Chapter 24:

"Shizuko Don't Surf"

Vibrancy x Vibrancy

A Day at Lake Chikuma

          By Shizuko

Lake Chikuma is really pretty. I like it a whole lot. The water is really blue, and the sky is really blue, too. The mountains are a nice shade of green. The sun is a golden shade of yellow, and the swan boat is a blinding white. I have a black shirt on. Shunshuke wears a shirt as white as the swan boat. It’s really colorful.

I’ve been pedaling because Shunsuke is dying in the seat next to me. But he’s already dead weight anyway (ha-ha). I got the ryokan and swan boat rentals today because we went dancing in the rain yesterday and that made him sick. The rain felt nice on my skin. Yoshiaki really is a beautiful place. I guess I never realized it while I was growing up here. Maybe it’s the same for Tokyo. You need to look at things with the right perspective. I didn’t have this perspective before. Maybe after looking at Yoshiaki with this perspective for the next year, I’ll try for Tokyo again. I bet it has its own beauty that I just didn’t see the first time around.

I drew the colorful lake in dark pen. I should’ve brought my colored pencils or my paint. But my backpack can only carry so much. And drawing in pen has its own charm. I like my drawing. That’s a funny feeling because I haven’t liked my art in a long time. But I guess you just have to wait the funk out and hope for a better day to arrive. I’m glad I waited because I think the better days are here.

I feel great. I want to run around a city or swim around this lake (and wouldn’t Shunsuke like to see me in a bathing suit ha-ha). Something big and grand is coming. Or it’s already here. I’m approaching escape velocity. I want to give life another try again.

““Summer in the world;

Floating on the lake

Over waves.”

          - Matsuo Basho”

                    - Shizuko


“Can I put this in the book?” I ask her afterwards.

She’s twiddling her thumbs. “I don’t know if it’s that good. Japanese is my weakest subject. It was worse when I was younger. Sometimes when I read or write, the characters just get mixed up in my head. They get rearranged or appear out of order.”

“This is great!” I reassure her. “I like your perspective on things. I feel like you’re just the tiniest bit harsh on me, though I admit, I do want to see you in a bathing suit.”

“Maybe I should’ve brought it,” she answers, looking closely at the water, sneaking glances my way as I reread the paper.

“Approaching escape velocity. That’s a great way to phrase it. I definitely won’t steal it.”

Shizuko sticks her tongue out at me and goes to take the paper back. I’m apparently dead weight, so I shift in my seat and keep it out of arm’s reach. She leans over now, even closer now, her arms outstretched, her chest against my shoulder. The swan boat sways, the water ripples, she’s laughing and she smells like strawberry, and I’m laughing and slipping my fingers between her own, and then the shoreline explodes.

Of course, it only seems like an explosion because I’m still slightly slick. In reality, it’s just a sudden commotion created by fireworks and sparklers. We’re not too far from the shoreline, so we can see the revelers. Except they’re not revelers - my jaw slackens as a high school student points a handheld cannon at me. He’s tall and his fingers confident as he pulls the trigger. The projectile races out, and there’s little Shizuko and I can do but stare as it slams into the side of the swan boat. The ship rocks in the water while smoke drifts from the shoreline.

I retrieve the projectile from the lake. I take one look and frown, though I shouldn’t be surprised - it’s a shirt bearing the face of anime girl Che Guevara, his visage now dripping with water. On the shoreline, a red banner unfurls from a large tree, revealing the words TSUKAMOTO GUERILLA THEATER TROUPE scrawled across it in black, the motto A FOOL ACCUSES ME OF FOLLY below it.

This is an isolated part of both the lake and shoreline surrounded by a low woodland. We’re about to watch a guerilla performance of the troupe’s three members - the potato-cannon-firing black-jacket-wearing man-bun-having President; the reedy, blonde Bookworm; and the black-haired Girl (yeah, yeah, I’m sure she has more qualities than just being a girl, but it’s an easy shorthand identifier).

It’s a high school quality production with high school quality themes and angst and rage, and we're little more than a captive audience. The President enters the sandy shore, hands outstretched, filled with theatrical flair. 

“I’m the system, I’m the powers that be, I’m the Man,” he declares, smugness emanating out of the word Man. He turns to the Bookworm. “And who might you be?”

“I’m the Dreamer,” the Bookworm declares. “I wish for a world of peace and harmony. Where children can pursue their own dreams. Where nails that stick out are not hammered down-”

The Man immediately kicks him in the balls. The Bookworm lets out an all-too-realistic groan and crumples into the sand. The Man then turns to the Girl. “And who might you be?”

The Girl looks dramatically towards the water. “I may be a student, but I’m also a woman. Equal rights? No, all I get is left(s) behind-”

The Man immediately pushes her into the sand. The Girl immediately darts around. “For fuck’s sake, Nobutoshi, I told you not to push that fucking hard!”

Shizuko and I glance at each other. It’s like a bad car wreck - terrible, but I can’t peel my eyes away. I can’t tell where the play ends and real life begins, either.

“It was just a light tap!” President Nobutoshi yells back. He offers her his hand to bring her back to her feet, but she swats it away.

“I told you yesterday to make it realistic, but not too realistic!” she barks at him. I’m reminded of Ayako with her director’s beret and camera.

The President crosses his arms. “Can you go be a woman somewhere else?”

The Girl kicks him in the balls. He sinks to his knees, but he apparently believes in equal rights, because he throws her into the sand. A cartoon-style dust cloud, with random arms and angry faces poking out, covers the two as they really get into it.

The Bookworm steps into the fray and manages to break it up. “Guys, guys!” he interrupts. “We should be united against the common enemy!”

The President and Girl immediately stop fighting as their eyes light up and they yell in unison-

“The popular kids!”

The Bookworm looks exasperated. “No, no, the system!”

We leave them to their in-fighting. All the commotion and lingering sickness has me tired and I find myself yawning. Shizuko lets me sleep on her shoulder as she pedals home. I might've fallen asleep again, but instead of dreaming about Eguchi, I dream of a pen-drawn lake and a rocket arching over it, heading toward the stratosphere, toward space, toward escape velocity and on and on and then some. 

Steward McOy