NARRATOR: "Rin applies for, and - thanks to Nomiya pressuring the principal, I'm sure - is granted leave for the rest of the term for “exceptional extracurricular activities.” She has to make up for it during summer vacation, but it seems she doesn't mind. Rin will still be able to eat and sleep at school, of course; she just doesn't have to go to classes. I'm not entirely sure if I envy her or not. It all makes me feel anxious, somehow. It's the last day of school for Rin. I feel like I should send her off with a word of encouragement, or at least say something. It was sort of due to my influence that she decided to dive headfirst into this, after all."
NARRATOR: "My class ends a good twenty minutes early, so I walk down to the lobby and buy a can of juice, then sit down on a bench and wait for Rin. I pull out a novel from my bag and search for the place I was at. Time stretches comfortably over the warm afternoon while I idly sip my orange juice and read a few chapters of the book. The plot doesn't seem to advance at all, but it's all the same for me. The bell rings to end the school day and students shuffle to club meetings or outside. Nobody notices me, sitting on the bench with my nose in the novel. I keep watch for Rin, but I don't see her familiar face or red-tinted hair passing by."
NARRATOR: "I check my watch 20 minutes past the end of class, when the lobby has all but emptied of people again. Even Rin should've already managed to get out of class, but either I missed her walking by, or she never came downstairs. Perhaps she went to the art club room for some last minute things instead, or got held back by her strict homeroom teacher. I haven't really waited that long, but having grown tired of it already, I decide to go find her myself. I stuff my book back in the bag and throw the now empty juice can in a trash bin, then climb upstairs. The hallway is eerily quiet, as there are no club rooms apart from the art room nearby. I check there first, but not even the teacher is in. Coming back towards the stairwell, I quietly knock on the door of 3-4 and push the door open to peek in. Yellow sunbeams cross the classroom, falling across the floor. The dust and chalk floating slowly in the air make the light almost palpable. The entire room bathes in the gentle light shining through the windows, washing the shadows away. Only one person is inside the classroom.
NARRATOR: "Rin sits in what I assume is her seat, next to the window in the third row. Her head rests against the desk. I wonder if she slept through it all. Apparently not even Emi had the heart - or maybe the capability - to wake her up. I close the door quietly. Walking past the neat, even rows of desks, I go over to where she sits."
NARRATOR: "My mouth is suddenly so dry that the word comes out as a tiny whisper."
"She doesn't answer, so I set my bag down on the floor next to hers and lean over her to look at her face. Rin's eyes are peacefully closed, the long eyelashes projecting thin shadows onto her cheeks. Her mouth is slightly open, letting me hear the quiet sound of her breathing. Her usually messy hair is even more so today, lying in complete disarray over half of her face and forehead. Her bag is lying at her feet like a forgotten rag doll. A few books and pens have fallen out of it near her seat. The scene makes me smile a little."
NARRATOR: "I touch Rin's head lightly, sweeping a few stray hairs off her ear. Her hair feels warm against my palm. Rin stirs, and I retract my hand on reflex, feeling embarrassed for touching her so casually. She looks so vulnerable, like any sleeping person. It's impossible not to feel fondness towards her. I sit on the desktop of whoever is in front of Rin, then draw the window slightly open to get some fresh air in. Hopefully, it will wake her up and I won't need to resort to cruder methods."
NARRATOR: "She doesn't wake up, but I didn't really expect her to. Looking at her makes me feel tired as well. To be honest, I wouldn't mind a quick nap either, but I content myself with leaning against the large window. The glass is warm against my ear and cheek, as these windows face west, toward the setting afternoon sun. That afternoon light is slowly melting into Rin's auburn hair, softening her outline so that she seems to be fading into her surroundings. The minute twitches of her muscles, her hair swaying in the air current, the even rhythm of her breathing, it all gives a strong impression of a dreaming girl. Like all sleeping people, Rin looks like she is away from this world, in some distant dream-country. With her, it doesn't feel so obvious that she would ever come back. She seems so detached from her surroundings even when she's awake, in fact she has this same kind of air around her when... The realization hits my consciousness without warning."
NARRATOR: "Rin sometimes looks like that when she is painting. Her focused expression gives the same feeling of being on the other side of some imaginary gap as looking at her sleeping face does. I feel a pain in my chest. There's no way I can close that gap to be on the same level with her. It hurts, even though I know that it's impossible for any two people to truly understand each other. But Rin... she's almost literally in another world when she's talking about art, thinking about art, or making art. It's a world that I - or anyone else, really - can't share with her. Just like the world of dreams. Rin still doesn't show any sign of waking up, so I'm faced with the decision to either rouse her myself, or wait for her to awaken on her own. I choose the latter."
NARRATOR: "Waiting is something I am good at. I found that out during my hospitalization. But even the hospital ward was more lively than the school after classes are over. The only sounds in this place are the loud ticking of the clock above the door and the distant voices of students down on the grounds. A genuine summer breeze blows inside from the window I cracked open, full of warmth and carrying the scent of light. I look outside to see where it came from, but I'm dazzled almost instantly. The window glass seems to trap all the sunlight within, making it painful to look that way. All I can glimpse through the window are the dark silhouettes of the trees and the wall around the campus against the setting sun's radiance."
NARRATOR: "As I turn back to watch Rin, she stirs again. A single tear worms down from the corner of her eye, slowly making its way across her face before it falls onto the desk. It's tiny, barely a droplet, but it captivates me. Another tear follows the first, and then a third. A feeling of anxiety overcomes me, petrifying me on the spot. It's so strange, seeing Rin's face peaceful as she sleeps, at the same time as tears stream down her cheeks, wetting the wooden desktop she rests her head on. I don't know what to do, so I do nothing, and just watch the tears roll one by one down her face. I wonder what she's dreaming about. Rin wakes up after one final flinch, or perhaps because of the tears. She sits upright and yawns so excessively it looks like her jaw might dislocate."
NARRATOR: "She notices my presence, but her reaction is more like the lack of any reacting at all. It's just an acknowledgment; no startled gasp or anything."
HISAO: "Good morning."
NARRATOR: "She's so groggy she can't even return my smile that I somehow can't stretch to be entirely honest."
NARRATOR: "Rin notices her wet cheeks and quickly wipes them on the shoulders of her shirt. It seems she isn't at all surprised or flustered by them."
HISAO: "You cried in your sleep. A bad dream?"
RIN: "No. It's nothing like that. It's something I've learned to do. From other people. It's a funny story, I'll tell you later. On second thought, not really that funny at all. I guess I won't tell you. Did you want something or did you just come watch me sleep?"
HISAO: "Eh... I wanted to see you after classes."
RIN: "Oh. Well, it's after classes now and I am seeing you right here."
HISAO: "Yeah. I just wanted to say good luck, or something. I figure the upcoming weeks are going to be a lot of work for you."
NARRATOR: "Rin yawns again and blinks a few times."
RIN: "I feel weird. Didn't really sleep much last night at all."
HISAO: "Butterflies in your stomach?"
RIN: "What? No. I mean yes. I know what that means. Butterflies. Don't really feel so good now."
HISAO: "It'll be fine."
RIN: "You are so confident. Some day it will bite you in the ear."
HISAO: "I'll look forward to it."
RIN: "I think I have to go. I promised Mrs. Saionji that I'd go there straight after school, and now is after school."
HISAO: "Is it okay if I come by sometime? I'm guessing you're planning to work long hours, so if you'd prefer to avoid distractions..."
RIN: "It's okay. It's not a distraction. Not like Emi. Don't bring her with you, though. I wouldn't like that this time. I told her to stay away."
HISAO: "I see. All right then."
NARRATOR: "Rin stands up and silently walks to the door with me following behind. The school's empty hallways, devoid of the usual crowd of students, feel very lonely. It's only a few hours since school ended, but the building seems to be all but deserted. Our footsteps are all that intrudes upon the stillness of the hallways. The change is sudden, but it shows how the building is just an empty shell, dead without its students and teachers to liven it up. It's like the school has become a private world for just the two of us, a desolate place filled with silence and chalk dust."
RIN: "I am going to change."
NARRATOR: "She says this out of the blue while we walk down the stairs from the third floor, and it makes me wonder how she views this challenge that lies ahead of her."
HISAO: "That's what people must do, sometimes."
NARRATOR: "That's the last thing we say to each other that day, even though there's so much that we could talk about. And even those words drown in the all-encompassing silence, disappearing into the stagnant air as if they were never said."
Next Scene: Things You Can't Give Up