And so, on Sunday, I was forced to visit a girl I didn’t know.
The hospital that Watarase Mamizu was staying in was at the last train station. After being shaken around for about thirty minutes inside the train that traveled in the opposite direction from the one I usually took to school, I finally reached the station that was my destination.
I headed from the station to the hospital, and then towards the fourth floor via the elevator as I’d been told at the reception desk. I walked down the linoleum-covered corridor and reached the door to a hospital room.
I went inside to find a shared room. The patients inside were all female; other than the two elderly women, there was a young girl who was reading a book. She was probably Watarase Mamizu. I slowly approached her. As if noticing my presence, she removed her gaze from her book and looked up.
I was startled by that single glance.
She was indeed a beautiful girl.
She was beautiful, but I couldn’t think of anyone that she resembled. She had a piercing look in her deep-black eyes, which were bordered by naturally long eyelashes and elegant double-edged eyelids, making them look more impressive. And her skin was unbelievably white. Perhaps because of this skin, which looked as if it had never been touched by the sun at all, the atmosphere around her was completely different from the other girls in our class. It was as if she had been born and raised in another country.
A beautiful nose-bridge, shapely cheeks and small lips, running alongside each other. A slender, extended back and a balanced figure. Glossy hair that fell across her chest.
There was nothing dishonest-looking about her expression; she seemed very direct.
“Watarase-san?” I called out to her timidly.
“That’s right,” she said. “And you are?”
“Okada Takuya. Starting this spring, I’m your classmate,” I said, briefly introducing myself.
“I see. Nice to meet you, I’m Watarase Mamizu. Say, Takuya-kun, I have something to ask of you,” she said, suddenly calling me by my given name. “I want you to use my given name and call me Mamizu.”
I wasn’t used to calling people by their first names, so I found her request strange. “Why?” I asked.
“Because surnames are things that can quickly change,” she said.
Were her parents divorced? But I was hesitant to suddenly touch on this topic.
“Then I suppose I’ll call you Mamizu.”
“Thank you. I like being called by my given name,” she said, giving a bashful smile. The moment she did, her white teeth became visible as if peeking out of her mouth. I was a little surprised at how white they were. The way she said the word “like” was somehow friendly. “So, Takuya-kun, why have you come here today?”
“Ah. Apparently, I have some printouts and stuff to give you, and a joint letter as well. Sensei said that you’d probably be happier if one of the students gave it to you,” I said.
“I’m happy, I’m happy.”
I handed Mamizu an envelope. She took the colored joint letter out of the envelope and started gazing at it with interest.
“Isn’t your message a bit cold, Takuya-kun?” she asked.
I hastily took a peek at the joint letter. The message that I’d written was in the corner of the colored paper.
I hope your illness gets better soon. Okada Takuya.
“Is it? No…”
I didn’t think that it was really that terrible a message. But it was definitely too short, and perhaps the vagueness due to it having been written in three seconds was visible. And this probably meant that Mamizu wasn’t stupid enough to not see through it.
“Maybe it is. Sorry.” I stopped trying to dodge the issue and apologized earnestly.
Mamizu looked at me with a slightly surprised expression. “I don’t really think it’s so cold that you need to apologize,” she said.
She has a strange way of speaking, I thought.
“Takuya-kun, could it be that you actually didn’t want to come?” she asked. “Maybe the teacher forced you to?”
I felt like it would be insensitive to be truthful and say, “Actually, Kayama was supposed to come.” I remembered the phrase, “Circumstances may justify a lie.”
“No,” I said. “I came here of my own will.”
“Really? That’s good,” Mamizu said, looking truly relieved.
She seems smart, but she’s the type who expresses her emotions in a way that they’re easily understood, I thought.
“What is this?” I asked, wanting to change the topic.
A glass sphere that looked like a crystal had been placed on the bedside table. Looking closely, I could see that there was a miniature house inside it. It was a western-style log house. The light trickling through its windows made it look like someone was living inside it.
“Ah, it’s called a snow globe. I really like that. Give it here,” Mamizu said, letting go of the colored paper and extending her palm towards me, so I handed it to her. “Look. There’s snow here.”
I looked and saw that the ground surface around the house inside the glass sphere was covered in something like confetti that imitated snow.
“I see,” I said.
“That’s not all. If I shake it like this…” Mamizu shook the snow globe. As she did, the confetti inside the glass suddenly began to dance. Through some trick, the confetti scattered around and fell slowly. “What do you think? It’s like snow, isn’t it?”
Indeed, it was like snow.
“My father bought it for me in the past… I can’t meet my father anymore, though. That’s why I treasure this,” Mamizu said.
So, her parents are divorced after all? I thought, but I couldn’t ask her.
“I look at it and imagine,” Mamizu continued. “I imagine that I’m living in a snowy country, and when it becomes winter, it snows. My breath is always white. I spend my time reading books while staying warm by the fireplace. I enjoy imagining that.”
Snow continued to fall inside the glass sphere.
Mamizu continued talking. Could it be that she had been hungry for someone to talk to? The way she spoke made this thought occur to me. But I didn’t really dislike it. The conversation wasn’t that boring, and I didn’t dislike the way she talked.
The conversation finally stopped when it became evening. I decided that it was time to go home.
“Say, Takuya-kun,” Mamizu said as I was leaving. “Will you come to play again soon?”
I was bewildered. But looking at her lonely-looking expression, I couldn’t say, “No, I don’t have any intentions of ever coming back.”
I gave her that vague reply instead.
“And I have a request,” Mamizu said.
“What is it?” I asked.
“I want to eat Almond Crush Pocky,” she said, looking a little embarrassed.
“Actually, I’m supposed to eat only hospital food. And my mother is a strict person, so she won’t buy it for me even if I ask. They don’t sell it at the store in the hospital. I don’t have anyone else to ask.” Mamizu looked at me with slightly upturned eyes. “Is it too much to ask?”
“Mmm, well, alright,” I replied without thinking about it too deeply, and then I left the room.