, Ringpop]
Yeah my art isn’t that great
Anyways enough with that nonsense. Future me, tomorrow is Tanabata. You will enjoy it with Sawako as planned. Remember, house -> market -> bridge for fireworks -> propose at her door
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, if you forget everything and are about to die!
PLEASE REMEMBER TO PROPOSE
Don’t let me down, future me.
Make her happy!!!!!!
Hojo Haruto, age 24, electric technician and amnesiac. 6 July, 2021
“Hojo-san, you have a guest!”
The nurse peeked into the room. On the hospital bed sat a young adult male with messy black hair, some stitches on the back of his head, and scars on his arms. His normally fair face luckily suffered minor scratches that have already healed. Decently fit and wearing the typical hospital patient’s clothing, he sat staring at a tear-stained diary with his eyes running up and down the page as if he was trying to engrain the words into his memory.
“Ah”. Hojo Haruto looked up and jumped out of his bed.
From behind the nurse came a young woman of 23 with hard eyes. Her dark brown hair was naturally curved and reached slightly below her shoulders. While normally kept neat, a few stray hairs showed she was recently stressed and in a hurry. Her face would be considered mature and beautiful if she didn’t have tear marks that she was trying to hide.
“Haa… You shouldn’t be jumping around like that, you know, it might open up your wounds.” Sawako sighed with her classic half-grin.
“Well I’ve been injured so much already, another scratch wouldn’t hurt. Apparently, I’m invincible.”
“Hai hai. The doctor told me about your condition. You’re free to leave anytime now.”
“Well let’s go then, Sawako-chan!”
Sawako’s face turned bright red, “Hey I thought I told you to stop calling me with ‘chan’ in public, you’re seriously embarrassing me.”
“Yes, yes sorry. I couldn’t resist,” Haruto cracks a laugh.
He walked up to the two women and thanked the nurse, who was watching with amusement. The couple walked out of the room and into the hallways.
“Stop stumbling around, you’re not that injured and you’ll crash into the staff,” Sawako asked as she turned around, seeing Haruto obviously acting like a zombie. She struck another half-grin after seeing Haruto acting more like his typical self.
“Haha, I’m just messing with you.”
“Yeah I know, but not here. You can act like a clown all you want outside.”
Sawako put out her hand, intending to help guide Haruto. As Haruto pulled out his hand to hold hers, Sawako had a slight inaudible gasp, dispersing her iconic half-grin and replacing it with a slightly saddened face and an intense glare.
“Ah, my scars. Yea my hands and back are covered with them. Do they scare you?”
“No… it's just that it's uncomfortable seeing you hurt like that.”
“Ah sorry, they’re just scars though.”
Once outside, both of them breathed a sigh of relief. It was dark out and the air was nice and cool. The full moon shone above, basking the bustling city of Osaka in a soft shade of white. In the cosmos, the stars Altair and Vega can be seen approaching each other.
“We’re quite far from home, wanna call a taxi?”
“Taxi? We already spent 6 million yen on your treatment. Haa… I drove here with my car. I prefer we drive back so I don’t leave my car here. How did you think I got here?”
“6- 6 million? How did we get that money? I remember we barely have 2 million in our joint account. Sawako, you didn’t… did you?”
“I spent my college funds. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“But Sawako, how will you find the money to continue your doctora-”
“Shh,” Sawako angrily put her finger on Haruto’s lips to quiet him. “We’ll figure it out later. Your life is way more important than some flimsy paper with a degree on it. And plus, I don’t want to talk about-”
Haruto hugs her before she can finish with tears forming on the ends of his eyes. “I promise I will repay you! Thank you.”
Sawako warmly stroked the back of his head, making sure to avoid the stitches. “Let’s go, and stop hugging me so much in public, it’ll embarrass both of us. I thought we promised that we’ll keep it to only hand holding at most when in public.”
“Ah… I forgot. But even if I remembered I would have hugged you anyways.”
“Haa... let’s go.”
As they walked to the car, a thought kept bugging Haruto. He really did forget. In fact, he had no memory of that important promise, but he was sure that it existed.
Please, please, please, myself. Don’t forget the proposal... Haruto kept repeating those words in his mind as they drove home.
Day 2, Wednesday (Tanabata!) Time: 7:00 AM
Don’t forget the proposal. I made a promise to not hug/kiss/headpat/lift up/stroke Sawako’s hair in public. I also promised to not call her Sawako-chan, but I’ve never kept that promise and I don’t plan to keep it.
Today is Tanabata. Remember: house -> market -> bridge for fireworks -> propose at her door
house -> market -> bridge for fireworks -> propose at her door
house -> market -> bridge for fireworks -> propose at her door
I’ve noticed I’ve begun to forget some minor things. When I woke up I forgot where my sock drawer was and I lost my toothbrush. Sawako probably will not appreciate my bad breath so I ate a few mints. I hoped the amnesia was a lie but looks like I’m not that lucky.
house -> market -> bridge for fireworks -> propose at her door
I actually woke up early to prepare my proposal box. It’s handcrafted by yours truly and I had to get the dimensions of a Ringpop online since I can’t just open and measure it. Honestly, putting a candy ring in a fancy box to propose seems stupid but I’m sure she’ll love it. In case I forget somehow, I also set a timer for 11:59 PM, can’t be too safe with me. My pockets are stuffed, I might get noticed and my secret might get exposed if something falls out. Hopefully, that timer doesn’t ruin the mood…
I’m bringing this diary along too. I want to record this day for my future self. Please, learn to appreciate this day, my future self.
Hojo Haruto, age ??, former hospital survivor and amnesiac. 7 July, 2021
A knock came to the door. Haruto quickly finished dressing in his traditional Japanese robe and hurried to the door.
“Ah, you’re here. Where did you get that expensive kimono?”
Sawako greeted him with her classic half-grin. She wore a silk kimono with a beautiful flower pattern and traditional Japanese sandals. Her hair was tied up in a traditional bun and she carried a red umbrella with matching flower patterns in her right hand. In her left held 2 bento boxes.
“I thought this was a special occasion so I put money aside to buy this and I spent the morning making lunch for us sinc- hey are you scanning my body????”
“Ah, caught, yea sorry I wasn’t listening. I thought you were normally beautiful with western clothes but you might be too beautiful in this Japanese outfit. I might have to hide you because at this point you look better than a diamond and people might just steal you away-”
“Yea ok creep. Haa… Your flirting always ends up becoming ramble and it kills the mood. Well I guess I’m glad that hasn’t changed…”
“Glad to see you Sawako-chan.” Haruto ambushes Sawako with a hug.
“Hey!” Sawako gave Haruto an angry pout, which was probably what Haruto was aiming for.
They ended their short conversation abruptly, unconsciously staring at each other’s faces with brewing emotions. Breaking the current mood, both of them laughed and hugged each other.
“Come on, the festival won’t wait for you and you’re already late.”
Sawako took Haruto’s hand and led him down the road towards the coast, where the festival celebrating 2 star-crossed lovers was held every year.
Day 1: Tuesday? Time: 10:00 AM
We’ve arrived at the festival grounds after a long car ride! Look’s like we’re super late, Sawako’s been giving me angry side glances as she drove thru traffic. I am partly to blame tho, apparently, Sawako has a car and she could drive. I wish she told me, would have saved me an embarrassing moment in the parking lot.
Anyways we’ve arrived at Osaka’s coast. Looks like there’s a few clouds out, the weather report says a small chance of rain. Hoping for good weather to enjoy today. This might be my last date with her...
age 22 age … July 6, 20
The couple arrived at the pier a few kilometers from where the festival was being held. They ended up so far away due to traffic and a lack of parking spaces. Strangely, Sawako wasn’t unhappy about their current location. After all, she secretly preferred a scenic beach rather than the crowded festival markets, but she can’t tell Haruto that or he’ll inconvenience himself by making a beach date every week.
“We’re here, let’s hurry, we're going to miss the morning ceremonies.”
“Yes, yes. Are you sure you don’t want me to hold your bento boxes? Your hands seem full.”
“No, it’s fine. I don’t trust you to not lose them.” Sawako said with a slight blush. Haruto knew she was hiding something.
“Ah, Sawako-chan! Look over here!”
“Hai hai,” Sawako said after a few dissatisfied glares for Haruto’s blatant use of “chan” in public. “Ah, wow it does look amazing.”
Haruto pointed out towards the oceanside view. The large Pacific Ocean spanned across the horizon, ending its great expanse a few meters from Haruto’s feet. Above, large cumulonimbus clouds lofty hung in the sky, casting wide shadows over Osaka and providing some shade from the summer heat. Far off in the distance, the island of Shikoku along with some smaller islands sat in view, with a massive steel bridge spanning from the port of Osaka across the bay. If you looked closely enough, you could also see the bright lights of other people celebrating Tanabata on the islands.
“Hey Haruto, look there’s a sign here.”
“Is it one of those tourist things? This place is a tourist trap most of the year.”
“It reads: ‘Here in front of you lies Osaka Bay, a historic site of trade, commerce, and Japanese culture. Ahead you can see several islands. These were formed by the slow moving Pacific Plate as it journeyed over volcanic hotspots over millions of years. Since the Yayoi era to even the recent Edo era, many stories about sea monsters, sometimes called yokai and sometimes called kami, have been popular among the local legends. Now, the bay is an international hub that attracts people all around the world. Although the old stories of Osaka Bay have been written off as fiction, it has become a core memory of the culture and life of Osaka. The memories of Osakan culture, traditions, and history define our city and our identity.’”
“Wow you can read English?”
“What? Haruto you idiot, there's Japanese text right above it.”
“Ah sorry I wasn’t paying attention. I was too busy comparing the sea and you and trying to decide which one looks better. The sea is beautiful but your face reading with your hard eyes scanning the plaque is even-”
“Ok stop, I told you, your flirting doesn’t work. You’ll end up embarrassing yourself further, good thing there’s no one else but me to see that though.” Sawako’s cheeks were secretly tinted pink but she couldn’t let Haruto see that.
“Anyways, you lost me when you were reading about marine life or something like that. I’m not trying to be a doctor like you so I’m not that interested.”
“I’m trying to be a doctor of medicine. Med- i- cine. An MD. Haa… Haruto you're making me worry about your amnesia.”
“Don’t worry, I’m just messing with you, Sawako-chan.”
“Hai hai… Come on, let’s get something to eat in town.”
In truth, both of them wanted to stay a little longer enjoying the scenery with each other, but both also didn’t want to disappoint the other and miss out on the festival. It was two people trying their hardest in a silent contest to make the other person happy. They wanted to accommodate the other too much, and as a result no one got what they really wanted, but they were both happy in the end.
Day 1: Time: 12:00
Finally here! Sawako took some time fixing her hair after it got messed up by the ocean winds. Apparently we’re buying our lunch, looks like the bento boxes she prepared are for dinner? Good thing I brought some money.
Really tho, I wished we planned out lunch earlier. In fact, I can’t recall planning out anything for this important day but it seems Sawako already has a plan in mind so I’ll just follow her lead. Thankfully she’s
rele relaiabe reliable unlike me.
Ah, she’s coming. I better hide this diary.
“I asked around, the food court is on the next block.”
“Ah I’m not that hungry though, I do have money in case you want to buy something.”
“Haa… you’re not hungry because you were eating snacks in my car while I was driving. Well let’s go then. I’m not that hungry too so let’s walk around and see the sights I suppose.”
“You mean a date?”
“Hai hai, call it what you want. Let’s look around, this boring city is only pretty and decorated a few days a year.”
Indeed, Sawako was right. The city was filled with life. They were surrounded by the colors of summer, where, for the one time per year lanterns lined wires instead of pigeons and people realized that clothes can have different colors than the greyscale suits the business districts were so familiar with. A time when dads were crowded into tight food stands selling mochi and takoyaki rather than crowded into tight cubicles selling their lifes. It was a city with a new breath of air, remembering and celebrating its roots and traditions. It was a time for couples to meet, children to dream, and memories to be made.
“Hey, hey Sawako-chan look over there! That bridge looks like it came straight out of samurai manga!”
“That’s the Kioku bridge isn’t it? The one that was built by the Hosokawas in the Muromachi era. The one you want to watch the fireworks on, right?”
“Did I ever say that? I can’t remember but I would definitely remember a bridge as impressive as this. That thing is wide enough to hold a thousand people I bet, and it's made of painted wood too.”
“Well I wanted to watch the fireworks from a tall hill but you kept pushing that stupid bridge. Well I guess it’s too late to change the plan now. Haa… Let’s hurry to the market to get something to eat before they sell out.”
“Race you to it then?”
“Knowing you, you're definitely going to get lost. Let’s go together, I would like that a bit more anyways. You can even call me ‘Sawako-chan’ for the day.” Sawako tries a little too hard to hide her intentions. Luckily, Haruto has developed the skills to see right through her hints from the 3 years they’ve dated.
“Ah you finally came to it. Surrendering? Well then let’s go arm in arm like those couples in high school romances.”
“Hey, wait. Stop. Haa… fine, I’ll allow it. Keep it to hugging at most though! Hey are you listening? You’re squeezing me too tight, I can’t breathe!”
As expected, Haruto immediately hugged Sawako as hard as he could. It was a one in a lifetime chance after all. After a few more minutes of angry pouting and joking apologies, the couple laughed it out and hurried to the market.
No time to write! Just tricked Sawako into asking the store owner if they sold erotica. She doesn’t know any titles so it's honestly too easy.
I’m hiding after running for my life. I stuffed my pocket with lots of junk so I can’t run that fast, but for some reason I have a feeling that the stuff in my pockets are very valuable to me so I can’t just throw them away. I hear footst-
The day continued to go smoothly. Children played with newly acquired kitsune masks while their parents met up with old friends to talk over afternoon tea. The streets of Osaka usually filled with the sounds of angry car horns have been momentarily replaced with the clamorous chatter of festivities. Between all the star themed lanterns and the flowery kimonos and yukatas, you could find Sawako resting on an old wooden bench half covered in the shadows of a Japanese Maple Tree.
“Sawako-chan! I got some dangos from that stand over there!”
“Eh? Dangos are too sweet for m-”
“Ah don’t worry I got some takoyaki too to balance it out.”
“It doesn’t work like that! Eating both will cause your stomach bacteria to overreact and you’ll be spending the day on the toilet.”
“Ahh, more tako for me then. Come on, eat the dango. I’ll sing you a song to convince you. You like this song after all. ♪ Dango, Dango, Dango, Dango, Dango Dai-”
“Hai hai, stop singing, you’re embarrassing yourself. I’ll eat it since you clearly bought too much and you’ll get diabetes.”
“How can I get diabetes if my body is already used to the high concentration of sugar from your sweet pouts and-”
“Your flirting really needs some work, that was such a good chance too and you messed it up. Anyways don’t talk when you eat or we’ll have to visit the doctor for the 2nd time and- Ah!” As Sawako was lecturing Haruto, a giant red Japanese maple leaf smacked Sawako’s face, surprising her and making her drop her half eaten dango.
“I guess that’s what happens when you talk when you’re eating, Sawako-chan.”
“Ahh… that dango was pretty good too. A shame.”
“Like it? Don’t worry I actually bought 5 more and I was preparing to- hey where did I- Ahhh I put them face down on the bench… Do you think they’re still safe to eat? 5 second rule or something?”
“99% of the bacteria gets on food on 1st contact with the ground, also I think they’ve been there for a good minute. Haaa… Haruto what will I do with you and your absent mind…”
Sawako lets out a sigh but she’s clearly enjoying Haruto’s accidental humor. A small gust picks up as Haruto fumbles around with his dangos while Sawako watches, amused.
“Hey the wind is picking up, watch out for more leaves!”
“Looks like it’s going to rain. Good thing I bought this festival umbrella.”
“Rain? Since when was it going to rain? I should have checked the weather report this morning, damn.”
On cue, a light shower started. A quiet drizzle tapped on the brims of colorful market fronts and old stone paths, covering the ground in a thin layer of water that reflected the grey clouds overhead.
“Well you woke up so late I don’t think you could have. Well it’s fine though, get under my umbrella. It’s something you would like since you’re all about that sappy couple romance thing.”
“That I am, I’m glad you recognized my specialty, Sawako-chan. But isn’t the male supposed to hold the umbrella in these situations?”
“You just lost 5 dangos. I don’t trust you with my new umbrella!”
“Ah don’t worry, I wouldn’t lose something so important to you.”
“Hai hai… It’s getting cold, let's head to the indoor area before the weather gets worse.”
“Ah, I wanted to cuddle together, but on second thought that might have been dangerous. If we cuddled I might not have ever wanted to move again.”
“Save your thoughts… We can cuddle at home…”
“Well then, if I have that guarantee, Sawako-chan let’s-”
A strong gust blew her red flower patterned umbrella out of her hand and into the air.
“Haa… I’ll get it before it flies into the ocean. Head indoors before you get a cold. I’ll be back soon.”
“Alright Sawako-chan! I can’t wait!”
Haruto sat back on the wet bench, watching Sawako’s form get smaller and smaller as she chased her runaway umbrella. Strangely, Haruto noticed that his recently exposed head isn’t that wet. Luckily for the festival, the drizzle seemed to have stopped and the clouds were parting, revealing a rainbow that rivaled the beautiful summer colors of the Tanabata festival.
After waiting for a good while in the slowly fading drizzling rain, Haruto’s eyes began to drift around, admiring the scenery.
“Ehhh, how romantic would it be to look at that rainbow with Sawako-chan… Ah I should probably write it down in my diary since she’s not here…” Haruto fumbled around, searching for his diary in his pockets. Instead of a flower patterned diary, he pulled out a detailed, handmade box.
“Eh? Why do I have this? Was this the thing that kept bumping into my leg when I ran?” He shaked it around and heard something bouncing around. Might as well open it, he thought.
Inside the hand- crafted box he finds some sort of candy ring sitting on velvet silk. Already opened from it’s package, it was somehow kept in pristine condition, as if it was factory new.
“What? Some type of candy? Ah I thought I could sell this for some money. Well, I might as well eat it before it spoils.” Haruto took the strange candy ring out of the box, twirling it in his fingers before eating it. “This is way too sweet, it's basically pure sugar… Might as well get rid of this annoying box, it keeps on scraping my leg.” Haruto tossed the hand-craft box into the nearby trash can, “Seriously, who would like to eat something so sweet…”
“Hey is that a Ringpop?”
“Ah, Sawako-chan you’re back! Uhh, is this what it’s called?”
Haruto pulled out the Ringpop to show to Sawako.
“Hai hai, it looks like it. Those are so rare here, how did you get one? I haven’t seen one in years.”
“You want it? I thought you didn’t like to eat things that are too sweet.”
“I’m fine with western sweets. During my time studying abroad I got used to them I guess. You can keep the Ringpop though, I’ve had a few before but this is your first one so you should enjoy it.”
“Ah, I didn’t know you liked that type of foreign stuff. If so I would have gotten you something.”
“Hey it’s getting late, we have to hurry to watch the sunset. Let’s go, we need to fight for a spot on the bridge before others take it. We’ll miss the fireworks if we don’t. Hey, the sun is setting fast. Come one!”
“Ah ah ah, alright let me throw this thing away first. Hey, Sawako-chan, wait up!”
Haruto tossed the half finished Ringpop into the same trash can he threw the box in.
Diary, I feel like something is wrong. I don’t know if it’s my amnesia or not but I can’t- something doesn’t sit right. Please, please, please, don’t forget to
kiss marry date pro
PLEASE REMEMBER TO PROPOSE
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE
DON’T FORGET SAWAKO
I am stressed out of my mind. I can’t enjoy this day like this. I still have to make sure Sawako is happy while we watch the fireworks. Why are we watching the fireworks? They’re loud and annoying. Is it the spirit of the holiday that commands it?
Damn it! I’ll draw a picture of Sawako and me here, so if I ever forget I can look back and remember. I can’t possibly be that dumb to not be able to connect the dots??????
[Showcase Image #2, Who?]
Curse my bad art skills!!!!
I- I- I can’t remember how my face looked like…
Haru Horu Harota Age:
“There goes the sun, we can probably see the stars now.”
“I’ll look for Orihime, you can look for Hikoboshi then?”
The couple sat together in a nice, scenic spot in the middle of the bridge, pointing at stars. In front of them were the wooden railing that was painted red to match the festive colors of Tanabata. Beyond that spanned the river estuary that fed into Osaka Bay. The sun was barely visible beyond the horizon, casting the sky with a grand shade of red that slowly faded into a purple night sky splattered with shining stars. Although the air got colder and the wind picked up, the couple didn’t fear the cold since they were cuddled together.
“It’s almost time for the lanterns.” Sawako whispered with her head on Haruto’s shoulders.
“It is? Since when did they fly lanterns during Tanabata?”
“Every year. I used to think that tradition was silly but I guess it can create a nice, romantic mood when done just right.”
“Do you want to fly one?”
“Haruto, we don’t have the money for that. Well, it’s dinner time anyways so let’s just eat and watch.”
Sawako handed Haruto a bento box she prepared. After a closer inspection, Haruto noticed his bag is definitely bigger and heavier than Sawako’s.
“Ah, you didn’t, did you? Sawako you shouldn’t give me extra food.”
“Hey don’t complain. I spent all of yesterday making this while you were sleeping in the hospital. Here, I got all your favorites. Takoyaki, fried tofu, onigiri, tempura, and some mochi when you’re done!”
“You really shouldn’t have, I-”
“Haa… Just let me do something nice for you, you always do nice things for me after all. I’ll feel guilty if you don't accept it. Oh yea, and I know you like sushi but I can’t put it in the bento since the raw fish would spoil so…” Sawako reached into her bag and pulled out freshly prepared, handmade sushi. “Tada! Fresh sushi made!”
“When did you-”
“Well you’re usually so absent-minded so when I chased after that umbrella I took the chance to quickly run off and buy all the ingredients, drive to a nearby friend’s house, and then I prepared it all in 30 minutes. Seriously, did you think I would spend almost an hour chasing an umbrella?”
“But really you’re going to stuff me full with all of this fo-”
“Hai hai, just eat. You need the extra protein to help you regenerate your cells in your injured body, or whatever.”
“Well I guess if you care for me that much, we can feed each other the takoyaki though, you know, like how couples do.”
“Haa… I’ll allow it.”
Both of them laughed as they joked and ate, watching as bright orange lanterns rose up one by one into the night sky. Soon, the lanterns rivaled the stars in numbers, dancing in the wind and causing the calm ocean to sparkle as it reflected the colors of the floating lights, the moon, and the stars.
“The lanterns really are beautiful.”
“Yea it really adds to the mood. I guess they were right when they said the Tanabata festival in Osaka was the most beautiful in all of Japan.”
“Osaka… Right. We’re in Osaka…”
“Yea and we took hours to drive to the bay, no thanks to you.”
“We should get a lantern, shouldn’t we? We can write our names on it and send it to the heavens.”
“Haruto, do you really want one that badly? Well if you keep insisting… I guess this is a special occasion, I’ll get one then but expect a loan on our rent next month.”
“Eh? If we don’t have the money we probably shouldn’t get one. I don’t remember asking before-” Sawako was already gone, going around to buy a lantern to light with Haruto.
With that, Haruto was sitting on a bench alone, eating food made by someone else, and gazing at the 2 stars who were fated to meet that night.
“It really is pretty, isn’t it?” Haruto said to himself as he fumbled around his pockets, “I should take a picture…”
“Eh? What’s this? A book?”
In his hand, he held some sort of flower patterned book. It’s edges were worn by all the running that occurred that day.
“Well… I guess since I have time to kill I could read through it.”
Haruto flipped around the book but he couldn’t really read the messy handwriting.
No, he could somewhat read the handwriting, but he couldn’t make sense of it. The more he read, the more he became confused. The writer ran on and on about some romantic plan, some relationship, and some thoughts that were foreign to this Haruto. He had no description to base his imagination on, and the sparse drawings were too poor for him to really make sense of whatever he was reading.
“Huh, must be some girl’s diary, but Haruto is a boy’s name, isn’t it? Did I pick this up from somewhere? I should probably give it back-”
“Hai! I got the lantern! Let’s light it before the fireworks.”
In front of Haruto came a young woman of 23 with normally hard eyes that have turned soft from happiness. Her dark brown hair was held up in a traditional Japanese bun. While normally kept neat, a few stray hairs showed she was recently in a hurry. Her face is mature and beautiful, complementing her flower patterned kimono. She had a familiar and pleasant half-grin on her face.
Haruto was confused. Here in front of him sat a girl that seemed like she was having the time of her life. Haruto was overcome with deep emotion, some sort of mixture between care, joy, and fondness that some would consider to be “love”. She was close to his heart but alien. Her beautiful looks were familiar but unrecognizable. Haruto felt like throwing up.
“Hello? Earth to Haruto? Haa… Are you going to try one of your flirting rambles again? Hellooooo? Earth to Haruto, this is Sawako making contact, if there is any life ple-”
“Ah that’s right! Hi Sawako-san!”
The girl named Sawako recoiled in a mixture of confusion, worry, and shock. Her previous happy demeanor and characteristic half-grin vanished, replaced with a face of concern marked with worried eyes. Haruto, for some reason, remarked in his head that he rarely sees this expression in her face.
“Ha-… h-hai, Sawako-san... Let’s light the lantern Haruto...” The girl named Sawako held out her newly bought lantern to the boy next to her. Her face flashed with many different emotions as she tried to process things.
“Ah, a lantern? We could light it and let it fly like the rest of the ones in the sky.”
“H-Hai hai… I have the pen, let’s write our names... Here, I’ll write first. Sa. Wa. Ko, see? Your turn.”
“Sa… Wa… Ko… Like Sawako-san... Ok do I just write it here? Uhh let me just... My name was… It was…?”
That was the confirmation the girl who called herself Sawako needed and dreaded. She was holding back tears. She knew this time would come when she heard the doctor, but she rejected the idea and banished it away.
“It’s Haruto, Hojo Haruto. See, Ha. Ru. To. We’re together right now, like Orihime and Hikoboshi. Let’s write our names and send it to the heavens to bless our rela- relation- our…”
The girl named Sawako couldn’t talk. She was too busy holding back her tears. She cried silently. She couldn’t show Haruto. She couldn’t ruin his happiness.
“Ah, so like… Ha. Ru. To. So then what?”
“Then- then just light it and it will soar with- with our love…” The girl called Sawako wiped away her tears and continued to instruct the boy called Haruto next to her.
“So like this? Let me just hold it out and take the lighter… Ah,” Haruto dropped the lantern and it tumbled over the edge of the bridge, landing in the murky water below. “Ah I’m so sorry, I lost your lantern!”
“No, no, no it’s fine. It’s all right. We don’t need a- a silly lantern to love each… each… each oth-”
Boom! Loud explosions could be heard. In the sky, fireworks lit up the starry night, casting colors that rivaled the forgotten afternoon rainbow. Murmurs of “wow” and “ahh” were exchanged between the families and couples present on the bridge.
“Ah, so those are fireworks huh.”
“Yea… They’re… They’re beautiful aren’t they?” The girl named Sawako didn’t... no, she knew he couldn’t give an answer. She put her head on Haruto’s shoulders.
“Eh, uhh Sawa… Uhh are you ok?”
“Hai hai… Stop looking at me, I’m fine. Enjoy the fireworks.”
The fireworks ignited the air, sending summer colors flying throughout the sky. It seemed like it was raining stardust. The booms echoed across the land, demanding attention and awe at the majesty of art and color it displayed. The stars of Altair and Vega, known in legend as Hikoboshi and Orihime who are now together in the sky, were the only stars that outshined the brilliant fireworks.
“What are you doing, Haruto, stop looking at my face, it’ll ruin your night. Look at the fireworks… please.”
“Ah, sorry, I tried looking at the fireworks but your face was more beautiful.”
After that comment, the girl called Sawako paused, sat back up, put her hands over her face, and cried.
She cried more than she ever had in her life. She no longer tried to stop the tears that poured across her face, they were as numerous as the stars. She stained her new flower patterned kimono crying, but she didn’t care. People began to notice and murmur, but she didn’t care. She only cared for Haruto, and he was gone.
“Haruto… Remember me. It’s me, Sawako-chan! Your Sawako-chan! Who has a habit of saying ‘hai hai’ that you find annoying. Who is trying to study to become a doctor so we can have money. Who has to call you so you can wake up in the morning. Who- Who glares and pouts at you everytime you do something dumb. Who- Who secretly adds extra portions to your lunch before you go to work. Who laughs when you try to make dumb jokes and gets angry when you try to flirt. Who- Who wants you to be happy!”
There was no response from Haruto. He couldn’t respond, she was speaking another language, events alien to him that he never experienced. She was talking to a different person.
People were watching now, whispering rumors and shuffling away. The girl didn’t care though, why should she. What is the worth of embarrassment when you lost everything?
“It’s… It’s not fair. IT’S NOT FAIR! Why… Why… out of all the times you’ve tried, this time your stupid flirting worked? Where is the endless ramble that kills the mood? Where are the joking replies and that face that doesn’t pay attention? Why… Why… Why are you gone? It’s not- I can’t- I- I- I should have treated you better. I shouldn’t have been so cold to you. Is- is that what the gods would have wanted? Is that why my Haruto received such a cruel punishment in my place? Why… Why... “
Her words were drowned out by the booms of the fireworks she once wanted to see. It didn’t matter that much though, Haruto couldn’t understand her.
The night was filled with the incoherent cries of a girl lost in hopeless love and the deafening roars of colorful fireworks. And when the firework show finally died down, all that was left were the sad cries of a lonely girl who lost the things she cared for the most.
“Hey… hey… are you ok?” The boy called Haruto shook the crying girl’s shoulders, but he found no response.
Haruto knew she was crying because of him. She was crying because of something he’s done. He didn’t recognize the crying girl besides him, not even her name, but for some reason he cared for her.
No, he loved her, a lot. The love was stronger than the powerful explosions of fireworks and brighter than the moon and the stars overhead. That love was the only thing he remembered.
He couldn’t stand it. The unknown girl he loved was crying so much. It was so uncharacteristic of her. It was so wrong!
He was the cause. He had shattered her heart on the day she was supposed to be happy. The day they were supposed to be happiest, that was supposed to go down in their memories as an irreplaceable treasure. He blamed only himself for this girl’s sorrow.
There, beyond the red railing of the old wooden bridge sat the murky waters of Osaka Bay, 50 meters below his feet. There were no lanterns up anymore, they had drifted away or sank under the waves. Fireworks no longer lit the skies, only the moon and the stars Altair and Vega shined down, watching a silent boy and a crying girl.
He wanted to make her happy. He wanted to have her smile and laugh again. He couldn’t live with himself if his existence caused her suffering.
In a silent decision, the boy named Haruto stood up, walked towards the railing of the bridge, and jumped.
“NO! NO NO NO NO NO. DON’T YOU DARE. NO!”
The girl, no, her name is Sawako.
Sawako grabbed the boy once called Haruto before he was able to throw himself off the bridge. They both collapsed down, with Haruto’s back against the railing and a crying Sawako hammering his chest and holding him as tight as she could. Unnoticed, a flower patterned diary slipped out of Haruto’s pocket and landed on the edge next to Haruto.
“NO, NO YOU CAN’T. YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO DIE. YOU- YOU- WE- We haven’t even experienced life together yet! You- You still owe me 50 years Haruto! You still owe me more hugs and kisses and… and dreams… You- You can’t leave me yet Haruto! You can’t abandon me yet since I haven’t abandoned you! You’re not allowed to die. You can’t die. I won’t let you. I don’t care if the stars smite me or if the ocean swallows me, I won’t let you die! I’ll throw away everything twenty times and more if I could spend one more second with you! I don't care if you don’t remember me! I don’t care if you don’t love me! I won’t let go of you!
So- So- please… Haruto… don’t die…”
Haruto watched as this girl he loved cried on his chest. As he looked, he realized he was crying too.
She was tired, she spent the last few days with little sleep worrying about Haruto’s condition but it didn’t soften her embrace. She was holding on to something more important than her life.
“I… won’t let go even if I have to hold you for an eternity. I won’t ever-”
A timer rang out from within Haruto’s pocket. It signalled that it was 11:59 PM, one minute before the end of Tanabata and the start of their 3rd anniversary.
Haruto looked down at the distraught but determined Sawako on his chest. He had to do something. He remembers that he has to. He must. It’s calling deep in his soul. It’s important. It’s more important than anything he’s ever done and will be more important than anything he will ever do.
Yes, her name was Sawako, a girl clinging on to the one thing dear to her: him.
“Sawako-chan… Will you marry me?”
Sawako stopped crying for the first time since Orihime and Hikoboshi met that night. Their eyes meet, staring through the tears to see the deep colors of each other's irises. This was the last time these Orihimes and Hikoboshis would be together.
“Yes… Yes I will…”
As the two embraced for one last time, the celestial stars of Altair and Vega gave their blessings to another couple cursed by fate.
Unbeknownst to the couple who has found happiness for one last time, a flower patterned diary quietly slipped off of the old wooden bridge, tumbling down into the murky waters of Osaka Bay. It drifted away with the current, and with it took the last of Haruto’s memories.
For another perspective, see “Chasing these Delusional Dreams”