Please Give Me Love Chapter 3 (pg 73-128)

Chapter 3 – A Flamingo That Stands on One Foot

Hello.
        I’ve started to feel lately like using a phrase like “dispensing with the preliminaries” isn’t so fitting anymore so I tried to begin the letter like so. What do you think? Now that your name has started to drift to mind naturally, I felt like “dispensing with the preliminaries” wasn’t quite right.
        I’ve also started to feel like the writing style is a bit too formal. In the beginning, it took me a full three days to write you a letter since I rarely ever wrote them. At any rate, I was just trying my hardest to make sure my flaws didn’t show through. But now, I don’t know. I don’t feel like I have to be so tense–I can relax much more in my writing. In other words, that must mean we’ve been able to become that much closer, right? That’s why I thought that to become even closer, I first need to change the way I start my letters. That’s why I chose “hello.” From now on, I’ll start off every letter with a hello (don’t copy me though. You should think of your own way to start letters, Moto. Me calling you “Moto” sounds much more intimate too, doesn’t it?).

        Well hello, Motojirou. How are you? I’m sorry I couldn’t write a reply to you right away despite receiving letters from you. There are a couple of reasons why I haven’t replied in over half a month, and one is that I was a bit jealous. Is it true that you’ve found yourself a girlfriend? In a previous letter, you wrote how you’re in love with a woman you met at the hospital your mother frequents, but have you been able to make any progress since then? Although you seemed a bit uncertain about what to do, I’m sure things have progressed since then. There’s no way that it hasn’t. You did mention in definite terms her presence, so that just goes to show how serious you are about her. I’m sure of it. So you’re in love, huh?
        I was a bit scared to ask you about what’s happened since with regards to that, so that’s why I didn’t write any letters to you for so long. Don’t laugh, okay? It’s not that I’m in love with you, but this feeling of loneliness grabbed ahold of me, and the inside of my heart was wracked with a storm of jealousy.
        But reflecting on it, there’s no way that a kind-hearted person like you wouldn’t have a girlfriend, and it’s not like I have the right to monopolize you. You just continuing our letter correspondence like this is enough and I shouldn’t ask for too much, so I was just disappointed at my own selfishness. After some time had passed though, I was able to digest these feelings inside of me, but just as I did that, something unbelievable happened: I fell in love. That’s why I couldn’t write a reply right away and I wanted to watch over the state of things for a bit so that’s why my pen paused again; I’m sorry.
        I’m still not sure though whether this should be called love. It’s just, I want to stay true to the promise I made with you in the very beginning and tell you only the truth. Remember how we made the promise that in this letter correspondence, we would open up to each other everything that we can’t to others?
        It takes some guts to write about only the truth, and it requires the person to face those things he or she writes about, don’t you think? That’s what I’m doing.
        I wondered just how much I should tell you, but I don’t have anyone that I could seek advice from other than you, Motojirou. That’s why I’m going to muster up the courage to tell you the truth, okay?
        There’s a reason why I think that this might not be love; that is, my heart don’t go pitter patter when I see him. Since I’ve never experienced that, I’m not really sure what that feeling that everyone talks about is actually like, but when I think of him, my heart isn’t affected, so that’s why I think that my heart isn’t going pitter-patter.
        It’s just…my desire to be treated kindly by him is, all in all, strong. I know this is a strange way to put it, but there is a part of me that is one-sidedly seeking from him the fatherly magnanimous quality that I get from you, Motojirou. And plus, I still don’t really know what “love” is since I’ve yet to love anyone–no, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I’ve never trusted anyone–at any rate, I’ve lived my life without knowing how to love or be loved.
        He’s someone who has an assertive quality to him and although there is the reason that I personally admire him, but I still can’t believe how I went along with his invitation so easily. It makes me wonder if I was that lonely, and I am taken aback.
        He’s the father of one of the preschool children whom I am in charge of looking after, and I mentioned him briefly in a previous letter. He’s the father who always comes to drop Kazu-kun off at the preschool—in other words, this is what society would call an affair. Are you surprised? You think less of me now, don’t you? I am writing this letter after having prepared myself for the possibility that you might stop writing to me. It takes courage to write the truth. If I lie, it’s beautiful on the surface, but our letter correspondence was one that we started to share with each other the truth, so that’s why I’m writing all about the truth.
        To be honest, as I’m writing this letter, my hand is shaking so hard that I’m finding it difficult to write the words down.
        It was my first time entrusting my body to a man and although I’m almost nineteen, it was what you could call, a belated loss of virginity. It was that my distrust in humans was just too strong, and there was that reason I’d never fallen in love with someone before, but I hadn’t had any sexual relations previously.
        It was also my first time going to a love hotel. It was a gaudy hotel in the Shibuya area, and we waited in a lobby that was as bright as a sports gym. Young men and women were openly waiting in anticipation for a room to open up—almost as if they were waiting in line to get on a ride at an amusement park. It was a world that was more salubrious than I had imagined and it caught me a bit off guard. On the other hand, when I thought how this was going to be the place where I was going to lose my virginity, it put me at ease. If I was going to lose it someday somewhere anyway, I want it to be this person; this is what I thought before I went in.
        I do think that I like him— at the very least, I have feelings of admiration for him. But I don’t love him. There is no love. There is definitely no love. Since I’ve never experienced love, I can’t say so with conviction, but I know what I was looking for from him wasn’t love or affection. Without knowing where my heart lies, I clung onto him as if my life depended on it.
        It was over by the time I’d realized it and there was no pleasure. I only felt pain and a small dose of boredom. It was as if I was drowning in a fast river. Although I was trying my hardest to reach the other side, no matter how much I swam, I couldn’t reach it. I felt a strange pooling of power in my arms and legs, and it was as if I was bound hand and foot. I think my feelings were a mix between the feelings of revenge towards my father and the feelings of wanting to smell a father’s scent. I think the different directions of my feelings made me overly tense.
        And as for him, when he found out it was my first time, he was really shocked. From my point of view, he looked dismayed. He gazed down at me and when he finally found his voice again, he told me to go and take a shower and I ran into the bathroom without a word. While the hot water poured down over me, I cried. It wasn’t because I was sad…I don’t know how to describe it, but the tears just came streaming down on their own. I hated my own body. I hated that I was alive—that I existed on this Earth.
        I guess I should explain a bit more in detail how I came to have this kind of relationship with Kazu-kun’s father, shouldn’t I? This was something that happened about a week ago. It started with me running into Kazu-kun’s father (his name’s Kiba Genta-san) by coincidence. He was on his way home from work, and he noticed me first and talked to me. I forgot the minute details of the exchange of greetings, but the talk quickly shifted to going out to eat together and in that moment, I had this gut feeling that I would become involved with him sexually in the near future. It’s odd, don’t you think? It’s odd, right? Even though I was asking him “Is it okay?” “Are you okay not going home to have dinner with your family?,” it was as if I was the one coming on to him. I think my eyes at that moment must’ve been emitting a pale, suspicious beam of light. Although he was the one who came on to me, I think there’s no denying that it was something that I called to my side.
        We slipped into the nearest underground bar, as if we were running away from the line of sight of those around us, and there, we gazed at each other. Kiba-san cracked a lot of jokes, and he was trying his hardest to put me, who was a bit tense, in a more relaxed mood. It was probably that both of us had thoughts of Kazu-kun cross our minds, but our laughter was a bit awkward, and our words trailed off often. However, we tried our hardest to brush away the nervousness that threatened to close our mouths, and we continued to talk.
        I opened up to him about my orphan past. I don’t know how I was able to so easily tell him about my background. In that moment, I felt similar feelings of guilt to you that I felt for Kazu-kun. It was like I was testing myself to see how much I could tell this person about myself, and I opened up to him. Kiba-san has a—how do you put it?—sharp, masculine face like the kind that athletes have, but at the same time, he has really gentle eyes, so he came across as very sincere. As for his smile, his smile was the very image of the kind of smile that the father I had etched in my heart since childhood had. His voice was deep, and I liked how he gave off a dependable aura.
        I think what I was looking for from him was the sense of security I felt from his outer appearance. It’s not that I fell for Kiba-san himself— I think what I wanted was Kazu-kun’s father. I wanted a father so much that I offered my body to him, because I wanted to draw him closer to me.
        Last night, we met up in front of the Shibuya station. When I received a phone call from him saying how he wanted to meet me at Shibuya, I had already prepared myself emotionally. I thought that if he tried to pursue pleasure from me that I would give it to him. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it; even I can’t understand why I thought that.
        After we ate, we drank some alcohol, and before I knew it, I was standing at the entrance of the hotel district after being led there by Kiba-san. When I looked down at the neon-filled road, I thought: there is one more entrance here. I felt that if I passed through this entrance, I would be stepping into another world, and I would no longer be able to turn back. I felt that in front of me was a world mixed with fear and desire.
        After the painful act was over and I had washed away all traces of it in the shower, the entrance to another world—that is, my pleasure, was waiting for me. I nestled my cheek against Kiba-san’s chest, and I took in the smell of his sweat. I rubbed my face against the muscles of his chest again and again, and I kept telling myself that this is what happiness is like.
        Being embraced by his thick arm, I slept until our time was up. I felt as if I reverted back to being an infant. As for Kiba-san—I don’t know if it was because I was a virgin, but he kept apologizing to me. Although I kept wondering why this person was apologizing to me, his voice eventually became like a lullaby, and I was able to feel at ease. While in his embrace, I was able to feel like all the pain and suffering I had endured in my life had been cancelled out. I thought: Oh, this is it. This was the smell of this being called “father” whom I had been searching for all this time. Thick arms, kind eyes, the smell of sweat and low voice. As I caught the sound of his heartbeat with my ear, I reverted back to being a child, to the pureness I had then.
        Until the time came for us to leave the hotel though, I felt truly happy. I honestly felt that my life could end right then and there and I would have been satisfied. It was my first time experiencing such joy.
        Only after I had left the hotel did I realize for the first time the gravity of the sin I had committed. I stole from another person’s family what I didn’t have—the happiness that wasn’t distributed to me at birth. Despite the guilt I felt from my actions for doing something like this to Kazu-kun and Kiba-san’s wife, at the same time, I felt elated at having been able to take a whiff of happiness. As it turns out, happiness and unhappiness are two sides of a coin; I didn’t know that. Although I was frightened by it, on one hand, I felt comfort in being dragged gradually into the darkness.
        Motojirou, you look down on me now, don’t you? You hold in contempt someone like me who has the heart of a devil, don’t you? But I kept my promise and told you only the truth. It may be that I’m trying to atone for my sin by getting you to hate me. What a fool I am. What a pathetic being I am. What a pitiful being.
        Motojirou, I don’t mind if you break off your relationship with me. I don’t mind if you give up on me. I don’t mind if you don’t send a reply. Just being able to tell you the truth like this has made me feel a little better. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t stand it.
        This morning, it was really tough for me to go to the preschool. But it’s not like I could’ve taken the day off, so I managed to somehow drag myself out of bed and headed over there, but surprise, surprise, Kiba-san didn’t show up. His wife came instead to drop Kazu-kun off. When I saw his wife and Kazu-kun, I thought how unfair that was. I wondered why he didn’t come to drop his son off like he always did. I wondered whether he considered how I would feel accepting Kazu-kun from his wife, and I became furious at his insensitivity. That’s when I reconfirmed the fact that this was an experiment of sorts, and it wasn’t love or affection. That’s right, an experiment. I’ve decided to think of this as an experiment of how it feels to come into contact with people who’ve lived their life wanting for nothing.
        Also, I think this experiment will continue for some time yet. I think that I’m trying to attempt to search for this happiness that people who live normally have at their disposal by observing the happiness of the Kiba family. Happiness, huh? It feels like something far away.
        It might also just be that this is revenge. I was the only one who has lived her life utterly alone. This is revenge against the society that abandoned me. Revenge, huh? It has a clichéd ring to it.
        I wrote this all out in one sitting, but I’m afraid to read it over. Am I really going to send this? And when I imagine the look of pain on your face as you read this, I wonder if this is what a terrorist who has succeeded in detonating a bomb feels like. It might just be that I’m trying to get a taste of the feelings of what it’s like to be an evil villain by having you read the minute details of this play of revenge. I don’t know, I’ve yet to figure out my feelings on this matter.
        All I did was tell you honestly the things that happened and the things I made happen.
        I’m sorry that the contents of this letter turned out like they did.

May 6th.
Ririka.

P.S. But I won’t kill myself.

Dispensing with the preliminaries—

        Not knowing how I should reply, a full day passed as I gazed at your letter—this thick letter I received from you, who is drowning in these suffocating words. Every single line was as if they were scrawled in your blood and they were overflowing with pain and I was at a loss of how I could comfort you, so I just stared at the letter in a daze as I was beaten to a pulp by its content.
        It’s true that you opened up to me about the truth. I do think it takes courage to tell someone about the truth. Not only that, but the truth hurts, and the person on the receiving end feels just as much pain. That’s why this thing called truth is practically like the edge of a sword.
        To be honest, I don’t have the words needed to comfort or to hearten–no, to scold or to wrap you up in an embrace. No matter how many beautiful words I stack on top of one another, I can’t help but feel like those words won’t reach your heart. But even then, perhaps my words might allow you to feel connected to this world, even if that connection is still a weak one at best.
        The issue at hand is what love is exactly, but, like you, I don’t know either. I’m still a virgin, and like you, I’ve never truly fallen for anyone before. But in this day and age when people fall in love so easily, I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with not falling easily for others. In this world overflowing with “love,” I think it’s right of you to try to sincerely face love.
        Let’s say that what you were looking for from Kiba-san wasn’t love. If that’s so, then could it be said that your relationship was something that started out from nothing more than a kind of curiosity? It was merely a desire to take a whiff of another’s happiness because people like us have lived our lives rarely experiencing it. If that’s so, your relationship will be one that will either way come to an end one day.
        If you are not regretting losing your virginity so casually, then I think that that’s fine. If I had to give you one word of warning though, I think it’s better for you to cut ties with that person before you become too deeply involved. If you have genuine feelings for him then I won’t try to stop you, but if it’s a relationship that you have only because you wanted to take a peek at happiness, I think it’s definitely for your benefit to end this relationship. You should try and find your own happiness. I have no intention of lecturing you about something obvious like what a terrible thing you’re doing to Kazu-kun and Kiba-san’s wife—but I have to tell you: what you’re seeing is nothing more than a mirage. I think happiness is something that exists in numbers as many as there are humans on this Earth, and what you saw was nothing more than one happiness of many, and you have your own happiness out there that is perfect for you.
        That’s why what I’m worried about is the situation in which you keep dragging on your relationship with that person only so you can derive the happiness that you feel when you’re in Kiba-san’s arms. If it’s only once, it could be written off as a mistake, but if you let it become routine, it’ll become like a habit, and it’ll make it even more difficult to stop and you’ll end up immersing yourself into the mud.
        I think that you need to treasure yourself more. I don’t know what reasons he has for seducing you so I’ll be careful about commenting based on my imagination alone, but in the case that he truly falls for you, I think you will be the one who will end up suffering. Why, you ask? Because you don’t think anything of him. You won’t be able to just say that it was only fun and games. You won’t be able to say that you only wanted to take a whiff of another person’s happiness. I have a feeling that it would be more dangerous for you if he is the one to become serious about you—because if you think about it, he has a family and he probably has circumstances of his own.
        I think that you should take a more careful look around you. Either that, or go outside. About not having friends—it’s the same for me, but one day, I decided I’d force myself to get to know others. Although not everyone will turn into close friends, by meeting many people, it’ll build the foundation for facing others. It’ll also make you realize that there are many reasons for existing— as many as there are people.
        It seems it wouldn’t be a good idea to search for opportunities to meet people in the preschool or other narrow places like that . Now that you’re out in society, why don’t you try going out a bit among the people? In addition, I think it’ll do you good to fall in love. Well, love can come later, so first you should try feeling genuine affection for another.
        I don’t think love needs to be defined as one that is appropriate to your age and as a result, I think that it’s okay even if the other person turns out to be someone with a wife and child, but the worst thing is to attempt to try to gain the effects of love and affection when you don’t feel anything for the other person.
        Humans aren’t tools, after all. You need to have some feelings invested, don’t you think?
        Although I say this, in all honestly, I’m no good at love either and until now, I’ve never fallen for anyone before, but this time, I have a feeling that I really might just be able to fall for a woman. Although it’s still at a stage when it’s a one-sided feeling on my part, I think this is probably love.
        As for who this woman is, as I mentioned to you in a previous letter, she is someone I met at the hospital which my mother frequents. We’re only casual acquaintances who make small talk in the waiting room while my mother is having her examination done. It’s still not at a stage in which I can say for sure that this is love—but I don’t know if you could call this love at first sight, but it was the first time I’ve ever felt this way, so there’s a part of me that wants to wait and see how I should treat these feelings.
        Since I thought “love at first sight” and “one-sided love” were things that only existed in songs, I can’t help but think it strange how my heart is going pitter-patter when it comes to this person. In the twenty three years that I have been alive, this is a first, and I am telling you this in truth, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t know what I should do. What would a normal person do? Just thinking about talking to her makes the back of my ears turn red and my mind wander.
        She’s always looking down, so she does give off a bit of a sombre atmosphere, but I guess it’s her side profile, but she gives off the aura like you’re looking at an image of the Virgin Mary and I can’t help but be curious as to what is at the end of her gaze that is always downcast—as to what is inside her heart.
        This is the first time I’ve ever wanted to look inside another person’s heart, and this is what made me realize that this might just be love. No, I still don’t know yet, since I’ve never known love until now. What do you think? Do you think this is the driving force of love to have the urge to want to know what she is thinking?
        With regards to the matter of you and Kiba-san, I know it’s not for me to say this and that, but if you want to attain true happiness, I think you need to experience what it is to feel affection for another first. It’s the same for me—that’s why I have a small bit of hope in this encounter that has moved my heart.
        At the very least, I wanted to tell you the truth that my heart has stirred for the first time in my life, and that I firmly believe this is the start of love. I want you to know that it is when your heart is moved that true happiness will come your way. Is your heart moved by Kiba-san? Is it?
        Please don’t get too deeply involved with Kiba-san. You’re better off reeling in the line that is tied at the end of your feelings, and you should try going out into town and finding love.
        It’s the season of new leaves, right? I saw the scenery of the colourful town of Tokyo on the news. I don’t know what kind of place Shimokitazawa, the place where you live, is like, but I’m sure there must be places like temples, shrines, parks and greenways too, right? Don’t stay cooped up inside your apartment all the time and try stepping out on a sunny day, and take a deep breath.

From Motojirou.

Hello Motojirou,
I’m sorry that this is a postcard instead of a letter.
        Thanks. Your letter made me feel kinda happy. I’ll treasure your feelings. I’ll treasure myself too. But right now, there’s a part of me that just wants to continue being swept away. I don’t want to fight the current of this river, just to the point that I won’t get stuck in the deep end.
        Oh right, switching topics here, but don’t you think there are an unusually large number of things that bothers one but that you just always keep neglecting? Like me, I have many things like that. For example, like how I haven’t shown up to tennis class in a really long time, or like things like the bicycle that I never ride that I just leave outside to get hit by the rain or the bank account that I don’t close despite never using it, the photo book I borrowed but have yet to return, and the cavity that I keep thinking I have to get fixed but never do.
        Until it becomes an absolute necessity for me to do something, I’ll probably leave these things off to the side even though they bother me so. Maybe the problem is the way I’m living? I’m well aware that when that time comes, I’m going to be the one who’s going to suffer.

May 13th.
Ririka.

My Dear Ririka-sama,

        I also have many things that bother me but that I leave off to the side. One of them is the promise I made with a friend that I’ve yet to fulfill. This is something that took place quite a long time ago, but back in high school, I made a promise with a classmate that we would make a round of Hokkaido by bicycle. Although we were emphatic that this was a man-to-man promise and that neither of us could back down from it, we haven’t done anything about it since. He’s currently working in a place called the department of continuing education at the municipal office, but since this is a small town, if we really wanted to we could see each other any time we’d like, but maybe that is the very problem—that we live so close? At any rate, we still haven’t been able to fulfill that promise.
        Making a round of Hokkaido was a dream of mine back in my high school days. I wonder if this promise will ever be fulfilled? With every year that goes by, it becomes increasingly more difficult.
        Postcards aren’t bad, don’t you think? But it’s crammed with words.

Motojirou.

P.S.
One of the reasons for why I’m engaging in a letter correspondence is that I want to know many things about the world outside of this place.

May 16th.
From Moto.

My Dear Ririka-sama,

        Just a note: I just sent off a postcard to you, but I suddenly had this urge to write you another letter so right now I’m writing this in a rush. I think these two letters will arrive there at the same time.
        The other day, I got to know this painter who said he was from Osaka. He was someone who looked just like the character Snuffkin who shows up in Moomin.
        I think he’s about five or so years older than me, but he was an interesting person whom I felt at ease talking to as if he were a fellow classmate of mine. We ate lunch together during the break and he told me about Osaka and the different places he’s been travelling around for a long time such as Europe and Africa. I was touched. My imagination opened up and I was able to feel as if I was the one who had gone vacationing overseas.
        When we parted, he left me with a meaningful remark that people around the world are linked by friendship.
        Several weeks passed and I received a phone call. It was from a classmate of mine from back in elementary school and she was a girl named Ayako-san who attended the same school as me. She suddenly asked me: Is someone named Snuffkin-san a friend of yours? I was surprised and asked her to repeat the question, and as it turned out— you know how you often hear how a friend of a friend gave birth or how a friend of a friend of a friend won $100,000 in the lottery? It was something like that. It was something like a game of telephone, and as it turned out, Snuffkin’s friend of a friend of a friend of a friend was Ayako-san. Do you get it? It’s complicated, huh?
        Well, for example, a friendship tie exists between me and you.
        Rather than calling you directly, I call a friend who lives as close to your town as possible. Since I don’t have any friends in Shimokitazawa, a friend who lives in the suburbs of Tokyo will do. Next, that friend who lives in the suburbs of Tokyo will call his friend who lives in the Setagaya district near Shimokita. Then, that friend in Setagaya will search for a friend in Shimokita and call him. Bit by bit, it’ll get closer to you, right? Next, that friend will try and call a friend who is likely to know you—of course, that will have to be on a guess. That’s how the circle of friendship gradually gets narrower in your direction. That’s how, after a number of people, the call will definitely get through to you. You might not believe me, but this is magic in which it will always lead to that person.
        Likewise, this was how the message from Snuffkin arrived at my doorstep. This was the situation.
        His message went: Yo, are you doing well? See, I told you—it’s a small world, right?
        Don’t you think that’s amazing? It really was as Snuffkin said— the world is connected. Friendships are a pretty grand thing, huh? Do you want to try it out next time?

May 16th. Evening.
Motojirou.

P.S.
        When you think about it, we’re having a letter correspondence between Kanto and Hokkaido, right? I wonder how the letter reaches you? By air? Or maybe by train? In this age of the internet, it’s an old-fashioned and easygoing travel of the heart.

My Beloved Motojirou-sama,
        Your story of Snuffkin was really interesting. I can imagine that there is quite a bit of linkage between friends of friends. When I think it like that, I do feel that the world is one.
        That reminds me, this person who is a friend of a friend is a nurse who has a position as a nurse at a hospital in Shimokitazawa seems to be corresponding with someone in Hakodate. I didn’t ask what kind of letter correspondence it was so I don’t know the details, but I had this feeling as if that person might be you, Motojirou. Hey, Motojirou, you aren’t exchanging letters with anyone other than me, are you? Although it never crossed my mind before, pen friends are something that one could have several of. Could it be that you have a pen friend other than me? If that’s the case, I’m shocked. Would you call that cheating on a pen friend? Oh, but you don’t have to worry about me. I’m not exchanging letters with anyone but you, Motojirou. Well then, I’ll write to you again.

May 19th.
Toono Ririka.

P.S.
        Sometimes as I gaze at the stars twinkling in the sky, I think of you. As long as the stars continue to sparkle in the night sky, I will continue to be grateful to you, Motojirou. It flashes across my mind that the reason why I am able to once again live in health is all thanks to your devoted friendship.
        In some ways, I feel like I’ll be able to get back on my feet soon enough (a good point about me is that I’m quick to get back on my feet).
        The only person in the world who can put forth frank advice to me is you, Motojirou.
        Thank you for always being there for me.

To My Beloved Riri,

        Lately, I’ve been devoting my time to cooking. Not only that, but I’ve opened my eyes to Italian food, and it’s been no joke. I’ve never learned how to cook Italian food though, so if I were to say it properly, I guess you’d call it creative Italian cooking. Since a long time ago, I’ve hated reading manuals and guides, let alone learning something from someone else, so this cooking of mine is completely self-taught, and not a single bit of it has been learned from someone else. I’m better at discovering things than learning things. I guess you could say I’m a genius that way.
        The first ever Italian food that I cooked was a risotto.
        What I did first before I started cooking was to think back to the taste of the risotto that I had tried once before. It’s the same with any kind of cooking, but ahem, a good chef is someone who can imagine in his or her mind the completed dish.
        Well then, here I’ll introduce to you to the recipe for the easy Nagasawa-style Hakodate risotto, okay?
        First, you boil a moderate amount of water in a smallish pot. You then put Western-style powdered soup stock into the boiling water, and a tiny bit of sugar. Then, when the broth is ready, you put in a moderate amount of rice and you let it simmer until the rice soaks in the flavour. It’s best if you prepare the rice to be a bit on the firm side. Next, you put in a dash of white wine, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and you let it simmer once more. When the broth begins to disappear, you sprinkle on a generous amount of powdered cheese. If possible, put in egg yolk and mix it up. There! It’s starting to look more like a risotto. When you get to this point, you quickly mix in thinly sliced pickles. Then, you serve it in a bowl, and for a finishing touch, you sprinkle it with parsley and you’re done! The Nagasawa-style risotto is complete. The tricky part is how you interpret the meaning of a “moderate” amount. The proper amount of “moderate amount” is what decides whether you are a genius or not. Were these instructions clear? Bon appetit! Try it out next time, won’t you?

May 23rd.
Motojirou.

Dear Motojirou,

        I tried out your Nagasawa-style risotto. All flattery aside, it was really good. But it was more like a Western-style rice porridge than a risotto.
        I have a feeling like I’ve gotten a glimpse of your talent at cooking from your comment that I should try imagining the food in its completed state. After I was finished eating it, I thought how it might taste even better if you put plenty of seafood in it. Well, bye. May 27th. I apologize that this is a postcard.

From Ririka.

Hello, Motojirou.

        Are you doing well? Your Nagasawa-style risotto recipe has been a big hit for me personally.
        The other day, I read over your letters again. That advice you gave me in the letter you wrote to me around twenty days ago of how I should “go outside” and “fall in love” has left a deep impression in my heart and refuses to fade.
        I thought you would look down on me for what I did with Kiba-san, but to the contrary, you were really worried for me—thank you for that. Love, huh? I know it’s something important, but…
        It’s true that even when I am having sex with Kiba-san, my heart isn’t moved by it. Your explanation of how it’s not love or affection if my heart isn’t moved was a convincing one. I think you’re absolutely correct.
        But as for the result, I haven’t really been able to follow your advice of not becoming too deeply involved with Kiba-san. I even went to a hotel with him again last night. On the morning of that day, he came to drop off Kazu-kun. He asked me if I was free that night and before I’d realized it, I had nodded my head. Around the time I finished work, he contacted me on my cell phone, and asked me if I could come out to Shibuya. Although your warning kept on flashing through my mind during work, once I heard Kiba-san’s voice, I was a goner. When I thought of how he would gently embrace me like a father would, my body moved on its own.
        Kiba-san might’ve been thinking as he was having sex with me what an easy woman I am. As for me though, while the act was happening, I closed off my heart, and I was just waiting for it to end–for the serenity that was waiting for me afterwards. I was just desperately trying to sniff the scent of the father I had never had.
        My skin was against his skin, and I took in the scent of a man’s chest. I kept on calling out inside my heart so Kiba-san wouldn’t be able to hear: “Father, father.” Every time I called out “father” though, my heart would squeeze painfully, and tears threatened to fall from my eyes. But this wasn’t my heart being moved; it was more like my emotions had gone into overdrive. I think the same thing would’ve happened with anyone—it didn’t have to be with Kiba-san. It was like it didn’t matter as long as there was the broad chest of a man.
        Even as he embraced me, my feet moved on their own and they were kicking in the air for no reason, like an infant’s would. My arm latched onto Kiba-san’s body and refused to let go. It made me want to become more and more dependant on him. It made me want to cling onto him all the more.
        Kiba-san, noticing me like this, asked: “What’s wrong?” and without meaning to, I blurted out: “Daddy, why did you throw me away? Was it because Ririka was a child you didn’t need?”
        I couldn’t even understand what I had just said. Kiba-san looked really surprised too, and he asked me to repeat what I had just said. Immediately after though, he realized the strange state of my emotions and embraced me gently. I curled myself up even closer to his chest, and my legs flapped about gently because they refused to settle down. It was as if I’d reverted back to being a child. It must be because I’m happy— in that moment, I’m happy. Because I’d never known what happiness was like, I couldn’t help but feel happy when he held me like that. I try to tell myself that this isn’t happiness— that it’s like a mirage, but it’s no use.
        I want to go out into town and fall in love. But I’m just not convinced that what I’m searching for can be found in this city. What is it that I’m really searching for? I have a feeling that my relationship with Kiba-san will become even more deeply rooted. Motojirou, what should I do? How can I make true happiness mine?
        At any rate, I have the feeling that if I don’t distance myself from Kiba-san, I’ll end up being dragged into the abyss, like you’ve been so worried about.
        As well, it feels like the more deeply involved I become with Kiba-san, the more aggressive the bullying I am experiencing at the pre-school is becoming. Inohara-sensei seems to have begun to entertain suspicious about me and Kiba-san, and she pointed her finger at me in front of the other teachers at the meeting held after parents’ day and said:
        “You’re flirting with the fathers of the preschool children, aren’t you?”
        When I shot back: “What do you mean by that?” She said that the fathers who come to the pre-school are always staring at me. When I replied: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s not my fault,” one side of her mouth lifted up into a nasty smile, and she said to me: “Maybe you’re subconsciously looking at the fathers of the pre-school children in a manner that could be misunderstood.”
        Because there was that thing with Kiba-san, I didn’t argue back, but the ill-treatment I have been receiving has been escalating lately— like being the only one not invited to karaoke or dinner parties, having odd jobs being shoved towards me, being told that the clothes I wear are too showy, and that my attitude towards the mothers of the pre-school children is too arrogant. When it gets bad, I even get told as they pass by me: “I hate your face,” and I have been living pretty rough days.
        There are times I wonder whether I can continue working here because there is also that issue of Kiba-san. I can’t help but think how relieved I’d feel if I could quit this place. But it’s not like I’d be able to find a job easily, and there are a mountain of various challenging problems.
        To change topics, the other day when I passed by the entrance of the Light of Stars orphanage, I ran into Mihara-sensei by coincidence. Even though this was the orphanage in which I had a difficult time, why is it that whenever I’m lonely, my feet move naturally in its direction? This was supposed to have been the place I happily rushed out of promising myself that I would never go to again, but I’m drawn to it as if it were my home. I guess it can’t be helped since I’d been living there since I became aware of the world around me, and it’s not as if I’d lived anywhere besides this place. Despite it being a place where I endured plenty of abuse, it’s true that I’m curious about what’s happening here. That’s why I think it’s only natural that I take a detour once a week to go and take a look to see how the Light of Stars orphanage is doing.
        As I was peering into the play area, Mihara-sensei came up behind me and greeted me. She was very happy to see me there, but I was troubled by it. I couldn’t help but hate the self that made my feet head to the Light of Stars orphanage. She dragged me into the orphanage in a pushy manner saying I should drop in, and although I resisted, it seems my heart had already accepted her suggestion. She took me to the reception area and served me tea. As luck would have it, the director of the orphanage was away on a business trip so he was absent. Not many of the other teachers were there either, and it made me feel a little more at ease.
        Mihara-san asked me about every last detail of how my life’s been since I’ve left the orphanage, but I never once mentioned my letter correspondence with you, Motojirou. There’s still a part of me that doesn’t trust her, and after I talked to her for about an hour about things like how I was being bullied at the pre-school where I’m working, I got up to leave, but as we were exchanging our parting words, Mihara-sensei started to say: “I tracked down your father’s address, but what would you like to do?”
        At first, I didn’t understand what she was saying. When I realized it was my father she was referring to, my heart began to beat rapidly, and it became hard to breathe.
        She has been working at the orphanage since I was left there, and aside from the director, now, she’s the only one who has memories of that time. And I forgot exactly when, but I had requested to her that if she ever heard anything regarding my father, that I would like to be informed of it. I think it was something I just tacked onto something else I told her back in high school, so I had completely forgotten about it.
        As it turns out, a little while ago—it turned out to be about a week ago, the man who had dropped me off at the Light of Stars orphanage came to pay a visit to Mihara-sensei. He’s the brother-in-law of my father’s, and he was someone who had raised me for a short period of time. He seemed to have come down with a serious illness, and she told me that he was worried that if something were to happen to him, I might never have the chance to see my father. It seems that my father was visited by two misfortunes soon after my birth. One was the bankruptcy of his trading company, and the other that happened during the same time period was the death of his wife, in other words, the mother who gave birth to me. And my father, who had two sources of suffering in the form of debt and the death of his wife, decided to leave me in his brother-in-law’s care and went into hiding in Kyushu. But that brother-in-law who took me in temporarily ran into a difficult situation when he and his wife divorced shortly afterwards, and it became very difficult for him to continue to raise me. And after much thought, he ended up leaving me in the care of the Light of Stars orphanage. At that time, my father was in a situation in which he had finally been able to begin to somehow support himself, but because he was still carrying an enormous amount of debt and he was still living a life in hiding, it wasn’t a situation which allowed him to take me back by any means. Well, I don’t really care about their excuses, but as a result, I ended up at the Light of Stars orphanage.
        But I didn’t know how I should deal with the existence of the father who has suddenly surfaced, you know? He lives in a place called Umegaoka, and apparently runs an antique shop that’s in front of the train station for a town located about two stations from Shimokitazawa. She also mentioned that his house is about a ten minute walk from there. Of course, he’s living with his new family there. It seems like he’s living happily with his new kids—that is, what would otherwise be my little sister or little brother. Mihara-sensei did let me know his address, but she suggested that I should try contacting him first if I want to see him. And that if so, she would act as a mediator, so that I shouldn’t hold back. She also gave me advice saying that it’s better to approach this with caution because the other party has their own circumstances and emotional preparation too.
        But it’s like, really—stuff like circumstances and emotional preparation? I didn’t have any of that. To the contrary, I was thrown away before I’d even realized what was happening. It’s not like I want to see him anyway. Even if I saw him now, I probably wouldn’t even have a solid sense of him being my father.
        I’ve been gazing at the scrap of paper on which the current address of my father was scrawled, and the last couple of nights have been a gloomy one. But it’s probably the case that I won’t go and see him, because that guy’s living happily with his new family, right? Even if I shamelessly went to see him like some old memento of the past and said: “Ah, hello, I’m your daughter,” nothing will come out of it, and I would hate doing something like that.
        Although it pains me to write this letter today, it must be just as hard for you to read this; I’m sorry. But because I am able to jot down my feelings like this, I feel a little better. You really are a support line for me, Motojirou. I want to be scolded by you. I want you to scold the stupid, ugly, boring me. I’m sorry I’m always relying on you like this. I know that you must have problems of your own too.
        The season is changing. Please take care not to catch a cold. I will be waiting for your reply.

June 1st
Toono Ririka.

P.S.
Please tell me about what’s happened with your love since then.

My Beloved Ririka-sama,
        I’m sorry that my reply comes so late. There were quite a few things going on in my life as well, and I couldn’t write a reply to you right away.
        You said you wanted me to scold you, but with regards to Kiba-san, I don’t think I can criticize you about that. No matter how much I try to compensate for the essential problem that you have with words, I think that would be the equivalent of throwing water on heated stone, and I don’t think it would be of much use to you. Not only that, but you understand the foolishness of your actions, so I don’t think it would be very effective if I try to comfort you with half-hearted words. Perhaps you are telling me all this about you and Kiba-san only because you want me to scold you?
        I can understand about just wanting to be scolded. At times, I think that’s important. But just because you’re scolded doesn’t mean it will cast a light on the darkness of your loneliness that you carry within you. There probably isn’t any other way but for you to figure out on your own a way out of the pit of your suffering.
        I don’t want to say “do your best.” If you’re hoping for such words of encouragement, I think it will serve a complete opposite effect for the current you. In this world overflowing with songs encouraging people to “do your best! Do your best!,” no one can receive power from such words anymore. What I want to say is: you don’t have to try your best.
        That’s right. To the current you, the words I want to send to you are that you don’t need to try your hardest. I can’t help but feel that you’re veering off into a different path or world. If you can think that you DON’T have to try your hardest, it puts your mind at ease, doesn’t it? In truth, humans have no need to try their hardest. When you think of it that way, strange as it may be, it actually gives one power. I think those who are unsuccessful in life are those who put too much pressure on themselves. You don’t always have to try your hardest– you can just move ahead at your own pace.
        Why don’t I talk to you a bit about the art that is displayed at the hospital? You know how lately I’ve been accompanying my mother to the hospital, right? So this is something I heard from the doctor. It seems that in the hospital rooms, they must not put light-hearted, frivolous art at all costs. Apparently, cheerful and salubrious art has the opposite effect to what one would expect. He said that the art has to be something that can make the patient think that there’s something beyond the color and style; art that would give the patient some food for thought. He explained that if it’s not art that has a message embedded inside it that makes the patient think, it doesn’t kick start the patient’s effort to live. That makes sense, don’t you think?
        The vital force works in mysterious ways, don’t you think? I think that if it’s art that throws something at the patient, he or she gets their mind going to try to find something like a hint to live or the thread of hope, and they try to look forward.
        That’s why the last thing I want to tell you is to try your best.

        On my side, something serious has happened, and this situation in which I’ve yet to be able to fully come to terms with everything has continued.
        This is something that happened about ten days ago, but I went out on my first date with that woman I told you about whom I met at the hospital. We went together to a restaurant that’s right near the Hakodate harbour and we ate dinner. And while were at the café, the second place that we went to, I asked her if she would be willing to become friends with me. This was my first time making a love confession to anyone, and it was a big gamble on my part because I was so nervous that if this was unsuccessful, I seriously doubted whether I’d be able to fall in love with anyone ever again. As for the result, that request ended with her rejecting it all too soon.
        And although this was unlike me, I persisted and I kept asking her why I wasn’t good enough, because if she wouldn’t even become my friend, it means that it would be all the more difficult if it was the case of love, right? At any rate, I wanted to know why she refused, since she did agree to go on a date with me after all. I thought that she couldn’t become friends with me because there was something wrong with me. That’s when she told me that she was battling an illness, and that that illness was one that was difficult to recover from. As it turned out, she didn’t want me to have to suffer in the end if we did become friends and become close and even progress to love.
        It’s hard to describe…but I felt as if I was being placed on a scale. Although I didn’t understand right away what kind of stage she was referring to when she said “in the end,” it gave me an awful feeling.
        Part of the reason why my reply comes so late is because I was afflicted by worries due to that, and this is because several days later, I was told by her the official name of the disease. It turned out to be a disease called Lou Gehrig’s disease.
        I didn’t know much about it so I did some research, and it’s a frightening disease. It’s one where the person’s muscles gradually weaken to the point that they become unable to move. It seems that although the person can lead a normal life for a short while after diagnosis, gradually they become less and less able to move, and hospitalization becomes unavoidable. Before long, the person’s legs and hands stop doing as they tell it, and they even lose their ability to speak. They even come to a state where an incision needs to be made in their throats just so that they can breathe, and in the end, the only thing left to do is wait for death. It is a disease without a cure, and apparently it is a intractable disease that no one knows the cause for.
        It was like some story out of a movie or TV world, and I felt as if I had been bewitched by a fox, but as I gradually came to a realization that this was reality, my heart was engulfed in darkness as if this were me this was happening to. The truth of the matter is, the problem that she carries with her is close to despair– no, it goes beyond despair to resignation itself.
        I wracked my brain about it. In any event, I just wracked my brain about it. Every night, I couldn’t sleep, and I even ended up taking two to three days off from work. But now, I have been able to somehow get back on my feet again, and I have even been able to write a letter to you like this.
        You’re interested in my decision, right? After I had thought about it for several nights without sleeping and had thought it through and had confirmed that these feelings weren’t simply pity, I once again placed a request to her to begin a relationship. This time, it wasn’t a request for friendship but rather, a full-fledged relationship.
        As expected, I didn’t get a reply right away. During that time, I put in numerous phone calls, and I kept conveying to her that there was no lie to my feelings. This isn’t volunteering, it’s love; that’s what I told her. Then, one day, I received a call from her saying: “I look forward to it.”
        The survival rate of people inflicted with her disease is extremely low. Many pass away within three years of diagnosis. In her case, since one year has already passed since her diagnosis, it may be that we won’t be able to have much time to spend together. Not only that, but in the latter half, she’ll become weakened and it will be a heartrending sight, and when an incision is made to her throat, she won’t even be able to speak anymore. Although falling for someone like that is much too sorrowful of a start, when I actually began to start dating her, I felt dizzy at the sheer height of the wall of reality. It made me wonder if what I was doing was only hypocrisy on my part, and there are many times that I felt pain.
        Last night, I kissed her for the first time. But— I wonder if we’ll ever get any further than that. Right now, I can’t imagine anything. I’m scared to. Everyday passes in pain. At any rate, we just take it one day at a time, and currently I am just in a state in which I am praying to God to let me see her again tomorrow. The reason why I’m saying this is because this disease has cases where the heart just suddenly stops beating.
        It feels like everything has just all come suddenly at me at once. I still don’t know yet what it is that I should do. Everything rushes towards me, and it’s unbelievable that me being immersed in despair as I am today didn’t take even two weeks to achieve. The me from two weeks ago who was cheering you up does not, unfortunately, exist any longer.
        But the one saving grace in all of this is that she is upbeat. She’s been blessed with being born with a cheerful personality. Although she knows that her own future is extremely limited, she doesn’t try to take it out on those around her. She has an attitude like that of a trainee monk, and she has come to accept her condition.
        Her name is Kunitani Fukino. I usually call her Fuki-chan. Right now, my mind is filled with thoughts of how I can make her last moments a happy one. I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to successfully cheer you up. I think that no matter what, we can’t throw our lives away. I think that we still have to go on living as best as we can for some time yet.

June 20th.
Motojirou.

P.S.
        Do you have no intention of seeing your father? I think that it might not be so bad for you to try meeting him. I can’t forcibly recommend it to you, but if the parents who abandoned me suddenly showed up, I would probably see them and talk to them, because otherwise, I don’t think I would be able to understand their true feelings. They might have had a reason that made such a decision unavoidable, after all. If you ask, then they might say something that might make you understand. People often say that you won’t understand the feelings of a parent unless you become one, and although for people like us who have been abandoned, there might be times that such words anger us, but lately, I’ve been thinking that they do have a point.
        If you can understand the circumstances that didn’t allow them to raise you, I think this will lead to you being able to forgive them. It’s easy to hate, but difficult to understand. There’s no way the person who gave birth to you would forget about you. I think they probably did have their reasons for doing what they did. There’s no need for you to come to a decision right here, right now, but if you have the chance, I don’t think it would hurt you to try seeing him.

Hello Motojirou,

        After reading the letter I received from you, I finally realized my own foolishness. I was even jealous of this person named Kunitani Fukino who is battling a serious illness, after all. Because you had become the lone source of emotional support on this Earth by the time I had realized it, I had become incomprehensibly jealous at the thought of you tending to Fukino-san day and night, Moto. Although we’re supposed to be true pen friends who made a promise never to meet, it felt as if I was watching a lover walk away— as if you were leaving me for someone else. I was even jealous of someone who is suffering from being face-to-face with death. Just imagining you taking kind care of her makes my heart contract with pain.
        Does this mean that I had become that dependant of my letter correspondence with you?
        But somehow, I was able to realize my own foolishness. I’ve been able to recover to the point that I am now able to accept that you have a girlfriend. I have finally come to the point in which I can feel happy for you. Oh, what a strange story. Jealousy really is an ugly thing. The part of me that felt jealousy towards a sick person who has an incurable illness…when it comes to extremes like this, it really can be a frightening thing.
        This is why during this rainy season, I have been spending my days being gently rained upon. But it’s not as if I could continue living my life drenched for the rest of my life, so I was able to realize that to get rid of this murky feeling in my heart, the only thing to do was change my lifestyle. That’s when I finally came to a decision that I would break off my relationship with Kiba-san, which was threatening to drag on and on.
        But the moment I told him that I wanted to break things off between him, his behaviour changed drastically. I told him of my intentions the end of last week, but from the very next day, I began receiving strange phone calls, and I kept my cell phone turned off on purpose because of it. But next, he began to lie in wait for me in places like the return route from the pre-school, and what really surprised me was when he was waiting for me in front of my house despite the sky still being light. I asked him “what about work?” but he yelled at me saying that didn’t matter. The look in his eyes was different—it wasn’t normal. He’s usually a mild-mannered person, but that time, he was someone who fit the expression of a “drastic change in character,” and I was scared.
        Kiba-san raised his voice and yelled: “Can’t you see— I love you!”
        I didn’t want though for us to just continue dragging this sexual relationship on, and I answered back that I wanted to have some space and time to think. That’s when he snapped and started screaming that he didn’t care if he had to throw away his family. I didn’t think he was someone like that—I thought he was much more mature and reasonable than that. I was somehow able to shake him off and return home, but he went so far as to go up to my apartment and continued banging on my door.
        I have a feeling that this isn’t the end of it; I’m scared. As I felt the vibrations of his banging against my back inside my apartment, I held my head in my hands as I wondered what he meant when he said he didn’t care if he had to abandon his family. At night, my head was filled with thoughts like that and I couldn’t sleep. What did he mean when he said he didn’t care if he had to throw away his family?
        I didn’t start a relationship with him because I wanted to destroy that person’s family. All I wanted was warmth. I was never looking for anything more than that; I thought he knew that too. It was unexpected that he turned out to be much more childish than I ever thought. Just as you warned me, this has turned out to be quite a mess. I don’t know what I should even do. This must all be punishment for the sin that I engaged in. That’s right, this is divine punishment.
        This world is so unfair. All I, who has no parents, wanted to do was to take a whiff of the scent of a parent for a bit, but because it was someone else’s, I have to suffer divine punishment. I might have been wrong for doing what I did, but he’s in the wrong too for coming on to me. And even his wife— there must’ve been a problem with her too for her husband to harbour feelings like that, right? I can’t think I’m the only one in the wrong here, so why is it that I’m the only one who’s been given divine punishment? I think God is an unfair existence.
        The words that there is no God or Buddha are to words of encouragement to me. However, I don’t want to become someone who relies on something like words of encouragement to live. I can live without God or Buddha. I’m not afraid of divine punishment. I also have the right to experience warmth. As long as I am alive, I have the right to take a whiff of happiness. I’m not scared of anything— even if I were to fall down to Hell, I’d be fine with that.
        Yesterday on a Friday, after I had dinner with Mimei after finishing work, I went along with your recommendation (I’m sorry to put the blame on you) with a bit of alcohol to lend me some strength, and I secretly went to observe a certain person’s (I don’t want to call him my father) house in Umekaoka. That person was living with his family in a quiet residential area a seven or eight minute walk from Hanegi Park. And you know what I found? I almost felt disappointed at the cute house, and my initial reaction was surprise at the appearance of the house. The house itself wasn’t very big, but it was made of brick, and I’m guessing it even has a fireplace because there was smoke rising from the chimney, and there was even a yard with an adorable dog house.
        When I looked over the fence, there was light coming out of the living room, and I could see the shadows of people. I could tell that this was what you’d call the “happy family circle,” but because the thin curtains were in the way, I couldn’t make out the fine features of each of their faces. My heart was beating a mile a minute, and it was thudding so hard that I was afraid that my arteries might burst. I was nervous. After a while, someone— it was a young boy who looked like he was still in school, came to pull back the curtains and opened the window. That’s when I was able to see all of the family members’ faces clearly. The dog howled and the young boy was trying to give the dog some food. Immediately after, a girl who looked like she was in high school who was probably that boy’s older sister appeared, and she started saying: “Dad, Kuro seems to want to go out for a walk.” The word “Dad” made my heart almost stop. That’s when a man with a dark-complexioned face with a large build appeared from inside the house, and beside him was a woman who looked like his wife, and they were gazing lovingly at the two children. The man had a rounded form and a serene smile on his face. That’s when I thought: so this is the parent who abandoned me— this is what he looks like. It was as if my eyes had been hammered onto him, because I couldn’t take my eyes off of his face. He had none of the stiff, uncomfortable atmosphere that I imagined he’d have. There were even kind laugh lines at the corners of his eyes. His gentle smile gave off not a trace of hardship, and he seemed so happy-go-lucky…
        “Is that right? Well then, what do you say we go for a walk around the block?”
        He said this with a kind smile on his face. I think during this whole time, my heart must have stopped. I couldn’t blink or breathe. My blood wasn’t even flowing. Although I was alive, it was as if I had become stiff, like a sculpture. How could he look like that? How can he have such a kind expression on his face?
        In the next instant, the blood in my veins began to boil. Fierce rage ripped through my insides. It was fury like I’d never felt before. It was the anger that I had bottled deep inside of myself without having anything to direct it at. And in that moment, that anger boiled over and it was spilling over from the pores of my skin throughout my entire body.
        When that person came out with a dog in tow, my anger had yet to settle, and I couldn’t make myself move away from the fence. I don’t know what I was intending on doing— I should’ve been able to go straight up to him and take a swing at his face, but I couldn’t even do that.
        The young boy and girl who came out of the gate being pulled by the dog were the first to notice me, and next that person came out and he became suspicious of me, who was standing still in the darkness like I was, and he asked me: “Can I help you?” After I got a good look at his face, I told him that I wanted to go to Umekaoka station, but I had lost my way and wasn’t sure of which way to go. That was the best I could do. That’s when that person started saying that if that’s the case, we should all go together part way, and the young boy and girl said sincerely– and they really were sincere, that they would show me the way.
        If those two are the kids of that person, that would make them my younger sister and brother, right? The whole time I was being guided to the station, I was holding back an urge to vomit. Watching the happy family from behind, I couldn’t help but feel miserable. Why is it that they’re the only ones who are happy? I wondered why I was the only one who had to feel this miserable. If this was God’s doing, then what is it that I should believe in and cling to in life?
        I was so angry…so, so angry that I could barely see anything in front of me.
        I parted from the family in the middle of Hanegi Park, and as I walked down the path to the station, time and time again, I had to keep wiping away the tears that kept falling without stopping. My small lungs were doing their best to try to breathe as I sobbed. When I looked back, there were the happy figures of the family who were playing with their dog on a small hill in the park. I could only curse the absurdity of being unable to join them.
        Motojirou, you…only you can understand my feelings, right? You, who has grown up in similar circumstances, must understand my pain, can’t you? In that moment, I thought I could never forgive happiness. I could never forgive anything that had happiness labelled on it. I was never happy— not once. I couldn’t help but feel hatred for their happiness.
        How is he able to smile like that?

June 20th.
Ririka.

P.S.
        About the love between you and Fukino-san– although I don’t know a good way to put it, I pray that your love is a wonderful one that won’t lose to something like time and I pray that your strong feelings will come together, and you will be able to spend a time period of happiness which neither of you will forget for eternity.
        Today, Kazu-kun was absent without notice. It worries me a bit. I have a bad feeling about this. I just hope it turns out to be nothing.

Dispensing with the preliminaries—

        We have entered July and the summer days have continued. Are you doing well? I’m a bit worried because you haven’t written a reply. I have lived my days in doubt as to whether I have put you in a state of confusion because I wrote too much of the truth, onii-chan. Or did something happen to Fuki-chan that would cause you to suffer? I’m worried because usually, you write me a reply right away.
        I can’t help but worry that I might’ve inadvertently said something terrible to you in my last letter. No, I know did. I’m having second thoughts about opening up to you too much about my crazy relationship with Kiba-san, and other things that would appal you. Even if we have a friendship in which we speak only in truths, I should’ve realized that there is a limit to such things. I overstepped my bounds—I really was foolish to do that. I’m sorry.
        I also wonder if my jealousy of Fuki-chan is also part of the reason why you haven’t written to me. Everything worries me and I can’t sleep. It doesn’t matter the contents of the letter—please, just write me a reply. It doesn’t matter if it’s only to say you want to end this letter correspondence. That is because I think it cannot be helped if you feel that way. It is all because of my problem of living such a warped life. It’s my fault for depending on you too much. But if I don’t continue to hear from you, that’ll be too much for me. Please. Write me a reply.

July 8th.
Riri.

P.S.
        Kazu-kun has been continuing to be absent from pre-school. Kiba-san has continued his stalking behavior. Yesterday, I was called down to the director’s office, and I was informed that he had received a call of complaint from Kiba-san’s wife. Apparently, Kiba-san called out my name in his sleep. That led to a marital quarrel and Kiba-san smacked his wife and she took Kazu-kun back to her parent’s home in Fukuoka. When I found out I was to blame for Kazu-kun’s absence, my days have become increasingly unbearable. I only want for Kiba-san to go back to his family, but he comes once a day to tell me that he wants to marry me.
        I want help.

Hello, Moto.
        Tokyo has been hit by a heat wave. Still, the pre-school continues to operate. Although I do have a short holiday during the Bon holidays, unlike kindergarten, the pre-school follows the same schedule as companies, since it’s the job of the pre-school to take care of the children while their parents are off working.
        Today, it felt really good to water the garden. The water that spurted out from the hose made a beautiful rainbow. The children noticed this, and they were squealing in excitement. During the summer, mornings feel wonderful.
        Kazu-kun still hasn’t come to school. Every time I see his empty shoe box, my heart squeezes in pain and I have also begun to realize the graveness of the sin I have committed. I have begun to think that perhaps there is no other choice but for me to quit in order for Kazu-kun to be able to come back to Tokyo.

(This next bit was written the next day. I couldn’t write the whole letter in one swoop, so there is a gap of one night.)

        Today, I was called down to the director’s office again. The ogre Inohara-sensei was standing imposingly next to the director, and sitting across from her was Kazu-kun’s mother– in other words, Kiba-san’s wife. I felt my body temperature dropping at least three degrees. From there, the time of suffering flowed, and I was attacked by Inohara-sensei about various things. Although I kept insisting that I didn’t know what they were talking about, it was hard to watch Kiba-san’s wife cry.
        Then, that very night, I called Kiba-san out to the nearby temple grounds, and I told him of how I was prepared to resign from my position at the pre-school. But he was in a hysteric state as always, and he kept telling me that he needed me and that it couldn’t be anyone else. He told me that we should move together to another town and work together to start from scratch. It was a painful exchange, but I needed to take responsibility for my actions. I think that maybe I don’t have any other choice but to quit.
        Although a little over a month has passed since you last wrote me a reply, are you doing well? Even if you don’t write me replies, would it be all right if I still continue to write you letters for a while? Even if I can’t receive a reply from you, Moto, being able to open up about my feelings to someone like this lessens the burden on my shoulders. I’m sorry for being so selfish.
        Please do your best without losing to the summer heat. I am trying to think that perhaps you haven’t been able to write to me because you’ve been so busy with your ropeway work what with it being the height of summer and all. Well then, good bye.

July 18th.
Toono Ririka.

TO BE CONTINUED…
[UP NEXT: Chapter 4 – pg 129-180]

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