After that, I spent my days fulfilling Mamizu’s unreasonable requests. Among the ‘things she wanted to do before she died,’ which she asked me to do one after another, there were plenty that made me want to ask, “Did you really want to do that before you died? You’re not just coming up with things and enjoying watching me suffer, are you?” But I reluctantly did most of them.
She said that she wanted to act out the scenes that are often seen in manga where a character steals a persimmon from a tree in the neighborhood and then gets yelled at, which I actually did and got yelled at (I apologized like crazy). I also did her request of participating in an eating challenge. I received an enormous bowl of pork cutlet on rice, and, of course, paid 3,000 yen without being able to finish it.
I even did her request of going to a beauty parlor, pointing at a magazine and saying, “Please make me the same as this person.” The result was a hairstyle that was no different from usual.
She told me she wanted to hit a home run, so I started going to the batting center at night after work. I continued performing countless full swings until I finally hit the target marked “home run” on the third day. For some reason, the prize was a ping-pong paddle.
She said she wanted to experience being hit on once, so I stood at an intersection downtown. Of course, nobody called out to me. I tried calling out to women walking past, saying, “Will you please hit on me?” But they mistook it for some new pick-up technique and just shouted abuse at me.
I did the one where she wanted to sing at a karaoke until her voice went hoarse. Mamizu laughed at me the next day when she heard me talking with my hoarse voice, sounding like an evil wizard.
I didn’t do every single one of Mamizu’s requests. That’s because there were some that were impossible to fulfil for various reasons.
She told me that she wanted to get in a taxi and say, “Please take me to the ocean.” But I felt unsure as to whether the amount of money I had would be enough for that, so I decided to leave that one alone for now.
There was also one where she wanted to kill a zombie, but unfortunately, zombies didn’t exist in the world we lived in, so I couldn’t kill any. Of course, the one where she wanted to drive at 200 kilometers per hour was impossible as well. I didn’t have a driver’s license, and probably wouldn’t have done it even if I did have one.
Well, in any case, I was impressed at how she could come up with all of these various things. I couldn’t really think of anything that I wanted to do myself.
Every time I did one of Mamizu’s foolish ‘things she wanted to do before she died’ and delivered my report on the experience, she laughed like she was really enjoying herself. As a matter of fact, I didn’t have any negative feelings about it, either. I quite enjoyed those days.
“Thanks. With that, I have one less regret,” Mamizu said after I finished telling her about my karaoke session.
I suddenly wondered.
Did this mean that I was responsible for erasing Mamizu’s regrets in this world, just like I was doing now?
If her lingering regrets in this world disappeared one by one, what would happen to her in the end?
“Say, Mamizu.” I suddenly wanted to ask her.
“Mamizu, have you ever thought that you wanted to commit suicide?”
Mamizu’s expression didn’t show a single change; she replied in the exact same tone that she used in ordinary conversation. “I think about it every day.”
I was startled by the way she gave that response.
‘I think about it every day.’
I got the feeling that it wasn’t a lie.
The question I asked Mamizu, I had once asked my older sister Meiko, long ago. I didn’t really remember what Meiko had answered.
But after her boyfriend died, Meiko started walking around a lot.
Though I say ‘walking around,’ she wasn’t meeting anyone somewhere or going out to enjoy herself.
She was actually just walking. But it wasn’t something as simple as going for a stroll. Without any hesitation, she would go out and just continue walking for five or six hours.
Meiko had a policy for these walks. Apparently, she would start walking whenever she felt like it, without deciding on a destination, and continue walking wherever her feet took her. She didn’t pace herself or rest along the way.
She died during one of these walks, at night.
After she died, I occasionally imitated her and walked like that, about once a month. Late at night, avoiding being seen by my mother, I snuck out of the house and wandered along the roads aimlessly. When I did this, I was careful to adhere to Meiko’s simple method. I would walk around aimlessly, as if wandering about. On my own.
But just once, I did this together with Kayama.
It was at night during the school trip in middle school. It was apparently normal to fool around on those kinds of nights, so the people from the class hid from the teachers and enjoyed themselves. They were excited over gossip about who they liked and who was going out with who, and it wasn’t the kind of atmosphere where I could say that I was going to sleep first. Even if I tried, it would have been too noisy for me to get any sleep.
And so, as I tried to slip out of the lodging house, I ran into Kayama unexpectedly at the bottom of the stairs.
“Okada, where are you going at this time of night?” he asked.
“… I’m going somewhere.”
“I’ll go, too.”
I told Kayama no, but he followed me. I mostly ignored him as we walked. Considering that he’d followed me against my will, surprisingly enough, he didn’t try to talk to me.
On that night during the school trip, we continued walking without saying a word.
We mostly walked straight, without turning from the road. We walked, aiming for a place where nobody was around. While we were walking, I started wanting to not go back. I wanted to keep walking until I died. But I got tired and sat on the ground.
Just then, a shrine came into view, and I sat inside its grounds. Kayama bought a juice at a vending machine and threw it to me.
“You’re suffering,” Kayama said, looking at me with an exasperated expression.
“I’m normal,” I said, lifting the tab of the can and drinking all of the fizzy drink in one go. For some reason, the drink that was supposed to be sweet tasted bitter.
“I think you’re the type who can’t go anywhere.” Kayama said those profound words.
Kind of getting the feeling that he was looking down at me, I got annoyed. “So, are you saying you can go somewhere?”
“I’m different from you, Okada. I’ve risen above. Even though I’m like this, I’m enjoying myself. After my older brother died, I mean. I’ve decided to think of reality as a game. One day, we’re going to die just like that, so there’s no point in being serious about it. So even if I hurt others, I won’t be hurt,” Kayama said.
I couldn’t feel a single shred of sympathy for that response.
“I’m going to enjoy myself,” he said.
“Do as you want,” I said, fed up with this.
“So, Okada, you can just stay there, feeling troubled.” Kayama spoke as if to say, “Feel my share of troubles for me as well.”
“You’re annoying,” I said, throwing my empty can into a trash can.
That’s right, I remember.
“I sometimes want to go somewhere that isn’t here.”
That was the answer that Meiko had given me when I asked her that question.
That’s right; as Meiko said, being here in everyday life was suffocating sometimes. Is that why? I thought. Perhaps that was why I continued visiting Mamizu’s hospital room.
“I’ve always wanted to try making a cake,” Mamizu said one day, making yet another a request that sounded like she’d just come up with it.
But something suddenly occurred to me. From the eating challenge to persimmons, she had a lot of requests related to food. Perhaps she…
“Who are you calling greedy?” Mamizu said.
It seemed that she had become able to read my mind recently.
“Well, alright,” I said, a little startled. “I’ll make it and bring it to you.”
“Thanks… I don’t know if I can eat it all, though.” Mamizu’s expression suddenly became gloomy. It was an expression that I hadn’t really seen much recently.
“It’s fine. If there’s any left over, I’ll eat it.”
“Ah, but listen. I’m going to have a big inspection soon. Because I’ve been feeling better recently, you see. It’s possible that I can be discharged from the hospital temporarily, depending on the results,” Mamizu said.
“Then do you want to go somewhere?” I asked. “Tell me where you want to go.”
“I can’t really go that far away though. Ah, then you think about it and decide, Takuya-kun.”
“That’s different from the usual pattern.”
“It’s fine once in a while, right? I want to go somewhere you want to go, Takuya-kun. I’ll look forward to it and do my best,” Mamizu said selfishly as her expression became brighter.
I decided to make the cake in the kitchen at the maid café after work. Fortunately, cake was on the menu, I remembered how to make it and there were plenty of ingredients. The owner wasn’t around, and I thought he wouldn’t get angry if he never found out.
“What are you doing, Okada-kun?” Riko-chan-san asked as she suddenly showed up.
“Ah, I’m making a cake for personal reasons,” I said.
“Should I help?”
“No… I, cakes…”
“Are you the type who wants to make them yourself?” Riko-chan-san said, as if pouting.
I wondered what I should say. “Next time,” I said as a temporary measure.
“Next time. I’ll hold you to that, alright?” Riko-chan-san said as she went home.
“Wait, this cake, isn’t it too sweet?” said Mamizu, a wrinkle appearing between her eyebrows.
“If you’re going to say that, you don’t have to eat it,” I said.
The cake was a strawberry tart cake that wasn’t on the menu, an original that I had painstakingly made.
What did she think my effort of persevering until past eleven o’clock at night was for? I felt a little angry.
“Sorry, sorry, it’s sweet and delicious! Don’t sulk, Takuya-kun,” Mamizu said, hastily holding my hands back as I tried to take the plate away from her.
In the end, saying this and that, Mamizu ate the whole portion that I’d given her.
“Delicious, wasn’t it?” I said with a triumphant look.
“Takuya-kun, you’re a cooking genius, aren’t you!” said Mamizu.
When she went that far, it actually sounded more like a lie.
“Come to think of it, what’s your cup size, Mamizu?” I asked suddenly.
Mamizu responded with a good punch. “What do you think you’re asking all of a sudden?”
“I just wanted to know.”
“That’s private information.”
“Then what about your body weight?”
“I don’t know.”
“It’s a secret.”
“No, your blood type should be fine, right?”
“That’s standard, isn’t it! It’s normal!”
Mamizu got angry, so I decided to leave it at that and go home.
I got home and decided to eat the remaining cake with my mother.
“Your father doesn’t like sweet things, does he. But to think that you’d make a cake. What is it?” my mother asked.
“It’s a strawberry tart cake,” I replied as I put the cake onto plates.
My mother brought forks and quickly put a piece of cake in her mouth. “What is this, didn’t you get the amount of sugar in the recipe wrong?” she complained with a sour look on her face.
There’s no way… I thought as I tried the cake myself.
“It’s sweet!” I thought my tongue was going to be torn off. “I’m surprised she could eat this…” I accidentally said aloud.
“No… it’s nothing.”
Averting my eyes from my mother, I saw Kamenosuke in the water tank in the corner of the living room, yawning. So, turtles yawn, I thought.
“Say, Mom. Do you think Kamenosuke would eat cake?” I asked.
“He wouldn’t, would he?”
I had a feeling that he wouldn’t, but I decided to give him some to see. I split a piece of cake with my fork and tried putting it in Kamenosuke’s tank.
“Hey, don’t do that,” my mother said. “What will you do if he gets a stomach-ache?”
After we observed for a while, Kamenosuke finally showed interest in the cake.
Would he eat it?
Would he not eat it?
With a snap, Kamenosuke put the cake in his mouth.
And then he spat it out.
I was disappointed.
“It’s too sweet, after all,” my mother said as if sympathizing with Kamenosuke, and then she went to the kitchen to wash the dishes.
A short while later, when I went to Mamizu’s hospital room, she had applied pink manicure to her nails for some reason.
“Oh, what’s the occasion today? Is a guy you fancy coming to visit?” I asked, approaching her while keeping the thing I was holding hidden behind my back.
“That’s right, Benedict Cumberbatch is coming to visit after you, Takuya-kun,” she said.
“You like Benedict Cumberbatch…?” It was a taste that I couldn’t understand at all.
“Ah, the same hospital room and the same view every day, it’s so boring,” Mamizu complained.
“Even if you say that, it can’t be helped, can it?”
“Well, that’s true. Ah, that’s right. Hey, I feel sorry for Kamenosuke,” Mamizu said suddenly. “Spending his whole life in a water tank. He’s just like me. I want to show him the sea at least once,” she said, sounding somewhat emotional.
Even if you say that, I thought. Her words could have been considered to be denying the very concept of pets.
“Actually, Takuya-kun, you’ve been hiding something behind your back this whole time. What is it?” Mamizu asked.
“Now that you mention it, this was lying on the ground over there,” I said, handing her something. It was a bright-white shoebox.
“That’s the worst way in the world of giving a present to someone if you’re trying to make them happy,” she said a little angrily, as if she was actually in a bad mood. She opened the box. “No way. How, how, how?”
Mamizu took out the contents of the box and gazed at them as if she couldn’t believe her eyes.
She was holding a pair of red high heels.
They were the exact same product of the exact same brand that was in the advertisement in the magazine that she had been reading. I’d looked and found them in a department store.
“These are the ones that I really, really wanted.”
“Try them on,” I said.
“Can I?” Mamizu looked at me with slightly shy-looking, upturned eyes. Seeing her face like this was new to me.
With her heart obviously pounding, she slipped her foot into one of the high heels. Would they look good? Would they fit? Was it really alright for her to wear them? She looked as nervous as Cinderella.
“Wow, it fits perfectly. How? That’s amazing. Takuya-kun, can you read my mind?”
It wasn’t just the size; the shoe really matched Mamizu’s slender, white foot.
“I asked you your size the other day,” I said.
“Ah!” Making an expression as if she’d just remembered, Mamizu looked at me with surprised eyes. “Not bad at all, Takuya-kun.”
Mamizu put on both of the high heels and sat on the bed, swinging her legs up and down. “Ah, I want to take a purikura,” she said, gazing at the ceiling with an ecstatic expression on her face. “It’s nothing to do with the things I want to do before I die, I just want to take a purikura.” She jumped off the bed. “I was a middle-schooler when I was hospitalized. I went from a child to an adult in this hospital,” she said.
It was questionable as to whether someone in their first year of high school was an adult, but I kind of understood what she was trying to say, so I didn’t feel like interrupting her.
“I’m going to try walking around a little, okay?”
Mamizu extended her back and started walking around the hospital room with good posture. She disappeared for a moment beyond the entrance to the shared room, and when she came back, she had completely become a model in a fashion show. I couldn’t help but laugh. She put a hand on her hips and spread her legs apart a little, striking an impressive pose.
“Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. What do you think?” she asked.
I applauded, laughing. Mamizu gave a slightly embarrassed smile.
And then she returned to the side of the bed where I sat, and softly whispered into my ear. “I’m a D.”
Now it was my turn to be embarrassed.
Not knowing how to respond… I applauded once more. Mamizu laughed.
When I returned home, I lay down in front of Meiko’s butsudan as usual and opened the leisure magazine that I’d brought back. I’d remembered that if Mamizu’s inspection results were good, we’d go somewhere together. I was flipping through the pages, looking for somewhere we could make a day trip to, when my phone vibrated.
> The inspection results came out. They weren’t good at all
It was a message from Mamizu.
I quietly put the magazine in the trash.