NARRATOR: "I stand up to leave, but Rin doesn't show any sign of rising up from the floor. She lies inanimate, as though all life had been sapped from her. Little wisps of smoke float about her, memories of the cigarettes we shared. I grasp her by her short and thin arm and try to pull her up. To my surprise, she complies and stands up with some help from me. I notice how little Rin weighs, as if she were made of feathers."
HISAO: "Are you going to stay here overnight?"
RIN: "I have to. I haven't painted much in three days. I have to find out how I can start painting. Maybe the smoke helps."
HISAO: "Just take a break?"
RIN: "That's no good. I have to do it. If I can't paint any more, I will be destroyed for real."
HISAO: "Maybe you're just burned out. You've been working pretty hard."
RIN: "That would be bad. I wonder if this is it for me. I wanted to see how far I can go. Maybe this is it. The end."
HISAO: "You just have artist's block. It's not a big deal."
RIN: "That's the word for when you can't paint, right? I've had that before. Never like this though. I pick up a brush then I want to put it down right away. And then I do. Three days. It's like I've forgotten how to paint. I didn't think that was possible. Like, more impossible than Emi growing wings and a tail."
HISAO: "You need a break. I mean, I get that you're trying to go deeper inside yourself for your paintings, but it's really not that healthy to stay inside your own head for so long."
NARRATOR: "I glance at the night sky visible through the window. A couple of stars are weakly twinkling above the city. "They remind me of something I used to do, once upon a time. It feels so horribly long ago."
HISAO: "Come on, let's go outside."
HISAO: "Just for a walk. I'll show you my secret place. I don't know if it works in this town, but we can try. In any case, you need a break. And probably something to eat. Come on. You need to get your thoughts away from this for a while."
NARRATOR: "When they're troubled, most people escape from their unhappy lives into a world of fantasy. I did that before, and still do today, reading books endlessly, immersing myself in their world rather than my own. Rin's escape should be the other way around, though: out of her inner world, and into the real. ARRATOR: "Rin doesn't look happy about this, but I ignore her. At least she's somewhat cooperative, walking after me as we head down the stairs and then down the sidewalk."
NARRATOR: "Night has fallen upon the town. It's a gentle summer night, smelling of flowers and hot asphalt. The sunlight is replaced by shining neon colors and bland yellow street lights. The air is easy to breathe, as if the air pressure was noticeably lighter than usual. The feeling of daytime in the hot summer has lasted long into the evening and night. I grab Rin by her sleeve like I've seen Emi do, and to my surprise, she obediently follows. The pale street lights fight against the all-enveloping darkness as we walk together, the guide and the guided, although neither knows the destination. But it doesn't matter. This is the one moment where the usual silences that have become a ritual between me and Rin at last fit perfectly."
NARRATOR: "We walk side-by-side, choosing directions on impulse or inspiration. Sometimes we find ourselves back at a street we'd already seen once or twice. Sometimes we find new streets. All of them look asleep. Rin doesn't ask where we're going. Maybe she doesn't care. Maybe she knows I don't have an answer. The silence of the night isn't scary; after all, the lights drive most of it away. The air grows cooler as the moon progresses along its journey in the cloudless sky. Few cars roam the streets at this hour, and even fewer people are on the sidewalk. The apparent lack of nocturnal life is somehow befitting of this place. There are around-the-clock shops and cafés, sure, but the atmosphere is like the town itself is slumbering. A town that sleeps eight hours a day."
NARRATOR: "The city I grew up in, bathed in the electric glow of a million light bulbs, never slept. I have seen it for myself. It's not the first time I've done this. It happened one of the first times I was home alone. Both of my parents had business trips that neither could cancel, so they deemed me old enough to survive two days on my own. Their misplaced trust in me did not go to waste as I proceeded to spend the entire night out walking around the city. Even afterward, I couldn't say what made me stay downtown longer than I intended after school. I didn't feel like going home, so I stayed through the evening and eventually through the entire night. I walked long concentric circles around a landmark chosen at random. For some reason, the nighttime city felt fascinating. So I walked its streets. At every intersection it was possible to choose your direction at random because they all lead nowhere. The aimless wandering made me see things differently. I hope it'll do the same for Rin."
NARRATOR: "We stop to buy some hot coffee and snacks from a vending machine, and then locate a bench where we sit down to eat. There is no time in the night of the town, so we spend an unknown amount of it just sitting there, observing the stillness of the usually vivid townscape. Still, it's getting very late. And soon, it'll be getting very early."
RIN: "So is this it?"
NARRATOR: "Hearing Rin's voice surprises me. She doesn't sound bored. Rather, her tone is inquisitive, uncertain as to why I dragged her out here, yet curious to find out the answer."
HISAO: "Yeah. Have you ever been out all night? It's like a different world."
NARRATOR: "The remark sends her thinking for a while, looking around as if she was looking for something. The wisps of light reflecting from the corners of her eyes are suddenly very sharp."
RIN: "It's not a different world. It's the same, just asleep. What do you think this town is dreaming of? Maybe something like car sheep or building sheep? Why are dreams always about sheep?"
HISAO: "I've never seen a sheep-related dream that I can remember."
RIN: "Do different towns dream of different things?"
HISAO: "Probably. How could they not?"
NARRATOR: "I answer half joking, half spurring her on. For the first time tonight, it seems like a bit of Rin's life has returned to her. She doesn't continue her list of rhetorical questions, though. Instead, she leans back a little and looks up at the moon traveling above the town. The cool breeze blowing between the buildings seems to steal the conversation away before it even really begins. It's too bad. It looked like Rin would get out of her blue mood. I wish I could somehow know the right things to say, but I realize I can't do that, the way I am now. I'm too far apart from Rin. I haven't really managed to crack her open. She's just too complicated. It's like she's open to everything, equally (dis)interested in everything from the outset. In truth, she's locked tighter than anyone else I know. Even myself. Sometimes she locks herself inside that inner world, shutting everything else out. At other times, her thoughts flow freely from her mind, but not organized in any fashion that would make them intelligible to the rest of the world. What comes out in the form of paintings, I can't interpret. To me it's just a sea of colors and shapes, not a message. She's too far away. I now know it was a bad idea to try to reach for her in the way I did, but I can't help liking her. I look at the fingers of my right hand, trying to remember what Rin's lips felt like against them."
HISAO: "Do you ever feel like you're trying to reach out for something that's impossible to reach?"
NARRATOR: "Rin turns her gaze to me, tilting her head quizzically. I wonder if she understands the meaning of my own rhetorical question or not. Either way, I like how I can manage to catch her attention just by speaking aloud nowadays."
RIN: "All the time. At least I think so. That's what painting feels like, a lot of the time. Or all the time. I don't know. Sometimes I get the feeling that I can really paint what I want. Sometimes it feels like it's just another shadow of me, like a mirror that doesn't work right."
HISAO: "Like talking?"
RIN: "Maybe. When I was little, I didn't really have friends. Maybe it's the same now. The only things I liked were pens and paints. They were the only things that understood me. Now it feels like that is going away too. Change really is a scary thing."
HISAO: "I wish I could understand you."
NARRATOR: "She looks at me melancholically, roused by my thoughts materializing as words spoken aloud."
RIN: "Me too."
NARRATOR: "Whether she meant she wished for me to understand her, her to understand me, or her to understand herself, I never ask, nor do I find out. I see her eyes searching for mine. Serious and cryptic as they are, I'm not getting any explanation from there."
RIN: "Don't worry about it."
HISAO: "I will."
NARRATOR: "Small hints of a smile are wavering on her lips. When she's like this, it makes me feel that maybe there's hope for us. We get along so well for being so different. It's just that we never really get along precisely because we are so different. Maybe it was Rin's passionate approach to her own art exhibition, or perhaps my own careless words, but last week was different from usual. The small friction between us seems to be somewhat volatile, but at least we now seem to be back to normal. Relatively speaking."
NARRATOR: "We stand up from the bench and pick yet another direction in which to go. The wee hours of night slowly pass by as we measure the streets of the town, one step at a time. We are finally at ease, not minding the rare, lone passerby, the eerie darkness, each other, ourselves. Rin's step seems lighter, like the heavy air around her is letting go a little. It makes me feel happy. We don't talk, save for the single remarks that are spoken into the night of the town and never answered. The details jump into the eye instead of being the usual blur they are during the day. As the sky above the town changes from deep, dark blue to gray, I know that our night is soon ending."
HISAO: "It's almost morning."
NARRATOR: "Rin looks up too and nods at me. It's true. The coming light of morning is creeping through the sky, climbing higher by the minute. It feels surreal. The sun won't come up for a while, but I get the feeling that the end of this night really is here and now."
HISAO: "Should we head back?"
NARRATOR: "Rin nods again, twice, her hair waving in the breeze that seems to be heralding the coming dawn. Abruptly, she takes off, taking the lead in this walkabout on which I'd brought her. It seems she really is in a better mood. This, too, makes me feel happy. Rin's navigational skills are probably not much better than mine, but we eventually find ourselves in front of Sae's place."
HISAO: "I don't know if this was any help. I did this once before, but it was more because of a stupid impulse or maybe restlessness, back then. Maybe this was a silly idea and didn't really help you at all."
NARRATOR: "She just nods as an answer."
HISAO: "So, do you know how you're going to destroy yourself now?"
RIN: "I have some ideas. I don't want to see you for a while. Don't come and see me. Do something else."
NARRATOR: "Her ultimatum catches me completely off guard."
HISAO: "What the hell? What's that about? You said before that you didn't mind."
RIN: "I mind now. It's just for a while. I have to do this alone."
HISAO: "I don't like that."
HISAO: "I don't want it to go like this."
HISAO: "I just don't want to feel this distance between you and me."
NARRATOR: "She tilts her head like a bird, her eyes narrowing a little as she thinks."
RIN: "Then you can touch me."
RIN: "You can touch me, if you want. You'd feel better, right?"
HISAO: "I don't know."
HISAO: "Where do you want me to touch you?"
RIN: "No boobs or left ear. Other than that, you can decide."
NARRATOR: "I raise my hand hesitantly, even though I don't know why I'm actually doing this. Her eyes tell me that she's not going to explain. A thousand thoughts race through my head as I slowly bring my hand closer to Rin's face and press three fingers against her pale cheek. Rin feels soft and cold. She closes her eyes on contact, and visibly relaxes. I can feel her soft breathing, her muscles releasing tension as my fingertips caress her cheek. She doesn't rest her head against my palm or anything else you'd expect a girl to do in this sort of situation. In fact, she hasn't reacted at all, save for those now-shut eyes. Once I withdraw my hand, she opens them again. It might be just an illusion created by the timid morning sunlight playing with my eyes, but Rin looks like she's holding back a smile. This is the problem with our relationship. Half the time I have no idea what is going on, and the other half I just fail to understand why things are going on like they are. As usual, I'm not going to get an explanation. Rin merely takes a step towards the door."
RIN: "See you later."
NARRATOR: "Then she disappears from my reach for an undefined period of time."
Next Scene: Boundless