The Kintsugi Club PT2
There are all kinds of truth ... but behind all of them there is only one truth and that is that there's no truth.
Flannery O’Connor, Wise blood.
The walk to class is quiet this morning, but it’s significantly colder than yesterday.
I don’t see any butterflies.
That girl from yesterday, Enomoto, has been preying on my mind all morning. Why did she sit with me? Why wouldn’t she give up and leave? Is she a new student, or has she simply never heard about me and the things I did?
I drag my fingers down across my face. I won’t be getting answers to these questions unless I ask her, and maybe it’s best that I don’t. With any luck, she’ll leave me alone today, and I can finish the last chapter of Frankenstein
. I don’t want to give Suzu another reason to hate me.
I make it to the main building quickly, and just like yesterday, that girl in the wheelchair is struggling. She notices me and looks down at the ground.
“Do you want some help?” I ask, and she doesn’t say anything. She nods.
I take hold of her wheelchair and begin to push her up the ramp, and the pain shoots through my wrists again. I think I know why she’s struggling; the incline is way too steep and it doesn’t feel even on both sides. This girl doesn’t look like she’s familiar with how to use a wheelchair either; maybe she’s newly disabled.
At the top of the ramp I head past to the double doors, but the girl stops me.
“Hey, wait up a second.” I turn to face her. She looks really defeated. “Thank you, again,” she says.
“It’s okay,” I tell her, but she shakes her head.
“No, it isn’t.” Her forlorn and defeated look reminds me Enomoto, and I feel guilty again. I should have left this girl alone.
“Are you still getting the hang of things?” I ask, and the girl’s expression changes from sad to curious.
“I guess so,” she gestures down to her legs, or lack thereof, and gives me a faint smile. “This takes a lot of getting used to,” I try to return her smile.
“I bet,” I respond, and the conversation trails off. There are a few moments where neither of us say anything, but the girl perks up again.
“Okumura,” she suddenly says and bows her head deeply, “Miho Okumura.”
I bow in return, “Hayashi, Akio.”
“Thank you again, Hayashi,” she says, and she wheels beside me. I’m not sure what it is with random girls introducing themselves to me over the last two days, but at least there’s nobody from my class around to see me this time.
“Are you a second year?” she asks as we enter the main building, I shake my head.
“Third. How about you?”
“Yeah, I’m a second year. I’ve only been enrolled for a week.”
That explains her difficulty somewhat. From what I’ve overheard during literature club meetings, most wheelchair students take the back entrance into the school, since it’s closer to the elevators and presumably the ramp is much easier.
We make our way down the hallway in silence. I don’t drag my fingers along the lockers this time, since the girl is between me and them. She looks like she wants to ask me something, but she chews on her lip. When we reach the stairs at the end of the hall, where I presume we’ll split up, she coughs to get my attention.
“Hayashi, are you in a club?”
Well, that’s not quite what I envisioned her asking, though I’m not sure what exactly I had in mind to begin with.
“Yes. The literature club,” I tell her. “We meet every Wednesday evening in the library, at the back.”
She thinks for a moment, and suddenly she looks a bit nervous.
“Do you think I could join?”
I’m not sure I’m able to add new members, or to permit people to join. I feel more like a guest there than a member anyway, so bringing someone along would feel a bit rude.
“I’m not at liberty to say,” I respond, and she looks deflated and let down. I give an inward sigh, and my mouth opens without me. “Why don’t you come and ask the president at tonight’s meeting?”
I turn away from her. What’s wrong with me, why would I say something like that? What if Suzu takes my membership away? I squeeze my wrist and a fresh wave of pain shoots through me, calming me down a little.
When I turn back to face Okumura, she’s looking a little concerned, but there’s something else there too, a tiny little smile.
“Do you think that’s okay?” she asks me, and I suddenly feel sick.
I want to say no. Old me wouldn’t have had a problem telling this girl to get lost, to leave me alone. But now, I just feel…. I just feel sick.
I nod and turn away from her, towards the stairs.
“Oh, okay,” she says from behind me, “I’ll see you later than Hayashi.”
I turn the corner and take the first step of the stairwell. Pain shoots through my knees as I take each step and I grit my teeth. The pain is deserved and helps to calm me down. After each step, I feel a little less sick, and despite the aching in my knees, a little sturdier.
By the time I reach the third floor I feel better again, but my breath is ragged, so I steady myself against the railing and try to relax. It takes a few minutes, but I manage to catch my breath.
I readjust my backpack so it’s not digging into my shoulders, and I head down the hall until I arrive at my class. It’s not like yesterday, since Ikezawa who sits next to me has already arrived and is reading something. She doesn’t say anything to me, but she watches me out of the corner of her eye like a hawk as I drop my bag beside my desk and take a seat. I fish out my copy of Frankenstein
and open to the last chapter.
Like yesterday, people trickle in slowly. First to arrive is Shizune and Misha, and then Taro, this time accompanied by Lelouch, who gives me a very unhappy stare as he enters. I avert my eyes from him, but I know he’s still glaring, and Taro is probably whispering something about me to him. Suzu and Miki arrive, and both give me a look, though Miki’s is more intimidating.
I put my book away and tuck my head into my arms, just as Ritsu enters and does the same beside me.
Another day begins at Yamaku; it’s beginning, the same as the last.
Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there's no room for the present at all.
Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
Class ended a few minutes ago, so now I’m just waiting for the room to empty and for the hallway to quiet down a bit before I head to the cafeteria.
Should I even bother?
I don’t feel that hungry, and that Enomoto girl is just going to bother me again. That, and I really ought to finish Frankenstein
before tonight’s book club meeting.
I drop my head into my hands again and that feeling of sickness courses through me. Why did I invite that girl? Do I pity her? Do I want to be friends with her?
“Hey, is Hayashi in there?”
I’ve been at Yamaku for over two months now, but that’s the first time I’ve thought about having friends here. I look around the room, to Lelouch sitting on Taro’s desk, to Ritsu with her head in her hands beside me, to Misha, standing by the doorframe.
To all the people I hurt over the last two months.
“Hi, Enomoto, you’re looking for Hayashi?” Misha says, and my attention is wrestled back to reality. Sure enough, standing by the door is the girl from yesterday, one arm on her crutch, and another holding two sandwiches. Misha turns to look at me, and her face becomes a frown. “Did Hayashi say something mean to you?” she asks.
“What? Of course not, we’re friends.” Enomoto replies and peers around the classroom door to see me. She waves at me.
Everyone that’s still in the classroom looks towards her curiously. Taro and Lelouch have finished their conversation and are giving Enomoto analytical looks, whilst Shizune and Misha are signing to each other frantically. The only person who isn’t paying any attention to the girl is Ritsu, who might be asleep.
“Oh, well, he’s right there.” Misha eventually says, clearly a bit shocked, her usually bubbly self a bit dampened.
Enomoto passes Misha in the doorway, and Shizune and Misha head out into the hallway. I think I see Taro and Lelouch staring as she pulls a chair up beside my desk. I raise an eyebrow at her and she smiles.
“I know you don’t like crowds, so I figured you’d wait before leaving class. Then I had an idea,” she says, and drops the sandwiches on the desk. “Why don’t I bring lunch to you, skip the middleman.”
I just can’t place this girl. What’s her motivation? Before I can respond, Enomoto looks past me to Ritsu, who has woken up and is giving her a curious expression.
“Are you hungry?” Enomoto asks Ritsu, who looks like she’s not sure if she’s dreaming or not.
“Uh, yeah a bit.” Ritsu replies, and Enomoto smiles politely, before taking half of her sandwich and offering it to her.
Ritsu eyes the offered sandwich with surprise, and then she gives me that same look. I shrug, and she takes the sandwich from Enomoto’s outstretched hand. What the hell is going on?
“So, uh, nice to meet you.” Ritsu says, “Tainaka, Ritsu.”
“Well, Enomoto, thank you very much.” Ritsu says, before taking a bite from the corner of her sandwich. I open the packet and take a bite from my own. It’s nice. I think Taro and Lelouch go back to talking, but I think I see them glance at us occasionally, so maybe we’re the subject.
“Hayashi, can I ask you something?” Enomoto asks, before peeking back over her shoulder.
“You can call me Akio, and yeah go ahead.” I reply, it only seems fair that she can call me by my first name considering she’s bought me lunch.
“Then you can call me Saki,” she says with a smile, but then her face takes on a serious expression again. “Why does everyone in this class look at you like they hate you?”
I suddenly feel sick. This sandwich is awful.
Ritsu giggles beside me. “A lot of them probably do,” she says, but she doesn’t sound angry at me like I’d expect her to. She looks a little sad.
Saki is smiling though. “Well, I think he’s okay,” she says.
“Why?” I manage to ask, “you don’t even know me.”
“And so, I should just automatically dislike you? What a horribly pessimistic outlook, Akio.” Ritsu laughs at that, and Saki takes another bite from her sandwich.
None of us say anything for a while. The two of them eat their sandwiches, but I’m not that hungry anymore. I have to focus on my breathing, but I’m able to calm down a little. Ritsu finishes her sandwich, and taps the table in front of Saki, who is studying the walls of our classroom.
“Thank you for the food,” she says, and then looks around the room again. Taro and Lelouch aren’t really staring at us anymore, so I guess they got bored. “I don’t think he’s that bad, by the way,” she points at me with her thumb.
How can she say that? After what I said to her on my first week here? These girls must be so damn lonely if they’re this willing to talk to me. Saki smiles at Ritsu.
I drop my head into my arms with one side of face facing up to see Saki.
“So, Ritsu, what do you usually do at lunch?” Saki asks over me.
“Normally what Akio is doing right now,” she says and giggles. That seems like a sad thing to giggle about, but I’m not much better.
“Well, would you like to join our club?” Saki asks, and I raise my eyebrow. Aside from having heard her mention it, I should probably have been asked for consent before I was forced into a club with Saki.
Ritsu sounds as confused as I am. “A club? What’s it called?”
Saki thinks about that for a minute.
“How about the Losers Club?” Saki asks, but shakes her head immediately. “No, no, I’ve stolen that from somewhere, I’m sure.”
Ritsu giggles again, and when I roll my eyes, both girls giggle louder than before.
“How about the Akio Ain’t So Bad Club?” Ritsu says laughing, and Saki has a dumb smile on her lips too. Saki looks like she has a better idea though.
“I know, how about the Kintsugi club?” she asks, and Ritsu thinks for a moment. I raise an eyebrow at Saki, and she claps her hands together to explain.
“Kintsugi is like, the art of putting stuff that was broken back together, sometimes with gold. I think it’s fitting,” she says, and points to my wrist, where my splint has peeked out from beneath my blazer.
“I like it,” Ritsu says. “Now what do we do
in the Kintsugi club?”
That’s a good question, but I have a more pressing one. When did I consent to any of this?
“Well, how about we have our first meeting at the Shanghai tonight and figure that out?” Saki asks, and Ritsu smiles.
“Sounds good to me,” she says.
“I can’t make it,” I say.
They both turn to look at me, surprised. They probably think I’m blowing them off, which I kind of am.
“I have a literature club meeting tonight,” I explain, and Ritsu’s face lights up with understanding.
“You’re already in another club? And here I thought you were a loser,” Saki says with a playful giggle. I’m not sure if I find her attitude endearing or frustrating.
Before I can answer, Ritsu laughs loudly.
“Well, it’s the literature club, the two aren’t mutually exclusive,” she says, and both girls laugh out loud.
I notice Hanako peering in from the doorway. Saki has stolen her seat. “You should probably go,” I say to Saki, and her expression immediately sinks, “Ikezawa will want her chair back.” Upon hearing my explanation, Saki’s face lights up again. Despite how annoying she is, her smile does
make me feel kind of warm.
“Oh, yeah, fair enough,” she says as she rises from my desk, and places Hanako’s chair back at hers. She turns to face Ikezawa in the doorway, and bows politely, “I apologise for borrowing your chair without permission.” I think I hear Hanako say it’s fine, but you can never be sure with that girl.
“So, tomorrow night instead then?” Ritsu asks, and Saki looks to me for any objection. I can’t think of an excuse, so I shrug.
“Sounds like a plan, let’s meet at the front gate at seven?” Saki says, already heading towards the door.
“AM or PM?” Ritsu asks, and I give her a confused look.
“Why would we meet at seven AM?” I ask, and Saki giggles with her hand over her mouth.
“Oh, right, yeah, obviously PM,” Ritsu awkwardly replies, rubbing the back of her head. “See you then, Enomoto!”
Saki laughs and gives both of us a wave. “Please, call me Saki! Have a good day you two,” she calls as she exits into the hallway.
Before I can bury myself back in my arm fortress, Ritsu taps my desk to get my attention.
“I guess fate gives everyone a second chance, huh?” she says.
A second chance…
The rest of the class begins to pour in. Maybe I imagine it, but it feels like everyone is looking at me more than usual, their careful glances like a thousand paper cuts.
I feel sick for the rest of the afternoon.
I am I, and I wish I weren't.
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
I check my watch. The meeting is supposed to start in about ten minutes. Suzu keeps looking at me curiously but returns to her book whenever I look back.
I can’t stop thinking about Saki. Why is she so persistent? Why does she want so desperately to be friends with me? She’s a pretty girl, so she can’t be hurting for male attention. So why me?
Then there’s Ritsu. What did she mean by a second chance
. Is that what Saki is? Is that what the Kintsugi Club is? Do I deserve that?
Before I can get too lost in that rabbit hole, I notice Okumura scanning the library from its entrance. She notices me, and gives me a friendly wave, before wheeling herself in my direction. That sick feeling from this morning comes back, and I clench my wrist as hard as possible to distract myself from the sinking feeling in my heart.
She crosses the library, and Suzu gives her a curious look, before sitting up from her bean-bag seat and walking over towards the girl.
“Oh, hi,” Okumura says, clearly nervous, “is this the literature club meeting?” she asks.
Suzu looks delighted and gives her a smile, “it is, would you care to join us?”
The worry on Okumura’s face is immediately replaced with relief, and she returns the smile Suzu is giving her. “I’d love to, if that’s not too much of a problem.”
“It’s not a problem at all,” Suzu says and bows deeply, “Suzuki, Suzu. I’m the literature club president, and it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Okumura, Miho. Thank you.”
“So, Okumura,” Suzu begins to ask as she settles back into her position, “how did you hear about our humble Literature club?” Behind Okumura, I notice Lezard and a few of the second-year guys from our club collectively hobbling over to us.
“That’d be thanks to Hayashi here,” Okumura points at me with a smile, my heart drops a kilometre.
The mood between Suzu and her quickly changes, since Suzu gives me a confused look It’s not angry, surprisingly, but it still makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. I look down at my lap.
“I see,” Suzu says slowly, and Okumura looks thoroughly lost. “Anyway,” her tone immediately reverts to its usually cheery self, “This week’s book is Frankenstein
, by Mary Shelley. Are you familiar with that text?”
Just one curious look?
Okumura racks her brain but shakes her head.“No, I don’t think so,” she finally says.
“Okay, well you can borrow my copy for today, and if you think you can join in the discussion, please do!” Suzu tells her, and hands over her copy. Okumura wheels over to be beside my seat, and Suzu stands up again and starts talking to Lezard and the others. A few more people have arrived now.
Okumura taps me on the knee, and even that subtle tap shocks me a little.
“What was that about?” she whispers, and I avoid her eyes.
“It’s a long story,” I reply, my eyes fixed on the beanbag Suzu has just left.
After chatting for a few moments, the other members take their seats in the circle, and fish out their copies of the text. Suzu kicks of the discussion, and everyone gets involved. I don’t say anything, as usual, but it’s interesting to hear what people thought about the book. Lezard and Suzu have a pretty interesting argument about what Doctor Frankenstein’s fatal mistake was. Suzu claims that his mistake was in subverting God, women, and the natural order, whilst Lezard thinks that Frankenstein succeeds at those things, but fails at being a father to the monster he created. I personally think they’re both right, and wrong, but I don’t talk at these meetings.
To my surprise, Okumura manages to get a few words in here and there, which draws an impressed smile from Suzu more than once.
At the end of the meeting, everyone writes down a book suggestion and slips it into a bowl. Suzu picks one at random, and sure enough, it’s not mine. It’s Catch 22
, by Joseph Heller. I haven’t heard of it, which means I’ll have to find a copy. Great.
Just as I’m about to pack up my things and leave, Suzu addresses the club, and we all give her our attention.
“So, as you all know, the festival in two weeks, and we need to come up with a stall idea. I was thinking we could just do some silly game, but I’m open to suggestions,” she says, and everyone thinks for a few minutes.
“What about a stall of fates?” Okumura asks.
“A what?” Lezard asks. How convenient.
Okumura thinks again for a few moments, rubbing the back of her head as she does.
“Like, uh, we write out a load of fortunes, and if you win a game you get a positive one, and if you lose, you get a bad one?” She explains, but I still don’t really get it.
“Like a curse?” Suzu asks, leaning forward in interest.
“Yeah kind of, but it’s a little bit less scary. It’d just be for fun. We tried it at my old school,” Okumura replies, and Suzu considers it.
“I kind of like that idea,” Lezard says, and Suzu starts to slowly nod.
“Yeah, it’s kind of cute,” she agrees, and Okumura begins to glow. “Are we all in agreement to give that a go?”
She looks around the room as everybody nods, including me.
Suzu smiles and claps her hands together.
“Okay,” she says, and we all get up to leave, “it’s settled then, next week we’ll have ten minutes at the end to start writing some down for the stall. Oh, and, welcome to the club Okumura.” She adds.
Everybody gives a short round of applause, and the meeting officially ends. Everybody begins walking towards the exit of the library, leaving Okumura and me behind a little. I’d rather not walk back to the dorms with those guys anyway, and they probably feel the same.
Just before the door, they turn back to face us.
“Oh, Okumura,” Lezard says, and their whole group stops, “we usually go to the Shanghai down in town after a meeting, do you want to come?”
Okumura looks at me, like she’s asking for permission, but I shrug. I didn’t even know that was something they did.
“Sure, if that’s okay,” she says, and begins to wheel after them. She catches up to them, but then turns around to face me by the door, “Not coming?”
Nobody else is looking at me, just Okumura. Something inside me is screaming to say yes.
“Nah, have fun though,” I reply, and her face drops.
“Oh, okay. I’ll see you when I see you then,” she says, and follows the others out of the library doors.
I think about a few things on my walk back to the dorms. I think about fate. I think about Saki. I think about second chances, and the idea of the Kintsugi club.
I think about that butterfly with the little blue wings, and a shooting pain runs through me.
You can’t un-crush a butterfly.