Ritual

“Just follow me,” she’d said, and I’d followed her without looking back.

Today is our one-year anniversary. Technically, we’ve known each other for much longer, but exactly one year ago, we’d made it official. Sometimes it matters to make things official – something about the formality, the gravity of it, the sudden sense of responsibility. I don’t know. I’m not the type to wonder about stuff like that. I’m just saying that today is our one-year anniversary.

In the morning she surprised me with flowers and my favorite breakfast foods; in the afternoon I surprised her with flowers and a lunch reservation at her favorite restaurant down the way. Our apartment is filled with flowers now, and we’re stuffed with great food that took a lot out of our wallets, but no matter. Rituals are important, and flowers and food are ritual.

Tomorrow I’m going to surprise her even more. I have all kinds of things lined up – presents I’ve made, experiences I’ve ordered and reserved. I can bet she has more surprises for me, too. And that doesn’t come from any narcissistic, self-important heart I might have; we both just have a penchant for surprising each other with gifts, especially on important days like our one-year anniversary.

Anyway, right now, we’re cuddling on the couch. She has her head buried deep into my layers of polos and button-up shirts – it’s been incredibly cold lately, so don’t you judge me – and I have my arms around her. That’s what’s happening, nothing more, nothing less. People don’t touch each other as often anymore, that’s what I think. Hugging, holding hands, touching, cuddling. Never see it. Especially among people who aren’t in a relationship. Isn’t it sad? We could all use some more of this stuff, don’t you think?

So there we were, all cuddled up on the couch, and after a while of this my girlfriend suddenly lifted her head up and looked me in the eyes.

“Haku,” she said.

“Mmm?” I replied.

“I’m glad I met you.”

I smile a little. “I’m glad I met you, too.”

She reaches up to touch the side of my face; I close my eyes, savoring the touch. Then, as usual, she starts to play with my hair. Long and brown and curly, some typical nondescript girl’s hair. She twirls it around her slim fingers, studies it for a while in great concentration. I watch her and wonder what it is about my hair that she could possibly find interesting.

Well, when you think about it, there’s a ritual contained in that, too. She knew it, and I knew it, and that’s all that ever mattered. Right?

That’s all that ever mattered.

Borderlines

“You will not remember me.”

You will not remember me.

It wasn’t the words themselves that gave me pause; it was something in the way he said it, the way he spoke, the way his mouth moved to give form to the sounds. The boy looked at me and said, with absolute certainty, “You will not remember me.” It wasn’t arrogance, or stupidity, not a false assumption nor some dumb superficial pride. He wasn’t trying to impress or intimidate, either. He was just stating a fact. He spoke his line in exactly the same way he would have recited Newton’s universal law of gravitation from last year’s physics class. You will not remember me.

It gave me chills.

It’s not that foreign of a phrase. Maybe I’ve read it in a book before, I don’t know. Maybe I’ve heard it in a movie. But those were always fake, always on the other side of reality, and this boy was certainly here, on my side, and he was very real to me.

“Wh-what’s that?” I managed to reply.

“Don’t worry,” the boy said. He patted me on the arm in an oddly mature, adult way. “I’ll be gone soon, so you don’t have to worry about anything. Your work, your girlfriend, nothing like that.”

I shook my head. “Okay… But I don’t understand.”

“I just wanted to see you,” he said. “I’ve missed you.”

I choked a little in surprise and confusion. “Sorry, but I don’t know you. You have the wrong person.”

“No, no,” he said. “See, Haku, here’s the thing – we haven’t really met. Yet. Right now you don’t know me, but one day you will. Except you won’t remember.”

“What?”

“I just came to see you,” he said. “And I wanted to tell you this: it’ll be alright.”

What will be alright?”

“Everything. School – you’ll graduate, promise. Work – you’ll get a good job. And then you’ll get fired, but you’ll get another one. Family – they’ll come around eventually. Your mom will love you again. She still loves you now, and it’s very hard, but one day it won’t be hard anymore. When your girlfriend dies she’ll realize how much you loved her. Your girlfriend’s death will be alright, too, by the way. And eventually yours. You’ll get through it all. Everything will be just fine.”

I shook my head again, speechless. The boy gazed into my eyes and smiled gently.

“I have to go now,” he said. “You won’t remember me, but that’s okay. We’ll meet again. I just wanted to tell you that it’ll all be alright.”

It’ll be alright…

He nodded and walked away, and that was that.

Everything is a Symbol [Crafts]

Hi all,

Here’s a wood ornament I painted and drew yesterday. My dear friend K and I have been doing a lot of crafts like these recently.

Here’s a question: who do you think the two people on the ornament are? It’s completely subjective, like most things. Every person will interpret it differently. As for me, well, who can say? Let’s save that story for another day.

Thanksgiving is approaching. Everyone be safe traveling home.

KT

Entry #18 — Sometimes, It’s Okay

Hi everyone, Kohaku here. I hope you all had a fantastic week.

Personally, I was pretty stressed out. As I’ve been saying the past couple entries, I’ve been busy. But overall it hasn’t been too bad.

I’m starting to look towards December and the end of the year. I mentioned it a while ago, but I’ve already had some projects in the works that’ll be released in this final month of 2019. I’ll work hard to get them out and of good quality by then.

Anyway, yesterday I went out and spent a few hundred on a new guitar. I was really excited, and I’m very happy with it so far. It’s quite rare for me to be going out and spending money, especially this much all at once, but I think that sometimes, it’s okay. Sometimes, you need to treat yourself. And as long as you think carefully about it and the object of your spending will truly contribute to your happiness and growth, it should be worth it. Of course, I’m always objecting to the materialism and consumerism that today’s society is built upon. I don’t agree with just spending money and buying all the things all the time. But once in a while, if you need it, if you give it proper thought and make sure it’s good and right for you, I think you can go ahead.

What about you all? Do you think carefully before you purchase things? Do you allow yourself a treat now and then that will help you take care of yourself and grow? This week, think about that. I think it’s very important to give your consumerism some critical thought.

Be safe and take care,

KT

Taiga (Chapter 5)

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When Taiga came back from his class, he found me on my feet, pacing around, struggling to outsmart Isabella while dealing with a throbbing headache. She wouldn’t let me out of the room – Taiga’s orders, but also her own – and I’d attempted practically everything short of violence in my wild desperation to leave. I didn’t want to face Taiga so soon, but it seemed Isabella would make sure of it.

He opened the door, looked at Isabella, looked at me, and smiled. That’s right – he looked at me and smiled. Ever graceful, he closed the door quietly behind him, took off his backpack, and set it on his chair. Then he took off his navy blue windbreaker and hung it up in his closet. I stared at him, waiting, wondering what he was going to say. Isabella vigilantly continued blocking my path to the door.

Taiga brushed back his hair with one hand, then nodded at Isabella. “Thank you, Issa.”

“My pleasure,” she replied.

They both stared at me. I was itching to leave – I couldn’t stand this strange tension, the air feeling like it would right before a great storm or earthquake, something unnatural getting ready to be released. Of course, it was all in my head, but that didn’t make it any less real to me. I just felt an overwhelming urge to run.

An animal – trapped in a cage, or cornered and on its way. That’s what I thought I was. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Taiga spoke softly at me. “How are you?”

There was no edge to his voice, no sense of anger or even disappointment. I shook my head slightly, confused at the question, but answered anyway.

“My head hurts.”

He nodded. “That’s how it is,” he replied simply.

“Why’d you come?” I asked.

“Why’d you go?” he countered.

I frowned. Taiga swept on before I could say anything else.

“It’s not any of my business what you do with your life,” he said. “You want to join a gang, spend your nights drunk and high and committing crimes, throw away any possibility of you being happy and content in the future, well, go ahead. That’s your prerogative.”

I nodded along with his words, growing more confused by the second. When I didn’t respond, he leaned toward me slightly, a gentle smile crossing his face.

“That’s what you think, right?” Taiga said.

I blinked. “Um. Yes?”

“That’s the problem,” he replied. “I think you’re wrong there. It is my business what you do with your life. And it’s your business what I do with mine. You’re human, aren’t you? And we all know humans are social animals. See, whatever you choose to do with your life affects me, and Isabella, and everyone else around you – even the family you claim to hate, the family you claim hates you in return. What do you think will happen if you get yourself killed? You think the world will just keep spinning, time will just keep flowing, all these people will just keep living as if nothing ever happened? Because if you do, you’re wrong. Human life doesn’t work that way.”

I tried to cut in, but he raised a hand and continued on.

“And what if you, in one of your criminal sprees or drunken antics, end up killing someone else? Accidental or not, you stole someone’s life away. You think the universe isn’t going to care? Listen, I’m not going on about karma or anything religious – these are basic fundamentals of human existence. We all have a responsibility towards each other, can’t you see?”

I stared at him. After a moment he sighed and looked away.

“You can go now,” Taiga said. “I just wanted to talk to you. Just think about that, okay?”

He turned to Isabella, his speech apparently over, his tone lightening. “What’s for lunch?”

“Oh, I was thinking some kind of stew or curry,” she replied. “Let me go see what we have in the fridge.”

“Sounds good. I’ll help. I don’t have work until three.” He glanced at me, smiled, and then followed Isabella out to the kitchen.

Alone in the room, I found my urge to run away had vanished. I sat back on my bed, tired, drained. My head hurt for more reasons than one. I drank some more water and then laid back and closed my eyes. Gazing into the internal blackness, I thought about nothing – I just breathed. In, out; in, out. Some kind of weird meditation, I guess. It actually relaxed me a lot. But I didn’t go to sleep.

Instead, a half an hour later, I got up and went to class.


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Chasing Life With You (Chapter 7)

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After a relaxed, delicious morning meal, Katsumi and Tadashi headed out to the market. I cleaned up the kitchen a bit – it was the least I could do, if I’d be boarding at their place for free all summer – and then grabbed my laptop and settled on one of the soft chairs in the living room. First I checked my email. There was one message from someone I didn’t know, asking me to write an article for some sort of private publication. I made a note on my to-do list to look them up later.

After emails, I settled into actual work. I was in the middle of writing about an interview I’d held of a pretty popular local musician. Like I’ve said, I’m pretty far removed from the world of music, so doing interviews with musicians or writing articles on music always made me nervous. But lately I’d been trying to get out of my comfort zone. I opened up the transcript of the interview on one side of the screen, and my work-in-progress article on the other side, and just got to it.

Time passed smoothly, silently, at a perfectly unhurried pace. Occasionally I would take a break and look around and stretch out my neck. Several times, I closed my eyes and listened to the birds chirping outside. I found the natural soundscape out here incredibly interesting. I knew there was silence everywhere, but it hadn’t really occurred to me that different places filled that silence in different ways. Here in the woods, in the middle of nowhere, the sound of the birds was layered on top of a silence that was in itself complete; the birds weren’t necessary for the auditory environment to be in balance, but they were still an integral, valued part of what kept the air at peace. Very different from the city, I thought.

I finished my article in a little over an hour, and saved it to be proofread and revised later. I’d learned that it generally wasn’t a good idea to spot check your work right after you’ve written it – you need to look at it at another time, with a pair of fresh eyes, and a clearer head. I figured I’d look at it tonight or tomorrow, and submit it to the magazine editor tomorrow afternoon.

With that assignment done, I checked my email again, studied my to-do list to see if there was anything important, and then closed my computer. There wasn’t much to do; I decided I’d go out for a walk. I went up to my room to put on a hat and sunscreen, slipped my Swiss-army knife and phone into my pants pocket, and ventured into the semi-wilderness.

Given that this was my first day, I didn’t feel brave enough to just go wandering in any particular direction, so I just followed the walking path down to the lake. Various little birds and insects fluttered in the air amidst the trees. I walked slowly, observing, drinking it all in. The path got a little steep in places, and there it had been buttressed by human hands, with planks and ropes tied taut between nearby tree trunks. I watched my footing, moving carefully, and held onto the ropes as I made my way down.

Several minutes later, the woods spit me out onto the sandy, pebbly lake shore. I exhaled in slight relief, glad to have reached my goal, and walked up to the water’s edge. The clear blue water lapped gently at my feet; I took off my shoes and stepped into it, relishing the sharp chill. I gazed out at the perfectly flat surface of the lake, and smiled at the woods on the opposite shore.

What a place to be…

Staring out into this seemingly untouched, perfect wilderness, I was overcome with a sudden urge to just throw myself into it, to flee the rest of the world, to flee human society and just go. Not a very unique or creative feeling – I’m sure anyone in my shoes would have felt the same, and certainly many people have done so throughout history. But it was a strange, surprising feeling for me. I’d been pretty content with my life back in the city. The same old, boring routines, the same environment, the same people – this kind of static existence suited me, and I hadn’t given it a second thought. So I was pretty unsettled that I suddenly wanted to run off and become a hermit. I stood there quietly, slowly adapting to the temperature of the lake, testing out this newfound urge inside me.

This is dangerous, I realized.

Don’t lose your head.

I blinked slowly, backed out of the water, and started heading up the path towards home. I wasn’t prepared to face nature like this. Not yet.

Once I was back in the house, I went to the bathroom, splashed water on my face, and crashed again onto the living room couch. Needing a distraction, I opened up my computer. After a couple minutes I found a pointless movie to watch and quickly pressed play. I didn’t actually care about the movie. It was one of those films that go in one eye and out the other, so to speak, just something you put on to waste time. I just needed some human connection again, so I put the movie on and stared at it until I heard Tadashi and Katsumi pull up in the driveway.

“We’re home,” Tadashi announced as he entered the front door. His arms were full with four cloth grocery bags. Katsumi came in right behind him, carrying an equal amount.

“Welcome back,” I said happily, standing up. “Need help?”

“That’s okay,” Tadashi replied.

They set the bags on the wide kitchen counter, and started stocking the fridge and freezer.

“What’ve you been up to?” Katsumi asked.

“Oh, nothing much. I got some work done, then I walked down to the lake for a bit.”

Tadashi flashed me a look. “Really? Alone?”

“Not the greatest idea,” Katsumi put in. “Especially on your first time.”

“Well, you had to do it eventually,” Tadashi said.

I nodded, glad that they both seemed to understand. “Anyway, how was the market?”

Katsumi grinned. “We had to wait a bit for them to open, but the upside was that we were the first customers in, so we got first dibs. Look at all this good fruit and stuff!”

Tadashi said to him solemnly, “If you don’t make us a good lunch, I’ll be mad.”

“I’ll make something disgusting,” Katsumi replied assuringly.

“Yeah, disgustingly salty. How about you teach Chas how to make something?”

“Oh no,” I cut in quickly, “I can’t cook for my life.”

Tadashi laughed. “Yeah, that’s why I told him to teach you.”

“I’m down,” Katsumi said. “I’ve got just the dish.”

“Whatever I make will actually be disgusting,” I warned them. “It’ll test the limits of disgusting. I’m serious!”

I kept insisting, and eventually the pair gave up, to my great relief.

Tadashi sighed. “One of these days, Chas, you’ll have to learn. But I guess for now it can wait.”

“Can it wait ‘till I die?”

He laughed at that. “What’s so scary about learning how to cook?”

“It’s not scary,” I replied, shaking my head. “I just can’t be bothered. I don’t want to deal with it.”

Don’t want to deal with it,” he repeated with great interest.

“Weird,” Katsumi said.

“Right?” Tadashi replied.

They both grinned sympathetically at my embarrassed face. Having just about finished unloading the groceries, Tadashi closed the fridge, and Katsumi folded the cloth bags and went to put them back in the car. I looked at Tadashi, and he smiled gently at me.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “We won’t force you to learn how to cook.”

“Phew. And here I was thinking–”

“At least not yet.”

“Hey, wait!” I started.

He grinned mischievously and fled from me. “We’ve got all summer, Chas,” he sang as he ran up the stairs.


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