Chapter 5: Side Profiles and Irises (5)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
Tatsuki went ballistic— No, just kidding, he didn’t, not really. He did think Why? though. 99 percent of the time, he could sleep things off in a single night, but he just happened to catch his senior colleague on his way out, so he yelled, “I have something I want to talk to you about!” Then he barged his way into his taxi to follow him home. His senior colleague hated arguing in front of people, so his face very subtly twitched, but he didn’t refuse him. On the other hand, during the taxi ride he flooded Tatsuki with LINE messages that said, You’re dead. I’m gonna murder you. You’re dead. I’m gonna murder you. You better erase this after you read this. I’m gonna murder you.
“Hey, what brings you here, Minagawa?”
His senior colleague, Kunieda Kei, essentially lived together with his boyfriend. This piece of information and the fact that underneath the gentle prince-like exterior was an incredibly different person were absolutely top secret. His boyfriend, Tsuzuki Ushio, was actually a really nice guy, and even though Tatsuki barged in on them like this, he didn’t show any indication that it bothered him.
“Someone went berserk on me on a power trip, so I’m nursing a bit of a bruised ego.”
“Amazing, so you can feel hurt too,” Kei commented dryly.
“Well, I don’t really feel hurt.”
“Then go home!”
“How about I fry up some gyoza for us?”
“Yay!! Can you make it with lots of crispy crust, please?”
“Go chug some chili oil!”
The gyoza were crispy and bursting with filling. The taste was light with no Chinese chives or garlic inside, probably out of consideration for Kei’s job, and Tatsuki felt like he could eat an unlimited number of them.
“Kunieda-san, have you ever spoken with Souma-san, the producer for GoGo?”
“I hadn’t either, but today I just happened to see him, and he chewed me out unprovoked. That I shouldn’t mistake myself for Asou’s or Kunieda’s level.”
“Hey, so he’s a decent guy after all…”
“No, no, no, I don’t think that at all, you know? Anyway, I don’t wanna be put with the likes of you, Paisen. In all sorts of meanings!”
“Bastard, leave the gyoza and get out!”
“So you have no idea why he hates you so much?” Ushio asked as he filled Tatsuki’s empty glass with beer (such a nice guy).
“No idea at all.”
“Of course you do. Just by breathing like a jackass.”
“Well, I don’t have gills, okay? …I think he just didn’t like me from whatever impression I gave him. He can be pretty draconian from what I heard.”
“You’re probably just shocked because you think everyone in the world likes you.”
“Isn’t that you, Kunieda-san? …Anyway, I don’t think that at all. It’s not like I like everyone who I meet.”
“By GoGo, do you mean Go Go Dash?”
“I can understand what you mean by draconian somehow.”
“The producer imparts a lot of their self into their show. I can’t really explain it very well, but when I watch The News, there are times when I think, ‘Yeah, that’s very Shitara-san.’”
Ushio was a filmmaker, and it seemed like he could sense something about creators that Tatsuki had no clue about.
“GoGo is really intricate and dense when you look at how it’s composed. You’ll see little subtle tricks here and there, kinda like a secret sauce that gives it its character. They pay so much attention to the little details, but they don’t particularly care if the audience realizes it or not. There’s just this pure dedication to their craft that I sense. Anyway, it’s really well-made, but the most important thing is that it’s funny, and I think that’s amazing. That’s why, uh, Souma-san, was it? Even if he’s a difficult person to work with, people will overlook it because of his work. There are plenty of people like that in the industry.”
“Yeah, that’s true…”
Tatsuki ate to his heart’s content, and Kei was emitting such a heavy get-the-hell-out aura that he could almost see it. So Tatsuki decided it was time to take his leave. Ushio walked with him down to the first floor.
“He called me a second-rate hack.”
The two lived on the fifth floor with no elevator, so Tatsuki talked as they made their way down the stairs.
“You mean that producer? Huh, it’s really not like you. Are you seriously upset by it?”
“Hmmm… Well, the other day I was working on a congratulations video for a colleague’s wedding reception. I’m in charge of the narration, but the director said that I couldn’t make it emotional at all. That I had nothing below the surface.”
“Maybe he only said it because he’s comfortable saying it to you?”
“But people would never make that comment about Kunieda-san. He doesn’t care about other people, but he’ll read something that will make everyone cry.”
Tatsuki took each step down, treading on his shadow as it cast over his feet. When they reached the first floor, Tatsuki wrapped the conversation up with a “Well, whatever.”
He continued, “It’s not like I can do anything about it anyway by brooding over it!”
“On the other hand, I’m sure that Kunieda-san can’t read things the way that you do. Sometimes you just need the right man for the right job. And that’s okay, right?”
“Yeah, you’re right. Oh, a taxi’s coming. Thanks a lot for the food! Have a good night!”
Tatsuki got into the taxi and gave the driver his address. Then he stated, “I’m going to sleep,” before leaning his head against the window and closing his eyes. If he didn’t make sure to say it, drivers tended to try to talk to him.
The truth was—there was something that bothered Tatsuki, but he couldn’t bring himself to say it.
Shin had listened to Sakae chew him out, and he just sat there and didn’t say a word. But afterwards, he had said, I’m sorry, his voice weak and overflowing with guilt. Was he apologizing for not saying something? Or was he apologizing for his producer’s rudeness—?
“…Hnn, which one is it~?”
Tatsuki had suddenly spoken out loud, so the driver glanced back in a panic and asked, “Am I going the wrong way?”
“Uh, no, sorry. I’m just talking in my sleep.”
“It sounded really loud and clear though.”
“People tell me that all the time~”
Tatsuki hated the thought of the second option. It made him feel even worse to get an apology for someone else’s behavior. What was the guy, a grade schooler?
But wait a second.
When Ushio would say, Sorry about that, for Kei and the insults he had thrown, Tatsuki didn’t really get mad. And though he had imposed himself at their home, Ushio was the one who saw him off at the end of the night. That was fine too. He accepted it because that was how their dynamic worked. The two of them were dating after all. If he were to follow that line of thinking, would it make him feel better if Sakae and Shin were dating? Shin did pop over to his home for personal wake-up visits with just a single call. And they shared chopsticks together.
I see, I see—
“—Are they really though!?”
“Oh, nevermind, it’s nothing. Please keep driving.”
Hmm, I dunno. Tatsuki crossed his arms. But at the very least, Shin liked Sakae. Well, more like he idolized him. Maybe like Ushio had said, there were a lot of reasons behind his feelings that Tatsuki didn’t understand. Tatsuki hated seeing Shin shrink in on himself like that. But when Shin would talk to him about GoGo, that was when Shin would show him a warm and relaxed expression.
Ahh, I just don’t understand it.
It had been a long time ago in the past (that was what Tatsuki thought), but he was once in love with Kei. For just a moment, Tatsuki had happened to catch a faint hint of the brash personality that Kei had kept thoroughly hidden underneath his mask. It was that whiff of a secret and the immediate intuition that Kei hated him on the spot that attracted him to Kei. Thinking that the whole world liked him was an exaggeration, but after living for over a quarter of a century, he had enough self-awareness to know that he lived a charmed life where people tended to indulge him. He would get discounts from stores he had never shopped at before and free meals for being a regular customer. Just walking on the street, people would give him free fruit and candy and tell him, I watch you on TV. It happened on a pretty regular basis. But maybe his future held incredible misfortune for him later in life, and so the overall advantages that he got weren’t really so clear.
Kei had already had Ushio in his life, but Tatsuki hadn’t thought that it was a problem. They couldn’t get married anyway, and Tatsuki felt like it would be fine if Kei dated them both at the same time. It would be kind of like garbage days: one person could get Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, the other could get Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and they could all have Sundays to themselves. That was what he had tried to propose, but ultimately, it didn’t work. And here he was now, but he had no lingering feelings or bad blood for the two.
But sometimes he would remember the words that Ushio had said to him.
—What do you take your feelings for, huh? Do you think that love is that fucking shallow? That he’s that fucking shallow?
Tatsuki wouldn’t say that it haunted him… But no matter how much he slept it off, the words stayed with him somewhere inside his heart, and he couldn’t muster up the desire to date and find someone new. He felt like he had to honor his feelings properly. Because the next time he made a mistake, there might not be someone kind enough like Ushio to tell him what he did wrong.
Tatsuki had the full range of emotions like everyone else, but he couldn’t read a script in a way that would make people cry—he didn’t have anything below the surface, and he felt like he couldn’t even deny it.
“I mean, there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s all up to people’s personalities, right?”
“Sir, you’ve been awake this whole time, haven’t you!?”
Tatsuki listened as Shin told him flat out that he didn’t understand.
“I couldna understand anythin’ ya said today. It was somethin’ that baseball nuts would talk about at a bar. Normal viewers can’t follow it.”
“I don’t think that’s the case at all,” Tatsuki argued.
Shin had grown comfortable with his position as floor manager, and he had learned to express his opinions without holding back. Of course, during the broadcast, he would always behave respectfully, never breathing a negative word to the presenters.
“Besides, if the baseball fans don’t watch us, there’s no point in the corner to begin with.”
“The speed of the pitches are one thing, but when ya throw in the swing speed, I dun understand whysit so important. Just ’cause it’s fast, but whatsit mean? If ya gonna make the reference, then ya gotta explain it.”
“If I explain every little thing, it’ll eat up all my time! People can figure it out. You just know too little about baseball, Nacchan. You’re the first guy I’ve ever seen who doesn’t know what ERA or DH means!”1
“Now that’s just sexist!”
“Oiii! How long are you two gonna keep at it? We’re turning off the lights, so take it outside!”
The two of them were kicked out into the hallway, and they were about to start up again when Shin’s cell phone started ringing. Shin checked the caller on the screen and let out a “Geh.” It didn’t seem to be from Sakae. He answered the call with a brusque “Yeah?”
“Yeah. Oh, okay. It’s fine…”
He was speaking with a pained tone in his voice, but then he suddenly shouted, “What!?”
“Wait, dun just spring it on me! I can’t! I have people comin’ over— No, they ain’t a girlfriend! It’s a mess, okay? Hey, I told ya, ya can’t come! Come on, dun be dumb!”
From the sound of the conversation, it seemed like someone was coming over to stay at Shin’s apartment. Shin was desperately trying to refuse, but he couldn’t convince them. More like, he had no chance to refuse them from the beginning. Maybe it was his mom calling? The guess was right. Shin ended the call with his shoulders slumped, and he moaned mournfully, “My mom’s comin’ over tomorrow.”
When Shin had complained to his mother that she couldn’t suddenly spring whatever relative’s wedding on him, his mother retorted that it was his fault for burying himself in work and not answering his phone. Shin told her that he already had people coming over, but she declared that family took priority if they weren’t a girlfriend he intended to marry. Shin made the excuse that his apartment was a mess, so his mother said she would clean it for him. Apparently it was useless to argue with her.
“Why don’t you just explain it to your friends?”
“They ain’t really friends…”
For some reason, Shin suddenly stared at Tatsuki.
“…Are ya livin’ by yourself?”
“Ya said before that ya like Motor Coil, right?”
“Can ya do me a favor!?” Shin clapped his hands together in supposition. “Can ya lend ’em your apartment for the day? I swear they’re good people. They won’t make a mess or break anythin’, I promise!”
“Oh, sure, it’s fine.”
Tatsuki agreed so readily, that it seemed to surprise Shin. Shin asked him, “Really?” several times to make sure.
“Yeah, I don’t mind having people at my apartment. But in return, I’m looking forward to an extra 3 minutes for sports on Monday.”
“Ya know I can’t swing that.”
“Whaaa? …Oh, I know, bring me to tomorrow’s show then. I’d like to see some live comedy.”
“That’s doable. I’ll ask ’em for tickets.”
The next morning, Tatsuki went with Shin to the express bus terminal to pick up the two comedians.
“Hi! Nice to meet you! I’m Minagawa from Asahi TV!”
“Oh, nice to meet you…”
“We’re so sorry to impose on you, even though we’ve never met before…”
The duo was known for their avant-garde comedy acts, but here they were, bowing their heads repeatedly, their faces apologetic and chastened. Tatsuki now understood why people said that comedians tended to be shy in real life.
“They got real nervous when I told ’em that a TV announcer was lettin’ ’em stay over for the day,” Shin whispered in Tatsuki’s ear.
“Why? I’m just a salaried worker. You two gotta be exhausted, right? Let’s go. I’ll carry your bags… Whoa, that’s heavy! What’s in here?”
“Um, a bowling ball, rolling pins, and mini-skirt police outfits for tonight’s skits.”
“Oh my god, I can’t imagine what you’re gonna do for the show, but I can’t wait~”
Shin had a meeting for GoGo he had to go to, so they separated in front of the train station.
“I’ll see ya at 6.”
Tatsuki brought the comedians to his apartment. He showed them the bathroom and kitchen, letting them know they could eat the ice cream in the freezer if they felt like it, and the duo slowly warmed up to Tatsuki. Eventually they could chatter and joke back and forth with each other.
“How much do you get for your performances?”
Tatsuki offered up his bed and sofa to them, and he sprawled on the floor talking endlessly. Maybe it had reminded him of nights on school field trips because he felt like they were old friends from long ago and it was a little mystifying. The comedians were two years younger than Tatsuki, and they had been classmates from junior high.
“I liked your act when I saw you on GoGo. I laughed so much at the one about the delinquent ex-girlfriend.”
“Oh, that one.”
“She still traumatizes me to this day, but the bit went over well with the viewers, so I’m glad it paid off.”
“When will you be on again? You’re Kansai locals, so I can’t really see you here.”
“Well, it ain’t for us to decide. It’d be real lucky if they wanna put us on the show again. We’ve been submittin’ proposals and surveys like crazy, but there are tons of people who want on the show just like us.”
“Yeah, appearin’ on the show propels your popularity in an instant, so everyone’s fightin’ for a spot.”
“If Souma-san shows up to the theater, it’s like a battlefield of people beggin’ to get on the show.”
The comedians’ voices were starting to drift off to sleep, but Tatsuki had to bring up a subject that was on his mind.
“So Souma-san’s really that amazing, huh?”
“He scares the bejesus outta me. If ya give a boring reaction, he’ll explode at ya and yell, ‘Hey, you damn time waster!!’”
“He’s yelled ‘Get out!’ at people right in the middle of filmin’, an’ they never appear on the show again.”
Yeah, that sounds about right. In a sense, he’s the complete opposite of Senpai and never hides what he thinks.
“…But, yeah, he’s amazin’.”
The quiet whisper sounded defenseless, like a child who believed wholeheartedly that his father was amazing. Shin probably felt the same awe and respect that they had for Sakae.
“He’ll give us little bits o’ advice like, gulp once before ya make a wisecrack, or skip this part of the lead-up an’ go right to the punchline—not huge revelations, but if we do what he says, the response from the audience is completely different. He’s not the one speakin’ on stage, but somehow he just sees somethin’ that nobody else sees. An’ I wonder if that’s what producers do.”
Tatsuki didn’t remember getting much practical advice from Shitara, the producer for The News. He had told the staff, We’re all adults here in the studio, and he would never say a word to anyone about little minor things, but there was a sense of security that everyone felt—that he still paid proper attention to them doing their jobs. If there were all sorts of announcers, then there were all sorts of producers too.
“What’s it like to perform your live shows in front of an audience?”
That single word came through crystal clear to Tatsuki.
“So frikkin’ scary. Like, I had spent full nights at a park repeatin’ non-stop ‘What the hell ya sayin’?’ for this? It makes me wonder if there’s somethin’ wrong with my head.”
“I get so nervous, I’m just dry heavin’ the whole time in the green room.”
“If the audience loves the set before us, my knees start wobblin’, and I wanna run away and go home. My biggest fear is that the audience dun laugh. It’s so scary I could die.”
“I get on the dark stage in front of the three-eight mic,3 the lights blindin’ me in the eyes, and I wonder if it’s like gettin’ on the scaffold for an execution.”
Huh? Really? I don’t get nervous at all—but this was not the place for Tatsuki to say those words here. He wondered what made him and these two people so different when it came to performing in front of others. Was it the difference between announcers and comedians? The personalities they were born with? The harshness of the competition? The resolve to bet everything on their careers?
“…Ya know, Souma-san…”
The voice sounded like it was melting under heat.
“…He’s a failure of a human bein’, but I feel like the one thing that he does understand is our feelin’s when it comes to performin’…”
The wooden floor was hard and slightly warm from his body heat. Tatsuki thought to himself that he knew nothing. About falling in love. About feeling so scared that it made people tremble. About looking up to someone so much that their existence was like a god.
“You, get out.”
Smoke drifted like haze in the conference room that permitted smoking. The air purifier was operating at full speed, but with 10 adults lighting up cigarettes one after another, it couldn’t keep up with the hours long meeting. But the haze froze in an instant like tiny ice crystals from the voice that Sakae emitted.
The words were directed to a new writer who had been recommended by a director.
“Your ideas are lousy. You’re just copying other shows, and you can’t even suggest anything to elevate people’s ideas. There’s no point in having you here, so leave.”
Shin thought that it was understandable that the guy, in an effort to hide his shock and embarrassment, let out a laugh that sounded like pandering, but Sakae had no sympathy for anyone and he immediately fired back, “What? You’re still trying to get some sympathy laughs? You’re not funny, so get out.”
The writer gathered his things from the table, too flustered to put them away in his bag, and fled the room. The atmosphere was awkward as the director who recommended the writer lowered his head and apologized.
“I’m very sorry. I had worked with him on a radio show and thought that he showed a lot of promise. I had hoped the opportunity would be a good learning experience for him.”
“Are you in any position to be playing mentor?” Sakae said, rubbing out a partially burned cigarette in an ashtray. “What was with that on-location shoot, huh? You had to go back to Okinawa to get more footage, and after rolling all that tape, how much of it was even useful? If you want to get smashed on Awamori and shoot your mouth off, you can do that at a bar here. The videos that I hate the most have nothing offensive about them but nothing good either. Worry about yourself from now on. —Shin.”
“How much longer do we have this room?”
“For another 30 minutes, and then someone else has it booked.”
Shin’s job was to secure the conference rooms that allowed smoking (people booked them at a higher rate), change out the ashtrays when needed, arrange for food and drinks, write people’s ideas on the whiteboard, write up minutes for the meeting, and other various duties.
“Let’s stop here for today. The ideas aren’t going to miraculously get better.”
There was no way to tell how these planning sessions would go. Sometimes a single word from someone would ignite a firestorm and people would contribute ideas left and right, and sometimes they could spend 5 to 6 excruciating hours pitching ideas that got more and more desperate as time went on. And just because people got excited over an idea, it didn’t necessarily mean that the final video would be a hit. Even after the thrill and pain of the production process, Sakae had the final say whether it made the cut.
When the sound of Sakae’s footsteps disappeared into the distance, everyone in the room but Shin let out a deep sigh.
“That was rough…”
“Nawada, did the kid cry as he left?”
“I didn’t look too closely. It was too painful to look at.”
“Yeah, well, it’s gotta hurt to be chewed out like that as a young writer.”
“Who knows, maybe his rejected material might get used anyway.”
“Yeah, that can happen~”
“Well, maybe not. Not when it comes to Souma-san. …Hey, cheer up, man!”
The director groaned with his face down against the table. “Shit, what if he decides to can me?”
“If he wanted to get rid of you, he would have said so. If you bounce back into shape, he’ll forget all about it.”
“I’m directing Tortoise Shell next. They’re dumb. They have terrible reactions. They’re seriously useless.”
Normally Shin would keep his mouth shut even if he didn’t like what people were saying. His position was lower than theirs, just a drone, and he didn’t want to rock the boat. He had fed himself the excuse that if he wanted to stay here it was important that he be a useful drone.
But before Shin realized it, he had opened his mouth.
“I don’t think Tortoise Shell is the problem.”
“Well… I worked with ’em several times on location, and they’re serious and hardworkin’. But ’cause they’re so serious, they get real concerned when they get scripts a few hours before filmin’ or if there are sudden changes to the material.”
“Isn’t it a comedian’s job to deal with those things?”
“But as comedians, dun they hafta think hard about how to be the funniest they can be for the audience? It makes me wonder about production if we’re always droppin’ last minute changes on the performers an’ expectin’ them to deal with—”
Shin wasn’t able to finish speaking because the director sent his chair flying and got up.
“I’d like to see you try to say that again after you direct a show yourself, you damn puppet.”
The parting shot as the director left the room stung a lot. He wasn’t wrong. Shin started panicking, thinking that he screwed up. But he didn’t think that what he said was wrong. It was wrong to bend his beliefs just because it might clash with someone else’s.
After all, Tatsuki would never do that.
Tatsuki would come to him more and more with his input as a presenter, and Shin was able to take his feedback and return his own thoughts about what Tatsuki had said. And the exchanges never turned hostile and never dragged out to affect their work afterwards. The conversations never involved personal feelings, whether they got along or not, or even who had a higher position between them. Because it was all necessary communication in order to make a good show.
What? ’Cause I keep yakkin’ with ya, I accidentally slip up here? Whatta ya gonna do to fix this for me?
Although Shin complained about Tatsuki in his head, he would never actually say it to him. He didn’t regret speaking up. But he had to show that he felt bad for making the heavy mood in the room worse, so he bowed his head to the remaining staff members and apologized.
“I’m very sorry about that.”
“That’s unusual. I never expected you to say something like that, Nawada.”
“But I think it’s a good thing. You should submit some ideas and proposals of your own and work your way up to a field director.”
“Yeah, totally. You do great work on the camera and with the editing. It’d be a waste of your talent to see you stuck as an errand runner. Even though we’re the ones who’s always making you run around for us.”
“Didn’t you show me drafts of something a long time ago? Like the Hashtag Q&A game or the concentration game but with people. Those seem fun. You should polish them up.”
“But…” Shin faltered. “Souma-san ain’t gave me the okay to submit proposals yet…”
“Dummy, as if he’d ever say that.”
“He thinks everyone has lower intelligence than himself.”
“You know, it’s actually pretty normal though. It’s not just Souma-san. This industry isn’t nice enough to give you a hand-up if you don’t put yourself out there and raise your hand yourself.”
“Oh… I suppose you’re right…”
Shin cleaned up the conference room with his thoughts still unresolved. There was still some time before he had to go meet up with Tatsuki, so he decided to wander around the network to change up his mood. There were people rushing about in such a panic that he almost asked them if they wanted help, people sitting around and watching TV, people conducting interviews over the phone—all sorts of people, and he thought to himself all over again what a strange workplace this was.
What kind of director do you want to be? He had heard this question a lot lately, and he felt like this question had been thrown at him again. Of course he would be happy if he could make videos based on his direction and vision, but he felt like he was just happy to be breathing the air at a television studio. He was plenty happy with the way things were.
Shin approached the corner of the building where there was a small balcony that slightly jutted outside, like it had been slapped onto the side of the building as an afterthought. He decided that he wanted some fresh air and walked up to it. But it wasn’t really a refreshing place to relax because the balcony was used as an outdoor smoking area.
“—I think it’s just a problem of awareness.”
There were people beyond the patterns of wire-reinforced glass. Shin saw the profile of Sakae’s face, and he pulled his hand from the doorknob and hurried into a blind spot.
“If you just showed us you were serious about adopting some cost-cutting measures, that would be enough to satisfy people, but you’re just running in the red like it’s nothing to you.”
“You don’t think your production cost expectations are unreasonable to begin with?”
It seemed like Sakae was talking to someone from the production or programming departments. Someone with a higher position than him from the slightest effort to rein back his tone.
“With that kind of budget, we’ll be confined to the studio, booking middling talent to sit on-screen telling stories about themselves. Anyway, isn’t everything supposed to be paid out of the disc sales?”
“How much money do you think is leftover for us after we subtract the portion for the management involved? And yet you’ll just announce, ‘Oh, I wanted a shot of a sunny day, so we stayed an extra night.’ We’re not shooting a drama series or a movie here. And obviously we know that it takes money to make something good.”
Whoa, this is a heavy conversation.
Although Sakae was a boorish guy, he was the one who managed the budgets and expenses by himself. But Shin had never heard the topic of money come out of Sakae’s mouth before. He might have derided an idea for being garbage, but he never rejected a director on the account of lack of funds. He also recalled no mention of ever playing to the ratings. They aired in the late-night block, so the ratings weren’t much to begin with, but he never mentioned them either when they would do specials that aired during prime time. He also ignored milestones and the network-wide sweeps week. There weren’t many producers who never talked about money or numbers—oh, but there was also Shitara-san. So they shared one surprising thing in common.
Shin pictured Sakae smiling coldly with a cigarette between his lips.
“Then why don’t you replace me with a cost-conscious producer who can make a better show?”
Behind his words was a challenge that said, If you can find one, that is.
The other person sharpened his voice. “You know, if you keep that attitude up, you’re going to get burned someday.”
“Then I look forward to it.”
Oh, crap, he’s comin’ out.
Shin was too preoccupied with eavesdropping, and he forgot to think about how to hide himself afterwards. It was a long and straight hallway, and there was no way for Shin to climb up the walls and stick himself to the ceiling. He decided to crouch down where he was regardless of how meaningless it was. Sakae opened the door and stepped out into the hallway. He walked without stopping.
Huh? Didn he see me? He musta noticed.
Shin followed after Sakae nervously. Sakae said without turning around, “I have an appointment at 5. With someone from the production companies. What’s the name again? The one that reminds me of double bogeys.”
“Ya mean Motoki-san from Friends Pro?”
“Yeah, that’s him.”
Sakae paused for a moment and suddenly started laughing, his shoulders shaking.
“You’re so weird. How did you even get that from what I said?”
“Just a feelin’…”
Sakae was a man who never saw his own shortcomings but would laugh at anybody else’s. His reply was unusually candid, and it seemed like he was in a much better mood than before.
What do I do? Should I say it? Can I say it?
…If it were ya, ya’d say it.
Shin walked up close enough to see the profile of Sakae’s face before opening his mouth.
“May I submit a proposal for the next planning meeting?”
“Hmm, why not?”
Sakae quickly gave his permission. It was so anticlimactic that Shin almost crouched down again right then and there.
“But I won’t look at it.”
But just as his spirits soared, he was knocked back down to Earth. If the decision maker wasn’t going to look at it, it was rejected from the start. It was a waste of time to even try.
Is it still too early for me? Or does he think it’s just impossible for me?
“If you think that you’ve learned a thing or two just by dabbling on the floor for the news, you’re greatly mistaken.”
That single sentence delivered the finishing blow, and Shin froze in his steps. Maybe Sakae was right. He had been overeager with this new experience he had, thinking that maybe he could take a half-step forward, but here he was at the most crucial point shrinking away in fear. The thought that Sakae could be thinking that he had gotten carried away with himself, it made Shin so embarrassed that he wanted to disappear.
But Tatsuki probably wouldn’t flinch. He would probably say, What’s so wrong about wanting to work? What’s so embarrassing about it? Shin wouldn’t put it past him to shove the proposal in his face. Shin laughed a little imagining it, and it was strange.
It wasn’t that Shin wanted to become like Tatsuki. They were too different in personalities and circumstances to compare, and from the beginning when they had first met, Shin should have held much pettier feelings against him. But before he realized it, now when he thought about Tatsuki and what he would do, the thought was enough to encourage and cheer him up. He asked himself, I wonder why? But he wasn’t particularly looking for an answer. He didn’t have time to go home and change out of his clothes that smelled like cigarette smoke, and he felt a little reluctant going out to meet Tatsuki like this.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- ERA is earned run average, and it’s a measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness. DH is designated hitter, and they can substitute for the pitcher’s turn at bat.
- 1,000 yen – Approx. $10 USD.
- The three-eight mic refers to the Sony C38 Series microphones that Japanese stand-up comics usually use.