Upon hearing what my word, she had a surprised expression, and in the very next second, it was back to normal, like she had expected I would say it eventually.
‘I’m right, aren’t I?’
She looked me in the eye.
‘We’ve met before in Switzerland. We’ve met five years ago.’
‘Yes, you’re right. We have met before…’
Her confirmation raised more questions for me than answers. I don’t even know where to start. If she remembered, why didn’t she say anything? Why didn’t she contact me before? But I couldn’t ask any of those, because she had a different matter to discuss.
‘…but even if you’ve remembered that I won’t let you change the topic so easily!’
‘What the hell were you thinking? Jumping in the river like that! Have you lost your mind?’
Oh, right, I jumped in the river last night. And I was saved by her. Wait, she fell in the water too. Is she okay?
‘Hey, you fell in the water too! Are you okay? Are you hurt?’
‘Yeah, I’m okay. But I won’t let you change the topic. Tell me! why did you do that?’
Oh good, she’s okay. But what should I tell her now? I have a ton of questions I wanna ask her, but first I’ll have to explain myself to her. But do I have to? Isn’t it obvious? She must know that I failed the exam. Then why is she still asking me?
‘Do I need to tell you? You should know it yourself.’
She’s really gonna make me say it.
‘I failed! What else?’
‘I did everything I could. I stayed locked in my room, studying the whole time. I worked hard like crazy, and still…’
She didn’t say a word while I spoke.
‘You remember what you said? For the kind of goal I had, that was my only option. So that’s what I did, and yet I failed, all the same. Now that I’ve failed at that, my only goal, my life has no purpose anymore.’
‘So, what else would I’ve done if not try to end it?’
Silence befell the room. None of us said anything for the next few seconds. Throughout that time, her gaze was fixated on me, and after what I had said, those few seconds felt like an eternity to me.
‘You haven’t changed a bit.’
‘From the time we first met, all those years ago. You’re still the same. You’re still an idiot.’
Huh? What is she talking about? From what I remember, she was the idiot.
‘I’m not an idiot…’
What? What got into her? Why did she scream it out?
‘There is something horribly wrong with your thought process. Don’t you realize that goal you were pursuing was not for your sake? You kept fixated to become the top student to prove everyone who judged you wrong. But what was in it for you? Did you gain anything by becoming the topper? Did you wanted to become one for yourself?’
‘Of course, I knew that! But just knowing that fact doesn’t change anything. I’ve devoted my entire life to that goal, I couldn’t just forget about it and move on.’
‘You admire your father, right? Do you know much time he had wasted on theories that he failed to prove, theories that were wrong? Had he stayed stuck to them, had he not realized his mistakes and moved on, would he have become the man he is today?’
‘If I were of his caliber, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.’
‘But you were trying to be like him, right? Then didn’t you try to accept your failures like him?’
‘My Dad never failed! In his entire academic carrier, he was the top student. He never failed, not even once!’
‘Were you there to see it?’
‘Did he tell you himself, that he never failed?’
‘…No, but everyone knows that.’
‘To the others, the journey does not matter, only the destination does. You’re no different. You look at people see how amazing they are, without ever considering how much hard work they had to do to get there, and how many mistakes were made along the way, how many failures they had to overcome.’
I had nothing. Nothing I could say against that.
‘Everyone makes mistakes, everyone fails sometimes. We’re all humans after all. What matters is how we take it. what we do after failing, that’s what makes the difference.’
‘So, you’re saying I should look for a different goal, a different purpose in life?’
‘That’s what I was trying to tell you that evening, but you interpreted it completely wrong.’
‘Can you blame me? What could I have done? I couldn’t suddenly find a new purpose in life.’
‘You wouldn’t! Not locked up in that room.’
When she said that, I understood what she meant. Her words from five years ago echoed in my head. My facial expression told her that I had understood.
‘It seems you understand.’
‘Look for it in the world.’
‘Exactly! Instead of locking yourself in that room, you should’ve explored the world, to look for what you wanted to do.’
‘But it doesn’t matter what I’d wanna do. I’ve failed to follow in the path of my father and sister. I’m sure they wouldn’t even wanna see my face anymore.’
‘That’s not true, actually, right now they’re in a plane on their way to Japan.’
‘I’ve told them what you did last night. So, I suppose they are coming here to chew you up.’
‘Why would you do that?’
‘What else was I supposed to do? They deserved to know what their idiot Akio has done.’
Now what? I couldn’t face them before, how would I face them now? They are coming here. So even if they are angry, they were still worried, how will I explain myself to them? Especially to Sis, she gets so worried if I get a little paper cut, I can’t imagine how she would react this time.
‘What will I say to them?’
‘Just tell them the truth. Tell them your exact feelings. I’m sure they’ll understand. They were all so worried about you.’
‘’All’? who else did you tell?’
‘What do you mean by everyone?’
‘Ishiguro, Nozomi and Tomonaga.’
‘Now why would you tell them? This had nothing to do with them!’
‘After you passed out, I had to take you to a hospital, I needed help for that so I called Ishiguro. He probably told Nozomi and she probably told Tomonaga.’
‘You called Kenzo?’
‘And? Did he help you?’
‘Of course, he did! How do you think you end up here?’
He helped her? Really? Why? Didn’t he hate me? That’s what he said. Then why? Why would he help save me?
‘Did he go back home?’
‘No, he’s in the police station.’
‘Why do you think? Handling our double suicide jump.’
‘Don’t worry, he said he’ll manage, you won’t be interrogated.’
‘Were you interrogated?’
‘Yeah, a little bit. But Tomonaga handled it. His father’s high-ranking officer in the police, so he helped me out.’
‘What? Tomonaga was here too?’
‘Yes, and so was Nozomi. But since it was late night, she had to go back home soon. And both Tomonaga and Ishiguro went to the police station, Ishiguro is there as your proxy.’
Why would they all come here? After all, that happened. After everything I did. Especially Tomonaga, he always hated, didn’t he? Why would he even wanna know about me? And Nozomi? I said all those horrible words to her, I even made her cry. Then why? I don’t understand.
‘Why would they try to help me?’
‘I don’t know.’
She is lying. She’s definitely lying. She always knows. She knows everything. She understands this world, she understands people, much better than I ever did. If she didn’t know, then why did she call Kenzo for help. She must’ve known he’ll help.
‘You’re lying! I know you know why.’
She took a few seconds before speaking.
‘Even if I do, you should ask them yourself.’
What? Fine then, there’s one of the people I hurt right in front of me. I have a lot of questions for her too.
‘Ok, then tell me this. Why did you save me? Why were you there at just the right time? Were you following me?’
‘You think I’m a stocker? No! My apartment is right next to Yutsugi bridge. I saw you walking toward it from my balcony. I got a bad feeling from the look on your face, so I rushed and followed you.’
‘You could tell I was going to kill myself just from the look on my face?’
‘Yes, but that was not all. I knew you had failed in your entrance exam and how you felt about it.’
‘How could you know about my feelings. Even Sis didn’t know.’
‘You’re the one who told me.’
What is she talking about? I never told her, I never told anyone.
‘No, I didn’t.’
‘You didn’t actually tell me, I don’t think you could put them to words even if you wanted. You were never very good with words.’
‘Because you have a different way of expressing yourself.’
‘You remember that evening? When we saw the sunset at Lucerne Lake?’
‘Yes, I do.’
‘You painted a picture of that sight, didn’t you?’
‘Yeah… I did, but how did you know?’
‘The next day when you left in a hurry, your father asked my dad to transport your belongings to Japan. That’s when I saw it.’
‘But that picture didn’t come back with our luggage.’
‘I know. Because I kept it.’
‘I wanted to give it to you myself. I wanted to talk about it. Because when I saw it, it didn’t look like a painting of what we saw that evening, but it looked like a visualization of my words from back then. It didn’t look like you were trying to paint that scene but to visually represent my words and your own.’
Oh right, I painted her in the painting as well.
‘You were describing me as a goddess, right?’
She nailed it! That’s exactly what I thought while painting her. Although it’s a bit embarrassing to admit, I can’t deny her hypothesis.
‘Yeah, you’re right. But don’t think just anyone could tell it from looking at it. I guess you can because you’re so good with words.’
‘The way you described that sight, it was so perfect. Even though I forgot so much from back then, I remembered your words, and somewhere along the way, I convinced myself they were my words, and each time I remembered those words, that divine sight came right back into my mind.’
‘I’ve always spoken my mind, my whole life, maybe that’s why I can describe things as you say I do. But you’re different. You tell anyone how you truly feel, you don’t even admit it to yourself. Which is why you couldn’t convey your emotions through your words. But you speak through your paintings.’
‘That painting of the sunset?’
‘Not just that one, you have a talent for imagination. When you paint, you paint a visual representation of your emotions that you’ve imagined.’
‘Remember your painting from the first day of our school?’
‘You painted a boy on a boat in the sky, and people looking at its reflection in a lake.’
It still sounds so stupid.
‘The boy is you. The people looking at the lake are those who always judged you. They are all looking downwards as to look down on you, while you’re always above them, they’re not looking at the real you, but only a reflection.’
‘You are all alone, in a world that you don’t understand. In a world that’s wrong. In a world where you’re not supposed to be. Deep down even you understood that, that’s why you painted it.’
‘You have no one who understands your situation, no one who truly sees you because all they see is the false you in the reflection. They don’t look at you, and you don’t look at them either.’
‘And is that why you suggested that name?’
‘’The truth is false’, the image the people see of you, that they consider true is false. But your name was even more accurate. ‘True false’, because it contained both the true you and the false you, both the true world and the false one. It had many different ‘Trues and false’.’
‘And you understood my situation just from all that?’
‘Yes, and once I got that, the rest was easy to figure out.’
‘You were trying to figure me out?’
‘Huh… You remember that trip to Switzerland?’
‘I saw you on the very first day of that trip. You looked kinda down. So, you piqued my interest.’
‘How did that look interesting to you?’
‘I knew who your father was, I’ve met your sister before so I knew you were very good at school as well, so I just didn’t understand that why would someone as blessed as you would be so sad. That question seemed like a mystery to me. So, I wanted to find out the answer.’
‘I tried to understand you by following you around without letting you know.’
‘Wait, so you were stocking me?’
‘It’s called observing a subject.’
‘I’m not a lab rat!’
‘Anyway, when didn’t understand even after following you for six days, I decided to talk it out of you.’
‘And that’s why you pretended to be lost.’
‘No, I really was lost.’
‘Even after talking with, you that day, I still didn’t understand you. You became the subject of my curiosity, a mystery I couldn’t understand no matter what. So, in the end, I just declared you an idiot and moved on.’
‘You were the idiot!’
But I guess that explains that at least.
‘So, is that why you never contacted me again?’
‘No, I did come to see you, when I heard what had happened, I wanted to see you right away. So, when we came back to Japan, I visited you with my dad. But you seemed completely out of it, I don’t think you even recognized me.’
She’s right, I don’t even remember it. Maybe because she came with her father, I might’ve missed her, still…
‘I was really glad to see you alright on the first day of our school, but you didn’t seem to remember me. I figured it might’ve been because of the trauma you had that day. You probably wanted to forget everything about that day, about that trip. I didn’t want to remind you of that trauma so I didn’t say anything. But did try to give you a hint, by trying to copy your painting, excluding me.’
So, that was it, everything is clear now. Why she did what she did. Why she didn’t contact me or tried to remind me of the past. Yes, everything’s clear, everything but one thing.
‘That still doesn’t explain one thing though.’
‘Why did you save me? Why did you try so desperately, to keep hold of my hand? Even though I pulled you alone with me, you still didn’t let go, why?’
‘…Because I felt guilty.’
‘Why? Why would you feel guilty?’
‘Though your painting told me how you felt, I still didn’t understand why you felt that way. So, I tried to observe you again, every time you seemed down, I tried to talk to you, I tried to lift your spirits. I even straight away told you what you should do, but you still didn’t understand, and not only that, you fell into complete darkness because of what I said. And then when you needed me the most I wasn’t there. I abandoned you.’
Is that how you felt? You can’t be any more wrong. It was not your fault, it was not anyone’s fault but mine, and mine alone. I was the one who chased you away, who chased all of you away. I did it to myself, so whatever happened to me, I deserved it.
‘You don’t have to feel guilty. It was my fault, after everything I said why won’t you hate me?’
‘I don’t hate you.’
‘How can you say that after everything I said about you?’
‘Ah… you didn’t say anything about me. I was only a bystander during that showdown of you guys.’
‘Oh, yeah you’re right. So, then, why didn’t you talk to me after that day?’
For the first time during our conversation, she took her gaze off of me. Her face seemed sort of reddish.
‘I… I was embarrassed!’
‘Why would you be embarrassed to talk to me?’
Her face got even redder and soon she turned around to face the wall behind her.
‘Well… during your trash-talking, Tomonaga mentioned… hmm… well, he said… he said that you… ah… liked me…’
This time my face got red, even more than Yukawa.
Oh Shit!!!, damn that Tomonaga! He got me stuck in this situation. What should I do? What should I say? Oh my God. At this point, I think I’ll prefer to die again than to say anything. Actually, I’d like to run out of here. Anything that’d save me from facing her.
I was saved by the return of my old friend, Kenzo, who entered the room, almost seconds after Yukawa finished her sentence.
KENZO- ‘He’s awake?’
YUKAWA- ‘Yeah! You talk to him, I’ll be outside.’
Yukawa left the room as she said that. I guess she was just as embarrassed as I was.
And now, it’s our reunion again, after one and a half years this time, I and Kenzo meet again. But this time the situation is much more complicated. I have no idea, how I should talk with him. But two things are clear, I need to thank him for saving me when I passed out and I need to apologize to him for what I said that day.
‘Yeah, I guess.’
‘Akio, listen, I’m sorry.’
What? Why is he apologizing? I’m the one who did wrong to him.
‘Why are you apologizing?’
‘Because it’s my fault. It’s my fault that it’s come to this.’
‘Some best friend I am! I abandoned you when you needed me the most.’
What? He feels that way too? But why? He hated me, right? I may have not done anything to Yukawa, but I definitely hurt him. Then why? Is that how all of them feel?
‘Kenzo! I’m the one who needs to apologize. After what I did that day, I deserve to be abandoned. In fact, it’s me who abandoned you. So, I don’t understand! Why did you help me? Didn’t you say you hated me? Didn’t you say you never wanted to be a part of my life?’
‘That’s true. That’s how I’ve felt at the beginning.’
In the beginning?
‘As a kid, I never had anyone who understood me, you and I are alike in that way, but unlike you, I didn’t even have a mother. Everyone around me compared me with you, even my dad.’
‘But one day, I met Aunty Saeko, she was different from the others. I tried to be mean to her because I knew she was your mom, the guy who everyone says is so much better than me. But she was so kind, I couldn’t resist her forever. In fact, I gave up in just a few hours. She made me realize what it’s like to have a mother.’
‘I started to envy, I started to hate you. In my head, your image was of a spoiled brat, who gets everything in life and looks down on others. I never even wanted to see you.’
‘But then I met you by fate, or to put it more accurately Aunty Saeko brought us together. After I spent time with you, I realized you weren’t the person I thought you were. You were a pretty decent guy. And before I knew it, we became best friends.’
‘Now I understand why Aunty Saeko did what she did. She probably knew she won’t be around for long. So, she introduced us to each other. She must’ve thought the two of kind that we were, would take care of each other. But I failed her.’
‘After her death, I came to hate you again. The child that I was, was not able to understand things clearly, in the face of the pain he was feeling.’
‘I told myself that I was only around you because of Aunty Saeko and left your world.’
‘I was confused. I tried to help you get together with Yukawa truly as a friend, and at the same time, I wanted to prove to everyone that I was better than you. By the time I realized how I truly felt, it was too late.’
So, that was it. Now everything makes sense. His first outburst. Him leaving my life and then suddenly showing up again. It all makes sense. I never truly understood him. It wasn’t just him, I was confused as well. Yes, there were so many things that I was wrong about. About him, about myself, and about my feelings for Yukawa. But I know how I feel now.
‘Kenzo, thank you! For saving my life.’
‘…Don’t mention it, bro.’
Yep, that’s enough. This much heart-to-heart is quite enough. Any more, and we might never be able to talk with each other ever again, we’d be too embarrassed, at least I would be, we wouldn’t want that, would we? That’s just how boys are, but I’m glad we cleared things up.
‘So how was it?’
KENZO- ‘How was what?’
‘Our results were supposed to come out today, right? How did you do? Did you ace it again? Were you rank 1?’
‘…ah about that… are you sure you wanna talk about results?’
‘Yeah, I’m fine now, it wouldn’t bother me even if I wasn’t in the toppers.’
‘Oh, then I guess you’re good!’
‘What do you mean? What’s my rank?’
‘Wait, that’s it?’
‘Yeah, I already told you it wouldn’t bother me.’
Why would it? I already failed the entrance exam, so what does it matter on what rank I end up on? Besides, I have a different view of the world now.
‘So, will you tell me? What was your rank? Did you ace it again or not?’
‘What you didn’t?’
‘No, I was rank 4.’
‘What you fell to rank 4? How did this happen?’
‘Well, I guess, since I was only trying to best you, I couldn’t maintain the first position. I didn’t have enough motivation.’
Huh… Just like me. He was right we are two of a kind. Two idiots chasing after petty goals. But now I’m curious, who are the top three students?
‘So, who are the top three?’
‘Oh, rank 3 is Nozomi, and rank 2 is Sasaki.’
Ah, I did expect Sasaki but Nozomi, she sure made a great leap, directly from rank 5 to 3? That’s seriously amazing. It’s just like you said Yukawa, everyone with a greater goal made it to the top. But wait, what rank did Yukawa end up on?
‘Yeah, yeah, the top student in the school, rank 1 is your former crush, Chizuru Yukawa!’
Amazing, you’re truly amazing. Can’t say I’m surprised; you definitely deserved that spot. But I’ll have to correct Kenzo on one thing.
‘You can cut the ‘former’ part.’
‘What? You still like her? But didn’t you say you were over her?’
‘I did, it was not the truth. If anything, I think I was confused just like you.’
‘What was there to be confused about?’
‘I thought that I wasn’t in love with her because I didn’t have any reason to fall for her. I thought I was only attracted towards her beauty.’
‘And? You do have a reason now?’
Of course, not just one. I’ve been oblivious, they were always there. So many reasons, so many events that’d make me fall for you. It’s because it was you, and only you, whatever your reasons were, but each time, I was in darkness, each time I was depressed, each time, I felt alone, that no one understands me, that I had no one, you and only you came to me, you grabbed my hand and pulled me out of that darkness. You were the only hope of light each time I fell into the abyss. You saved me so many times, you showed me a new way to live, you gave me a reason to live. How would I not fall for you after all that?
Yep, that’s it. Chizuru Yukawa, I love you.
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