I’d thought that I would never go to an amusement park alone for a second time, but here I was.
The eyes of the people looking at me didn’t bother me.
I headed straight for the queue outside a thrill ride.
It was a weekday, and the amusement park wasn’t crowded.
I told the employees that I would pay the price for two people and asked them to leave the seat next to mine empty. They argued with me a little, but I explained my circumstances to them politely and honestly, and they allowed it.
The rollercoaster slowly reached the top. I felt the same unpleasant situation that I hadn’t become accustomed to. It didn’t seem like I would ever come to like rollercoasters in my life.
In the next moment, the rollercoaster began plummeting downwards.
I let out a wordless scream.
“Dear Okada Takuya-sama.
“I wonder how you will feel when you listen to this voice recording. I can’t even begin to imagine. I actually wanted to write a letter or make a video recording, but I don’t have the strength, so it was impossible. I made a voice recording because it seemed like I could still manage to record my voice while lying down.
“I actually wanted to go somewhere with you, just the two of us. But I thought that it would hurt you if I said that out loud. No, I would have been hurt more than anyone, so I was too scared to say it.
“Takuya-kun, I wanted to go to an amusement park with you.”
Back then, I was working hard on a small item.
On that night at the hospital, I’d received the notebook that had all of the things that Mamizu had wanted to do before she died written in it. She’d told me that she was giving it to me because it would be embarrassing if her parents saw it one day. When I went home and looked at it carefully, I’d seen that there were still some things written in it that I hadn’t done. There was one that had particularly caught my eye.
I want to make a new snow globe.
One like this
The notebook contained a doodle depicting a certain scene of life. It was difficult to call it artistic, but I was well aware of what that picture was.
I bought clay and tried to reproduce Mamizu’s picture with it, but I’d always been clumsy to begin with, so it didn’t go well at all. I continued using trial and error, driven by my desire to make it happen.
That’s when it happened.
Late at night, I received a call from Makoto-san’s cellphone.
Several days ago, Makoto-san had stopped fearing the debt collectors and started spending a lot of time in Mamizu’s hospital room. It was partially because Mamizu’s death was near. And the large reason that he’d feared the debt collectors turning to Mamizu’s mother was because of Mamizu’s treatment fees. And so, Makoto-san had started frequently visiting Mamizu’s hospital room, and while I felt relieved, I also had somewhat conflicting emotions. Because this was also indicative of how close Mamizu’s death was.
“Mamizu says that she wants to see you one last time,” Makoto-san said.
I hurriedly got into a taxi and went to the hospital.
But I was too late.
By the time I arrived at the hospital, Mamizu had died.
So, they really do put white cloths over people when they die, I thought like an idiot.
“She was conscious until just a moment ago,” Makoto-san said in a pained voice.
“I talked with her plenty while she was alive,” I just barely managed to say.
I asked Makoto-san and Ritsu-san to show me Mamizu’s face.
She was smiling.
I thought it was unbelievable. Perhaps my eyes were looking at an optical illusion.
But I could have described her as looking peaceful.
“Mamizu told me to give this to you, Takuya-kun.” Makoto-san handed me a voice recorder with a somewhat complicated expression. “From about ten days ago, maybe? It looked like she was recording, little by little. She said she wanted you to listen to it.”
I hadn’t known about this. I didn’t think that she’d ever used this voice recorder in front of me.
I said goodbye to Makoto-san and Ritsu-san, and then left the hospital room.
It was past three o’clock in the morning. Even on the road in front of the hospital, there were almost no cars going by.
My house was a little far from here; it normally took me an hour and a half or so to get there from the hospital. But I wanted to walk home, so I did that. It would probably become morning and the sun would start shining on the road as I walked.
There were almost no cars on the main road. The idea suddenly occurred to me, so I ran out, right into the center of the road.
On the four-lane highway that would normally have an enormous number of cars going back and forth, there was only me.
Just like that, I continued walking down the center of the main road with wide footsteps.
I held the voice recorder, plugged in the earphones that Mamizu had once given to me as a present, and tried listening to her voice.
Strangely, no tears came out. In a vacant state of mind, I thought that it might be too early for me to cry.
“Now then, I actually have several ‘things that I want to do before I die’ left. Leaving this voice recording was one of them. Do you find this bothersome? Even if you do, please listen carefully. I think I shall announce them now. Tadaaah! This is the first request. When I die, please cremate my body at night.”
After listening this far, I hastily called Makoto-san and explained the situation. Why would you tell that to me instead of your family? I thought. Maybe Mamizu had wanted me to panic like this, or maybe she’d been a little embarrassed to explain Shizusawa Sou’s ‘One Ray of Light’ to her family.
A lot of people came to Mamizu’s funeral. I was in a somewhat clear mood. Classmates I normally never even saw were there, crying loudly.
I didn’t cry yet.
“Okada, were you close to Watarase-san?” one of my classmates asked me curiously, having seen me talking intimately with Makoto-san and Ritsu-san.
“She was my girlfriend.”
“What?!” My classmates exclaimed in surprise.
“You’re being too loud,” I said.
“Please make sure to attend my funeral. I kind of have the feeling that you’d skip that kind of thing, Takuya-kun.
“And please tell everyone that I was your girlfriend. I wonder if I’m your girlfriend? We never really confirmed it with words, so I don’t have much confidence to say that I am.
“If you didn’t think that way, then please make me your girlfriend now. Because I want you to show off to everyone that even this poor girl who died a premature death had such a wonderful boyfriend. And I want you to show off that you had a pretty girlfriend like me, Takuya-kun.”
Of course, the crematorium wasn’t normally open at night. But apparently, they received this kind of request from time to time. Luminescence disease patients sometimes wrote in their wills that they wanted their remains to be cremated at night. And so, they’d made an exception.
Normally, only close relatives were supposed to attend the cremation, but I invited Kayama and the two of us went. Of course, Makoto-san allowed Kayama to come.
We left at some point during the preparations, and instead of staying to collect Mamizu’s ashes, we climbed a hill that would have a clear view of the pillar of smoke from the cremation.
It was generally quiet nearby. But from time to time, we heard cars going by on a really distant road somewhere.
And then Mamizu’s cremation began.
There was a full moon in the sky.
Mamizu’s body burned, becoming a pillar of smoke that danced its way up into the air. There was a faint light surrounding that pale white smoke.
Illuminated by the moon, the smoke became a ray of light that climbed into the heavens.
With the cloudless night sky in the background, the smoke from Mamizu’s body shone with a pale light.
The days that I’d spent with Mamizu until now momentarily flashed into my mind and disappeared again at an incredible speed.
That was Mamizu’s dead body.
It was impossible to believe that this scene was happening in reality.
Perhaps this was an imprudent impression, but… that light was far more beautiful than any shining aurora or sparkling rainbow. It was so beautiful that it sent shivers down my spine.
Watching that light dissolve into the night sky, I made a decision.
I decided that I would never forget this scene for the rest of my life.
I want to show Mamizu this sight, I thought nonsensically a few moments later.
“It’s more beautiful than I thought it would be,” Kayama said, giving his simple impression.
“It’s more beautiful than ‘one ray of light,’” I said.
The two of us smoked together. We stayed there, mostly in silence, until that light was gone. We didn’t want to speak. In life, one encounters situations when it’s best not to talk. This was one of those situations.
After that, we decided to go home.
Kayama had come on his bicycle, so we decided to home on it together.
“Please make a lot of friends. In the end, I didn’t have anyone I could call a close friend. I wanted friends. Please make a lot of friends in my place, Takuya-kun.”
My house was pretty far from Kayama’s. Despite that, Kayama took me quite close to my house. I thanked him and got off the bicycle.
“Later,” Kayama said briefly, and then he did a U-turn and rode into the distance. That was the kind of guy he was.
As I was thinking that, Kayama suddenly turned around. It was probably the first time that Kayama had turned around as we parted ways. I instinctively prepared myself for something. But Kayama didn’t say anything else. I thought that maybe he was trying to say something but was unable to say it.
“Hey, Kayama!” I shouted, having become impatient.
What was there to say after making the effort of being dozens of meters apart? What was it that couldn’t be said at a normal distance? I thought about this, and then I said, “We’re friends, right?”
Kayama looked at me expressionlessly. His eyes looked like they were glaring at me. “Of course we are,” he said. “Don’t ask embarrassing stuff like that!” he added after a short silence.
Kayama laughed and started pedaling his bicycle again. He was standing up on the bike as he pedaled.
He didn’t turn around again.
“Come to think of it, is Kamenosuke doing well? Make sure to feed him properly. Let him live a long life. Please give him your love and spoil him.”
I’d recently come to realize that Kamenosuke was quite the delinquent.
He frequently ran away.
He’d somehow crawl out of his water tank without me knowing it and walk around all kinds of places inside the house. Every time it happened, my mother and I made a huge fuss about finding him. He was particularly fond of the bathroom.
“I wonder if he wants to go back to the ocean,” my mother said, as if the idea had just suddenly occurred to her.
“There was a person who said something similar,” I said.
“Should I get the car?” my mother suggested, voicing another one of her ideas.
In the end, I agreed to her suggestion, and the two of us plus one turtle went out to the garage.
“It’s been a while since the two of us went out, hasn’t it? Maybe we haven’t done this since Meiko died,” my mother said.
“Well, it’s unusual to go out with your mother when you’re at my age.”
It was still winter, so it was cold, though. But the sky was clear. We arrived at the same beach that I’d once come to. There weren’t that many beaches nearby, so it couldn’t be helped.
My mother had brought a beach mat. She put it on top of the sand, and we sat on it. And then we took Kamenosuke out of his tank and let him out onto the sandy beach. He started walking away with calm footsteps. He looked kind of energetic.
“Takuya, you attended a classmate’s funeral a little while back, didn’t you?” my mother asked.
I still hadn’t told my mother about Mamizu in detail. It was partially because I was embarrassed, but it was also because it would be difficult to put all of the events in order and tell her properly.
“Was it someone you knew?”
My mother didn’t ask anything else. That was a little unexpected.
“You know, I really loved Meiko,” I said.
My mother looked at me, smiling. “I know,” she said quietly.
“I’m not a cold person.” I felt like my voice would start shaking. I desperately tried to stop that from happening.
But it was impossible.
It was strange.
Tears came out and wouldn’t stop.
I didn’t know why I had been unable to cry at the appropriate time, and then ended up crying at a completely unrelated moment instead.
“I know, Takuya,” my mother said, stroking my head.
I stayed there, letting her comfort me.
After that, my mother suddenly stood up and put her hands near her mouth. She put her hands into the shape of a megaphone and let out a shout without warning.
I couldn’t help but be surprised. It wasn’t just me; Kamenosuke, who had been walking towards the sea, turned around in surprise.
“What is it?” I asked.
Only the sound of the waves could be heard. I could only smell the scent of the wet sand.
“Shall we go home?” my mother said first.
I looked at Kamenosuke, who was continuing his small footsteps, becoming wet from the sea water. “Should we leave Kamenosuke here?” I suggested.
“Takuya. Don’t say such silly things.”
“I was kidding.”
We retrieved Kamenosuke and got in the car.
“Stop by the hardware store on the way,” I requested my mother on the way home.
“What for?” she asked.
“I’m thinking of helping Kamenosuke getting a girlfriend,” I said, looking at the water tank behind me.
Kamenosuke was staring at me curiously.
“I want to get married, and if possible, have three children. I want girls, but I think boys are cute as well. I don’t mind if it’s small, but I want a single-family home with a garden. But they say that home is where you make it, so I think I would actually be happy with anything.
“I never thought about these things up until now. I mean, that’s obvious, isn’t it? There’s no way that a person who wished that she was never born would think about wanting children, is there? But I think about it now.”
After a while, winter vacation ended and there was a bit of news at the start of the new year.
Yoshie-sensei had gotten married, and she would be resigning at the end of the school year.
According to the rumors, she’d found her partner through a marriage interview. She’d been going out with Kayama until just half a year ago, so I was a little surprised by how quickly it had happened.
On the other hand, it seemed that Kayama wasn’t really that shocked. “He’s a regular company employee. But when I saw the photo that’s going around, he was so ugly that I wanted to laugh,” he said.
Who passed a photo like that around? I wondered, but when I looked at the photo that Kayama sent me, I saw that the man had a shiny bald head, resembling a Nurarihyon from folklore.
One day a little while after that, when first period was Yoshie-sensei’s national language class, I came into the classroom in the morning to see that someone had scribbled on the blackboard.
Yoshie-chan, congratulations on your marriage
Alongside those words was a portrait of that Nurarihyon man and a heart, drawn in chalk.
Yoshie-sensei came in, saw this and hastily started erasing it from the blackboard, looking embarrassed. “Hey, whose prank is this!” she said, but she didn’t seem to wholly dislike it; she looked a little happy.
I knew that there was only one person in the class who would pull off such a stupid prank, and Yoshie-sensei probably knew this as well.
“You’re surprisingly pretty good at drawing,” I said to Kayama.
“What are you talking about?” he said, playing dumb with an expression of feigned innocence.
However, I didn’t miss the chalk dust on the sleeves of his uniform. But in the end, I let it go and pretended I hadn’t seen it.
“I had a lot of things that I wanted to do for you. I wanted to do all kinds of things for you. I only ever had you do things for me, and I wasn’t really able to do anything for you, was I, Takuya-kun? I’m sorry for being a bad girlfriend.
“But it would be nice if you could quickly find a new girlfriend. Men can’t always be dwelling on their ex-girlfriends. But still, it’s alright if you remember me from time to time as well, right?”
Just once, I saw Riko-chan-san.
On a Sunday, when I was walking near that maid café, I saw her on the footpath on the other side of the road.
Riko-chan-san was walking with a tall guy, their arms linked.
I thought about shouting and calling out to her, but I decided not to in the end.
That scene somehow looked very happy to me. Riko-chan-san had a broad smile on her face as she engaged in an animated conversation with the guy. I didn’t want to break that scene.
I wanted that moment to last forever. I wished that it would. And then I felt a little jealous.
After that, I never saw Riko-chan-san again.
The 49th day went by, and half a year later, I visited Mamizu’s grave. Makoto-san had invited me to go and visit the grave with him. At first, I thought I’d go and secretly visit it myself later, because I kind of felt a little embarrassed about various things.
But I felt like if I did that, I would be no different from my old self.
When the ones we love die,
we must commit suicide.
That poem, the one written by Nakahara Chuuya, actually had more lines following that.
Back then, I hadn’t properly read it until the end, but when I’d read it again the other day, there was something else written there.
It continued like this.
But if we continue on,
let us shake hands in good rhythm.
I wondered what the poem meant for a while. And then I realized that there wasn’t enough meaning in it for me to think that deeply about it. It probably meant that the people who live on should get along with other people who live on.
In any case, under those circumstances, I invited Kayama and went to the front of the station where we’d agreed to meet. Things had been arranged so that Makoto-san would come and pick us up there.
“What on earth is that?” Kayama asked in surprise as he saw me.
I had brought Kamenosuke and his lover in a bucket that was filled with a little water. Incidentally, I hadn’t given the second turtle a name yet. But I was planning to properly give her one soon.
“Well, I thought I’d bring these turtles,” I said.
“I don’t think normal humans take turtles with them when they go to visit graves.”
As we were having this conversation, Makoto-san’s car arrived.
“It’s been a while,” he said.
Apparently, Makoto-san had changed jobs now. He was working in sales, and the air about him had changed a little. He had begun to dress somewhat smarter, too. He didn’t look particularly surprised to see Kamenosuke and the other turtle.
“It’s been a while, hasn’t it, Takuya-kun?” said Ritsu-san, who was sitting in the passenger seat. She and Makoto-san hadn’t put themselves back on the family register, but they seemed to be meeting more frequently than they had in the past.
Come to think of it, this is the first time Ritsu-san has called me by my name, I thought.
“Have you been doing well?” Makoto-san asked, starting a conversation like a father who was seeing his sons for the first time in a long time.
“I’ve started skateboarding recently,” replied Kayama, who was sitting in the back seat with me.
He’d actually started skateboarding, and he had numerous small injuries and grazes from falling over. I had no idea what was so fun about it, so I hadn’t felt like joining him, but I didn’t have any negative feelings about seeing Kayama do something earnestly for once.
Hearing this, Makoto-san engaged in conversation with Kayama and laughed, seeming to enjoy himself.
“Takuya-kun, haven’t you started doing anything?” Makoto-san asked me.
“I’m going to start something as well,” I said.
I didn’t know what that would be, but I thought that it had been long enough for me to be able to start something. If I dragged my feet too long, Mamizu would be disappointed. No, rather than being disappointed, she’d feel bored and restless. That’s what I thought.
Now that I thought about it, there were still several things in Mamizu’s notebook that I hadn’t done yet. I’d looked back at it the other day and laughed at the one that said, “I want to touch my chin with my elbow before I die.”
“Hey, Kayama, can you touch your chin with your elbow?” I asked.
“… Isn’t that impossible?” Kayama tried for a little while, and then quickly gave up.
Makoto-san tried to join in while driving, so we hastily stopped him, though. It was surprisingly difficult; it seemed possible, and yet, it was impossible. It was possible that this was a more difficult problem than the Poincaré conjecture.
“Come to think of it, I was thinking of naming the new turtle I bought. Do you have any good ideas?” I asked nobody in particular.
“Sakura,” Makoto-san said, looking outside his window at the cherry blossoms that hadn’t bloomed yet.
“Could it be that when you named Mamizu…” I had a bad feeling as I began to ask my question.
“Of course, I was drinking water. I was hungover, you see.”
“So, what if you were drinking tea at the time instead?” Kayama asked unnecessarily.
“If it was green tea, then I’d probably have named her ‘Midori,’” Makoto-san said.
“You’re the worst,” I said, letting out a little laughter.
“Takuya-kun, haven’t you become somewhat more cheerful?” Makoto-san said, looking at my expression through the back mirror.
“I’m shaking hands in good rhythm,” I said.
Makoto-san looked puzzled. I couldn’t blame him.
And then there was an idiot whistling and holding his hand out towards me. It was Kayama, of course.
“It helps me out that you’re an idiot,” I said as I shook his hand.
The graveyard was about twenty minutes away by car. It was a spacious graveyard facing a crowded temple that was something of a sightseeing spot.
“Wow, it’s so shiny. It feels brand new,” Kayama said as he saw Mamizu’s grave, giving his idiotic impression of it.
Makoto-san laughed, and I looked at him and noticed that he was wearing a muffler now. He’d probably put it on when we got out of the car. It was the muffler that Mamizu had knitted.
“You’re wearing a muffler even though it’s spring,” I said.
Makoto-san gave an embarrassed smile. It was still only the end of March, so it was a little chilly, but Makoto-san was the only person wearing a muffler. Well, I was probably the only guy holding turtles, too.
I took out the snow globe that I’d finally completed recently from my pocket, and placed it beside Mamizu’s grave.
Inside the snow globe, there were two people standing close together, wearing a wedding dress and a tuxedo. It was like time had stopped inside it.
And then the four of us put our hands together and closed our eyes in front of the grave.
Soon, spring would come.
The season in which I’d first met Mamizu.
But I didn’t want to die.
I was even looking forward to seeing the cherry blossoms bloom.
I took the voice recorder from my pocket and pushed the earphones into my ears.
I closed my eyes and listened one more time to Mamizu’s voice, saying the words that I’d listened to over and over.
“My father was calling you on the phone. I’m sure that my final moment is coming soon. This is my real, genuine, final request.
“I love happiness. I’m so scared of dying that I can’t help myself; I’m so terrified that I feel like my heart will stop out of fear. But I’m not scared anymore. I'm happy.
“What about you, Takuya-kun? Please do your best to become happy for my sake. I am praying for your happiness from the bottom of my heart.
“This will be the final communication from Watarase Mamizu.
“Goodbye. I love you. I love you. I love you.”
Mamizu’s grave didn’t have ‘無’ written on it like Shizusawa Sou’s.
It simply read,
It’s fine that way, I thought.
Hello everyone. This is my debut work.
Thank you very much for reading it.
The characters in this novel may appear to be a little strange.
The way the protagonist Takuya lives his life is somewhat reckless, and Kayama seems to be living in a simple, hedonistic way, so they are both quite distorted. The other characters are all a little strange, too.
But to me, they do not seem all that strange. It is not that they are deliberately living their lives in strange ways. They are desperately living as best as they can in their own ways, and as a result, they shoulder the burdens of life.
In my teenage years, I felt the burdens of life as they did.
I felt like I had nowhere to go, but I was saved by novels. That was why, before I knew it, I had naturally started to write novels myself. I thought that I wanted to become a novelist, but at the same time, I thought that it might be impossible.
In the end, I graduated university and found employment. Cornered by my work, my motivation to write novels gradually disappeared.
“There’s no way I can become a novelist.”
That was my favorite phrase.
I had a friend who told me, “You definitely can. So be one.” They read the things I wrote with interest. I was working at my company on the night that friend committed suicide.
Ever since then, like the protagonist of this novel, I felt guilty about living. And in truth, for the longest time, I could never understand what my friend who died had been thinking.
Unable to sleep, I often went out for walks at night. I continued walking for hours and hours, and on one such walk, when it became morning, I decided to write novels.
And so, I quit my job and began writing novels.
This world is full of unreasonable, painful, and cruel things.
I think that it is a very natural thing to start wanting to die.
I wanted to write a novel that would make its readers want to live on despite that.
If my work made someone feel this way, even a little, that would make me extremely happy.
Now that I have become a novelist, when I look back, I realize that the words of my late friend were right. I do not know what Takuya will do from this point on, but I want him and every person in the world who shoulders all of the difficulties that life brings to do their best.
It’s all right. You can definitely do it.
I received the help of many people for the release of this book. Loundraw-sama, who drew images that far surpassed what I, the author, had imagined. When I first saw the illustrations, I whispered, “Wow,” feeling moved. Also, Yamaguchi Kouzaburou-sama, Ayasaki Shun-sama, Aoi Blue-sama, who provided me with wonderful recommendations and comments. From all of these people that I admire, I received words that I felt were almost wasted on me. The editors in charge, Yuzawa-sama and Endou-sama. They identified suitable directions for an unskillful author and his unskillful work to take. I truly thank everyone, including those whose names I have not mentioned here. In my teenage years, I would never have imagined that a work that I started writing myself would receive help from so many people and make it out into the world.
There may be some poorly-written parts, but I put everything I have possessed up until now into this novel.
‘I will write everything I can write right now into the work in front of me.’ I always think this, and within three days of finishing writing, I begin wanting to write again. I always feel like there are things that I haven’t written about.
That is why I will continue to write novels until I die.
I hope to see you again in my next novel.