Chapter 8: Side Profiles and Irises (8)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
His cell phone by his pillow woke him up.
“Tatsuki? Sorry about yesterday.”
Tatsuki had answered without checking the caller. It was the senior colleague from last night.
“Oh… Good morning, it’s not a big deal.”
Tatsuki sat up, but Shin was nowhere to be found. The throw blanket was folded neatly on the corner of the sofa. There was a single 5,000 yen1 bill on the coffee table.
Was that supposed to cover the taxi and the beer? He’s so honest~
Tatsuki was unhappy at formality of the gesture.
“You probably brought Ibaraki-san over because you didn’t want to handle him on your own, right?”
“Whoops, was it obvious? He loves to complain when he’s drunk. I thought you’d be able to deal with him somehow~”
Yeah, Tatsuki probably could have buttered the old man up to curry favor with him, but if it had dragged on too long, Shin wouldn’t have been able to interrupt them. That was why Tatsuki chose to behave himself.
“Well, whatever. It doesn’t matter too much if you left a bad impression on the guy. He’s retiring next month anyway.”
“Huh? Is he really?”
“He’s getting old, and there are times he can’t explain that new collision rule that was added. And commentators fundamentally criticize things, right? But that’s pretty much gone out of style now. People want to hear softer commentary, where you find and praise the good points. Ibaraki-san doesn’t really have that many accomplishments, and there are plenty of old boys in the field who have more name recognition and are easier to deal with.”
In other words, he was fired. It wasn’t particularly tragic news—it happened all the time. Presenters were special, and yet presenters were like cogs in a machine that could be easily changed. There was no contradiction in the two statements. Tatsuki scratched his head. It was still unpleasant news to hear first thing in the morning.
“With that said, I want to ask you to do the play-by-play for Ibaraki-san’s last game as a commentator.”
“Congratulations on your play-by-play debut. It’s for the radio, the third Saturday next month. The Titans versus Dolphins game at Jingu Stadium. Clear your calendar for it.”
It was a sudden opportunity, but Tatsuki answered like well-behaved child, “I’ll do my best,” and finished the call. Next, he called a junior he knew in entertainment production.
“Good morning, Tatsuki-san. Is there a reason you’re calling?”
“Hey, there’s a taping for GoGo today, right? Are they taping with a studio audience?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Hmm, can I go watch? I’ll stand in a corner and behave.”
“Hmmm, I want to see how things work on variety shows too. It’s a good learning experience.”
“Isn’t your performance enough of a variety show as it is already?”
“Whatever, it’s fine.”
“Hmm… I don’t know, it’s pretty last minute… I’ll try asking the producer first and see what he says…”
“I’d like to keep it a secret from him.”
“No way, you crazy?”
“Please! I’ll put on a disguise and suppress my aura! I promise I won’t bother anyone! I’ll disappear when the crew takes a break from filming.”
“You dare to say that you have an aura yourself?”
“Hey, you want to go to a singles party?”
“I’ll set one up just for you. What do you like? Office ladies? Flight attendants? Lady doctors? Nurses? Announcers from other networks? Maybe weather ladies?”
And he takes the bait. Men are so stupid~
“I could get receptionists, dental hygienists, kindergarten teachers, anyone you want~ Just let me know~”
“That’s so unfair… It’s like a treasure chest of women…”
Thus, Tatsuki took the request of makeup artists in exchange for sneaking him into the taping. He put on a different baseball cap from yesterday and a different pair of glasses and headed for the network in the afternoon. Naturally, he had his building entry badge with him, and there were no checks to get into the individual studios. All he wanted to do was follow a staff member inside, greet people with nothing more than a polite “Hi,” and disappear smoothly into the crowd. He knew that nothing good could come out of the visit if Sakae happened to catch him in the studio, and he wanted to keep it a secret from Shin too. Tatsuki wanted to watch Shin do his work on GoGo. More precisely, Tatsuki wanted to watch him and figure out what he thought about Shin.
So Tatsuki followed his junior into the studio, just like he had planned, found a blindspot for the cameras and lights near the back corner in the last row of seats of the audience stands, crossed his arms, and waited for the taping to begin. The audience guests were too excited to be on set to pay any attention to Tatsuki, and if any staff members’ eyes landed on him, they probably figured he was a lighting tech, artist, or stagehand. Fundamentally, everyone was very busy, and they didn’t pay attention to others unless someone looked obviously suspicious. And it went without saying that Shin busied himself around the studio, running to and fro.
Before long, the crew and staff started to take their positions, and the audience became restless, making comments such as Are they starting yet? and I wanna see the show now. Tatsuki could feel the anticipation swelling in the air, and he was a little jealous of it. It was a great sensation. He had felt it at the performance last night, but he wondered how much fun it would be standing on the stage, in the middle of the excitement, right before the curtains went up.
This would never happen on the news, huh? But maybe play-by-plays would get close to it… As the thoughts went through Tatsuki’s mind, the floor manager started to address the audience. He gave the do’s and don’ts for the taping, and they rehearsed their laughter and applause.
“Sounds great! Please enjoy your time here, and we would love to hear lots of applause and laughter! On the count of ten, we will bring out our two hosts to open the show. Ten, nine, eight, seven…”
In the middle of the studio, a gate lit up wildly with bright, color-changing lights. The hosts burst onto the set to the thunderous wave of applause.
It electrified the audience in an instant, and they cheered even louder. There were no pop-up text or sound effects—it was the raw footage of the show, and Tatsuki could feel the voices and the energy of the performers transmitted directly at him. Because it was a taping, they would do retakes, but the performers tackled every reaction and conversation with a professional pride and spirit. But there was a tension that approached the feeling of a live broadcast, and the source was probably Sakae, reclining in a chair watching over the studio like a movie director. He was like the eye of a hurricane, and everyone was desperate, trying not to be swept away by the pressure of the whirling vortex. It was painfully obvious from Tatsuki’s overhead view of the studio. If he cracked an egg on the guy’s back, he could probably fry an egg there. It was no wonder why all the comedians clamored to appear on the show. No matter how terrifying or how harsh he was, there was no place else they could taste this thrill and excitement.
Tatsuki could also see Shin, supporting the progress of the taping, running in and out of the studio, and watching Sakae. Shin was watching him even if Sakae wasn’t in his field of vision, using his entire body to grasp what Sakae was thinking at the moment or what he needed. And Shin never even realized that Tatsuki was watching him. But well, Tatsuki was hiding from him. He had to give him that.
I want to turn that gaze over here, Tatsuki thought. Don’t just look at him. Look at me.
He wanted those eyes on him—even now they looked like a scared cat’s, wide-eyed and about to be struck by a car. It wasn’t a hope or a demand, but a heated desire. Shin could be strong-willed and weak and irrefutably stubborn, but he came alive the most when he talked about GoGo. And he would only have eyes for Tatsuki during the sports corner on the news set.
But then Tatsuki tried to see if he could compartmentalize his feelings—that Shin would be Sakae’s when he was at GoGo and he would be Tatsuki’s on The News. As long as he could monopolize Shin when they were together, he should have been fine with it. Shin had known Sakae for much, much longer, and Tatsuki seemed to like things with complicated factors and angles—wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could avoid making waves and only focused on the benefits? No. No way. The thought irritated the hell out of him.
Tatsuki wanted Shin all to himself.
He released a deep sigh under the cover of the audience laughter. Why did he always go for men who were already taken? They worked together, depended on each other, went out, and had fun together, but somewhere deep down inside, it wasn’t enough and he was starving for something more. Shin had cried and gotten angry for Tatsuki. He had petted Tatsuki’s head and showed him his sleeping face, and Tatsuki had liked it. That was what he wanted more of.
Tatsuki knew that Shin held some sort of feelings for him, but he didn’t think he could drive Sakae from his heart no matter how hard he pushed. The reason that Shin came here and stayed here was all because of Sakae. It didn’t matter to Shin if Sakae returned his feelings or not.
Uh, what am I supposed to do in this situation? Wouldn’t it all work out if I just don’t let it bother me? But that’s the thing, I can’t find a way so that it doesn’t bother me… Hmmm?
What are you supposed to do when you fall in love?
Tatsuki lost all sight of himself and everything he did up until now, as if he had suddenly forgotten how to breathe.
If I mess up, it’s not like it’ll kill me. It won’t kill me…
Shin tried encouraging himself using Tatsuki’s words. The taping had finished, and the audience members and performers had all left the studio. Shin stepped in front of Sakae as he sat in a chair reading a manga. Sakae scowled as the shadow loomed over him.
Shin decided to speak up regardless of the reaction.
“I know that I asked you yesterday, but could you please take a look at my proposal?”
Watching the old GoGo DVDs at Tatsuki’s apartment reminded him of his high school days, how he was so enamored with GoGo as a viewer and what his thoughts were while watching it.
He remembered how it had all been a vague notion in his head at first, but he had thought that maybe he could make something like GoGo. He wasn’t the most knowledgeable about comedy, and he didn’t have any particular interest in filming at the time, but he wanted to be on the other side on the TV, giving other people like him a little something to smile about. Then maybe Shin could come to like himself a little. That was what he had thought at the time. But somehow over the years, he became Sakae’s underling, working as a backup for people, he became so wrapped up in show arrangements and clean-up that he had settled for what he had had. There was no way he could ever become like Sakae, so the best path for him was to be useful to Sakae. Yes, it was important work, but Shin had become unable to see his surroundings, and if he looked back now at his footprints, he would see he had been walking blindfolded—and what he had thought was a straight path had become a meandering mess.
Shin had people who had asked him what kind of director he wanted to be, people who had told him to make works of his own, and Shin thought that he had to take a step forward somewhere for all those people who had supported him. Even if it was a dead end or if he tripped and fell flat on his face. That was why he had rushed back to his apartment early in the morning, ignoring his mother who was sound asleep, and pulled out his old proposals to polish them up and bring them here with him.
However, Sakae’s response was “No way, it’s a hassle.” He didn’t even look at Shin as he said it. Normally, Shin would apologize and retreat, but he took a deep breath and held his ground as he repeated to himself, It won’t kill me, it won’t kill me, it won’t kill me.
“Please take a look.”
“Why do you keep bothering me? I already know it’s no use, so why do I have to waste my time on it?”
“If it ain’t any use, I would like to know which parts are the problem.”
“And that’s a hassle, I said. Oh, I know. If you want to do something so badly, why don’t you take it to the news? The producer there is a pushover; he’ll probably let you do whatever you want.”
“Souma-san, there’s no need to talk that way.”
It seemed like a few directors had overheard their conversation and came over with stern expressions on their faces.
“Nawada-kun has helped us out a lot, you know. He’ll edit together some footage or write a quick little script for us, and he does a great job.”
“You know he has the skills to make something good, Souma-san. You’re the one who probably knows him the best.”
“It’s mind boggling. How can you put someone through all the paces at a show, but then say you have no desire to develop him into a full director?”
Shin appreciated their support, but he didn’t want to create more needless problems at the show. He really didn’t need them to gang up on Sakae. As he stood there in a panic, the manga Sakae was reading came flying towards him.
“I’m done reading, so toss it.”
Sakae smiled at the normal response that Shin gave without thinking. Of course, the smile wasn’t anything like the one he had given Shin that day he had interviewed.
“I don’t know what kind of fairy-tale delusion you live in, but we’re talking about outsourced ADs here. Just use them and toss them.”
“Oi!” one of directors shouted, sounding upset. “Everyone quits this show because they’re fed up with you, you know!”
“Heh. Must be nice to blame others for your own incompetence.”
“What did you say?”
“Um, please! Please hold on! You don’t have to do this for me. It’s fine, really.”
As Shin desperately tried to calm the situation down, Sakae just ignored him and left the studio. Shin had wanted to strike while his determination was still fresh in his mind, but he shouldn’t have brought it up while there were other people around.
“Seriously, I don’t know how much longer I can work for him.”
“What does he think the people under him are?”
“Um, I’m very sorry. I shouldn’t have said anythin’ weird.”
“Why are you apologizing, Nawada? You didn’t do anything wrong.”
But nothing had gone as planned. The mood would just be stifling if Shin returned to the staff room, so he ran away and headed to The News.
Shin held the faint hope that maybe Tatsuki would be there. It would be nice if he was. But when he actually spotted Tatsuki’s back in the room, something welled up inside him that wasn’t only happiness and he couldn’t bring himself to call out to Tatsuki. Tatsuki was sitting on the sofa with a remote control in one hand watching the TV. It seemed to be a recording of a baseball game. Shin could see that Tatsuki was concentrated on the game, so he quietly approached him. Tatsuki kept repeating a short segment of the recording over and over again, murmuring the same words.
“The pitcher throws his first pitch. The pitcher throws his first pitch. The pitcher throws his first pitch…”
Tatsuki slightly modified the intonation and breaks with each iteration as he timed his delivery to the pitcher’s motions. The profile of his face looked serious and deep. Shin didn’t want to bother him, but he thought to himself, Look at me. Notice me. I want ya to. Even though it scared him to have their eyes meet. Those eyes that were bold and unwavering.
Look at me.
“—Oh, hey, Nacchan.”
It scared Shin when Tatsuki really turned to look at him.
“Are you done with the taping?”
“Yeah. Whatta ya doin’?”
“I got asked to do the play-by-play for a game on the radio next month, so I thought I’d practice a little.”
“What? That’s amazin’!”
“And the game commentator will be Ibaraki-san from yesterday.”
Tatsuki laughed as Shin lost all his enthusiasm in an instant. “What’s with the reaction?”
“‘Cause I dun like ’im. It’s your debut after all.”
“I think of it as a chance to redeem myself.”
Shin was relieved to come face-to-face with his positivity. It was like he had been short on oxygen, he had just been replenished.
“Why were ya repeatin’ the same words over an’ over again?”
“Because the first pitch of a game is really important. Especially for radio. The listeners want an announcer who can engage the imagination. They can visualize the windup and wonder if it’s a fastball or a slider. In just a single sentence, it sets up their excitement for the rest of the game… And I want to do a good job for those first few seconds in particular.”
“If you listen to it on radiko,2 let me know what you think.”
“When’s the game?”
“The third Saturday in September. At Jingu Stadium.”
“I dun got any work scheduled that day yet. Maybe I’ll go an’ watch the game in real-time while I listen to ya on the radio.”
Shin still didn’t know very much about baseball, but he was sure he would have fun listening to Tatsuki’s play-by-play as he watched a real game.
Tatsuki suddenly climbed up onto the back of the sofa, leaning towards Shin in his excitement.
“I’m going to hold you to that, okay? It’s a promise. You better come and listen!”
Tatsuki looked so happy and cute, Shin wanted to pet and ruffle his hair.
“I can’t make any promises though. I might get pulled all o’ a sudden on a shoot.”
“Obviously, I can’t be skippin’ work.”
“Well, I guess if that happens, I’ll accept it,” Tatsuki said, his face abruptly falling flat. “But can you at least promise me that you won’t cancel because Souma-san suddenly calls you…?”
Why would he say something like that? Shin wasn’t able to answer right away. Tatsuki then said, “Just kidding,” playing it off as a joke. He stood up and turned off the TV.
“I’m hosting the afterparty for a colleague’s wedding reception tonight. I have to get going.”
Shin was relieved that he got to see Tatsuki, but the time was so short that it wasn’t enough. But at the same time, it meant that he didn’t have to talk about his troubles from earlier. He wouldn’t have to complain in front of Tatsuki just because he wanted some kind of straightforward response from him. He thought, Minagawa is tryin’ his best here, so I gotta try my best too. Shin worked up the resolve to think about why Sakae had refused to recognize his work—to not give up on it. However, he didn’t have any answer for the promise that Tatsuki had mentioned.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
- 5,000 yen – Approx. $50 USD.
- radiko is a service/app that allows listeners to listen to the radio over the Internet.