Brace for a wall of text. What I have posted here is something like 4.5k words, so if you would rather not read it that is fine. I am not a very talented writer, so excuse my writing as it is not the best, also, just kinda vomited thoughts onto the page, so please forgive me if something isn't clear. This is the story of how Katawa Shoujo related in a way that seemed hauntingly similar to something that happened to me in real life, and made me realize just how badly I had screwed up.
When I first played Katawa Shoujo, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had depression which I strongly believed had something to do with the sheer amount of loneliness I felt. It didn’t matter who I talked to or hung out with, I always felt alone because I never had anyone I could actually talk to about stuff, not even specific stuff, just stuff in general. As a result, I kept everything bottled up and tried to find solutions to all of my problems on my own, which hardly ever works in my experience. In short, this made me very shy and closed off as a person. Anyway, long story not really short, I ended up trying Katawa Shoujo as a way to escape from the fact that I have never had a relationship with anyone and was too shy/socially awkward/not enough self esteem to try to initiate one.
I decided to go into the game completely blind. I, of course, had seen pictures of some of the heroines, but I hadn’t seen any flowcharts or “let’s plays” of the game. I wanted to act though the game honestly and see where that would take me. As I played, I met the different girls and had varying thoughts about them as a whole. I was neutral towards Shizune and Misha, and I had similar thoughts toward the rest of the girls. Except one, who as you will see, exhibited a few parallels to a series of events that happened to me in my junior year in high school.
For the record, I played Katawa Shoujo a full 14 months after the end of my story. So every time I mention her, this is over a year before I played Katawa Shoujo.
For anonymity's sake, we will call this girl Summer. She was a just a little shorter than me (I am around 5’8”), she had wavy blonde hair that she liked to put hair bands in (which sometimes had bows or flowers on them). She was soft spoken and formal, but not stuffy or without a sense of humor. (You have probably already guessed which path I chose by now…) She had a graceful air about her, and the general feeling I got from her was one of intelligence (she once mentioned that she was taking classes at a local community college in addition to her high school ones, never knew which subject.)
She was reserved, keeping her thoughts to herself most of the time. But she would not shy away from a question if it was asked her directly. She clearly had her own opinions; she wasn’t quiet as a way to hide herself, she simply didn’t want to impose on others, respecting their well-being and desires over her own. She also seemed to want to avoid conflict, even if it would conflict with her interests.
I cannot remember the color of her eyes though, because soon after I saw them, I forgot. I don’t know what it was about them, but if I wasn’t looking into them I couldn’t remember their color. I once told a joke in my class (Sunday school, we both went to the same church) so I could look around the room with the excuse of seeing how people reacted (they all laughed btw), but it was really just to look into her eyes. Didn’t help though.
She was the most beautiful person I have ever met.
She moved to my area (a small rural area not too far from a few large cities) towards the end of our 10th grade year in high school. I didn’t have an immediate attraction to her, so it wasn’t love at first sight or anything. But, being as shy as I was (particularly around girls (gosh that sounds juvenile)) I didn’t say anything to her besides the typical introduction. She was very polite, returned with the typical response introduction, and that was it. We didn’t talk outside Sunday school for… ever. We simply didn’t talk, whether mutual shyness or simply shyness on my part, we simply didn’t connect.
I suppose that this could be for a few reasons, one being she was rather off put by me and simply didn’t want to be rude and tell me that, so she kept silent. Another is that she may have thought that I simply didn’t want to talk to her. On the outside, you can’t really tell that I am a shy person. I speak garrulously around my friends. I am not afraid to talk with my friends, but when I am talking to someone who I have never met before, I become quite nervous and tend to screw up a lot of what I am trying to say. So I simply keep quiet and say as little as I can, which is easy to interpret as being uninterested.
Anyway, by the end of summer vacation, I had developed quite a crush on her. Which to me basically means do not say anything to her at all. Ignore her completely. This reaction has a lot to do with my self esteem, let’s just say that I have a lot of problems. I’ll get into them later. I always thought that I would screw up any chances I might have with her if I said anything stupid, which I am prone to doing without being nervous. So when I am nervous, that chance easily quadruples, and that is a risk I am not willing to take. Also, given said self-esteem issues, I would perpetually put myself down; I simply couldn’t believe that someone like her could possibly be happy with someone like me.
Anyway, she wasn’t in any of my classes in my sophomore year, but that was when I didn’t think about her a lot, so it didn’t really matter at the time. However, she was in my AP English class this year, and we would have been set next to each other because our last names are alphabetically similar, but her schedule was screwed up by our counselors and she had to transfer into the class a few days late. So, she was assigned an open seat on the other side of the class as me, towards the front. So there wouldn’t be the awkwardness of sitting next to her, which I was grateful for, but I had to pass her everyday while coming into the class, which for someone as anxious as me, that was a big deal. She always got there before me, and I am usually early to class, so I knew that I had no chance of simply getting there before her. So, I decided that when I passed her, I would simply say hello. Easy enough, I mean, we both knew each other from church so it would be rude not to. And I did.
But there were other reasons for talking to her. When she moved here, she moved from far away. She didn’t know anyone, and given her reserved disposition, she didn’t seem to get too close to people. I had often seen her sitting alone at lunch with a brown paper bag, reading a book. So I thought I should be nice and start things off by saying hello. Then I could start by being her friend.
Now, back to Katawa Shoujo. As you probably guessed, when I saw Lilly, I nearly had a heart attack. My heart rate probably doubled. Given what happened with Summer, I thought that this would by my chance for redemption. (obvious foreshadowing is obvious) And so I started down Lilly’s path hoping for the best, my only prior knowledge of the game consisting of the fact that bad endings are always a possibility.
I am going to assume that you know what happens in Lilly’s arc, but if you don’t, I will probably give a recap of all the similarities at some point, so just bear with me.
When I started Katawa Shoujo, I had several major problems in my life. Low self esteem complimented nicely with depression was fun. But what was worse for me was something so many people cast off as trivial, yet something I see as a major character flaw in myself. I was addicted to pornography and masturbation. I can almost hear you saying “So what? Everyone does it, it is no big deal.” Well, I simply can’t accept that. I had so many things I had once loved and held dear simply become things to fap to. They become completely meaningless; they no longer had any significance to me. I hated it so much, I was borderline suicidal. But I was addicted, and to anyone who has tried to stop, it is an addiction, and a very tough one to beat unless you have strong willpower. Which I don’t. So, when I saw Lilly, I immediately paused the game, and turned the adult scenes off. I would probably have killed myself if this game had become had become another thing to fap to. If Lilly had become something to fap to. She reminded me too much of Summer.
This is where it is important to understand the nature of a foil. Not the kind you wrap potatoes with to bake them, but the literary term. I assume that most of you know what a foil is, but for those of you who don’t, a foil character basically is one who is very similar to another character, but the differences set them apart, and it is these differences that are significant.
This is where the differences in what began as such a similar story begin to be important.
Every time I passed Summer, I simply said hello. That went on for about a month before my crush went to the next level. I can’t remember exactly what triggered it, but I could barely pass her without really trying to suppress my emotions (out of all of the emotions I have had to suppress, I have found genuine interest in someone the hardest) let alone say hi. She looked at me expectantly, but I simply looked forward, I stared blankly ahead, and simply walked forward.
I had my imagined reasons. I have a more outgoing friend who also noticed that she sat alone (and also went to my church) who started talking with her. They sat together at lunch, and she seemed to be smiling often as they discussed whatever it is that they talked about. So, this meant that she had a male friend who was outgoing (and much better looking than me thanks to a long time in martial arts and superior genetics). We will call him Daniel. So I reasoned that she no longer needed my simple “hello” at the start of every fifth period. Eventually, she ignored me as I entered the classroom.
I was very conflicted by this. I knew that on one hand, if I ignored her, then there was never any chance of things getting better. Of course, if I did say something to her, there was a chance of my situation improving, but I didn’t want her to feel like I was forcing my way into her life, and given her disposition of quiet kindness, I don’t think she would have objected to me doing so, regardless of whether or not she enjoyed my company. She was probably happier without me. I mean, how could she be happy with someone like me? I knew that if I continued to ignore her, things couldn’t get worse.
But something happened, something which gave me a clear choice. Something that set which path I would follow. As clear as a choice as offered by Katawa Shoujo.
It was during our schools disaster/fire drill thing. The only redeeming quality of going temporarily deaf and then herded outside for an hour was that we missed class. Yay for me anyway. I was in a class without any of my friends in it, so it was doubly nice to be getting out of that. I went down to the field and started looking for my friends after signing in, and as I was walking after finding a few of them, I saw her. It was completely unmistakable. She was standing by herself, as alone as I had ever seen her. As I walked, both my feet and heart hesitated. There she was, away from Daniel (who I believe was absent that day), book in hand. She was looking at something in the distance while I was watching her, but her gaze suddenly started to shift. In the split second I had, I thought a wall of text longer than the one you are currently reading. In short, it was a massive internal conflict. I had a clear choice, almost as clear as the choice as to whether or not to follow Lilly into town… I could choose to go over to her and try to keep her company as best as I could, perhaps befriend her as someone more than an acquaintance. Perhaps be a real friend. Or, I could keep on walking. I could hide in the crowds as nothing more than a fleeting glance of someone that she barely knows. Hope that she really is happier without me.
To this day, no song has affected me as much as Moment of Decision. I am listening to it as I am typing this now. It is so beautiful; I just love the piece as a whole. This was truly my Moment of Decision, it would decide whether or not I would even have a chance with her. It hits me like an ambulance whenever I hear it.
I chose to hide. I chose cowardice. This was my defining moment, the moment that proved who I really was underneath all the cleverly crafted disguises I had used to hide my insecurities and fears.
I learned that I am a coward. I kept walking, but not fast enough. As I pulled my eyes away, hers met mine. Those hypnotizing eyes. In that split second, I knew that I had achieved the worst possible outcome. She saw, and recognized me as the kid who used to say hi to her every day, but stopped for no discernible reason. And she saw me walk away like a total stranger. She saw my moment of defining cowardice.
Whether or not she thought of me as a coward, I will never know. Whether or not she even saw me as more than a stranger that day, I will never know either. I won’t ever know how she felt about me that day; whether she would have genuinely enjoyed my company, or simply endured it. Whether she would have thought of me as a friend or a nuisance.
I kept walking with the few friends I had found until we reached the larger group of friends that basically consisted of nearly everyone I knew (minus a few). Even then, I regretted my decision.
And this choice sent me on my way to the bad ending.
Months passed away quickly after that. She seemed to become increasingly close friends with Daniel, but they kept it at friends. Daniel already had a girlfriend at the time, and was not the kind of person who would even consider cheating, so I knew that he was simply extending the kindness that I wish I had the courage to. They talked during lunch, and I believe I saw them walking together to classes on which they had a similar route. I envied him, but I knew I had no reason to bear him any ill will, so I didn’t.
Early October rolls around. My church decides that it wants to do a costume dance for Halloween. I don’t ever go to these things, and had no real motivation to do so this time, but a friend from out of town wanted to go, but only would go if I did. I ended up going. I was still thinking about Summer, remembering how hard I blew it some months earlier. But I didn’t expect to see her there.
But I saw her there. I then I really started hating myself. If she was beautiful in normal clothes, she was almost literally staggering in what she wore there. She was wearing a kind of reddish-purple dress that had long sleeves that opened slightly towards the wrists, and the skirt (not sure what to call it) nearly went down to the floor. It widened out perfectly towards hen ankles, making that classic elegant dress shape (it wasn’t one of those poofy Disney ball gown dress type things though). It had golden embroideries around the collar, which went down somewhere near her collarbone. The dress itself seemed to be made of a velvet-like fabric. Her golden hair been braided into two complex braids near the front that had been pulled back around her head, reminiscent of a circlet.
And more than ever, I wanted to be with her. She was with a group of friends (all girls) that she had befriended since I left her alone that day. She was talking with them happily, they shared jokes, smiling and laughing the whole time. However, she didn’t do much dancing (she seemed like the kind of person who would like more classical types of dancing), most likely due to the fact that she was a very reserved person. But she certainly seemed to be enjoying herself.
I wish I could have made her smile like that. I wish that I could have made her laugh like she did then, in a quiet, yet happy way. I wished I could have told her how beautiful she looked. I wish I could have apologized for ignoring her for so long, and explained to her why I had done it. And, maybe it would have worked…
But, I chose cowardice on the field, and I chose it then too. I simply ignored her.
Because, that is who I am. When I am face with a hard problem I will try to ignore it until either it cannot be ignored any longer, or it simply vanishes.
I learned the next Sunday that Summer was leaving in two weeks. Of course, I didn’t have the nerve to ask her where, so from my perspective, she was vanishing forever. It might as well have been Scotland.
I had that time to say something, anything, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. How could I? I had my chance, but I blew it. I let all my chances fly away.
The day of her departure arrived too soon. It was sad for me, because I knew I could never forget her. I am sure it was sad for her too, she was leaving behind all the friends she made. But, something told me that this was not the second or even third time that this had happened. She had only stayed about a year and a half. It would seem odd then, for someone to move somewhere, only to stay there for less than two years. I think I heard her mention something about her father’s job when asked why she was moving.
My school starts at an ungodly hour, so because daylight savings time had yet to take effect, we could watch the sunrise from campus. I saw Summer before school, purely by chance. I was close enough to hear her and Daniel talking. He said that he would miss her, and gave her a small trinket (don’t know exactly what it is) to remember him by. She hugged him, and I guess that was supposed to be her final goodbye. She left. I didn’t even say goodbye. I thought I would never see her again. It took everything I had to make it though that day without breaking down. I didn’t even say goodbye.
But the next day, she showed up to the beginning of school. I guess she had an unexpected last day, so she decided to spend what she could of it with the people she knew. They saw her, walked over and said their final final goodbyes. Daniel was there too. I watched from a distance. I wasn’t sure what to think. I thought I had another chance to say goodbye, and this time, I thought I would take it. I started walking over, but I was quite far away, and it looked like she didn’t have much time left to stay. She gave a loud (for her) goodbye to everyone, and before I got there, she had vanished into the sunrise.
I am sure you can see the parallels between what happened to me and Lilly’s arc. My disability was not that my heart could not beat properly, but that it could not beat with courage. I guess I will never know what may have happened if I had gotten to know her better. She probably would have had to leave anyway.
I consoled myself with the thought that she was probably going to find someone much better than me, wherever she went. All I want now is for her to be happy, regardless of where I fit in.
It took me a year to get over the nothing we had together. And then, a month and a half later, I played Katawa Shoujo. I saw Lilly. I played her route like how I wished I could have lived my life. And I got the good ending. It makes me wonder how things would have ended if I had a shred of courage.
It started out so similar, but it took me this long to realize that my decisions determined that I was no longer a character in Summer's story. I became a bystander, an observer. I became nobody.
Before I finish, I have one last thing to tell you. Have you ever had a dream that was incredibly vivid, yet you forget it shortly after you wake up? I had that happen, only to have a flashbulb memory of it around a year after Summer left. I can only remember one picture from that dream. It is a sketch, drawn in pencil, of a lone girl, standing on a hill in a rolling grassland. There were flowers in the grass, and there was a slight breeze. The picture is in black and white because it was drawn in pencil, but I could clearly tell that the person’s hair matched Summer’s hair; it was let loosely back with nothing holding it in place. She was wearing the same dress as at the Halloween dance, but she was facing away from the artist and to the right, just enough so I could not see her face. Her arms were folded, and it was hard to tell, but is seemed that she was slightly hunched over at the shoulders, her eyes downcast. She looked like she was holding herself, alone in the whole world. And, I could just barely make out one, solitary tear, falling to the ground. She stood there alone, crying into the sunset.
I think that picture is symbolic. It was a perfect symbol of how I treated her. Perhaps if I wasn't such a coward, maybe the picture would have been different. I just wish I had some artistic talent so I could draw the thing.
And I could not help but want to kill myself, when I saw the picture of Lilly’s confession to Hisao, on a grassland at sunset. I have that picture saved as a cruel reminder of how differently things might have been. Maybe she could have been happier with me.
To you who read this entire wall of text, thank you for allowing me to vent. I would like to say that everything I have said is true to my memory. But, my memory is rather bad because my depression hit a low point then. While I can say that all of the events definitely happened, some of the details may not add up because of my memory problems. If you have questions, ask and I will try to answer them in the best way that I can.
If I could say anything at all about what I learned from all this, it is this. While it is true that if you never try, you never fail, you may come to regret not ever having a chance at success. You never know how long you have before someone you care about vanishes forever, without ever knowing how you felt about them. That feeling is worse than any rejection; it is the feeling that there was a chance that she might have said yes, if only I had asked.