* 39 *

My first self's popularity - though granted, it was mine - really was astounding.
Around the end of November, I remembered that there was a girl who persistently followed me around, although we weren't talking stalking here.
No, not just one - depending on the time, there could be several. I can't remember what they were like, naturally.
But as usual, it was unbelievable stuff considering my second life. I wish I could have half of that, sheesh.

Why was I only reminded of that then? Well, that's kind of a funny story.

I was sitting by the window on the second floor of a hamburger place in the city, reading a book, and periodically looking out below.
Not that I was really a fan of the hamburgers there, but it was a habit of mine to sit in that window seat.
The reason being because nine times out of ten on the weekend, I'd see Tokiwa walking by in the afternoon.
So it was a good spot to watch for him coming through.

I sipped some hot coffee and gazed at the people below.
It was Saturday, and I saw an alarming amount of couples passing by. There was hardly anyone walking alone who didn't also appear to be in the middle of work.
Maybe it was because Christmas was approaching, or maybe it was always that way.

Christmas songs were frequently playing in all the shops now. At that particular moment, it was "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town."
It was the same no matter where you went this time of year. Maybe you could even consider it threatening.
With lights decorating the roadside trees, Christmas was invading the town.

Honestly, it made me unhappy. It felt like a provocation directed at me, lonely and unfestive as I was.
It wasn't, of course. It was just innocently making happy people happier.

But let's say you have somebody who's lost their mother, and every time they turn on the TV or go outside or do anything, they're told "Mother's Day is coming up!"
You know that's gonna hurt. Not saying you should go and cancel Mother's Day because of it, just saying that hey, those people exist.

The book I was reading was one I checked out from the library at my sister's suggestion.
Seeing my sister enjoy reading so much got me interested myself, I guess. And since I had so much spare time, I asked "Got any recommendations?"
It's weird, but even though I went to the library all the time in high school, I never had much interest in books then.

And a reader, no matter what they're like, will always have a serious answer to that question. Maybe because they get to demonstrate their experience to others.
She recommended me a number of books prefaced with "for beginners." And one of them - well, you might've guessed it already - was "The Catcher in the Rye."
I struggled with the style of the Japanese translation, and since I was looking around as I read, I found that I wasn't making it through the pages as quickly as I liked.

I'm no good at remembering foreign names, incidentally. Well, now that I think of it, "Holden Caulfield" isn't too bad of one.
But when we're talking "Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikova," I'm gonna start foaming at the mouth.

When I was about thirty pages in, I looked outside and saw a familiar face. I sat up and leaned for a closer look.
But no, it wasn't the man I was looking for, nor a man at all.

I thought I was mistaken at first, as she was acting strangely, had dyed her hair chestnut-brown, and wore clothes that didn't match my idea of her at all.
Had it not been for my well-trained eyes, I would have overlooked her. Indeed, my eyes and ears became very attentive through stalking.

Though I had no real reason to pursue her, I put away my tray and hurried out of the restaurant.
I made it outside just as Hiiragi turned the corner. Missed her by a hair.

Chapter 40

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