Chapter 18:

Chapter 2 - Part 5: Ups and Downs

I’ll Wait For You At The Train Station

It was April and spring began. The weather was still cold this month, but luckily, I could manage. My old friend from high school -who was now a multimillionaire- offered me a job to be a caretaker to his property. I still couldn’t find a job around that time, so when I told the matter to him, he gave me one right away. I don’t have the leisure to complain about it, I understood we were once rich, so I, suddenly becoming a caretaker of a mansion, might ruin my pride as a person. I still accepted the job, though. I have no pride to begin with, and accepting any sort of job was something that I’d take for granted. I kept in mind that I was a loser, that I don’t deserve the offer, that I was the reason why my Dad’s business was bankrupt, so with this small job, I’d have a little step ahead in terms of taking responsibility.Bookmark here

My task was to clean the entire house which includes a backyard and a pool. I also water the plants often. A boring day job if you could say. Well, most jobs were boring in the first place. I was alone in that house, so when I was done with the chores, I don’t have anything to do. Boredom still kills me, but thanks to Ayase-san’s suggestion, I get myself some rooms for entertainment. On my first day at work, I often fall asleep. I don’t want to bother Ayase-san by chatting her through Twitter because she was still working. One time, I met her on weekend and told her my issues. At that point, she suggested me to read books.Bookmark here

I have disagreed with her, but she rebutted arguing me that reading was interesting. She insisted for me to give it a shot and so I complied. Afterward, she shared her preferences. Those were books that were written by Miaki Sugaru [1]. The author has six novels so far. The first one that I read was Three Days of Happiness. To be honest, the line from The Beatles [2] on its synopsis was what grabbed my attention. I liked John Lennon’s [3] songs too, that was what Dad often play when I was a kid.Bookmark here

It has been a month since I was reading the book. I was a slow reader, so to speak. Although I have plenty of time to read, I still find novels hard to finish. No matter how interesting the story was, there were times that I don’t feel like reading. The story was about a guy named Kusunoki. He was a failure like me and that made me relate to his struggles. One day, he found a place where lifespan could be traded for money. Heck, if that could happen for real, I wonder how much my miserable life was worth. With no exaggeration, this life wouldn’t be equivalent to a single yen.Bookmark here

Every time I took a break from reading, I take out a cigarette to smoke. This has been my lifestyle. I’d start the day by waking up early and have breakfast, commuting for an hour, then start my job at my friend’s house. On the afternoon, I would read books, then smoke whenever I want. On six, after securing all the locks of the doors and gates, I’d go home. I have been doing the same routine for two months. The pay wasn’t that good, but I think it was better than doing nothing.Bookmark here

I was free every weekend. I often spend the day by staying home helping Mom with the household chores. When I have other plans, I either take a random stroll to nearby places or have fun with Ayase-san. Each time I was with her, our first topic was about the book that she suggested. I was happy with that simple conversation of ours, it was like we were in a world of our own, talking about things a few people could relate. I was happy that she could share her hobbies toward me. I wanted to share something to her too, but I figured that I don’t have such things.Bookmark here

I don’t know the reason why I was like this. I always came to the point that I stopped on doing something without even trying. I suppose everyone could relate to that. For example, think of anything that you really love to do, then, ask yourself a question, was I doing it right now?Bookmark here

I longed for experiences like taking a hike, helping other people or even telling my parents that I love them and say sorry for what I have done in the past. For some reason, something was hindering me to act. Hesitation stood in my way, it stayed there to trammel over my inner desires.Bookmark here

This trivial weekend in April, I want to come and visit Ayase-san’s house. I want to say hello to their parents since I haven’t seen them yet. What you heard was correct. I want to visit them, but hesitations hindered me still. I wasn’t acting on a whim, I have these plans in mind every weekend, but like the old times, I ceased on doing so. After I decided to not go, my phone rings.Bookmark here

It was my boss, also known as my old friend.Bookmark here

I answered the call, “Hello?”Bookmark here

[Oh, Hello Yasuhiro-kun.]Bookmark here

“What is it?”Bookmark here

I was glad that I could talk to my boss in a casual tone. It sounded weird nonetheless.Bookmark here

[Are you free today?]Bookmark here

“Y-yes.”Bookmark here

[Please, I have a favor to ask.]Bookmark here

“Let me hear it.”Bookmark here

[The house that you’re looking over, I’m staying there from now on. It’s nearer to the publishing company where I work now.]Bookmark here

“Is that so?”Bookmark here

He was staying there from now on, that means he doesn’t need me anymore? I’m forced to resign?Bookmark here

[Please Yasuhiro-kun, can you help me transfer some things. You see, I’m alone in my apartment.”Bookmark here

“O-okay, no problem. I’ll go there.”Bookmark here

[Thanks! It’s a big help! I’ll wait for you here.]Bookmark here

I headed to his apartment. After a thirty-minute ride on a train, I arrived. He smiled after he saw me.Bookmark here

“Glad you’re here Yasuhiro-kun. You’re a life-saver.”Bookmark here

“So, what do you need?”Bookmark here

He opened the door of his apartment.Bookmark here

“Help me carry these…”Bookmark here

Those were large high spec computers. He already disassembled the parts, so I was guessing that the things that we'd find hard to carry were the huge system units and pen display monitors. These tools were to be expected if you were a digital artist.Bookmark here

My old friend, his name was Nikaido Tetsuya. Nowadays, he was working as a manga artist. He told me the other day that his new work passed for serialization and would have a weekly issue. It was from a different magazine, so that explains why he would move to his old home. He had his debut when he was twenty. Ever since, he has been a full-time artist for the past seven years. I could tell that his previous works became a big hit, or else he wouldn’t have that mansion.Bookmark here

We were polar opposites. He was the true definition of a hardworking, successful person. I first knew him in middle school, though I wasn’t his friend yet. He was a loner and getting bullied in school too, most of the time he spends his days in drawing. Even girls find him creepy. Honestly, I thought that he was wasting his time on doing something that ain’t even productive. I considered any form of art as a nonsensical business, after all -this time that impression has changed.Bookmark here

On high school, he often skips. I don’t know the reason behind it, but I soon found the answer. He sacrificed his youth and invested time in his dream. The moment I get to know him was when I also skipped school. We met at Yoyogi Park[4] in Shibuya[5]. He was busy taking pictures with his DSLR camera. I called his name, when he saw me, he thought that I would make fun of him. That changed after I told him that I was interested in his drawings. I lied obviously, I just want to have someone to talk to.Bookmark here

When he came nearby, I learned about his dream. I never imagined that such a person could have strong perseverance towards achieving something. He was drawing every day, repeating the same cycle for almost six years. His determination was solid. He told me that he submitted plenty of manuscripts for years and all of it was rejected. Despite the failure and frustrations, he kept on standing up, acknowledging his mistakes, and improve from time to time. In fact, he was taking pictures of the Meiji Shrine[6] for reference. It was the new one-shot that he was working on for the upcoming competition.Bookmark here

He told me that what he needed most was luck. He already has the skill and determination, after all. He was the indoor type of person, and that proved why he feels uncomfortable each time he goes out to take pictures. I offered help by hanging with him every time he goes out. I was also familiar with places that were good to visit or discover, and for that reason, he agreed.Bookmark here

The motive why I went along with him? I was desperately hoping to find inspiration. I thought that when I learn more about him, I would also learn how to persevere in life. I was expecting to have a dream of my own in the process. I imagined myself to be in a workplace where I could be committed. I sought for a cherished desire where I could endow my passion.Bookmark here

It upset me to my downfall, though.Bookmark here

I was the type of person whose cup was impossible to fill. There was never a time that I felt satisfied. It was either I want more or get rid of what I don’t like. My teacher from high school once told me: “There are two ways to satisfaction, it’s to fight for what you want to attain, or to settle down for what you already have.”Bookmark here

It was at that part when I came to question myself: If those are the exclusive paths to satisfaction, then can someone like me -a person who don’t have intense desires to achieve something and cannot settle down to my status quo- gain it?Bookmark here

I have no purpose. I don’t have any road to take. Perhaps I was meant to walk amid the sandstorm where the scenery changes round-the-clock. I became a parasite that consumes my parent’s provision. They don’t benefit from me, much worse was that I destroy them.Bookmark here

Hence, if I kept on clinging toward Ayase-san, would I also ruin her? Damn, this just made me more disgusted to myself.Bookmark here

Enough with the soliloquy, I must help him now. Tetsuya-san was a skinny man, it was as though his arms could break in a moment, helping him was necessary. With my aid, we successfully placed the large items inside his car. Because it was huge enough to occupy the space in the rear, we would go back and forth. After all the tools were transferred, he asked me to stay for a while.Bookmark here

Done as I saw his computer booting, I questioned, “Will this be my last day in the job?”Bookmark here

I couldn’t disregard the issue.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry Yasuhiro-kun.” He sighed, “but since this is so sudden, I’m thinking of still paying you, consider it as my thanks.”Bookmark here

“No. That won’t be fair.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean?”Bookmark here

“I’ll just find a new job.”Bookmark here

“Are you sure?”Bookmark here

I nodded.Bookmark here

“Looking at all your achievements, it makes me feel like I want to do more.”Bookmark here

Tetsuya-san smiled. “Is that so? Then I don’t have anything to worry about.”Bookmark here

“Can I look at the manga you’re working on?”Bookmark here

I don’t have anything to do back home, so I think having a little peek in his work was the best thing to do for now.Bookmark here

“Sure.” He took a seat on the chair before his desk and opened a project file of his manga. “The story that I made this time is about war. My grandfather is a veteran, and I find plenty of ideas thanks to him.”Bookmark here

“I see.” I examined the detailed page in amazement. He changed his drawing style into more realistic, and it rendered the story perfectly.Bookmark here

“When I heard about Grandpa’s story, I thought that we all take things for granted. He told me that the frontline is the description of hell itself. You’ll see dozens of mangled bodies, and any second your life could be taken away. It’s like you’re in a FPS video game, except that in there, you won’t respawn. Once you’re hit, you’re done. I want to depict the same atmosphere in my story, and with this too, I want to consider it as an inspiration to look back through our history.”Bookmark here

I could see where his determination comes from. Somehow, I felt envious.Bookmark here

“Tetsuya-san, from when did you figure out what you wanted to do in the future?”Bookmark here

“Hmm? It’s when I was a kid, drawing had been my hobby, and before I know it, I was submitting my works for publishing. I turned my hobby into a passion, I guess.”Bookmark here

“I wish I could have something like that too.”Bookmark here

“But you know what? Sometimes, I’m getting sick of it to the point that I want to give up. There are times that I want to get rid of my responsibilities and break free. I want to run away and have a cool change in a place where no one recognizes me. No matter how I desire for it though, I must continue working. Plus, if drawing is taken away from me, what else can I do?”Bookmark here

Once he said it, I recalled a memory:Bookmark here

// An artist will work every day to improve his skill in drawing. A writer will write every day to expand his skill in writing. A singer will practice every day to have a good voice. You may say that they love what they do, but deep inside the compassion lies their frustration. You can’t be the best all the time, after all. How about those who haven’t found their passion yet? Well, here’s my answer. They still have freedom. //Bookmark here

Those words were composed by Ayase-san. It was long ago; when we were still in high school. Indeed, she was right.Bookmark here

Those who have dreams were stuck in their dreams, even if they’ve achieved that dream already.Bookmark here

Unlike me, I still have freedom. I have options to choose from, I just have to find those options.Bookmark here

“Well, now all I want to do is to settle down and have a family. I’m nearly reaching the age of thirty, yet I don’t even have a girlfriend to start with. I have always been alone working, and I don’t have time for relationships.” Tetsuya-san sighed in distress and added, “I guess that’s how the life of a manga artist works. We devoted our time for manga, and we’ll die along with our manga.”Bookmark here

Staring at me, he queried, “How about you, Yasuhiro-kun. Do you have a girlfriend?”Bookmark here

When he asked that, the first face that came to my head was Ayase-san. What am I thinking?Bookmark here

“No, I don’t have any.”Bookmark here

“So you’re like me huh.”Bookmark here

Later, I decided to leave. He thanked me for all my help with his sudden transfer. When I arrived at the train station, I met Ayase-san. She was carrying raw ingredients, probably a preparation for dinner.Bookmark here

“Yo.” I half-raised my hand.Bookmark here

“What did you do this weekend?”Bookmark here

“I helped a friend with moving his things.”Bookmark here

I didn’t tell her about me being jobless again. She doesn’t have to worry about it.Bookmark here

“How about you?”Bookmark here

“Nothing special. I just bought something for dinner.”Bookmark here

“Oh, I’m sorry. Are you rushing home?”Bookmark here

She shook her head. “Nope.”Bookmark here

Just then, I remembered my plan to visit her parents. I must bring that up!Bookmark here

“A-Ayase-san.”Bookmark here

I stammered already.Bookmark here

“What is it?”Bookmark here

“Next weekend, can I go to your house?”Bookmark here

“My house? Why?”Bookmark here

“Just want to say hello to your parents. I want to thank them for letting their daughter visit my ward every day.”Bookmark here

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”Bookmark here

“What do you mean?”Bookmark here

“They’ll be out for a short vacation next Sunday.”Bookmark here

“Oh, that makes sense.”Bookmark here

At the end of the day, I still couldn’t do it.Bookmark here

“How about you? Are you coming with them?”Bookmark here

“I'm still not sure. Got other priorities to do.”Bookmark here

“I see.”Bookmark here

When the train arrived, our conversation ended. Upon returning home, I told Mom about how I lost my job. She was worried for me, but I told her not to. I promised to look for a new job as soon as possible.Bookmark here

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[1] Miaki Sugaru - also known as Fafoo, is the author of light novel titles such as "Three Days of Happiness" and "Starting Over".Bookmark here

[2] The Beatles - were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. The line-up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr led the band to be regarded as the foremost and most influential in history.
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[3] John Lenon - was an English singer, songwriter and peace activist who co-founded the Beatles, the most commercially successful band in the history of popular music.
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[4] Yoyogi Park (代々木公園 Yoyogi kōen) is a park in Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan, located adjacent to Harajuku Station and Meiji Shrine.
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[5] Shibuya (渋谷区 Shibuya-ku) is a special ward in Tokyo, Japan. A major commercial and business center, it houses the two busiest railway stations in the world, Shinjuku Station (southern half) and Shibuya Station.
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[6] Meiji Shrine (明治神宮 Meiji Jingū), located in Shibuya, Tokyo, is the Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.
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You can resume reading from this paragraph.