Chapter 6:

"I Loved You." And Your Ghost

Along The Way (途中で)

After that day, that one incident, everything in my life changed. The tears from that day are always there, still hidden behind my smiling eyes, and the yearning. There are days, when I want to see him so much, that I think he is a passing stranger until my mind reminds me the possibilities of what this reality can and can’t do.

There are days when I am filled with chaos and noise, trying to keep his ghost at bay. Yet there are days I call to it, fearful to lose him all over again. Every time my heart cries out, he comes and my emotions whirl faster than a child's spinning top. Trying to feel him but only see an empty room, to reach out and only feel the cold air, it shatters my heart all over again.

But in those quiet moments, when he comes to me, ghost-like, a shadow of who he was, I try to stay calm and keep the spectre kind. He laughs and I recall the times I felt like he loved me. But after all these years, why am I still expecting more. Why do you still haunt me? I want to forget everything, but apparently that isn't my lot in life.

In the space that should be filled with your love, at my foundations, keeping my soul aloft, there is a void so black no light can penetrate. It is a wound that can never heal no matter how much salve is poured on. I tried escaping from it, as I wanted to keep living, for my sake and also for Kaoru, but I guess I was wrong. I changed schools, cut all ties with the friends who knew me before, those who would remind me of the past, of Kaoru’s death.

But even after all that, I could still feel his ghost, as if Kaoru is still here. I could still feel like being succumbed by that void, though never able to shine a light to make that darkness submissive to a brighter light.

“I guess it’s just my karma.”

The slight step of my tired shoes rounding the corner was enough to release the breath I didn't even know I was holding for so long. With the sigh like a lost spring breeze, my shoulders relaxed, and my face lit up to the sky that has brought a hue of granite-grey faded with a blue-tinted white valley, along with a calmness and tranquility to the nature.

“I guess I had forgotten…” I brought my attention back at the road, as the smell of wet-earth wafted to my nose, “I have a promise to keep, head straight back home.”

I clenched my teeth and fists, lowering my gaze down to my feet.

“I guess Kaoru couldn’t keep his promise with his mom that day, because of me.”

In that moment, a flash of guilt inflicted a pain in me, and were I to relive it, I would have to try and summon more strength, which I failed to do so.

And all at once the air became like water and I’m drowning in this sea of indifference, desperate to swim up beyond cloudy skies to the stars above.

The sun came out again, casting slanted beams of light, bringing an ethereal beauty to the scenery below. Unlike the ephemeral and mysterious beauty of today’s morning, everything was honeyed tones, beautiful and soothing, as it conjured the most brilliant of mosaics, reflecting from each leaf and wisp of cloud. By the side and small cracks on the walkway, the green plants and grasses had a silvery sheen, shining in those stray rays of sun, as the dew brings a brightness that is warming somehow.

I walk down the street, feeling rough cracks through the soles of my shoes, the wind moving as if I weren’t there at all, as if I were a ghost and nothing more. Through closed windows of the houses came a jangle of tunes, all of them with as much flow as ice.

I was finally back home, though my clothes were drenched from top to bottom. The rain soaked my pale blue uniform, deepening them to a dark hue. I turned the doorknob, although they were locked.

“Mom hasn’t come home yet?”

I pulled in a deep breath while stretching my arm to a pocket in my bag, trying to reach the door keys.

As I walked in and my sole touched the floor, my toes bathed the surface with the newly bequeathed rain. It gurgled, bubbling as I walk, the floor soothing in its coolness.

While I was climbing the stairs to my room, I finally noticed the mess I had made on the floor. The small puddles bouncing back the steep sunlight, as if it was a small festival of watery mirrors.

“I can clean the floor later.” I presumed climbing the stairs. “I should take a bath first, or I might catch a cold.”

I pulled the door of my room open, as I felt a calm melody resonating in my mind. It was like when you walk into a forest at first light, and let the awakening green hues into your soul, that would be the sense that was in my room. There was a calmness, a serenity, a feeling of equanimity.

I got a change of clothes and a towel from the closet, after which I went straight into the shower.

But as I turned the shower on, and the water came down as the ample summer rain, with my eyes closed, it felt like I was back beneath the wide sky, recreating the same atmosphere I was trying to forget a while ago. Once again my emotions turn jagged and my insides tight. I wait, wide eyed, heart in my mouth, hoping for some relief within the arms of the soothing cascade of water, while in my ears resonating again the same music, the same watery alphabets that the clouds were singing to me before.

It may just be my guilty conscious which is trying to make me recall everything when I was trying to get some relieve, when I tried to empty my mind from all that I couldn’t bear. I brought my gaze up to the mirror, as transient as any moment, as I felt it was asking me to see my soul and the condition of my heart, to look past physical features.

But in my reflection I could only see a pain overwhelming my chest, and my tiredness making me hang limp like a wet laundry in a cold sleet rain. When the frustration was building up inside me, and I felt like I might explode - I took a deep breath.

“What if maybe I was trying to just get Akihiko-kun’s attention, as looking at him reminded me of Kaoru, as well as all the precious memories we made.”

It felt like my voice reverberated through the white and chrome walls, as if it was my thoughts seeping out from my mind.

“Maybe it was just that I wanted to relive those moments.”

I pressed my ears with both my arms, while also kept starring at my reflection blindly, as it felt like those words that I heard were not mine, but coming from my reflection on that mirror, my sub-conscious self, or maybe from my heart.

“What am I thinking!” I slapped my face, trying to empty my mind from all those thoughts. “That can’t be true.”

I thought that if I took a bath, I could at least find some ease from this aching pain, but I guess it wasn’t a good idea. I quickly turned the shower off, changed into clean clothes, and stepped outside.

I went downstairs to the kitchen, the windows welcoming the passage of the light, making the room alive with the vibrant hues of midday.

“I don’t think mom is going to be back anytime soon.”

I went to the refrigerator, standing there by a corner like a great silver monolith, slotted neatly into the space designed for it in her bespoke kitchen and hummed along, adding almost imperceptibly to the back ground noise of the room.

I pulled it open and looked inside, while feeling the cold air wash over my skin, only to meet the warmth of my blood. My guess was correct, mom did leave behind my meal before going to work.

The curry was placed on a plate and covered with a paper foil. I took the plate out from the refrigerator, unwrapped the foil and warmed it up in a microwave oven. While I was waiting for the timer of the microwave to go off, I noticed that the puddles on the floor from earlier have all dried up by now.

“Wow, the entire floor has dried up.” I went up to the hallway and looked along to the front door, “Well, that saves quite the work for me.”

By now the timer of the oven had gone off, making a beeping sound which I followed up to the kitchen. I brought the curry out from the oven, the sight and aroma of it feeling like a gentle message to my soul.

While I was having my meal in the dining room, I looked around the house, the large arched windows, through which light flows through all seasons, gracing the air without favour, illuminating the sweet-toffee browns of the wooden floor.

It’s only me and my mom living here together in this house. My father had died a long time ago. He had a weak heart, and wasn’t expected to live that long of a life. After he passed away, it’s only been me and my mom living here. But even after his death, this house remained like a kaleidoscope of memories, of photographs adorning the walls, each of them conjuring the emotions of those sweet eternal moments of our family in the past.

After I was done having my meal, I washed the plate in the sink and went to the living room. Not much time has passed by from when I came back, but the sky is still silver-white, while the sun still bright and full, as if the artist of this scenery has surrendered to this bonnier mood.

“I guess time goes slowly when you’re alone.”

I yawned, as I felt my brain shifting gears. I stood by the couch, while turning by the side to let myself fall flat on the couch with a satisfactory thump. But most importantly, it was comforting, the kind you could wrap yourself in by a campfire and be cosy for the night. I love the softness, the quiet, the sense of rest. My thoughts slow down like a beautiful carousel being closed, its colours embracing those lofty heights and inviting in the dreams a sense of comfort. I pull in the wings of my soul, my mind giving in to the realm of sleep, as I could feel a soothing ease envelop me.