NARRATOR: "Emi heaves a sigh."

EMI: "I guess I have to go back and get some. I promised to help with our class project, though, so I'll be back a bit later. Can you manage without it for a few hours?"

NARRATOR: "Rin nods, and so Emi leaves."

NARRATOR: "I stay because I like watching Rin paint, and because I have nothing better to do. I sit on a box and pick up today's book from my bag. It's a story about three guys drinking beer for two weeks straight and doing little else. Rin moves from the spot that was in need of the blue and starts slowly working on another. Her foot works the brush steadily against the plastered wall. Layers of paint on top of layers of paint. The mural slowly gains more form. I turn the pages at a leisurely pace. In this chapter they are drinking beer at the protagonist's friend's place. In the previous ones it was the protagonist's own apartment. It's not a page-turner kind of book, a slice of someone's imaginary life that makes me wonder why it had to be written."

NARRATOR: "Why indeed. The reason for doing something creative... it's something incomprehensible. Like why Rin does paintings. It feels like she and Emi are the same, going squarely against their fates as if it's just out of spite. Rin even said something like that. “Do something you can't just because you can.” Is that what she meant? Is that her reason? It might be Emi's, she comes off as quite a headstrong person. Rin doesn't give off that kind of an air. Thinking about it, she doesn't give off any kind of air, or maybe a different kind every time I talk with her. Why did she say what she said? Why does she, or anyone at all paint, or draw, or sculpt, or write? I've never had much of a creative impulse so I don't think I can really understand it. It makes me feel hollow inside. What a grim thought."

NARRATOR: "I can't really decide whether it's true or not, either. Am I content being this way? I can't deny I'm feeling a little bit envious of Rin, but I can't really consider it a flaw of any kind. I'm myself and she is herself. Still, I do need to find something. Something that could... make me feel a little less lost about myself, instead of just drowning myself in these books as I did in the hospital. I can't help but feel disoriented; the new school, lifestyle and people around me contribute heavily to this sensation. I'm trying my best to fit into existing social circles, and most of the people I've met have been really nice. It still feels like I'm an outsider, though; like I don't belong."

NARRATOR: "I shake the feeling off, realizing that I'm spacing out. I have neither turned a page of the book, nor done anything for Rin. She is trying to pour some paint from a big can using only her feet, having not bothered to ask me. Or maybe she did, and I didn't hear it. Either way, it looks very unstable. I quickly jump to help her, as it looks like she's about to spill the entire contents of the can all over the pavement. I take the can from her feet and pour some in the bowl. She doesn't say anything, and neither do I. I catch a glimpse of her eyes, looking silently at me from under her unkempt bangs. It's an unreadable expression, a perfect poker face, mixed with a hint of something like a mild surprise. I wonder what she is thinking. Maybe she is wondering about what I'm thinking. Maybe nothing."

HISAO: "A penny for your thoughts."

RIN: "Do you have any pennies with you?"

HISAO: "I don't think I do."

RIN: "Then I don't think I will tell. I'm not thinking anything either, so you're in luck. Except now I just did."

NARRATOR: "She frowns, looking very unsatisfied."

RIN: "It's hard to not think about anything. But it's important."

NARRATOR: "I'm about to ask why it's important when some old guy walks up to us, looking like he has some business with Rin."

NOMIYA: "Good afternoon. How's it going?"

RIN: "I can make it."

NARRATOR: "Rin doesn't take her eyes off the wall and responds so naturally that I can only assume they know each other. I haven't seen the man before, so I naturally wonder who he might be. Maybe a teacher? His hair has faded to a silvery gray, so much so that it looks artificially dyed. I hope that's not the case. Small round glasses hang on the bridge of his nose, but it appears he's constantly looking over the lenses, rather than through them. He's studying the mural intently over said glasses."

NOMIYA: "Good, good. What bold composition you have here!"

NARRATOR: "He moves to inspect the mural closer, talking to himself about it in a way that makes it obvious he wants us to hear it too."

NOMIYA: "Very good, very good indeed..."

NARRATOR: "I don't really know what to make of it but Rin doesn't seem to care much. She's looking around her working space, the various bowls of different tones scattered all over."

RIN: "Hisao."

HISAO: "Hmm?"

RIN: "A little more of this."

HISAO: "Give me a second."

NARRATOR: "I pour a 50-50 mix of two paints into the bowl to create more of the same pale pink tone Rin was using to fill up the shape of a man's face. Rin watches me doing so, which makes me feel nervous somehow. Her face is so unassuming that it feels she's just waiting for me to do something wrong. The man turns to reckon me as well, looking surprised as if he noticed my presence only just now. ...Maybe he did."

NOMIYA: "Why, hello there. Who might you be?"

HISAO: "Ah, I'm a transfer student to class 3-3. Hisao Nakai. Nice to meet you."

NOMIYA: "Mutou's class, eh? Well, I won't hold that against you!"

NARRATOR: "He laughs very loudly. Obnoxiously loudly. A few small birds take flight from a nearby tree."

NOMIYA: "I'm Shinichi Nomiya, the art teacher."

NARRATOR: "So this is the art teacher. In retrospect, should have guessed that much. He even looks like one, as far as first impressions go."

NOMIYA: "How did you come to end up assisting my protégée?"

NARRATOR: "I wish I knew..."

HISAO: "I keep wondering that myself. The lack of anything better to do, probably."

NARRATOR: "He lets out a hearty laugh, then checks his watch."

NOMIYA: "I really must take my leave now. Tezuka, I'm pleased to see that this little project is going so well. I just stopped by to remind you to not run off by yourself, tomorrow. I've invited certain people to the festival for you, and I'm sure they'd like to meet you as well. Also, Monday's club meeting is off, since I'm going out of town. I guess you kids can do something among yourselves, if you want to."

NARRATOR: "He leaves, turning around flamboyantly, then walking off as dramatically as it's possible to walk. What a weird teacher."

HISAO: "I'll be off, too. See you around, Rin."

NARRATOR: "Holding up a hand, I turn to go up the stairs to the dorms. Maybe, if I can finish reading these books today, the entirety of tomorrow will be free for the festival."

HISAO: "I guess I'm a little interested in the art club."

NARRATOR: "I blurt it out, partially inadvertently."

NOMIYA: "What do you mean?"

HISAO: "Nothing... specific. I wonder if I could come by sometime. Even if it's just to observe or something. I've been thinking that I should join some club or something, so..."

NARRATOR: "It's in no way a premeditated move, but a vague sense of determination has really been building inside of me for this past week. I want to do something. I want to belong somewhere. It might as well be the art club, my shortcomings notwithstanding. The teacher seems pleased."

NOMIYA: "Oh? You want to join? Well, we always welcome new people, of course. Club meetings are normal enough. We study various aspects of the fine arts and try our hands at them, as well. Or feet."

NARRATOR: "He gives an embarrassed cough, but Rin doesn't seem to mind. I take a small amount of comfort from the fact that I'm not the only one with vocabulary difficulties in this school. Nomiya rebounds from his faux pas by theatrically checking the time from his huge, gleaming pocket watch, and slaps his forehead even more theatrically."

NOMIYA: "I really must take my leave now, but if you have questions, I'm sure Tezuka can clarify."

NARRATOR: "Somehow, mentioning “clarify” and Rin in the same sentence doesn't feel right. However, I don't say as much to the teacher, since he seems to be in a hurry."

NOMIYA: "Tezuka, I'm pleased to see that this little project is going so well. I just stopped by to remind you to not run off by yourself, tomorrow. I've invited certain people to the festival for you, and I'm sure they'd like to meet you as well. I hope I'll see you on Monday, then, Nakai."

NARRATOR: "The teacher leaves, and we are left by ourselves again. Rin is still painting as if nothing notable happened. Since nothing in fact did, I am left wondering what on Earth is wrong with me. Art and I haven't worked well together in the past, at least judging from the grades I used to have in middle school. vMaybe a club will be different than an obligatory class. Who knows? I try to come up with something meaningful to ask about it, but to no avail. I'll just go to a club meeting and see how it goes."

HISAO: "So he invited some people tomorrow just to check out your painting?"

RIN: "He has a lot of art-people friends. They like to talk about art. I think he wants me to talk about art with them."

HISAO: "Somehow, I get the feeling that you aren't too thrilled about it."

NARRATOR: "Rin shrugs noncommittally, but it still gives an impression of her general displeasure at the idea of having to discuss her painting, or any painting, with other people."

RIN: "I don't really like talking about art. It is already a way to talk without talking, so why bother talking about it?"

HISAO: "I can understand that."

RIN: "It's like being bored and talking about being bored, because you are bored."

HISAO: "I'm not following you."

RIN: "Have you ever talked about being bored? It's pointless and not very exciting. All you can really say about it is “I'm so bored.” I once spent a week trying to think of something meaningful to say about boredness. It was the most boring week I've ever had."

HISAO: "But that's pretty fitting, don't you think?"

NARRATOR: "Rin gives me a look, the laconic kind that looks like it doesn't mean anything but it does."

HISAO: "Anyway... I don't know, I guess I just rarely can come up with anything to say about art. I mean, like this one you're doing now. I have no idea what to think about it, except that it looks nice. What is this painting about?"

RIN: "It's not about anything at all."


RIN: "That's what I'd like to say. So I did. But that was a small lie. I said it anyway because I would kind of like it to be true. Teacher wanted me to do this, but I didn't have any ideas. I tried to have some, but nothing happened. So now this is a painting without any ideas."

HISAO: "But... what are you painting then?"

RIN: "No idea. Come to think of it, I think I'll call this “No idea.” Ah, now I started thinking again. This is bad."

NARRATOR: "She shakes her head vigorously for a while, trying to shake “thinking” out of her head. That amber-red hair flies wildly around."

RIN: "This is why I had Emi help me. She makes it easy to not think about anything. You know, how she just talks talks talks about nothing for hours. It's like her head is made of bubblegum foam bath jelly. You are kinda the same, but not really. It's very helpful if you stay here."

NARRATOR: "I am not sure if that's a compliment or not. It's probably neither; with Rin being the overtly neutral person she is."

HISAO: "So is there anything specific you'd like me to do to make you not think?"

RIN: "Just be."

NARRATOR: "So without knowing what I should do, I just sit on an empty box to watch her continue with the painting, idly leafing the pages of the beer-drinking book. Rin has a serene expression on her face, her dark green eyes hiding what she might think behind them. No wait, she's supposedly not thinking anything, right? She quietly hums to a tune, interrupting every now and then with polite requests for more paint or another kind of brush. Her concentration is admirable, even though she seems to be sleep-deprived and under pressure to finish the job."

NARRATOR: "Inch by inch the painting gains more form, details being added on top of details, colors entwining with each other, filling the empty spaces, growing on top of each other. I find myself thinking about inspiration and motivation to create art again. Where does one get ideas? They don't come out of nowhere, and I don't think there are muses that magically inject some inspiration in your head. Ideas have an origin and a purpose. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that Rin is lying about her mural, or at least twisting the truth. Maybe she doesn't even realize it, herself."

NARRATOR: "You can't do anything creative without having an idea of what you are going to create. That would go against the definition. Every stroke must be decided to be drawn. Even if it's made at random, then that, too, is a conscious decision. So her painting, even this one, must be based on having some deliberate goal or idea of what to paint. If Rin's idea is to have no idea, as she said, does that count as having an idea? A logical paradox? That seems to be Rin's modus operandi for most normal interactions, so it wouldn't surprise me if she hadn't even noticed this herself. I wonder if I should bring it up, but I'm not sure if I want to engage in an argument about logic with this girl. One of us would probably end up short-circuiting fairly quickly, so I discard the thought."

NARRATOR: "Rin is squirming and shuffling restlessly. Even her usual blank visage breaks occasionally into pretty difficult looking expressions, the kind that one doesn't just come up with accidentally."

HISAO: "Everything all right?"

RIN: "Yes. No. My back started hurting again. This painting is too big, after all, and it's hard to paint in this position."

HISAO: "Want to take a break?"

RIN: "After I finish this part."

NARRATOR: "Of course, she doesn't take a break, and I don't bring it up again because that would be completely and utterly pointless. Rin continues her work and I stay with her: I like to watch her paint, and I'm going to be a member of the same club she's in, now. When she declares the mural to be finished, it's already so dark that I have no idea how she can tell. There is no celebration, no general sense of a job well done, just a tired and laconic “I'm done” and then we both go to sleep."


Next Scene: Don't Panic