Chapter 10: Love Rivals and Irises (10)
Was this a fight? Or was it something more one-sided, with Tatsuki mad and fed up with him? Shin passed all of Sunday just like a week earlier—unproductive and lost in his thoughts. The only things that would come to his mind were grade-school-level relationship rules; for example, Don’t do things that other people dislike, or If you do something wrong, apologize and make up with the person. Shin had already made the I’m sorry, I will never do it again type of apology. So what should he do to mend their relationship? He felt like they would only end up repeating the same words no matter what he did, be it sending him a LINE message, giving him a call, or going over to talk to him in person.
Shin loved Tatsuki. Shin only loved Tatsuki. Then if he cut Kotarou from his life and never talked to him again, ignoring what anyone else might think or how awkward it might become at work, would Tatsuki forgive him? No, that wasn’t the problem here. Maybe what he wanted to do or what he wanted Shin to do, Tatsuki had no idea what he wanted either. Maybe he was like Shin, and just wanted solace, but he was in a state of mind where he couldn’t come up with concrete ideas for what to do. Every time his cell phone made an alert, Shin felt like his heart would jump out of his chest, but all the messages were from work and in the end he didn’t receive any contact from Tatsuki.
There were pros and cons to working at the same place with a romantic partner. On Monday afternoon Shin would have to see Tatsuki no matter what, but was it better to have this drastic measure in place or was it worse because it wasn’t enough time for them to cool down?
Shin went into work as usual, greeting the staff room when he entered, but Tatsuki was nowhere to be found. Maybe he was still at the announcer department, or at a meeting somewhere with the sports news team. Shin felt relieved, but he only delayed the injection for a little while longer, making it tougher on himself as his anxiety persisted. He told himself to concentrate as he put his coat and bag into his locker. Shin thought about buying a coffee to wake himself up, but when he opened the door to the hallway, that was when Tatsuki was about to walk in.
“Oh, hey, Nacchan. How are you?”
It was the usual Tatsuki, like nothing had happened between them. Huh, had it all been a dream? Of course, it couldn’t have been, but Tatsuki’s reaction made him think that it might have been possible. And at Shin’s stiff greeting, Tatsuki responded with a “What’s wrong? You seem kind of tired” and gave Shin a pat on the shoulder.
He’s actin’. Either that, or is he maybe ignorin’ it for the time bein’?
“Were you out partying all night until morning~?”
“Why? I ain’t like ya.”
Shin was lured into their usual banter, and Tatsuki smiled brightly. “There, that~” he said. “Now that’s the Nacchan, I know~”
Tatsuki leaned his face over to Shin’s ear and whispered, “Work is work, right? You need to act more normal.”
Oh, shit. He’s really pissed off.
Shin had been on the verge of entertaining the optimistically naive speculation of his, and the ricochet of the blow made him feel as if a gust of wind had blown under his skin and sent a chill through his legs.
A woman called out while Shin was frozen in place. If he remembered correctly, she was another announcer who was one year Tatsuki’s senior. A popular one too, who had naturally won the title of Miss Campus at a big-name university and appeared frequently as an assistant on variety and quiz shows.
“Oh, hi, how are you~?”
“I had a ton of fun yesterday~ Thanks for coming~”
“No, no, thank you.”
“Oh, right, I think you forgot your scarf at my place?”
“Oh, whoops, sorry about that.”
“It’s all right. I thought about bringing it in for you today, but I forgot~ How about you come over to get it?”
“Hmm, let’s see… I finish really late on the weekdays though.”
“It’s not a problem. You can still come over.”
“No, no, I couldn’t.”
It wasn’t unusual for Shin to witness conversations like this. If things were normal, he could think nothing of it and ignore it, but today he forced himself to put up with it. Thoughts such as—So he went out to have fun while I was home alone rackin’ my brain, and He would always let me know when he would go drinkin’ with girls before, and So he prolly went over to her place to drink together—ran through his head as he took shallow breaths, and his lungs felt like they had turned into tar. Tatsuki had probably seen through his thoughts, but Shin turned around, not wanting to expose the stiffness in his face any more than he had; however, Kotarou had picked that time to walk over from the opposite direction.
“Oh, Nawada-san, sorry to bother you, but I would like to download some music from the network audio server. Are we allowed to use our personal USB drives to copy the files?”
What the hell is with this timin’, Shin thought, but he was genuinely relieved to have found an excuse related to work so that he could leave. And yes, he did briefly think, Ya said to act more normal, right? in a bit of retaliation, and he hated himself for it.
“Ya can’t. There’s one we use for that exact purpose. It’s in the desk drawer, so follow me.”
“Sorry for the trouble. Thank you very much. Also, the ink refills for the markers are running low, so I’m thinking of ordering some more. Are there any other things that we should order while I’m at it?”
“Um, let’s see. Packing tape, padded envelopes, correction tape…”
As Shin reviewed the item list in his head and counted them off on his fingers, Kotarou quietly inserted a remark under his breath.
“I am very sorry about Saturday.”
His fingers suddenly came to a stop. Shin gave Kotarou a light kick to his knees and chastised him.
“Ya dumb nut. Dun talk ’bout things unrelated to work. Ya made me forget what I was gonna say.”
All he ever does is apologize to me, Shin thought. But I’ve been doin’ the same to Minagawa too. If Shin were to take his anger out on Kotarou and yell, It’s all ya fault that everythin’s a mess, it would probably satisfy him in the moment, but the murk of self-loathing that he had for himself would only get deeper, and it did nothing to solve any of his problems.
There was only one coping mechanism that Shin would employ whenever he was stressed out about work or troubles unrelated to work—that was to throw himself entirely into work. Maybe it was more an escape from reality than actual coping, but the only thing he could do was dedicate his headspace to the tasks laid out in front of him as he bore himself down to the ground to face the howling headwinds. Even though it didn’t actually resolve anything, but with time it would eventually blow over. Regardless if his troubles were big or small, or if they came back to haunt him, his course of action was always the same. Shin wasn’t particularly clever or bright, and that was how he had managed to deal with his problems up until now.
“Nawada~ What are we having for lunch today~?”
A camera operator riding with them in a van on their way to a shooting location had called out to Shin in the same tone that someone would use with their mother to ask what was for dinner—like it was naturally expected of them. However, the words struck Shin with terror in an instant.
Lunch, right, they had made sure to accommodate for lunch in the shooting schedule. The location didn’t have any restaurants or convenience stores in the area, so Shin had to make arrangements for it beforehand—that was what Shin had thought… But those arrangements hadn’t moved beyond thought into action. Shin asked himself how he could have forgotten, but he didn’t know why. This was the first time he had completely forgotten something like this, something that was supposed to be the most basic of the basics. Don’t let the crew go hungry—that was the ironclad rule for conducting shoots on location. Securing food for the crew was just as important as arranging their transportation, and people had warned him over and over again to never neglect this part of the logistics, and he hadn’t, not until now. Shin’s mind went completely blank, unable to think of anything to recover from this very elementary mistake.
“Oi~ Nawada, what’s wrong?”
That was when Kotarou, sitting in the front passenger seat, spoke up.
“There’s a rest stop up ahead about five kilometers1 away. We will be getting our lunches there. It is famous for its aged steak over rice, and it tastes great even when it’s cold. Should we take a smoke break while we’re there?”
The camera operator, lighting technician, and the driver started talking excitedly. Shooting on location was not an easy job. They were always at the mercy of the seasons and weather, and the waiting could be excruciating long. And unlike the director who could shape the edits and production to their vision, the role of the technical staff ended with the filming. At the very least, they could look forward to an enjoyable meal at their destination, and that was why it was so important to them.
“Even if the other networks beat us with their shows, I don’t want them to beat us on the meals~”
“Uh, I believe you have that backwards,” Kotarou commented.
“Don’t they only make a limited number of meal sets per day?”
“I called ahead and asked if they could set some aside for us to carry-out.”
“Awesome! Great job, Megumi!”
“No wonder they let you be the broadcast director recently~”
“But apparently he’s getting too big for his britches~ I hear he keeps barking out instructions like ‘I would like a wider shot here’ or ‘I don’t need that two-shot footage.’”
“His head could fill the control room.”
“Please stop harassing me! Had I stayed quiet, someone would yell over the intercom, ‘Hey! Are you sleeping?’ There’s no winning with you people.”
“Nahh, but anyway, you’re pretty fearless, you know? All the other newbies are a little more scared on the job.”
“You know, I really hate this hazing type of behavior from these so-called masters at their crafts. It’s like you’re trying to pick on me…”
“People who’ve lived in the U.S. can sure say some unexpected things~”
“See? What did I just say?”
“We’re picking on you with love~”
“I believe that it is for me to decide.”
They parked the van at the rest stop, and on the way to pick up the food, Shin apologized to Kotarou.
“Sorry. The lunch arrangements completely slipped my mind.”
“The shooting schedule would always have a list of restaurants for food, but this time it was missing, so I guessed that maybe it was the case. You looked busy, Nawada-san, so I decided to make the arrangements myself. I hope that it was all right.”
“Ya a life saver. Thanks.”
“You can just leave all the arrangements to me in the first place. You’re always trying to do everything by yourself, Nawada-san.”
“What? Ya wanna be pushed around more ya are now?”
Shin had only said it as a joke, but Kotarou quickly nodded and said, “Yes. Of course I do. Because I’m your underling.”
“Ya position’s already higher than mine.”
“What are you even saying?”
“It’s true. Ya really settled into the role of a broadcast director. The first couple o’ days, it was real obvious that ya were freakin’ out, but now ya completely calm an’ in control.”
It wasn’t just their positions as a full-time employee and a contractor, but Kotarou had managed to perform the role of the broadcast director, the mainstay of the production team, without any backup support. When Kotarou had mentioned “harassment,” it was true that a lot of people on the technical staff could be difficult to work with and that they had a tendency to favor their own beliefs and know-how rather than listen to some young upstart. If a person hadn’t been given full responsibility for a role yet, they would ignore them, whether it concerned camera blocking or even directing. There was no choice but to not get discouraged—to communicate back and forth with them and slowly earn their trust. They had joked that Kotarou had gotten too big for his britches, but he had already cleared this big hurdle. If Shin was told to sit in the director’s chair, he probably couldn’t learn it as fast as Kotarou. It was simply the difference between their abilities.
But above all else, Kotarou had a clear idea of what shots he wanted to use and what compositions he wanted to create. That kind of mindset was difficult to learn, no matter how much one might try. Was he just that talented? No, he was just the type of guy who could accomplish anything that he set his mind to. He would probably be as highly valued regardless of the profession he chose.
However, Kotarou replied, “Obviously I’m just pretending to be calm and in control. When I hear that the clips we need won’t make it in time, my legs start shaking and my palms are drenched in sweat. But I don’t have time to hesitate. If I don’t make a decision at that moment, then nothing can move forward… When I have to skip over items that we spent so much work preparing, it makes me feel terrible for misjudging the time of the segments. I spend every day just trying to hold myself together for the show. Oh, should we buy some tea here?”
They carried the bags that held their lunches and bought drinks from the row of vending machines.
“…But if I were to let out a shaky voice, you would hear me over the intercom and figure it out, Nawada-san.”
Kotarou smiled as he carried several drink bottles in his arms.
“I don’t want you to see me being even more disgraceful than I already have, so I’ve been pretending to sound calm out of my pride.”
Shin worked in the studio watching Tatsuki. Shin and Kotarou couldn’t see each other, but they would communicate back and forth with only their voices. His eyes with one, and his ears with the other. He suddenly became conscious of something that had been so natural that he was strangely embarrassed. Shin retorted, “What are ya doin’ spillin’ ya secret yaself?” and hurried back towards the van. It was windy outside. A vapor trail extended for what seemed like forever like a rail across the sky. It would only accommodate one side of a train though.
“Oh, you’re right,” Kotarou said, calling after him.
However, the smokers hadn’t returned to the van yet, and they were the only ones there. Shin put on his seatbelt in a second-row seat, and Kotarou spoke up from the front of the van.
“Did you see Matsuzaka-san’s Instagram?”
Kotarou replied, “From the announcer department…” and Shin recalled the scene from a few days ago. The woman announcer with the scarf. Did he really go to her home to pick it up? Shin had distanced himself from these thoughts by filling his head with work, but with Kotarou bringing the subject back up, his troubles came crashing down on him again.
“Apparently she had a party at her home with 7 or 8 people from the announcer department. She posted a picture of it.”
Shin was too tired to snap back, Ya dun hafta tell me every lil’ thing, so he just truthfully said, “Thanks.”
“I thought that you would yell at me to mind my own business.”
“So ya have that much awareness when ya sayin’ it. Anyway, I’m grateful for ya consideration, not ’bout the info that ya gave.”
Shin folded his arms and pressed the side of his head against the cold window.
“Wouldna it be better for ya if ya said somethin’ like ‘Apparently it was just the two of them together~’? Ya really honest to a fault.”
“So you’re a tactician.”
“Well, you should know very well the reason why I wouldn’t do something like that.”
“…Because Minagawa would never do that.”
“Please stop saying that I love him.”
“Nah, I was thinkin’ that ya pure.”
“That’s even worse.”
Kotarou shut his mouth and the van fell silent. Shin felt like it had been a while since he had shared any silence with someone. Either he was rushing around with a group of people, or he was at home catching up on sleep. It felt comfortable, and Shin was almost disappointed when Kotarou opened his mouth again.
“We’re in Kamakura the day after tomorrow, right? What would you like to eat, Nawada-san? I’ll find a good place.”
“It’s just location scoutin’. We can grab whatever’s around.”
“What? But we could have dinner at a restaurant by the ocean.”
“We’re headin’ back by the evenin’!”
“But it will be a weekend…”
“Whatta ’bout it, ya dummy? I take back what I said ’bout ya bein’ pure.”
“All right, it’s fine by me,” Kotarou retorted. “…My thoughts aren’t pure at all anyway.”
They finished their shoot and returned to the network, and Tatsuki was in the staff room discussing something with Kei.
“Minagawa-kun, I heard that the section manager will be taking attendance for the earthquake training the day after tomorrow.”
“Ohh… That’s Saturday, right~? Isn’t it optional after your third year? Hmm, do you think that I should participate?”
“That is up for you to decide.”
“Will you participate, Kunieda-san?”
“I don’t believe that is any of your concern.”
“Um, what is earthquake training?” Kotarou quietly asked. “Is it like an emergency disaster drill? If so, then should we participate too?”
“No, no, it’s simulation trainin’ for when a big earthquake happens during a TV program. It’ll cut into a show with a disaster screen, an’ the announcers explain the mock CGs showin’ things like the hypocenter an’ the earthquake intensity, an’ they also practice takin’ live calls. They’ll sometimes do it on a program-by-program basis.”
While they were talking, Shin felt a gaze on him. When he noticed it, Tatsuki was looking at him, and when their eyes met, Tatsuki broke into a friendly smile.
“Hey, welcome back~ Where did you go for your shoot today? Where are the souvenirs?”
“There ain’t any.”
“Oh, yeah, Kota, your uniform is ready.”
“It’s about time they finished it.”
“Yeah, I forgot to submit the order sheet to them.”
“So it’s all your fault!? Anyway, I don’t even want it!”
Kotarou was incredibly sharp when it came to Tatsuki, but Tatsuki was able to handle their interactions without Kotarou noticing anything. Shin thought that Tatsuki was amazing for his ability to pull that off and wondered if he should be grateful for that finesse of his. After all, Shin was the one who didn’t want their relationship to affect their work. But if Tatsuki could easily separate his work from everything else and put on a perfect act, then lumping Shin into that group with everyone else, what was Shin to him now? Just the thought of it made him sad. Right now Tatsuki would only show him the Tatsuki that everyone knew. Shin didn’t want Tatsuki to treat him coldly, but he wanted Tatsuki to show him a hint that he was affected and upset—and in a way that only Shin knew about. Since when had he become this greedy?
When their eyes met, Tatsuki would smile. It was the smile of Announcer Minagawa who was always bright and full of enthusiasm. The Announcer Minagawa who was kind to everyone. The Announcer Minagawa who would never show anyone his ups and downs. It was the smile that Shin should have fallen in love with.
Kotarou looked out at the horizon and whispered, “…This is the perfect date spot today.”
“We’re location scoutin’. An’ it looks like it’s gonna rain.”
Shin refused to engage him and pulled out a camera from the camera bag to get it set up.
“Oh, I’ll do it, I’ll do it.”
“Quit ya yappin’ then.”
It was halfway through November. There was no wind, but it felt like the air itself was frozen. He had heard from this morning’s weather forecast that it was supposed to get even colder at the start of next week, the seasons marching forward one step at a time. Seaweed had washed up all over the sandy beach, evidence of where the water had reached.
“Oh, I want footage o’ birds. Can ya take the ones over there for me? I want ya to zoom in on them slowly.”
“I’m expectin’ some beautiful shots~”
“Please don’t give me any pressure. I’m still terrible at handling the camera…”
After taking footage for the insets, they had planned to meet up with their subject to record a simple interview; however, they had gotten on an earlier train, and now they had 20 minutes to kill. Shin was thinking that it wasn’t much time to step into a shop somewhere when Kotarou searched through his backpack and pulled out a stainless steel bottle.
“Nawada-san, would you like some coffee?”
“If ya have some, then sure.”
“What? Really? Yes!”
He even pulled out a picnic blanket to spread out over the sand.
“Whoa? What is it?”
“Ya way too prepared, and it creeps me out.”
“Nawada-san! You were the one who said that unexpected things happen outside on-location all the time, so I should prepare for the unexpected!”
“I know, but still.”
Shin had expected him to pack things like phone chargers and rain gear… But he felt like their time would slip away from them if he said it, so he quietly sat down on the blanket.
A coffee break on the beach—it sounded nice, but in reality, it wasn’t that great. Depending on the direction of the wind, the stench of the coast would blow over into their noses. The wind would pick up and send sand in the air, almost getting into their cups. The pretty colored shells were mostly chipped or pitted with holes. Because Shin was sitting down and his line of sight was lower, the seaweed was right in front of his eyes, adding to the stark sense of ambience.
“Now that I’m actually here,” Shin said as he blew the steam rising off of his coffee, “the ocean feels 30% dirtier than in my imagination.”
“Huh? …Um, uh, then how about we go to Miyako Island or Tahiti after this?”2
“Are ya crazy!? …Anyway, I’ll prolly think the same thing no matter where I go. If dirty’s not the right word, then maybe raw or visceral?”
A place where endless cycles of life and death transpired could not simply be clear and beautiful. Working inside the cold, man-made buildings of the city, Shin felt like this contrast between life and death stood out even more clearly to his eyes.
“But isn’t imagination more about envisioning things that you can’t see in real life? The beautiful image of the ocean that you have in your head probably came from a photo or a video that someone had shot.”
“True, someone had recorded a beautiful shot to show people. There are times when I’m editin’ footage, an’ I think, ‘This is all a huge lie.’ Though not in the sense that it’s a complete fabrication.”
And yet, the video never lied. There was also a truth to this saying.
“It feels like you’re trying to say something philosophical here, I think?” Kotarou said with a frown. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’ve reached that stage in my career yet.”
“Nah, it’s nothin’. It’s just small talk. I ain’t sayin’ that this dirty side o’ it is bad. Just that I can see different things from what I had always thought, an’ that’s what makes goin’ to the locations for filmin’ so interestin’.”
“Ohh, now that, I do understand.”
At Kotarou’s relieved-looking smile, Shin swallowed back the words that he had planned to say—that the coffee that Kotarou brought was very good—but it was completely unrelated to filming or the oceanscape before their eyes.
Filming of their subject went smoothly, and after an hour, they returned to the oceanside again. The cold rain didn’t fall very hard, but the drizzle seemed to have no end in sight, and despite it being a tourist spot, there were very few people around. It was a rainy beach scene—there was nothing more to it, but for some reason it fascinated Shin, and instead of heading to the station, he walked down to the beach.
“I’m gonna take the camera out for some shots.”
“Huh? But didn’t we get the footage for the insets?”
“Yeah, but I feel like filmin’ some shots on my own.”
Shin told Kotarou that it was cold out and he could go back ahead of him, but Kotarou didn’t listen.
“You need someone to hold the umbrella for you, don’t you?”
“It dun bother me at all. I’m just filmin’ random things that catch my eye.”
“Go ahead, go ahead. Apparently, the Yokosuka Line has been suspended due to an accident. It’s probably still very packed.”
Kotarou’s face was full of confidence with his assurance, so Shin decided to leave him to his own devices. He didn’t think that he would be able to chase him away and turned to pull out the camera instead. Shin didn’t know how the world, viewed through just a single lens, could change into something incredibly special, but it did. There were the hazy sand dunes in the distance, the curves of the waves approaching the shore, and clouds in the gray sky lined up like a tea field. Behind the camera, he could distinctly classify the shots into ones that he needed and ones that he didn’t need. Shin loved the times his gaze was filtered like this. Only one person could peer through the camera at a time, and so no one else could ever know or experience this same sensation. No one could ever completely share this experience, but this type of solitude didn’t make him feel lonely. I’m the only one who knows this—that was what Shin thought. It was similar to how he felt when it came to Tatsuki.
Oh, the shots are lookin’ good today, Shin thought. He was capturing the shots that he wanted right in the frame where he wanted them.
I wanna go over an’ film some more there.
Shin walked over the wet sand as he supported the camera, when all of a sudden his arm was pulled back from behind him.
“Nawada-san, watch out!”
“There’s a river right there!”
Shin hadn’t been paying attention to where he was walking, and he was about to charge into a shallow estuary that divided the beach into two and flowed into the ocean. The water wasn’t so deep that he would drown, but it would probably soak past his ankles, and at this time of year, his feet would freeze.
“Whoa, scary… Thanks. If I fell in, I mighta dropped the camera from the shock.”
“You’re more worried about the camera than yourself?” Kotarou said with an exasperated expression.
“Yeah, of course.”
“Were you able to get some good shots?”
“I dunno. I was just filmin’ whatever I felt like.”
“I notice that your folder on the editing station is filled with all sorts of clips like that.”
“What? Dun look through my personal folder.”
“But you were the one who said that I could use whatever material was there to practice editing videos!”
“Huh? Did I really…?”
Shin tried to casually free his arm, and Kotarou didn’t put up any resistance. Drops of rain hit his hair and the hood of his coat, and Shin rushed to put the camera away into his bag. Kotarou held the umbrella with his right hand, and his left shoulder had darkened from the rain—because he had been holding the umbrella the entire time so that Shin wouldn’t get wet. When Shin was first starting out, his job was to hold parasols for female TV personalities for nearly the entire day to shade them from the sun, and he knew how hard it could be.
When it was for work, there was no choice but to put up with the tough conditions, but Shin had made Kotarou accompany him out in the cold because of his own personal interests.
“I wasna payin’ attention to my surroundin’s at all.”
“Apparently so,” Kotarou said with a smile.
“It’s all right. It was my decision to follow you out here.”
But still, Shin felt bad and repeatedly wiped Kotarou’s shoulder with a towel.
“Are you done filming now?”
“Yeah, I’ve had enough.”
“I really like all the videos you’ve saved, Nawada-san.”
“What the heck ya sayin’?”
They were all shots that he personally liked and decided to stash away in his collection; for example, a clip of a rock rolling across a sandy beach. Someday they might become useful—but no, probably not. The shots had no real importance, and similar shots could probably be found in any stock archive and would work just as well. They were pretty much clips of junk that had no value to anyone except for Shin.
“Well, they’re videos that haven’t been touched yet, right? They’re in their purest, truest form. There are clips where you just endlessly push through tall grasses, and honestly, I sometimes wonder why you took some of those videos, but you felt that they were necessary so you took them, right? And so I find watching them enjoyable.”
“I dun really think that they’re necessary,” Shin answered. “There are lots o’ times that I dun even know why I wanna film somethin’… I guess it’s ’cause I used to copy things blindly. For the longest time, I had only imitated the director that I liked and admired. I dun think that the time that I spent was a waste, but well, I feel like I had to do things properly from now on. But I dun really know what properly looks like.”
Instead of creating something he liked based on someone else’s preferences, Shin wanted to try following what his heart told him was best. That was why it was so embarrassing to have someone peek into the random mess that was his personal library, but he was happy to hear Kotarou’s honest and serious opinion.
“Nawada-san, you really love your job.”
“I ain’t as talented as ya, Megumi, so there’s nothin’ else that I can do.”
“That’s not true… But I like watching you grapple with the things you like even if you have to struggle through it.”
Kotarou caught his gaze, and Shin thought, Shit. He had let his guard down.
“I want to watch you forever.”
“Quit it, okay?”
Shin smiled faintly and tried to brush Kotarou’s words off, but his weak smile was immediately intercepted.
“…But I won’t be able to say these things for much longer.”
“On Monday, I’m supposed to find out where the network will officially assign me. I don’t know if they will keep me at The News.”
“Oh… I see…”
The two-month training period was almost over. Shin had known about this schedule from the beginning, but he had forgotten about it. He was angry at Kotarou for picking this timing to drop such a notice on him in a roundabout way, and he was angry at himself that he couldn’t be happy at the news.
Can’t I just be relieved that it’s over? Now that Megumi has to leave, things with Minagawa ain’t gettin’ more complicated than they already are. I dun hafta make ’im feel any worse. An’ I’m only lookin’ after Megumi for work. I should smile an’ tell ’im good luck at his next place. If I show ’im a strangely sad face, he’s gonna misunderstand.
But Shin’s face would only stiffen up, like his muscles had forgotten how to make a smile, and he couldn’t say anything. Kotarou stood directly in front of Shin and tilted the umbrella towards him.
“No matter where they assign me, whether it’s general management, accounting, or HR, I will always live by everything that you taught me, Nawada-san.”
“I ain’t really taught ya much of anythin’.”
“You have taught me so much.”
Maybe the umbrella was still new. Raindrops hit the surface of the curved fabric, making soft sounds as they bounced off of it. If he listened closely, he could hear the sound of waves rhythmically crashing in the background. He couldn’t hear it unless he really tried to listen for it, but it was certainly there.
“Ya can’t,” Shin said. “I dun wanna hear it.”
“But I haven’t said anything yet.”
“Still, ya can’t. Whatever it is, ya can’t.”
“…Even if I ask to borrow some change?”
Kotarou suddenly became upset when Shin looked the other way.
“F-Fine, I’ll just say it anyway!”
“I ain’t listenin’, I ain’t listenin’! Wah, wah, wah!”
Shin admitted that he was acting childish, but still he yelled out and covered his ears with his hands.
Kotarou dropped the umbrella and tried to pry Shin’s hands away by force. They should have been chilled through by the rain, but the fingertips wrapped around his wrists felt feverishly hot.
At all the crucial times, why was it that his vocal cords would wither away so that his words would come out sounding weak and pathetic?
“It’s fine if you don’t love me right now. It’s fine if you’re in love with Minagawa. But please, just give me a chance to prove myself to you. Please tell me that I don’t have to give up, that I can keep trying. Because we won’t be able to see each other every day or work together in the studio or out on location anymore.”
“I said that ya can’t!”
Shin had mustered everything he had to raise his voice, but it was probably lost in the rain.
“I won’t bother you by coming over to see you, or message you on LINE, or invite you out for drinks all the time. I won’t cause you any trouble. Can’t I just hold onto some hope that you might fall in love with me someday?”
“If you’re going to reject me so strongly, I’m going to think that I just might actually have a chance.”
“Of course ya dun.”
Kotarou suddenly brought his face closer, and Shin shuddered in reaction. He wasn’t scared; he just felt like Kotarou would peer into his soul—with those irises of his. What color were they? How did they shine? How were they different from Tatsuki’s?
“But it’s not like you’ll love Minagawa forever, right?”
It seemed like Shin finally remembered how to raise his voice out loud, as he yelled at the top of his lungs, from his throat, from his gut. He took the opportunity to free his arms when Kotarou flinched at the sound, and he clutched the camera bag strap that was slung across his body.
“I love Minagawa.”
“I love Minagawa. I will always love ’im. I love ’im more than anyone in the world. I will love ’im till the day I die. I’ll love ’im even beyond death.”
If Tatsuki hadn’t come to him, Shin probably would have been too scared and too cowardly to say anything to him. Even so, he would never let anyone, not even Tatsuki, say that his feelings were trivial, or weak, or shallow—that they weren’t real.
“No matter where I am, I’ll love Minagawa. Even if the Earth spins backwards, I’ll love Minagawa. I’ll only ever love Minagawa.”
The reason why Shin could continually list off his cruel words to Kotarou was because his vision had blurred, and he couldn’t see his face very well.
“…Why are you crying? I’m the one who wants to cry here.”
Shin ignored him as he wiped his tears with the back of his hand, and Kotarou asked, “Is it all my fault?”
“No. …It’s Minagawa’s fault.”
Shin loved him so much, but maybe Tatsuki no longer felt the same about him. Maybe he was angry, unable to forgive Shin for his lies, and he could only smile at him from behind the lens of formality. The thought made Shin feel sad and upset.
Why is this happenin’? Even though I love ya so much.
Shin thought that Tatsuki was being unreasonable. He couldn’t feel bad at his own unreasonableness in thinking this. Shin walked up to the edge of the shore until the waves almost hit his shoes.
Shin ignored Kotarou, who started to panic. He raised his hands to cup each side of his mouth and yelled towards the ocean with everything that he had.
“Minagawa Tatsuki, ya dumb nut—!!”
And in return, he heard a voice yell out from the opposite direction of the ocean.
“What did you say!?”