Part 2: House of Sweets ~un petit nid~ (2)
Open to the air of the early summer dusk, the landing of the stairs outside of the building was like the bottom of the sea. Kase swam up through the coolish blue air that seemed to blur even his own contours, taking each step slowly at a time.
Kase lived on the third floor of a five-story building located 20 minutes from the train station. There was no elevator in the building, and now that it was June, he worked up a light sweat climbing the stairs.
Stuffy hot air hit his face as soon as Kase opened the door. He took off his shoes at the door, passed through the kitchen that was at the entrance, and went into the room. In it was a bed, a small table, shelves, and a TV. The place was barren; it was all the furniture in the apartment. Kase opened the window before throwing himself on the bed.
He was exhausted, and he stared at the ceiling tinted a faint blue.
Kase had visited the Hello Work office after his run-in at the bakery today. He was fortunate enough to work with a clerk who was happy to help him search for companies that would fulfill his requirements, but Kase did not meet the requirements for the open positions that the companies had. However, the clerk insisted that the hiring managers look at his resume anyway, and in the end, Kase was able to send out two copies of his resume. He hadn’t ended the day with nothing to show for it, and he felt that he was lucky today.
But still, he was exhausted. If possible, he wanted to seclude himself inside his apartment without ever going out. There were plenty of people in the world who lived such a lifestyle. Even if they dropped out of society because they couldn’t smile for people, as long as they had others to rely on, it was still better than nothing. Their parents could feed them as they sequestered at their parents’ house and rejected the outside world. It sounded pretty nice to him. Kase wanted to live like that.
However, Kase had no personal safety net like that to rely on.
His parents had died in a car accident when Kase was young. It had happened on the expressway on their way back from a family outing at the beach. Kase had been the only survivor. He had been sleeping in the back seat of the car, but he remembered nothing from that time. It was the only part of his memory that was missing, like it had been cut out with scissors. Maybe his body had decided that it was easier to forget about it.
After that, his relatives had passed him around from house to house, and in the end his uncle’s family had taken him in, but the place had been awful. At first, they had been kind to him because he was child who had lost his parents, but with the food and living expenses increased by another person, their goodwill and compassion gradually eroded, and they plainly flaunted it in his face.
Kase still had the scars from when his uncle had been drunk and pressed the ends of cigarettes into his skin. His cousins would peek into the room to watch him as he hugged his knees to his chest to bear through the pain. They giggled and whispered in amusement to each other. Freeloader.
He had wanted to quickly become an adult who could earn money and leave the house. That was the only hope that Kase had as a student, and when he graduated from high school, he found a job and started living on his own, and he was so happy that he could die.
That had been 10 years ago. The happiness that he felt had disappeared, and it was nowhere to be found.
When Kase left his uncle’s house and got a job, he had wanted to find a place filled with warmth that was his own. But maybe because he had been estranged from it for so long that he didn’t know how to connect with people when he needed it, and he found himself unable to act. The more he pursued the things he wanted, the farther away they became.
But nevertheless, he fell in love. Kase had been shunned by his new boss at the time. Nothing went well for him at work, but when it suddenly rained and Kase had no umbrella with him after a sales visit, a person there had lent him one.
“If you don’t mind, please feel free to use this.”
It had only been a single sentence and a soft smile. Kase’s heart had been starved for kindness, and that had been enough for him.
The person had rejected him over and over again, but Kase still went to see the person to invite them out for dinner and drinks. The person started avoiding him, and Kase lost control of his emotions. He barged in on the person’s home and forced himself on them. What he did was horrible; it was rape, but the person forgave Kase. He never expected to be accepted, but he finally obtained the warmth that he had longed for, and he wanted to make sure that he treasured it.
He had truly loved the person.
However, his love was not normal.
The person would speak with other men. They would come home later than usual. Kase fostered an anxiety that his lover would disappear from him for any little reason. Without any effort on his part to suppress it, his anxiety swelled and exploded, and he had beat his lover. He had even kicked the person as they cowered.
In committing this act of violence, Kase was exactly like the uncle who had beat him when he was younger. It mystified him to no ends that he was copying the nauseously painful past that he wanted to forget. He knew that he would only be hated if he did this, but he did not stop. What scared Kase the most was himself—that he couldn’t control himself.
Kase had been the one to initiate the breakup. He had truly loved the person, and so he had no choice but to let them go.
When Kase slowly opened his eyes, the ceiling was dyed in a deep indigo. The room had sunken into the darkness, and there was nothing in his view.
He shifted his gaze to the shirt hanging on the wall, his chest growing cold.
Kase had received the pale lemon yellow shirt from his ex, and in the dark room that resembled the bottom of the sea, the shirt was like a floating person, the only thing that seemed to glow there.
While Kase stared at the shirt, he could slowly rise up to the surface of the water.
If I fall in love with someone again, I will be kind and gentle with them this time.
I won’t lose myself to my emotions and use violence like that again.
Kase closed his eyes and imagined himself reaching the bright surface of the water.
If he could become a better person than he was now, would someone fall in love with him? Would they hold his hand, walk next to him, and at night fall asleep together with him? Would they go shopping with him on their days off? It didn’t have to be anywhere special, even the neighborhood supermarket would be fine. They could chat about random things and what they would eat for dinner that night—
The sound of a car honking from the street brought Kase back to his senses. He was still lying in bed by himself in the dark room, and his chest was still cold. He slowly got up and turned on the lights and went over to the kitchen.
Kase was embarrassed that he imagined something silly, but he told himself that it was fine to at least have some hope. Even if it was nothing more than a matchstick, it was better to have that than nothing at all.
He made a simple meal and ate it alone at the small table. In the middle of eating, he turned on the TV.
Kase didn’t like TV, but there was a show that he was watching recently. It was a drama series about the struggles of a new graduate caseworker with a pure heart and a strong sense of justice. Apparently it had great ratings and starred a popular young actress. The screen showed a closeup of the beautiful actress with a desperate look on her face.
“I’m asking you, please. Please tell me your story. I promise you that it will help.”
“If you hold it all inside of you, no one will ever notice.”
The main character had her bright and positive attitude this week too. If anyone ever charged at him like that, Kase would want to run away, but that wasn’t the case for a TV show. The main character would run forward and make mistakes, feel remorse for those mistakes, and the remorse would be communicated to the people involved. There would be help from a senior colleague, and in the end everything was resolved peacefully.
The screen changed to a news program, and Kase felt like he was left behind somewhere.
It had been the same last week. And the week before that too.
The show would end while he was lost in a daze, unable to keep up. And there had been nothing left afterwards.
He didn’t have to force himself to watch the show if he didn’t find it interesting. However, Kase didn’t understand how to create relationships with people, romantic ones included. He didn’t have any friends either. He had no choice but to watch the show to get a look at how personal relationships worked. If a lot of people watched the show and empathized with it, then maybe there was something right in its depictions of relationships.
But at the moment, his exhaustion was greater than his comprehension.
Maybe he really was out of sync with the rest of the world. If he was out of sync, then how far off was he? Could he be fixed? What should he do if he never synced up with the world?
Kase became anxious and gazed at the shirt on the wall. Just like a stuffed animal that a child would need to sleep, the shirt had become Kase’s mood stabilizer. The pale lemon yellow. A human-shaped light. It was proof that there had been someone who once accepted him.
And then he reconsidered something.
Maybe next week would be interesting. Maybe he could empathize with that busybody idealist of a main character.
With the change of his mood, Kase caught sight of the paper bag that he had left on the table. The one with the doughnut that he had received from the bakery this afternoon. He couldn’t recall very clearly the face of the owner whose presence was a mismatch with the bakery.
Kase pulled out the doughnut from the bag and took a bite from it. He chewed it a few times and frowned. It was a doughnut, but it didn’t taste sweet at all. Actually, it was pretty bland. Kase put the doughnut with a bite in it back into the bag. The bakery probably didn’t get much business.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.