* 45 *

I woke up being stepped on by my sister. Maybe less "stepped on" and more hit with her foot. At any rate, it wasn't a great way to be woken up.
"Gotta return library books," she said. "Wake up."
Well, I suppose I was at fault for sleeping in to four in the afternoon.

It was already dim outside, so the streetlights began to turn on.
But it was one of those rare cloudless days, with rather clear skies. Sometimes a strong wind would blow leaves across the asphalt, making rustling sounds.

Once at the library, my sister carried a bundle of books inside.
I locked the car and followed her in, returned a few books I'd checked out, and quietly told her "Alright, let's meet up at the entrance in an hour."
I went back outside to the corner of the parking lot and lit up a cigarette.

It looked to be some sort of storage area, with lots of junk scattered about.
Rusty bicycles, poles, traffic cones, cracked flowerpots, tools, buckets, that kind of stuff.
A lone outdoor unit breathed laboriously amid the garbage.

I sat on a fence and smoked.
For some reason, there was an ashtray right there. Maybe the staff used this place to duck out for a quick smoke.
I looked over the garbage once more. The second me had become much more at ease from coming to these lonely places.
I wonder why. Maybe because I felt like these places couldn't get any worse.

Thinking no one was around to hear, I started to whistle. I wasn't consciously whistling a particular song, just going with whatever melody came out.
But as it turned out, I was whistling Jingle Bell Rock. I quickly stuffed the melody in my mouth once I realized, as I was not enjoying Christmas as that would have indicated.

After that, I left the library area for some ruins across the road. This was another favorite place of mine.
Once a youth hostel, it was ignored for a long time, and the building became dilapidated, vines crawling up it like cracks.
With a closer look, of course, one could see many real cracks as well.
The interior was too dark to see, but when I once peeked inside, I saw a dusty floor filled with holes and toppled stools.
By the window was an old piano, which just seemed like such a waste.

I looped around to the back of the building. The former parking lot had rusty Kei cars and motorcycles with missing tires.
The bars of the bike rack were broken, and the roof had caved in. Right next to that was a pile of concrete blocks, though I'm unsure what they were for.

I could spend forever looking at places like this. Once I started thinking about what went in on this place when it was still a functional youth hostel, I couldn't stop.
I hated to look at ongoing happiness, but I liked to get a whiff of its scent once it was gone. A weak smell of "Perhaps there was happiness here once."

After going around for about ten minutes, I returned to the library's bicycle area.
I stood by the ashtray and took out a second cigarette out of my pocket, then an oil lighter to light it.

Suddenly, I noticed someone coming around the corner.
It was not my sister. And much like me, she was lighting a cigarette.
Her lighter briefly illuminated her face orange in the dim light.

Once I realized it was Tsugumi, I forgot to breathe for a few moments.

Chapter 46

Novel List