Part 110: The Context of RinUpdate 99: The Context of Rin (Act 3, Scenes 6-8)
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
Katawa Shoujo OST - Breathlessly
After a night of bad sleep, I go through the day mostly on automatic. I put on my uniform mechanically, do my schoolwork mechanically, eat my lunch mechanically, reply to teachers mechanically, and thus when the final bell rings I still feel as if I had just woken up. My mind feels blank and overcrowded at the same time, and I can't even begin to unravel the tangle of feelings I've gotten myself into.
I spend the bus trip downtown staring out of the window, thinking about these things. As a result, by the time I climb the stairs to the atelier four floors above Sae's gallery, I'm feeling completely exhausted. Expecting awkwardness, I quietly knock on the door before entering. I spot Rin at the center of the small clear area in the room, working on a painting. She doesn't acknowledge my arrival in any way.
HISAO: "Hi. I came, as promised."
Rin snaps her head to my direction immediately - was she waiting for me to say something? - and locks that cold green gaze of hers on me. Although I'm sure my own face can't hide my feelings, Rin's expression is as expectant and neutral as always. The clouded, slightly absentminded darkness in her eyes is like a wall standing between me and her. It is the first awkward silence between us that is truly awkward. Yesterday, both of us said something we couldn't take back, and there's no way it can be undone. I want to say something, but Rin forbade from doing so. I can't even begin to guess what she's thinking, but I'm feeling the pressure of her lightless eyes on me, compelling me to break the silence without saying the thing I most want to say. To my horror, I find that I can't find any way to start a conversation. It's as if I've completely lost the ability to speak with her.
HISAO: "Um... Just keep working if you're in the middle of something. I'll just... sit down here."
Rin nods wordlessly at me and picks up the brush from the floor with the toes of her right foot. I sink into a worn-out sofa, picking up a book from my bag and opening it to where I stopped last night. I can't really concentrate on it, but it's better than doing nothing. The two of us are so close to each other; together in the same room, even. And yet, we're both off doing our own thing as if we were miles apart. I can't help but wonder about this unnatural situation. Why did I come here? Because she asked me to do so yesterday, of course. However, it looks like there's absolutely no need for me to actually be here. It makes me feel awkward, at first. But as I recall the previous silences I've quietly passed with Rin, I settle down and try to tune into that same comfortable mood I was in back then.
Time stretches, then slows down. The pages of my book rustle each time I turn them. After maybe half an hour, or one hour at most, Rin breaks the silence, to my complete surprise.
RIN: "Are you my friend?"
It's an echo of yesterday, I know it. So, even Rin couldn't just push it aside from her mind. Caught off-guard, I answer honestly.
HISAO: "I don't... yeah, of course I am. Don't worry about stuff like that, c'mon."
She doesn't say anything further. I feel happy somehow.
Several chapters later, I mark my spot, close the book, and put it away in my bag. Getting up from the sofa, I see that Rin's made considerable progress on her painting. I take a look at it for a bit. It's still not quite finished, I suppose.
HISAO: "It looks great."
RIN: "It's bad luck to comment on unfinished paintings."
After that, I quietly leave the studio and catch the bus, taking me back to school.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
Katawa Shoujo OST - Stride
Life settles into some sort of vague, undefined norm. I visit Rin whenever I can, but each time is as strange as the first. They consist mainly of me watching Rin at work, or just reading a book on the couch while she works. We barely talk at all. Long, quiet evenings stretch over the last weeks of June. I sit on the couch in the atelier, listening to the quiet rustle of Rin's brush and my own heartbeat, trying to make sense of the former and forget about the latter. I am a silent visitor in this place, a ghost. At some point I start thinking that my presence is meaningful to Rin somehow, but never end up asking her about it. I don't bring up the forbidden topic any more either, and try to stop thinking about it altogether. It's hard to do so, and doesn't get any easier with the passage of time. My heart aches every time I look at the awkward figure of the girl I decided I liked, yet who refuses to acknowledge it.
I still can't seem to find the right words to talk to her about anything at all, but I find quiet solace in observing her from nearby. The distance between us doesn't feel that huge when I can be close to her, even if it's like this. Rin works like a demon. There is barely a moment when she's without a brush between her toes, or walking in circles around her current work in progress, estimating it from every angle and distance. She seems to be completely taken over by her will to work, to change herself into the sort of artist she believes would be worthy of the trust Nomiya and Sae have placed in her.
Piles of sketches, works in progress, tubes of oil paint and brushes slowly begin to crowd the small atelier, making it even messier than it was before Rin acquired the right to use it. I offer to help her clean up every now and then, but each time she refuses. It dawns on me that in her mind, the room is not in utter chaos; rather, her system of keeping track of everything is so elaborate only Rin herself can make sense of it. She knows exactly where everything is, from the tiniest brush to that half-empty tube of crimson that's the perfect shade for some picture in progress. Rin walks from one painting to another, looking at them as if not remembering that she made them. She talks to herself - or to the paintings - even when I'm present, always just quietly enough that I can't make out the words. Every day, Rin pours herself onto the canvas for hours on end, squeezing every bit of her ability and even her soul to make good on that promise she made to me - or herself. Black marks appear beneath her eyes, a sure sign that she's skipping sleep in favor of painting.
I'm somewhat surprised to see her at school a few times. I never go and say hello, though, as I somehow feel it would break the silent magic of the evenings we share at the atelier. Sometimes Sae comes by when I'm there. She gives me a certain kind of look when she shows up. I think she doesn't like that I'm always hanging out with Rin up here, but she never says a word about it. She isn't quite as full of praise for Rin's work as Nomiya, but is visibly impressed nevertheless. However, when she turns her eyes from the wonderful works of art to look upon the little redheaded girl that made them, a sudden, deep sadness floats onto the surface of her expression.
I can't explain it, and she never talks about it.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Raindrops and Puddles
June turns into July almost without warning. End-of-term exams loom dangerously close, but all I can think of is Rin. I feel like a sleepwalker at school, looking forward only to the next time I get to visit that silent place above Sae's gallery. After Rin refuses my attempts at directly helping with her work, I try to figure out other ways to help her. It finally dawns on me that she isn't eating properly.
My course of action decided, I stop at the convenience store before going to catch the bus downtown on my next visit to the studio. I feel very energetic as I open the door to the atelier and greet Rin.
HISAO: "I brought you some fruit. You need vitamins and actual food, after all. Do you even eat up here?"
RIN: "I do eat. If I didn't eat I couldn't paint."
HISAO: "Then, why don't you eat a couple of these?"
I shake the bag full of ripe oranges in my hand in a ploy to tempt Rin into taking a break. To my surprise, she actually lays her brush down and walks over to me to see what I'd bought. Her expression doesn't change at all when she looks into the bag.
RIN: "I can't eat oranges, Hisao. It does not work very well with feet."
HISAO: "That's all right. I'll do it."
Of course I knew that; she'd told me herself, after all. I extract the tiny fruit knife I had with me and select one of the round fruits. After making the initial cut, I begin to peel it with my fingers. The strong scent of cut orange rind immediately fills the air as thousands of tiny droplets of oil burst from the skin. I remove the first section of the hard peel and shoot a glance at Rin.
HISAO: "So, how's the work going?"
RIN: "I don't know. It's like I'm in the center of some huge mountain of jelly and have to dig my way out."
HISAO: "Must be stressful."
RIN: "I think it might be. Even though it's just painting, all this, everything feels really strange."
I wonder if Rin is the kind of person who likes to carefully remove all the white fibrous stuff from oranges before eating them, or the more careless type who just eats them as they come. Maybe neither. I'm the former type, so I meticulously clean the orange slices one by one while Rin watches the process with mild curiosity. I realize that I don't have the faintest idea about her likes or dislikes, or any of the other little details that make up the concept of a person for those around them. It's like in all this time, I haven't learned much about her at all.
Once I've finished lamenting that fact, I realize I've cleaned the entire orange and neatly split it into slices. I hold a slice up, bringing it closer to Rin so she can pick it up."
She takes it directly between her lips and then into her mouth, whole. Her lower lip briefly brushes against my fingertip. Rin chews the slice carefully, savoring it as much as possible. I become fixated on the movements of her jaw, the trickle of juice glistening on her lip, the way her throat moves when she swallows the orange slice. After I realize what I'm doing, I turn away, feeling embarrassed about watching her so intently.
RIN: "It's not the same as it usually is."
HISAO: "The orange?"
HISAO: "Oh. Well, is anything like that ever the same?"
RIN: "It is, sometimes. I think. I don't know what, though. I might be starting to paint differently soon, if this goes on."
HISAO: "Well, wouldn't that just be that change you keep talking about?"
She thinks about it, blinking her eyes a few times nervously. For a moment, absolutely nothing happens, as if time itself did a double-take. We stare at each other in silence, only that faint, tangy scent of orange floating between us and the muffled sounds of traffic in the background. Then I pick up another slice and hold it to her. She takes it from me with her mouth just like the first one...
RIN: "I didn't think it would be like this."
HISAO: "Well, keep on going and see what happens. It's not like you can do anything else."
RIN: "Yeah. It's the only thing I can do."
After that, she says nothing more. In the ensuing silence, I feed Rin the rest of the orange, one slice at a time. Then I peel another for her, which she eats as well. The third I eat myself, and the rest are left in their plastic bag which I put on a small desk next to the couch. She stands up and returns to her painting, with a strange look in her eyes that I haven't seen before. Like most of her expressions, it is completely unreadable. Even if I asked, she wouldn't explain what it means.
Katawa Shoujo OST ~ Passing of Time
(Silence, Street Noises)
Some days later, I spot Rin and Sae standing together in front of the gallery as I walk down the street toward the gallery. They seem to be talking to each other while Sae has a smoke.
HISAO: "Good afternoon."
Katawa Shoujo OST - Afternoon (Street Noises Continue)
I say this even though it's not really afternoon any more. I came a bit later than usual since I got caught up doing homework. It's going to be dark soon.
SAIONJI: "Hello there, Hisao. Came to visit the little kitten again?"
Rin makes a face at the nickname. I guess she doesn't like it. Ironically, the way she wrinkles her nose like that really does make her look a little bit like a cat.
Sae turns back to Rin, to continue the conversation they were having.
SAIONJI: "So in other words, everything is going well enough?"
Rin makes a difficult expression and turns her face away from me, for some reason.
RIN: "It's difficult. It's like I'm missing something. But I will do it."
SAIONJI: "Work hard, and it'll be fine. I'm going to have to start working on my part of the preparations. I need to do a sales catalogue, invitations, decorations, advertisement and so on. I need the names for your works, and we also need to think up the general theme for the exhibition."
RIN: "They don't have anything like that. I'm not very good with words so I don't use them. If I can not use them. I mean sometimes I have to but I think this is not a time like that at all."
HISAO: "You don't like naming your works?"
RIN: "I don't like it."
HISAO: "Well, I guess it's hard to come up with a good name for something like this."
Rin shakes her head vehemently.
RIN: "It's not like that. It's like if I paint a cloud and call it an octopus, people will think about it differently than if I paint a cloud and call it the end of the world. Every name is wrong. Nothing ever explains what I feel like when I make a painting. It's not a word thing. The only thing would be to come up with new words for everything, but would it help at all?"
HISAO: "No, I don't think so."
SAIONJI: "Then, the paintings would go with just Unnamed, number one and so on? It's a bit inconvenient, but..."
RIN: "That's no good. Unnamed means that you just didn't come up with a good name. And Unnamed is a name, like that Greek guy with the sheep and all."
Sae thinks about this for a while, furrowing her brow as she keeps looking at Rin's serious face.
SAIONJI: "So you're saying, your artwork should be completely without labels."
RIN: "I think that's what I'm saying."
Sae lets out a dry laugh, the kind old ladies who smoke too much always seem to end up with.
SAIONJI: "Let's hope your art will never end up in a museum. The curators would explode."
She takes a contemplative puff on her cigarette, which has worn down not much more than the butt. Then she drops it into an ashtray affixed to the wall next to the door.
SAIONJI: "Then again, it could work."
HISAO: "What do you mean?"
SAIONJI: "This namelessness, this rejection of labels, it works. It's a good unifying theme, and something people can grasp onto easily. Allows for a lot of room for interpretation. It gives a good impression. Think about it. All sorts of associations can be made, starting from identity and self-definition, all the way to whatever you want to think about it. We could call your exhibition Nameless and build it on that theme. How does that sound?"
Rin thinks about this for a while. I'm not sure how Sae managed to get so fired up by Rin's reluctance to apply names to her works. It feels like she might be extrapolating too much, but it's a pretty impressive-sounding idea.
RIN: "I don't think it's a bad idea."
HISAO: "For what it's worth, I have to say it sounds pretty good to me, too."
Sae reaches into her pocket for another cigarette, lighting it with a neon green butane lighter. Her forehead wrinkles, and she rubs it as she appears to furiously think more on this idea. She doesn't say a word for a little bit, but every now and then she takes a sharp drag from the cigarette.
SAIONJI: "...Yes, I think this would work out pretty nicely. I'm going to take this as the starting point, and work from there. I'm going in to work on this. You go back upstairs and try to find your missing ingredient. I'm sure it'll come to you sooner or later."
Rin doesn't reply, so Sae takes one last, long pull from her cigarette and drops it in the tray, to join with others of its kind. The gallery owner turns to head back inside, but is stopped by Rin just as she reaches for the door handle.
(Silence, Street Sounds Continue)
SAIONJI: "What is it, kitten?"
RIN: "Can I have some cigarettes?"
She looks at Rin incredulously, clearly not having expected such a direct request. Not that I did, either.
SAIONJI: "...Don't tell your teacher."
She stuffs the packet in Rin's pocket along with the neon-green lighter.
(Silence, Street Noises Stop)
The day is already folding into dusk when we climb up the dark stairs leading up to what is now basically Rin's atelier. As we go inside, Rin doesn't seem to be able to settle down. She keeps pacing around the room like a caged animal, looking through the skylight at the burgundy-colored dusk. The last light of the sun's advance across the sky reflects from the clouds floating over the town, filling every corner of the atelier with blazing orange light.
HISAO: "So painting is going well?"
She blinks, then relaxes her muscles. I didn't even realize how tensed up she was until now.
RIN: "Not really. I haven't painted in three days. I'm going in squares."
RIN: "If you say so. I tried doing things a bit differently but it doesn't work. And now the old way doesn't work either. I need something more. It's not enough like this."
Rin's response gives me pause, since as usual I can't exactly understand what she means. Although really, I shouldn't have expected anything else: she either says nothing at all, or too much. Trying to comprehend and follow her train of thought feels like wading through the jungles of Borneo equipped with a wooden spoon and a map of Hokkaido. It's annoying how her thoughts are both laid out in plain sight and hidden from view every time she opens her mouth.
HISAO: "What more? You said that to Sae as well. A missing ingredient?"
Katawa Shoujo OST - Caged Heart
RIN: "I think I have to destroy myself."
HISAO: "Okay, that sounds unnecessarily grim. What do you mean?"
Rin's shoulders slump, and she turns to face me directly.
RIN: "I have to change. I've tried, but this is not enough yet. I have to destroy myself first, I think."
HISAO: "Just be to be clear - you are speaking metaphorically, right? Like, learning to paint from scratch again or whatever, so to speak?"
She shrugs her shoulders as if there's no difference.
RIN: "There is no difference."
HISAO: "So... you are going to start... by smoking a cigarette. For inspiration?"
RIN: "Maybe. I've never tried this before. Have you?"
HISAO: "No, can't say I have. Still, I'm not really sure if having a smoke is the best starting point."
She responds to my words with another nonchalant shrug. I open the cigarette pack and look inside. It's almost full.
HISAO: "Smoking is bad for you. But that's the idea here, I guess?"
RIN: "Yes. I need to do something. I want to paint. I need something more."
HISAO: "So okay, fine. What's after smoking a cigarette, then? How do you intend to destroy yourself?"
Rin thinks for a split second, averting her gaze like she does when she doesn't want to get distracted.
RIN: "I don't know yet. I'll decide later."
This image, and its other versions in this scene, slowly rotate clockwise.
Rin bends down to pick out a cigarette from the end. She raises her head with one between her lips and turns to me, eyebrows curved into two arcs challenging me to respond. With a sigh of resignation, I pick up the lighter and raise it to meet the cigarette. I can feel Rin's warm breath against my quivering hand. The flame flickers to life on the third strike of the flint and I try to aim the dancing fire at the end of the cigarette. An amber-colored glow spreads into the wrapping paper and tobacco as Rin inhales the first smoke. It seems to relax her significantly. To my surprise, she doesn't cough, despite telling me that she's a first-timer. Rin seems to remember that it's hard to blow the smoke out without spitting the cigarette out as well. She quickly sits down on the floor, bringing her foot to her lips like a circus contortionist and expertly picks the filter between two toes. I get down on the floor as well, and we both lie down almost simultaneously while Rin blows a steady stream of smoke towards the dim sky beyond the glass of the skylight, looking after it thoughtfully.
Katawa Shoujo OST - Lullaby of Open Eyes
The thin haze of steely blue smoke slithers towards the ceiling in fish-like movements. It billows in the stagnant air of the atelier, twisting and turning around its own immaterial body until it dissipates in thin air.
RIN: "What's the word for smoke that looks like that?"
HISAO: "There is no word for that."
RIN: "We should maybe come up with one."
Rin takes another quick, experimental drag.
RIN: "It's not very tasty. Feels like inhaling the dust lying on top of a forgotten book about the memories of a dead kingdom. Do you want to try?"
My hesitation unintentionally surfaces again, making me freeze in the face of a rather trivial and commonplace challenge. Rin's ability to take everything so coolly is something I'm a bit jealous of.
HISAO: "All right."
Taking it from her, I have a drag on it, fighting against the sudden choking feeling in my lungs as they fill with smoke. To my embarrassment, I fail, wheezing and hacking my lungs out. I feel flustered, but maybe I haven't lost too much face in Rin's eyes.
It's less unpleasant on the second try, but I still pass the cigarette back to Rin. We're like a pair of budding delinquents in middle school, sneaking their first smoke out of sight of their teachers and parents. Well, I suppose it's not like, that's exactly what we are.
After a while, the cigarette has shrunk most of the way down to the filter. Rin is still looking quietly out of the skylight. With her looking out there, the silence inside the atelier seems to deepen even more. Are the cogs of creativity turning behind those eyes right now?
RIN: "Do another one."
I mechanically pick another cigarette, light it and place it on Rin's lips. She takes a few quick puffs and moves it awkwardly around with her lips.
RIN: "Fhake if."
Not understanding her garbled words, I glance over at Rin. It looks like she's having trouble with the cigarette. I pick the cigarette from her lips and place it on mine, abandoning common sense and good reason while I do so. The first one should've been enough for me, but I take another drag, still coughing a little at the unpleasant sensation of smoke invading my respiratory organs.
HISAO: "I remember doing something like this before."
RIN: "So you have smoked? Doesn't look like it, though."
HISAO: "Nah, lying on my back and looking at the sky with you."
The sky on the other side of the glass is slowly growing darker. It's unreachably high, even if the shimmering smoke seems to make it closer. I return the cigarette back to Rin's mouth. It feels bad, somehow. The space between us, less than arm's reach, is still there. It's the distance between us, the immeasurably wide chasm of thoughts and feelings that separates us with graver certainty than even light years of physical distance could. By saying the right words, there might be a way to make that chasm narrower, even if it's just a little. I tried to cross that gap with one big step, but Rin turned me back.
I glance at her out of the corner of my eye. Rin is staring upward through the smoke-filled ceiling and the skylight at the darkening sky above us. It's almost like she is sleeping even though I know she isn't. Her eyes are open, as is her mouth. I take the cigarette from Rin before it falls on her cheek. She doesn't react to my touch in any way. So, this is where we are now. I wonder if we can ever be closer than this.
I take a drag of the cigarette and blow a thin stream of smoke upwards. These indirect kisses are the only things that connect us right now. The taste of Rin's lips on the filter, mixed with the ashen taste of the smoke. Her soft lips against my fingers as I press the cigarette on her mouth, as if she was placing kisses on them. The ash, softly falling on the floor between us like snow. As the second cigarette is being finished off, I'm already lighting the third one. The only thing breaking the stillness of the atelier is the inaudible sound of smoke floating towards the first stars blinking overhead.
Light nausea hits me by the fourth or fifth cigarette. Before long, the shape of the waxing moon appears in the skylight, shedding her wan light down on us. It'll be full moon in a few days.
HISAO: "It'd be nice to be able to fly."
I flinch after realizing it was my own voice that gave birth to the remark, the bastard child of the almost inebriating smoke and tiredness.
RIN: "You can't?"
HISAO: "You can?"
RIN: "Sometimes I feel like it. Like I can do anything."
HISAO: "I wish I felt like that too sometimes."
I wonder if she hears the bitterness seeping into my words. The vicious cycle of unrequited feelings is poisoning me, even now. I try to push the grim thoughts aside. My efforts meet with little success as my mind keeps swirling around what-ifs and if-onlies. Watching the moon slowly creeping higher, I realize that a long time has passed since I came here. It sobers me somewhat, but also reminds me of the sad status quo we're in now.