NARRATOR: "The next morning, as I'm getting dressed, I hear a knock at my door. Quickly putting on the rest of my clothes, I open it, without really stopping to think about who could be behind it. It turns out to be Shizune."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Misha told me that you were looking for me."

NARRATOR: "I'm a bit hurt that I don't even get a “good morning,” but it's not too big a deal."

HISAO: (signing) "I was."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "But you found me yesterday."

NARRATOR: "Shizune's fingers trace a crack in the wall. It seems like she's trying her best to look distant."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Well, I didn't make it easy, did I?"

HISAO: (signing) "It's all right."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "That's why I'm here. We can talk today. Although... I kind of want to go somewhere else."

HISAO: (signing) "What about class?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "It's fine, it's fine. How about we take a walk around the school? Everywhere except the main building is going to be deserted. The first period bell should be ringing right now."

NARRATOR: "I take a quick glance at my watch and see that she's right."

HISAO: (signing) "Okay."

SHIZUNE: "..."

HISAO: (signing) "Is there something wrong?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Why do you think there is something wrong?"

HISAO: (signing) "Because you're obviously upset. I could just tell. It's what I wanted to talk to you about."

NARRATOR: "Shizune quickly cracks her knuckles while I sign to her."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Apparently, I'm easier to read than I'd thought. I was trying hard to hide it. Can you tell what I'm thinking right now?"

NARRATOR: "I don't respond, and Shizune heads towards the door, slowly enough that I can tell she wants me to follow her. Her hands are folded behind her back, which is arched against them as though she is about to bend over backwards at any second. Outside, I see Shizune is right. The school is completely deserted. Although it's not my first time seeing the school like this, it's kind of eerie. Shizune acts almost as though I'm not there, browsing a vending machine and taking a slow and winding path until we end up behind the main building. Finally, she leans against a wall and faces me, but it's like I've forgotten how to start a conversation."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "There is a saying. “You don't know how much you've screwed up until you screw up.”"

HISAO: (signing) "Who says that?"

SHIZUNE: (signing) "I guess it's me."

NARRATOR: "Reconsidering her train of thought, she waves her hands in frustration."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Okay, I'll put it differently. When I was younger, we had to make posters for Earth Day in school. There was another girl in my class whom everyone considered the best artist. It wasn't because she could draw better than everyone else, it was how much she could fit into a single picture. I wanted to be better than her, so I made countless posters until I ended up with the best possible one. I had to be the best and have the greatest one. In the end, everyone liked my poster the most of all, even the teacher. A week later, it was meaningless. I threw it in the trash. I think I've told you something like this before."

HISAO: (signing) "Yeah."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "When I feel like I'm finished, I wish I could just wipe the slate clean. Whether I succeed or not. I put Misha through a lot, and even dragged you into it. And every point where I could have solved this silly situation, or prevented it from happening in the first place, keeps coming back to me. It's the worst feeling. Especially when I feel like I've done nothing right and everything wrong. Like recently. It's the worst kind of failure. I feel like a failure on every level. I wish I could wipe away everything I've done and just be alone, since all I've done is mess with Misha for two years. And jerk you around for a year for selfish reasons."

HISAO: (signing) "It's fine."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "No, it's not. You don't understand. I was just thinking about it; everything I do feels like I have to beat someone else. Everyone else, even. If that is how it is, then what are my relationships with people? They almost feel the same."

NARRATOR: "I can see where this is going."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "The point is that I've messed up so many people by being selfish, and now I want to be away from other people for a while."

HISAO: (signing) "Even me?"

NARRATOR: "There's a pause."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "Yes."

NARRATOR: "Followed by an even longer pause, this time from me."

HISAO: (signing) "I see. That's the most selfish thing you could do. It's just you making another decision by yourself."

SHIZUNE: "..."

NARRATOR: "For a minute, it looks as though she's considering the best way to respond, but in the end, she simply nods. Which, I think, is the best way to respond anyway. It's very like her, to be roundabout even now, but ultimately without excuses. All my emotions simmer inside me. I see a kettle in front of me, water rolling inside it, so close that I can touch it and feel the heat radiating off of it. I'm glad for the distraction, because I know there's no recourse or bargaining possible."

SHIZUNE: (signing) "You told me that everything was fine, but it wasn't true, was it? I can't believe it ever again, then."

HISAO: "All right."

NARRATOR: "Not even bothering to sign it, I stand up. My hands are in my pockets, fingering my loose change. The morning air is cold against my face."

Shizu badend

NARRATOR: "As I look back at her, she seems very lonely. I'm reminded of myself. I've made that expression before. Maybe it's on my face right now. It feels like the image of such a lonely girl will stick in my mind forever. Every moment where I could have prevented this, or solved the problem, comes back to me. It makes me smile in a way without amusement."