MINUS • PLUS
1 year ago
As the teacher entered the class, everyone hurriedly took their seats. Except for a boy, who kept standing near another seat and talking to his friends.
“Maekawa? Please sit down.”
Reluctantly, the boy turned around and slowly walked towards his seat. By the time he sat down, whispers were rising from different parts of the class, mostly from the girls.
Yukio observed all of it.
In Nakagawa International High School, Maekawa Yuichi was a well-known name. Not only was he good at studies, he was also a really talented baseball player; all in his first year at school. Unsurprisingly, he was popular among his peers, and even the teachers usually turned a blind eye to his misdemeanors.
Maekawa suddenly looked at him, forcing him to quickly turn his head.
The rest of the class commenced peacefully. When it was over, someone pulled a chair and sat down beside Yukio. He didn’t have to guess who it was.
Turning his head, he slowly muttered, “Yes.”
“Knew it!” Maekawa looked amused, “You’re the boy who did that strange intro!”
With an embarrassing smile, Yukio dropped his gaze.
“It’s okay!” patting his shoulder, Maekawa let out a hearty laugh, “Man, it was funny though. Anyway, what happened to you?”
“What do you mean…” Yukio tried to sound casual, but failed.
“Do you think no one has noticed? You used to be normal, talked with people, and if I’m not wrong even tried to join the baseball club. What happened? Why did you suddenly become a hikki?”
It was true. Yukio was never someone with lots of friends, but that was partly because of that intro he mentioned. Otherwise, he was a normal student who came to class in time, studied, and usually kept his head low. It was only recently that his behavior was starting to resemble that of a hikki.
Yukio didn’t know what to say. The most popular boy of their class, and possibly the entire school, was concerned about him? And not only that, he also noticed that Yukio had become reclusive lately?
“I… It-it’s not like that…”
With another laugh, Maekawa patted his shoulder once again. “Relax,” he said, “I’m the last person you should talk to in case you want to, you know, let it all out. I guess Naomi will be better suited for that. Anyway, if you ever want to just hang out and chill, come meet us after our practice.”
Getting up from the chair, Maekawa waved his hand and went to his seat.
That was the only thought in Yukio’s mind at that moment.
As the next class started, he glanced towards Maekawa once more.
I’ll definitely talk to him after school, he thought.
That was how Yukio got involved with the baseball club and its members.
After the baseball practice session was over, and Yukio escaped from the calligraphy club, he met up with Maekawa and his friends.
“Hey!” Maekawa smiled, “So you did come!”
“Yeah,” Yukio was unaware that he was blushing like a girl.
Most of the people with him were seniors, yet they treated Maekawa with more respect than even their teachers. Their practice was over, and they were returning home together. Their interactions looked like something straight out of a movie screen; people laughing, shouting, arguing with each other, hands on each other’s shoulders. Bursting with life.
As Yukio observed them, he realized this was the place where the ‘star’ of their school behaved like a human the most. His eyes trailed Maekawa, but he had since gotten involved in a discussion.
He stayed at a corner, occasionally offering tidbits. Although he wasn’t a part of them, just being near them, just talking to them made him more alive than he had felt for a long time.
“Hey, aren’t you that boy who came to join us?” Eventually one of the seniors remembered him.
It was more like Yukio was forced to come. Onee-san was a big fan of baseball, and they used to play catch in their garden for as long as he remembers living in Fujimi. Like every other guardian, she also thought Yukio had a real talent to be a baseball player. As per her demand, he applied, and didn’t get selected. His pitch was nowhere near as fast as she imagined.
“Yeah, I am…” he muttered, scratching the back of his head.
“Hey, I remember you!” another senior was suddenly beside him.
As Yukio was staring at them with a flustered face, Maekawa turned towards them.
“Yes, he wanted to be a pitcher. Too bad the coach wanted every newbie to throw like Ogawa Senpai, haha.”
Everyone started laughing, and Yukio had to join them as well. After that, they started asking him all kinds of questions; where he was from, what was his dream, did he like baseball, etc. He tried to answer them as honestly as possible, but had to lie at the third question. He doubted they would behave the same way if they learned he had no particular interest in baseball.
“You can try joining us again!” Someone suggested.
“Yeah!” It was quickly met with approval by the others.
“Our new coach is much better. If you really want to join us, try again!”
“I will try…” Yukio whispered.
They went to a restaurant that day, where Yukio learned an unpleasant truth.
Maekawa didn’t remember him just because of his intro.
Their conversation, or the lack of it, continued throughout the time they ate. Yukio didn’t like the image of someone talking with food in their mouth, so he concentrated on his burger the whole time. After everyone was done, a senior said to Maekawa, “Come on, pay up! It was your treat!”
“Yeah, yeah, I know…”
With an embarrassed face, Maekawa browsed through his wallet. Then he turned to Yukio.
“Hmm?” Yukio didn’t expect the call, as ever since that remark about the coach, Maekawa acted like he wasn’t there. Also, he was busy chewing the last piece of the burger.
“It seems I don’t have enough money. Can you please pay?”
After a few of them voiced their disapproval, Maekawa raised his hand and announced, “Don’t worry, it won’t be a problem for him.”
Yukio didn’t like the curious eyes one bit. If possible, he wanted to just get up and leave. But that wasn’t an option. So he said, “Okay. No problem.”
Maekawa flashed him a smile, and got up. The others followed suit. It was at least 10 people, Yukio thought. If they on average ate worth…
Before he could finish the calculation, the bill was served to him.
He had never spent that much money on anything. With a sigh, he took out a card from his wallet.
The initial hesitation he felt was soon gone, and within a week he was regularly joining them while returning home. He didn’t mind paying for their food, and on one occasion he even paid for the tickets when they went to see a movie. Although he knew the reason they let him hang out with them, he didn’t care.
This is what he had always wanted.
One day, at a restaurant, Yukio was just relaxing and watching the others have a passionate debate about a trivial thing. One of the students, who didn’t look like a senior, approached him.
Asano. Yeah, that was his name.
“Do you still want to join us?”
Yukio had completely forgotten about his promise of joining their club. No one breached the topic again, and it didn’t help that he also disliked physical activities.
“Ever since the new coach joined us, we have been playing separately from the seniors. Other than Maekawa, of course. Anyway, we don’t have enough players. And I mean there’s just three of us from the first year. So, if you could join…”
Taking a glance at Maekawa, who was busy narrating an incident, Yukio said to them, “Does that mean I’ll have to practice every day?”
“Yes, but you can just be yourself. We want the coach to pay more attention to us, and for that we need more players.”
It was clear that the boy wanted him to join the club no matter what. Reluctantly, he agreed.
Later, much later, he would realize that it was a big mistake.
The new coach of the baseball club was a really nice person. Or at least, that’s how he appeared at first. It didn’t take Yukio long to understand that he was just… lazy.
This time, Yukio’s throws were even worse than the last time. Which wasn’t surprising, considering he hadn’t practiced pitching for quite some time. But the coach was just concerned about his throws reaching the other side. After catching the third one, he patted Yukio’s shoulders half-heartedly and said, “Bring your application tomorrow.”
And just like that, he was an official member of the baseball club.
At first, he didn’t practice much. The truth was, the only reason he joined the club was because he wanted to be more than just a purse to them. Most of the days, he was paired with other students of his grade to practice pitching. All of them were better than him, but not by a huge margin. Also, the fact that their coach didn’t care how much someone improved, and only whether they came to practice or not, also helped his case.
And why wouldn’t he come to the practice? The seniors were really nice. Every day after the practice, they returned home together, and during that time Yukio never felt alone. It wasn’t like he became friends with all of them, but just by being beside them, he felt content.
A feeling that was absent from his life ever since Onee-san left for America.
Days flew past. Yukio could no longer be called a hikki; he started talking with his classmates again, participated in class discussions, and started getting glances outside his class as well. His transformation was also noticed by the teachers, who weren’t particularly bothered by it.
Asano, who was also his classmate, soon became friends with Yukio. He had a group of friends that mostly consisted of people from his previous school, and Yukio somehow also became a part of it. They ate lunch together during the break, and Maekawa also joined them sometimes.
His transformation was also noticed by his uncle and aunt, but they didn’t comment on it; neither did they ever ask him why he was spending so much money. Megumi san was the only person who was happy for him. Other than Onee-san, of course.
After she left, occasionally they used to talk on the phone. She was ecstatic when she learned that Yukio joined the baseball club. In her mind, he was already getting ready to play for the Saitama Beisu Tigers.
Yukio could not lie to himself. Even though she wasn’t there, he was living the best part of his life. He had actual friends. He was part of something real.
He had a place where he belonged.
Now, if it remained like that, it’s possible that Yukio’s school life would’ve been great. Even when he joined college, he would’ve been in touch with his friends. They would occasionally meet at malls and restaurants, go to movies, baseball games, etc., and reminisce the pleasant memories.
Something that’s slowly forgotten, but leaves a sweet aftertaste.
Something you write down in your diary, and revisit when the pages have turned yellow.
If he didn’t make a mistake.
If he didn’t try to be better.