It was so hot at the end of the summer it felt suffocating. My messy bangs had grown too long, hitting against my eyelids. I had gone two days without showering and the sweat and oil in my hair irritated me so much that I had to put it up with a rubber band.
Delving into your mind’s world and battling with the seven grave sins and the unknown eighth… I had spent one hundred and fifty-six hours on this nonsense that seems to come from a video game for second year students in junior high.
They had understandably deformed the female genitalia. ‘Lust’ opened and closed repeatedly with a ‘kupaa, kupaa’ sound. I killed every single one of them relentlessly, recklessly killing the summer of my first year in high school.
The cicada sang, "kupaa, kupaa." It was very hot.
What a lewd design. The thing ‘kupaaing’ on the monitor squirted weird liquid out of its centre. Trying to dismiss in my mind the fact that I hadn't taken a bath, I pounded every single one of these disgusting, filthy beings with a machine gun.
"Jintan, are they Jynx?"
"But its lips are so fat. Isn't it like Jynx's ‘hatoko’?"
This honey-sweet voice clung even closer to my skin than my sweat and oil.
"Do you know what 'hatoko' means, Jintan? It's your grandpa's little sister's child's child, you know? So that in Menma’s case is Kii-kun!"
Most likely I had been too hungry.
To have a gap induced from boredom and hunger is unacceptable, for it will allow unnecessary feelings to squeeze itself into it against my will.
At these times, one has to be decisive and swiftly fill this gap.
"... Let me eat some Shio ramen then."
"Wah. Shio ramen. Menma wants to eat it too!"
I went into the kitchen next to the living room and lit up the matchsticks inside. The connecting points on the gas stove seemed to have a poor contact. I ignited it by throwing some ashes into the place where the gasoline had flown, and a loud boom was heard.
I like Shio ramen. Having waited for the water to boil, I meticulously threw an egg inside so it wouldn’t be stirred.
“Ah, I want the eggs stirred! I want egg flakes!”
Right. I wouldn’t stir it. When I eat it, I would lightly poke the lunar-shaped egg to let the half-boiled egg yolk ooze out, crowning the noodles. This way of eating seemed much more mature than eating egg flakes…
“Boo! The egg is getting boiled! Stir it, quick!”
I would never admit believing in unreal things, for example: UFO, UMA, MRR, or spirits.
I had to regulate my breathing patterns with my nose, because at some point that I was unaware of, my breathing had become strained.
If I had to deny it, I should have to neglect it from the very start. If I were to be a bit wary of it, only just a little bit, it would be the evidence that I had already accepted it as reality.
“Ah. Look! It’s expanding already! Quickly stir it… Stir—it—quick!”
Three minutes. Give me three minutes and this will be done.
Nevertheless, those three minutes that seemed to fly so fast when I play games seemed so long now.
Noodles. Please, I beg you to become cooked as quickly as possible—thus I started to pray impatiently. At this moment, the malfunctioning, tone-deaf doorbell rang its out-of-tone ringtone
“Aren’t you going to open the door, Jintan?”
I would never open the door during my dad’s working hours, no matter how many times the bell had rung. This was what I usually do.
However, the things that human beings can neglect simultaneously are finite. Perhaps this ringtone was a godsend to help me.
(Let me get an escape by this chance.)
As I gave thanks for this coincidence, I turned off the stove. Now I couldn’t cook the egg into a beautiful lunar shape, and the noodles would also get mucky. Nevertheless, I had no other resort. I then walked to the door.
“Now is the time. Stir!!”
The eggs in the pot seemed to be swished and swooshed. I felt a stream of cold sweat sliding through my back.
When I opened the creaking door, in front of me stood the visualization of the ‘Lust’, a woman as if having its sexual organ slapped on her face.
Having lightly tanned skin, wearing tight aqua-blue suspenders, and being overly exposed—the way she deliberately showed off her immature sexiness- feels overly carnal, she made me uncomfortable.
“Hey. Things are going quite well for you .”
What an unlucky day.
Misfortunes never come alone. Rats. How I wish to whack them away: to use the machine gun in the game to shoot everything away, including this real thing and that unreal thing, penetrating them with bullets.
What would happen when this thing sees that?
“… Um. The class teacher told me to give you this, your holiday homework.”
The girl in front of me awkwardly stretched a pile of printouts to my face.
“Hah? Holiday homework… It’s already the end of August now. The holidays will be over after two days!”
I spoke back in reflex to this girl I hadn’t spoken to for a long time—three years of no social interaction to be exact. To my blurted doubts, she said, “It’s fine. After all, you’re always in the holiday mood. Besides, unlike you, Yadomi, I’m very busy.”
She said it with a commanding tone completely opposite to her frivolous appearance. From that tone, it was impossible for one to tell the fleeting of years, as if she had completely seen through me.
She was making me impatient.
“Then you can just dump it on me. After all, I wouldn't go to that stupid school!”
When I blurted this out, her aqua-blue suspenders seemed to have become heavier. Her lips twisted, yet she didn’t make a sound.
Was she trying to say something? Having noticed, I involuntarily started to concentrate on something…
Then my mind became completely blank, for I had unwillingly shown my mistakes. The girl intentionally aimed at my defensive mistake and quickly lashed a fierce comment at me.
“You should be ashamed of yourself.”
"You should be ashamed of yourself."
My blood rose and my ears became hot. What do you know?
I wanted to argue. I wanted to hurt her with extremely sharp, impulsive words!
“Eh, who’s there?
A sound came from behind me, cooling my heating head.
I didn’t look back, trying to see the reaction of this girl—Anaru Anjo. She furrowed her eyebrows as if surprised, but that was only a reaction towards me.
So, Anjo couldn’t see her?
“What’s the matter, Yadomi. You look upset.”
The problematic matter behind me screamed ‘Ahah!’ in joy when it heard Anjo’s voice.
“This voice! I know it! It’s Anaru!!”
Her naïve voice spoke the forbidden word.
“You… Don’t call her Anaru!!”
I interrupted her in reflex. Even if she was the visualization of ‘Lust’, saying this to her so bluntly was a bit too much.
Anjo’s face slowly turned into a color much more vibrant than brown.
“Ah, Ah, An… Don’t call me Anaru!”
She said the same thing as I did. But of course, she said it to me.
From Anjo’s perspective, I was the one who said ‘Anaru’. And she decided to completely ignore that bothersome thing touching her tanned skin and crying repeatedly, ‘Anaru, Anaru!’. No, she wasn’t ignoring it. She was…
So, this is truly…
Bam. I passed out.
I wasn’t like this back then.
In that summer, I didn’t have a problem with this heat and this painful sunlight that tanned my skin. During that summer when we were in grade 5 at Elementary school, we were always seen together.
There was an abandoned, coal-burning, small house on the mountain at the back of our school. We moved a lot of useless ‘treasures’ there and called it our 'Secret Base'. We played there for the rest of our summer. All my memories of summer were born there.
We were the ‘Super Peace Busters’.
‘Busters’ was a word we just knew and we just remembered, which seems to mean strong people. We had to safeguard peace and punish evil. With this sublime wish, we gave ourselves this name.
Of course, the first one to propose it was I, the captain.
No one denied my idea. No one cared. For at that time, I was the best at everything, be it running, calculation examinations, or even calligraphy—I had even gotten a silver award.
“Heh. Busters! Though I don’t understand, it feels really cool!”
Yukiatsu was number two. Although his grade in music was better than me, he couldn’t catch up to me in all other criteria.
“The word ‘super’ feels really strong…”
Tsuruko was a girl who did things at her own pace. She was pretty good at drawing, though, she always drew princesses or fairies. If only she could draw something else, then it would be a nice decoration to hang on the wall of our Secret Base.
“If we use this name, we will have to really safeguard peace seriously. Can everyone do it?”
Anaru was abnormally serious and did things according to the rules. For example, she would go sweep the Secret Base when no one told her so. She would even get angry when I wiped my nose with the collar of my jacket. She was exactly like the lady nextdoor.
“Mmmahh! It’s super cool! Jintan!”
Poppo, though small and timid, would take off his pants sometimes, which was very fun; hence, I liked to bring him around to play.
“Then it’s decided. Is it, Jintan!”
Then there was Menma.
Menma’s honey-sweet voice had always given me energy. She always cried, and when she did, her eyes looked like glass pearls filled with water from the ocean.
Her grandfather seemed to be a foreigner, and she seemed to be a quarter mixed. Her soft milky hair looked like sunlight could penetrate it. If you focus, you might even smell a faint fragrance of flowers from her…
Every time I heard Menma’s voice, I would rush to her, showing off the coolest side of myself.
Yes. As the captain, I had to run in front of everyone else. I could never trip and have an ugly side.
If I were to trip, I would rather fly away.
This was such a immature way of thinking, but I indeed had this feeling back then.
But the one to fly away wasn’t me.
The flapping sounds of B29 came from afar.
‘Super Peace Busters’ decided to investigate wars for the summer’s free investigation. With this vague investigation topic, we asked an old man nearby who had a problem walking.
“Ahah. I was just around as tall as you guys at that time. I escaped into the air-raid shelter, holding my little brother at my arms. My brother held my thighs tightly. It was a very warm scene…”
I looked at my own thigh.
A thin leg was pressing against my thigh.
She took my arms as a pillow, and slept near my shoulders. She had promisingly long eyelashes on her sleeping face. I lightly smelled the air—a faint fragrance of flowers.
“I… must be nuts.”
Buzz, the electric fan kept swinging its head, denying with its might anything in front of it. Although I had never noticed it before, it actually was quite gentle.
At the moment, I was in a seriously acute situation.
This fragrance of flower and this sleeping face were once registered in my mind before, yet I don’t remember them, because…
From the chest part of the dress, I could see the white bulging part that had the power and beauty to make every color lose their brightness. I looked at her tipsily. Everything I knew about her shouldn’t have been mixed with the feelings I have towards her now.
There was also that leg that bluntly pressed on my lower abdomen. It was like a fleshy, slick, bright carp. Her kneecaps bent into an acute angle. Even her skirt was curled up. Under that, though I could not see from this perspective, I thought it would be like…
If I don’t get away from the heaviness and the wriggle on my lower abdomen, things will get dismal.
I could never let my sexual impulses take over in this abnormal situation. Lightly and meticulously, I pulled away my wrists.
My heart thumped. I stiffened, not daring to move an inch. The wrecker blinked her eyes, bringing her long eyelashes in motion.
“Ah… Morning, Jintan.”
A soft smile then bloomed at me. This soft smiling face… Ahah.
It was the same as in my memory, making me dizzy.
“That’s great. You just fell over. I thought you would be dead.”
I thought… you would be dead…
I cried, jumping up violently, and then ran away.
Crack crack crack… Boom!
I rushed into the washroom, closed the door, and locked it, but this was not enough to make me assured, so I held it tightly with my hand.
“What’s the matter? Jintan!”
Bong, bong, bong. The door quaked.
A few months back then, when I entered high school for not even a week, I escaped outside and ran back home.
Everything was peaceful as long as I hide at home; however, I couldn’t believe there would be an intruder.
The place that could accommodate me had become narrower and narrower. My helplessness has grown to—If I were invaded even here, then I had no place to escape. This is my last defense: I had to protect it.
“Poo pooing? Hey, are you poo pooing?”
Can’t you even let me think seriously?
I would never admit unreal things. I don’t believe in anything pertaining to spirits, but if she really is real…
If she really is Honma Meiko…
Then why had she grown a bit from back then. Why… why?
“W-Why do you have to come to my place?!”
My voice was trembling. I realised even my kneecaps were trembling. What a shame. Nevertheless, this was an emergency situation. I was not the one to be blamed.
“Are you a spirit?!”
“Yeah, should be?”
“Not should be, but be! Why until now… besides, you’ve grown, why do you have to come to my place?!”
“Mmm… Even if you ask me I won’t know.”
She said she didn’t know.
This was an accentuation of speech that an anime character used in a hit anime. For this relieving tone, the trembling of my legs stopped without my noticing.
“But, let me guess. Menma probably wants to make a wish come true!”
“Wish… right. What wish?”
“Umm. I don’t know!”
How calm you sound. The tone of your voice sounded exactly like you wanted to gain pleasure from the situation I was stuck in.
“Ah. Jintan, come out!”
Although I was still afraid, my mind seemed to have become more stupid.
The situation I was in was too strange. If she were a spirit, she would have the look of a spirit and scare the hell out of me. Otherwise, this actually was…
“… It can’t come true.”
Menma cocked her head, making a little ‘eh?’ doubtful sound.
I rebuked her loudly, “If you don’t even know what your wish is how can you make it come true?! What do you want? You!”
“Ahah! Your saliva is spurting out! Bother! Look at my defensive wall! Eh~ Wait a moment…”
Menma put her hands under her chin, posing a face of contemplation.
“Yeah… a wish. A wish that could only come true when everyone is back together!”
“Right! Everyone is everyone! Super Peace Busters!”
Ah… There seemed to be something squiggling at the depths of my throat. This was a memorable, painful sound.
Super Peace Busters.
“Let’s first go get Anaru’s help! We didn’t make a good greeting just then…”
I quickly interrupted her to stop her from saying anymore.
“As you can see, she’s not the Anaru you know anymore.”
“Heheh? Isn’t Anaru, Anaru?”
She looked to have grown older, yet she was still a child inside—completely the same. She didn’t even hear what I had been saying.
“I was saying! She isn’t the Anaru back then. Even if you find that blonde, she wouldn’t help!”
“That means a dumb woman! To put it short, she’s not our friend…”
I freaked out looking at Menma. Her eyes with pale colors were welling with tears, like glass pearls filled with water from the ocean…
“No… I hate the Jintan who would say bad things about Anaru!”
“Hey. Let’s go find Anaru again, okay? Let’s go seek for her help, Jintan!”
That spirit forced me to find the past pals.
She forced me with dropping tears. This situation was too amusing. However, her tears were in sync with something for no apparent reason.
Right. This girl maybe wasn’t a spirit.
It was my psychological pressure, my trauma… my sense of guilt. It was a visualization of all that heat that lashed onto me in the summer.
When I put it this way, the reason why Anju couldn’t see Menma was convincing.
This was because the Menma who stood in front of me now was my own hallucination.
It was the hallucination I created at that summer to reproach myself at this summer.
Fu. I heaved a long sigh.
I puffed away all the surprise, wavering, and perhaps some of my edited over-sweet scenes from my stomach, puffing them out all in one breath.
“I understand. I’ll leave it to Anaru to help your wish come true."
With some tears still in her eyes, Menma bloomed a soft, delightful smile.
That’s right, I only have to ask for her help.
Then Menma and also me 'from back then' could accept it.
It wasn’t only Anaru that had changed, everything else did too.
The heat outside was even of a higher level than that in my home.
The dusk of late summer—how ashamed it was for these words with such beautiful pronunciation. The asphalt road had been heated. The back of my shoe stuck on the floor, unable to get a step out of the house. So, I didn’t move.
It definitely wasn’t because I was scared.
“Jintan, aren’t you going to greet your neighbours?”
Menma, walking in front of me, noticed the whispers of the ladies nearby who were looking at me.
Let me think. At this map—in front my house’s door—these people as enemies are ones that could be easily fought. I didn’t have a need to be sneaking around. I only need to look ruthlessly back at them, and they would quickly avert their eyes in apology.
There was no need to be afraid. These girls had absolutely no menace to my life. That’s right, I don’t have a need to abstain from their sight. But this might be a bit bad for dad, as he had never reproached me who had been squandering life. But if I was attacked, I could only defend.
I had completely used all my energy to fight off these small fries.
“Eh? Jintan. Shouldn’t we head this way to go to Anaru’s home?”
I was choosing which way to go. I wanted to choose a road that most students in my same school wouldn’t walk on. However, no matter which way I went, the roadside seemed to be the same. Everything was mountains, mountains, and more mountains, for this was the basin. Be it the supermarket or the park, the background was always mountains.
So there were many mountains. Could I ask for a mountain to vibrantly self-destruct or collapse? There’s no way of escaping at this rate.
It was only me who locked myself in place. I rejected all the feelings of the outside world and hid in a corner, for I hated this city.
“Anaru’s home. I haven’t gone there for a long time."
Menma, the mixture of my trauma and psychological pressure, the hallucination created by myself back then to reproach the 'present me’, was in a good mood.
“Anaru dragged Jintan into the house when Jintan suddenly fell down on the floor with a splat. After that, she even covered Jintan with a blanket!”
Is this for real…
“Then, she also turned off the stove, took the mucky noodles, and stored them in the fridge!”
That was way too much…
“Oh and, when she dragged Jintan into the room, she said, ‘it stinks!’”
If I had known earlier, I would have taken a bath.
“Anaru is really gentle! Ah, but Anaru she…”
I still interrupted her despite the fact that obviously no one could see her or hear her.
“She… Um. Could you stop calling her Anaru? Call her Anjo or Naruko.”
When I was small, I gave her this nickname without much thought. I called her Anaru by taking out ‘An’ from Anjo and ‘Naru’ from Naruko and combining them together, for I thought back then that everything was the coolest when making abbreviations. For example, referring Super Mario as ‘Sumari’, Final Fantasy ‘Fifa’.
Children are such deadly and lively creatures. If I had known what it meant, I would have given her a much more meaningful name than Anaru… however.
She didn’t hear a word I was saying.
‘The Traumatic Pressure Reproaching Menma’ was picking dandelions leisurely. This scene was overly natural—the flowers that bloom at this time are Common Dandelions—mum taught me this fact when I was small. I could still remember it vaguely.
Liquid oozed from the scar on the pinched flower. Menma put the scar side on my hand, the white liquid spread on my hand, printing the section of the side of the scar of the flower.
“Jintan seems to be feeling unwell, so I’m giving Jintan medicine!”
The reason why I’m feeling unwell is because of you—though I wanted to tell this to her, I swallowed my words as soon as I saw her natural smile, a smile so normal it was almost perfect.
“Ah, there are also some here! There are also dandelions here. Dandelions, dandelions, dandelions?” Menma sang arbitrarily while picking the dandelions. She would pinch the flowers with her thumb, and ‘prack!’, tearing the flower part off, taking the dandelion's life away naively.
Menma was a hallucination I created to reproach myself.
She didn’t say she hated me, nor did she use any power. She only used a bit to whack me, to tell me, to show me, that she wasn’t here anymore.
Ahah. Why would I so calmly accept this abnormal situation? Had my brain malfunctioned or stopped operating due to this summer heat?
Perhaps tired of the dandelion massacre, Menma turned to crawling onto the wooden face on the roadside, jumping along the fence.
My head still felt heavy... I stared blankly at Menma’s bare white foot. It wasn’t a foot of a small girl but a woman.
Speaking of which, she wasn’t wearing any shoes. Why would she appear like that when even her legs had grown? Perhaps it was because of the lack of experience in my trauma that the 'me back then’ couldn’t imagine the styles of shoes that young women would wear.
Menma suddenly screamed. My heart thumped. My mind became completely blank.
Menma was swaying on the fence, unable to keep her balance. She then slipped on the ten-centimeter-wide square safe zone of that fence.
That day, at that moment, I came to my senses.
I didn’t see the accident.
However, this scene repeatedly appeared in my mind, no matter how I wanted to forget it. It was like I was the one that experienced it—even the smell of moss and the touch of the soil were in my memories.
That day, I went home alone. Normally, I would still be together with everyone playing, but I got angry and ran away. When I think of it, that day I ate miso ramen instead of shio ramen. And from that day on I haven’t eaten it anymore. But actually, I like miso ramen more than shio ramen.
My dad’s car was parked at the door. He potently swung the door open. I felt a sense of aberrance. He opened the door in a flurry. Incoherent sounds of footsteps and the expanding aberrance added together.
“Jintan! Menma, she…”
I couldn’t hear what he was saying.
No. I didn’t want to hear. Yet, even when I had tried to terminate my ability to think, a scene flashed upon my eyes, a scene that forcibly filled my vision.
There was a trough slightly below the secret base.
Connected to the trough was a slope which led to a place with rotten pine cones, a vast, deep place with swift currents…
‘and fell down.’
I dashed to her.
I wanted to catch Menma; I wanted to catch the Menma who was now falling from the wooden fence; I wanted to change the ending that day. However, my hands couldn’t reach her.
Menma looked at me, as if she was freaked out. Perhaps she jumped down according to her falling direction.
Besides, she was just my own hallucination. She wouldn’t really die. Nevertheless, what was I agitated for? Feeling relieved, I felt a rush of bitterness and despite.
“What are you doing?! You…!!”
It was at that moment when I couldn’t help myself from roaring.
“… What are you doing?”
A male voice completely different from mine was heard from behind.
It was an unfamiliar and low voice, but that voice seemed a bit familiar nevertheless. My heart thumped greatly, going out of control.
The man standing right there had the uniform of the high school I wanted to enter.
He was number 2 of Super Peace Busters, Matsuyuki who lost to me a little bit in everything. Standing beside him was Chiriko who did things at her own pace…
When was I caught by them?
Were you so strong back then?
Or was I who tripped and fell?
“What are you doing? Are you all right?”
“Ah! Ahah… No.”
There wasn’t anything, and I wasn’t sure what was happening. I knew deeply that I used the Japanese wrongly. I averted my eyes and wore on my hat.
I had to get out of here, quick.
“Wuaghh! It’s Yukiatsu and Tsuruko!”
Menma screamed in joy, running towards them, not paying any heed to my feelings—was it a part of reproaching me?
“Hey. Let’s get out of here, Menma!”
Words slipped out of my mouth due to my irascibleness.
Matsukyuki’s face froze instantly.
“Hah? Are you saying ‘Menma’?”
Matsuyuki’s lips trembled lightly. Chiriko, feeling unpleasant, gazed at Matsuyuki and I repeatedly.
What came lashing on me was blatant anger.
“You. Are you still talking about that even now?”
Chiriko glared at Matsuyuki with her slanting eyes, but Matsuyuki didn’t care and continued, “I heard that you didn’t go to school, Yadomi.”
It was very hot under the nylon hat. It was about to boil.
Why would you know… No. Why would the captain be despised by number two?
Noticing the subtle atmosphere around us, Menma who had been shouting in joy just now had calmed down and looked at me worryingly.
“Having entered the worst school here and became a shut-in and at last would only call Honma Meiko’s name. Have you gone nuts?”
“Matsuyuki, stop saying that… Ah!”
You don’t have to tell me! I turned away and left.
Menma’s voice came from behind. “I hate the Yukiatsu who would say bad things about Jintan!!”
I didn’t run. I just accelerated my walking pace.
I didn’t want to be thought as escaping, nor do I want them to see me getting away with difficulty. Having turned through the street corner, I finally escaped from their sight. At that instant, my sweat came popping up.
No, I had already let them see myself getting away difficultly. The inside of the nylon hat was filled with sweat and felt extremely itchy. Not only was it my head, but my whole body was itchy, for I hadn’t taken any baths, even my blood vessels also…
“Jintan. Wait for me!”
Menma’s voice sounded from behind, but I didn’t turn back. I just stopped and stood still.
Menma’s bare foot had not a bit of a bruise. I understood now. I understood now what you wanted to do.
The young me was reproaching the present me.
The thing that hurt me, that completely fought me down, that let my heart filled with past regrets… you wanted to see this side of me, don’t you?
However, Menma, after all this had happened...
“After all this had happened, you should understand now. Everyone has changed… No.”
I staggered, then continued in a low voice, “and the one who changed the most is me.”
“Let me go.”
I turned around and faced Menma. For the back light of the setting sun, I couldn't clearly see Menma’s face. Nevertheless, I could see that her foot was small and had no bruises.
I wanted to smile, but my face muscles only formed a strange arc. But I couldn’t not laugh, for if I did, the past me would be unsatisfied.
Would the past me laugh his head off when he saw me having such a difficulty in laughing? It didn’t matter anymore. Go ahead and laugh. But…
“Let go of me… You may not understand, but I also have a tough life… after that…”
“Yes. Really tough… So, I don’t want to…”
I didn’t know what to say about something I didn’t want to happen again, so I kept silent and turned around and ran away. Even if she saw my forlorn back while running away, it didn’t matter anymore.
Not only because she was a hallucination I created, for even if she really were Menma, it didn’t matter for her to see me like this.
Back then I wanted to show her my greatest and coolest side.
Menma didn’t come to chase me.
I entered my dark room, turned on the lights… Pat. All the hidden things in the dark were shown.
The blanket was still left there; the electronic fan kept swinging as usual. I stepped on the on/off button with my foot and turned it off with my toe.
The mucky ramen was left in the fridge. It wasn’t an edible thing anymore, so I just left it there.
I heaved a sigh and lay flat down.
Entering the sight of my eyes were the prizes hanging on the wall of the room: calligraphy exhibition, endurance running, writing competition… this was the graveyard of my past glories.
Why—why did I become like this?
I flunked my examinations and entered an annoying high school… No, these things didn't really matter. These weren’t the real cause.
In the shrines lay my mother’s photo. Mum who lived long in the hospital died when I was six years old. It was right at the next year’s summer after Menma’s death. And thus the nearby ladies always gossip, “for he lost his mum in such a sensitive period”. They didn’t know a thing. This wasn’t the real cause either.
It was utterly impossible to find one thing to explain the real cause.
But there was one thing I was sure of.
At that summer, everything became different.
We had been the Super Peace Busters.
We protected the peace. I was the captain, of course, for I was number one in everything.
Matsuyuki… Yukiatsu, Tsuruko, Anaru, Poppo, and also Menma agreed to this. Everyone followed at my back, trotting—following behind me at all times.
Yes. That day was the same.
“Jintan… Do you like Menma?”
Everything started with that question Anaru asked.
I was suffering from this unexpected blow.
This question was strangely delicious bait. Everyone started to heckle with, “we want to know!” “Does Menma like Jintan too?” All kinds of thoughts popped up. I was filled with a mysterious pleasure, and blurted in anger, “You idiots!”, and thinking I would get away with it…
“Tell the truth. Super Peace Busters should not hide things from each other.”
Yukiatsu told me with a serious expression.
“Tell, tell… tell, tell?”
Poppo also racked things up with his stupid voice, the voice that was in sync with the rhythmic heat and the songs of cicadas. With a red face, Menma said, “ehhhh! How would this...” and got embarrassed.
As a captain, I even got forced by them to confess.
I was a bit angry. If things went on like this, my respect as a leader would be gone. To put an end to this messy situation, I blurted something out.
“Who would like such an ugly girl!”
The racked up chorus ended in an instant.
The cicadas were still singing… At the moment I cried it out loud, something in the corner of my heart told myself that things would turn really bad.
I thought she would cry.
For Menma was such a cry baby, but…
Menma smiled—softly and a bit troubled…
What was this kind of smile like?
The embarrassment hidden within the anger expanded quickly, and thus I escaped.
“Ah… don’t run away, Jintan!”
Menma chased me. Stop! Stop coming! If you come won’t we get even more suspected? So stop coming!
Menma fell down, but that didn’t stop me from running away. It was not something Menma raised, yet it pertained to Menma, hence my embarrassment and anger. That was what I thought back then.
Because Menma… she smiled.
I apparently tried to make her angry and hurt her.
Yes. I felt shameful of myself.
However, I could not put forth my feelings and speak them out. I only wanted to cry.
Dad should come back for a moment, and then go to the hospital to visit mum. Placed on the short table of a house shone by the setting sun was a bag with miso ramen. Beaten eggs with chopped onions were put in a big bowl wrapped over with a preservative film. Using these to deal with my dinner, yet paying much attention to the details—it had the style of my dad.
I turned on the television, letting it sit there, and boiled the noodles, hearing “Yooh” from behind, and also “ayoo, thank you for waiting everybody”.
Idling around and looking at the egg sink down into the pot, I made a decision.
Tomorrow, I would suddenly jump at Menma from behind and bind her neck with my arms. She certainly would fall down, and then at this time I would get a hold of her steadily to prevent her from falling down. Let me pull such a prank.
And then, I would cry out loud, “My dear Menma!”
I had even devised the tone of my cry and the details of binding her. This idea sounded nice, even I thought so to myself.
It was even funnier than the jokes on the television.
However, after long practice, I didn’t have the chance to employ it. I couldn’t apologise.
Menma had already died.
The Super Peace Busters.
As its name implies, we busted the perfect peace and got poles apart from each other without knowing it.
Was it because of Menma’s death?
No, even if Menma hadn’t had an accident, we were a lot further from each other originally. Be it our hobbies, the colors we liked, or the jokes we liked—all of them were different.
It was only because we were too young to notice the decisive disparity… and got together by luck. So, separation was inevitable.
What had I been saying about “let me go”?
Sure, I had been having a tough life. Five years had passed since Menma’s accident, but when I think of Menma, the place near my stomach had a feeling of clutching together.
However, I didn’t reckon that I had atoned for my sins. For it was of my cause that Menma would… even if my trauma didn’t find me trouble—even if I was not reproached—I would still be clung with impulse to destroy myself.
Yet, why would I see Menma?
At that time, she would always call me with such a honey-sweet voice. She was a cry baby, yet she smiled at that time.
On that day, I really wanted to apologize… to say sorry to her. Indeed.
I wanted to say I was sorry to Menma.
A current went through my spine. I couldn’t wait any longer. I rushed out the door with an impulse that couldn't be left waiting any longer.
At the instant I clung my shoes, the door opened. Dad had got off work and returned.
“Ah. Eh. Jintan, where are you going?”
“Just for a round!”
I ran past my dad and dashed outside.
Go… to the vicinities.
The roadside scene faded away with my heavy breathing sounds.
Compared to the dashing speed and the pleasure of fighting with wind my mind created, the real me was worn off quite soon, my legs becoming soft, about to collapse. After that, I couldn’t stop myself from screaming out, “If I were to trip, I would rather fly away!”
I had always wished.
I had always wished for the day after that day—the day I could apologize to Menma.