Part 10: Private LunchUpdate 9: Private Lunch
The lunch and the afternoon class pass uneventfully. I read most of the book I had started yesterday, and eat some of the mostly inedible offerings of the cafeteria. The class is tiresome. The teacher seems like an okay person despite the weird first impression I got, and the material is relatively interesting. However, the way he teaches is really bizarre. It's as if he expects that everyone is a natural genius.
Katawa Shoujo OST Afternoon
When the final bell sounds, I realize that there is still a lot of time left in the day, and I'm left wondering what to do. It's odd, at the hospital I had 24 hours a day of free time, but here filling the considerably shorter hours feels difficult. Everyone else leaves, and I'm left alone with the teacher. Mutou is examining the assignment sheets we were working on earlier, marking them with a red ballpen. Raising his eyes from his papers briefly, he notices me and furrows his brow.
MUTO: "What is it, Nakai?"
I jump at him addressing me, but I guess it's natural to spark some conversation since there is nobody else around.
HISAO: "Umm... nothing. Thinking about what I'd do after school."
The teacher slowly puts the cap on the pen he is holding and arranges his papers into a stack, clacking it against the desk twice. He seems very methodical and for a brief moment I'm reminded of Shizune, but the teacher is more unhurried and relaxed, much more routined.
MUTO: "You have no plans?"
HISAO: "No. I considered joining a club, but don't know what kind of club would interest me."
MUTO: "Go observe a meeting of someone else's club. Might pique your interest."
HISAO: "I guess... I just..."
But I don't know how to continue from there. Mutou looks at me in a way that makes me quickly want to take the words back to avoid a conversation. But I can't, so I have to forge ahead.
HISAO: "I just don't know how to deal with people. I mean, the other students. I'm talking to people and everything, so it's not that I'd be isolated or anything. I just don't know what to think about... the disabilities. It's like... it feels that I'm being impolite if I pay attention to them, and it's weird to ignore them. Damned if I do, damned if I don't."
The teacher scratches his cheek absentmindedly, looking very unresponsive.
MUTO: "These things are only an issue if you make them one. You can talk normally with someone, even if they are blind or something.
MUTO: Try to look behind the superficial. There's not a single student here who isn't just a normal kid behind whatever they might seem at first glance."
He says the same thing as Yuuko did. I know they're right, but it's hard. How can you not consider for example Shizune's deafness, when the only way to communicate with her is to talk through Misha? Or Hanako... it's not like you can ignore her face.
I'm interrupted by the door of the classroom suddenly slamming open.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Generic Happy Music
Misha crashes in, hand straight in an enthusiastic greeting, her voice loud and lively enough to wake the dead from their graves. She starts towards the teacher's desk with her bouncing step, hands energetically swinging with the rhythm. Mutou, visibly dismayed at the interruption and Misha in general, slumps in his chair.
Misha stops in her tracks and looks around cluelessly, as if she's sensing from his tone that something's wrong but has no idea what.
MUTO: "We have talked about volume control before."
But she doesn't lower her voice at all, and the teacher just rubs his eyes.
MUTO: "So, what is it?"
MISHA: "I... we need help! We are running out of supplies for the festival stands! This is a distress!"
She waves a pink slip of paper she's holding around.
MUTO: "So... go get more supplies from the art room. What's the problem with that?"
MISHA: "Plywood! Plywood is always the problem! Last time we wanted more there was only a little, but that time we just took it all and went with that. Now there's like none left there, so do you know where there is some?"
MUTO: "I don't understand. How would I know?"
MISHA: "Shicchan... I mean the president thought that a teacher would know if there is plywood. Was she wrong?"
Mutou looks like he is in great pain, frowning with his entire essence, and Misha doesn't get it at all.
Looking at the two of them communicate is terrible, like looking at a man being tortured by drilling his skull open while blasting pop music at full volume at the same time.
MUTO: "I'm afraid I have no idea if there is any plywood in the school, let alone where it would be if there was any."
MISHA: "Awww... what should I do?"
MUTO: "Perhaps try to find Mr. Nomiya? I'm quite sure he would know where to find everything you need. You'd have to pry them from his cold, dead hands, but that's a different matter."
MISHA: "Aaaah! I don't have time! We are so busy!"
She holds her head with both of her hands, looking as despairing as it's possible for a person like her. Without even noticing, she crumples the note she's holding against her hair.
MISHA: "I shouldn't even be fetching these things, there is so much to do and we are falling behind the schedule!"
Mutou looks at her gravely and then, suddenly smiles. Smiling doesn't really fit his face. I think it'd be better if he didn't.
MUTO: "I wonder if you could get some temporary help?"
He switches to staring at me focusedly, with a hard expression, as if trying to say 'go make some friends.'
HISAO: "Eehhh... I guess I can give you a hand."
MISHA: "You can? Thanks, Hicchan, you are really nice!"
She pauses, does a double take and then points at me with her finger, yelping 'Ah!' and looking very puzzled.
MISHA: "Come to think of it, what's Hicchan doing here? Class is over, you should be having fun~!"
MUTO: "We just had a little chat."
MISHA: "Oh no! It's not detention is it? Are you in trouble, Hicchan?"
HISAO: "No, I'm not."
MISHA: "Is Hicchan in trouble, teacher?"
MUTO: "No, he's not."
Mutou sighs deeply and I feel that I have to help Misha to get her off the teacher's back.
HISAO: "So what do you need?"
MISHA: "Here's a list. I can try to find the plywood from somewhere if there's none in the art room."
She offers me the note she's holding. I take it, hesitating a bit.
HISAO: "I said I'd help you, but this has no implications on whether I'm joining the council or not."
MISHA: "Awww.... Still, thanks, Hicchan. Try to be quick, we are in a stall-building streak now, we must hurry hurry hurry!"
She bounces out of the classroom, leaving me and the teacher looking at each other with something that feels like a silent agreement.
MUTO: "Well, there you have it, Nakai. You have something to do now."
Please don't sound so smug. Looking at the list with a number of items ranging from paint to plywood, all written with small, neat handwriting that is undoubtedly Shizune's, I heave a sigh.
HISAO: "I'll be going then."
Waving the long list limply at the teacher, I exit to the hallway.
The classrooms closest to ours are designated belonging to classes 3-1 and 3-2 on the right side, and 3-4 on the left side, each door looking exactly the same. Further down the corridor still with identical doors, are rooms that I didn't think were used for classes. I guess the art room is not a classroom as such. I carefully push open the furthest door, and peek in.
It's a classroom, but it seems rather badly kept or not in use. Am I in the right place? Desks and chairs are all around the room, a thin layer of dust settled on them. There are some easels in the corner so at least this looks like the right place. The room is flushed in sunlight from the big windows, shadows creeping all over the desks. Specks of dust are dancing in the stagnant air, making the beams of light almost visible. Jokingly, I call into the empty room.
HISAO: "Anybody ho--"
Something catches my eye and I stop mid-sentence.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Parity (Rin's Theme)
Sitting on a desk is a short-haired girl; curiously wearing a boy's uniform, with a fork between her toes, a morsel of food stuck firmly on the end. This odd way of dining seems to be caused by her apparent lack of hands, but her presence here is what takes me aback even more. How did I miss her before? She's sitting in a corner very still, but I still somehow took her as a part of the furnishing or a statue at first glance. I'm not being too observant today, as a whole.
The girl seems to be frozen in place, staring at me with her huge eyes like a rabbit in headlights. She's staring at me, her mouth wide open, ready to accept the fork. I'm staring at her, my mouth wide open, suddenly remembering I didn't finish my sentence and trying to think if I should. This weird stalemate keeps us both stunned into silence, punctuated only by the wall clock ticking rhythmically.
The girl stuffs the forkful in her mouth, and is now staring at me expectantly while chewing. This is a bit awkward.
HISAO: "Umm... hello. I was told to pick up some supplies from here. For some festival stalls I think. I didn't think there would be someone here."
RIN: "There isn't. That's why I came here, too."
She picks up another forkful.
HISAO: "Doesn't that mean you're here, then?"
She raises her eyebrows as if she was suspecting my observation was false.
RIN: "You are pretty observant. I guess it does. But who are you?"
This girl is pretty straightforward, isn't she?
HISAO: "I'm Nakai, Hisao Nakai. I just transferred in on Monday."
RIN: "I'm Rin. Tezuka Rin. Rin Tezuka.
RIN: I won't shake hands with you, but at least we know who we are now. That's very nice."
Her deadpan manner of talking makes it hard to determine whether she's joking about shaking hands or not. It kinda bothers me, joking about these matters doesn't feel appropriate at all. While I'm trying to figure what's appropriate and whether this girl is, she seems to have lost interest in me and is now gazing yearningly back at her food.
RIN: "Can I continue my lunch? If you don't mind me, I won't mind you. If you need to get your stuff, the supplies are at the back."
HISAO: "Go right ahead. But... lunch? School's already over for the day."
RIN: "What word would you use then? There is no word for a meal you eat after lunch but before dinner, right? It bothers me very much too, but I don't really know what I should say."
HISAO: "I don't think you are supposed to eat a meal between lunch and dinner to begin with."
RIN: "But I'm hungry now and my delicious boxed lunch would go to waste otherwise. I have curry. It's very delicious."
With much decisiveness, Rin once again picks up the fork between her toes and with at least as much impoliteness, she points it straight at me.
RIN: "So, Nakai, what brings you to this place?"
HISAO: "Like I said, I was told to look for these things."
RIN: "No, the school. From outside you look fine. Is your problem inside?"
I come to a full stop, opening my mouth but not getting a word out.
RIN: "I can guess. I am good at guessing. Better than most people."
Rin cuts me off before I can answer her question, or skirt around it somehow. I don't know which I would've done. I froze in front of this issue again. I haven't even told anyone here about my condition, or maybe it's only because it hasn't really come up. I do get the feeling that not making issues of this is a part of the social code here, as the teacher said. I wonder if the people here could relate? Probably not any better than any normal person could. I can't relate to Shizune's circumstances, or Lilly's, either. Naturally, while I go through this in my head, Rin keeps considering what my condition could be, with an overtly contemplative look on her face. She puts her fork between her lips and leans back, looking at the ceiling as if the answer was written up there. A beam of light illuminates her face from the window side, creating a mask of dark shadow on the other side.
RIN: "I don't think it's anything in your head, and something in your guts would be boringly ordinary, like this lunch of mine. And less delicious.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Parity (Rin's Theme)
RIN: "The problem must be in your pants!"
This messed-up Sherlock Holmes kind of statement and the sheer lack of tact it was delivered with catches me completely off guard. I think I might've reeled back even physically as Rin's eyes widen in revelation and astonishment.
RIN: "So I was right! There's something wrong with your tackle, isn't there?"
Still partially in shock but recognizing the need to reply something, I spit out the first thing that I can think of.
HISAO: "No! Nothing like that. I have a heart problem. Arrhythmia."
... I said it. More like blurted it out, but I said it. The girl in front of me purses her lips together and glowers at me, looking very disappointed.
RIN: "How boring. Trouble in the pants would have been much more scandalous."
Whats with this reaction?
HISAO: "I'm sorry to let you down."
RIN: "I forgive you. Just, I collect people and a person with, you know, that kind of problem would've been really great."
HISAO: "Collect people?"
RIN: "People with different problems."
HISAO: "Huh, so you just... like, go around asking people what's wrong with them?"
RIN: "Pretty much."
HISAO: "I see."
... With little left to say, Rin resumes her lunch and the conversation dies away, but I keep thinking about what was said. It's the first time I told anyone else about my condition. All the other people have either known about it already, or heard about it from someone else. Or didn't need to know about it, like every other student here, so far. Should I have told it as a natural part of introductions? Is it expected of me? 'Hi, I'm Hisao. I have a very serious heart condition.' Is that how I'm supposed to go around introducing myself from now on? As if our disabilities would define us. What a disgusting thought. Or maybe this Tezuka girl just has an unnatural interest in such things.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Raindrops and Puddles
As I walk to the back of the room to pick up the items on Misha's list, a chance opens to study Rin from the corner of my eye. Her hair is a burnt auburn, almost orange, and cropped short. Long hair would probably be impossible with no arms. The boy's uniform and the lack of arms make her look very thin, almost scrawny. She is not particularly pretty except for her murky green eyes which flicker restlessly from below her short bangs, even when she eats. The distance and the shadows make it seem like they don't reflect sunlight at all, but instead absorb all of it within them like deep wells. She moves her feet almost as deftly as a normal person would use their arms. However, I can see how this sight could discomfort people, especially while eating. It makes me feel a bit uncomfortable at least. I hesitate to think about the word 'unnatural' but it's too late now, isn't it? I keep searching the cabins and shelves for Misha's things, but after enough time passes the silence grows too uncomfortable, so I try to force some conversation out of this strange girl.
HISAO: "So, do you always eat alone and this late? Or do you get the occasional visitor?"
RIN: "Visitors... maybe you are my first occasional visitor. But I don't always eat alone either. Sometimes I eat with a certain person on the roof, if she's not horsing around."
RIN: "She likes to do sports."
And that's all I can think of to say. Both of us fall silent again as Rin forks the last bits of her meal to her mouth. I look down at my haul and double check it with Misha's list. It seems I have everything except plywood.
HISAO: "Umm... so, I think I have all the things now."
RIN: "That's very nice for you. Don't feel obliged to stay. I was about to take a nap anyway. You need to do whatever you are going to do with that stuff anyway, right? Or perhaps you like to watch girls sleeping?"
I'm not sure what to make of this, but Rin looks serious.
HISAO: "Even if I did, I think I have to be going. I... I'll catch you around, Tezuka."
RIN: "You can call me Rin. I feel that our relationship is at this point good enough to warrant this much."
I was already turning to make my exit, but she draws me back in.
HISAO: "Fine, then I'm Hisao."
RIN: "Then you are."
... Rin looks at me hard in the eyes but that intimidating feeling you get when someone stares at you isn't there. It's like she's actually not looking at me at all. She blinks a couple of times, and I can't figure out why a pause like this just popped between us out of nowhere.
RIN: "See you later, Hisao."
There is something like a tiny smile there in her face, maybe.
The term for a small meal in the afternoon is afternoon tea, or tea for short.