Chapter 35:

Angst, Escapism, and whatever comes next


It was once again spring.

As the soft breeze gently caressed the air, the park unveiled its vibrant transformation. The Sakura trees, adorned in delicate shades of pink and white, stand tall and proud, casting a mesmerizing spell on all who behold them. The branches swayed gracefully as if performing a delicate ballet, while the sunlight filtered through the blossoms, casting a warm and ethereal glow. All manners of creatures, from the insects crawling on the ground to the ones that strived further from above, all joined in to offer a part to the symphony called life.

And yet, none of that vivid imagery could even come close to rivaling the beauty beside me.

“What are you staring at me for, Stan?”

“Just enjoying the beautiful view. Don’t mind me.”

Following my words, the girl replied with an awkward smile as if she had not my artistic answer.

“Since when did you get so romantical.”

“Since now, just thought about changing that’s all. We’ve been together for our whole life now.”

The girl pondered over my words for a second before forming another smile. “Change, huh? Is something troubling you I wonder?

Bobbing her head back and forth, she made a swift glance once more toward me.

“How’s life?” The girl inquired.

Ignoring the oddity of her sudden question, I replied.

“Well, the entrance college exam is like half a year away, not that it’s that stressful but, I figured I should grow up a bit to fit in, you know?”

“Imagine having to grow up, couldn’t be me.”

“Well, maybe I should just run away for two years and come back later too.”

Kiri made a light snicker toward herself before letting her head on my shoulder. It wasn’t too strange so I acted naturally, and my vision continued to face the park.

“Your life’s going to change pretty soon, huh? And yet, it seemed so stable and nice now…” She halted for a second before hesitating to carry on. “Say, Stan, aren’t you afraid?”

As I was caught off guard by her question, I glanced at Kiri for an explanation, but our eyes did not meet. Regardless, she continued.

“Well, it just seems so unfair that when the life that we worked so hard for finally goes our way, it’s bound to just disappear someday nonetheless. Like, what’s the point you know? Everything you have now, gone, and yet, it’s deemed as natural, like it is just what it is.”

Even though her thoughts made me wonder, it was not a topic I wanted to talk about today, hence, I attempted to digress.

“You still worry about these little things? I thought you’d stopped doing that.”

She shook her head, rustling her soft strings on my shoulder, and I felt a bit of a tickle. “It’s a part of me, Stan, I’m always going to ponder and pry into everything. At least there are enough distractions though.”

“Is that so.”

And, silence stood between us.

As the ethereal glow around us started to fade, it felt as if the park had begun its descent in life. The chirps and the wind now sound like a distant echo, and the vivid pink just now seemed natural and bland.

And in the middle, I and Kiri sat on a bench. With her head supported by my side, I could only hope that the limitless possibilities of the near future would not separate us, as it has with the painting before me.

“Hey, you two.” A sudden disgusted voice appeared behind us, and we both turned behind.

“Hey, Alice. Uh, what’s up?” Ignoring the question I had asked completely, Alice turned to face Kiri.

“C’mon, Kiri, the girls are waiting.”

Before she could even muster up a word, Kiri was no longer sitting by me. With a light smile as she was being dragged away, she turned back to me to give a smile. And I did so in return.

“All right, enough with this depressing talk.”

Getting up from the bench, I shifted my gaze behind me and toward the real-life energy that had invaded this park, the people that I have. And their beams only encouraged me more to waste no time and join in.

Taking up two mats just below a tree were the parents, the ones who had planned this BBQ to celebrate a passing year. For some reason, my parents and Kiri’s managed to contact each other one night after I had told them that I and Kiri were back together, and things just went out of control from there. And they certainly didn’t just do it for their kids, for they seemed to be having a wonderful time themselves. Even my parents seemed so vigorous, never thought they had it in them.

Nonetheless, I did not want to ruin their chat and moved on. Since this party was not just about me and Kiri.

With his back faced a premature-sized Sakura and a phone in his hand, little John was talking to someone about something he was staring at. Bewildered and curious, I followed his gaze toward another girl, and it was no surprise that it was Abigail. She seemed to be chatting with that tall girl I made a deal with a year back, I guess meek people tend to attract each other.

With nothing left to describe, I turned back toward John, and only now did I realize that he was in a Discor call with four other people named Arthur Morgan, Dutch Van der Lind, Hosea the Messiah, and Lenny the Bencher. There was nothing left for me to deduce, so, I interrupted them.

“You know, seeking motivation from some strangers on the net isn’t the way to win a girl.”

It was as if he had put all his focus on the objective he had set his mind on, the kid shaken up from shock when someone else brought reality back to him.

Still having not calmed down yet, he glanced at me. “Jesus, Stan, don’t sneak up on me like that. Oh, and besides, these are boys I met in middle school, not strangers, okay?”

I chuckled at my mistake. “Well, is it helping you? Been a year since you guys enrolled in the same school, right?”

He snickered at my tease. “Hey, weren’t you the one who told me that I’d get a chance if I worked hard enough? I’m still nowhere right now.”

“I worked my whole life to get Kiri, buddy, just be patient.”

With nothing else to say, I strolled forward. Not long after, three other boys were in my view, with one’s height differentiating him from the other two.

“Please, beef man, you gotta teach me your ways, my severe lack of companionship is killing me.”

Not so far from them sat Kiri’s group on a mat. Right beside her was Alice, with three other girls who were playing cards with each other, and if my eyes weren’t lying there were also poker chips. And on the other side was Mary Beth and the BL queen.

Ah, Wa Ghy U’s good with girls after all.

“I’m sorry, for me it’s just kind of natural so I don’t know what to say.” As Wa Ghy U spoke, I tried to interpolate their conversation.

“Each person has their own charm, you know. Use yours.”

Expectedly, the hippy guy’s eyes darted in my direction in the midst of frustration. “Damn you, Stan. How did an asshole like you get a girl? It should have been me, not him.”

“Just a charm issue bozo.” I jested.

“Mere luck, buddy. I just lack some backbone, that’s all. I’ll prove it right here, right now, watch.”

As a gust was blown through his hair, no hands were needed to organize the strands on his head back into place. It was as if nature stood on his side, his journey toward the girls held no hesitation. It seemed he had picked one whom I believed was named Qi, and the not-so-hippy anymore guy stood tall and proud.

And for once, a hint of respect could be seen emanating around him.

“PLEASEEEE! GO OUT WITH ME, I’M DESPERATEEE.” His standing posture was now reduced to a begging pose you’d see in an East Asian movie, and his tone held no shame or self-awareness.

And, before I could even form a snicker, the mild-mannered guy next to me had already burst out laughing.

“Fucking dumb-ass, this guy.” He said as his feet began in motion toward the laughing stock he had made fun of. But his target was not him, rather it was the girls. Perhaps he was utilizing the bad image of the guy before him to strengthen himself even further, thus gaining confidence.

However, before he could even assemble his seductive voice, the girl behind Qi had already spoken up.

“Nah, you’re too bland, sorry.” And if that wasn’t enough the girl beside her added. “Yeah, if you and that hippy guy had a kid maybe the balance would make us consider.”


On the grassy ground now laid two boys, and no sign of life could be sensed coming from them. Not now, and probably never again. Mary Beth tried to heal them with her soothing voice, but all faded from the encouragement with the following sentence, ‘There’s always a chance with each other’ by the BL queen.

Having been filled with enough cringe, I once again moved on, still with a light chuckle to accompany me.

With shades of amethyst pink encompassing my every step, an absence of time was present, and I mindlessly walked on. Until, a petal fell on my nose, and my vision was made clear again. And with that, a realization.

Beyond, there was no longer anyone, and I had to turn back.

Albeit at a fair distance away from me, cheers and laughter once again entered my consciousness, and everyone I loved was happy. And yet, even though the thought warmed my heart, it existed for a mere second only to be eclipsed by an unknown doubt.

I narrowed my eyes, but all seemed fleeting, all seemed so fragile. I wanted to enclose myself with their energy again, nevertheless, I stood still, for it seemed so meaningless to delve into what would one day be non-existent.

Involuntarily, those words appeared once more, now with a significance I could no longer feign ignorance to.

“Say, Stan, aren’t you afraid?”


“Yeah, I am.”

And I continued to stay alone-

“I am what?” Not even a second after my monologue, a masculine voice appeared behind me, and I shook in response. Not minding at all my bafflement, he still continued. “Why the long face, Stan? I thought this was your party.”

As I turned to meet his eyes, his identity had already been recognized by me beforehand. There stood a man of Japanese origin, with a short neckbeard and messy hair of medium length. With a quite muscular figure, he exhorts a vibrant and charismatic aura, of whom you’d want to follow, of whom that was similar to Kiri. Well, after all, like father, like daughter.

“Shouldn’t you be talking with the other adults, Mr. Kobayashi?”

“Nah, they’re too mentally straining. I just feel like I’m being put in the spotlight, they even picked a park full of Japanese Sakura trees, you know? They keep wearing me out with questions about my life, I can’t be a hippy in peace, Stan. And that’s not to mention the awkwardness of meeting my ex’s husband, he’s not a cool guy at all.”

This was indeed not the first time we had met, and this complaining was the usual in our conversation. Nonetheless, it was still quite annoying when he grabbed my shoulder and continue.

“Well, anyhow, I’m here to solve a teen’s identity crisis with my life-long experience. Now fire away your troubles, little Stan.”

“Okay, first of all, I’m not having an identity crisis, second, I don’t want to hear advice from someone who urged their daughter to fly half a planet to live with them.”

“C’mon haven’t we been over this already, she did make enough money for a plane ticket with excess under my guidance, you know. We would have been fine.” He made a slight cough. “Anyway, let’s get back to you, let me guess, you’re afraid of the future?”

“Yeah, tough guess Mr., I’m a teenager.” I was not surprised.

Though there was no shame on his face, and he scratched his beard with a second-long notion before coming up with the second guess.

“Well, then, you’re afraid that everything will have to change one day and all of these people here today will be gone. How’s that for a guess?”


I can’t lie, I wouldn’t have anticipated him to be spot-on. “Yeah, something like that. What gave me away, Mr. Kobayashi?”

Following my indifferent inquiry, he did not halt his exuberant grin and replied with no trouble.

“Do you know why a man like me would ever settle down with a family? It’s because of thoughts like this, and well, it did make me appreciate my life more. So, you’re not alone, Stan, we’re pretty alike.”

As he finished, his arm was once more wrapped around my shoulder, which I shook off with no trouble. “No, we are not.”

“Well, whatever. All I’m doing here is giving unconditional love, Stan, so I hope you hear me out.” Without knowing it, my eyes darted toward the man beside me, just in time for the flushed leaves to once more flow through the wind. “All of these moments that you’re cherishing now, they’re not here to cause you any fear, they are your companions. So, don’t disregard these memories that you hold so dear.”

A small breath of air slowly encompassed me, and a glint of a butterfly flew by. I didn’t know why, but something nagged at me to continue talking with him.

“Yeah, I guess so- ”

“Stan, get over here!”

Nonetheless, I did not get my chance. In a distance not so far away, my Mom had called for me, and from the fact that everyone had gathered up, I assumed that it was for a group photo.

And, I rushed back to them. The grass below me became softer, and the rhythm of my footstep almost fused to compose a joyful piece. Using the rustling of leaves and the smell of spring as its base and instruments, once more the symphony of life came to being.

“C’mon, Mom. Only little grade schoolers take these kinds of photos.”

“They clearly do not, Stan, you should listen to your mother. This is a symbol of maturity, after all, what are you going to look back at when you miss your friends.” My dad suddenly came in, and even though I usually neglect his words, today was an exception.

“Whatever”, I spoke.

With nothing else to do but play along my parent’s wants, I looked for Kiri and stood beside her.

“What were you talking to my dad about?” It looked like she had seen us conversing and was curious, which I don’t blame her.

“Nothing, Kiri. He was just giving me some life advice.”

She snickered. “Didn’t you say you don’t trust him?”

“Yeah”, I took a glance behind me toward that man. “But I guess my perspective can change.”

Suddenly, our conversation was interrupted from another woman. “Hey, since Kiri and Stan are the only couple here, they should stand in the middle, right?”

“C’mon, Mom. We’re not kids.”

Following her mother’s suggestion, it was no surprise that Kiri’s face reddened. However, much to her dismay, her mother did not stop.

“C’mon, Kiri. I’m the whole reason you and Stan are still together in the first place. Be grateful.”

“Typical capitalistic corpo mindset wanting something in return for every single little thing, I thought you had changed, Mom.”

Nobody gave way to the bluntness of her sentence and just joined in on the laugh. Without intention, Alice's face came into my view, and a sense of relief was plastered all over it. I, however, did not want anything but her envious side to be insulted.

“Let’s just do it, Kiri.”

“Wha- ”, before she could respond, I had grabbed her hand and moved toward the middle and front of our group.

Of course, I did not forget to give Alice a sinister grin, to which she would have shot laser beams if it had been possible. However, Alice was not the only one glaring at me, for the nameless duo who had just been rejected were also crying tears of envy. Meanwhile, John just kept glancing back and forth at Abigail, possibly fantasizing about themselves.

Wa Ghy U, Mary Beth, and even the BL queen had a warm smile on their face. While the other group of girls cheered Kiri, all with the purpose of embarrassing her even more.

In an instant, in the midst of it all, everything stopped.

It’s fun. This is fun, isn’t it?

It sure is.

And I’m going to look back on this day many times in the future, right?

I sure am.

And, will I be sad knowing that it’ll be gone?

I won’t lie to myself, I sure will be sad.


But that’s a good thing.

Perhaps it will only just prove this memory’s worth to be even more precious. And I know that the more treasurable it is, the more will these days motivate me to make new experiences that I once again can look back to.

In retrospect, all of which I cherish today only happened because I craved a new meaningful purpose, and that only appeared after I had recalled the memories that I had with Kiri. It was solely because of those sweet moments I had made with her that urged me to continue pursuing new ones. And none of that would have been the case if I had kept on trying to hide those days away from my mind.

All of this happened because I smiled at the sight that I found dear, rather than cry at the fact that they would be gone.

So, there was only one thing left for me to do, and that is to make this day the best day possible.

Everything suddenly continued to move in motion, and in a flash, a gesture of a thumps-up sparked on the camera lens, and I grinned in return.

With no more doubts or anything to hold me back, I turned to look at the girl that I love.

Obsidian black hair that’s tied up into a big round ball on her upper left side. Pale skin, and a sculpted figure that was twine-thin. She was like a doll, and her beauty left me mesmerized, it was almost unnatural.

Yet, a fierce, and yet, uneasy soul could be sensed emanating throughout her demeanor, and I was reminded then that she was just the same as me.

“Hey, Kiri.”


There wasn’t anything that could obstruct me, not anyone, not anything, and it felt like even the air had faded away for us alone. I had been afraid that she would recoil, but luck, no, fate was on my side.

It was the first time after all those years we’ve been with each other, after all the challenges that broke us apart, after all the lovely moments that made me and Kiri stand side by side in this very moment.

We kissed.

Just before everyone behind us explodes, two birds soared through the sky, and the camera clicks.

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