This world is written into our minds,
even though we knew it won't last long.
We don't want to leave it behind,
because everything here is so uniform,
and everything here is so perfect,
and the control of the world
is finally in our hands.
Everything is in his hands. The photo is held protectively against his chest; fingers brush over marks where the pressed flowers were on the cards; he laughs when the eraser takes the spotlight. She wants him to look at the letters, but he shakes his head. He ants her to read them to him, and she gladly obliges.
"Dear ," she reads. He closes his eyes.
"Spring is finally here. The flowers are all in bloom, and the weather is perfect. They always say that if you have not experienced winter, then you cannot understand spring's warmth. So I am rejoicing."
She can see him smiling a distant smile. Reminiscing.
"I can imagine what it's like for you, reading my letters about plants and the weather and not knowing what I'm talking about." Seiichi gives a perfectly-timed chuckle. "I'm afraid few interesting things happen in my life, so there is little else to talk about. My most interesting days take place at school, but I'm sure their entertainment value for you would be small. This is for most of us at school, though; am I wrong?
"I bought a book the other day, and I thought you might like it. It's a book of quotes. Here are a few about friendship that I enjoy: one—I have a special attachment to the people who befriended me during times of distress."
She sees a hollow smile on his face. She doesn't like it, because she knows that smile. He only smiles like that when he is trying to hide something.
"Two—I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems with all angles."
A sheepish smile this time. Better.
"And, my personal favorite, three—with such comrades behind you, it is fairly easy to be the captain of one's soul. What do you think? Do you like them? Perhaps when we meet again, I will give you the copy. It is still in pristine condition."
His normal smile. The best.
"I am glad that you don't have hay fever, unlike Sanada." Seiichi laughs properly. She likes the sound of it, perhaps even more so than the sound of his voice. It is one of the few times he sounds carefree and without worries. "This means that I still have someone to share the joy of spring with. Perhaps we could go flower viewing together? I could think of no better company."
They smile from ear to ear.
And they finish together. "Much love, Seiichi."
His smile loses its effect. It's back to his I'm-hiding-something smile again. "I wonder what it's like." He says.
She asks him what what's like.
"To disappear and have no one remember you."
She stares at him in astonishment, because she doesn't have any words for him. He doesn't have any for her, either. He just smiles hollowly back.
The only thing he says to her is, "I'm scared."
The words lack any hope of survival. It's like his morbid curiosity has led him to give up before the surgery has even begun.
But all things come to an end.
You wake to the morning;
the sunlight; the clouds.
The curtains are moving
like Spanish dancers.
You grasp for your dreams,
but they are filed away in a cabinet,
protected by the shadows of the unconsciousness.
She's met Sanada before, many times. They aren't close, but they're friends—have been ever since elementary school, where Sanada and Seiichi first became friends. She likes how she can confide her worries for Seiichi in him, and he keeps it a secret for her, because they know how much Seiichi hates people talking about him behind his back.
When she goes to visit Seiichi one day, she discovers that Sanada is there. Neither of them see her, and she is glad for it; she can hear the shouting, and she doesn't want to walk in on something that doesn't involve her.
She doesn't mean to eavesdrop, but she can't help it. She can't help hearing Sanada mention tennis, and Seiichi shouting at him to leave. There is room for shock, because Seiichi doesn't shout. He could never do it properly when they were on the bridge.
From afar, she watches as the door opens and Sanada backs out into the corridor, deciding it was perhaps beneficial to leave Seiichi to his last moments of piece. When Sanada turns and sees her, she opens her mouth to explain why she is there, but he puts a finger to his lips and motions for her to walk away with him.
The corridor is silent.
When they are far enough away, she asks, "Is Seiichi okay?"
He gives her a long look. "He is in a bad way."
"Do you think I should—"
He shakes his head. She could never quite get over how easily Sanada could read her. "For now, all I think he needs is peace."
And he looks at her.
"The surgery has a fifty percent success rate."
And she looks back. "I know. He thinks he won't make it."
They are both anxious for the outcome, but neither of them want to voice their conscious fears for the worst, even though the worst is quite easily possible. They don't want to jinx the success rate, touch wood. Yet spoken or unspoken, the worst outcome is still there. It still holds weight.
The thought of Seiichi never coming out of surgery suddenly becomes real to her, and she fears it. She is afraid that Seiichi's lack of faith will not pull him through this. She is afraid that he wants to die—not because he is enamored by death, but because he wants to see what it's like to disappear and he wants to see if anyone cares.
She feels like crying, but she knows that it won't solve anyone's problems, so she holds them back. She feels the passive build up in her chest, but it's better not to let it out. It's better this way. "I don't want to Seiichi to die."
Sanada stares straight ahead. "None of us do."
For a moment, she thinks he drops his defenses. She thinks she sees the Sanada that might become real if Seiichi doesn't make it.
She is praying that Seiichi can make it, even if she doesn't believe in God, and even if she doesn't have any words to say. She doesn't want to see a sad Sanada. She doesn't want to be sad herself.
A world without Seiichi would be sad.
You won't be able to rebuild
something like that until tomorrow night,
if you're lucky enough to be blessed
with the chance to dream.
Because God is a cruel man,
as he is kind.
These are a few days left.
She spends most of her time kneeling at her bedside, and she's not sure why. She does a lot of things on impulse lately, because it helps her not to think about the consequences. She'll figure it out when she gets there. Her hands are clasped, and she is about to pray to God. But she doesn't know what to ask him for. To keep Seiichi on earth? To give him the faith to live? To rid him of his curiosity? There are no words. She's never prayed to God before. She feels stupid for trying, but she's trying to settle this build-up for passive emotion in her chest. She prays with all her spiritual strength, thinking of how scared everyone is, and how scared Seiichi himself is.
It seems that, in the end, the only thing that can save Seiichi is faith in humanity. She wants to find some way to restore his faith, but she's not sure how to go about it. The minutes are ticking down to either his rest or his redemption.
The ghost of fear is haunting his face. She can see how hollow he is. She can see that he is empty, no matter how hard he is trying to pull through this. It is difficult for him, deciding where the line between saving and dying is, because he's never had to mark the lines before.
The grime on the window is building up again, suffocating the view to the outside world. She fights the urge to scrub it clean, because there are more important things to worry about. But it continues to bother her and bother her, even when Seiichi is trying to communicate to her with his eyes. There are no words left: just tears and dreams. She takes care of the former, and he takes care of her latter.
One of his hands is occupied with brushing away her tears, and the other is clasping one of hers with all the strength he can muster. It is feeble, but his hands are still warm. He is still alive.
All the stairs are gone from the sky.
You have descended the stairwell from stardom,
and the stairs have long since vanished behind you.
There is no use trying to climb something that does not exist.
She doesn't want to be there at the surgery, partially because she doesn't want to be around his friends, and partially because she will probably start crying. She would rather cry in her room under a blanket with the door shut, so that no one can see or hear her when she does it. She asks Sanada to call her when it's over, and he promises that he will.
The whole day is spent in restless mourning. She chews on the ends of the pencils when attempting to write essays; she nibbles on her fingernails when her hands aren't occupied; she bites her chopsticks at mealtimes because she can't decide what she wants to eat. Her mother already knows what's wrong. Her father isn't home, but he promised that he would be praying anyway.
Fifty percent. When she thinks about it, it's not much, but it's better than forty percent. It's better than thirty percent. It's better than no chance at all.
In the end, she never got around to thanking Seiichi for being such a good friend to her, but she hopes that he knows it anyway. She never had many friends to start with, but that never seemed to deter him. He always encouraged her to do what she wanted to do, because no one else would. He always helped her with whatever she needed, because no one else understood what the problem was. He always hugged back the times she hugged him, because she was in need of one and he never seemed to mind.
She never got around to telling him what she thought of him—that he was a kind, gentle, loving person, and the whole world should know it; that even when he was scary, he was still Seiichi; that she always loved the person he used to be, and the person he is today, and the person he might become if the surgery is a success, because that's what friends are for. They love each other very much.
"He'll be okay." Her mother says while they are sitting at the table for lunch, putting a hand over her daughter's. "He'll be fighting for his life in there."
No, she thinks. He might not. She is so afraid that his curiosity is going to get the best of him.
No one touches the food, even though it is wonderfully cooked food. No one can bring themselves to eat while he is in there.
Her phone trills.
It's Sanada, with the final verdict.
It's late, but had it been earlier, she was sure she wouldn't have had the courage to pick it up, either. She and her mother look at each other. Firm gazes, hiding skin-deep fear.
Gently, her mother chides her to answer it.
picks up the phone. "S-Sanada?"
She looks at her mother, thinking that their hearts are beating at the same insane rate right now. Her mind is void of thought, but her body is alive with insistent emotions.
"About the surgery."
Silence, like time stopped.
So I'll tell you again.
Make your dreams.
Build a staircase of your own.
Make it, or you won't survive.
I'll help you, if you want me to.
Because that's what I'm here for.
I made a promise, and I want to keep it.
Take my hand, Seiichi.
They carved his favorite quote on the gravestone, about captains and friendship. He always said that he would give his book of quotes up to her when he got the chance, but he never did. The book was to stay by his side forever, in death as it had in life. She is tired. The movements of the people around her and the words they whisper are making her tired. Some part of her has gone with Seiichi: perhaps the hope and faith she nurtured, that he would pull through his.
Sanada was by her, perhaps even more drained than she was. The weight of his loss, in tennis and in his best friend's death, proved to be too much. She expected that, in his tire, his mouth would sleep. But he spoke. "It's started to rain."
Overhead, the clouds are silver. She turns her face skyward to feel the raindrops, but there are none. She hears a sound beside her, and when she tears, she sees him shedding a teardrop for the silence that has existed for too long.
It's a sign of commencement. She doesn't think her own tears are far off. There is a fine line between disbelieving laughter and mourning tears, and she is caught somewhere in between.
"It sure has." She says, the ghost of a hollow smile claiming residence to her face.
Someday, in place beyond the stars,
there will be no boundaries between us.
It was an unexpected whim that she should pass by the flower shop. It was never that she had forgotten him—more like she never considered the idea of giving a material position to a ghost before. Where was the point in giving a reminder that would fade eventually?
But, in doing so, she would ruin everything that Seiichi had lived to prove. Just because he had gone, that didn't mean he never existed. She was taking the wrong appear to remembrance.
And so it was there, on Seiichi's grave, that they were placed. The doorstep to heaven. Her offering was a letter, her Pandora's Box of sorrow and negativity, and bouquet of forget-me-nots.
The window is still covered in grime.
Love always, .
June 21, 2013.
Rest in peace, Mura.
- Princo & Ribbon.