This is the third segment of the first episode of the Suzuki files.Suzu 1c: Dorm#use (T -17)
2007-07 to 2007-08“You might just as well say,” added the Dormeuse, who seemed to be talking in her sleep, “that ‘I breathe when I sleep’ is the same thing as ‘I sleep when I breathe’!”
— with minor apologies to Rev C L Dodgson.
Life passes by very quickly sometimes. The illusion of time is all that varies its pace. Once upon a time there were three friends who lived in a treacle well, as the Dormouse told Alice. For me, they couldn’t really have been friends all the time, even if they did stick close to each other.
Sometimes, I realize I dream what really happened. Sometimes I hear my friends’ voices, and discover that they’re only echoes of my own. Perhaps what I think I heard them say was only what I imagined them saying.
“I do not particularly have a crush on Hisao Nakai,” she says, I feel in a mocking way. I am a bit crushed. She’s teasing me and I don’t think it’s fair. “In fact I do not think he knows I am even in this class, since you can draw a line from Misha to the door, and that is the line he follows either with Shizune, or in order to escape them both.”
That’s the downside to Moriko. She’s full of words. She can drown you with them if you give her one chance. And I’m only a too-big Okinawa boy who’s no good with his mouth. I want to kiss her to shut her up, but that’s silly. It only happens in movies. I glare at her. “You can like whoever you want, Mori.”
“Of course I can, you poor, lost boy. If ever you want to find something you have lost, come and see me for a good time. I am telling this to you, not Nakai. Think about it if you have two brain cells to send signals between. Or wake up the princess if you want, she needs to wake up a bit because I am tired of doing classwork assignments for her.”
“What?” mumbles my sleepy other friend, “Who’s doing assignments now for me? You wake me up, I’ll do them happily.”
“Yes, I am sure you will do them all happily; you hardly know what is going on anyway. Thank the gods I can just look out of the window and enjoy the sunshine while the rest of you think your silly little thoughts.”
She turns her skinny, stiff, upright back on us. I want to say that’s not what friends do. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what I did wrong. Suzu’s gone to sleep again and I don’t know what to do. So many things I don’t know. But I’m Big Sam Takagi, and I’m known for being slow and tough. So I say nothing and do nothing.
Yes, Sam, I was beautiful once, but now I am Moriko Kapur with the stilted gait, halfbreed of flesh and steel. Isamu, you probably need someone with real thighs and calves, even plastic ones or latex—some buxom farmer girl or fisherman’s daughter or tacky Tokyo love-doll.
Is it not obvious? I am angry, I am sad, I am unhappy. I will be so glad to graduate from this place. There is nothing for me here, even if there might be nothing for me elsewhere. Sam makes eyes at me, but that is because I am tall and have exotic looks, and perhaps because I come from a social class that is both much higher than his and yet ‘other’. His gaze sweeps adoringly over me, then settles for a brief accidental moment on the metal of my loins, and I see him flinch.
He likes me, but how can he… he will never, ever love me. After two years of this, I suppose I should have learnt sooner. We have been friends, and more than that was never going to work. What a fool I was, and what a fool he is. He will probably end up with Suzu, which would certainly be good for both of them. Well, let us cut the man loose, as they say.
My back turned towards him, I whisper something that only he will hear. Mikado is, as usual, making too much noise for anyone else to notice, and Suzu is asleep. I open my lips. “Forget it, big boy. I never had a crush on you.”
It is a lie and yet truth. On one bright June morning, I saw Lilly Satou in her dark blue pajamas kissing Nakai goodbye. I’ve nobody to kiss goodbye, because I thought I loved Sam, but that’s unlikely to happen.
It takes me a full day before I pluck up enough courage to apologize to him. What I have done was unnecessarily cruel, and I seldom let my black moods escape like that. I have hurt him because I wanted to see if I could, and that’s not a very nice thing to do. He was hurt; I regretted it the moment I saw it, and only pride stopped me from apologizing on the spot.
It’s in the middle of Mutou’s class that I wake up for a while. It takes me a long time to get up to speed, but not as long as you might guess. I apply a little bit of sleepy guile and listen until I understand what’s going on, more or less. That’s when I realise that my tall tree, my Tokage, is sad and grey. The stork has brought him grief, has built a nest in his branches and flown away.
Did they not understand each other? Did one not feel the other’s pain, and the other feel the first one’s fear? So Calpurnia, not shy nor humble. What does it take to bring out daggers in the hall? For poor Nakai was but a catalyst, passing through without knowing what he’d missed.
There’s a rare afternoon I’m awake. Feeling guilty, me. I find my way carefully down to the medical centre and tap gently at Chief Nurse’s door. I think I sound like a kitten scratching at a catflap. Scritch, scritch… meow.
“Come in!” says the light baritone voice we have all come to fear, trust, and think snarky thoughts about.
I open the door and find Kaneshiro-san leaning against his desk, as if he’s been waiting for me. His secret life must consist of ambush after ambush, clandestine set-ups waiting to be triggered by unwary third-year students. “Errm, hi,” I whisper tentatively. “Was supposed to see you, and that was a couple of days ago.”
“Suzu! More like a week, young lady! How have you been? Any of that nasty cataplexy?”
“No! I mean, no. Been falling asleep in classes a bit, though.”
“Aha! Well, that might be Mutou-sensei’s fault, I suppose. Regular check-up, and we’re done. How’s your man-mountain doing, by the way?”
My man-mountain? I think colossal thoughts, and from those to a scholarship of Rhodes, and… oh, he means Takagi. Very Big Sam. “He’s as big as ever, but not mine exclusively, Chief Nurse.”
“Ow! Sorry. Sometimes I see things that aren’t there.” He grins, unrepentantly, before continuing, “Actually, you should tell him to keep up with the light running. I might be able to find him a student coach.”
My mind fills with reasons why it shouldn’t be Emi Ibarazaki. Everyone knows that she’s Nurse’s pet: twin-tailed twin-turbines, fastest thing on no legs, unbearably chirpy in the mornings. Not Big Sam’s type at all. Also, Moriko hates her. But, as usual when I’m not at my best, I’ve misjudged the way things are going; unless I’m awake, I’m no match for Master Schemer Goro Kaneshiro and his secret files.
“I’m thinking your classmate Miura might be a good fit. They’re both tall, she’s kind to big oafs like Takagi, and Takagi’s naturally protective and won’t treat her like just another guy.”
There’s too much going on here. Is there an agenda? More than one gender? What does he seek to engender? My mind tends to go that way. “I’ll ask him to come and have a chat with you?”
“Great! Wonderful! Now let’s take a look at your vitals.”
More days pass. Mori’s so distant, as if she’s fading away, not talking to anyone unless it’s absolutely required. The day after she lashes out at Sam, she apologises profusely. She makes a curry bento for him. Then she locks herself up in her room after that, cries a lot, and won’t even open the door for me.
Meanwhile, Sam goes running. After school, in the afternoons, with and without Miki. It’s as if he’s trying to get away from something, as if he is hunted, haunted. And I am alone, seeking solitude in quiet rooms, where I’ll not hurt myself, nor feed on my sense of discomfort, nor have to depend on the kindness of strangers.
If not that, it would be the Literature Club, where that awful waffle from 3-5 is now chairperson, always trying to make my lovely subject into some kind of technical disassembly project. I flee, both hunted and haunted, into quietness, where I can be sleepy little me.
One day, in such a place of silence, I have a visitor. I don’t notice her at first, for her presence is masked by soundless feet, ghosting across the ground, and I have stupidly left the door open.
“Hello, Suzuki,” says Miyagi-sensei softly. My resultant jump would have broken world records, except that the sleeping sideways lurch is not a competitive sport.
“Ga-ha!” I cry, although mumbled and bumbled, it sounds rather odd. I stand up, almost tumbling, which would be humbling. “I mean, argh! Sorry, Miyagi-sensei, I was asleep.”
She accepts my sketchy half-bow and returns one of her own. “That’s fine. I was just wondering if… I seem to have misplaced my class representative and she’s normally in the tea-room next door. Or with one of your classmates, Nakai or Ikezawa.”
“Um, haven’t seen Satou anywhere recently.”
“Ah, one more thing; we haven’t seen you at Literature Club for a while either, Suzuki.”
I feel a kind of sympathetic disapproval radiating from Rei Miyagi’s stern but pleasant face. “Very sorry,” I blurt out, meaning it, because she’s always been kind and fair.
“It’s all right. If you need time to catch up with your studies, take it. This weekend should give you ample opportunity to do some work. Don’t waste your talents!” She nods, smiles, and vanishes like a neat little corridor ghost, the raindrop sound of her plain black shoes tiptapping away into the distance long after she’s gone.
And that’s the weekend of the big Hokkaido scandal, of course. Not so big, but for us scandal-starved denizens of the zombie third year, it is huge. A short time’s passed since Nakai came to Yamaku; yet now he lies in the Valkyrie’s slender arms. Her armour has been breached. I hear the piteous cries of other third-year men englamoured by her charms.
I run because it’s all I have. My blood is thin. I’m large and weak, and everyone is smarter than I am. But Miki I can treat like a lady, even though she doesn’t seem comfortable with it.
“Takagi,” she says, “lift your legs.”
“Takagi,” she says, “don’t slouch.”
“Dammit, Takagi,” she says, “smile a bit.”
She’s pretty, I guess. Her eyes are very black, very nice. But I miss Mori, and Suzu’s never to be found. I can’t wait for the summer break, so I can go back to a simple life.
I have made all the apologies you would think I should have made. Isamu Takagi is acting like a bereaved husband, and Suzu Suzuki is hibernating in some hidden room. I thought I had friends. It appears that I have few. Japan is after all a racist country, and it is most cruel to those who are visibly halfbreeds.
Too bad, I suppose. I find in myself a great sympathy for Lilly Satou. If I were her, I would decamp to my motherland. As it is, my motherland hates me and my fatherland brings evil memories to mind. Half a woman, half a life, and nobody to talk to about it. Bother.
Mori Kapur, get a life, I tell myself. But there is no life to get.
Three weeks is forever, they say. On this clear night, I can see ‘forever’.
In Sendai, they celebrate Tanabata from the sixth day to the eighth day of the eighth month. On that night, the cowherd and the weavergirl, separated by the will of heaven, get one chance to meet. For some strange reason, neither cow-eyed Nakai nor flaxen-haired Satou is to be found that night. Or at least, not together. The rumour mill grinds until it halts, but the flour is tasteless and the product is coarse. There’s no meal to be made of this.
What will I do in the summer break? I’ve no plans, and now, no friends. Home to tiny Mito it is then, to natter with my sisters and argue with my parents. I feel sad because it feels that all my years in Yamaku have lighted fools the way to dusty death.
I’m looking at my cheerful yellow yukata, before I shut my wardrobe door. My mother said it was for Tanabata, if I’d someone to wear it for. Sadly, I have not worn it out of love so far, and next year I’ll be here no more.