NARRATOR: "Hanako nods quickly and retreats with haste."
MISHA: "What were we talking about? Oh yeah, we are really working hard to make the festival happen."
NARRATOR: "And driving other people insane along the way."
HISAO: "Well, good luck with that."
NARRATOR: "I stand up to leave, making my exit before either of them manages to berate me any more for slacking off. The halls are somewhat quiet, as expected. Everyone must be in club meetings or at festival preparations. Or both. Shizune's words about being a slacker echo in my head. I feel a bit guilty about not contributing, but I seem to lack the resolve to do something concrete about the matter. For the festival, it's too late already unless I count helping Shizune and Misha which I naturally don't. And clubs... I don't know. Maybe I'm not a club type of a person."
NARRATOR: "Halfway through the way from the school building to the dorms I spot a figure in front of the dorms. It's Rin. It looks like she is working on her mural today too. I walk over to her, but she doesn't seem to notice me approaching. She's sitting on an upturned box, looking intently at the wall she is painting with a brush held between her toes. The mural has progressed considerably since yesterday but it's still only half-done as far as I can tell. More colors have appeared and the twisted human-like figures have spread and increased in number. I have to say, the style is quite eye-catching and very unique. Not that I would be knowledgeable about art by any measurable scale, but it's very nice-looking, nevertheless. I clear my throat to get her attention, but not startle her so that her concentration won't break."
NARRATOR: "She doesn't even turn to check who it is. I'll wait."
NARRATOR: "Fifteen minutes later I decide that her concentration is indeed unbroken, and also that I have waited long enough to warrant poking her gently on the shoulder to remind her of my presence. Rin turns her head mechanically to my direction, ending up staring at my crotch level."
RIN: "Oh, it's Hisao."
NARRATOR: "She can tell? I would feel a lot less uncomfortable if she would look at my face."
HISAO: "An astute observation. Hard at work, I see."
NARRATOR: "The conversation starts as if I hadn't been here for a quarter of an hour already, but it's not a concern. At least it starts."
HISAO: "Looking good."
NARRATOR: "It does, the layers of paint hiding other layers of paint, mixing and shaping the human figures really create an impressive look. But Rin looks miffed."
RIN: "You shouldn't comment on works in progress. Seven years of bad luck."
HISAO: "Sounds terrible. I guess I'll take it back then."
NARRATOR: "Still, it looks good. I wonder if I get fourteen years of bad luck for thinking that. Rin turns back to look at her painting and pokes it with a big toe."
RIN: "Could you mix some of this color? I am running out of it."
NARRATOR: "She looks down at a half-empty bowl with the remains of the same pinkish paint in it. I didn't really intend to stay and help her with this project though... I guess I didn't intend to do anything much. I look at Rin, she looks emptily back at me."
HISAO: "Just this once."
NARRATOR: "Rin picks up another brush and drenches it in another tone of pale red. There are dozens of similar bowls all around her working area. From the looks of this scene she could have been sitting there for hours. I wonder if she has. That would mean she'd have been skipping school though, which I of course wouldn't put beyond someone like Rin. I pour a little bit of white and red into the bowl, trying to match the color with the one already on the wall. I can't seem to get it right. It's really inconvenient of her to not mix enough in the first place. Getting it to be exactly the same tone will be impossible, but at least I can try to get as close as I can."
HISAO: "Speaking of hard work, isn't that a huge workload for you too? It's such a big painting and all."
RIN: "Oh, I’m not old and bitter enough yet to think like that."
HISAO: "I guess you aren't."
RIN: "You guessed right. Legs hurt though. They feel like slugs. Slugs made of sea slugs."
HISAO: "Because of the position?"
RIN: "Yeah, I like doing it in a horizontal position more, if you know what I'm talking about. But it can't be helped. Can't ask the wall to lay down."
NARRATOR: "Saying that, she stretches herself a little, bending her legs and back far more than a human should flex. It's astonishing how effortlessly she manages her body around. There is a small flinch in her otherwise blank expression - a hint of pain maybe - as she stretches out her calves. Rin must have stamina and dexterity far above a normal person to be able to live like she does, but she's wearing out working on this."
HISAO: "Why push yourself so much? Take a break or something at least. Continue tomorrow if it's bad."
NARRATOR: "This gives her a pause. A long one too, feeling like a mental yawn."
RIN: "I don't think so, Hisao. I'm not pushing myself."
HISAO: "Sure looks like you are."
RIN: "No. It's not about pushing or pulling or anything related to that kind of thing. There is this boy."
HISAO: "A boy?"
RIN: "At the art club."
HISAO: "Err... and?"
RIN: "He is blind."
HISAO: "Oh. How can you paint if you are blind?"
RIN: "No idea."
HISAO: "So why is he there?"
RIN: "That's the point. He is there."
NARRATOR: "She really should speak more than one word at a time to make this feel more like a discussion and less like an interrogation."
RIN: "He can't really do anything that you'd call art, right? But he comes there anyway. And paints. Why?"
HISAO: "I don't know. Why?"
RIN: "I don't know. That's why I asked."
RIN: "He doesn't paint often but I think his paintings are very interesting."
HISAO: "I'm sure they are."
RIN: "I once tried that. Painting with eyes closed. Wasn't too interesting. And cleaning up the floor took ages. Didn't try again. But he is becoming better at sculpting."
HISAO: "I see."
NARRATOR: "Maybe she was trying to make a point with this. Maybe she forgot she had one."
HISAO: "Seems like the art club is full of interesting people."
RIN: "Not really."
NARRATOR: "Pretty blunt statement, and she totally missed the sarcasm."
RIN: "Just like I said. They are not very interesting. I usually don't have much interest in people who are not interesting. Maybe you have."
RIN: "But that boy is interesting. Maybe I am like that boy, or maybe you are. Maybe everyone is. Doing things you can't do, just because you can."
NARRATOR: "That's pretty deep I think, and tell that to her."
HISAO: "You're a deep one."
RIN: "Nah. I'm a really shallow and thoughtless person. People say that to me all the time. Did you know I can only think of four things at the same time?"
HISAO: "No, but now I do."
RIN: "Right now I'm thinking of the second floor's girls' toilet, ice-cream-flavored ice cream, the middle toe, and a haircut. I'm going to need a haircut."
NARRATOR: "She shakes her head around vigorously, letting her short and messy hair ruffle wildly around. I can see that doing it is something she likes to do. We fall silent as Rin treads around absentmindedly, poking some brushes around. The thought about the art club sticks in my head for a while longer. I'm feeling like I'm treading on very unknown territory with art. The way these meetings with Rin go, it's as though I'm starting a smoking habit or something. I should probably stop talking with her. It’s not like I dislike her, despite the confusion her being herself causes, and I don't dislike art either. I’ve even drawn for fun sometimes. I just don’t have a real creative drive, or any technical skill. So usually, if I were to draw something, I get white paper syndrome and just freeze completely. That, or I manage to draw something disfigured and promptly get frustrated at my inability to put the picture in my head down on the paper, then call it quits without really even trying to make an effort. Rin clearly doesn't have this problem... but she frustrates me in another way. Being with her is like looking into a mirror that doesn't reflect anything. It makes one question the sanity of the act."
NARRATOR: "Rin sits down on her box, swaying from side to side, apparently comfortable with the uncomfortable silence. She is staring at me again, or maybe over my shoulder. I can’t quite figure out where her eyes are focused on. I'm thinking of leaving so she can carry on working undistracted and that I can do whatever I'm going to do alone. It's not like I have anything that must be done today..."
HISAO: "Oh, shoot."
HISAO: "Nobody, I just forgot to tell Hanako that Lilly was looking for her. Do you know her? From my class?"
RIN: "Oh, her. The Mystery Toilet Girl. That person is funny. I saw her going to the toilet five times during one recess three weeks ago. I'm sure it's the world record. It was very mysterious."
HISAO: "That's why you call her Mystery Toilet Girl?"
RIN: "What other reason could there possibly be? Well, if there is, it's an eternal mystery. I didn't follow her in there."
RIN: "Maybe it was the week before that? Could have been."
RIN: "Looking at her makes me hungry."
HISAO: "Don't say that. At least, not around her."
NARRATOR: "Rin turns to look at me blankly, as if she's not sure why I reproved her. But she doesn't acknowledge understanding any more than before, so I give up at this point."
HISAO: "So do you want to go eat dinner then?"
RIN: "No. Not yet."
NARRATOR: "Rin has turned her hungry gaze back to the wall, looking slightly more energetic, or at least slightly less lethargic than she did before. It's as if the wall is an opponent she has to vanquish, something she must overcome before she can indulge in dinner. This is the feeling I get. A weird sense of empathy overcomes me and makes me smile a little to myself. For all her oddity, Rin is pretty cool after all."
HISAO: "I'll be going anyway. Have fun."
NARRATOR: "Rin has already grasped a brush and is dipping it into fresh paint, so of course she can't hear me any more or doesn't answer anything even if she does."
NARRATOR: "Adhering to the nurse's nagging voice in the back of my head, I set my alarm clock to wake me up early enough to go jogging again. I made a promise and I'm going to keep it. Besides, Emi is bound to rat on me if I don't show up. But it's not all that bad."
END OF THURSDAY
Next Scene: Exercise
NARRATOR: "I'm feeling tired so I set my alarm clock to wake me up as late as I can afford, while still making it to the first class. The nurse's voice is almost nagging in the back of my head about morning jogs. I make a resolution to make up for it by going for a walk after school tomorrow. Emi won't care either way, I bet."
END OF THURSDAY
Next Scene: Invisible Hat