East Asian Friendship Drama

By the time I stepped outside, the leaves were on fire— heaving a breath, I closed my eyes and returned inside.

I forgot it was fall; I was tired.

In truth, I wanted to write. Well, to be more precise, that was my way of saying that I wanted to draw. In a way, it is basically the act of writing down something, not in words, but in images. But, of course, that still is, in all forms of technicality, basically drawing.

And so, taking up my sketchbook, sharpened pencil in hand, I set myself at the window seat and opened the window— where the September air brought forth the slight breath of the coming of winter soon to come; and that feeling swept me across my face, as if slapping me, or waking me, in a sense, to the scents and images of falling leaves and the sight of the orange sun setting over the horizon. The image of falling leaves would usually bring forth an image of warm-colored autumn leaves in most people’s eyes; but it doesn’t for me, it brings, for me, the simple image of falling leaves, green or simply just any dead or dried up old leaf in color, were they would fall and then flutter to the ground as they catch and block and let the sun twinkle and filter between their dances… that was the image of winter to me.

I wanted to draw it— so I lifted my pencil straight and set my hand firm on the rough paper, yet it just didn’t seem right to me. And usually, I wouldn’t let myself stop my own thoughts or ideas, and in a way that became a principle to me; a principle to drawing and to art in general. But this time, I just stopped my hand there, and hesitated, before letting it down as I turned my head and looked out the window again; feeling the breeze. Still, I don’t know how to explain it, but in a way it’s that feeling where it just doesn’t feel like it should be, like it shouldn’t be put into visual form; like it’s not something I should be doing. I know how I shouldn’t let myself do that since that usually leads to an art block in some way, yet I do; I just let that idea slip away with the breeze like a sheet of paper flapping and falling to the floor of my quiet room, as I sit on, ignoring it, watching the world out my window…

This apartment was the home I grew up in, the one my mother owned before she passed, in which the ownership of the place went to me as written in her will, including everything else like her money and such. And before this, I didn’t live here— I was living off in Tokyo, around Asakusa, attending university and later getting a job; though I eventually stopped working there after months of issues arising week after week with the manager. And so, last month, when my mother died— which was coming, and I knew it would happen around this time due to how ill she had become during recent visits, so I was not even that sad that she passed— I returned here and organized the funeral, where I began living here for a while; and that while turned into a longer while since I just couldn’t bring myself to get up and face the world again; I just wanted to stay here, even if my mother’s no longer here, which still makes me feel empty from time to time.

When I returned to this room, it felt like visiting a long abandoned place— the room itself, even though it was my room and the place was almost exactly the way I left it, with my bed and drawers and shelves and books and desk all still here; yet it lost its color and emotion, and the feeling of life it once had, as if it had lost it all long ago somewhere in the past long lost behind my back.

But now, at least, I could feel at home, even though I would revert to old habits from time to time where I’d call my mother and get no answer, which would cause me to go silent and shift into a different mood as I remember that she is truly gone now. Still, besides that, nothing else, really.

Looking out the window, I watched the cars move along the streets; a familiar sight and scene, though the cars were of newer models, and the shops had either grown old and had faced the years of weather, or had maybe even closed down while others may have even changed completely into a new shop, or had maybe taken a renovation, with a new signboard and stuff. And, in the distance, I could hear the sound of the train arriving at the nearby station, and then rolling away into the distance as the breath of people and life hang on in the air like clouds. Off in the distance, I could also hear the faraway wailings of the sea and the ships off at sea… crying out into the blue sky, filled with clouds…

Off across the row of shops and stores was the park, with trees all around, nearly covering the place like a roof or a ceiling of greens and some pinks and whites— and soon enough, summer would come and the cherry blossoms would blossom no more.

But looking at the park, what came to me wasn’t pictures or images of the leaves or petals of colors green or pink and white scattered over the floor and the pavement and stone, clean and grey, ungrowing of moss— it was a memory; the memory from years ago, back when I was in my second year of senior high. I don’t know why it came to me, yet it did. And upon alighting my thoughts onto it, I began tracing steps over the realm of memory as this illusory world of pinks and blank whites changed with each step into the past…

Back then, it was around the time the cherry blossoms were blooming in full— bursting with colors, white and pink, over the trees and the grounds as we; my friends, a boy and a girl, of whom I forgot their names now; walked down and sat down, where we watched the falling of the beautiful petals in spring. This wasn’t something we usually do— we were friends since junior high, and we’ve never done anything like that, not before this, nor after.

This time, we came because it was a rather special occasion— the girl had just been discharged from the hospital after some surgery and rehabilitation. I no longer remember what the surgery was for, but it was not anything too serious, and she was out before we all knew it. And while she was still bedridden in the ward, the three of us promised to have a hanami of our own once she’s discharged; and so, fulfilling our promise, we packed a picnic basket and invited her to the park.

It had been so long now, since those days, I just realized. So much had happened. The girl became the boy’s girlfriend the year after that, a month before graduation. And after that, I went out to Asakusa for university and never saw them again. I only heard from her afterward, in a casual conversation while I was in town, saying that the two of them broke up. Besides that, we never saw each other again, the three of us. And what I’m sure is that I won’t see that boy ever again, I’m not sure about the girl, but I’m sure that I won’t see him ever again, and what a shame it was, I now thought— he died two years ago in an accident, where he was hit on his bike by a speeding car on the way home.

Still, those thoughts didn’t stop me from pondering on into this lost past as I remembered his bright personality, his friendly sarcasm, and how he would always have a joke to cheer the both of us up whenever either of us were down. And that day, he was on overdrive trying to make this day the best it will ever be for her, and he kept on joking until she could laugh no more since the pain was too much; yet she said after, a month later, that that day truly was the best day in her life, at that point, at least.

She was a curious type, not too shy or reserved, nor too loud and open. She was just right, and she had quite an imagination when it came to things that were rather magical and surreal— they weren’t surreal in a way that they were weird or wacky in any way, but they were beautiful and rather introspective in some way; it was like something honest; a thing without form coming out raw from her own beating heart in that little chest of hers. It wasn’t my style, since I was more into realism; but her imagination was something even I would envy, it was honesty; just pure honesty…

And it was that day, after they finished eating and were now simply watching the petals fall around them, that she took the tissue and started drawing something on it.

She wasn’t good at drawing or painting, or in any sort of visual art— though she was good at drawing things on computers, like using Photoshop or Blender for 3D models and such. She liked using the computer, and she also liked social media, and she would post her creations for the world to see there.

That day, what she drew on the tissue was a square with a lot of scribbles and messy lines and dots all around the bottom of it. She asked the two of us what we thought, but that left us quiet for a moment as we try to understand what exactly it was that she drew. The boy tried to make a joke, but that only led her to pout at him for not trying. She turned to me, and I simply asked her to explain what she drew; honestly, I expected to get pouted at in the same manner, but instead she smiled and gladly went on explaining what it was. She called it the sleeping window.

The window sat there silently, on a wall faded off into the unknown. Outside, though bright and white, one could almost see the faint silhouette or shadow of a tree and its branches and leaves swaying in the breath of white. And in came the petals of the cherry blossoms fluttering in and scattering over the floor of varnished wood as the sunlight lit a fine glow onto the oak, reflecting off the windows and the glass as the rest of the room, unseen, was let in a faint, far and distant shadow. That was what she said.

And with it came a story, a short one, but still a story, of a mother who lost her son and husband. She lived in the house alone, without anyone around; no neighbors, no relatives around visiting, no one. And every day, maybe in the morning, maybe in the evening after doing the chores around the house, she would enter this small, empty room and look at the window and the petal scattered over the floor, continuing to add in amount every single day. In a way, my friend said, the petals were like a reminder of the days that went by without them— which was the reason why she stopped sweeping them. And, soon enough, the mother died an old woman— and so, with the house now empty, the window simply remained on open, probably asleep, waiting for the mother to come and look at it again…

It was a sad story, and the boy pouted about it and turned silent as he turned and watched the cherry blossoms fall in silence; this made her laugh at his sudden attitude. I don’t remember my own reaction, but I probably simply said that it was a sad story and continued to listen to her as she talked, maybe changing the subject, maybe explaining the story even further…

But that story captured me, here, right now, and I turned to the sketchbook in my hand again. I felt something in my heart, speaking to me, wordlessly, as I stared at the blank page. And, without another word, I began sketching out that sleeping window…

After finishing it, I smiled as I looked at it with reminiscent and wistful, dreamy, almost sleepy eyes. I don’t know what I did next, or if I continued staring at it, but before long I fell asleep— but just before I drifted away completely, I could just barely hear a soft woman’s soft, like a soft giggle by my ear, as I felt the sketchbook slip from my hands with a whisper goodnight…

October 10, 2020 04:34

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

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