As I write this, it should be raining. It is not.
It has been raining a lot recently, but right now, the sun shines bright. As I read Nitia’s fanfiction piece for ‘Garden of Words’, I wish there was rain. I wish I could hear the sound of water splashing, gently and harshly. I listen to Nitia’s voice, telling me a story I know and yet, do not, like with all fanfiction. Her words are soft, the spray of water against my face, the sky painting freckles on my cheeks. Nitia writes music, in words that paint with all the colours of the wind. This is a gentle story, sad and full of hope. It is a melody written for a piano and one solo singer. Tomorrow morning, it will rain and I will read this piece again. I hope that wherever you are, whenever you are, it will rain for you.– The Fanfiction Finder
If it rains, I wonder if you will be staying here?
Even if it doesn’t rain, I will be here.
Takao sighed. It’s been five years since he last saw her. Five years since the faint clap of thunder. Five years since the heavens poured, drenching them head to toe. It looks like we just swam across the river. Her brown heels, soaked. Her hair dripping as she wrapped her arms around herself. She never looked more beautiful.
A switch flicks. “You’re going to hurt your eyes like that,” his older brother chides. “God forbid shoemaking prodigy Takao Akizuki loses his eyesight.”
“I wasn’t making shoes, Aniki,” said Takao rolling his eyes.
Shōta raises an eyebrow. “Oh? What were you doing then?”
Thinking about her.
Her apartment. Droplets dripping down onto her terrace. She irons his shirt, vapour rising as she moves her arm up and down. An egg is cracked, the sound of a knife against a chopping board. Omu rice with sizzling hot tea.
I think I’ve fallen in love with you.
What would have happened if he didn’t say those words? What would have happened if he hadn’t fallen in love with her?
Yukino-san, whose name he did not know until that day in September. The day he decided to go to class, and she decided to go to work. They met each other in the hallway.
Not Yukino-san……Yukino-sensei, remember?
He did remember. It was hard to forget that the girl he loved was his teacher. That she wasn’t a girl at all but rather, a woman. A woman who was 12 years older than him.
He shrugs, “Nothing really.”
“Sounds to me like someone’s got a bad case of the jitters,” his brother says, leaning against wooden walls. “You nervous about tomorrow?”
Takao blinks. It was his shoe-design presentation tomorrow and he’d forgotten all about it.
“Now, don’t look so scared. I’m sure you’ll do great,” says Shōta, pushing his glasses upwards. “Although, there was something I wanted to ask you about.”
“Oh? What is it?”
“Well, you know how Rika and I have been together for so long, it’s been what, five years? So, I was…thinking about…asking her to marry me.”
Takao widens his eyes. “Wow, that’s- that’s huge Aniki! When are you going to ask her?”
“Tomorrow, at dinner after your presentation.” He runs a hand through his hair nervously. “I know it’s supposed to be your day but just this once-
“That’s fine! It’s completely fine! Don’t you worry about me, you should definitely ask her!”
Shōta smiles. “Arigatou Takao, I knew I could count on you.”
Takao watches his Aniki’s retreating figure disappear behind the sliding Shoji doors. Their fabric cream, edges maple. And he can’t help but wish his life was as easy as his brother’s.
They wrote to each other during the first year. She would tell him stories of how she was settling in. How she didn’t unpack her suitcase until two weeks after she moved. Her old clothes still fit even if they were albeit faded.
She would tell him about her days at school. Reading Mishima and Sōseki to students who wanted to learn and not bully or harass her. The feeling of being respected in the staff room and not looked down upon for being too young, or too pretty.
She would tell him how she would come back home with chalk on her fingers and tired shoulders. How her stomach would rumble as she lazily treaded towards the kitchen door. How it would then be filled with her mother’s famous side-dishes, delicious, but incomparable to the boxed lunch given to her at Shinjuku Gyoen. Reading that made him grin like a fool.
And he would tell her. About the time when he was praised for creating the perfect mould, and others, when he could not design anything at all. His mind a blank canvas, perfectly white.
Sometimes, creating something can be quite difficult. Takao, who used to design shoes and brought them to life over a period of months, now had to do so in a matter of days.
It’s different. It’s his passion but it’s different. He remembered how he would while away his days at school, desperately wanting, and needing to get out of there. Days, where he would stay awake long after sundown, whittling away at a piece of wood, hammering the leather covering into place. His hands sore, eyes drowsy.
He remembered how he would make shoes with a purpose. How he made a pair for her.
These days, he makes shoes not because he feels inspired but because he has to. And it’s strange. It’s strange because he never thought that doing what he loved would feel exhausting. So exhausting, to the point where he would collapse on the sofa and wake up the next morning, repeating the cycle all over again.
Creativity, he learned has its limits. Creativity, as much as he’d like it to, doesn’t function from 9-5. Creativity, if it were a human being, would not survive in today’s world. Even if it happened to be the most essential thing for society to survive, to progress.
He really, really needed a break.
The next morning, rain.
He felt the rush of droplets falling ring in his ears, his moccasins skirting around muddy puddles. His sweater, too thin to withstand the cold.
A car speeds by, drenching him entirely on his left side. He shivers, wondering how on earth he was going to do his presentation.
“I’m sure you’ll be fine.” It’s like he can hear her. He quickly spins around, eyes searching until- he sees no one there but himself, his reflection a mirror in the window. The intercom blares out the name of his stop and he hurries to get out as people rush to get in, drenched but constantly moving.
He treads down the road, watching as a mother holds her daughter’s hand, guarding her with an umbrella. An old man passes by, clad in a rain coat, while a 15-year-old almost falls from his bicycle, the road far too slippery for his usual fast pace.
And at last he reaches his destination: Shinjuku Gyo-en National Park. He puts a coin in and enters.
It’s exactly the same as he left it. Green trees and vast expanses, a few shades darker after the rain. Water gushing from above into little streams and ponds.
The bridge, wooden and creaking in the same places. And at it’s end, the gazebo. And at the gazebo-