Chapter 10: Side Profiles and Irises (10)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
Information circulated all around LINE over the course of the night, and Shin had a general understanding of the situation without having to wait for the morning meeting. Messages continued to pour in through dawn, but he was probably grateful to have something that distracted him from thinking about Tatsuki.
The comedians’ accident had occurred when they were at the beach filming for the show and they jumped into the ocean from a rocky cliff. The water was much shallower than it looked, and the impact from the landing twisted one person’s foot and fractured the other person’s vertebra. They had seemed to be okay except they couldn’t move, and they sent a LINE message that said, We’re very sorry for the trouble we caused.
“What do you think they’ll say in the meeting?”
“Probably an explanation and a safety reminder. Something like: We’d like to ask everyone to please keep safety in mind…”
“Apparently, it’ll be in the papers tomorrow, so won’t they want us to keep our mouths shut? They’ll probably tell us not say anything about it to people.”
“Do you think we’ll have to issue an on-air apology?”
“That’ll bring down the energy of the performers. Maybe we can get away with putting the apology as on-screen text?”
“The footage we took has to all be scrapped, huh? We’ll have to think of something else to put in its place.”
“You got that right.”
The staff gathered inside a rarely used assembly hall that could seat about a hundred people. Important network executives who looked familiar, even more important executives (probably) who didn’t look familiar, and for some reason Shitara were gathered up at the front. Shin didn’t see Sakae. Maybe he still wasn’t back from the hospital.
The meeting started at 9 o’clock sharp. The director of the production department led it off.
“Thank you everyone for attending the meeting this morning. We called you all here on very sudden notice so that we may inform you about an incident that had occurred with the show. Performers from a talent agency were injured while on location for filming. They were filming somewhere that hadn’t been vetted during the location scouting, and right now Producer Souma is at the agency explaining everything to them. We are still in the process of questioning the director in charge, and we plan to issue a written apology from the network at 4 pm today. Until the press release is made public, we would like to ask everyone to please refrain from discussing this subject with anyone from both inside and outside the network. Also—”
Too late, Shin had already told Tatsuki about it. Anyway, rumors spread quickly in this industry, and judging by the LINE messages that flew around last night, everyone in the network had probably heard about it by now.
“—With this incident, we have thought long and hard about the decision of what to do about Go Go Dash. This morning it was decided that it will finish its run at the end of September.”
That single sentence caused the assembly hall to erupt with voices saying “What?” and “You’re kidding.” The staff had expected that they would face a conventional lecture from management, but this was the equivalent of setting off a bomb.
“There will be no outside filming permitted for Go Go Dash from now on. The show will have to make do with studio tapings and existing video footage until the final episode. The final episode will air prime time as a 2-hour special. It will be a lookback at the show from the studio and include never-before-seen footage…”
“Excuse me, I need to interrupt!” a director stood up in a panic to say. “Is that the final decision? Are you really ending the show? Is it absolutely final?”
“That is correct.”
“But the accident only happened yesterday, how can you make the decision so suddenly?”
“We sympathize for everyone affected by the news. Particularly for outsourced staff and independent contractors. We do not have any concrete plans quite yet, but we are thinking about a new show to fill the time slot. We are also looking to fill some positions in the news department. Anyone who is interested may talk to Shitara-kun here afterwards.”
“That’s not what I’m asking!”
The man slammed his hand against the table. It was like it had broken the dam, and protests spilled out all over the hall.
“Ending the show is far too severe a punishment for what happened!”
“Isn’t there the option to temporarily take the show off the air until the noise dies down?”
“To put it bluntly, comedians have been injured on variety shows on other networks before.”
“I’m sure that the two who were injured don’t wish for the show to end either. I feel bad for letting them think that they’re responsible for it.”
Shin stayed silent. Had Sakae already heard about this decision? And if he had already accepted it, what was he thinking right now? Even though Sakae had full authority over the show, he was but a small part of a large organization, and he couldn’t oppose the decision from upper management. Was that all that it came down to?
For some reason the smattering of voices came to a halt. As the silence descended, there was a loud, perfectly-timed sigh. It was from Shitara.
“Do you even hear what you’re saying?”
The voice almost chilled Shin from the inside.
“Performers were seriously injured on the show. They could be in wheelchairs for life if they had been unlucky—all because the people making the show didn’t fulfill their bottom-line responsibilities to them. And yet the words I hear are ‘until the noise dies down’ and ‘shows on other networks’? Seriously, listen to yourselves. It’s that attitude that let this accident happen.”
Underneath the cold words was a fiery anger. This was the first time Shin ever saw Shitara get truly angry.
“It’s not a big deal, right? The show is a popular hit for the network. They would never cancel it. They just have to pay some lip service with a lecture and you can put it behind you. Well, this is your wake-up call. That might have flown yesterday, but not today. TV isn’t so invincible that we have to hurt people to make it.”
The hall remained silent as if the energy from the outburst had all been an act. The director of the production department cleared his throat loudly and retook control of the meeting.
“After we discuss and finalize our plans, we will communicate to everyone more concrete schedules leading up to the final episode. I am sure that you are all very shocked by the news. This a show that all of us at the network have loved for a long time, and it is with deep regret that we have to make such a decision. Please understand that compliance is a core value for our company, and this is a position that we must take due to our responsibilities as a broadcast network. With that, we have nothing further to say. You may be adjourned. I would like to ask the network’s in-house producers and directors to stay behind, please.”
The staff swarmed out of the assembly hall and gathered by the elevators. People were reporting for work at this hour, and the elevators were taking their time to arrive.
“So that seriously happened…” somebody grumbled, and other complaints such as “It can’t be,” “No way,” “What about my job?” filtered through the crowd.
“Has anyone messaged Tortoise Shell on LINE yet?”
“I did. They’re really upset. They said they were thinking about coming to the studio with their back braces and crutches after being released from the hospital since it might be good material.”
“Getting hurt and losing your TV spot on top of it is like one misfortune after the other.”
“Seriously, why did they have to end the show?”
Everyone fell silent, probably remembering Shitara’s words. That was when someone tossed another pebble in the mix.
“…When the network questioned him about what happened, he blamed it on the mistreatment of the staff.”
The person was referring to the field director who wasn’t here—the one the network was still questioning. Shin hadn’t talked to him much since the guy had called him a puppet. It was more like he completely ignored Shin.
“Because the producer pressured him so much, he was panicking to make something good for the show. That’s why he made the performers jump when it wasn’t in the script. Apparently, he felt driven into a corner emotionally. That’s what I heard from someone I know in the compliance department.”
The management’s gag order was meaningless.
“Oh… So that was what they wanted hushed up.”
“So like, they just want to end it all before it gets out that the accident was caused by a labor problem…?”
“Bastards, they’re just protecting themselves…”
Just as the elevator arrived at the floor, Shin heard someone murmur, “In the end, this means Souma-san is the one to blame for everything,” but he didn’t know who.
When Shin went to the staff room for The News that evening, Tatsuki immediately came up to him.
Tatsuki looked at Shin all worried, his face saying that he had heard the news.
“Ya voice is back. I’m glad.”
“Dun get carried away again an’ talk too much.”
There were other staff around them, and Shin didn’t know how to respond to Tatsuki’s concern. He could only give a tactful non-answer. Tatsuki appeared to feel the same and only replied with a “Yeah.”
Shin had devoted five years of his life to the show, and they suddenly announced it was ending. He couldn’t wrap his mind around it. All the staff and crew members, the staff room, the studio, the set—they would all be gone. He couldn’t imagine it. They had hit the point where the house, the furniture, and the entire family would be torn apart, but he could only react in a daze. There was nothing Shin could do from the bottom of the totem pole, no matter how much he wanted to fight it. It was a waste of energy to even try. But the biggest reason for his daze was that he hadn’t seen Sakae yet. If he could just see Sakae’s face or reaction in person, the feelings of grief and bitterness would probably surge inside him. Rather, he wished for it to happen. It scared him to be in this strangely calm state of mind.
After the broadcast, Shin went to the staff room for GoGo and found a director still there.
The director chuckled wryly, “With the location shoots canceled, I find myself with all this free time I don’t know what to do with. What do you think you’ll do, Nawada? …Oh, right, you still have your job with the news. That’s one small consolation in all of this for you.”
“You never know what can happen to any show, so you should learn and pick up all the skills you can from it.”
“After this morning’s meeting… Someone said that Souma-san is the one to blame for everything.”
“Huh? I didn’t say it.”
“I know, but… I was just wonderin’ what everyone really thought about it.”
“Well, that’s probably what everyone thinks. He’s a terrible boss to work for. He completely abuses his power and mistreats the staff.”
He didn’t beat around the bush to affirm the sentiments.
“Souma-san was the one who had made the show such a huge hit. It’s sort of fitting that he’s the one to bring it down. Not everyone thinks this, but I feel like a lot of them do.”
There were people who blamed him for everything. And there were people who left because they couldn’t reach his level of talent. There was only one thing that was certain: Sakae was at the center of everything that happened here.
“When you ask people what’s so great about comedy, they’ll answer, ‘You either be funny or go home.’ It’s so simple it’s almost absurd. You can be ugly, poor, creepy, or bald, but as long as you’re funny, people will love you. I love the comedians who hustle day in and day out trying to catch their big breaks. But if you apply that same rule here, none of us has ever outdone Souma-san. Not even once. I’ll watch Souma-san’s videos, and I’ll think they’re hilarious, but I’ll get frustrated at myself for it. That’s why, well, I can’t explain it very well… But yeah… There’s nothing we can do about it.”
His eyes were a little choked, but he gave an easygoing smile.
Huh? No, wait, Shin thought. He wasn’t ready to arrive at that conclusion yet. The state of affairs surrounding the show weren’t even installed into his head. He couldn’t share any of the same thoughts as the other staff, and he panicked.
The director told him, “Cheer up,” but Shin hadn’t even reached the stage where he could feel depressed. Maybe he would go through the final episode like this, all quiet and numb, and then six months or a year down the line, the devastation of the loss would hit him all at once. But there was one thing that he knew for certain right now—he was glad to have his job on The News. He didn’t mean financially or even mentally for his well-being. He was just truly glad for it. For Shin, there was nothing that could ever replace Go Go Dash in his heart.
Shin was left alone in the staff room with no urgent work to do, so for now he started cleaning out the refrigerator. There were gifts from their on-location shoots, bread and cake leftover from long editing sessions, and it looked like a witch’s brew all thrown together in there. He tossed the items that had clearly gone bad. For the iffy items, he wrote out a disposal notice and stuck the note on the door with a magnet. What would they do about this refrigerator? This space? All the shows were fighting for more workspace, and this area would probably be remodeled for something else.
Shin emptied any remaining beverages in the sink and sorted the containers for disposal. When he turned to the main area, Sakae was there. He was wearing a dark formal suit, like for a funeral, and Shin rarely ever saw him dressed like this. Shin couldn’t imagine Sakae lowering his head and apologizing, but he must have been making his rounds as the person in charge of the show. Shin had wanted to see Sakae so badly, but once he saw him, he could only stand there like he had seen a ghost.
As usual, Sakae didn’t answer him. He just ripped a drawer from his desk and dumped the contents into a wastebasket. Documents and pens tumbled out in a flurry.
Sakae went to repeat his actions with another drawer, so Shin hurried over to stop him.
“Ya can’t toss those in the trash for paper! What are ya even doin’, sir!?”
“Cleaning out my desk.”
“But it’s way too early for that.”
“Oh, haven’t you heard?” Sakae shoved the now empty drawer back into the desk. “As of September 1st, I’m reassigned. The APs can take care of everything from here. There’s nothing to do but empty the fridge and close up shop anyway.”
“It can’t be…”
Shin was at a loss for words. Granted if the show was ending, Sakae would also have to leave, but now he was hearing that Sakae couldn’t even see the show off through the end. Shin had only one more week with him before he transferred.
“…Souma-san. Are you really okay with that?”
“There’s nothing to think about.”
Sakae tore off his uncomfortable-looking necktie and flung it down on his desk piled with mail.
“You think a normal salaried worker can defy a reassignment order? Would you be happy if I cried and begged them to let me stay to the end? Would you tell me you can feel my chummy love for the show? Who the fuck cares.”
“I know it’s not like that!”
This was probably the first time Shin had ever raised his voice at Sakae.
“Dun say something so dumb! What do you even mean by “chummy love for the show”? I’ve seen you put all your love into GoGo all these years! I know just how much you love it! I know it better than anyone! Dun sneer at me and pretend that you don’t!”
Shin looked directly at Sakae, who looked surprised and taken aback by his outburst.
“Tell me how you really feel, Souma-san. That it’s not ya fault, that ya pissed off, that ya tired—anythin’. I dun care about what happened or what ya can or can’t do. Dun just go quiet or yell out in a rage. Please let me hear how ya really feel, Souma-san. …I have the right to hear that from ya at the very least, dun I?”
Sakae’s lips moved. His wide-open eyes drew closer to him as if in slow motion. Actually, it was more like he lurched on top of him. Shin caught Sakae as he fell, smelling the scent of cigarette smoke. His first thought was that he smelled completely different from Tatsuki.
“Souma-san…?” Shin nervously called out.
“Hey!! What the hell!?” someone yelled from the opposite end of the room. It was a very loud voice. Shin somehow turned his head around to look back as he supported Sakae and saw Tatsuki barging into the room.
“Scandalous behavior is strictly forbidden on company premises!!”
“…Shut up,” Sakae responded in a low voice at the verbal warning. He staggered back from Shin and scowled at Tatsuki. “What do you want, you third-rate announcer?”
“And I want to ask, what are you doing? And hey, you downgraded me…”
“I’m feeling lightheaded.”
“Oh, if that’s the case, I’ll help hold you up. Here, you can have my chest~ Come, come, feel free to rest on me~ Come, welcome~”
“You’re grossing me out. Drop dead.”
“I don’t like this either, okay!?”
“Um, what are ya talkin’ about? Is this the time for that?”
Shin was finally able to summon everything he had to confront Sakae, but he lost the opportunity to hear his response.
“Seriously, what the hell is he saying…” Sakae’s body lurched again, but this time away from Shin, and he crashed into the lockers behind him with a loud bang before collapsing.
Shin rushed over and called out his name, but the only movement he made was the slight furl between his brows.
“Nacchan, don’t shake him. Let’s bring him to the sofa to lie down.”
They carried Sakae over to the sofa, and Tatsuki placed his hand on his forehead.
“He doesn’t seem like he has a fever.”
Tatsuki briskly unfastened the top two buttons on Sakae’s dress shirt, which was fine, but then he placed his hand under Sakae’s nose and said, “He’s breathing,” as he nodded his head with a straight face. Shin couldn’t help but give him a smack to the back of his head.
“Dun say somethin’ so ominous!”
“Hey, he looks as pale as a corpse. What should we do? The medical office is closed. Should we call for an ambulance?”
“He’s gonna be mad if we do.”
Shin didn’t care if Sakae yelled at him afterwards, but he didn’t know if he should raise such a big commotion in the middle of the night.
“Hmm, let’s call an adult to make the decision.”
The adult who Tatsuki called over by phone was Shitara. He gave them an exasperated look as he walked over to them and sighed, “What the heck are you two doing?” Shitara called Sakae’s name and lightly patted his cheeks a few times, but he didn’t open his eyes. Shitara immediately ordered, “Nawada, call the security office and have them call an ambulance.”
“Is it really okay?”
“Well, none of us can tell what’s wrong with him except that he’s worn out.”
Shitara rode with Sakae in the ambulance, and Shin followed after them in a taxi.
“…Why are ya comin’ along too?”
“Hey, I’ve come too far to turn back.”
Tatsuki sat next to him in the back seat of the taxi.
“Dun make a racket at the hospital.”
“I won’t, okay!?” Tatsuki pouted and leaned against the window. “…By the way, about GoGo.”
“Is it seriously ending?”
“That’s what was decided.”
Even though Tatsuki had no involvement in the decisions, it didn’t feel good to hear someone with an official position at the network make such an offhand remark at him.
“Don’t be mad.” Tatsuki suddenly leaned in closer after Shin’s curt response.
“Hey, ya too close. Seriously.”
“There’s something confidential I want to say.” Tatsuki lowered his voice to whisper into Shin’s ear. “I got a LINE message from Motor Coil, and they were really shocked.”
“What part o’ that’s confidential?”
“Anyway, apparently other comedians aren’t happy about the decision either. You know how there are a few big names who got their start on GoGo? I wouldn’t call it applying pressure to the network, but I hear that people are trying to get them to reconsider the decision to end the show.”
“And have you seen Twitter? The viewers are organizing to submit a petition. I don’t know if it’ll work though.”
So maybe the show didn’t have to end? But what about Sakae’s reassignment? Maybe everything was too much to take in, and his head was still in a half-asleep state, but he didn’t know how he should react to the news.
“Are you not happy about it?” Tatsuki asked, seeing how absentminded Shin was acting.
“No… I dun know…”
“It might give you false hope, so you don’t want to hear about it?”
He couldn’t feel any hope to work into a false hope to begin with. There was no shape, like his hands halfheartedly balled on his lap. Maybe if Shin was only viewer, and he suddenly heard the news of the show ending, he could get angry and try to do something to help change the network’s decision.
“Shitara-san said that the show can’t go on after injurin’ the performers.”
“Oh, that sounds like something he would say.”
“What d’ya think, Minagawa?”
“Hmm~ That’s a hard question… I wouldn’t care if I got hurt, but… What did Souma-san say?”
“I ain’t talked to ’im ’bout anythin’ yet.”
There were a few cars between them and the ambulance—its red lights flashing as it carried Sakae to the hospital. Shin wondered if the sirens bothered him inside.
“Did I interrupt you two? I don’t feel bad for doing it though.”
“Huh? Why ya gettin’ mad at me for?”
“I’m not mad at you.”
“Excuse me. It looks like the hospital is right there.”
“Oh, okay. We’ll get out here. Thank you very much.”
The paramedics carried Sakae into the hospital. The doctors couldn’t perform any comprehensive tests this late at night, so they placed him on an IV and hospitalized him overnight. According to what Shitara had heard from the doctor, his body was in considerably poor condition. Shin sat in the lobby with Tatsuki, and after a while, Shitara poked his head out from the treatment room and beckoned at Shin.
“He’s been in this half-awake state this whole time, but I think you can talk to him a little for now.”
Shin got up and looked back at Tatsuki. Tatsuki quietly waved his hand at him.
Sakae was sleeping in the treatment room with an IV needle stuck in his arm. When Shin called out, “Souma-san,” he opened his eyes vacantly and looked back at Shin.
“Are you all right?”
“…I think I want to change the cut.”
Sakae’s voice was completely different from normal. His words were slurred and imprecise.
“The one from the factory we filmed recently. I want the taste test after the interview. Change up the order.”
“Souma-san, we already delivered the completed package for that one.”
Maybe Sakae didn’t hear him because he continued on.
“And I want to shorten the part where we show the process by 3 seconds…”
Shitara covered Sakae’s eyes with his hand, and Sakae stopped his words in mid-sentence like a solar-powered toy.
“That’s enough, Sakae.”
A thin breath escaped between his lips. It continued for such a long time, Shin almost wondered if Sakae would deflate into a pancake. But before long, it turned into quiet breaths of sleep.
“…Let’s head out.”
They returned to the lobby, and Tatsuki was asleep in his seat with his arms folded. Shin felt bad for involving him after his broadcast.
“I’m going out for a smoke.”
Shitara headed outside and quickly returned.
“I don’t have a lighter.”
“Oh, I have one.”
Tatsuki was sound asleep, so Shin decided to follow Shitara outside to the smoking area. Without thinking, he lit the lighter and held it out for Shitara out of habit, but Shitara firmly refused the offer of a light.
“It’s fine, you don’t have to light it for me.”
“Shitara-san, I never knew you smoked.”
“I quit. I confiscated these from his pocket. What about you, Nawada?”
“…I don’t smoke.”
“But you carry a lighter.”
“It’s nothing to apologize for.”
“Oh, um, I just kinda felt bad… For making you accompany us here.”
“It’s nothing. But I can see from this short time just how much he’s relied on you.”
Shitara dropped the ash into the red cigarette receptacle. Another ambulance arrived, and the paramedics rushed a stretcher into the hospital.
“You must be shocked by the news about GoGo.”
“It might be cruel of me to tell you this, Nawada, but you know what Sakae’s personality is like. A long time ago when he was at the news, something happened that deepened his mistrust of people. And now at the network, there are a lot of people above him who despise him. It doesn’t help that a lot of outside talent and comedians like to back and support him. It’s like he holds independent power while inside an organization. I think people used this accident as a convenient excuse to bring him down. Well, it’s his own responsibility for ignoring the office politics for so long.”
Shin thought that Shitara’s final sentence was too much and uncalled-for. He asked if he could get a cigarette, lit it up roughly, and borrowed the fumes to speak his mind.
“I really don’t know if you’re kind or if you’re not, Shitara-san. You take the time to come all the way here, but then you make that remark about him…”
“Yeah.” Shitara scratched between his eyebrows with his thumb, using the hand holding the cigarette. He smiled with a troubled look on his face. “I take it that you don’t want GoGo to end?”
“…It bothers me a lot that it has to end like this.”
Cars traveled through the surface streets uninterrupted. The hospital building sat still and silent behind Shin’s back. There were probably all sorts of emergencies happening inside, but all that activity was perfectly contained with no signs of anything unusual. Although it also operated 24 hours around the clock, the hospital was nothing like a television station. Shin didn’t think he could ever like this place, but Sakae was resting here right now. Finally, after Shitara had told him, That’s enough.
“I’ve been thinkin’ about a lot of things in my own way… About what ya told me before… When Souma-san told me that he wouldna look at my proposal, I thought about why he’d said that… I feel like my homework paper was collected from me before I could answer or show what I could do. But it’s my own fault for bein’ slow.”
The lit end of the cigarette drew up to his fingers while he was talking, and Shin hurried to drop it into the receptacle. There was the faint sound of something dropping into the water.
“I believe I’ve told you this before.” Shitara lit up a second cigarette. “The first time I saw one of your videos, I thought it was very much like Sakae’s work. It really resembled the videos he made when he was younger. Down to the colors and the handling of the sound. It was really good work, but have you ever thought of making something that Sakae would never make?”
“‘How would Sakae make it?’ ‘I want to make it like Sakae.’ Everyone takes the path of copying their mentors to make things at first. But eventually you have to stand on your own two feet and do things on your own. Have you ever felt that way? That is what I meant when I said that I wanted to see more of ‘you’ in your work.”
Shin finally understood the meaning of the words, I already know it’s no use, that had eluded him to this day. Shin had always held Sakae as the standard for what he strove for. He had rewatched GoGo so many times on repeat, as if he was chugging water, that he had completely dyed himself in it. If he had deviated from that standard, it wouldn’t be something that he liked.
“Sakae had wanted to train you up from scratch, and that’s why I think he didn’t want you to become another copy of him. But at the same time, somewhere inside of him, he probably wanted you to idolize him forever.”
Shin remembered the smile Sakae had given him that day they had first met. He was like a completely different person from the pale figure sleeping in the hospital bed. He used to possess a fresh, youthful energy worthy of a star director rising through the industry.
“His underling,” Shin said softly.
“He once told me he would make me his underling.”
Shitara laughed. “That sounds like something he’d say. Yeah, with an underling, he doesn’t have to worry about you getting jealous, and even when you feel beat up and defeated, you will never choose to leave on your own. You will always follow behind him.”
From a place where Shin could see his side profile. Shin never once wished to surpass him or to face off against him. He had found what he thought was his rightful position, and his thoughts stopped there. Shin had never tried to understand Sakae’s feelings as he walked forward by himself.
“I love variety shows. There aren’t many people who watch the news to improve their mood, but variety shows are made expressly to entertain viewers. It’s different from the news, where everything draws from the original footage. You have to expend yourself to make something fresh and new, like the crane who weaves cloth out of her own feathers.1 You wring out your youth and your senses until you have nothing left.”
“So… That would make us the ones who used Souma-san and tossed him away.”
Having those words come out of his own mouth tasted far bitter than the nicotine. Shin had worked for Sakae, depended on Sakae, but Shin had left him all alone, only watching him from a distance. Because he thought, He is amazing. He is different from everybody. But Sakae was the same—he shaved his own bones into the boiling water and poured everything he had into it just like everyone else. Shin had seen him wearing himself down, but he pretended that he hadn’t seen anything. Please sleep, please eat, please let us take care of it—Shin hadn’t been able to say any of these simple sentences. Because it wasn’t his job if Sakae never asked him to do it. Because this was the way that Sakae did things. Because Sakae could do everything all by himself.
“It’s his own problem that he’s terrible at using others and asking them for help.”
Shitara did have a side to him that was cold and unfeeling, but this time Shin didn’t get angry at his words. At the very least, Shitara understood Sakae far better than Shin did.
“I think someone without those skills shouldn’t be in the position of a producer in the first place. But unfortunately, he was a victim of his own success…”
There was the sound of the automatic doors opening behind them, and Shin turned around to see Tatsuki with a grumpy look on his face.
“Hey! What’s the big idea leaving me behind so you can relax out here!?”
“Oh, you’re finally awake?”
“The nurse said that the room is ready, and they’ll transfer him over.”
“All right, I’ll go back inside. You two should go home. It’s late.”
At the taxi stand, Tatsuki grabbed Shin’s arm.
“Can you stop by my apartment? I have something I want to give you.”
“I’ll get it from ya at the office.”
“Just come over!”
“Ain’t ya tired?”
In the end, Tatsuki pushed him into sharing a taxi together.
“Oh, hey, aren’t you on TV?”
There was a proportion of taxi drivers who thought it was rude to not say something if they recognized someone from TV. Even if they had experienced trouble before because they had failed to recognize someone or they had pretended not to, Shin thought they were completely misguided. He would hate it if he were approached all the time.
“Man, you already figured it out? But yeah, I’m Orlando Bloom.”
“You really took that out to left field…”
Shin respected that Tatsuki could give such a friendly response with no hint of any annoyance. Maybe he was fine with it, but Shin suddenly became worried and tugged on the sleeve of his suit.
“If ya tired an’ dun think ya can deal with people, ya need to tell them, okay?”
“So you won’t say I need tell it to you though.”
“Huh? …Uh, but… It ain’t like it matters who ya tell it to.”
Shin remembered the kiss on his forehead from nearly 24 hours ago, and he pulled his hand away all flustered. Maybe it was rude to say that Tatsuki got close to pretty much anybody, but he was generally friendly and didn’t keep people at a distance. That was why Shin didn’t know how to interpret the kiss. Should he really go over to his apartment? What did he want to give him? Shin had no idea what it could be, and what if it was just an excuse— No way, he had to be overthinking things. Just for argument’s sake, all hypothetical, okay? If Tatsuki wanted a man, there were much better ones, and plenty of them, out in the industry. There was nothing special about him, and no reason for Tatsuki to set his eyes on the staff.
“Um, that thing ya mentioned earlier.” Shin started talking to distract himself.
“What thing from earlier?”
“About it endin’ or not endin’.”
“Oh~ Yeah, yeah?”
“Ya dun hafta bring ya face so close! …I think if it has to end, it has to end. Or maybe it should end.”
“‘Cause there’s a limit to everythin’.”
“Are you referring to Souma-san?”
“Are you really okay with it, Nacchan? Forget about the part where it’s not good but it has to end. That doesn’t matter.”
Shin had never anticipated something every week so much like he did for GoGo. Friday nights at 12:55 am had been Shin’s special time. But the moment when Sakae had heard, That’s enough, he looked like somehow God had forgiven him. Even though Shin couldn’t see his eyes, he would never forget the look on his face for the rest of his life.
“Yeah,” Shin answered. “It’s enough. I’m okay with it now.”
It was past 2 am when they arrived at Tatsuki’s apartment. Shin was sleepy and barely standing up.
“You have to be exhausted. Go wash up first.”
“Ya go first.”
“Just go, just go.”
Tatsuki pushed a bath towel and a change of clothes at him, so Shin took a quick shower. When he got out, Tatsuki was waiting for him with a paper bag in his hand.
“Is this what ya wanted to give me?”
The bag was fairly large and flat. Shin found a brand-new sketchbook when he pulled it out.
“Because I used yours all up.”
Shin accepted it feeling confused, and Tatsuki commented astutely, “I bet you’re thinking, ‘This is it!?’”
“Not really, but ya coulda given this to me at the office…”
“Will you accept it?”
“Uh, ain’t it in my hands?”
“That’s not what I meant. I’m asking if you’ll accept continuing to work in TV.”
Shin looked at Tatsuki in surprise. But he didn’t see the bright eyes that drew people towards him. They were eyes that tried to quietly reach their way inside of Shin.
“You won’t quit TV just because GoGo is ending, right? That’s what I’ve been worrying about all this time.”
Shin should have been able to say, Of course, I won’t quit. He did think he was glad that he had his job at the news. However, Shin dropped his head. Tatsuki had discovered a seed of doubt inside of himself that he hadn’t even realized.
“…I can’t say.”
“Why not? You’ve worked so hard. Why would you say that, Nacchan? From the time I first saw you, I always thought you felt nervous and scared, no matter how much you worked.”
“There ain’t a point in me workin’ hard!”
It was late at night, but Shin couldn’t keep his voice down.
“I’m just a cringey viewer who happened to waltz onto the show! I thought I could help out if I could learn the work an’ filmin’ process! Even if I was good at copyin’ others, in the end, I ain’t done anythin’ worthwhile!”
Shin had expected Tatsuki to argue right back, but he just pursed his lips unhappily and took back the sketchbook.
“You gave me your answer, so I’m taking this back. Go ahead and quit. If you don’t think you can do it, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Tatsuki then rolled onto the sofa.
“I’m sleeping, so good night! Turn the lights off before you go to bed!”
“I said good night!”
Shin didn’t know how to react to Tatsuki’s hospitality despite his anger. But the trains had long stopped running, and he didn’t have enough cash with him for a taxi. He could find a convenience store in the area to withdraw some money… But it was too much trouble to go through all that hassle. Shin followed Tatsuki’s instructions to turn off the lights and climbed into the bed. There were lots of things rustling at the head of the bed, and he found books and magazines scattered all around. He used the light of his cell phone to check them and saw baseball magazines and books about play-by-play techniques. Shin hadn’t worked anywhere as hard as Tatsuki said that he had.
Go ahead and quit. Together with his exhaustion, the words used to push him away weighed on his entire body. Truthfully speaking, Shin was ashamed that he gave a non-committal answer like I can’t say. And there was something wrong with him, feeling all hurt because Tatsuki decided to abandon him for it. Maybe it was because he had expected Tatsuki to stop him and encourage him with his positive thinking. But he had to stop that. He was only changing the person he relied on from Sakae to Tatsuki. He wondered if he had Tatsuki’s decisiveness to thank for with this ability to cut things loose and not chase them too deeply.
Even with his head all muddled, from his neck down he craved the pleasant relief of sleep with his body freshly showered, wrapped in silky sheets, and the room cooled from the air-conditioning. There was also the fact he had been moving around since morning, and soon he was unable to keep his eyes open.
“…I like you directing on the floor, Nacchan.”
The whisper from the sofa couldn’t rouse him from the clutches of his drowsiness. Maybe the sleepiness mixed in Tatsuki’s voice didn’t help either.
“The floor is my closest viewer. When you smile and nod all enthusiastically at me, I feel like I can relax and keep talking. That’s why…”
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- This is a reference to the Japanese folktale The Crane’s Gift. The crane sacrifices her feathers to repay a man who had saved her so he can sell the cloth for money and food. The man doesn’t find out about it until the end.