Haru is 18, fresh out of high school and doesn’t know what to do with his life.
He knows—he wants to do nothing—but his parents won’t hear it. Like pouring water into a sieve and trying to gather the liquid; time-consuming and very, very useless.
He once told his mother one afternoon about his plan to stay home for a year and later that evening, she got a fever. His dad had to skip work to watch over her for two days.
‘You simply don’t say certain things to your mother,’ his father told him. He knows better now.
He works at a convenience store from Monday to Friday till 11pm and then walks all the way home. Sometimes he spends longer there because his manager has marital issues at times, and he likes to drag Haru down the bar once in a while to drink or just have him watch as he downs bottles after bottles of alcohol while he complains about his wife at home.
His manager always buys him food so Haru doesn’t complain.
During the day he just stays home or when it gets too warm inside, he likes to just go everywhere he can. And he’s always carrying his notepad with him, pencil tucked either behind his ear or in his hair, eyes watching everyone and everything as he walks.
Then he’d stop walking suddenly; his eyebrows would pull into a frown and he’d start worrying his bottom lip with his teeth. Before he’d even realised it himself he’d be sitting—anywhere at all because he doesn’t stand; standing makes him tired and gives him a shaky disposition—and then his hand will start moving.
He draws almost everything and anything he sees. His parents say he has a gift because he’s able to capture an image he sees into his brain and draws it with no fault.
He found out when he was younger—around 8 or 9—that capturing things in his mind and then recreating them on paper made him feel… something.
And back then he didn’t know much about life, didn’t know the meaning of anything and his eyes still teared up whenever his mom forgot to cut the crust off the bread, and yet he knew that drawing made him feel something different.
So he continued. Each day he would have himself drawn to something or someone, and then he would sit wherever he can and just draw.
The first person he drew was his father.
They were picking up watermelon at the market and his father’s attention was instantly drawn to a fish stall nearby. So he dragged Haru along as he started to bargain with the old woman behind the stall.
It was afternoon that day and the sun was setting low and from the angle his dad stood, an orange glow hit his face and his jawline looked softer.
Haru had a crumpled piece of paper and a pencil in his hand and he tore away from his father’s grip and sat on the ground, the pebbles digging into his skin and sand dusting his shorts.
His father stood there for 20 minutes and Haru drew him in 10.
When he was done, he handed the paper to his father who looked confused for a moment before his eyes lit up.
‘You did that?’
The fish seller complimented the drawing, called him blessed, and his father tried to bargain with the drawing after all his attempts had failed.
He drew his mother next.
She was baking in the kitchen and Haru thought she looked really pretty, and so he sat on the kitchen floor and drew her.
Back then, the concept of beauty only really applied to his mother, and sometimes the flowers on a field or the sunset.
And then he turned 12 and the girl who sat in front of him in class looked particularly interesting enough for him to want to draw her.
He didn’t know how to approach her—didn’t really feel like doing it because her friends and his friends talked too much—and so he’d simply sit back at his desk and watch her whenever he could, just to make sure that whatever he was feeling wasn’t a trick that his brain was playing on him.
‘Do you like Lucy?’ His friend asked him one day during lunch break. He was sitting at his desk and sipping a boxed drink he only bought because he didn’t want to stand in line for chocolate bread even though he really wanted chocolate bread that day.
‘No.’ He answered.
‘But you keep looking at her. Doesn’t that mean you like her?’
At that point, Lucy‘s friends also came to surround him. He was in the middle of a group of kids who seemed to find his possible crush on the quiet girl in class fascinating.
They were children, it was always like that. Between getting excited over a crush or getting a cool band-aid to cover a scrape on a knee, there was no telling what could trigger an overreaction.
‘No, I don’t like her.’ Haru repeated, and it was at that particular moment that Lucy came in and looked over at him. She looked hurt and Haru had to internally sigh before putting his head on his table to block out everyone.
Apparently girls would still feel hurt even if the boy they didn’t like also didn’t like them. And her friends would hate you for it, too.
It was after school that he drew her. The students were rushing out of the classroom to head home and Haru was behind, his pencil and paper in hand.
He was just about to walk down the stairs when he saw her. She was sandwiched between her friends and they seemed to be laughing about something.
She had dimples. He never knew that. And before he could really think about it, he quickly rushed back to his classroom and sat down to draw what caught his attention the most.
When he was done he placed the drawing on her table and went home.
After that, he began to draw people more, and each time he did, he’d leave the drawing wherever he met those people. In his head, it was the logical thing to do since he neither knew them nor felt a particular attachment or desire to know them. He just felt like drawing.
The only time he kept a drawing he did was of the girl in his class when he was 16. She had long hair that she would always feel the need to tie because it’d get in the way whenever she would want to write.
‘You can just tie it at home,’ he told her one day when she came to him to ask for a rubber band.
She pouted and then tilted her head, causing her long hair to fall to the side.
‘But I want your rubber tie,’ she responded.
And he gave it to her. You don’t really say no to a girl, he knew that.
She took it and then grinned. ‘I’m keeping it.’
He drew her that day. Head tilted, bottom lip jutting out in a pout with her arms crossed over her chest as her long, dark hair fell to one side.
When he completed the drawing, he walked to her and placed it on her table.
She saw it and gasped and then made a noise that sounded like a squeak. She was happy, he figured.
But he didn’t give her the drawing. ‘I’m keeping it,’ he informed her, repeating her earlier words.
After that, every single day, she’d see him, beg him to get the drawing and he would shake his head and walk away.
He didn’t even realise what was happening until he began to notice how excited he would get whenever it was time for school.
He looked forward to school so much that he barely got enough sleep.
He’d heard about that thing happening to other people, he just never expected it to happen to him.
Crush. That was what happened.
He told her about it two weeks later. He drew a dahlia—that was her favourite flower—and placed it on her table during lunch break. She would always stay behind like he would whenever it was time to eat, and so on most occasions they’d be the only ones in the class.
She was eating a banana KitKat—breaking each stick one at a time—and she had one sticking out of her mouth when he came.
‘Hm?’ She questioned.
‘I like you,’ he deadpanned.
The way her eyes widened at the same time as the chocolate fell out of her mouth is an image he could never forget.
He drew that one, too. He sat on the floor next to her and began sketching her face as she stood on top of him, all over the place.
She kept nudging him with her foot and asking him to repeat himself.
And each time she asked, he’d say the same thing.
I like you.
I like you.
Are you sure?
Yes. I like you. Do you like me?
Then she blushed and refused to answer. It wasn’t fair; she wanted him to answer when she wasn’t going to do the same.
‘You’re not supposed to ask a girl that,’ she reprimanded him.
He sighed and put his pencil down, looking up at her. ‘Do you want to walk home with me?’
He kept three of her drawings. In one she had long hair and in the last one he kept, her hair was shoulder-length.
The next time they met, he was 18 and fresh out of high school with no plan to further his education. She was going to university the following year and when they spoke, she told him she’d rather travel.
Somewhere away from this place, she said to him. She told him she still had his number on her phone and decided to text him randomly.
He replied fast—almost too fast—and agreed to meet.
They hadn’t seen each other in years because she had transferred to a new school the following year after they started dating.
She was willing to stay in the relationship regardless of the distance but Haru wasn’t so sure it would work.
I don’t think you’re breaking up because you think I’m so beautiful that other boys would be all over me.
She was right; that wasn’t the issue.
Because it got to the point where Haru wanted to draw her every day, and they weren’t getting enough time together for him to get the chance.
School was school, he understood that, and it was because of that issue that having her that far away felt too much. He’d choke.
So they broke up and went different ways. A month after the breakup, one of her friends showed a picture of her that she had posted. Her long hair was gone.
She then shoved it in his face as if someone had forced her to show him the picture.
‘Her hair is short now,’ she told him with a huff. Haru could see that very clearly.
‘Okay,’ he said.
The girl then slapped her forehead and groaned exasperatedly. ‘Boys are so stupid,’ she muttered before leaving, but it was loud enough for him to hear.
And so they broke up, anyone else he drew after that wasn’t interesting enough for him to keep the drawing, and then one day she texted him.
‘Where do you want to go?’
He remembers thinking about how nice it could be to wish for something else when the future was already set for you; when you had options. You could choose to drive today and complain about traffic, or go to work and complain about the stress of it, all the while getting to enjoy having a car or getting paid at the end of the month.
Or wish to travel while very much having the opportunity to go to a top university with a guarantee of getting a job at the end of the day.
Haru wasn’t jealous; he just found it interesting. Almost like everything about her.
Her nails had been painted an aquamarine blue and her lips were a light pink. Rosy cheeks and shoulder length hair with a middle part. Her eyelashes were longer than how he remembered them to be; she looked really different from how she used to be, but she still wrinkled her nose and rubbed the tip whenever she was about to say something.
She also smelled like vanilla and brown sugar. She was always beautiful; that one didn’t change at least.
‘You’re watching me like that again. Do you want to draw me?’
Haru didn’t even feel embarrassed to admit it. That was part of the reason why he was quick to accept her offer to meet.
That day he brought his notepad and pencil and his fingers began itching the moment she asked.
She wanted him to try something different, she told him as her only condition to be drawn.
Has he ever drawn with anything else other than a pencil or a pen? As she asked, she pushed her cup of coffee closer to him.
No, he hadn’t tried anything other than his pencil. But yes, he could attempt something today.
He drew her as they spoke and then they spoke some more to allow the drawing to dry.
She had a spark in her eye when she saw what he made, something that made Haru think that she had something more to say.
But no; they hugged and promised to keep in touch.
They never really did after that.