Again, I Had the Same Dream – Chapter 2
The next morning, while I was putting on my indoor shoes next to the shoe rack in my elementary school, I encountered a person I didn’t like. If I could describe my emotions with a color, it would be grey. Some people might have described my feelings as blue, but I liked the color blue.
“Oh! It’s the girl who’s going crazy!”
The voice which came from inside the school contained not a single shred of intelligence. I sighed loudly and spoke.
“You guys can’t even score higher in tests than this crazy person. I just noticed, but you guys are really dumb, aren’t you?”
I felt satisfied at the angry faces of my idiot classmates, so I refused to continue speaking with them. I ignored everything else they had to say. Finally, they said something like “Quit bein’ scared,” which really made me want to praise their Japanese skills, and then left. I finished putting on my indoor shoes and walked into the school building.
A single voice from behind stopped my grey footsteps. I turned around and my expression completely changed when I saw the classmate standing there.
“Oh, good morning Ogiwara-kun.”
“I finished reading it yesterday. You know, Tom Sawyer. It was really interesting.”
“Is that so? Then I’m glad. Which part of it did you like?”
“Probably the part where they were painting. After that, I thought Tom was really cool.”
“Tom definitely has a fascinating personality. He’s smart too.”
“I also liked Huck.”
“Homeless Huck? Speaking of which, I’m going to-“
I was going to say something, but I cut off my words. It wasn’t because I wanted to keep Granny’s suggestion to myself, but because a boy walked up from behind Ogiwara-kun and gently bumped into him. I turned my back on the surprised Ogiwara-kun. He probably wasn’t looking at me anymore anyway. The boy who bumped into him was a good friend and classmate of his. Their physical contact wasn’t any sort of bullying, but just the boys’ unique way of expressing their friendship. Ogiwara-kun wasn’t bullied nor was he a bully. Instead, he had a lot of friends.
On the other hand, I who didn’t have friends in my class chose to turn my back on them. But like Ogiwara-kun, I also wasn’t the subject of any bullying. It was just that all my classmates other than him seemed to either hate me or didn’t feel comfortable interacting with me. It was that way even though I had never once been bullied before.
That’s why I chose to leave before Ogiwara-kun’s friend started to feel uneasy around me. After all, a girl should not intrude in between the friendship of two boys.
Before heading to my classroom, there was another place I wanted to stop by. The library. The library in my elementary school was open in the mornings, which made me very happy. Instead of waiting in the noisy classroom until Hitomi-sensei arrived, I preferred being in the quiet library.
When I entered the library, I was greeted by the gentle librarian and the unique smell of books. I asked her if this library contained ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ which Granny told me about yesterday. After my question, the librarian led me to a certain bookshelf and then left me to find the book for myself. “If you like reading, then you probably also like the thrill of searching for a book,” she had told me before. I thought she was exactly right.
I immediately found ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ and took it off the shelf with an excitement that made my fingertips tingle. I took off my backpack and sat down in a nearby chair.
The feeling of opening a book to its first page was one that could not be compared to anything else. It was a shame that surely nobody in the class other than Ogiwara-kun and myself had experienced it before.
Alone, I took my first small step into the story of Homeless Huck.
The library was a great place. It was quiet, smelled nice, and the librarian was a kind person. But there was also a single thing I didn’t like about being here. That one thing was how I would sometimes be too caught up in the middle of a book.
I had forgotten that I was at school until the librarian called out to me. Like always, she called my name a little while before the morning bell rang. I then returned to this world after having been gone for some time. After checking out ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ and putting it in my backpack, I said goodbye to the librarian and the books.
The hallway was quieter than it had been when I arrived at school. I walked down the hall, took the stairs up one step at a time, and headed towards my classroom on the third floor.
I reached the classroom, and after ignoring the boys running along the hallway, entered the room. Nobody noticed my entry. Like always, I made a beeline to my seat in the back of the room. Taking off my backpack, I sat down.
Kiryuu-kun, who sat at the desk next to mine, noticed my arrival and hurriedly closed his notebook.
“Good morning, Kiryuu-kun.”
“G- good- good morning, Koyanagi-san.”
He spoke quickly, as if I was angry at him for pulling some sort of prank. As he said his greeting, he tucked his closed notebook inside his desk.
“What were you drawing?”
A lie. Since he sat next to me, I knew he was lying. He had been drawing something. He often sketched in his notebook during class. Even though he tried hard to hide it, it was easily visible from my position next to his desk.
Because he was a talented artist who could draw very beautifully, I thought he should show off his drawings more. But he didn’t. There had been incidents when the idiot boys teased him for drawing quietly by himself. Many, many incidents.
“Kiryuu-kun, life is like a tooth with a cavity.”
“Wha- what do you mean?”
“If there’s something you don’t like, you should deal with it quickly. If you get teased again for drawing, you should just spit in their faces.”
I said so after hanging my backpack on the shelf behind me and sitting down once more. Without looking in my direction, Kiryuu-kun replied “I- I can’t,” in a quiet voice.
“You can’t act weak like that,” I advised him. At that moment, the bell rang and Hitomi-sensei entered the classroom. Everyone loved Hitomi-sensei, so atmosphere in the room brightened just from her entry.
“Good— mor— ning—“
As the class representative, Ogiwara-kun led the greeting to Hitomi-sensei. And with that, another boring school day began.
First period was math, second period was social studies, and third period was when Hitomi-sensei taught the lesson about happiness that she was telling me about yesterday. I wanted to brag “I was actually told about this yesterday,” but because Hitomi-sensei had told me to keep it a secret, I kept quiet about the lesson and the chocolate.
We read a story from the textbook and then thought about the protagonist’s feelings. Without even the chance to discuss about happiness, fifty minutes quickly passed. Hitomi-sensei announced that fourth period today would be a continuation of third period. I agreed strongly with her idea, since I thought that only fifty minutes wasn’t enough to finish this lesson.
Fourth period started off by having each of us think about our own happiness. The students formed groups of two and were told to think of a list of things that made us feel happy.
My partner was the boy who sat next to me, Kiryuu-kun. He was a quiet person who didn’t talk much, so I led the conversation.
“Yesterday, I ate a cookie with ice cream on top. Eating that made me happy.”
“What about you, Kiryuu-kun? Did anything happen yesterday?”
“I, um, the ohagi that my granny made was very delicious.”
“Grannies always make good snacks, don’t they?”
“Yeah. My mom makes good snacks too, but they’re a different type than Granny’s.”
“Your mom makes snacks for you? I’m jealous. My mom is never home until evening.”
Like that, the two of us chatted about various topics and wrote them down in our notebooks. We made good progress and were even praised by Hitomi-sensei, who came by to check on us during the discussion period. But there was one thing that piqued my curiosity. No matter how much we talked about happiness, and even when I talked about my love for reading, Kiryuu-kun never said anything about his drawings. I thought it was weird, so I asked him.
“Aren’t you happy when you’re drawing something?”
“Um, I- I wonder. I like it though.”
“Then that’s also something that makes you happy.”
“B- but, when I draw, people make fun of me.”
“That has nothing to do with this!”
I declared in a voice that was louder than I thought it would be. Not just Kiryuu-kun, but the whole class looked at me in surprise. “I’m sorry, I got a bit too excited,” I apologized to Hitomi-sensei.
Hitomi-sensei replied “Try not to startle everyone else” in a gentle voice, and then the classroom was filled with chatter once again. “That’s not related to what we’re talking about,” I said again to Kiryuu-kun. Then, I wrote ‘Drawing beautiful pictures’ in my notebook. Kiryuu-kun hung his head and didn’t say anything.
Fourth period ended, the time for grabbing food from the cafeteria passed, and I spent the rest of my lunch break in the library. The library was louder than it had been in the morning, but was still much more peaceful than my classroom, so I was sucked into another adventure with Homeless Huck.
When the bell signalling the end of lunch rang, next up was cleaning time so I went back to the classroom to grab a broom. Kiryuu-kun was in the same group as me, so he had already started sweeping the classroom.
While we were cleaning earnestly, those idiot boys came back from the field and said something dumb like “You guys are gross for enjoying drawing and reading.” I replied, “Did you know? The definition of gross is your face.” I signalled Kiryuu-kun with my eyes that he should say something back too, but he stayed quiet.
Fifth and six period passed, and the end-of-day meeting finally came. I sighed in anticipation. Following that, it was time to say goodbye to Hitomi-sensei. Or that’s what I thought would happen, but she had an important announcement to make.
“The week after the next, we will have an open school day. I’ve spoken to everyone’s parents about this before, but it will be a time when your parents can take a look into a normal day of school. It’s an important event, so make sure you show your parents the notice that’s being passed around right now. Promise your teacher that, ok?”
After everyone said “Okaaay,” a piece of paper was passed back from the desk in front of mine. I read what was written on it, and then cheerfully put it in my backpack. I liked open school days, because I could show my parents how smart I was in class.
This time school ended for real, and without being called back by Hitomi-sensei today, I went home by myself like always. Then, as always, I left my backpack in my room. When I started to leave the house, I remembered something important. I returned to my room, took the open school day notice out of my backpack, and placed it on the table in the living room. After that, I headed out again.
Outside the apartment, the girl with the shortened tail was waiting for me like always. “Na—“ she greeted me, and then together we started to walk towards the large flowing river.
After climbing up the dike, another pleasant wind ruffled my hair and the girl’s short tail. Feeling in a very good mood, we sang together.
Before long, we and our singing voices arrived at the cream-colored apartment. We stood in front of the familiar door and rang the doorbell. On the first ring, I heard no noise coming from inside. On the second ring, the door still didn’t open. And on the third ring, the girl at my feet meowed along with the doorbell, but there was no response.
“It seems that Bitch-san is out today.”
Bitch-san was a busy person, so there were occasionally times when she wasn’t home. Throwing our disappointment to the wind, we gave up and took a different route back towards my place. Of course, I didn’t intend to head inside my own apartment. There was another set destination for me to go after leaving Bitch-san’s house.
As we sang, we walked between houses large and small, and soon walked by the apartment I lived in. Taking our usual path, we headed up the hill behind my apartment. I greeted the neighbours we passed along the way, while the unaffectionate girl simply waved her short tail and turned her head away.
“If you keep doing that, you’ll be hated in not just the human world, but the world of cats as well.”
But she just walked ahead of me like she hadn’t heard anything. We arrived at the base of the hill and climbed up between the trees.
At the open area on top of the hill, we stood before the wooden house and I promptly knocked on the door.
On the first knock, there was no response.
No matter how many times I continued knocking, turned the doorknob, or walked around the house, it seemed that Granny was not at home.
I sat down on the grass around the empty wooden box and crossed my short arms.
“How rare for both Bitch-san and Granny to be out at the same time.”
She seemed sad that she wasn’t receiving any food today.
“You can’t just stay sad like that. Life is like a school lunch.”
“Even when it doesn’t contain the food you like, it’s still enjoyable in its own way. Right?”
She appeared to not believe my words, and we continued descending the hill together. I thought that perhaps we would pass by Granny on our way down, but that didn’t happen. We walked until the park at the bottom of the hill. In the park, several children younger than me were racing each other while their mothers watched over them.
Now then, what should I do next? I tried to think. The girl with the shortened tail seemed like she felt quite sad and betrayed, so she rolled around at my feet.
In her stead, I began thinking with my smart brain. Then, I remembered something.
“On the way to Granny’s house, the road splits in two doesn’t it?”
“I just realized, we’ve never been down the other path before. Let’s see what’s there.”
The girl was still lying on the ground, so I poked her back with my toes. She got up reluctantly, and with a huge yawn, started heading up the hill again.
I followed along behind her, with sweat gradually building on my forehead as I ascended. Soon, we came to the crossroad that I was talking about. We usually headed to the right, but today we chose the left path for the very first time. Looking more closely, the left path eventually turned into gradual stairs. The girl’s mood had become better after the exercise, so she headed forward with a spring in her step. Cats sure lived a carefree life.
About five minutes passed. The scent of wood gradually grew stronger as we headed up, and a broken iron gate came into view. The gate, which had appeared almost magically, was open just a few centimeters.
I placed my hands on the rough-textured gate. As it cried out in a hoarse voice, the gate moved slowly. I was a bit hesitant and made eye contact with the girl with the shortened tail. But since we had taken the time to come here, we decided to continue through the gate. Just in case someone got angry at me and I needed an excuse, I practiced looking diagonally upwards and sticking out my tongue.
Past the gate were orderly stone stairs that looked different from the stairs we had taken on the way here.
I placed my feet firmly on the stone and climbed the steps. Before long, the stairs ended and we arrived at an open space with gravel spread all over the floor.
I was surprised at where we ended up, and I took a deep breath. I couldn’t tell if the girl by my feet was surprised or not, since she just said “Na—“ like always.
“I never knew there was a place like this around here.”
At the end of the road opposite to Granny’s house, was a place that seemed the complete opposite of Granny’s house. It was a building that reminded me of a square stone box. The window-like holes in the wall made this place feel similar to a two-story house, but I had no idea what the holes were originally used for. Since there weren’t any designs or signs on the building, it looked exactly like a stone box. The warmth that Granny’s large wooden house evoked was nowhere to be found in here.
Approaching the building, I noticed that there wasn’t even a door in the place that looked like the entrance. I hesitated slightly, then timidly passed through the gaping entranceway. The girl with the shortened tail looked like she had eaten all of her nervousness away, and she calmly entered the building. It’s a secret, but I was a bit scared as I chased after my little friend.
To start off, we looked around the first floor. There weren’t any rooms on this floor. The whole floor was open and empty everywhere I looked. It also didn’t seem like there were any other people around. The only thing that made this place appear more like a building than a box was a flight of stairs at the center. Thinking that the only place to go was up, the girl and I summoned our courage and climbed up the stairs. We’d sure been climbing a lot today.
The second floor was also empty. The square holes in the walls seemed like they were indeed intended to be windows, since some of them were surrounded by shards of glass. Of course, the glass fragments was dangerous so I didn’t touch them.
While I was looking around the second floor, I thought “Ah, there’s nothing in this building anymore.” It’s a secret, but I was really thinking that because I was scared and wanted to get out of this place already.
But the reason I didn’t immediately start heading back was because I had noticed another flight of stairs leading upwards. Looking up from the base of the steps, I could see the sky above, so I realized that these stairs led to the roof. I once again made eye contact with the girl at my feet, and we decided to head to the rooftop.
Step by step, I left behind traces of my footsteps on the dusty stairs. When I finally drew level with the roof, my face was bathed in sunlight and I was comforted by the wind.
Then, my eyes met those of another girl. She was sitting with her knees to her chest and pressing a box cutter to her wrist.
On that day, as I experienced surprise from the bottom of my heart, I was reminded of the saying that ‘time froze’.
Then, a second later, time suddenly sped up again.
That was how I met Minami-san.