“When I was in the sixth grade, my mother left the house. Without any warning, one day, suddenly, out of the blue. I don’t know why she left, where she went, or whether she was accompanied by anyone. Well, I guess it’s just one of those stories that people often hear about people running away from home, but what happens next is a little bit…”
To relieve the tension, I stretched and exhaled heavily. To my surprise, it didn’t work. Hayama stared at me with his arms crossed.
“That one thing drove my father completely crazy. I guess he didn’t realize how important my mother was until she was gone. He began to take it out on me for reasons that can only be described as irrational, and he began to slurp down a bottle of sake every night, which he couldn’t even drink. Then, the summer after I entered junior high school, he did something absolutely unforgivable.”
A plane passed overhead, its roar heavy.
I waited for the sound to cease, then slowly opened my mouth.
“Hayama. Do you remember? A series of arson incidents that took place in the city about three years ago. The city library was targeted several times, one after the other, right?”
“Ah, it made the national news, right? I remember it well.”
Hayama’s eyes widened as if he understood what I was trying to say, and he waited for me to speak.
“Yes, that’s right. The culprit is my father. He was arrested and is now in jail.”
Hayama’s eyes were completely rolled back in his head and he was in no mood to say anything.
“My mother used to spend her weekdays in the library. She and my father had never gotten along, and the library was probably the only place she felt at ease. My father thought that the library was the reason she ran away from home. He was a foolish man. It would never bring her —– her heart —– back. It turned so many precious books to ashes.”
I continued, trying to recall what had happened.
“Fortunately, no one was injured or killed, but when my father was arrested for arson, the world’s view of me turned instantly cold. I was a reasonably good student from childhood, and I was a bit of a popular guy because I taught kids who didn’t understand how to do things.
I always greeted people I knew, and I was often praised by neighbors as a “well-behaved kid. But after the incident, it was as if people turned their backs on me.”
The memories of the incident brought back haunting memories and a stabbing pain in my chest.
“The blood of a criminal was feared and avoided. Even the teachers wanted to keep their distance from me. The whispering in the vicinity was always a way of ridiculing me. When my mother left and my father became a walled-off resident, I was left alone and completely cut off from the world.
So since junior high school, I have lived a quiet life, trying to keep a low profile. But I don’t intend to live my whole life in obscurity. I’m going to try as hard as I can to scratch my way up from the bottom of the heap to find happiness like everyone else. As one who bears the fate of the ” haves,” I will do my best.”
I finally said what I had planned to take to my grave. But somehow, after I finished talking to him, I realized that I had never even spoken to anyone before.
But somehow, when I finished, I felt surprisingly refreshed, as if something had been lifted from my chest. Hayama was staring at the sky with a rather mysterious expression on his face. He seemed to be at a loss for words to say to me.
“What’s the matter, are you upset?”
“N-no……, but in a case like that, don’t you have relatives…… that take you in?”
Hayama’s voice suddenly sounded as if he was touching something painful. Is this to be expected.
“My father came from a reasonably good family, but he failed when he was young and was expelled from the family. And now that he has broken the law, I have become an abomination, or rather, a child that doesn’t exist. So I can’t rely on my father’s side at all.
The only relative still living on my mother’s side is my mother’s older brother, who is my uncle, and he is supposed to be taking care of me on the family register. But this man has a natural wanderlust and travels around the world all year round. I don’t know if he is looking for himself or what. Anyway, that’s why I am now a solitary person in this world.”
When I tell my story like this, it makes me feel very sad. It is so dense that it doesn’t feel like my own life.
“Well, I mean, it’s a bit clichéd, but it must have been a hard time. I guess that’s why you don’t want to get involved with people anymore. My problems are starting to seem extravagant.”
Hayama scratched his temples with a chuckle of shame.
“Don’t say that. The quality of suffering is different for each person. There is a weight that only the person himself can understand. It’s nonsense to say which is lighter, heavier, or easier.”
I turned the zero answer sheet in my right hand into a paper airplane and sent it flying toward Hayama.
“I’ll give it back.”
“I don’t want to be on the perpetrator’s side anymore anyway. If Hayama ever tells anyone about this, I’m not going to do anything to ruin your life. No, I can’t.”
Hearing this, Hayama picked up the paper airplane that had crash-landed at his feet and walked toward me. With a strong look in his eyes, as if he had made up his mind to do something.
“All right, it’s settled! I knew it was you, Kanzawa. You’re the one who can be my real friend. You are a gem! Just as I thought, you live your life with a lot of things in mind. You’re totally different from those guys! I won’t give you veto power anymore. From this day forward, we’re friends!”
“O-oi, you can’t be that forceful …….”
I flinched when Hayama’s vigorous palm grabbed me by the right shoulder.
“Yusuke Kanzawa, listen to me. I’ve been wanting a real friend for a long time, and after listening to you, I think you need one too. So I’m going to be that friend. It’s the best option for both of us.”
After hearing about Hayama’s situation, I angrily hurled some unkind words at him, and in the process of revealing my own situation, my interpersonal alertness seemed to have been somewhat paralyzed.
At any rate, Hayama’s comment shook me to my core. It was completely out of character for him, but I was even mildly impressed by it.
I felt happy, embarrassed, nervous, and anxious. Various thoughts were rising up and disappearing.
However, I was beginning to fear that if I missed this opportunity, I would never be able to find a “friend,” whether real or not, as Hayama seemed to insist.
I was prepared for a solitary life to some extent, and I was used to it, but there was no denying that somewhere in my heart I wanted a close friend of the same sex.
Taiyo Hayama —- the sergeant of a general hospital and a drummer struggling with the meaning of life, huh?
I don’t know if I can be a true friend or not, but if it’s okay with you, I’d be happy to talk to you. So, just for the sake of it, I smiled at him. “Take care of me”
“Haha, is that supposed to be a smile? It’s too forced”
“I-I’m trying to be courageous.”
“Okay, you can call me ‘Taiyo’ from now on, and I can call you ‘Yusuke’ too, right, best friend?”
He said with a smile that seemed to make even a withered flower bloom once more.