NARRATOR: "I had trouble getting to sleep that night, so the next morning finds me exceptionally groggy. I briefly consider skipping class but remind myself that I was supposed to be a stronger person now. I get up like a good boy and put on my uniform, then make my way to the main school building without eating breakfast. I sit in my seat in classroom 3-3, waving a greeting to Misha and Shizune like I do every morning, and let the day wash over me. The afternoon classes are always longer than those in the morning. This is true regardless of whether I count it by the minute or by the number of doodles drawn in my notebooks. Today I'm especially distracted, as I keep thinking about Rin."
NARRATOR: "Did I manage to properly tell her that I want to get better? Did she understand a word of what I was saying? I think about the kiss we shared and what it means. She was so out of her mind, maybe it means nothing. But we've been getting closer lately. What does that mean? I think about Rin more and more nowadays. I wonder if she thinks about me. The ringing of bells makes me flinch, and then realize that I haven't been paying attention during the latter half of class at all. I look at the assortment of sketches traveling up and down the margins of my notebook, the only thing I got done in the last hour. Feeling vaguely disappointed in myself, I pack up and get to the hallway."
NARRATOR: "Rin is standing right outside the door, her presence stopping me in my tracks as soon as I spot her. Her posture is relaxed as always, but I suddenly feel like I just ate a crowbar. I'm having a hard time meeting her gaze. She doesn't seem to have any trouble looking at me, but those dark eyes are making me feel flustered for no reason. It's hard to look straight at her so I turn my face away a little. I don't know what one should say in this kind of situation. Then again, I rarely know what to say to Rin in any given situation."
HISAO: "Err... hi."
NARRATOR: "I try to get rid of the awkwardness in my voice and invoke a more natural way of speaking. I suddenly worry about where I should put my hands; it feels like they're in the way somehow."
HISAO: "How are you feeling? You were pretty out of it yesterday."
RIN: "I'm okay. What do you mean yesterday?"
HISAO: "You don't remember?"
NARRATOR: "She tilts her head to the side like a bird, looking somewhat confused."
RIN: "Remember what? I have a pretty bad memory."
HISAO: "About yesterday."
RIN: "What about yesterday?"
HISAO: "I came to see you and..."
RIN: "I don't remember that kind of thing happening."
NARRATOR: "She really doesn't remember? I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I feel disheartened all the same."
RIN: "I remember that I promised to show you one place, though. Did that happen for real? Maybe I just think that I remember that and I really don't."
HISAO: "No, that was real too."
RIN: "Okay. Do you want to go?"
HISAO: "Well, sure, why not. Is it far?"
RIN: "It's not."
NARRATOR: "Together, we walk downstairs and then outside. The usual summer day, whirring cicadas and all, greets us. It's immensely hot, and without the air conditioning the classrooms offer, I start sweating immediately. We start along the tree-lined pathway that leads towards the dorms. The cherry trees offer shade, with the sunlight blinking through the holes in the canopy. The light creates a chaotic pattern of shadows dappled with bright places where the beams hit the pavement. Rin's eyes are wandering in every direction but mine. I get the feeling that it's intentional. She leads me to the back gate once again, taking us through it and into the forest beyond. As before, the dropping temperature and the drastically reduced levels of light make it feel like the forest is swallowing us into its cavernous belly. We head uphill along the same path as last time, snaking around trees and boulders, over roots and rocks, past wild undergrowth. Birds sing somewhere in the woods, soloists for the humming background music of the treetops."
NARRATOR: "We go past the small clearing with the big maple that is now called the Worry Tree. The climb steepens, then becomes easier again. I have to stop a few times to catch my breath, then hurry after Rin who doesn't stop to wait for me. Soon, I'm out of breath again. Suddenly the trees end, and we emerge from the forest. The boundary of the woods is sharp and abrupt, as though a line had been drawn to mark it. The hill continues to climb up a little further ahead, but from here to the top it's a rocky meadow, patches of grass and small bushes that look like they are growing straight from the rock."
NARRATOR: "We soon reach the highest point, with the forest behind us and the view to every direction opening in front of our eyes. The city lies far below and away, lazily reveling in the quiet afternoon mood. You can see pretty far from here, and the vista is beautiful. I wonder how high up we are. I breathe the fresh air and feel my heart rate slowly going back down. I think I might've overdone it a bit; a higher pulse is dangerous for me. I'm feeling fine right now, though. The wind picks up, ruffling my hair and causing the trees below us to sway. It makes the grass undulate in waves as the breeze sweeps across the hilltop. Sun shines from the open skies upon us, a few clouds passing by to shadow it. What was painful heat before is now gentle warmth. I take a good look around. The hilltop is pretty in the way nature often is, unplanned harmony found in the natural arrangement of things. The most striking feature is the abundance of small yellow flowers. They're literally everywhere in this small meadow. I can't help commenting on it."
HISAO: "Wow. A lot of flowers."
RIN: "Yeah. Do you know this kind? They will fly away."
HISAO: "Yeah. Dandelions."
RIN: "There are not many of them at the school, because they cut the grass so often. Nobody cuts grass up here."
NARRATOR: "The fragile-looking flowers will soon turn white and fluffy like cotton, and the wind will carry their seeds away. I crouch down to look at one tiny yellow flower, silently basking in the sunlight. There's not a hint of white yet, so it's still waiting for its time to be fulfilled. I brush my fingers against the delicate yellow petals, feel the soft texture in my fingertips. It feels nostalgic somehow. I hear Rin approaching from behind and stand back up to face her. She has a weird look on her face."
HISAO: "Something on your mind?"
RIN: "I don't know. It's just..."
RIN: (babbling) "You just look so sad all the time and become upset so easily and it makes me confused and I really don't remember much about yesterday except that you came to my room and that's why it might be because of me so if it's because of me I think that I know why, it's because people don't really like talking to me and you might be the same and that would be sad I know that people and I'm talking about others than Emi too always say that I'm strange and that I talk strange things so I thought I'd try not to say strange things but that just makes me think more and new and strange and colorful that was not a good word but maybe you understand anyway and odd things so if I want to say something I don't really know how and then the words are not the same as the thoughts because something goes wrong on the way out but it's not like the thoughts are really the thing I should be saying it's more like the idea of the thought or the feeling of the idea or the idea of the feeling but it's not really any of those either because there is no word for it unless I invent a new one which is not really useful so I've been thinking if doing things is better than saying so maybe because yesterday I took those pills and I was feeling a little strange I might have done something that I shouldn't besides I don't even know if it would be any better if I just could say the thought there is no telepathy that's real telepathy isn't there I think it'd be terrible and useful at the same time but right now I wouldn't mind because misunderstanding is so easy but understanding is not and I thought—"
NARRATOR: "I grasp her shoulder and squeeze hard to make her stop. I don't have the capacity to take all that in at once. Rin shuts up instantly."
HISAO: "Take a breath. I'm not upset. Why would I be? I'm just a little confused, but it's all right."
NARRATOR: "I wonder if I was making a face she doesn't like again. I guess I've been thinking about yesterday all the time. Maybe I looked weird. I wish I had a mirror with me at all times."
HISAO: "No need to get it all said at once. I'll listen, even if you talk slower."
RIN: "It just came out. Sorry. I'm okay now. I just wanted to say something. I didn't mean that much. It's weird, isn't it?"
NARRATOR: "She looks at me with a surprisingly timid expression, one that I haven't seen before. I can't help but laugh a little."
HISAO: "Yeah. It's weird. You are a pretty weird person but there's nothing wrong with that."
HISAO: "Thanks for being worried about me, but I'm going to get better. I told you that yesterday, but I guess you don't remember that either."
RIN: "I don't. I wonder what else I forgot. Hopefully nothing important like my own name. That'd be terrible."
HISAO: "Well, you kissed me."
RIN: "I did?"
HISAO: "Yeah, you did. On the lips."
NARRATOR: "I try to sound as matter-of-fact as I can, but I worry that I might be blushing again."
RIN: "Did you kick me?"
HISAO: "No! Why would I do that?"
RIN: "Then it's all good, right? It's okay, right? I didn't forget my name."
HISAO: "Yeah, it's okay."
NARRATOR: "I wish I was more suave so that I could come up with a better follow-up to that, but nothing comes to mind. It's a good thing that Rin has more to say. It makes me feel relieved somehow."
RIN: "I think I should say sorry. I'm really bad with people. Some things are hard to understand - like jellyfish. Do you understand jellyfish?"
HISAO: "I... I guess not."
RIN: "People are like jellyfish to me. I don't understand."
NARRATOR: "Now it's her turn to make a face I don't really like seeing."
RIN: "I've never really had friends."
HISAO: "Nah. I'm your friend, for one. I mean, think about it. We already talk a lot to each other, and we've even gotten upset at each other and then forgiven the other for it. That's what they call friendship."
HISAO: "What about Emi?"
NARRATOR: "She pauses for a while, as if having to consider the possibility came unexpected to her."
RIN: "Emi... takes care of me. I don't really know why. But I can't really talk to her, not in that way. It's like her head is made of soap foam and marshmallows. Or maybe it's just me. I like her though."
HISAO: "She's really nice, isn't she?"
RIN: "Yeah."HISAO: "I want to be your friend too. I'll listen to you if you want to talk. If you don't, then I can just sit quietly next to you. And I want to tell you about what I think too. It goes both ways. We should definitely be friends."
RIN: "It's really nice of you to say that. I have always been able to tell everything to pencils and paints and paper. They are my best friends. It is harder with people. I have to use words, that is hard for me."
HISAO: "Yeah I know, you told me. About how you forget."
NARRATOR: "Rin nods at me wordlessly and I dare to attempt showing her a little, encouraging smile. I hope I do it properly. She doesn't reply in any way. I feel really glad. The distance Rin puts between herself and everything else has made me feel really uneasy ever since I met her. If we become real friends, I'm sure I could understand her more. I'm sure that this way, we can close the gap of understanding between us. My thoughts don't transmit to Rin. She seems lost deep in thought, wandering amidst the sea of yellow flowers covering the grassy hilltop. It's just as well. Time passes, the breeze making the taller grass sway gently in time with the wind. Rin hums a little song to herself so quietly that I can't tell what it is, if it's even anything at all. A stronger gust sweeps over the hilltop, and the sound of the trees in the wind buries the song away. I check my watch, more out of habit more than anything else. It's 4:30 right now, on this Saturday afternoon. Rin looks into the distant horizon with that odd, blank stare of hers, as if she were looking at nothing at all. Her pupils are dark and quiet like a pair of deep, still ponds."
HISAO: "I think I'm going to quit the art club. I realized it when we had that argument last week. It was a good thing I tried it, but it's just not my thing, you know? I had more fun getting to know you than actually doing the art stuff in there. But I want to stay as your friend. Would that be all right?"
RIN: "Sure. It was getting pretty creepy anyway with you staring at me all the time."
NARRATOR: "Her comment makes me fluster immediately, but I manage a reply."
HISAO: "Sorry about that."
RIN: "It's okay, I'm used to it. You're not the first person who likes to see me paint. Are you going to do some other thing?"HISAO: "I don't know. Probably not."
RIN: "You are going to become better, right?"
RIN: "Me too, you know. I'm going to talk to that friend of the teacher and ask her to put my stuff in her place and work hard to get all that done. I decided that just now, you know. But I think I knew it all along. I've had this feeling for a long time now, that I am going to change. Even if I hate it and don't want it, even if I wanted to, I would change. Like I am not enough the way I am. I think this could be a good way to do it because it's like a straight line. Like I've learned all the things in my life so far just for this. It's just art, and it's the only thing I really know. I know what I'm going to do, so it's good. I'm not afraid at all. I feel like I always do. Is that weird?"
HISAO: "No. Not at all."
NARRATOR: "I close my eyes, and give in to the irresistible sensation that has been growing inside me all week long. I float up, towards the surface of my own life. The pressure of being underwater slowly diminishes, the weightless sensation becomes stronger. I break the surface of the water, lifting my head into the sunlight and inhale deeply, breathing in fresh air as if for the first time in a long, long while. My lungs fill with oxygen, and I open my eyes to see Rin's peaceful, determined face."
NARRATOR: "We walk down the slope carefully and slowly to avoid falling down, Rin in the lead and me a few steps behind. Rin surely can do this. Even if she can't, she's going to pull through. I'm sure that I can keep my head above water too, from now on. The sun sets behind our backs, setting the world ablaze in its orange glow. I keep watching the back of the red-headed girl descending the path a few steps ahead of me. If it's only this much... this distance between us is definitely within my reach."
END OF ACT 2
Next Scene: 22nd Corner