I was quite laid back in high school. I was just a guy who likes peace of mind, quietness, and music. On the way home, I go to the riverside and watch the sun set, sometimes with my earphones locked on the sentimental songs I have in my mp3 player. My classroom seat is by the window, so I see almost the same scenery, that’s why I always get scolded by my teachers for staring idly at the afternoon sunsets. It is a new school year, and I guess I’m lucky me and my few friends are at the same class. I guess I really looked bored, so one of my friends, Kotori-chan, offered me to a certain club… Music Club. Oh well, I like music anyway, so there’s no harm… but I guess I won’t be at the riverside every Tuesday and Thursday.
Well I guess the everydays are still monotonous. Hours of boring school lessons, an hour of club activities (my voice sucks, but they tell me it’s okay), then go home and enjoy myself. Lately though, I’m looking at this new classmate of mine… or should I say, she’s looking at me, angrily. She’s Maruyama Miya, our class representative. She wasn’t my classmate last year, but I heard some rumors, actually warnings, to stay away or not associate with her. She is strict… very strict. Homeroom is like hellroom with her, she makes us do stuff like cleaning, organizing papers, even if the room doesn’t need cleaning, or papers doesn’t need organizing. Lately, her strictness was fixated on me.
“What do you want?”, is my typical entry dialogue with her everytime she stares with those angsty eyes. She would then always point out something wrong about me, like the other day:
“Sakurai… don’t you ever learn? Every single day Yoshinoya-sensei would want to throw her chalk at you for staring at the window and not listening! What’s good about that window anyway?”
“Why do you care?”
“I’m your iincho, so a classmate’s well-being is always my responsibility! So, answer me, why do you always stare away?”
She looks at the window, seeing the wonderful scenery over the riverbank, the sun isn’t about to set yet though.
“I see nothing.”
“Iincho, you’re really unimaginative. Have you no eye for great scenery?”
“Scenery or no scenery, you have pay attention at class… do you understand?”
“Hai, hai… whatever.”
She didn’t need to spell anything out for me, her voice has always been as loud as rock music. I hate rock music. Everytime she goes by, it seems as if rock music is being played at ridiculously high volumes. I hate that feeling. I don’t exactly hate Maruyama-san though.
This would go on and on almost everyday for almost two weeks. She would complain about my low grades at tests, my laziness to clean my desk, my reluctance to help out in class chores, the list goes on. I thought she was just a mere comical figure that I see everyday at school. One afternoon though, I went to the riverside again. As usual, it was quiet. This town is quite unpopulated, and although there are other people sitting at the same riverside as me, they aren’t much of a bother. After some time, I saw a familiar figure at a distance… it was Maruyama-san. I wonder what she’s doing over there, crossing the bridge over to the other side of the river. She proceeded further away. Was she going to rest by the riverside like me? But that part is kinda empty. I always sit where there are green leaves to sit on. She seems to be going to the part where there’s just soil. I wonder why, but I can’t see that far. Who cares about her anyway? I continued my usual routine and went home after a bit.
Back at school, homeroom hell continues with Maruyama-san asking me to get a bucket of water outside for cleaning the classroom. Gah, why is it always me? So I went to the gym grounds to get some, but then a janitor told me it may take a while, water is kinda low so I needed to wait for a few minutes. I guess iincho would scold me again for my lateness, but it can’t be helped. As I rush back to the classroom…
“…that Sakurai, what the hell is he doi…!?!??!”
I accidentally bumped into her as she was coming out of the door! Oof. She… got wet. Actually, I am too, but I don’t care about that. I’m thinking she’s gonna be extremely angry now.
“Iincho, I’m sorry! I didn’t see you go out the door…”
“Aaaaaa mou! What are you doing! Look at me, I’m all wet because of you!”
“That’s why I said I’m…”
“What kind of ‘sorry’ would change things then? Sakurai?”
“I’ll get a towel or something.”
“No. You don’t need to. Just go back there and stare at your favorite window where you belong.”
It was clearly an accident, and yet she still points the finger at me. I already apologized, even if it were an accident, and yet she still points the finger at me. WHY ME? Why does it always have to be ME? She attacked my person. My good will. My peace. That window and scenery. This is when I got pissed off. This is the rare day when I shouted:
“Why are you always like that… MARUYAMA MIYA-SAN!?!?! I’m really sorry for everything, but you are so noisy! I hate your noise! It stings my ear EVERY SINGLE DAY! Usurai!”
I was half-expecting a total word war with her, but she was rather stunned at my loud shout. I was stunned at the kind of words I said myself. She stared at me, very surprised. I haven’t seen her face react like that before, she always looked strict to me. Rather luckily, she merely stood up, turned her back on me, and walked away, presumably to the P.E. room to get a change of clothes. Well that was kinda a relief to me, because if she would utter words again her loudness would really annoy me, and maybe that ruckus wouldn’t be over that easily. She came back dry and snobbish, as usual. We got scolded a bit by some teachers, but no biggie. After that trouble though, she wasn’t talking to me lately these past days. Sometimes she would just stare with a very bland face (not angry-ish like the ones before), and then look away again. I think she was really angry about the water incident, and I don’t like that tingling feeling, it’s like noise to me. For my peace of mind, I think I should apologize formally for the sake of apologizing. One day:
“…you see, I’m really sorry about last week”
“What about it?”
“I have a student council meeting… so…”
Awkward. She didn’t even look at me while I was talking. It’s as if she’s talking to some ghost. Since that day, she would not notice or point out my wrongdoings anymore, even if I still stare at the window every afternoon. She wouldn’t even look at me. Well, good riddance, I apologized anyway, so this is actually better. No more annoying iincho to shout away at me anymore. My high school life is back at peace.
It’s been a few days after that, and as I go on my usual riverside routine, I noticed her again going to that empty land on the other far side of the river. Two days after, she went again, then again on Friday. These were mere circumstance to me. I don’t care much to check why she’s going that far. One afternoon though, I stayed rather late by the river. As I was about to walk home, there she was, iincho, presumably coming back from that empty area. She looked at me, a bit surprised to see I’m there. I just nodded my head for courtesy… and I shouldn’t expect something back. As expected, she just went her way walking past me… but as she did, she said a whisper, in a voice much smaller than what I always have heard from her…
Was I supposed to hear that? I know I have a good trained ear for hearing, other people always tell me so (maybe it’s because of my love for music). I don’t think she was talking to me, she was some meters away. I guess she was speaking to herself. But why sorry? Maybe deep inside she wanted to apologize to me. Was it about that water and shouting incident still? That was almost two weeks ago. Besides, I’m the one who was supposed to say sorry. Oh well, not that it bothers me much, I shouldn’t associate with her right? Well, out of spite, or maybe mere boredom, I went over the bridge to that empty land where Maruyama-san would go everyday, expecting something. Maybe some kind of evidence for that “sorry” I just heard. I looked for a minute… well… nothing. It’s really just empty land. I wonder why she’s staying here, there isn’t even grass to sit on. All there exists is just soil, the river, and maybe the sunset. Maybe Maruyama-san enjoys the sunset as I do, not that I care much. But come to think of it, she is still strict. She’s still the angsty class rep of mine, it’s just that she’s not noticing me lately. So her noise does not bother me anymore. I went home afterwards.
For a few more days, school life goes on as usual. Hours of boring school lessons, an hour of club activities, then go home and enjoy myself. Monotonous, even when I’m in a club. I’m bored.
… wait… did I just miss that annoying voice? Well, not exactly. Iincho is the same as usual, strict to all other classmates… except me. Wait… that’s weird. She really was ignoring me. Now I’m starting to wonder why. I looked at my classmates. I looked at Kotori-chan and my few friends… wait… there’s something wrong here. It’s dismissal time. I looked at my classmates go out the room, either to go home. I have the music club today. I looked at Kotori-chan and friends leave as well. I watched the room empty itself one by one… until it was just me. All alone.
That was it. I was alone. Not only that, I realize that I’m really screwing up. I thought this was a lost cause. There goes my high school life… I thought, but…
But there was at least one person here. Probably the only one who understood me.
Then came Friday afternoon, at the riverside just like everyday. I wasn’t expecting anything new about this day, even with the realization that I was a loner. I thought I enjoyed where I was, the role I have in the world. But then her figure appeared again, going through that bridge like she seemingly always does. Going through that same path towards that barren land. After some time thinking things through, I followed her. I walked a few minutes until I finally saw her on that empty part of the river. To my surprise, she was actually… digging?
“What are you doing over here?”
She got so surprised that she fell to the ground, and I helped her back up.
“Well you see…”
Suddenly I noticed her open bag… it’s full of seeds.
“Aa! You’re planting something? What’s that? Flowers? Vegetables?”
“Actually, I don’t know…”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“They were given to me by some friend.”
“Then why don’t you ask your friend?”
That second answer had her voice ever softer than before. She had her head down, probably thinking so deeply I couldn’t understand. Probably her friend is far away, maybe abroad, so that she couldn’t ask that friend about what kind of seeds those were. After a moment, she looked at me straight in the face.
“You had the same eyes.”
I was about to ponder about this ‘friend’ of hers, maybe she misses him/her very much, but with her finger, she pointed something to the ground:
“This was for you.”
Then pointed at another, and another, in rapid succession.
“This was for the other things I’ve done wrong.
I hate myself.
All my shouting, all my anger… I hate them!”
Slowly I can see her eyes starting to shine. It was almost sunset, and it was of bright orange. Maruyama Miya. Iincho. This girl, all this time seeing her at school with strict, angsty eyes. This was a different Maruyama Miya I’m seeing right now.
“I wish I could turn back time. Sakurai, do you know how to turn back time?”
A tear had started to fall off.
“I… I don’t know. Why are you crying? Don’t cr…”
“I’m not crying!”
She said in defense, almost at the same tone as the tough girl she was at school, but she was clearly shaking, trying to hold back the tears. I don’t know how to handle this situation, after all, I’m subdued, and lately, realizing that I am almost alone, I just discovered a new meaning of the word… “friend”. With my hands touching her shoulders, I just guided her to where she can sit in the soil. I sat there close to her. She was crying for a few minutes. When she ran out of tears, I started to talk.
“I am the one who’s supposed to be crying. Look at me, I’m a quiet delinquent. I stare at that stupid window everyday at class, even when I already have a wonderful scenery like this before I get home.”
She looked at the scenery with the river and the sun slowly being lowered down to rest.
“I have low grades, I don’t care about class stuff, do many other wrong things. Just idiotic. And all this time… well… nobody pointed it out to me. No one. Not my teachers, not my classmates, not even my so-called friends… except you, Maruyama-san.”
She looked at me surprised at what I’m saying.
“I thought the whole world already gave up on me, but there you were. Screaming at me everyday. Looking at my low test scores. Ordering me around. For that time when I got you wet, the time I shouted at you… I’m sorry. I thought you were just an annoying iincho. But when you started ignoring me, I realized that I was so wrong, all this time.”
“You were the only one who cared.”
Just then, her eyes started to tear up again, and she covered them.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry!”
“Maruyama-san, thank you.”
“… no… not that. I’m supposed to be the one, I’m the one who… who wants to thank you.”
She grabbed a part of my uniform. I was kinda taken aback by that. Well, she’s a girl after all. As she finally dropped her last tear away, she asked me for something I will remember forever.
“Sakurai Hiroyuki… can I ask you for a favor?”
“What is it?”
“Could you help me plant these seeds?”
I otherwise wouldn’t care less about what kind of trouble I have in this life. I was just a guy who likes peace of mind, quietness, and music. I am getting that right now, and no one is bothering me. But somewhere in my heart, I think I wanted someone to bother me. To point out my mistakes, to shout at me when I’m doing wrong. I guess that’s another way of realizing that someone still cares for me. I was then filled with warmth, that in the most unlikely way, I may have found someone who I can call a ‘true friend’. But I guess this friend of mine has a problem of her own. I may not know yet why she’s planting these seeds, or why she shed those tears, asking me how to turn back time… but I want to know. This time, I want to be her friend. This time, I want to be the one who cares.
(to be continued.)