"Things to Transport" Anonymous
Today I was on my way to a café. The rain had been falling since morning, making the already cold air even colder. This shop was located on a path that strayed from the road home. It was just the other day, on my way home from school, which I happened to notice by chance this genuine café. It had a cozy, static atmosphere that I was very fond of and in the back of my mind I had decided to stop by some time this weekend. I pulled at the black, wooden door, its bottom wet from the splashing water, and entered the shop interior, taking the seat furthest back. A suited man quietly sat alone, spreading out a newspaper on a round table. I’m glad I came before sunset, avoiding mealtime. There was no real reason why I decided to come on this particular day. This morning, while I was leisurely passing the time at my house, I realized I was wasting this small vacation, so I decided on going out to start enjoying it again. I blamed it on the rain.
I hung up my coat and scarf, which I received for my college entrance celebration, with a hanger. I thought I would stay here for at least two hours, so I ordered enough food from the menu before the kitchen became busy. Although I wasn’t hungry because I had already had lunch at my house, I always liked to eat a small snack while I studied. Pursuing the letters, writing the characters consumes an unexpected amount of energy. Even though I had been sitting down all day, dinner was delicious. More importantly, at a time like this I thought it would be embarrassing to have just a cup of coffee.
I fetched an A4 size notebook out of my leather handbag and pulled up my chair. The notebook, that was without a cover, jostled around inside the bag and lost its edges. It looked like a rice ball inside of a lunchbox. I spread open the reference books and arranged them on the table like two seagulls flying, then arched my back. When the first dish arrived, I highlighted the part of a sentence that caught my eye and suddenly recalled what occurred that day.
Looking down I exhaled a breath that could be seen extra white over my deep red scarf. I wonder if shortcake appears delicious, because it’s red on white. I wonder how it would feel if it were white on red. Like that I kept on thinking about inconsequential things almost every day. I cared more about reputation or gossip than academic score evaluations. As cheerful as I tried to be, I was a little frustrated with how cramped the junior high and its community felt. However, that day was an exception.
I never made things like promises, and even if I had the day before, I would find it so cumbersome that I would have rather died than follow through with it.I’d been awful about it for as long as I can remember, and I hated it. However, I anxiously awaited the day I could make that promise a reality, and day after day, I prepared to leave. When that day finally came, I wore my favorite red scarf with cute white bears embroidered here and there. It was the first time we had seen each other in plainclothes, and there was a strange tension in the air. I wonder if he finds me cute. I can hold interesting conversations, I appear descent, and I do not lose my wallet or anything. The only things that came to mind were about me. When I arrived at the station, I waited for a while for my partner to come. He was in the same class of the same school as I was. Although I had been paying attention to him from about fifth grade on, it was the first time we spent our time off together like this. We have had some short conversations, but I found it difficult to make the first move. I remember telling him, “Be my shopping bodyguard. Girls love cafés, you know?” and things like that. I was worried that I might be blushing.
The early morning train car wasn’t crowded, and the seats were vacant. I demonstrated my childish self-indulgence, however, and asked him to stand by the exit door with me because I wanted to see the scenery through the window. The view was about eighty-percent trees and twenty-percent houses. I’ve grown so familiar with this view, yet the illumination from the morning sun through the tiny window was exactly like a frame of silver. The usual view seemed like a masterpiece found in France or Italy. From what I saw hung in the school’s hallways, I never really received a deep impression from any of them. I didn’t have any knowledge or talent of painting, but now I wanted to carefully preserve this scene.
The boy standing next to me was a middle school student who, due to his adult-like clothes, looked more mature than I would’ve thought. Even though he has always been a classmate, he was the only one in that train car who I recognized as a man and that made me all the more nervous. Actually, this was really my first time being outside of the suburbs. No, this was the first time I’d been out without my parents. When I was talking to my parents about today’s plans, I made them really worried. For some reason, they told me to be careful of my destination because it was so far away. They also only talked about negative things; theft, loss, accidents, and other such troubles. Although they gladly allowed me to go, truth be told, they were most worried about me going out with a boy. So, I was gratefully listening to my parents’ speech, while taking the advice with a grain of salt. Because they were so worried, they taught me how to purchase the train ticket myself. My expression and attire were perfect, but next to him I felt like a child. My face and my back were getting hot.
The train we were in was a two-car formation, its bottom half was a nice yellow color. In this town, everything is a story. The slightly tilted photo studios, the large trees bound with rope, the handrails coated with rust, and the people who created these things, they all have their own stories to tell. These stories are all of great importance, and every day this train runs straight along as if it’s watching over this town. It was as if to draw a line with a yellow highlighter in a sentence of a story.
Before I realized, the masterpiece in a silver frame only consisted of gray cityscape, which was too monotonous as a landscape painting. On our way, having stood for almost an hour, my friend complained again and again that he wanted to sit down.
“It’s alright to stand once in a while.”
As if I had much experience I persuaded him with convincing words.
It was not just my shyness that I didn’t sit next to him in such an ideal situation like this. It was because I, who had never sat next to a boy that I was interested in even in class seat assignments, had no idea what would’ve happened to my chartreuse green teenage heart if it kept on throbbing nonstop. Contrary to my heated heart, however, my toes felt frozen and numb. Why did I choose these flat shoes? The canvas shoes with colorful flower patters didn’t go with winter clothing, but they were my favorite, and I only ware them on special days. I thought fashion began at one’s feet, but as the floor of the train was unexpectedly cold, I felt the heat draining from my feet. Could the train be powered by its passengers’ body heat? Just as I was thinking such trivial thoughts, the train slid up to the edge of the station. He urged me, and I raised my knees a few times, trying to improve my blood circulation, and got off the train and went onto the platform.
As the great end-of-the-year event was just around the corner, the shopping district was jam packed. Feeling the sensation that shook my brain from the crowd of people I wasn’t use to, I walked a little while and went to the coffee shop I had decided upon. By the time I arrived, each and every end of my body was warmed up as if steam would come out of it, but then it got cold right away.
"We are temporarily closed today."
My date read from the sign as he laughed, but I was desperate as if it were the end of my world, and I was about to cry. Why didn't they give me more advance notice?... That was when my cellphone rang.
Pouring the cooled coffee down my throat, I pulled out the hanger from my coat and began getting ready to leave. Getting ready meant no more than simply tossing everything into my tote bag. As I finished paying at the cashier, I put the cell phone against my ear, thinking I might ask my girlfriend for something like a notebook cover as my next birthday gift.
"Hello?" Her voice was always cheerful and welcoming.
"I'm coming home soon."
"Will you be okay in the rain?"
"The rain has already let up, so it should be fine. Come to think of it, I suddenly remembered that day."
We talked about when I proposed to her, that I was very nervous, and how we both cried and laughed. It was a cold day, exactly like today. That day, with red eyes, she said it like this:
“The color yellow carries happiness, absolutely.”
In my right hand, I was gently clutching the umbrella and the yellow highlighter. Even though it was over the phone, in order to convey her happiness she laughed, and with a certain pause said:
"I remembered our first time going out."
"The first time we went out...? When was it again?"
When I was stumped and couldn’t immediately remember, I thought she closed her mouth and laughed elatedly. Then, when I turned the phone off and opened a pen case to put away the pen in my hand, the streetlights shone on green and pink highlighters.
In this town, a yellow, red, and green train runs from neighborhood to neighborhood. She really liked that train and café for some reason. Naturally, I was influenced by that. However, I felt we couldn’t go together much since I worked as a teacher. Our holidays seldom fall together, as is the way of the system called “dual income.” Let’s go to that café by train together on our next holiday. So, when I thought like that, I recalled a previous exchange and smiled into my scarf and walked.
The 3rd Nakazora Literary Award
"Kotoden Story Project"