Not knowing what else to do but feeling I should do something, I finish walking over to where Chisato’s sitting and gently lower myself to the ground next to her. She doesn’t make any objections.
“Here,” I say, offering her one of the two coffees I have with me. She takes it from me and has a sip, closing her eyes in appreciation of the warmth.
“Thanks. I’ll hit you back tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I answer, taking a brief moment to bring my own cup to my lips.
Chisato and I sit there for another minute or so, just aware of each other’s presence. I know that something’s wrong, and looking back on today, I think I might know what it is...and it’s not a comfortable subject by proxy.
“Sorry,” she starts once again. “I shouldn’t have made you worry by being out here.”
“Chisato, it’s okay.”
She sighs. “I just...needed a minute before going back to my dorm room. Mitsuru spent the night last night and after today it’s all…”
When I turn to look at her, she’s smiling but there’s no joy in it; a smudge on an otherwise unused piece of paper. “I knew it was going to happen, but when it did
...it didn’t really sink in until now,
a bit of a shock,” I agree - but realize it’s probably not the right thing to say as soon as those words leave my lips.
“I’m happy for him! I am!
I just...god damn
it, I’m feeling so torn
I’m glad he gets to go study in Korea...but…”
“You don’t know what happens next,” I prod softly.
“...it sounds better when I’m
not the one saying it,” she finishes, staring at the ground in front of her and giving a soft laugh. “You’ve gotten a lot better at this the last few months.”
“Figuring out what people are trying to say. Even when they
have no idea.”
“You and Saki are good teachers.”
I hear a soft scraping on the concrete next to me, and feel Chisato lean into me. She rests her head on my shoulder. “You’re a good friend, Hisao.”
I put my arm around her and give her a gentle squeeze. “You too.”
<<Art by Hairinya>>
A few more minutes go by, the sparse and wispy clouds in the sky making their slow trek across it. It seems so appropriate to what’s been happening the last month, what’s happened today, and what’s going to be happening in the future; no matter how slowly things may seem to move, they’re inexorable.
“Maybe Mitsuru and I will end up doing that thing where we drift apart and find each other again later in life,” she sighs.
“It always seems to work out that way in the movies.” Even though she’s really upset right now, I somehow just know
that the best thing I can do for her is keep up the slightly sarcastic humor that’s been a keystone of our friendship.
Chisato scoffs and sits up. “At least the movies started showing that.
Ten years ago they’d be telling me I should follow him to Korea and somehow it would all work out.”
“Or he’d give up everything to stay here with you.”
She firmly shakes her head. “I’d never let him be that stupid. Not for me.” When she realises what she just said, her shoulders slump a bit. “I guess that’s something else the movies got wrong.”
Chisato’s voice cracks ever so slightly. “I love him but…I guess love itself isn’t enough, is it?”
Another uncomfortable silence follows. She’s not wrong. What if she actually did
end up in Korea, and things went badly between her and Mitsuru? If he was the only reason she went, where would that leave her? And if he stayed, would he resent her if the same thing happened and he ended up missing this chance?
There’s no easy answer. If there’s a chance it could fail so spectacularly, wouldn’t it be best to mitigate the damage as much as possible? A good compromise leaves nobody happy...and damnit
, isn’t this the exact same argument
Saki used on me a few months ago?
“I...don’t know about that,” I answer her. “But I’m pretty sure Mitsuru would say the same thing about something else you said.”
“Not letting you be an idiot. I’m pretty sure he’d never forgive himself if you blew off your chance at Tokyo. That was your first choice, wasn’t it?”
She nods, taking another sip. “I just need to do well enough on the exams. As long as I don’t screw those up, and we can get the album recorded...I should be good, but…”
Chisato sheepishly turns away from me. “What happens if I get there, and I find out I’m not
as good as I think I am?”
I frown. “Why would that
“Because it sounds so narcissistic...but it really does
scare me, Hisao. I know I’m good at the piano, but it’s different when you’re part of an orchestra.”
“When you’re in an orchestra, you’re ranked in whatever section you’re in. The person who’s the best is the first chair in that section. They’re the ones who get things like solos and extra attention. If you think you’re better than the first chair, you can challenge them and if you are
better, you get the spot.”
“The king is dead; long live the king?”
Chisato smirks a bit. “Something like that. But it’s not like Yamaku. It’s cutthroat.
There’s only so many instruments in the band, and...well, when’s the last time you saw an orchestra with two
“I haven’t seen any
orchestras...but I’ll take your word for it.”
“If it’s something like the violin, if you get knocked out of that first seat it’s not so bad because there’s four or five violinists and you still get to play. If there’s only one piano though…”
Oof. If you’re not on top, you don’t get to play? That seems...harsh.
“Sorry,” she says. “I didn’t mean for that to sound like Saki would have it easier.”
Truth be told, knowing what Chisato just told me, I don’t see Saki being the sort to try and gun for first chair...and honestly, she’d be the first to admit that she wouldn’t be able to hold on to it even if she did
“I really owe a lot to her,” Chisato continues. “Without her I wouldn’t have nearly as good a chance to get accepted. I mean, there’s no way in hell I would have thought about recording something the way she’s doing. She doesn’t have to learn how to play at the new speed or use the computer, but she’s doing it so we both sound better...”
Long ago, Saki had told me she was worried that she was holding her friend back. Is that why she’s taken on so much in this project? Is she putting in all the extra effort just to give Chisato a higher chance at getting accepted to art school in Tokyo?
Absolutely. Saki’s the type of person who would do that, without question. Even so, it leaves me in awe to think of it that way.
“She’s pretty amazing,” I say softly, more to myself than to Chisato.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“What’s that?” I reply, snapping out of it.
“Have you figured out what you’re going to do?”
I know she could just be asking me about college since we’re talking about our plans for the future, but somehow, I know that’s not the only meaning that question has. She is
curious on my thoughts when it comes to college, but she’s more curious about our
meaning myself and Saki.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I do
know I’m going to take a year off to regroup and study for exams.” The corners of my mouth turn up as I chuckle. “Maybe by then I’ll have some idea of what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
Chisato ponders this for a moment, indulging me. She knows I can guess what she’s really
asking me, but she’s willing to let me get to the answer to her question in my own way...even if it takes a while for me to build up to it.
“Are you going to go back home to study there, or try to find an apartment somewhere?”
“I...don’t know,” I answer her honestly. “I guess I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.”
“What do you want
I drain the rest of my coffee, crushing the empty cup in my hand afterwards. “Going back home might be hard…”
“I’m sure my parents would be happy to have me back, but I’m not so sure I would be.”
Chisato remains silent, waiting for me to continue.
“I made up with my friends back home, but so many of them would be moving on that I might end up alone back there...and if I’m going to run that risk, I’m thinking I might actually like the challenge of living on my own.”