On the Influence of a Sister
A 2ch story about caring. (From the author of Azure and Claude.)
There's a big brother I know who always obeys the wishes of his little sister.
His sister was frail and had been staying in the hospital for a long time.
Her feebleness often came off as strangely cute.
One day, the brother showed his sister a photo from a flower-viewing he went to with a friend.
"I know you can see cherry blossoms from the hospital room, but..." The brother muttered.
His sister shook her head. "No, I'd love more of these."
This was an important matter.
The only time his sister had displayed any interest in something besides music was four years ago, when she really liked Snoopy.
"I have to do something about this!", the brother thought.
Ever thinking of his sister, the brother constantly went around with a camera, and would take photos nearly every time he blinked.
Despite this, these pictures were not taken carelessly.
When shown a cheap, worthless photo, his sister would pout and pull on his hair, so the brother had to take every photo with care.
His sister diligently kept the photos he took in an album kept under her pillow.
She would open it up and browse through whenever she had a spare moment.
Hoping to hear a "Good job!" from his sister, the brother was always thinking - even during class - about what to photograph, and how.
But of course, there was a major difference between him and a boy who merely did this as a hobby.
For the sis-crazed boy, photography meant his sister, and she was his life.
The following year, though a supposed member of the baseball team, he earned the right to go to the national high school culture festival.
Also, just in case I need to say it, I am not the brother I speak of.
OP = Sister
Why was he, a member of the baseball club, so involved in photography club activities?
How jealous were those around him over his chance to go to the culture festival?
Such details will be omitted.
It could go on forever, and it wouldn't be very interesting.
At any rate, his sister commended him, saying he'd done good.
Humming an apparent song of praise, she clapped for him.
This seemed to satisfy the brother greatly.
The next summer, the culture festival began.
But as a result of it, the brother would not be able to visit his sister for six days.
This was trouble for his sister.
Without anyone to talk to all day, she would be terribly lonely.
"You don't have to do that," she begged, tears almost welling up.
The brother smiled and patted her head five times.
"I'll send you a substitute," he said.
So his sister, though not fully understanding, replied "Okay."
Did she have two big brothers?
To tell the truth, his sister had slightly fallen for a man who commonly appeared in her brother's photos, who she figured must be a friend of his.
She seemed to think "What a swell guy..." when she saw pictures of him looking moodily at a textbook or notebook.
...What about him was "swell"?
No one really knows.
But he apparently excited her somehow, so that was that.
Finally, this is where I come into the story.
The brother took pictures whenever he had a moment, but he found it embarrassing to do so alone.
As such, the brother - rather, my friend - invited me to join him, watch over the photo-taking, and sometimes appear in a few.
On the other hand, I now believe he was worried for me since I was always studying, and thus was being a thoughtful friend.
Looking back on it, I spent a completely stupid amount of time studying back then.
And so I promised my friend, whose sister had feelings for me despite only seeing me in pictures, to visit her in the hospital in his stead for six days while he was away.
But the one reacting to this plan with "Whoa, whoa, hold on a second!" was not me, but his sister.
You like him though, right? You think he's swell.
But... big bro, you know I'm really shy!
But his sister didn't want to let her brother down, so she said "Thanks, big bro!" to keep up appearances.
The appearance in question being that of an intellectual, worldly, jazz-savvy sister.
Not that she really had any of those qualities, of course.
Before I speak of my first meeting with my friend's sister, allow me to first explain the misunderstanding that came up between us.
I had heard him talk about his sister often, as you might expect.
He said things such as "She's always starin' at those photos of you."
"My sister asked me "What's this guy's name?""
But it was my assumption that, like, she's in grade school or something?
From her brother's descriptions, she sounded fairly childish.
I'll visit a sick grade-school girl and have friendly chats with her.
That'll be a nice thing to do on summer vacation, I thought.
I wonder, actually, if my friend was intentionally vague to cause this misunderstanding.
Indeed, if I had known it was a 16-year-old girl, I may not have felt like doing it.
I'll spare you the mutual confusion from when we first saw each other.
It took about ten minutes until I could be frank with her.
"To be honest, I thought you were in elementary school..."
Upon saying this, she laughed for the first time, and I couldn't help but notice what a quality laugh it was.
That's a talent, having a laugh that good.
"With my expectations thrown off, I'm a little nervous," I stated honestly.
"That's fine! I'm nervous too!", said she.
"Err... About what, exactly?"
"Since it's been a long time since I've talked with anyone but my brother."
"I see. So we're both nervous."
"Very nervous," she said, clutching a pillow and burying her chin in it.
Feeling shy, I felt somehow compelled to tell the truth.
"I'd only been prepared to talk with some little girl around six years old. I give up..."
"Well, what were you planning to do, if I were six?", said she.
"When I called up my older sister for advice, she told me "How about you make an exchange diary?""
"So? Was that your plan?", she said with a big smile that melted my tension away.
"Yeah. But if you're sixTEEN, that's a different story."
"Wrong! Let's make an exchange diary!"
And so I of eighteen years started an exchange diary with a sixteen-year-old girl.
Are you sure about this, little sis?
So if you're wondering how I knew her thoughts prior to our meeting, that's the reason. She wrote them in the diary.
I'm now grateful to my older sister for her advice.
It may have been the best possible way to get along with the girl.
My friend had said that visits of about twenty minutes would be good, so I left at about that time.
"Thanks for visiting today," she said, bowing her head.
"No problem. I had a great time, too." I did the same.
"And thanks in advance for visiting tomorrow!"
"Uh... You got it!"
Honestly, I had wanted to talk more, but I was unsure if we'd ever stop, so leaving was the better choice.
The next day, after my after-school lessons, I biked up the winding, hilly path to the hospital, working up a sweat.
Now then. There was one problem with starting an exchange diary.
I had always been a poor writer, and hated writing essays or opinions.
The idea of an exchange diary appealed to me, but writing things and having them read felt rather awkward.
But when she looked at the diary and shyly laughed, "There's no excusing writing this messy!", my mind was changed.
I ended up reading her entry five times over - the first time I'd ever done so.
The longer I perused the diary, the more embarrassed she grew.
The things she wrote about were extremely ordinary.
Things like how she felt embarrassed writing an exchange diary, and some memories from grade school.
But what wasn't ordinary was her way of writing.
I found it incredibly beautiful.
Her drawing of a duck at the end was also very... unique.
In the evening, my friend called from a hotel.
Upon hearing I'd started an exchange diary with his sister, he laughed in the same way as she.
"Wow, that I definitely wasn't expecting."
"Neither was I. So? On track for first place?"
It seemed they were holding a photography competition there for who could take the best photos in three days.
"There's no artists here, only phonies. Amateurs, all of them."
"That's good to hear."
"They'll all lose, and you know why? Because they don't have little sisters."
"Yep, it's tough without a little sis."
If this baseball guy won first place, I wonder what the others would think.
It really seemed like he could, but still.
A peculiar duck drawing, huh...
^ Yeah, it's kind of all... whooshy.
A whooshy duck...
Dammit, I can't imagine what that means, but I can't stop laughing!
That night, I had a thought.
I wanted to write things that made people feel good, the same way she did.
And most of all, I wanted her to tell me "Good job!", just as her brother hoped.
Maybe even more than that. "Fantastic! I love you!"
Okay. Let's go with that.
I'd make this my summer picture diary. Maybe.
I wondered if through doing this, I would learn how to do serious writing.
And so then, I grappled with the exchange diary all through the night.
I closed the window to keep out bugs, the room getting humid as a result.
Careful not to sweat on the notebook, I thought long and hard about what to write to the girl.
When I hit a dead end, I'd return to studying for exams until I suddenly had an idea to write in the diary.
I felt like I was back in elementary or middle school.
This exchange diary thing was a lot of fun.
By the time I was done writing my entry, it was dawn, and I heard birds and cicadas.
I felt a sense of accomplishment while thinking "That's right, cicadas do buzz early in the morning..."
I felt I had done a good thing.
It was a valuable experience in my life.
After reading my diary entry, she was even more joyful than I expected.
"I get the feeling we could be really good friends!"
Well, of course. That's part of why I had written it.
"I've read it five times over!"
"Really? I'm glad."
"Huh? You're not embarrassed? Aren't you an adult?"
"Er, more like I appreciate the compliment..."
She thought a little and said:
"There, there, good job!"
Though a strange choice of words, they seemed very appropriate from this girl.
With her quality laugh and fantastic writing, as well as the knowledge that she had an interest in me, there was no way I couldn't have been charmed.
If she weren't in the hospital, I'd carry her home with me.
It may seem like things were going entirely too well.
But consider that this was all before I discovered that I was far weaker than this sickly girl.
Does that change your viewpoint a little?
Curious about how this continues...
From then on, my head was filled with thoughts of the exchange diary.
And thus was it also filled with her.
It might have seemed a silly thing to do for a student preparing for exams, but my studies seemed largely unaffected.
Opening up the diary, seeing about 600 characters of empty space, and thinking about what to fill it with was a pretty entertaining activity.
Wherever I looked, whatever I thought, I saw something to write about in the diary.
I think I understood how my friend felt, somewhat.
"You're busy studying, huh?"
She said this when I met her on the third day.
"I guess so, yeah. Exams are soon."
"Right. Thank you for coming anyway, then."
"I visit because I want to. I could've refused."
"Isn't it a long way from school, though?"
"Hmm... Well, I was hospitalized like you too, once."
"No one paid me any visits.
After a month, I was wondering if I might just forget who everyone was. I really hated that."
"So that's why you visit me?"
Of course, that wasn't the only reason.
Incidentally, the entry I received that day spoke somewhat regretfully about the big festival coming up soon.
"They're selling these tornado potato things, aren't they?", she asked me, spinning her hands around in a circle.
I see. So that picture she drew was her imaginary idea of a tornado potato.
"I hear they're really weird and oily, or something..."
"I guess you haven't gone to any festivals in a while?"
"No. I could've gone last year, but I didn't."
"So then... you just didn't."
"Right. I didn't."
"...Oh. Did I say something insensitive?"
"Well, good on you for noticing!"
"Nah, I'm kidding. I was just trying to tease you."
"Are you going to the festival?", said she.
"Do you want me to go?", I replied.
"What's that? I get to decide, do I?"
"Right. I'm fine either way."
"What shall it be?"
"Whichever you prefer."
"Then go, and take pictures for me."
She took a camera from a shelf and handed it to me.
My friend was out using an expensive camera he'd borrowed from the school, so his sister entrusted me with the digital camera he normally used.
"Sure, but I'm not as good as he is, okay?"
I took the camera in hand and inspected how to use it.
In so doing, I snapped a photo of her. She gave an expressionless peace sign.
"The important part is that you take pictures."
"But I won't be able to make my visit that day, will I?"
"That's fine. I'll be talking to my photos of you."
"Get used to it!"
"If you're that desperate, you might as well give me a call instead."
I wrote down my cellphone number and gave it to her.
Casual number-giving, success!
While I had been told to go to the festival, I had no one to invite.
I was considering just visiting her as usual when I was invited by a girl who was then manager of the exercise club.
While it did feel like a casual invitation, at the same time, it really seemed like I was being asked out.
At this point, weighing my friend's sister against this girl was unavoidable.
Go to the festival with the manager and take pictures?
Or go to the girl in the hospital and read her diary entry for the day?
It's not as if I were being watched.
But I wanted to betray the hopes of some non-existent entity.
I wanted to do something even I did not anticipate.
And so I turned down the manager's wonderful invitation.
After my classes, I hurried to the festival grounds, took pictures of the stands (going crazy at this point), and hurried once more to the hospital, amazing the girl there.
"You're visiting me today? Are you stupid?"
"No one invited me to the festival."
"Is that true?"
"Here. A picture of a tornado potato."
"Whoa... So then, you did go?"
"Liars turn to cheats turn to thieves."
I was on a roll with acting out stupid ideas I would normally ignore.
"Right. A thief of love."
She gave her best effort not to snicker, but eventually burst out into laughter.
"Are you an idiot or what?"
She couldn't control her laughter.
I handed her the exchange diary. "Well, write how you feel in here."
"Got it, I got it..."
"I have high hopes."
"Who did you go with?"
"I went alone. It was embarrassing."
"What are you even doing..."
"Still, I took a bunch of photos, right?"
"You sure did. It's hard taking pictures of these stands..."
"Definitely. The portable shrines and the carts... Festivals are hard in general."
"I guess you know all about it."
"Well, because I'm always watching your brother."
We talked briefly about photography techniques, then she placed the festival photos far away.
I found myself curious about why she did this.
I reached for the photos and turned them over.
She saw this and smiled.
"Do they make you feel bad?"
"Ahah... kind of. Even if I asked for them myself."
"I guess you'd like to go yourself. To a festival."
"Well, it's just that I look at these photos and think, "I wish I'd been there.""
"I see...", I said.
But in truth, I didn't so much feel compassion for her not being able to go.
Rather, I was happy to hear that she wanted to have gone with me.
Her entry for that day ended with three heart symbols.
I did a triumphant pose for each heart.
What I remember from the sixth day was the two of us calling my friend (her brother).
We seemed to have run dry on topics, and after about twenty seconds of silence, she suddenly said "Let's call him up."
First, I called him under the pretense that I was alone.
Her sister beside me, she said "Keep it secret that I'm here!"
My friend answered the phone, and I wondered if he was worried for his sister.
He was quickly done talking about himself, then asked "Are you getting along well?"
"Well enough that you'll be jealous when you get back," I replied.
"Huh... Be honest, what do you think of her?", he asked in a voice that said "no talking your way out of this one."
I thought how to evade the question, but since she "wasn't there," I told him the truth, no lies necessary.
"I like her so much that I'm afraid confessing it will ruin our relationship."
My friend remained surprisingly calm.
"Is that right. I thought you two might be a good pair."
"Gimme your sister."
"Ask her parents."
I then handed the phone to his sister, who was in slight disarray after my statement.
I couldn't help myself from rolling in laughter.
I unfortunately forgot what she talked with my friend about.
Maybe even I was startled by what I said.
But throughout the call, she got mad, laughed, worried, and looked happy.
Then, just before hanging up, she said quietly:
"So much that I'm afraid confessing it will ruin our relationship!"
That alone, I remember her saying.
Such is the way I passed my summer.
Well, after that, we just continued getting along.
We enjoyed the typical couple thing of probing each other for info.
Just that in itself made us happy.
My friend didn't place too well at the culture festival.
Still, getting a prize at all was pretty tremendous.
According to my friend, "The judge must've been bribed!"
Some generic brochure photo won first place.
My friend returned, and summer vacation ended, so I had few opportunities to visit.
However, my friend became a master deliveryman of exchange diaries.
A classmate once spotted a diary-handing and misunderstood it in the worst possible way.
Namely, that it was between me and my friend.
I told his sister about this.
"What a dummy!", she laughed in her usual way.
But her face seemed to say "School sounds nice...", so I ruffled her hair.
Naturally, she did the same to mine.
And I hoped she could return to school soon.
One night, I got a sudden call.
"Hello? It's 10 yen for a minute, so I'll keep it short."
"Oh yeah, I did give you my number. I'm glad you called."
"I can't speak up too loud here, but I actually really love you."
"And so do I. Enough to steal you away."
"...Oh, great. I've got about 40 seconds left."
"What'll you do?"
"Don't blow into the phone."
"I'm hiding my embarrassment."
"Geez, that's annoying."
One night in August when I had trouble sleeping, I dreamt that I went to see fireflies with her.
Because I was studying how to take photos of them, and I worked with my friend to take one.
While explaining the complexities of taking that single photo, I suddenly saw her face.
Her eyes were wet and she was turning red, but I continued my explanation, pretending not to notice.
She wrote me her true feelings in the exchange diary.
And that's roughly where my life outside ended.
My wish for her to get better was granted quicker than I expected.
But I wasn't in any state to be worrying about others by then.
As if we'd passed each other by, I began my own hospital stay.
I was wounded, and after a checkup at the hospital, something hilariously serious was found to be wrong with me.
Doctors cocked their heads at the fact I had been living normally up to then.
Now, she comes in her school uniform to visit me, carrying the exchange diary.
And as he used to do for his sister, my friend now takes pictures to inform me of the outside.
I spend most of the day on the bed, looking at the pictures she takes.
I suppose this is probably how she spent her time, too.
I can't think too pessimistically, really.
Ah, that's right, she wanted to go to a festival with me.
To eat some gross, oily fries together, and walk around saying silly things about the stands.
She wanted the three of us to someday go together to her favorite picture-taking places.
So we can take pictures just the same, and this time include her in them.
And she wanted to be with me, so much that photographs, exchange diaries, and phone calls wouldn't do.
But even now, I think fondly of that summer and the fun it brought.
And even if I'm this way now, there's always a chance things could change for the better.
Most importantly, I feel like the experiences that followed coming to know her have changed my whole outlook on life.
It's not easy to explain, but I've come to realize that's one of the most wonderful things that can happen in this world.
And that's why I think I should be happy.
At least just a little.
A bit of an awkward way to close it, but this is the end of the story.
Everyone who read it, thank you very much.