“Who are you?”
Kominato asked, eyes narrowed, his face stern, a bitter tone laid over his words.
The young woman before him simply sat back, smiling amused, her expression telling of something mischievous in her intent, a spark of something in her eyes. She smirked, the smirk then turning to a grin.
The hell’s with her?
For the first time, she broke their eye contact, at once averting her gaze to the trees or the edge of the park, where the city arose beyond the fringe of green. The constant eye contact disconcerted him, making him deeply uncomfortable on the inside, especially with how “off” her gaze felt; it felt as if he were some experiment she were staring at, waiting, watching for her own amusement to see how he’d react.
But now that she looked away, his discomfort merely doubled, making him wonder why she even looked away in the first place.
He didn't even know why she looked at him at all...
He only came to the park wanting to get away from the disorder of his daily life. When he neared the park on the way here, it only became increasingly obvious to him how the confusion and impersonal nature of the urban world, built of concrete and steel all grey, had thrown him off.
He didn't consider himself an interesting person, either. He was nothing but average. Utterly, excruciatingly average. He was just an average man living an average life, born in an average household in an average side of Tokyo (whatever that is), gone to an average school with banal, near cookie-cut friends, and now going to an average, not at all renown college while living in an average, run-of-the-mill apartment.
He was just like everyone else. A man made to serve society like an ant. Born only to function as another cog, and not someone special. Hell, society probably didn't see anyone as special.
Besides, anyone who tries to be different gets ridiculed, anyway...
He felt like an isolated being, like a man on the verge of stepping off the edge of his deteriorating mind as the edge crumbled, coming closer and closer to his feet, forcing him to back away every time, as he felt the darkness overwhelm him, like some shadowy being.
It’s as if it were trying to devour him, to suck him into the void down below…
“Thinking, are you?”
For the first time, the young woman spoke.
He had been trying to talk to her this whole time, seeking an answer each time he asked why she was staring at him, why she wouldn’t stop following him, following him even to the edge of the pond, with her sitting back at the bench behind him.
How confusing; everything is…
“I’m sorry for ignoring you,” the woman added. “I’m just intrigued.”
“Intrigued? How does that have anything to do with me?”
“It does,” she smirked, “I’m interested to see how this goes.”
How what goes?
Did she just read his thoughts?
Kominato looked at her, dumbfounded.
Saying that, it only made her smile even further, as if it had amused her somehow.
He really is a guinea pig to her experiment…
He narrowed his eyes; annoyed.
“Why do you want to know my story? You don’t even know who I am.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Kominato, am I right? Eiji Kominato.”
He was stumped.
“H-How do you know that? Are you stalking me?”
“No. Not at all,” she said, stifling a laugh. “Your writer’s a genius; how can I not be interesting in what happens next?”
“What the hell are you saying?”
Was she high or something? She didn’t seem to be; in fact, she seemed in control, as if she were some movie director making a cameo in her own movie as a fortune-teller. She seemed to know what she was saying, to know what was happening.
“And I’m not crazy.”
That settles things.
“Teehee! It sure does.”
At this point, he couldn’t help but find it annoying. Why couldn’t today just be a normal day for him to just sit back and relax? Without all this nonsense trying to clutter up his head?
He sighed: the hell.
“What do you think the meaning of life is?”
“Why are you asking me?”
“I’m not asking you.”
“Then who the hell are you asking?”
“What do you mean someone?”
“You know who.”
“The one listening to us.”
He looked around— but of course, there was no one listening to them.
A young boy ran by, wearing a pair of Nike trainers; a middle-aged couple sat under a tree in the distance, having a picnic under the calm shade of the leaves; and an old man halted in his steps, cane in hand, looking up at the sky, squinting his eyes— no one else, besides the ducks.
“You don’t have to look around, you won’t find them. But by now they’d know that I’m talking about them.”
“You’re not making any sense at all.”
“That’s fine. All I know is that it’s fun seeing you like this, oh-so unaware of what’s happening.”
He decided to shut up, there’s no use; his head was already a mess and he didn’t want to make it worse.
But what did she mean by writer?
Was someone watching over them? And did that person create him and everything around him?
Was the writer dictating his actions?
Or was he dictating the writer?
What did this all mean? In fact, why was he even thinking about all this?
Or were they both dictating each other?
He found himself pondering…
Who defines the meaning of life? Humans, or some unseen being? Existentialism or Essentialism? Or is it possible for things to be both?
Free-will or determinism?
Where things real or not? Mind over matter? Matter over mind? Mind and matter?
What’s the truth? And does truth even exist?
“Simple as the truth,” someone said to him once. But was that statement even true, either?
Who determines the truth? Or does no one?
Why the hell is he bringing up philosophy again? He’d graduated three years ago!
But right then, feeling it all build up within him, he turned to the sky…
He could hear the young woman laugh, he could hear her— but it didn’t matter anymore…
And so, feeling it all within him, he shouted out,
“HEY!! ARE YOU THERE?? GIVE ME A