A few days have passed since I escaped from the danger of being falsely accused and thrown in jail, and now February has arrived. A month has already passed since the New Year.
Time seems to be flying by. Is it because I am spending a lot of time or because I am getting closer to adulthood?
My sense of time has always been vague. When I am happy, it feels short, and when I am in pain, it feels long. It all stretches and shrinks according to the state of mind at any given time.
So now, as I stand at the school gate with an article published by the newspaper club, just like the people handing out tissues on the street, I feel the flow of time very slowly. Various uniforms are being sucked into the gate of the school. They are all looking nervous and staring at their reference books as if they don't have time to spare.
Feeling sorry for them, I hand them a newspaper with a model photo of me and Alina, saying 'good luck'. The junior high school students took it thinking it was an official pamphlet. It is an ugly way of taking advantage of the human mind. I felt a pang of remorse, but I handed the newspaper to them again. If the number of newspapers reaches zero, I can go back to the greenhouse.
I wonder if there is anyone who would like to receive them in bulk.
Yes, today is the day of the exam of the school. So I am handing out one of the newspapers that I have completed in the past few weeks.
The distribution itself should be left to the newspaper club, but once again, a certain edible bird of the student council has come up with an unnecessary demand: 'Alina will motivate the students to take the entrance examinations. So far, so good. The demand has nothing to do with me at all.
I was planning to go to the cleaning locker when Alina pointed a finger at me and said, 'You too. I turned around and said, 'Nobody's here,' but the moment I saw her holding a ballpoint pen backwards, I gave up.
So there I am at the school gate handing out newspapers to junior high school students who are at a crossroads in their lives, and as the food bird said, most of them pass by the school gate toward Alina instead of me. I was standing at both ends of the gate, so I was not mistaken, but the difference was clear and obvious. I wonder if there is a wall on my side that only they can see. Or am I already dead and I don't know that I am a spirit?
Alina, on the other hand, smiled a sickeningly human smile and said, "Good luck! And he distributes them like a good guy. Those who pass by look at you three times and turn around. I cursed them to break their necks. But God sent people toward Alina as if in mockery.
I was sad. An unfathomable sense of inferiority gnawed at me.
After a while I felt Alina's eyes on me. I glanced at her lazily. Then she put her hands in the air and pleaded with me.
Give me some of that.
Perhaps this is what he meant. You can have it or you can't. I'm not even a third of the way down.
I handed the remaining 80% to Alina as she approached.
'Hey. That's too much.
'Sarcasm? Or are you a natural?
What are you talking about? Enough.'
You took 80% of the money as planned. Too much? It's not a lot for you. It's a matter of supply and demand.
The point is, people love newspapers with Alina's genes in them more than they love me. Gene fetish. Gene fetish. Middle school kids are scary these days. I can't keep up with them.
The closer we got to the closing time, the fewer people showed up. The parents of the students who had accompanied me to the examinations were leaving the school, and this job was coming to an end.
We decided to turn around, thinking that they would not come back.
All right. Report to the newspaper department. Let's go home.
'You're still here. I've already given out what you gave me. You slacker. Aren't you ashamed to be alive?
'There is such a thing as the right person for the right job, and this time you just weren't the right person for the job, Alina. Yes, I am ashamed, frustrated and sad. Did you not feel sorry for my right hand that kept wandering in the air?
'Shut up. Stay away from me, you'll give me incompetence.
'I'm going to cry'.
That said, I'm glad it all ended well. I'm glad you could read it, even if only a little, because it was nerve-wracking writing. It is true that I tried my best even though it was poorly written. Regardless of what you may think of it, I hope you will think something or feel something from it.
I returned to the newspaper club and reported to Toma immediately. Today is the day of the examination, so all the students are absent except for the sports club. He is also absent, but he came out because he felt bad about leaving me and Arina in charge.
I really wanted to apply to the student council for a compensatory holiday. If I refuse, I'll run to the Labor Bureau.
'We have a few left, but we've finished handing them out.
'Oh! That was good! What's the reaction?
I was not likely to have enough time to look through the newspaper because I was taking an entrance exam. Well, maybe he'll read it when he gets home?
''Right! Let's hope they didn't throw it in the trash on campus!
That's the truth. If I find one, I'll do my best to identify it and make it so you can only eat tomatoes for the rest of your life.
'It's okay. I'm on it.
'I'm so angry at your sudden self-consciousness.
'They look at me too much. I thought I was going to pluck out their eyeballs with a spoon.
'I'm sorry but Tsuru was right, you were a big presence. I've missed you though.'
'Let me comfort you.
Don't point the tip of your ballpoint pen at me. And, 'I'll make it easy on you,' is the right line.
All business done, we decided to leave the school. Toma was going to stop by the student council, so Alina and I decided to go home first.
I tried to keep my distance from him, but we were on the same route home, and it was difficult for me to leave him, so I quietly walked with him. It was already noon, and I was thinking about having dinner when I got home, when Alina called out to me as if she could see right through me.
Do you want to drop by somewhere?
What's with the date-like attitude? Or did he read my mind again? Even so, it's a big storm today to ask her out. But it was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky.
We were just coming to the mall, so we decided to have lunch at the food court there. It feels immoral to wander around in uniform in the morning. I'm afraid of being arrested. I have a good reason.
We go through a few awkward areas until we get to the food court. It was really awkward to see many stores with a special Valentine's corner at this time of the year, decorated with sweet words in big letters. There was a slight hope that Alina might give me a valentine, but it was very difficult to feign indifference so that she would not know it. For us boys, it was both exciting and painful.
Fortunately, Alina did not touch us at all.
It's crowded at lunchtime, isn't it?
I ordered a hamburger and a Coke, and Alina ordered apple pie and coffee.
While we were wondering what we were going to talk about until our orders arrived, Alina started talking to us, which was unusual.
'So, how are you doing?
'Put in the subject.'
Too little information. Are you playing a game where you can't talk for more than three seconds? Your words always contain less information than the names of ingredients in tomato juice.
'Have I changed in your eyes?
Of course I've changed. My personality has softened a lot since we first met.
Don't you think it's a miracle that a man who used to reject everyone and open up to no one is now sitting across from a man like this? The angle of his eyebrows was raised, and his face was stiff and mouth-watering, but over time his facial expressions became more and more varied. He began to laugh and to show sad expressions. Those who can say that this has not changed, please raise your hand. I will remove your shoulders and make it impossible for you to raise your hands.
She may not be aware of the change because she is the one who does not notice the change the most.
"You're a different person.
'Hyperbole. It's like your life.
No, no, I'm not exaggerating. No, no, I'm not exaggerating. I've been watching you closely for the past few months and I'm telling you. You're in good hands. Things are looking up.
'Well then. Do they not want you anymore?
I've heard similar words from the angel Alina. It was at the festival, when she told me that she was going to leave me alone because I would be a nuisance.
Since the project had started with an abstract theme, the cure project would end ambiguously. It will be over before you know it. I knew from the beginning that there would be no decisive decision, so Alina's statement was in a sense the end.
'Hmmm. I'm kidding.
'You still need me. That's great.
'Don't get carried away, sludge.
Yes, yes. By the way, not to change the subject, but where are you going to go to college?'
The order had just arrived and the conversation was cut short.
The waiter drops down and Alina takes a sip of her coffee.
I see. Some national school. What about you?
I think I'll go to a private school in Tokyo. I'll have to borrow a ton of money for scholarships, so I'm a debtor in the future! Ugin-chan, help me out!'
'You're going to make it, aren't you? The problem is me. I don't want to be a ronin.
'There are plenty of universities you can get into if you put your name down, so don't worry.
'You think too little of me, boy.
Oh, right, a state school. National schools are tough. You have to take far more subjects than private schools, and you have to take the Center Test seriously. I think I'm going to have a mental breakdown. I lost my life in the high school entrance exam, and this time it's going to wear me down even more.
Even in my despair, hamburgers tasted good. The combination of a hamburger, the king of junk food, and a cola is the taste of abandonment. It is a way of easing my mind at the cost of my health. I'll have to reset with a tomato when I get home.
'Do you--do you like chocolate?
'Hmmm? Hey, hey, hey, what's with the Czech Republic all of a sudden? I've never been abroad.
Oh, ah, ah, ah, ah, the devil's candy. The source of all those young children being forced to work on cocoa plantations...'
'You're too cynical.'
'You know, diamonds are the worst. The rebels enslave the residents they kidnap to secure funds and make them look for diamonds ......'
'We're talking about chocolate, remember?'
'Maybe the developed countries should cool their heads for once ...... we have to take seriously that some countries are creating a cycle of suffering with our selfishness and worship ....... We have an obligation to do so......'
'Next time I'll stab you in the back if you go off on a tangent.
Don't talk about chocolate during Valentine's season! You have no delicacy! Can't you see that this is a time when boys all over the country are very anxious? When you talk about chocolate, it's inevitable that you'll say, 'Oh, Valentine's Day! Then you, as a girl, could be talking about who to give it to or not to give it to!
Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Let's talk about salted fish.
You don't seem like you'd get any chocolate. I'm sorry I reminded you of your trauma.
He's the devil.
But... Unfortunately, I get one every year. First, Ugin. Then my mother. Then Hakuna.
I get one every year.
'You don't have to tell me that you're my mother or sister, because that would be sad.
'I get them from people other than my blood relatives.'
Who are you?
'It's a specific secret.'
'This is Ms. Shirana. ......'
'Oh, I see. I understand if that's what you mean.
''Gee, it's my duty! It has been four years since I heard this preface. Looking back on it now, I'm living these days with a sense of guilt inside, wondering if it wasn't a duty. ......'
When I found out that Shirana was thinking of me, I knew that the Valentine's Day chocolates were meaningful, not obligatory. That's why I'm really scared of this Valentine's Day. I can't help feeling that things will get back to awkward with Shirana again. I wish the corporate strategy of "Valentine's Day" would be lost.
Whoever said that Valentine's Day is the day to give chocolates? Turn yourself in now.
Yes, the silence of high school students.
That's why we shouldn't talk about Valentine's Day between adolescent boys and girls. Unless you're a couple. Don't even think about it. If you think about it, you lose.
The chair is comfortable.
The guy in the back is glancing at Alina.
The earth is wonderful.
The universe is magnificent.
Gravitational waves are awesome.
Good news. I'll make you some chocolate.
'What? What? What, the Republic of Estonia?''
My head can't keep up.