Hibiki decided to skip class that day. Left with lots of time on his hands he wondered what to do. He figured that as long as he stayed in his dorm room he wouldn’t have to encounter other people, and this thought gave him comfort. He had promised himself not to say a single word after all, and how would he do that if somebody approached him? In the end he decided to solve some practice problems for his course on partial differential equations.
Solving problem after problem, Hibiki lost track of time. The light from his window slowly travelled from left to right across the desk, making him change his writing position every now and then. Many hours had passed when there was suddenly a knock on his door. Hibiki got startled and from the sharp movement his pencil made a long diagonal line across the paper.
“Hibikiiii, you in there?” It was Natsumaru’s loud voice. “I didn’t see you in Spanish class today, so I came to check on you.”
Hibiki stood silent and motionless. Despite his calm appearance, his heart was racing and he could feel sweat dripping down his forehead. Don’t speak he thought to himself. When he decided to quit speaking that morning, he never imagined it could make him feel this way.
There was another, louder knock on his door. Then a silence. After a couple of seconds Hibiki heard the sound of footsteps going away from his room and down the hall. He sighed and turned back to his desk. What had just happened?
Hibiki had found Natsumaru benevolent and somewhat annoying since they first met during freshman year in Spanish class. Languages were not Hibiki’s strength but the university required all students, even math and physics nerds like himself, to take “general education” classes. He had picked Spanish at random from the plethora of uninteresting classes. Natsumaru had picked Spanish for no particular reason, but came excited to class every day. He took any opportunity to speak and did so loudly, enjoying his position at the center of everyone’s attention. Whenever he would make a mistake, he would joke about it and wholeheartedly laugh at himself. He quickly won over the hearts of most people, including the professors.
Natsumaru in many ways embodied the social qualities that Hibiki either disliked or did not understand. For example, how did he make new friends every day even with people that were not in his classes, not even at the university? How did he not get exhausted hanging out with other people for hours? And worst of all, how could anyone engage in so much small talk? Natsumaru would keep a conversation going even if it was about the most trivial and meaningless things. Yet somehow Hibiki couldn’t help but like him.
After the incident with the door knock, Hibiki couldn’t focus on any math problems anymore. His mind was occupied with a new problem: How does one avoid speaking to others? He took out a fresh piece of paper and started jolting down his ideas. None of them were satisfying. Pretending to be sick or avoiding others could not be done indefinitely. Not responding when spoken to was the most straight-forward option, but it was very rude to others. Leaving society…. No, Hibiki couldn’t live without a convenience store nearby. Sticking to minimal speaking? That would be admitting failure.
Another loud knock on his door.
“Hibikiiii I can see from outside that your desk light is on! I know you’re home, open the door!”
Of course, the light. You couldn’t hide from Natsumaru for long, he was too good at sniffing out human presence.
Hibiki turned off the main light in his room, leaving only the desk light on. He slipped into his pajamas as quickly as possible and ran his fingers through his black hair, messing up his tidy hairdo. Then he picked up his bed cover and dropped it on the bed, making it look like he had just been sleeping on it.
Finally he went to the door and opened it slowly, putting on a groggy face. Standing before him was Natsumaru.
“There you are. Did I wake you up?” Natsumaru examined Hibiki’s face, then opened the door wider letting himself into the room.
“Man, I did wake you up, didn’t I? Look at you, you look so tired. Why are you sleeping in the middle of the day, you must be getting sick or something.” Natsumaru kept on talking as he walked around Hibiki’s room, looking at his desk, bed, carpet… He turned around and placed a hand on Hibiki’s forehead.
“You don’t have a fever, but you’re really sweaty. I think you’re getting sick, you should go back to bed. I’m sorry for waking you up.” He grabbed Hibiki by the arm and started dragging him to the bed. Hibiki silently complied and lay down. It’s not so difficult to remain silent around Natsumaru, he thought. That energetic boy is so busy talking that you don’t even need to reply.
Hibiki suddenly felt grateful for his friend’s presence. Even though he wasn’t sick and the sweat was only a result of nervousness, it was endearing to see that somebody was willing to take care of him in case of emergency. Of course, he would never admit that to someone other than himself.
“You know, I thought you were avoiding me today for some reason. Can you imagine? Look at me being all paranoid. Turns out you were just in your room. Here, I made you a cup of tea.” Hibiki accepted and drank in small sips. “Is that better?” Hibiki nodded.
“Alright, good. Well I guess I gotta leave you to rest, right? Don’t wanna annoy you with all my talking, haha! I know you’re not into that, shy guy.” This started Hibiki a little. Did he have a reputation of a “shy guy”? He didn’t see himself as shy, he simply saw himself as practical. And speaking to others was not practical. But of course other people are quick to make judgement, he thought. They classify you as shy or outgoing to make you fit into a concept they understand, then they move on with their life. How was Hibiki himself any different? Hadn’t he been extremely quick to classify Natsumaru as an extrovert?
Hibiki got lost in his thoughts and awoke from a noise, similar to a child’s scream. He looked around. It was dark outside, his desk lamp was off. Natsumaru was gone. On the night stand was a cold cup of tea and a note that read Hope you feel better soon, I’ll come check on you again tomorrow. -Natsu The child-like screams pierced the air once again. It was just the sound of stray cats copulating. Hibiki stayed awake in bed the rest of the night.