We went back to the nursing home every single day that the both of us were free—which was at least two times a week. I think that, at first, the point of going to the nursing home was to try and bring a little bit of light into the lives of everyone present—yet neither Shiraishi nor myself could bring ourselves to abandon the new friends that we'd made. As it were, Shiraishi and the elderly man had become inseparable. Any time the nurse even tried to come near Shiraishi, the elderly man would start to cry. The two of them were so close that Shiraishi had taken to calling his conversation partner grandpa, and grandpa had taken to calling him Kuranosuke.
I always found myself coming back to the same elderly lady, as per my promise. She could never remember my name or who I was, but every time I approached, she seemed happy to see me. I felt that was what counted more than anything. Often we found ourselves having the same conversations that we'd had time and time again, but the more I visited, the more I came to realise which conversation topics worked best on her. While she didn't remember much about herself or anyone else in her family, she always had something to say about two particular topics.
The first topic that she seemed to relish was talk of the Arctic. She reminded me on several occasions that I carried its scent, even though I'd never been anywhere outside of Japan. She told me she remembered the biting winds of the Arctic in the winter, the taste of cloudberry jam on summer desserts, and the way the sky looked in the north during the colder months.
The second topic that got her talking was the girl that she loved a long time ago. Whenever we spoke about that girl whose laughter was as clear as the church bells on a Sunday morning, the elderly woman always looked bright-eyed and inquisitive. She allowed me to ask questions about her loved one—who was she? ("I can't remember what she did, but she could draw like no one I'd ever known.") What did she look like? ("I think she was from the Arctic.")—but only some questions bore answers. Most of the time, all she could say to me was, "I don't know. I can't remember." Sometimes she would start to grow angry with herself, and she wouldn't let her muscles relax until she'd forgotten why she'd been so mad in the first place.
One day when Shiraishi and I came to visit the nursing home, I sat down with the elderly woman and exchanged the same pleasantries with her that I always did. I said hello and told her my name, and she responded by looking at me in confusion. As always, it took a small while for her to warm up to me—but when she had, we talked about the same things that we'd been talking about for weeks.
Though I'd learned to be careful about letting my looks flicker to Shiraishi's form on the other side of the room, the elderly woman always found an excuse to bring him up. She always laughed gently before commenting, "You two look very good together."
I grew tired of correcting her time after time, so eventually I just started saying, "I think so too."
She nodded and beamed. "I used to be in love."
I looked curiously at the elderly woman. "Did she ever know that you loved her?"
The elderly woman shook her head. "I never told her. How could I?"
I blinked sympathetically at her. "Do you know where she is now?"
Her expression grew troubled. "I don't know. I can't remember."
Whenever it came time to leave, Shiraishi and I would always depart the nursing home hand-in-hand. It was a comforting gesture for the both of us after being forced to part with grandpa and the elderly woman respectively. It helped that the interaction wasn't one-sided: on days that I was too slow for him, Shiraishi would reach out and take my hand, and we would make our way to the ramen shop with our entwined hands swinging back and forth between us.
We went to the ramen shop so often that the owner began to recognise us. Whenever we came by, he greeted us warmly and allowed us to huddle up in a booth of our choice at the back of the restaurant. After our meals came, we would either eat in silence or in discourse depending on how our day had been. If our interactions with Grandpa and the elderly woman had been placid and pleasantly wistful, Shiraishi and I would eat our meals in a thoughtful sort of tranquillity; if our interactions had been painful or harrowing in any way, we often felt the need to talk it out.
One evening, I asked Shiraishi about Grandpa. After a long and careful muse, Shiraishi decided to answer my question. "Grandpa was the first person that I ever talked to at the nursing home." He began slowly. "The nurse introduced us, and the rest is history, I suppose. I always found him interesting to talk to—he knows a lot about geography, and I don't think I'm exaggerating the truth when I say he's been all over the world. He loved to travel. He used to go overseas a lot with his wife, who was an interpreter, and the two of them spent most of their days just working and travelling, working and travelling."
There was another pause.
"I never really grew up with my grandparents around." He admitted. "From either side of my family, really. They've all passed now, but I didn't know them that well. I suppose you could say that I never really felt as though I had any grandparents of my own."
"Is that why you're so close to grandpa?"
"I think so." Shiraishi said, his pensive look beginning to wither. "I only regret not having been able to meet him earlier in my life. He's so full of energy, but so inhibited at the same time. He knows a great deal about people and places, but he's physically and emotionally incapacitated. He told me that he lost his wife many years ago, and ever since she passed, he's never been the same. Old bones aside, he lost the incentive to travel many years back: going around the world meant nothing to him anymore, so long as he didn't have his soul mate by his side."
Then, slowly, he began to smile.
"He said to me one day, ‘Imagine us, Kuranosuke, travelling the world! Imagine us at the salt lake flats in Bolivia,' he said. ‘Imagine us at Pamukkale in Turkey. Imagine us at Halong Bay in Vietnam.'" Shiraishi was beginning to stare off into space, eyes glazing over. I had no words for him: all I could do was put my hand on his and squeeze gently.
- x -
My mother came to visit me on Thursday, bringing semi-complete projects and good news with her. She placed the projects in my care before she chose to digress the news: according to her, my father would be in Osaka very soon for a business trip. She hadn't seen him in weeks, and I hadn't seen him in months, so it was a good opportunity to get the family back together. My father called me when he arrived in Osaka very early on Friday morning and promised that he would free some time up in his schedule to have dinner with us on Saturday. Until then, we would have to make do without his loveable presence.
After I finished work at two o'clock, I came back home and started to add the finishing touches on my mother's projects while the devil herself cleaned the bathroom. In the process of quality-checking her videos, I came across one that appeared to be much shorter than the rest. Whereas most of the signing videos could be as long as ten or twenty minutes, the particular clip that caught my attention was only five minutes long. It looked a little strange, since the thumbnail was a frozen frame of my mother looking straight at the camera. I contemplated whether or not I should open the clip or leave it be, but in the end, my curiosity got the best of me.
It was a video of my mother sitting in our living room in Mihama. It was zoomed a little further out that her normal videos, which tended to place priority on her hands rather than her face. I watched with interest as my mother began to sign:
"A few months ago," she began, "my daughter told me of a remarkable young fellow whose acquaintance she'd recently made. She told me that she was teaching him sign language at his request. I asked her why. She told me that this fellow was simply a kind and noble human being. I didn't believe her, since attraction can do stupid things to the minds and mouths of the smitten. Besides, no one learns sign language without an ulterior motive, I told myself. I demanded to know if he had any connections to the deaf community—perhaps a relative, or a friend, or even a friend of a friend—but the only person he knew, it seemed, was me."
She closed her eyes for a moment to steal herself before she went on.
"I've heard her talk about him in the passing months." She said. "I've heard her talk about the way he puts so much effort into whatever he does, be it sign language, or class work, or even his part-time job at a humble florist—and even though I have never met this young man, it brings me great joy to know that he simply exists. It brings me joy to know that there is one person in the world who hasn't ruined humanity for the rest of us. It brings me great joy to know that there is one person who still loves for the sake of loving, who is kind for the sake of being kind, and who gives for the joy of giving, not for the hope of receiving."
The serious tone of the video lifted as her tensed shoulders relaxed, and her expression softened.
"Even though I have never met this young man, I am of the belief that he will go places. I am of the belief that every life he walks into will be a life that he changes. I am of the belief that he will become a hero of his own little world—perhaps not the world, but a world nonetheless."
She hesitated, as if she wanted to go on, but as if not completely sure what she wanted to say. In the end, she finished the video with a quick smile. Then she reached forward to stop the recording. As I leaned back, I remarked inwardly that not a single frame in that video had been touched by Koyama's editing software.
I didn't confront my mother about the recording—she might get embarrassed about it and insist on deleting it. Instead, I simply left it untouched amidst all the other recordings.
The following day, Shiraishi and I opened the shop together. Before I left to do delivery, I handed his USB over and said, "Here you go—this week's grammar points."
He thanked me with a wide and generous smile—something that had become pleasantly characteristic of him these past few weeks. I managed to smile back before we heard the raucous morning calls of Takagi, who had arrived to take over my shift. He gave us both a chipper good morning and offered to help me pack the van for my first delivery run of the day. I agreed to let him help out, if only it meant that I could get these deliveries out of the way as quickly as possible.
At the end of a very long day of work, I went home to clean up before our family's reunion dinner. That night would be the first time I would have had dinner with my father in many months—I hadn't seen him since April, when he'd driven me from Mihama to Osaka in an effort to help me move before the start of my first semester. In our excitement to see him, my mother and I arrived at the restaurant early. We decided to ahead and take a seat without him. Not that much longer after my mother and I had ordered drinks, along came a weary but cheery-looking man. With a cheeky grin, he asked, "Is there room for one more?"
He laughed when I leapt out of my chair to give him a long-awaited hug. My mother patiently waited for her turn to draw her husband in a tight bear hug. When the three of us had exchanged our long-awaited pleasantries, we sat ourselves down, and my father said, "I'm glad to see that my two kids still look so healthy." My mother kicked him under the table for that.
The three of us caught up over a hearty meal: my mother recounted how she'd picked up some new computer skills; I informed both of my parents that I now had my licence; and my father informed us that he really did try to quit his job this time, but his boss just wouldn't let him resign. No words were spoken at the table, but our spirits were kept high by the occasional utensil being accidentally thrown across the dinner table, or a stray drop of sauce being flung onto the face of a person sitting opposite; it was a natural consequence of a bunch as unruly as us trying to tell over-emphatic stories while in the possession of eating utensils.
While my father was in Osaka, he spent all of his spare time with us. Even though he had a hotel room all to himself, he would often come back to my apartment after work and fall asleep with my mother on the floor. When he was required at the office the next day, he would wake up early and leave in a hurry, since my apartment was much further away from his workplace than I guessed his hotel room had been. I didn't doubt that the reason he continued returning to us night after night was for the simple comfort of being at home with his family once again, even if "comfort" meant sleeping in his suit and tie on tatami mats amidst the summer heat.
His stay in Osaka was, rather disappointingly, short-lived. When his time at the branch company there was finished, he treated us all to a hearty meal once again and joked that maybe, just maybe, he'd see me once again before the New Year. After he said his goodbyes, he and my mother gathered up their things and returned to Mihama in a company car.
I spent my newfound time alone at work, or with the Chemistry Support Group (RIP), or with Shiraishi. On days where all my friends worked and I did not, I found myself gravitating towards the nursing home to have conversations with the elderly lady I'd befriended. What I didn't realise at the time was that there were unforeseen consequences in going back the nursing home almost every other day. As I held conversation after conversation with the elderly lady, day after day, I came to the quick realisation that something in her was deteriorating.
When I'd first met her, she'd already had trouble remembering things, but she could at least keep up a conversation with me for longer than ten minutes. These days, she never seemed to be able to keep something in her mind for very long at all. In the span of one conversational session, she asked me countless times what my name was and what I was doing here. When I told her that my name was , and that I had come to visit her, she just looked at me. With wide and troubled eyes, she would ask, "Are you my granddaughter?"
More and more times, she started responding to my questions with the same phrase: "I don't remember." I wondered if her response was genuine, or if it was the only thing that she signed to me because it was the only thing she could remember how to sign.
One day, I went to the nursing home to talk to the elderly lady once again. It was the day that I'd walked into the reception room whilst wondering to myself if there was any point to visiting her any more. It had become so harrowing to watch her wither away across the days, and I began wondering to myself if it would be selfish to start talking to other people as well as the elderly lady. It was a growing thought in the back of my mind.
When I asked the nurse that day if I could see the elderly lady I always saw, she smiled at me tersely and said, "I'm so sorry, but Kiyo-san can't see you right now."
Since I'd come out all the way to the nursing home, she encouraged me to converse with a different lady instead. Though I was still in a bit of a confused haze, I consented, and the nurse led me into the same room that I'd visited time and time again. I gave the room a scan, but Kiyo was nowhere to be found. Instead, I was met with a different lady—a woman who introduced herself as Fuuko and smiled a warm, grandmotherly smile. My interactions with her were pleasant and completely unlike the conversations I'd had with Kiyo—yet somehow I felt discomforted. Something didn't feel quite right.
It was strange to think that way. After giving the matter a little bit of thought, I realised that I'd never really known Kiyo very well, and she'd never really known me at all. All I knew about her was that she was from the Arctic and that she had a lost love. All she knew about me was—well, nothing, I expected. She never, ever managed to remember who I was; I doubted that she would have been able to commit any other pieces of information about me to her memory.
After conversing with Fuuko for a little over an hour, she started to get a bit tired and asked if I wouldn't mind allowing her to return to her room. I promised to come back and visit her, and with a smile, she said, "I know. I've seen what you've done for Kiyo-san, and I don't doubt that you'd do the same for me."
Instead of leaving the nursing home, I decided to try my hand at having a conversation with grandpa. He was a little bit shy to begin with, but he warmed up to me after I told him a story or two about our beloved Shiraishi. When I recounted stories about Shiraishi's obsessions with plants and punctuality, grandpa laughed until he started coughing. When he recovered from his fit, he signed, "Kuranosuke always asks me to tell him stories about my adventures, but he never tells me much about himself."
"He doesn't like to talk about himself much." I said with an amused look. "He's just that sort of person."
Although I'd never had much direct contact with grandpa in the past, I could tell that he was an observant man. Despite our lack of interaction in the past few weeks, he'd still managed to gather some intelligence on me based off things he'd seen, or things he'd gathered from conversations with Shiraishi. He said that he'd seen me come in with his beloved grandson at least twice a week, and he could see that I'd grown close with Kiyo. On Kiyo's behalf, he wanted to thank me for spending so much time with her these past few weeks.
"Ask me anything about Kiyo." He signed. "Anything you want to know—as long as I know about it, of course."
I hesitated, wondering if I should exercise discretion or if I should just go ahead and ask all the questions I'd been wanting to know the answers to for weeks now. In the end, my curiosity managed to best my politeness. "I was wondering... Kiyo-san doesn't seem to retain information for very long, and her memories of the past are hazy. Does she have dementia?"
Grandpa nodded. "A side-effect of Alzheimer's." He said. "Kiyo-san arrived in this nursing home long before I ever did—which, in itself, was many, many years ago. Back then, she was still in the early stages of her Alzheimer's, so she could still speak. She had some problems remembering very minor things, but that was it. She could talk back then—very well, I might add." He recalled this point fondly. "She was very eloquent."
"How so?" I asked.
"She had a way with words—the consequence of reading so much, I assume." He went on. "Most of the books that she read weren't even written in Japanese. She loved other languages—had a particular talent for Nordic ones, I might add. Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish, you name it: she could read them all. She used to live in Scandinavia, you know. Not sure where—she never said—but she was from somewhere far north."
We talked about Kiyo for a while: I asked him questions, and he responded in great depth. He knew a surprising amount about Kiyo, and often remarked that she was very much like his late wife. "But not as witty," he said with a wink the first time he brought it up. "Oh, if only you could have met my wife—I dare say all the men in the world knew the sharpness of her tongue!"
As closing hours drew to an end, I knew I was running out of time to ask the questions that I wanted answered. I was curious about the girl from Kiyo's past that always cropped up in our conversations, but I wasn't sure if it would have been appropriate to ask about her lost love so flippantly. I decided to preface our conversation with the question, "Did Kiyo-san's grandchildren ever come to visit her?"
Grandpa managed a sad and weary smile. "She never had any grandchildren—never even had children, come to think of it." He said. "If she did, she certainly never spoke about them. I don't doubt that there was ever someone in her life that she was very, very fond of. But she never spoke about it—not even once—and I respected her choice."
When the nurse came over to tell us that our time was almost up, the light trickled out of grandpa's eyes. He began to look terribly sad, and tears started to well up in his eyes. I reached forward and grasped his hands tightly in an attempt to reassure him. When he finally allowed me to retract them, I signed, "Don't worry, I promise you that I'll be back on Thursday. I'll be back with Kuranosuke—I know he'll be very happy to see you."
Although he seemed to think that Thursday was an eternity away, he reluctantly let me go. A weighty burden settled on my heart when I left the nursing home, and I suddenly found myself able to empathise with Shiraishi: I now knew why he had such a hard time letting go of Grandpa's hands every time visiting hours were up. My mind felt like it was in a cloud, and all of my unanswered questions about Kiyo circled my head again and again as I walked back to the station and stood on the platform. I knew I couldn't simply go home in my current state, so I messaged Shiraishi over LINE and asked if he was free after work. He replied with a cheerful James sticker and a, "Sure! Cheers?"
I simply responded with a confirmatory Moon sticker before hopping on a train bound for Cheers.
I wasn't surprised to find that I was the first one to arrive; I doubted that Shiraishi had even finished work when I'd messaged him, so I was content to wait around in front of the entrance of the restaurant for a little while. I was so wrapped up in my thoughts that I almost didn't notice him until he ran up to me, puffing a little. He looked like he'd been sprinting a marathon and was trying to hide how short of breath he was.
"Are you okay?" I asked him.
He looked confused. "Are you okay?"
"Oh." I said. "I'm, um, okay. I just had some thoughts that I needed to talk out with someone. Do you mind at all?"
"Of course not." He said, reaching out to grasp my hand.
We found a quiet booth on the far side of the restaurant and spent the first ten minutes or so browsing through the menu in silence. After we ordered our food, Shiraishi asked me one more time, "Is everything okay?"
It was just the sign I needed to start talking: I told him about how I'd been going to the nursing home in my spare time, since I had nothing better to do. He listened very carefully as I told him about how Kiyo's memory had been declining more and more these past couple of weeks—so much so that all she ever signed me these days was, "I don't remember. I don't remember. I don't remember." I told him all about my conversation with Grandpa today, and how I'd learned so much more about her than I ever had when I'd been actually conversing with her.
"He knew so much about her—about where she'd come from, and what she was really like before the dementia started to set in—but there's something I just can't put my finger on." I said.
"She never told him about the girl that she loved." I said. "She clearly trusted him enough to tell him half her life story, but she never told him about that girl."
Shiraishi looked thoughtful. "Perhaps he never found the chance to bring it up."
"Maybe." I said, not entirely convinced. "He told me that he never asked about it because she never wanted him to, but when she was talking with me, she held nothing back."
He paused to think for a little bit longer this time. "Maybe she couldn't tell him."
"You think so?"
"I can't know for sure, but maybe." He said. "I know her stories aren't strange to either of us, but maybe to the people around her, it was."
His words troubled me. "She really loved that girl—all Kiyo-san ever talked about was that girl from the Arctic, that girl who could draw like no other, that girl whose laughter was as clear as the church bells on a Sunday morning." I said. "I can't imagine what it would be like, not having the liberty to admit that you like someone—the liberty, not simply the courage."
Shiraishi murmured agreement. "Courage is hard to come by. Liberty is harder."
Our conversation didn't lighten up once all the way through dinner. When we finished eating, he decided to accompany me home, despite my insistence that he didn't have to if he didn't want to. He politely refused, and after he sneakily managed to pay for both of our meals, we walked to the station hand-in-hand. It kindled a bit of warmth in my cheeks.
We said very little on the way back to my apartment, giving my mind the opportunity to work overtime. I wondered how long it had been since Kiyo had last seen the girl she loved. I wondered if they ever stayed in contact after they parted ways. I wondered if Kiyo had loved that girl her whole life, and I wondered how she'd managed to keep it a secret for so many years without breaking.
I didn't think that I would be able to imagine her pain for even a moment: I was in a position where I could freely confess without (probably) needing to fear rejection; I had evidence to suggest that he felt the same way about me as I felt about him, and I even had ridiculously enthusiastic third parties like Junko cheering me on. I virtually had no reason to say nothing to Shiraishi as he walked me all the way to the staircase leading up to my apartment.
Before he saw me off for the night, I turned to face him. For moments on end, I turned over in my head whether I should stop dragging things out and just get the words off my chest—but before I got the chance to do or say anything, Shiraishi reached out and gently pulled at my face.
It was so unexpected and so uncharacteristic a gesture that the only response I could think to give was a laugh. "What are you doing?"
He smiled at my little burst of laughter. "That's better."
I laughed more to hide my embarrassment. "Usually I'm the one who teases you."
"The seasons change." He said simply, his smile widening. "I hope dinner made you feel a bit better."
"It did." With a laugh, I added, "But I'm still mad at you for paying."
"I know. Think of it as my gift to you."
"Gift for what?"
He looked thoughtful. "For being great?"
"You get more and more shameless by the day." I said, once again using laughter as a means of drawing attention away from my reddening cheeks. "Anyway, thanks for walking me all the way home."
I smiled. "Good night, Kuranosuke-kun."
He mirrored me. "Good night, -san."
And with little more than a moment's hesitation, he drew me into a tight embrace.
The gesture came out of the blue. He barely gave me the time to hug him back before pulling away with a wide smile and a bout of nervous laughter. Although ordinarily he waited for me to climb the stairs and say goodbye to him from my apartment door, he didn't linger today; despite the fortitude that he'd shown in deciding to hug me out of nowhere, I expected that his embarrassment kept him from hanging around for too long, perhaps fearing the reaction that would manifest in me. I watched him disappear around the corner before climbing the stairs back up to my apartment, laughing to myself all the way.
As I locked the door behind me on my way in, I found myself thinking about the unexpected satisfaction I'd gotten from being hugged by Shiraishi. I found myself thinking about all the little things that made the experience whole—about the fact that he was so tall and I was so tiny that I fitted snugly in his embrace, and about the fact that Shiraishi decided to take his leave only seconds after the deed had been done, emotionally unable to wait around and learn what I'd made of his bold gesture. If he'd waited around for a little longer, he might have gotten the chance to hear me laugh and sign back, "You know something, Kuranosuke-kun? I like you too." But alas, I thought to myself amusedly, old habits die hard.
- x -
Following that fateful evening, Shiraishi did his very best to sustain my cheeriness. As a result of his endeavours to keep me from getting too down on myself, I was regularly exposed to natural environments. He insisted that it would help my mind to become calm and at ease if ever I was feeling troubled and he wasn't around to talk it out with me. "Nature has a special kind of energy," he told me on our first visit to the nearest botanical gardens. "It's good for your health."
Even after the semester started and our schedules got busier, Shiraishi made sure that I had consistent brushes with nature, even if it just meant going to the park near my apartment for an hour or two. We spent a lot of time in the botanical gardens at his insistence, but even though I found my mind calming every time we sat down in a spot of nature, I wasn't sure whether to attribute such a success to the special energy of nature, or the feeling of Shiraishi's fingers gently removing fallen leaves from my hair.
In between work, class and visits to parks, we kept up our weekly visits at the nursing home. Shiraishi had become conversationally quite fluent, given that he came to practice his sign language at the nursing home every other week. Fuuko remarked that he and I ought to share our stories with the other people in the nursing home, so Shiraishi and Grandpa decided to start a little conversation group while I floated around to have a chat with the more solitary members in the room. The floating helped to keep me from getting too emotionally invested in another person so soon after Kiyo's repeated absences. After visiting hours closed for the day, Shiraishi and I would always make sure to say goodbye to Grandpa before we left. These days, our goodbyes were filled with smiles rather than tears: Grandpa had all the evidence he needed to know that his grandson would come back to him, and even though a couple of days was a long time without Shiraishi, the wait would be worth it.
After leaving the nursing home, we would always have dinner at our favourite ramen shop. The owner—who now knew us by name—always gave us complementary appetisers to go with our meals. He was also well aware of the fact that we enjoyed having deep and meaningful conversations with our meals, so after a friendly greeting and some free food, he always left us to our devices.
About a week into semester, Shiraishi brought up a rather unexpected topic.
"Do you remember that story I told you, about the man who came into the flower shop?"
"You mean the one that got all teary when you started using JSL on him?"
He affirmed my guess with a nod. "When I first started volunteering, it was hard to get used to feel so... incomplete, I suppose. I've said before that, as a result of speaking JSL, what I've found hardest is trying to steel myself against the bewildered and upsetting reactions that I get from some people—but now I'm beginning to think that the volunteering has all been worth it. I've... come to find it rewarding. The laughter and the smiles and the tears that came from simply conversing with them—I think I've really come to appreciate the charm of JSL."
It was warming to hear such words come from the mouth of someone as sensitive and empathetic as Shiraishi. I'd seen first hand the way he'd begun to adopt a new, somewhat steelier perspective: where he used to tear up every time he was forced to part with Grandpa, he now smiled warmly; where his frantic reassurances used to be met with mistrust and tears, his promises were now worth their weight in gold; where he used to leave the nursing home, saddled with excess sorrow, he now left with a bit of a perk in his step—as though he truly believed that what he'd done that day had made all the difference in his little world.
Seeing him smile down into his bowl of ramen made me think for the first time that I wouldn't have minded where my relationship with Shiraishi went. Though I'd missed my chance on several occasions to say so in the past, I wouldn't have minded just opening my mouth and openly admitting that I liked him. I wouldn't have minded just asking him out the way Junko insisted I do countless times. I might have let my mouth run away, had it not been such an inappropriate time to do so.
Still, I didn't want to simply say nothing. In the end, I found myself telling him, "You know, I've been fortunate to meet a lot of good people in my life, but it's been a while since I've met anyone as honest and as genuine as you, Kuranosuke-kun."
When he saw the way I smiled at him, he started to go a little red. We both knew that it wasn't just from the steam of his ramen.
Alzheimer's disease: According to Wikipedia, Alzheimer's is a neurone generative disease that starts slow and gets worse over time. Common symptoms include difficulty remembering recent events (short-term memory loss), but as the disease advances, symptoms increase to problems with language, disorientation, mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self care and behavioural issues. People will start to withdraw socially, their bodily functions will start to deteriorate, and all of this eventually leads to their death. According to this subreddit, Alzheimer's is basically "your brain [wasting] away and [ceasing] to function properly on any level. It's not just memory that goes, it's everything." There's lots of information on this subreddit, but I'll leave it up to you to decide what you want to believe and what you want to cross-reference LOL. I should also mention that my depiction of a person with Alzheimer's is not the most accurate, but it's a story, guys. A DN NONETHELESS.
The Arctic, the Nordic countries and Scandinavia: Since there is a very fine distinction between all three of these, I thought I should just point them out, since there are a lot of misconceptions as to what each term encompasses. The Arctic is a polar region in the northernmost part of the earth, and it consists of the Arctic Ocean, as well as parts of Alaska, Canada, Finland, Greenland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden. The Nordic countries comprise Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and other associated territories. Scandinavia is a cultural region encompassing Norway, Sweden and Denmark, although I believe there is some dispute about whether Iceland, Finland and the Faroes should be included, due to the fact that all six countries share historical similarities.
Nature and your health: Apparently being surrounded by nature actually does strengthen your mental and physical health as far as modern psychological research goes. Aside from all the vitamin D you get from being outside, this boost in mental health is apparently linked to the other fact that being surrounded by nature causes your body to activate your "rest and digest" system (as opposed to your "fight or flight" system), which is apparently good for your immune system, which is apparently the cause of your strengthened mental and physical health. If you want to read more about the specifics, here's a 2-minute read for your better understanding: [x]
Ribbon: YELLS JUST ONE MORE CHAPTER.
Princo: I timed myself reading the "2-min" read article and at most it took me 1 min 23 seconds so not even 2-min wink wonk
August 8, 2016.