When I realized that I wanted to see Shougo, I couldn’t help but be surprised; I was so surprised that I was quick to make up an excuse for why I felt this way.
I told myself that who I wanted to see wasn’t Shougo– it didn’t matter who it was. It could just as easily have been Muda or some guy I had spent one night with in the past… no, it didn’t matter if I had had sex with that person or not. I had a few guy friends who would happily spend time with me and who would stay with me for as long as I wanted them by my side so I couldn’t care less who that other person was.
I didn’t know one woman I could call a friend. As a result, whenever I wanted to see someone, the only names that would pop into my mind would be of guys. From the ones who would come to mind, I only had to choose one that I felt would be fitting for the mood I was in at that time— that’s all there was to it.
Today just happened to be Tuesday. I knew that Shougo didn’t have to work the next night at his part time job. If that’s the case, then why not? It shouldn’t be strange to ask to meet up with him. It wasn’t that I especially wanted to see “him” in particular, he’s just “the person I chose to waste time with, who out of sheer coincidence ended up being Shougo.” That’s right…
When I thought of it that way, all the haziness in my mind cleared, and I felt a sense of calmness wash over me. Just one among ten guy friends I knew… that person just happened to be my biological brother. There’s no need to be so conscious of the situation— after all, there are more women out there than there are stars in the sky in this world who waste time hanging out with their brother.
With that, I picked up my cell without hesitation and called Shougo. It was just after 2pm.
Perhaps he was at university? Or perhaps he had skipped the seminar to go have coffee with his girlfriend? I didn’t know much about how he spent his days outside of his part time job. It had been so long since I graduated from university that now, I couldn’t even recall if university was out for winter break already by this time in December.
Well, why should any of that matter? I told myself, since it was only a casual call to ask to meet up. If his answering message turned on, I wouldn’t even bother leaving a message; I would just move on to call the next guy. It’s as simple as that.
However, the moment Shougo answered with a “hello” before the end of the second ring, I was momentarily frozen in panic. I didn’t know why I felt this way. The only thing that I did know, was how foolish that feeling was.
“Hey,” I said nonchalantly. “It’s me. Do you know who this is?”
“Of course. I’ve got your number registered so I knew before I even answered your call. I’m surprised though– well, how can I put it? I’m happy you called.”
I forewent any greetings. I didn’t even ask him if he had time to be having a conversation with me. By the time I realized it, I had reverted back to the dry manner I usually talked in. “Hey, are you free tomorrow night?”
“Let’s see… tomorrow’s Wednesday, right? Yes. I don’t have my part time job so I’m free.”
“Don’t you have a hot date?”
“Ha, that’s a joke if I ever heard one. What is it– were you thinking of asking me somewhere?”
“I just thought you might want to have dinner with me.”
“Sounds great. I’d love to.”
“What do you want to eat?”
“Hmm… If it’s something you recommend, then anything’s fine. While we’re at it, why not go somewhere a bit far away?”
“What do you mean?”
Shougo said in a cheerful, youthful voice like that of a young boy: “To be honest… right now, I’m borrowing a car from the owner of the place where I’m working part time. Well…I guess ‘borrow’ would be the wrong way to put it. You see, the owner had his car exterior scratched when he left his car in the parking lot in front of his apartment the other day. I heard from him that stuff like that’s been happening near his apartment a lot, but he never did find out who did it. That’s why he took it to the car shop to get it fixed, but he didn’t have time go pick it up, so I went there to get it for him…”
“…and you’re suggesting we go somewhere in that car?”
“Well, that about sums it up.”
“That’s someone else’s car though, right? It wouldn’t be right to go riding around in it.”
“If I asked him, he’d let me borrow it for a day or two. That’s just the kind of guy he is. He’s rich, so he has two other cars in addition to this one, and he wouldn’t be inconvenienced by this at all. So what do you say? And since we’re talking about this already, why not meet tonight instead of tomorrow?”
I laughed, “What are you saying? You have to work tonight, don’t you?”
“I’ll take the day off. I told you before, didn’t I? I can change my schedule around if need be.”
I felt a feeling of warmth rush over me, and I didn’t know why it felt so comfortable speaking to him. The child-like enthusiasm he showed from time to time reminded me of a far off memory I had of the playful banter I had with my father.
My father was always busy, but whenever I told him that I wanted to have dinner with him somewhere, he would make time for me without exception. When I hesitated, he would boast that he would always cancel any important meetings or appointments if it was what I wanted. Even when it was a matter that he couldn’t get out of, he would make sure to make time for me, if only for a few minutes.
I never thought it was a given that he did what he did because he was my father. And his actions were a bit different from the excessive love lavished on his only daughter because she had lost her mother at a young age. There was always a part of him that treated me as he would a young lover that he was obsessed with.
Maybe it was because of that, that despite being biological father and daughter, he was always someone whose presence was concealed in a strange, distant, thin veil. It never felt like I was depending on him as a daughter would, and that he was doting on me as he would a daughter. For me, he was a man despite being my biological father. He wasn’t a lover, a friend, or a father. I saw him as a man, and in his way, he also saw me as a woman.
From an outsider, our relationship might’ve been seen as something unpleasant and unnatural. But to me, I relished the relationship we had until the very end.
“Hello? Are you there?” Shougo asked. “Huh, maybe the connection went dead.”
“No, I’m here. I’m listening. Sure, I don’t mind meeting tonight– if it’s all right with you, that is.”
“Of course it’s okay with me. Well then, I’ll go pick you up in his car, okay? It’s a pretty nice car, I have to admit. It’s a car fit to take you on a drive. Is it okay if I come to pick you up at six? Or would seven work better? Or maybe even later?”
I had already told him of my address before. Since my place was located on the corner of Shirokanedai that was easy to spot, I didn’t have to worry about him getting lost.
I told him six o’clock would be fine. I also added that when he reached the front of my apartment he should call me on my cell, and with that I ended our call.
The cold December rain that had begun to fall just past noon didn’t look as if it would let up any time soon. It looked awfully cold outside, but I figured a drive on a day like today wouldn’t be so bad.
I wondered what I should wear. I also wondered where we should go. It might even be nice to try heading to Yokohama for the first time in a while. The lights of the high rise buildings illuminated in the darkness is beautiful. Even if it was raining outside, the lights would be slightly blurred, and they might look even more beautiful.
It was rare to feel so upbeat, but I just wrote it off as being a feeling of satisfaction that came from things going well that day. I just happened to have free time that day, and it just so happened that I found a guy friend who had time to waste that day too and we decided to go on a drive to Yokohama…that’s all there was to it.
I called Muda and told him that something urgent had come up so that I wouldn’t be able to come to work that day. He responded, “is that right?” and said in a slightly annoyed voice: “It does get pretty busy here on rainy days…” But since I had told him it was something urgent, he didn’t press the issue.
It was always like this. He was just that kind of person. It didn’t matter how the checker piece called lust was moved on the board… to him, I was always the Queen, and he the King. Even if the Queen happened to move towards another piece from time to time, or parted from him or, a stroke of bad luck would fall upon him and she would be stolen from him, when it came right down to it, whenever the game would start again he would just be back to square one. As long as he kept playing the game, the Queen and King could always be aligned.
Just after six, my cell phone rang. Shougo said he’d already arrived in front of my apartment.
“Okay, I’ll be right down.”
I said before I slipped on my light brown leather blouson and wrapped a white scarf hastily around my neck. Night had already fallen outside. I turned off the light in my room and as I rushed towards the door, swinging a bag over my shoulder, I wondered for a brief moment whether a day would come when I would ask him to come up to my room; it wouldn’t be strange to ask him to visit. He was someone who I had no need to feel particularly conscious around– at the very least as long as he was my younger brother.
I thought that perhaps a day would come when we would be sharing ready-prepared dishes and be drinking beer here. I didn’t know why I would be thinking that, and I didn’t know why I felt it would be sweet to think that way.
In front of the entrance of the apartment building, a lone car was waiting with the engine still running. It may have been because the temperature outside was dropping, but I could see white exhaust fumes disappearing into the rainy sky. The car was a stunning red Jaguar. It had the recognizable Flagship Saloon, and it gave off a distinct air of a British car.
Shougo seemed to have realized me coming out of the building, because he stepped out of the car, and opened the passenger door while holding an umbrella. I jokingly whistled.
“I’m impressed. To think you’d drive here in a Jaguar… and not only that, but that you’d hold open the door for me!”
“If it’s what the princess wishes, I’ll borrow any car— be it a Benz or a Porsche. What kind of car would you like to pick you up next?”
“Let’s see… How about an Astin Martin? That would be nice.”
It was his turn to whistle, “I’m not sure I’ve heard that name before, but your wish is my command. I’ll make it happen.”
We turned to each other in the rain and laughed.
I learned back into the white sand-coloured leather seat and clicked the seat belt on.
“Where shall we go?” I asked.
“Wherever you’d like.”
“Then let’s go to Yokohama. Is that okay?”
He replied, “Of course,” and put the car into gear. The rain had started to fall harder, and the city lights outside looked blurred through the front glass.
A beautiful modern melody consisting of an electric guitar, drums and keyboard was playing inside the car.
“What song is this?”
When I asked this, Shougo explained that it was written by a modern English artist for a famous Japanese guitarist.
“It’s titled ‘Guitar Concerto.’ Have you heard of it?”
“No, but it’s pretty nice. It’s kind of fitting to listen to something like this on a rainy night inside a car. Is this kind of music to your tastes? Or is it a CD you found in the car?”
“The owner of this car probably doesn’t listen to stuff like this. It was something I chose and brought with me.”
“What kind of music does he listen to?”
“Classical opera like ‘Aida’ or ‘Tsubaki-hime.’ He likes to crank up the volume and speed down the Toumei highway in the dead of the night.”
“I kind of understand why though. I like that he chooses opera and not jazz or enka. You mentioned earlier that he has other cars– what kind are they?”
“He has a Porsche. A bright red one. Oh, and a white Benz.”
“Huh. Hey, can you take me to the bar you work at next time? I’d like to see him for myself.”
“He’s just some balding old man.”
My shoulders shook as I laughed. I turned my head slightly to study his side profile.
He had clean-cut features. His eyelashes were long, and his eyebrows were gently arched like that of a girl’s. His lips, which had a hint of a smile, were beautiful in shape. He was dressed casually in a thick red checkered print work and jeans. It made him look all the more young and pure.
He was smooth in the way he handled the car. The long tapered fingers of his hand rested against the steering wheel. I didn’t know whether it was because they were thin, but they gave off a feeling of inner strength, and from time to time, a blue vein would appear on the back of his hand.
I turned my head back to face the front. I thought: he’s my brother. It made me realize once again that he was indeed my brother. The expression for a brief moment, his gaze, even down to his hands… they were so like my father’s that it was uncanny.
Back when I was still a child, there were times when I would sit in the passenger seat and gaze at my father operating the steering wheel like this. He handled it skilfully and gently like he would a fragile object. He caressed the steering wheel– touching it before releasing, touching it before releasing. Maybe it was because of this, but all the car movements were amazingly smooth, and it was as if his hand and wheel had melted to become one.
Back then, I didn’t know the sensuality of that movement. There’s no way I could have known. But I just knew that the scene of my father driving a car was still burned in my memory without having faded over time.
And now, Shougo was driving in a similar way. Above all else though, his hands reminded me of my father’s. The rain drops pelting down on the glass reflected a pattern on his hands. They reminded me of the kind of pattern made from sunshine filtering through tree branches on a clear day.
My father would often hold my cheeks with both hands and gently lift me up as he talked to me. He would say: “Mio, you’re my treasure. You know that, don’t you? Even if Earth were to end today, as long as you were still alive, I wouldn’t care. I don’t need anyone or anything but you…”
He would then lean down to kiss me on the cheek, and the slightly wet feeling of his gentle kiss would remain. He would then leave— where, I didn’t know. He would leave to go meet a woman I didn’t know.
There were numerous times I wanted to call out to his back, “Daddy!” But I was too embarrassed to do so, and there was no need for me to.
I always believed that he would come back. He would come back, and he would hold me in his arms again and rest a kiss on my cheek like he always did.
And in reality, he always did return. When he came back, he would repeat my name in a whisper, and he would come close to my bedside as I slept, and gently patted my head.
In my dreams, I could feel the gentle movement of his fingers through my hair. I could also smell the faint scent of cigarettes. His fingers were strong yet gentle.
He would then say “Good night,” and place a kiss on my cheek, my nose, and then on my other cheek. There were times when I could see the silhouette of another person behind him.
It was Misaki’s thin silhouette… she had always had a short hair cut; the hairstyle that framed her face suited her well. Her small silhouette would be illuminated in the light, and my father’s shadow overlapped it.
The door would then close with a click. The room would once again be enveloped in darkness. I would hear the slight rustling of clothes, along with voices talking in a low volume. The faint chuckling would then fade from the door.
And with that, a strange calmness would come over me, and I would breathe in gently before falling back into a deep sleep…
Shougo’s voice brought me back to reality. “Ah,” I said. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“Is it okay if I take the Wangan line? If we do, we’ll be able to pass through Rainbow Bridge and Yokohama Bay Bridge. It’s still raining outside, but they’ll probably be beautiful.”
“That sounds wonderful,” I replied. “You sure do know how to navigate the roads, huh? I bet that you’ve probably taken this course a bunch of times during dates.”
“I’ve never done something like that.”
“Well what’s wrong with having done so? It’s not like it’s a crime to, so why are you hiding it?”
“I’m not hiding anything, I swear.”
I realized that I was just about to joke, “Come on, you can tell your sister.” I hastily swallowed back the words.
I had a feeling that there was a long journey to take before I could use a word like “sister” in a light hearted manner. I didn’t really know how long that journey was exactly, but I felt that there would come a day when we would reach that point where we would shyly recognize each other as “sister” and “brother” and our relationship would come to a point where we would even start having fights. I was surprised by the feeling of happiness that came over me at that thought.
But for today, we were still strangers. For today, this young man with the hands that reminded me of my father who drove a beautifully polished car was, for me, someone who lived in a distant, mysterious world.
Tonight was a rainy night at the end of the year, but the roads were surprisingly empty. Even when we had gotten on the express highway Wangan line, the car was able to maintain its smooth, fast speed.
The winter rain melded together with the numerous lights and the lights glittered near and far. It felt as if the car was a boat that was making its way across the calm sea. I surrendered myself to the boat that quietly cruised through the waters. I didn’t know where the destination lay, but it felt as if we were just smoothly making our way through the waves.
“It’s as if we’re at sea,” I said. “It’s like we’re on water.”
“You’re right,” he agreed. “That’s a perfect way to put it. I better be careful driving though to make sure we really don’t fall into the ocean.”
“Well, would that be so bad? If the car just sinks in the water, it might even feel nice.”
“You’re right,” he said. “There are times I think that death by drowning might not be so bad.”
The conversation had taken such an unexpected turn that I couldn’t help but turn my head in his direction. He had a smile on his face.
“Someone once told me that as the dead person sinks into the sea, it sways in an upright position. Did you know that?”
“I have a friend who scuba dives, and he said that he’s been asked a few times to help search for a body in the sea, and that’s one of the things he told me. He said that most times when they’ve found a body, it’s usually in an upright position; he said there’s been times when he thought it was just another diver beside him. He said they’re usually swaying upright like they’re still alive.”
“But they obviously don’t have oxygen masks on, right?”
“That’s true. He also told me of one time when he discovered a couple. It was a middle aged woman and man. I don’t know if they were a married couple or if they were lovers, but well, long story short, it was a double suicide. He said the two were holding hands and standing upright, swaying in the waters.”
“Even though they were dead?”
“I’m not sure if they really were holding hands…it may have been just something he made up. But I’m pretty sure what he said about them being upright when they were found is the truth… When he told that story, there were girls there too. Everyone was squealing and saying how creepy that was, but I didn’t really feel that way. Don’t you think there’s something nice about the two being at the bottom of the blue ocean swaying upright in the water? After all, they wanted to die together– that was their wish.”
“It would probably be beautiful if a ray of light shined in that spot. I can kind of understand where you’re coming from.”
“It might just be though that they didn’t want anyone to ever discover them. Perhaps they wanted to remain there, swaying, being picked over my fish, gradually getting thinner and thinner until their bones melted and they become flat like seaweed…”
“…and they end up disappearing like seaweed in the ocean?”
He gave a light chuckle and threw a quick glance my way. Our eyes met.
“I’m happy we got together today,” he said. “I wanted to talk to you about many things… but there might not be enough time.”
“Well, we were apart for twenty four years, after all,” I said before breaking the contact and casting my eyes down. “It’ll probably take a long, long time before we finish saying all the things we want to say.”
“There’s no need to rush.”
Those words to him were something I said to him just as much for myself.
We arrived at the Yokohama Bay Area. By the time we had parked the car in the parking lot of Royal Park Hotel and had gotten in the elevator, the clock had already passed 7:30.
I had been to the restaurant that was on the top floor with Misao once before. It was a summer afternoon on a particularly clear day. Perhaps it was because it was on a weekday, but the open hall of the restaurant had very few customers, and we had been able to relax and spend as much time as we wanted there.
The magnificent view of the city that we looked down at from the top floor left us speechless. When we had regained our voices, we had exchanged questions back and forth in a childish manner asking questions like “Where’s that? Where’s Tokyo? Which highway is that…”
Time passed by without us realizing it. The buffet-style lunch we had by our window side seat was delicious, and the selection was numerous. Misao and I had been able to have a girls chat as we enjoyed lunch.
We had both promised that next time we would definitely come at night. That time, we would also reserve a room and spend one night living it up in luxury… that had been the promise, but shortly after wards, Misao has gotten busy with work and we had yet to fulfill that promise.
That’s why I had chosen this place without hesitation. The fact that I was seeing the night view not with Misao but with a man who was my younger brother gave me a strange sensation.
We stood side-by-side in the elevator and we both gazed absentmindedly at the lit button indicating the floor. He was tall; he was a head taller than me. It wasn’t only in height that he was bigger, he was also broad-shouldered. When I lost balance for a brief moment and bumped shoulders with him, it was as if my body would fit perfectly in his arms. Even that part of him was reminiscent of my father.
I opened my mouth to nonchalantly tell him that, but I quickly swallowed back the words. I realized it was too soon to talk about our father. It wasn’t just about our father either… the story of his mother, and the details of the incident… I had a feeling that we shouldn’t talk about anything that had to do with his past. It was also partly that I didn’t want to touch upon those topics just yet.
We got out of the elevator, and the moment we stepped towards the restaurant, we were at a loss for words for an instant.
In front of us in the darkness were numerous jewels scattered about. They were countless stars sparkling in the universe. They were something that existed somewhere far far away, and they were a bundle of miraculous light that illuminated the brilliance of eternity. It was soundless in its brilliance.
The restaurant had a panoramic view with glass surrounding its entirety. The light inside the restaurant was turned down low. Because of this, our eyes were drawn to the night sky. It almost felt as if we could grab the stars…these jewels, if we only reached out.
The table that we were led to was by the window. We looked at each other in amazement in the small light illuminated by a candle.
“Maybe it’s because it’s raining, but it’s like the light is bleeding in the sky.”
“Yes, it’s as if we could get sucked into the light.”
“Aren’t you afraid of heights though?”
“I’m fine. Well, I could say the same for you, can’t I?”
“Oh, I’m perfectly fine. I don’t hate the feeling of falling– I’d even like to try sky diving one day if I have the chance. Now that I think about it, committing suicide by jumping from a tall place might not be so bad.”
“What a cruel joke.”
I laughed. “Hey, don’t you think this is a bit too romantic?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well I was just thinking that a restaurant like this is somewhere where we should take someone who we’re dating.”
“Was it a bit silly to come here with your brother?”
“Well, what can we do? We’re already here. I’ll suck it up for tonight.”
When he said the word “brother” as if it were nothing, it was a bit anticlimactic. It felt as if the clogged up pipe that connected us had suddenly cleared, and the clear water gushed through– that’s how it felt.
I ordered Cablis when the middle aged man wearing a uniform came to take our order. “Do you mind?” I asked.
“That’s fine, but I can’t drink since I’m driving.”
“Oh, just one drink won’t kill you. I’ll drink the rest.”
He nodded in a noncommittal manner and that was the end of that.
“Well then,” I said. “It’s buffet style here. Not only that, but it’s delicious. I’m sure you’ll love it. Let’s go get dinner, why don’t we?”
“Well, I guess we could always get a room.”
Shougo laughed as he said this in a teasing manner.
“If we were going out, that’s what I probably would have said. A guy in that kind of situation would probably say something like how he’s had some wine in his system, he can’t drive them home and make some excuse to book a room. On a romantic night like tonight, I’d bet the guy could probably get away with that.”
“Is that how you’ve convinced the girls up until now?”
“As if I have the kind of money to do that. How can I drive my car all the way to Yokohama, wine and dine them at an extravagant restaurant and not only that but pay the cost of a twin room bed for the night?”
“You don’t need to worry about that,” I shrugged my shoulders lightly as I said this. “I’ll foot the bill tonight. If there’s a girl you want to invite here, why don’t you? If you did, you’d probably ‘get away with it’ like you said. I’ll cover the entire the bill.”
There was a bite in my words. I felt so foolish for saying what I did. It was such a joke. At this rate, I was coming across as just a rich, bitter aging woman who was jealous of the younger boy she had just met.
It didn’t seem though that he had noticed the hint of bitterness in my voice. He added without missing a beat, “Then I should’ve prepared someone in that case– or maybe a bunch of them. And I’ll brag to them: ‘My sister’s a real beauty, you know? And she’s going to foot the bill tonight, so you better thank her.’”
I replied, “Don’t be silly.” but I didn’t know what to say after that so I hastily stood up. “Aren’t you going to get anything to eat? I’m starving.”
“You do look like you are.” He gazed up at me and flashed an easygoing smile. I wasn’t sure what he was trying to tell me by what he said, but I felt my heart quicken.
I saw an illusion of the stars outside the window making a rumbling sound as it wrapped itself around me in a whirlpool.
TO BE CONTINUED…
[NEXT: Chapter 7 – 129 – 150]