Formless Daydreams: A Short Story

Standing inside the lone convenience store near my school, I shift my weight from my right foot to my left, then back to my right. I juggle the items in my hands – a carton of milk, a bag of vegetable chips, and a chocolate bar – and check my watch for the twentieth time. The line in front of me isn’t becoming any less long, and I’m starting to feel nervous. If I miss my train… well, it wouldn’t be good, I’ll just put it that way. My mother would have a fit.

I fidget for a while and look aimlessly out the store window. Two school-age girls, an elderly man, and a small boy get in the line behind me. We inch forward like a caterpillar. After a few minutes, one of the girls puts the things she wanted to buy back onto the shelves and leaves the store in a hurry. I wonder if she’s trying to catch the train, just like me.

To my relief, a second employee soon comes out of the back room and takes up a position at another cash register. Now the line starts moving, and before long I’m pushing my way out the door, stuffing my groceries into my backpack. I make a panicked run for the station. And when I get there, it turns out that the train hasn’t even arrived yet! Just my luck. I mean, I’m certainly lucky, but I’m also not, if you know what I mean. All the time I spent worrying, all the energy I spent running… This kind of thing annoys me. If I’m late, let me be late, you know?

Just as I thought, the girl from the convenience store is at the station too. She’s standing near an empty bench but not sitting on it. I sit at a different bench, a little farther away, and glance at her curiously. Her hair, dyed a light blonde, comes down to an inch or two below her shoulders, and she’s wearing a nice dark blue button-up shirt and shorts. She looks calm and collected, professional, I guess – like she’s got a handle on herself that most people our age don’t have. She’s lowered her backpack to her feet, and she just stands there, gazing at the train tracks, waiting patiently. She’s pretty attractive to me, so I can’t help but look over at her once in a while. I wonder if she goes to my school.

The minutes tick by. I start to imagine what must have happened to the train: it derailed, it hit someone on the tracks, a passenger died, the driver had a heart attack… the list goes on. It’s incredibly rare for the train to be late, and I mean rare as in “never happened once in my life.” But none of my fantasies seem to match up with reality. The train smoothly pulls up to the station ten minutes behind schedule, and all the people waiting get on board, myself and the girl included.

This route is heading out of the city, in a somewhat unusual direction, so the train isn’t crowded. I crash in a window seat, and the girl sits in my same row but on the other side. I take out my milk, open the carton, and take a few careful sips as we pull out of the station. I know some people get disgusted at drinking milk straight from the carton, but I could never understand why. It’s not dirty, and besides, not using a cup saves water. I satisfy my thirst and put the milk back into my backpack.

The ride will take forty minutes. I realize I should text my mother to tell her that the train was late, so I pull out my phone and craft a heavily apologetic message. Just as I’m about to send it, my battery dies. I curse in my head, put my phone away, and imagine the beating I’m going to get once I arrive home.

Well, just imagining won’t do anything, right? Looking for something to distract myself, I take out a book from my backpack that I’d just borrowed at the school library the day before, and I settle in and start to read. Outside my window, the city edge zips by in incoherent flashes. The train hums along, steady and soothing. I lose myself in the book quite happily.

Some twenty minutes later, as I’m busily turning pages, I hear the girl across from me take a phone call. In the back of my mind I make a sharp retort – people who take calls on the train irritate me – but I can’t really get mad at her. I finish a chapter of my book and start another one, and all the while the girl speaks softly in the background.

And then, it happens. I’m still lost in my book, but in the corner of my eye I see the girl swiftly opening her backpack. She takes out a notepad and a pen, and starts scribbling something on it very urgently – she’s left-handed, I notice – while simultaneously maintaining her phone conversation. Then she stands, crosses the aisle, and waves the notepad at me.

I lower my book and look at her, startled. I hadn’t been listening to her at all, but now I hear her saying into her phone over and over again, “It’s okay, you’re alright, just keep talking to me, talk to me, let’s talk.” She waves the notepad at me again, her eyes wide, fierce, and frightened all at once. I look at what she’d written on it.

call the police my friend is going to kill herself

I drop my book immediately and stand up, feeling anxiety and fear starting to rise in my stomach. What? My phone is dead, I can’t, and besides what would I say… The girl waves the note in my face again, bold and insistent and terrified. I nod at her and look around. There’s one other person in our car, a middle-aged woman listening to music through her headphones. Motioning the girl out of the aisle, I take her notepad, go over to the woman, and tap her on the shoulder.

The woman looks at me, annoyed, and pulls out her headphones. “What?” she asks. Her voice is really deep, and it rattles my anxiety even more. I shake out of it.

“Please, I need your phone, it’s an emergency,” I say, showing her the notepad. I gesture at the girl behind me, still talking to her friend in desperate but calm-coated tones. “I’ll give it right back, I promise, I just need to make this call, my phone is dead…”

The woman doesn’t say another word. She hands me her phone immediately, and I thank her. I head back towards the girl while dialing the police.

A female dispatcher answers after two rings. “Hello, what’s your emergency?”

“This girl on my train is on a call with her friend who she says is about to commit suicide,” I blurt out.

“What is this friend’s name?” the dispatcher asks.

“What’s her name?” I hiss across the aisle.

The girl scribbles it on the notepad, and I read it aloud.

“Okay, and where is she?”

“Where is she?” I whisper.

The girl starts to write down an address, slowly, struggling to remember. The whole time she’s still saying into her phone, “Yes. Uh-huh. Tell me more, love. Keep talking with me.”

She finishes writing, looks over it a little skeptically, adds a question mark, and extends a hand to show it to me. I start reading it to the dispatcher: “Seven, two, four …”

In that instant our train driver slams on the brakes with a screeching wail. Before I know it we’re flying through the air, frail human bodies rising on clouds of sparks and flame, sprays of shattered glass and cell phones, and the last thing I see is the girl’s notepad, held by no one, written on for nothing, and I close my eyes.

Entry #16 – Chasing Time, and Birthdays

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

I’m tired and writing quickly, so please excuse this short post and any English errors! I know I haven’t been putting out a lot of good quality stuff lately – or at least I’m not super proud of most of my recent posts – but I hope you’ll believe me when I say I have a lot of exciting plans for my future work! I just have to find the time to actually do that work, and it seems like time has run away from me lately.

At least it has run away to good things. A lot of the stuff I’m doing in my personal life right now is providing me with creative ideas, so hopefully once I have some time to sit down and work at it, I’ll produce some writings I can be proud of. Right now I’m just trying to make at least one high-quality post per week. I wrote Last Dawn a few days ago, have you all read it? It was for a dear friend’s birthday. He really means a lot to me and I’m glad the poem turned out well.

We’re one year older now… and this year is almost over. It’s rather crazy, but as they say, time flies. I’ll do my best to chase it and maybe one day in the future I’ll catch up. For now, I just want to make sure I’m doing the best I can. With everything.

This week, think about where you are in relation to time. Are you living in the present, fully content with where and who you are? Are you chasing after your future, your dreams and aspirations, things that might not come to be but are worth chasing anyway? Or are you living in the future? Sometimes, we need to take a deep breath and put on the brakes. If you’ve gotten ahead of yourself, think about that. I get ahead of myself a lot.

Anyhow, take care. Don’t forget to smile.

KT

Entry #15 – Halloween Incident and the Meaning of Holidays

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

I don’t really celebrate Halloween, but I hope those who do had a safe and fun time. Personally, I don’t understand the meaning of this holiday where people dress up and scare each other and give kids candy. But, that’s just me. Did you all enjoy it? That’s the most important thing, right?

I wanted to talk about something that happened on Halloween. One of my close friends and her father were giving out candy to trick-or-treaters that night. Their family is kind of struggling financially, but they wanted to celebrate this holiday and participate in the neighborhood, so they went out of their way to buy some candy for this occasion. At some point during the night, a car of perhaps high-school-age kids drove by, and the kids got out and knocked on my friend’s door. They weren’t dressed up, but they were trick-or-treating. My friend’s dad generously invited them to each take a handful of candy. But as they were doing so, one of the kids snatched the entire bowl out of his hands, and the whole group fled back into their car and drove away.

I’m not entirely sure what I want to say about this, but most of all I just want to tell this story and get you all to think about it. Does this incident mean anything? Does it have any relation to the nature of this holiday, or the societies in which we live? Does it say anything about the world? Or is it just an isolated incident of a group of candy-craving kids who didn’t think about what they were doing? Feel free to let me know what you think.

Well, anyway. I guess I don’t believe in Halloween all that much.

What holidays do you all celebrate? Are there any specific to your society or culture that you want to share? Holidays mean different things to different people, and that’s completely okay. I want to hear what the holidays you celebrate mean to you.

This week, give holidays some thought. We could all benefit from doing a little more thinking – don’t you think?

Take care of yourselves,

KT

Entry #14 – Loneliness

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

A couple of weeks ago, when talking about 「HIRAETH」, I briefly discussed the topic of homesickness. Today, on a slightly related topic, I want to talk about the feeling of loneliness.

It’s easy to feel lonely. As is said, we’re social animals, and when our social circles are taken away from us (or if they are nonexistent in the first place), we hurt. For some, it’s especially painful, and there are also some people who just feel lonesome very easily. As we go through life, it’s important to actively seek out and maintain a social network that is open-hearted, loving, and genuine so that we can avoid feelings of loneliness.

Often when I’m out with my friends or family, I’m suddenly struck with appreciation for this community that surrounds me. At the beach watching the sunset with loved ones by my side – are these not the moments that make life worth living? Of course, the problem is when some people are for whatever reason denied such moments. But others actively choose to avoid them. There is value there, too. In the end, I think it takes a special kind of strength to live life alone.

Homesickness, loneliness, sadness, and depression – all of these feelings are connected. And in the reverse, they are also connected to feelings of having a home, having community, being happy, and being content. These connections and complexities are what I’ve been exploring recently in my writing. I’ll be moving forward with these themes in mind.

This week, value the community that surrounds you. Call your friends and family, go out together, and have a good and meaningful time. If you don’t have a social group and you’re feeling lonesome, take some risks and try to create one. And if you know someone who has been denied a community, reach out to them yourself. You could save a life – really.

Take care,

KT

Entry #13 – 「C.U. Again」 Reflection, Art and Artists

Hey everyone! Kohaku here. I hope you all had a great week. How’s October coming along?

「C.U. Again」 was released this past Monday. How was it? Even though they were equally personal, I feel like the theme in this compilation was more obvious, or at least more tangible, than the theme in 「HIRAETH」. I didn’t really explain the personal aspects of 「HIRAETH」 all that much, but I decided I’d talk about 「C.U. Again」 for a little bit in this week’s journal entry.

Put simply, 「C.U. Again」 is about a person who is the main reason I’m still alive.

I haven’t discussed my journey with depression much on this blog, even though I’ve been open about it from the start. I consider depression as one of the major aspects of my life – it influences the things I do and how I see the world, and this bleeds into my artwork and writing. Anyway, it’s been a wild ride, and I’m not going to go into all of it, just enough to give some context to this compilation.

I was suicidal in middle school and had been going through a bad time since late elementary school, and this person in 「C.U. Again」 saved my life. Without him, I am fairly certain I would not be here today. I also probably wouldn’t be writing. He did a lot for me, and he is no longer here, and so the poems in 「C.U. Again」 are about him in a general sense.

I’m glad I wrote this compilation, even though it didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked. Looking forward, I don’t really have any big writing projects right now. I’m still (slowly) working on the serial pieces like Taiga and Chasing Life With You, but life is getting busier and busier, so I can’t be sure when I’ll finish them. In the meantime, as I said before, I’ll probably mainly be turning out tanka. I also have some visual and musical projects coming up – eventually.

Seriously, why does life get so busy? I wish we all had more time for art. I think the world would be better if there were more artists of all kinds. More art, less war, that’s my policy.

This week, make time for art. It can be anything. Start learning a musical instrument. Do some arts and crafts with your child. Go outside and take some photos of the sunset. Or sit down and write a poem. Really, anything… it will make the world (and your life) better!

Take care of yourselves,

KT

Entry #12 – Natural Disasters, 「HIRAETH」 Reflection, 「C.U. Again」 Releases Tomorrow

Hi everyone, it’s Kohaku. I hope you all had a good week!

Is everyone safe from the typhoon and earthquake in Japan? As well as the wildfires and power shutoffs in the western US? Hopefully we will all be able to recover soon. Remember to always take care of your loved ones as best you can – and don’t forget to show and tell how much you love them. Disasters like these can strike at any time.

We can really learn a lot from such events. Beyond just giving attention to and loving each other, natural disasters remind us to not grow too attached to material things. In essence, they preach minimalism. Our homes, our cars, all of our possessions, can get burned or swept away in an instant. And once we’re reduced to almost nothing, we realize that we didn’t need so many of the trappings of consumer-based society in the first place – we can survive and be content without all of that. Even without a house, or without a car, we can still find ways to live fulfilling lives. It’s certainly going to be much more difficult, especially in a society and culture based on materialism. But it’s doable, and it can be argued that life is actually much richer this way. In the end, we find that the only things that really matter are intangible and come from within – our contentment, and our relationships with the people whom we love.

The poetry compilation 「HIRAETH」 was released this past Monday. Has everyone read it yet? On the surface, 「HIRAETH」 has to do with feelings of homelessness. Natural disasters like wildfires or typhoons often leave many people without homes. Sometimes this is temporary, and other times it’s relatively permanent. But either way, displaced people are left grappling with abstract questions of what it means to have a home in the first place. What exactly is a home? What is homesickness? Why does homesickness hurt so much?

What if you feel homesick even though you already have a home?

Homesickness is about more than just a physical house, right? 「HIRAETH」 has to do with feelings like this. And it’s very, very personal and important to me. I hope everybody enjoyed the poems in it. Let me know what you thought.

My next poetry compilation, 「C.U. Again」, is going to be published tomorrow. The theme in this one is also very important to me. I’ll touch on it in my next journal entry. Until then, everyone please stay safe.

This week, think about what you can learn from the world around you. “Sometimes good things initially manifest as bad things, and sometimes bad things initially manifest as good things, and you can’t really tell which is which.” Isn’t that right? Natural disasters and other events that cause suffering and tragedy contain important life lessons for those who are willing to listen.

Take care of yourself~

KT

Chasing Life With You (Chapter 6)

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I woke up the next morning to the first rays of sunlight filtering through the window. Tadashi had told me not to put the blinds down – way out here, there were no city lights to interfere with one’s sleep, so there was nothing to block out. Most of all, I discovered it was a genuine pleasure to wake up with the sunrise. I sat up in bed, gazed out the window for a bit, and smiled.

After showering and washing up in the bathroom, I headed downstairs. Tadashi was making breakfast. He was wearing a loose gray shirt with a simple geometric design that seemed to complement him nicely. He glanced over at me and said good morning.

“Sleep well?” he asked.

“Yup. What are you making?”

“Scrambled eggs. Want some?”

“Sure.”

I sat at the counter and watched him cook. He threw some mushrooms in with the eggs, turned off the heat, mixed them well and portioned them evenly onto three plates. Then he turned the stove back on.

“Breakfast potatoes?” he asked, turning toward me.

I nodded. “Okay. Thanks. Do you need help?”

“Nope.”

“Where’s Katsumi?”

“In the garden. You can go see him if you want. This will take a while.”

“Alright.”

I got up and headed out the side door, following the well-worn path Tadashi had pointed out the day before. The air was slightly cold but incredibly clean, and I drank it in happily. Wandering slowly through the woods, I imagined that I was a hermit, living in the middle of nowhere.

The gardens came into view after a couple minutes of walking. There was a huge variety of plants, most of which I couldn’t identify, and a lot of them were flowering or bearing colorful fruit. They had obviously been planted with care, lined up initially in even rows, but the paths between them had been heavily overgrown since the last summer. Katsumi had started weeding and clearing them out, but it looked like he might have given up. I wandered among the plants, admiring them, until I found Katsumi at the far end. Kneeling on the ground, he was up to his elbows in dirt, digging up enormous sweet potatoes.

He raised his head as I approached. “Morning,” he said.

“Good morning,” I replied.

He seemed calm and content, even as he wrestled with the plants and the earth. For a moment he looked like he was smiling – at me, at the sun, at no one. I’d noticed yesterday that Katsumi didn’t smile as much as the average person. He’d only really looked happy when he was making jokes, playing music, or bantering with Tadashi. I wondered what his reason was for smiling now.

“Those potatoes are huge,” I remarked.

“Yup. Haven’t been bothered in at least a year.”

“Are these for breakfast?”

“Lunch.”

He grinned. “I’ll make something real good, then you can tell Tama I’m the better cook. Okay?”

I laughed. “We’ll see.”

“Is he making me breakfast too?”

“Yup.”

Katsumi nodded, looked back down into the dirt, and started digging again. He continued speaking without facing me, his expression now shielded by his long hair.

“We’re going to go to the market afterwards. Do you want to come?”

I thought about it. “I’d love to, but I have some work to do. Maybe next time.”

“Okay.”

I squatted down beside him. “Can I ask you something?”

He glanced at me quickly. “Yeah.”

“How did you two meet?”

“Me and Tama? We almost killed each other.”

I started laughing, but Katsumi looked at me again with a completely straight face and added, “No joke.”

“Oh.”

In my head, I was thinking: should I be alarmed?

“It’s kind of a long story,” Katsumi admitted. “You want to hear it?”

“Um… yeah, I guess.”

“So this was sometime during our second year of high school…”

He leaned over and gave a firm yank, and a pink-and-purple sweet potato came out of the ground. I clapped. The potato joined the growing pile at Katsumi’s feet, and Katsumi sat back on his heels, brushing the dirt off his hands.

“I was walking home from school one day,” he said. “And I saw this guy. He was one of our upperclassmen. He was leaning against the wall of a big building, and he was harassing this other girl in my grade. I mean, totally harassing her. He was calling her names, laughing at her, throwing things at her, and eventually he started coming closer to her and touching her. Both intimately and violently. And all throughout it, she didn’t leave – maybe she was too scared, maybe they were boyfriend and girlfriend, who knows. But she was asking him to stop and he didn’t.”

“Did you call the police?” I asked.

Katsumi shook his head slightly and held up a finger, as if to say, I’m getting there. He went on, “Regardless of who you are or what your relationship with the other person is, you can’t treat people that way. At least that’s what I think. When I saw this happening, I got really mad. And when I get mad, I get really mad – like, I can’t control myself. I went right up to him and punched him in the face. He hit the ground, and I started kicking him. I told the girl to run away and she did, and meanwhile I kept beating the guy up. I might have killed him, really.”

Listening to his story, I remembered the look he’d had in his eyes when we’d first met – wild, dangerous, on the edge. I wondered if it was a sign of him losing control. I wondered what had set him off.

Katsumi continued, “While I was just about killing this guy, another person appeared. It was Tama, who was also walking home. He arrived basically right after the girl had run off, so he didn’t see her; he didn’t get any of the context. All he saw was a guy beating up some other guy who looked bloody and helpless. And you know how he is – the way he can go on about peace and human love and all that. He tried putting himself between the two of us, and I got mad and punched him, too.”

I scratched my head. “Great way to meet someone.”

“Right? So at this point in my madness I gave up on the other guy and started beating on Tama. I thought he would be an easy target – he’s pretty small, and he looks really feminine, which society traditionally equates with being weak. But my assumptions were entirely wrong. Tama fought back, and he fought hard. It turned out he was just as strong as me – in fact, he was exactly as strong as I was at the time, and because of that, neither of us could really win. We just beat each other up really badly until we were both too tired to continue.”

“I can’t really imagine it,” I said. “Tadashi fighting…”

“You wouldn’t dream of it now, right? But back then, we almost killed each other. The fight ended with both of us lying on the ground, broken and exhausted. We mutually agreed to not call the police on each other, because neither of us could afford that. Then I asked him why he had intervened, he asked me why I had been beating up the other guy in the first place, and we realized it was just an unfortunate misunderstanding. We started talking about other things – school, family, music – and bonded over them, and now, several years later, we’re closer than anyone could have imagined. It’s kind of crazy.”

“That’s a wild story,” I said. “I just met him when he sat next to me during recess in fourth grade.”

Katsumi laughed. “Well, I bet you were less hot-headed than I was, especially at that age.”

“What happened to the other guy?”

“The first guy I beat up? Tama made an anonymous phone call to an ambulance service, and then we hightailed it out of there. A couple months later I caught a glimpse of him at school again. But I don’t think he recognized me – or if he did, he didn’t care. At least I know that I didn’t kill him. That would’ve been bad.”

Behind us a voice retorted, “You almost killed me. That would’ve been worse.”

We turned in unison to see Tadashi walking through the garden toward us. Katsumi laughed; I smiled, and my old friend smiled back, quiet and happy.

“Breakfast is ready,” he said.


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Entry #11 – Tanka, 「HIRAETH」and 「C.U. Again」Release Announcement

Hi everyone, it’s Kohaku. I hope you all had a fantastic week.

These past few days I’ve been trying out tanka. It’s an old Japanese style of poetry, consisting of five lines bearing the syllable pattern 5/7/5/7/7. The first three lines are basically a haiku. I haven’t published any haiku on this blog, but I can say that so far, I really prefer tanka. It feels more complete to me, I guess. At any rate, poetry this short doesn’t take too long to write, and I’ve been getting really busy lately. So I’ll probably be turning out more English-language tanka on the days I have no time to do anything else. 

On to some exciting news: I have two complete poetry compilations and their release dates to announce!

「HIRAETH」will be published tomorrow, Monday October 7th

and

「C.U. Again」will be published next week, Monday October 14th!

I don’t know if I’ve said it before, but my poetry compilations are kind of similar to musical concept albums – they’re collections of poems centered around a common theme. You could probably tell from 「DOUBLE-SIDED」, I think. These two new compilations are different from 「DOUBLE-SIDED」but somewhat similar to each other – both have ten poems, neither have a preface, and both are really personal and important to me. Please look forward to them and let me know what you think!

I’m so busy recently, but I’m glad I was able to finish these two compilations. I think I’m going to try to get some sunset pictures one of these days. The sky is so incredibly pretty where I live… even when I’m stressed and tired and have no time, I’m always looking up at the sky for a reason to smile. An old acquaintance of mine once said, “Life isn’t over ‘till you can’t appreciate a sunset anymore.” Isn’t that very true? I guess that’s how I live.

This week, don’t forget to appreciate the little things. Look up at the sky, breathe, and smile. Watch the clouds. Admire the sunrise and sunset. Life isn’t over yet.

Take care of yourself,

Kohaku

Connection

“Who are you?”

“Um… My name is Kohaku…”

The young man studies me. “Okay, but who are you?”

“I live in the apartment above you,” I say. “I just moved in.”

“Oh.”

He scratches his head for a second, turns to glance over his shoulder, and then looks back at me. He opens the door slightly wider but still won’t let me in. I shift my weight uncomfortably.

“What do you want?” he asks warily. Immediately he winces, recognizing that his question came off as rude in a way he didn’t intend.

I let it slide. “I just want to get to know my new neighbors,” I say.

“Oh.”

“I missed your name,” I suggest politely.

“Brandon.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Brandon.”

He nods in return.

By this point it’s clear he’s never letting me in. That’s okay – I understand. People generally aren’t willing to let strangers into their apartment, even strangers who live with them. But all I want to do is make friends with him, and how else are we going to do it?

“Do you want to come over to my place for coffee sometime?” I ask him.

He thinks about it. “Um… sure, I guess.”

“When are you free?”

He thinks some more. “I can do tomorrow afternoon. Around two o’clock. Is that okay?”

“Sure. Absolutely.”

“But I don’t drink coffee,” he adds suddenly. “Tea?”

I smile happily. “Tea it is.”

We say goodbye, and I head back up the stairs, rejoicing in my slight victory.

Shilah

Our paddles sliced through the water in unison, cutting the blue-green surface and setting the kayak on a smooth, silent glide. I gazed at the back of Shilah’s head, moving my arms in time with hers. The minutes flowed quietly by.

Shilah spotted the private beach and started to angle in towards shore. I followed. At a certain distance we both stopped paddling and let the waves carry us in. Then Shilah jumped out into the shallows and pulled the kayak up onto the sand.

“Been hot today,” she said, speaking for the first time since we’d set out.

“You’re right,” I agreed. “Glad I remembered to put on sunscreen.”

I got out of the kayak and stretched. The sand was incredibly soft and warm beneath my feet. Shilah splashed around in the water, and I watched her.

“When are we going back?” I asked.

She laughed. “Who cares? Whenever we feel like it. I hate planning. Life is better if you just go.”

“Hmm, yeah, I guess you’re right.”

It still gives me anxiety to not have a schedule. I guess it’s something I’ve yet to learn.

“Come over here,” Shilah said.

I went over to her, stepping into the briskly cold ocean. She extended her hands to me and I took them. Without warning she started to dance, pulling me along, and I followed her lead with surprise.

I guess a private beach is a pretty romantic setting for a dance. But I’ve never been good with romance. Shilah was always the more sensitive one.

We danced for a while and then fell back into the sand, tired. Shilah was beaming. I smiled at her, breathing hard, and part of me wanted to do it again.

“Haku,” she asked, “what do you dream of?”

I thought for a moment. “I don’t know.”

She lay on her back, looking up at the clouds, and nodded. “I dream of tiny little stars in the ocean that glitter and shine brighter than the sun.”

I laughed. “Why? What does that mean?”

“Whatever you think it means,” she replied. “It’s my dream, but you’re still free to interpret it however you want.”

She closed her eyes, leaving me with that.

“It’s kind of weird… but I like it,” I decided.

“When I die, I’m going to turn into one,” she said.

“A tiny star in the ocean that glitters and shines like the sun?”

Brighter than the sun. Yeah. You should turn into one too.”

I laughed. “That’s kind of cute, actually.”

“I don’t think it’s cute. I just think it’s important. But if it’s cute to you, that’s alright.”

She opened her eyes and sat up.

“Let’s dance again,” she said.

“Okay. But the sun is starting to set. How long are we going to be out here?”

Shilah looked at me seriously.

“Who cares?”