Umber's Short Stories [04/05: The Death of Rin Tezuka]

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Umber
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Umber's Short Stories [04/05: The Death of Rin Tezuka]

Post by Umber » Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:06 pm

[04/05] Holy cow, it's been nearly a year. Well, I figure I might as well make this a place for whatever pops up.

Naomi Inoue and the Meaning of Mango Shakes: p1
The Death of Rin Tezuka
**
Naomi Inoue and the Meaning of Mango Shakes
Part One:


Sweet, orange, mellow, and crisp. Light and playful. Chilly through a straw and jackets for blankets, in that kind of weather where dead leaves only look so beautiful. We walk, talk - we sit on park benches and reminisce. The movie set without the camera angle, the scene without a script.

Sometimes, I’ll be watching the ground underneath me pass by, as a sort of game to play on the way to the district. How many steps do I take before the next panel of cement appears, I’ll ask myself, making long and short strides while staring somewhere into the infinite space between me and the sidewalk. My eyes won’t move, fixated on nothing in particular, while I walk to, through, and wherever else in the district. Occasionally, I’ll answer my phone if someone calls, if I brought it with me. Hanako texts every now and then. I text Natsume.

It’s a long walk. Sometimes, I have lots of time. Sometimes, I don’t.

I’ll find myself inside of a restaurant, probably the Shanghai. I’m usually with Natsume when I’m there, given that we’re really hardly ever outside of each other’s sight. Natsume talks about news, food, video games, family things, oily keyboards, loose wool sweaters when we’re at the Shanghai. I talk about cute pets, the weather, school events, hot coffee, the breeze underneath your skirt on a spring day, and white teeth.

Say we’re talking about The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle because Yuuko recommended it to us and it’s relevant to our discussion (it usually is, somehow, with contemporary stuff) and we’re on a tangent. After a while, the words will only slowly trickle out of Natsume’s mouth, and her eyes start to look like they belong to a child’s who’s been taken to the aquarium way too many times. They start to drift and aimlessly follow the fish. Repeated NHK broadcasts of an apologetic Shinzo Abe unexplainably turn into mackerel, anti-whaling debates become tuna, and Natsume starts to yawn and blink a little more. You can tell she’s getting tired of lobbing the conversational tennis ball back and forth.

But, somewhere in that heavily metaphorical aquarium, past the glass pane and the (regularly, chemically maintained) deep blue, Natsume looks for a jellyfish floating adrift, an oddity sunk into the spectacular monotony of everyday life just outside of plain sight. To make the conversation worthwhile before switching topics, as we eventually do.

We talk about the weather and coffee again for a while.

“Do you think the sun’s supposed to shine this much?”

“No,” I reply, mouth full of bread and lettuce. She sips her coffee and stares pensively out the window, and, after a while, as if responding to a sudden thought, remembers to eat again.

When Natsume eats sushi, she takes long, bored, pleasant bites, munching into calm oblivion the delicate squishiness that comes with rice and seaweed. I’ll be nodding, blinking, breathing, familiarizing myself with my straw and the sheen of condensation on my fingertips from the plastic cup until, inevitably, I’m out of mango shake, and the straw returns nothing but the faint taste of vapory residue. I look down to check the cup, and indeed, it’s empty.

Inevitable it may be, it takes me by surprise each time. The cup in my hands is now weightless; Natsume keeps talking about oily keyboards.

So then we’ve come full circle. What was once sweet, orange, mellow, and crisp is now empty from my life (although sitting contently in my stomach). So, tomorrow, I think about buying another mango shake. Tomorrow after class, is what I say to myself on the way back home, a few times over underneath some passing branches, which I learned belonged to some zelkova trees.

**

The next day, I buy a mango shake. Like I said I would. And the next day, and the next day, and so on.

On one of those days, during the lunch hour, I hang around (nearby, more accurately) a group of students in Mutou’s room, a place of casual, sparse, friendly conversation. Many public places are filled with oddities like sunshine and eavesdropping, and Mutou’s room is no exception. There’s sunlight making its way through the window and enough exam review discourse to irk any solitary librarian. The theme of browns and khakis also encourages some sort of soft cooperation, as if warning us not to stick out and take up too much space, to blend into the scene like sugar into coffee.

My first draw of my mango shake is icy and clear, a sharp and sour rush chilling my tongue to its fleshy (muscle-y?), slick core. The second draw is more or less divine, like the moment of indescribable blankness between consciousness and sleep that seems to escape the power of human recollection itself (evidently, I’m bad at keeping dream journals).

Natsume sits next to me in a makeshift circle of desks. The homework on her desk stares at the ceiling, unfinished, but it’s not due for another few days. She's on her phone, tapping away at a game of some sort, distracting herself for the time being. Other classmates occupy the desks afar, some of them sitting on top, swaying their legs underneath like swings; Mutou doesn’t notice for a while, but eventually tells them to get off. Not because he cares, but because someone that cares might walk into the room.

...No one ever does. All the same, we have sandwiches and bento boxes, and now Natsume is texting Hanako, and maybe my legs are crossed so no one looks up my skirt, and my hands are delightfully cold. It's one day of many, similar to the ones past and so on and so on.

When I run out of mango shake, I throw away my cup in a nearby trash bin, and pick up my belongings. Natsume gives me an acknowledging kind of nod as I wave goodbye, heading to the library to meet Hanako, which has been something just short of a ritual since her admission to the Newspaper club a few weeks back. When I find her, she’s in her usual corner, resting on a bean bag, reading a book. She has a bottle of water hidden behind her, and a cellphone on her lap turned off (a gift from a classmate, she’s said). I take my place beside her and relax.

She’s reading Natsume Soseki today, a far shot from last week’s Oscar Wilde. Minutes pass, and after sitting with her through a few pages, I tell her how much better she’s gotten at handling our editing software, and we share the few details that we can from our day, making small talk in the same manner one might dip their toes into a pool.

“You really like reading, don't you?” I ask.

She nods, eyes peeking from the top of a book. And that's good enough for me.

**

Before leaving for class, she offers to join me on the walk back, and in the middle of the hallway I feel like hugging her, but I don’t, and instead let the moment suffice.

**

Today, there was a woman on the bus stop who didn’t have enough for the fare and couldn’t get on. She’d been putting coins into the bus’ built-in machine one by one, feeding it calmly as though she were tearing small bits of bread for a starving duckling at a public pond, soon afterwards realizing she didn’t have enough yen.

Before you ask, yes, I had a mango shake. It was sweating in my hands, half-finished and a straw sticking out like an IV needle.

She was maybe in her late twenties or early thirties, an ebony barrette with some number of tiny jades of an almost somber luster (imagine a Buddha statue, but an even softer shade of green) tethered to her hair. She wore a simple white polo and faded jeans, and casual black flats that looked like they’d visited the district often, a familiar dust clinging to them. Her purse hung from her shoulder, from which she was pulling coins from until she couldn’t anymore.

I couldn’t a good look at her face since there was a group of businessmen standing in front of me, but I imagine it was at least flustered or embarrassed. The kind of face you’d make if suddenly everyone knew what kind of underwear you wore. If any.

On running out of coins, she softly apologized and, much to the pity of the bus driver, walked off the bus and along the sidewalk until she disappeared. When we reached the front of the school, I got off, called Natsume and told her about the incident, since I had nothing better to do. Phone in one hand, shake in the other.

“I have full sympathy for her,” she said. I could hear her just getting out of bed, at five in the afternoon, bedsheets shifting like reams of newspaper. A beautiful time to wake up on the weekend.

“I was actually gonna help her out,” I told her, “but something made me not want to. I think it would've been too much hassle to fish out my spare coins and give them to her, having to squeeze through all those businessmen. And I was still holding my shake, too.”

At the front of the girl’s dormitories, I pushed the door open with my hips, headed for the stairs. Save for some music creeping out from underneath a few doors, I was alone in the hallway, taking my time across the checkered floor, surrounded by the school’s profuse love for khaki-colored walls.

“It's not your fault, then,” Natsume said. “Your hands were full, and people were in the way. Don't worry about it.”

“If you say so.”

“Mm.” That meant the topic was over and done with. So I stopped worrying. “By the way, wanna visit the ramen shop tonight? I'm inviting Hanako if you decide to come.”

I shrugged. It was something to do.

“Sure. I've got some homework to take care of before we leave, though.”

“We can work on it together.”

“As always.”

I hung up, opened the door to my room, was subsequently hit by a tidal wave of cold air and familiar scents. I took a few seconds to adjust, to feel relieved about being back home, breathing in slowly the chilly stale air like a fisherman at sea after so many years ashore, the woman at the bus stop completely forgotten.

**
Last edited by Umber on Wed Apr 05, 2017 2:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Naomi Inoue and the Meaning of Mango Shakes

Post by brythain » Mon Apr 11, 2016 7:10 pm

Oh, that's beautiful—just like everything you write. Ahhhhhh...
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Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
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Re: Naomi Inoue and the Meaning of Mango Shakes

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Apr 12, 2016 4:57 am

Ah... Umber's... unique writing style.

It has me reread some sentences multiple times only to realize that yes, they are grammatically correct, though the meaning might be a bit esoterical sometimes. Have you considered writing some Rin? I think your style would be very suited for it.

As for this story... Well, nothing really happened so far, so there's not much to say about it.
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Re: Naomi Inoue and the Meaning of Mango Shakes

Post by Ommadawn » Tue Apr 12, 2016 5:53 am

Wow... This was so good!

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Re: Naomi Inoue and the Meaning of Mango Shakes

Post by Umber » Tue Apr 12, 2016 2:29 pm

Mirage_GSM wrote:Ah... Umber's... unique writing style.

It has me reread some sentences multiple times only to realize that yes, they are grammatically correct, though the meaning might be a bit esoterical sometimes. Have you considered writing some Rin?
Would you say my style is

DISARMING

I'm so sorry

Rin would be a cool project. I used to get compared to Rin a bunch a few years back so we'll see.
Ommadawn wrote:Wow... This was so good!
brythain wrote:Oh, that's beautiful—just like everything you write. Ahhhhhh...
Thanks, although I can't tell if Brythain is enjoying a nice relaxing moment or a vibrator but it doesn't really matter.
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Re: Naomi Inoue and the Meaning of Mango Shakes

Post by WolfWarrior » Tue Apr 12, 2016 3:02 pm

That was... a bit bizarre to read. But also very enjoyable.
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Re: Naomi Inoue and the Meaning of Mango Shakes

Post by strange desire » Sat Apr 23, 2016 7:55 pm

Reading this felt like I was transported directly into another person's mind. I love it! Now I'm eager to look back at your previous pieces.

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Re: Naomi Inoue and the Meaning of Mango Shakes

Post by KeiichiO » Sun Apr 24, 2016 12:30 am

Very interesting indeed. Never pictured Naomi as the type with a brain that's constantly going off on tangents about the things in her world, but I suppose no one here truly knows who she is, so we have to sort of just guess with our fingers. I kinda like your guess.

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Re: Naomi Inoue and the Meaning of Mango Shakes

Post by Oddball » Fri Apr 29, 2016 8:08 am

Despite how rambling it seemed and how nothing actually happened, it was surprisingly coherent and enjoyable. It feels like it should have a soft mellow tune playing through it as you read. Shame none of our various music composers have never made a Naomi and/or Natsume theme.
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Re: Naomi Inoue and the Meaning of Mango Shakes

Post by Umber » Sun May 01, 2016 6:39 am

Oddball wrote:Despite how rambling it seemed and how nothing actually happened, it was surprisingly coherent and enjoyable. It feels like it should have a soft mellow tune playing through it as you read. Shame none of our various music composers have never made a Naomi and/or Natsume theme.
I think that's what I was going for, something you can just read without thinking. This might be a poor metaphor, but to me it felt like walking down a street you've lived by forever but never gone down. Although mindless writing is fun, I have a few ideas to build on now if ever I feel like building them (if you can't tell, I'm bad with promises).
strange desire wrote:Reading this felt like I was transported directly into another person's mind. I love it! Now I'm eager to look back at your previous pieces.
My older pieces are severely different from how I write now. Like, real different. Also, not finished. You'd be crossing a half-finished bridge that's so many years old, but if you're willing to take the trip then I'm sure you'll come across something you like.
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Re: Naomi Inoue and the Meaning of Mango Shakes

Post by Umber » Wed Apr 05, 2017 2:24 am

The Death of Rin Tezuka

When I died, it was very painless. I hardly noticed. At some point in time, I realized that me being dead was suddenly just a fact of life and, oh, look, I died. For the next few seconds after that, I had to come to terms with the fact. When I finally accepted my death, I’d been dead for about ten seconds. Or twenty, but I can’t remember, although it doesn’t really matter either. The seconds between my death and the realization of being dead will be sadly lost forever. I probably won’t find them ever again.

Whoever finds those seconds, I hope they give them warm food and lots of shelter. I know that, of all the seconds in the world, they might be the ones that need it the most.

How much do you feed twenty seconds?

How many blankets does twenty seconds need?

I don’t know. Those seconds aren’t my responsibility anymore. Even while they were here, they weren’t my responsibility that much either. Sorry.

After I died, I sat in the sun for a while and got up to do some painting. My canvas was very messy, although when I cleaned up and sat back down, I could only come up with a blank page. For some time I was sat in front of a huge void of white that sucked me in from the neck up, pulling and pushing and squishing my face until it hurt, and eventually I pulled away. It took a while. Gasping for breath took maybe thirty seconds. Putting the paint and brush away took maybe five - I dropped them on the floor beside the canvas.

My husband probably would have scolded me for that. But he wasn’t here anymore. Of all the things I’d lost so far, a list of which includes my virginity and his car keys, everything else took flight too when he left. Sometimes I felt like I even lost the ability to feel like I lost something. Like a walking out of a car crash unscathed - suddenly you don’t have to spend for gas anymore, but it's not quite the time to notice. My virginity kind of came and went like that, like it just decided not to be a part of my life anymore because of something pointless like bad weather. I didn’t feel like I lost anything when it just up and vanished.

And to this day, I still feel weird calling him my husband. It never felt like the right word to use before.

Lover?

Friend?

Oh, I forgot where I was. I was talking about how I died. I guess my life goes back up there on the list of things I lost, doesn’t it? Oops.

After I died, I went to go paint, and couldn’t. There was some breakfast on the table that went uneaten for maybe three hours after he left, so I decided to eat that. I felt bad, though. It was eggs and rice that he made - he wasn’t a very good cook, but he tried. I’m glad he tried, though I could have been glad sooner. Maybe he would have stayed if I liked his cooking more before he left.

Eventually, I got to thinking that I wasn’t really that hungry anymore, or to begin with. I think I was hoping that the eggs would fill the gaping hole in my stomach, which it did, somewhat. The hole was just very large, and not egg-shaped, and not in my stomach.

What is the shape of this hole? And how deep? I don’t know. But it is very deep, and somewhere at the bottom there are scrambled eggs and rice.

And once I stopped eating, I had to wonder - what was he doing right now? What was on his mind as he ran so far away from this home that we lived in for so long? Did he peel one too many oranges? Did he hate my paintings? Had he forgotten about us and our nights at the atelier? So much of us has been lost. Most of it my fault, too. Or so I think.

Now that he's gone, I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d come back. That maybe I could stop being me and hope to show that I miss him so much, more than I could care for the eggs on my plate. That maybe for all the seconds I waste, I could prove that I'm not a waste of time. I might even find the right words to use.

But now that he's gone, I might as well be dead. Not that it wouldn't be much different - I just have no idea if things could be better that way.

If we’re not happy, I'll at least be curious.

Perhaps I'll try cooking, afterwards.
Last edited by Umber on Wed Apr 05, 2017 10:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Umber's Short Stories [04/05: The Death of Rin Tezuka]

Post by brythain » Wed Apr 05, 2017 10:16 am

Bravo! Your signature elegant prose in a marvellous miniature. It's Rin, mature and with some more clearly-defined edges, but still Rin.
Post-Yamaku, what happens? After The Dream is a mosaic that follows everyone to the (sometimes) bitter end.
Main Index (Complete)Shizune/Lilly/Emi/Hanako/Rin/Misha + Miki + Natsume
Secondary Arcs: Rika/Mutou/AkiraHideaki | Others (WIP): Straw—A Dream of SuzuSakura—The Kenji Saga.
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Re: Umber's Short Stories [04/05: The Death of Rin Tezuka]

Post by Oddball » Sat Apr 08, 2017 1:13 pm

I have to disagree. To me, it feels far too eloquent and well thought out for Rin. it feels more like the way Rin wishes she could express herself instead of her more chaotic rambling style.
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Re: Umber's Short Stories [04/05: The Death of Rin Tezuka]

Post by Umber » Mon Apr 10, 2017 12:39 am

Oddball wrote:I have to disagree. To me, it feels far too eloquent and well thought out for Rin. it feels more like the way Rin wishes she could express herself instead of her more chaotic rambling style.
I was honestly going for something less coherent and not obviously organized, but I think it's been too long for me since going through her route to really nail how she thinks. Although I could totally argue that, hey, maybe she's changed the past few years (that have been implied to have passed - 'matured', as Brythain commented), the whole point was to have a small story where she hadn't. So, whoops.

Thanks for the input. I still hope you enjoyed it though.
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