* 59 *

I think I might have sat on that bench until four in the morning.
I couldn't stop shivering, and I started to cough like I was sick, but I showed no signs of dying; I was just very cold.
So I eventually went home, pulled the blankets over me with shivering hands, and slept.

I remembered how when I was in elementary school, when I really didn't want to do something, I bathed in icy water to try and give myself a cold. It never worked out.

I woke up in the dim afternoon, turned on the heater, and forced some cereal and milk into my empty stomach despite having no appetite.
I went outside and smoked the cigarettes Hashibami gave me. I was feeling pretty sluggish, but it wasn't a cold or pneumonia. I was healthy, just without energy.

By the time I went back inside, my plan was settled.

I thought what I'd do was, I'd continue soaking in part-time jobs like this, and once I'd saved up enough money, I'd leave on a journey.
I'd go as far south as I could. And then once I ran out of savings, I'd be a vagrant or something.
Essentially, I thought I'd imitate my former best friend Usumizu.

I know it's crazy, but that's really what I wanted to do. Yeah, I'd just have the occasional meal to look forward to, and for entertainment I could look at the stars and flowers, and listen to the birds and bugs, and the weather would be my biggest worry in life. That's what it'd be like.

And I thought while living the vagrant life, I might just meet Usumizu who was doing the same. And then we might be best friends again, like we had been the first time.
We'd share pieces of bread, have turf wars with other vagrants, work together to gather cans, and compete over silly things like who could get more. Just like that.
Every day, we'd sleep under the stars and wake up with the sun. Then I just wouldn't care about my first life anymore, just bare necessities.
Boy, wouldn't that be real living.

But there was a part of me that looked at that fantasy soberly.
In the end, I'd probably never meet Usumizu, wouldn't be suited for a vagrant's life, and would just die alone kicking and screaming.
Saying "It shouldn't have been this way" to the end.

If I died, though, nobody would care. Well - maybe my sister would shed some tears for me.
Despite appearances, she was a sweet girl who looked out for her brother. Lately I'd come to realize that part of her hadn't changed.
She came to my place because she couldn't stand home, yeah, but I feel the other half of it was to console me.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I like to think I'm free to think what I like.

I wondered what would happen to my family if I were gone.
Maybe it'd just break up, increasingly unable to keep itself together.
Or maybe without me, the three of them would come together for each other to fill the gap.
Either way, it seemed like a much better situation than what it was now.

It wasn't a spirit of self-sacrifice that made me feel ready for death; I just thought, if my passing brought about some good, that would be nice. It was a personal concern.

My thoughts of self-abandonment deepened. Ironically, the moment I discarded all attachment to the world, I could see the world's charms.
While I thought of "the world I lived my life in" as a good-for-nothing place, when I took away my involvement, it was stunningly beautiful.

A while later, I headed for my part-time job of the day. Even the cheap Christmas decorations I saw on the way were enough to move my heart.
The faint snow dyed orange by streetlights was a sight I couldn't tire of, and I even enjoyed taking a close look at the shape of every little icicle hanging from a roof.
I was like a visitor to the town who had never before seen snow.

It became very clear to me. Even things you don't hold much value for - as soon as you lose them, or as soon as you realize you did, you start to see them as irreplaceable.
The moment you think you want to die, life starts to sparkle, and the moment you think you want to live, death starts smelling sweet.

But as much as I understood that, until I had truly lost everything, I couldn't really feel that way.
It's not something people are all that capable of adapting to. Talk about inconvenient.

Chapter 60

Novel List