When I went to Mamizu’s hospital room a few days later, she was working on the knitted item from before.
“I’ve brought one more person with me today,” I said.
Mamizu’s hands stopped knitting and she made a puzzled expression. “Who is it?”
Kayama entered the room from behind me. Even from here, I could see that he was nervous.
“Do you remember me?” he asked.
“Umm… Ah, I remember! If I recall, you’re the person I met at the entrance exam, right?” Mamizu said, sounding surprised.
“I’m happy that you remembered me. My name is Kayama Akira.”
“Well then, I can call you Akira-kun.”
Kayama turned to face me. “Hey, Okada. Would you mind leaving us alone for a little bit?” he said hesitantly.
I quietly left Mamizu’s room. I sat on a bench in the corridor and looked up at the ceiling, bored. During the day, nurses walked back and forth busily up and down the corridors.
Kayama is probably confessing to Mamizu now, I thought.
Of course, I didn’t have the right to stop him.
Even so, there was a kind of gloomy feeling lingering in my mind.
What was this? Jealousy? I felt like smiling bitterly at this pathetic emotion inside me.
And then I thought about the meaning behind Mamizu’s “I’m sorry.” I’ve already been rejected. Even though I’ve been rejected, I still love Mamizu, so it can’t be helped, I thought.
I looked at the clock and saw that only five minutes had passed.
I felt like time spent waiting was long. Time didn’t flow evenly; different periods of five minutes could feel long or short. I felt like the time I spent with Mamizu was short. Time that was precious was short, while time that I didn’t care about was long. Why isn’t it the opposite? I wondered.
I closed my eyes and faced the ceiling. For some reason, my heart was beating fast. What good does it do me to be nervous? I thought.
I heard the sound of the hospital room’s door being thrown open violently. I turned around to see Kayama.
“Hey, Kayama…” I began. The moment I followed up with the usual “you’re an idiot,” I regretted it.
Kayama wasn’t in a state for me to call out to him.
He stared back at me, his face ashen, hollow and expressionless. The word ‘dumbfounded’ came to mind. It was like I was looking at someone else who wasn’t Kayama. I had the feeling that I’d never seen such a powerless expression on his face before.
He stayed silent.
Confused, I just looked back at him.
“It’s so frustrating,” Kayama said finally, as if he had barely squeezed the words out. He stayed expressionless, but his words were emotional.
With that, Kayama walked away down the corridor, as if trying to get away from the hospital room.
I didn’t know what to do.
I wondered whether I should chase after Kayama, but then decided that I should leave him alone.
And then I entered Mamizu’s room.
Mamizu covered her face awkwardly and sighed. Silence passed by.
“It’s gotten hotter lately, hasn’t it,” I said vaguely as I approached her.
“Akira-kun said that he likes me,” Mamizu said, sounding astonished.
“I see,” I said.
Had Mamizu just replied, “I’m sorry,” like she had done with me?
“What did you say?” I asked.
As I expected, I thought.
But Mamizu continued. “I told him that there’s someone else I like.” She looked at me with a somewhat powerless, pathetic expression.
“O-oh. I see.”
It was kind of a shock. It was a sudden shock. It was the first time I’d heard this.
Who on earth was it?
When and where?
I was confused.
But I didn’t ask.
“Hey, I went to visit Shizusawa Sou’s grave the other day,” I said, changing the subject. I opened the photos I took the other day on my phone and showed Mamizu the screen.
“Wow, it really says ‘無.’” Mamizu returned to her usual self and stared at the screen of my phone with great interest. “Maybe I should have ‘無’ written on my grave, too.”
“I’d kind of want something else.”
“That’s terrible,” Mamizu said, giggling.
I laughed with her.
“What’s next?” I asked.
“You know, the things you want to do.”
“Let’s see… Well then, I want to try smoking. You’d normally smoke at times like this, right?”
Times like what? I thought, feeling surprised.
“No, no, you can’t,” I said. “Mamizu, you’re ill. You definitely can’t smoke…”
“That’s why, that’s why it won’t be me doing it. The one smoking will be you, Takuya-kun. Have you forgotten the usual rule?” Mamizu gave a mischievous smile.
I was quite busy these days.
There was practice for the cultural festival’s play. We were gathering three times a week at the school or sometimes at the park, and practicing this and that. I was completely on break from my work at the maid café, too. The whole thing had pretty much become a gag once it was decided that the heroine would be a guy, so why did we need to practice so seriously? This question did occur to me, but I participated in the practice seriously. All of this was so that I could tell Mamizu about the sights that I could see while I was doing this.
That day, the classroom at school couldn’t be used for various reasons, so we were practicing at the nearby park. Although it was September, it was still hot, and I performed in the park under the blazing sun, wishing I could be spared from this.
What we were practicing was a love story known by everyone. Romeo and Juliet love each other, but because of the conflict between their families and various other things, they can’t get married. Juliet is about to be forced to marry another man, which she doesn’t want, so she drinks a ‘potion of false death.’ She drinks this potion that makes her sleep as if she is dead, intending to fool everyone into thinking that she is dead and making them give up on the marriage. And then she would come back to life and secretly escape with Romeo. But news of the plan isn’t delivered to Romeo, and he kills himself, believing that Juliet is actually dead. After that, when Juliet awakens, she feels despair at Romeo’s death and commits suicide as well. The end. Ah, what a misunderstanding.
“Oh, Juliet, why have you died?” said Kayama, who was acting as Romeo, in an unmotivated voice.
It was indeed difficult to put emotion into lines like this.
After that incident, things between me and Kayama had become awkward, and we kind of weren’t talking to each other.
“I’ll die as well, Juliet, and follow you.”
And the Romeo drinks the poison and dies.
“Romeo! Ah, why have you died!”
After that, Juliet, the character I’m playing, stabs herself with a dagger. And then the two of them die. A tragic, bad ending. That was the planned script.
“It lacks seriousness,” said a girl from the theater club who was acting as the play’s director, wearing a sour expression.
How can there be seriousness in something like this? I thought. “Give us some rest!” I shouted.
“We’ll take a thirty-minute break!” the director announced.
We were practicing in a relaxed atmosphere. The people who had come to day were the six main cast members including me, the director, and two others – a total of nine people. The other students were probably studying hard for their university entrance exams or enjoying themselves somewhere.
Either way, it was certain that most of them would probably be under an air conditioner. Thinking about that made me somewhat bitter.
After that, I quietly slipped away from the park and headed for a nearby smoking area. I took out the cigarettes in my pocket and lit one.
“Careless, aren’t you?” said Kayama’s exasperated voice.
I turned around to see him behind me.
“What? Don’t follow me,” I said.
“Smoking while underage, that’d get you suspended.”
“I don’t really care if you report me.”
I sucked in the cigarette smoke and then slowly exhaled. To be honest, I still wasn’t used to it. I was just sucking it in and then letting it out without inhaling it into my lungs.
“Give it here,” Kayama said as he snatched the cigarette from my mouth, and then he deeply inhaled the smoke. “This is how you do it.”
There weren’t many people in this outdoors smoking area. It was to be expected, as the sun was blazing hot. There was one slightly plump salaryman, smoking a cigarette as he wiped his sweat with a handkerchief.
“Kayama, you smoke?”
“In the past. I quit already, though… You know, Shizusawa Sou was a heavy smoker. It was in middle school, when I looked up to him.”
Ah, I see, so that’s why Mamizu was interested in smoking as well. Indeed, the man in ‘One Ray of Light’ smoked like a chimney and enjoyed himself, despite not having long to live due to his luminescence disease.
“About Kayama Masataka,” Kayama said.
Masataka was Kayama’s older brother. The reason I still remembered his name was, of course, because he’d died. Because he’d died and become significant.
“About my brother. He was quite smart. He was good at sports, too. I was kind of sick of him. That’s why… I hated him. Honestly, I did, until he died.
“But my memories of him became more beautiful after he died. I sometimes almost think that he was actually a really good guy. Don’t you get that?”
I got the feeling that this was the first time I’d heard Kayama talk about his brother directly.
“Right? What do you think my brother and your sister talked about when they were going out?” he asked.
“I can’t even begin to imagine,” I said. I had the feeling that I hadn’t really heard Meiko talk about her boyfriend.
“I wonder if they talked about us.”
“Who knows. What did you talk about with girls?”
“Ah, sometimes we talked about you and stuff.”
That sounded a little creepy to me.
“I bet you were bad-mouthing me,” I said.
“I suppose. I told them that there’s a weird guy in my class.” Kayama didn’t deny it, and laughed it off. “Hey, the guy Mamizu likes, is it you?” he asked suddenly, sounding like he was complaining.
The plump salaryman turned around to look at us. What did he want? Was he thinking something like, these guys are enjoying their youth, aren’t they?
“Probably not, right?” I said.
“You’re pretty thick, aren’t you?”
“Don’t say things like you know everything.”
“It pisses me off, though.” Kayama said in a violent tone that was unusual for him. “Say it clearly, Okada.”
Although he said that, I didn’t know what he wanted me to say clearly. “You only ever say profound things, don’t you? Are you not capable of talking normally?” I retorted seriously without thinking.
“So, Watarase Mamizu doesn’t love you?”
I was getting increasingly angry at Kayama for saying such misdirected things when he didn’t know anything.
I took the cigarette back from him, took one puff and put it out. I vacantly stared at the cloud of smoke that I’d exhaled as it rose into the sky. I suddenly remembered the ending to ‘One Ray of Light.’
The protagonist suffers from luminescence disease. He knows that he is going to die. One day, his friend that he met at the sanatorium, who also suffers from luminescence disease, dies. At night, when the man is cremated, the smoke rising from the chimney glows faintly. When the body of a patient with luminescence disease is cremated, the smoke emits light under the moonlight. And then that smoke becomes a ray of light as it climbs into the sky. As the protagonist watches his friend become that ray of light, and feels his own death approaching, he feels that the death of a person is a beautiful thing.
And that is where the story ends.
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