Chapter 2:

Good Times With High School

Letter From Yokohama

Shinagawa Metropolitan High School. Lucille, dressed proudly in her new sailor fuku, gazed up at the building with a smile on her face. A gentle breeze blew past, carrying cherry blossoms and the scent of a fresh spring with it.

Every month has a feeling. April’s no different - winter finally retreats by the end of March, and all the trees and plants and flowers that kept their heads down below the soil all season long finally make their reappearance. After several months of early sunsets, freezing temperatures, and regular snowfall, April finally arrives and you remember why life’s worth living in the first place. It’s moments like these - standing in the school courtyard, surrounded by friendly faces, the sun smiling down upon you. Lucille raised her arms high, taking a deep breath, taking it all in. The first day of high school only happens once in your life.

Excitement surged throughout Lucille that whole day. She kicked her legs and hummed a melody in her head as the opening ceremony began. When the pretty representative of her fellow first-years finished her speech, Lucille rose and clapped, inspiration coursing through her. High school - she would come into her own here, she would find her passion, and make friends that would last the rest of her life.

She made her first friend in homeroom. As she stepped inside the classroom, she smiled at the mere sight of the students around her. To really be here - it felt like a dream like no other. She found her seat and slid inside - even the wood of the chair and desk felt smooth to the touch, so polished that she saw her own reflection, giddy with happiness, staring back up at her.

Someone poked her on the shoulder. Next to her sat a girl similar in height, dirty blonde hair spilling down to her back. “What’s going on?”

“Just happy to be here,” Lucille answered, her smile shining so much that the girl had to shield her eyes for a moment.

When the girl recovered, she gave a lazy smile back and introduced herself. “You can call me Regina.”

“Regina-chan,” Lucille repeated. Even the mere mention of an honorific sent butterflies through her stomach. “My name’s Lucille.”

“Lucille-chan, eh?”

Before they could speak further, their homeroom teacher came in. For some reason, Lucille expected an old man, ancient even, but this was a young woman who strode confidently behind the podium.

“Good morning, class!” she greeted. “I hope we have a fun year together. Now, let’s see, there’s twenty-five of you…twenty-five…twenty-five…”

The sensei-chan sniffled and wiped her eyes. She turned away, muttering about old maids and Christmas cake.

The scene cut to lunch. Sitting on the roof, Lucille ate her bento with chopsticks, enjoying the view of the city stretching out below. Not a single road was unpaved; not a single anti-homeless spike was necessary. Her lunch consisted of little hot dogs shaped into octopi; she laughed as she stole one from Regina, who blinked in and out of sleep.

The day ended. Under an orange sunset, the two friends returned home. Regina kept her arms behind her head while Lucille produced a flier from her bag.

“I got this at the club fair today,” she explained. “The Light Music Club! I heard they only have two members - but they need four members, otherwise they would disband. So, if we were to join, they’d have to accept us.”

“But neither of us play instruments,” Regina pointed out.

“We can learn,” Lucille answered. “Out here, anything’s possible. If you just put your mind to it, and with a little bit of spirit, you can accomplish anything, just like that.”

She raised her hand, feeling the warmth of sunlight on it. With dramatic flair, she snapped her fingers.

Lucille felt like she had been shot out of a cannon. She nearly jumped out of her seat in a daze; after rubbing her eyes, her senses returned to her. The ideal life in Japan was nowhere to be found; she was merely in her cramped room, the glow of the television screen sending shades of light across her face. She let out a stupid laugh, then a stupid sigh.

She was not eating bento on the rooftop. She was not enjoying a breeze filled with cherry blossoms. She was just high as a kite, in a dark room, watching a Clippers game. Fuck the Clippers.

“You alright?” Regina asked. “You dozed off by the end of our game, so I put the West Coast one on.”

“Yeah, just daydreaming,” Lucille mumbled, rubbing her eyes again. “I feel like I just had the longest dream…”

“Was it about Japan?”

When Lucille gave her a confused look, Regina chuckled. “You talk in your sleep. You mentioned a Lucille-nee-chan a few times.”

In another life, Lucille would have a younger sister instead of being a lonely only child. In another another life, they would be Japanese, and Lucille would be the foolish older sister who loved her responsible imouto.

“Did I?” Lucille asked, trying to avoid the cringe creeping up in her.

“Knowing you, I bet you dreamed about Japanese high school, too.” Regina crossed her arms. “It’s overrated, in my opinion. Stifling, even.”


“In America, high school’s a contract. You go there for eight-nine hours a day, ten or eleven if you have sports, but after that, your time’s your own. Whatever you want to do in your free time - within reason, of course - they don’t give two squats about.”

Dirty blonde hair bobbed along as Regina shook her head. “But in Japan? The school owns you. You go to school, go to club, go to cram school, go do homework. They tell you what kind of haircut you can get, they can ban you from going to the arcade or whatever after school. Imagine if they banned us from going to Lou’s Pizza after school? I’d read them the riot act. I loved my post-school steak and cheese. And don’t even get me started on the shoes. They’re the worst thing of all.”

“What’s your deal with the shoes?”

Regina wagged a finger. “I’m gonna get abstract here, but this is a place that’s supposed to develop children. Yet they all have to wear identical shoes when they enter that place. That signifies the school’s ownership of you. Outside the little colors on them that identify your grade, the shoes are so identical that people have to write their names on them just to tell them apart. There’s a word for things like that.”

The finger moved close to Lucille’s face, making her blink in surprise.

“It’s called totalitarianism,” Regina concluded. “And you ought to know, considering your politics sophomore year-”

“Alright,” Lucille hastily cut in, her face growing red. A frown soon appeared on it. “You have a lot of opinions, not to mention a strong image in your mind, of a school system and society you’ve never experienced first-hand.”

Regina just shrugged. “I could say the same to you.”

Unsure of how to respond, Lucille just rubbed her eyes again and looked off to the side.

“I’m sure they have fun there,” Regina said, speaking a little gentler now. “But we have fun here, too, and people overlook that. You daydream about high school in Japan, I daydream about our time in high school here in America.” She leaned her back into the couch, a dull radiance appearing in her smile as a memory entered her mind. “Remember the industrial lot?”

The industrial lot. Half of their suburb consisted of industrial lots. Adults loved it since it meant low-property taxes; kids loved it because kids have loved vacant lots since time immortal. And it’s not like the local PD could patrol all of them.

The memory burned brighter. Regina and Lucille, five or six years ago, sat in the Reginamobile one winter night. Regina blew her on her hands; the heat was on high, as was the radio.

*Record scratch*

*Tiger roar*

“You’re now listening to 107.8’s commercial-free hour of. Hit. Classics!”

*Police sirens*

*Hard rock all day. Hard rock everyday.”


“Strap yourselves in for the ride. You ain’t seen nothing yet.”




The aux finally connected; both girls already knew what song would be playing. Regina kept her hands gripped on the steering wheel - not too loose, but not too tight. Her heart beat methodically in her chest, but she could feel her breath growing shallow in anticipation.

Stretched before their car was a wide empty lot. Outside of the car’s headlights, the entire thing was covered in a sheet of black ice from the recent blizzard. Regina tapped a hand on the steering wheel as the song started up. The volume was up high, of course - dark bells and drums blasted throughout the car. Regina could feel the bass in her stomach.




          THEN YOU MEAN IT


The chorus kicked in and Regina slammed a foot on the gas pedal. Lucille was already laughing as the car lurched forward across the ice. With two confident hands, Regina cut the wheel to the left; she could feel herself lose control of the car as the laws of nature gained the upper hand on man’s creation. In other words - the back of the car kicked out to the right, wheels scraping across the ice.

Right on cue, Regina cut the wheel back to the right. The car lurched again, and she could feel her control lie on a knife’s edge. The headlights reminded her of searchlights scanning a city at night, moving back and forth as Regina continued to cut the wheel in each direction and the car skidded through the lot.

The song blared; Lucille laughed just as loud. Regina herself felt breathless, feeling like she was close to something indescribable at that moment. She approached the limits of some sort of unknowable reality - each and every day, life just exists and the earth keeps spinning. Man imposes his own rules upon the day - his schedule, his roads, his creations, his desires, his existence. At that very moment, as the car wheeled around, smoke illuminated in red tail-lights trailing from the exhaust into the night sky, Regina lost that sense of existence. She no longer possessed a sense of “I”. She was just there, just another part of the earth, though it felt like nothing existed beyond the darkness of that lot and the little car spinning in circles across the ice.

The scene changed. Winter gave way to summer, and the ice all melted away, replaced by eighty degree nights and the songs of grasshoppers. At this point in the year, Regina could just park at the edge of the lot. On the other side of a chain-link fence, down a rolling hill, cars rumbled down the interstate, off to destinations unknown.

While Regina laid on the hood of her car, propped up by the windshield, Lucille downed the last of her sleeve of nips (miniatures for all you non-locals) and then took aim. Feeding her arm like a machine-gun, she fired the empty nips over the fence and down onto the hill. The highway was the goal; the bottles sailing down into the darkness of the bottom of the hill was the reality. Yet it was all good fun, and was littering cool at that age? You bet your ass it was.

“Weak,” Regina called out after the last nip barely made it halfway down the hill. Lucille put her hands on her hips and shook her head; Regina just laughed. “One day, I’ll have you drive here, and I’ll drink and show you what a good throw looks like, just like that.”

She raised her hand, feeling the warmth of summer on it. With dramatic flair, she snapped her fingers.

“Welcome back to the land of the living,” Lucille offered as her friend awoke from a late night nap. The old lot drifted away, replaced by postgame coverage and a yawn from Lucille.

Regina rubbed her eyes. “I feel like I just had the longest dream…what happened?”

“You told me you needed to smoke first before telling your story. And then you fell asleep like five minutes later.”

“Did I?” Regina chuckled. 

"For someone who lost their long-term memory, you seem to remember high school quite well?"

"Bits and pieces. The important parts. Anyway, the point of my story about the old lot was that we got cool things here, too.”

Much to Lucille’s surprise, her friend let out a sigh, one despondent enough to make Lucille raise an eyebrow.

Regina neatly folded her hands on her lap and stared up at the ceiling. 

“Sometimes, I just think to myself…if only we could’ve stayed in that lot forever.”

Steward McOy