Chapter 2:

The longest walk in history

Inward to the Outward

Dancing warblers chirped to their hearts’ content all across the park I trotted across. Just like Tokyo, Yokohama was full of urban life that managed to find sparks of nature in and throughout. Despite not going outside often, I appreciated the quietness which Tachibana-no-oka park provided. Not only was my aunt’s apartment right next to this place, but the sounds of birds were loud enough to dim out the noises of people, but not enough to cause disturbance. What did, however, were the thousands of cicadas around the neighborhood which would never shut up.

Because it was the middle of August, every tree was littered with them. They would buzz louder than the birds’ chirping, making stepping outside even more unbearable than it already was. On top of that, the summer heat was in full bloom.

Wearing my favorite black shorts while sporting a regular white tee on top, I made sure to dress as “normally” as possible, even if the walk to the salon was only across the park. Hearing my aunt complain about that new salon over at Minato Mirai did nothing to my decision-making; I was never going to go there anyway, whether she slandered it or talked highly of it. Hurrying to my usual place - where the owners know me so I don’t have to talk - was always the plan.

I accelerated my steps down a shortcut upon noticing a small crowd of people near the center of the park. The stone-filled path within the grass began fading away as trees became more abundant, but that wasn’t stopping me from going off-route. Even if I didn’t interact with others, just imagining having to do so made me cringe. My entire neighborhood was usually as quiet as a mouse during the winter - the area wasn’t as bustling and busy as downtown Yokohama; it had a suburban feel rounded off by older folks looking to settle down and grow their families.

I haven't seen anyone without a kid here in forever, I thought. I kept my head down in thought and kicked a few rocks down the rocky path that was now barely there. Even if some adults were my age, they were already pushing strollers with ring-bearing hands, while I almost brought out my sinful binder of evil art.


“Ouch!” I cried, and fell onto my backside. My endless internal monologue had led me to carelessly slamming into others in public. Shoot! I…I don’t wanna talk!

I peeked up to see who I ran into: a young-looking but mature lady sat across from me in the grass, clutching her head from the hit. She adorned the most fashionable clothes I had ever seen: a cute pink dress that didn’t feature a single wrinkle, and her bling bling white flip flops looked designer-based as well. Even her hair, cut to her shoulders but curled as if every strand was a victim, looked ready for a photoshoot.

The last type of person I’d ever want to interact with, even by accident.

I struggled back up but kept silent, bowing my head slightly in case she wondered why I wasn’t greeting her. It was time to exit the scene as fast as a snake.

“Hold on!” She yelled.

I froze, but only momentarily, and didn’t glance back.

“Um, sorry about that,” the woman continued. “But please, watch where you’re going!”

I quickly nodded my head in another gentle bow before making haste with my leave. Not a single moment did I dart my eye back at her; they were squeezed shut, pretending to avoid the beaming sun. I could feel her piercing eyes against my back as I trekked down the grass and past the center playground in misery. All I could mutter was an “ugh” in response.

Thankfully, nothing else interrupted my trip to the salon. The clean suburban roads of Yokohama remained spotless when it came to trash, and barely any pedestrians roamed the streets during work hours. Even the occasional mother or father pushing a stroller around would move out of my way when I walked past them; or perhaps it was because of the way I looked.

Jingling, chimed the door as I opened it to reach inside the salon. It had been months since my last visit, so my legs were trembling. I didn’t utter a single greeting either; just a small wave and a gentle smile took every ounce of energy within my body.

“Ah, Rin!” said the owner, who paused his blow drying of another patient to greet me. “Welcome! Have a seat, I’ll be right with you.”

I clutched my chest and sighed in relief. I’ve only ever visited this salon a couple times since moving here years ago, yet the owner could already recognize me. I stared at the ground in embarrassment since I didn’t even know the owner’s name. Of course, none of them knew I was a hikikomori, and I’m sure none of them would want to know.

I seated myself near a distant corner away from everyone else and opened my phone to occupy myself for the time being. Get this haircut, and then go home, I repeated in my head. I threw on my earbuds, but didn’t turn on silent mode. I’d cringe myself to the depths of despair if anyone had to tap on my shoulders to remind me it was my turn for the cut.

Well, I instantly regretted it.

“Hey Sasaki, have you heard of that salon out at Minato Mirai?” asked one of the owner’s assistants. “You know, the one that everyone’s been talking about.”

“Of course I know, you dumb dumb,” Sasaki replied. “God, the controversy from that place is more entertaining than the drama from my TV!”

The customer he was putting the finishing touches for also joined in on the conversation with glowing eyes. “I’ve also heard of that place! That woman’s name is Ena, if I recall.”

“Right, Kirisu Ena is her name I believe. Man, I hear the wildest stories about her salon, that’s for sure.”

“Like what?” asked his assistant.

“Dude, she apparently gets into an argument with a customer like every week! And apparently, all she talks about is money and how accomplished she’s been.”

“Yup, that’s what I’ve heard too,” replied the customer. “And I’ve also heard she looks down on people a lot, especially those who are in relationships!”


“Yup, I’ve also heard from my friends who know her better that she’s also already thirty-years-old herself and refuses to get married despite her parents’ begging.”

Everyone bursted into laughter, which dragged on even as the customer paid his bill and departed. I closed my phone but didn’t lift my head; if I could’ve facepalmed without being seen, I would’ve. If these idiots ever found out about my lifestyle, they’d probably talk trash about me too like this, I thought. The chances of them finding out were slim as long as I kept quiet, but I shuddered nonetheless. I wasn’t a great communicator thanks to my years of isolation. Any poor trait of mine could turn into their next point of gossip.

“Alright Rin, I’m all yours,” declared Sasaki. I nodded and got up for my haircut. Weird way to tell me he’s ready, I thought. Wasn’t that supposed to be what lovers said to their partners?

As I sat down in front of him, my nightmares became a reality while Sasaki tied his cape around me: “So, Rin! What do you do for work?”

Ah, shit.

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