For the very first time in my life I was woken up by a regular electronic alarm clock.
This might strike you as odd because you probably are someone who had the chance to lead a regular life so far, but till now I have been woken up by the weirdest things, including the deathly elbow blows of my female cousins, the screams of classmates and neighbours and there was even this time a maid walked in and...
Quick as something very quick, I opened the curtains and promptly let the sunshine in. With the windows open it was easy to see that I wasn't paying much attention during the move yesterday, this city seems really awesome. I have been in many, many places around the world (probably more than most TV channels, including the cable ones), but I still think this place looks great because of its simplicity.
It kind of reminded me of a small rural village I had the chance to visit once. It seemed really peaceful at the start, but after a festival dedicated to one of their local gods, I suddenly found myself trapped in a mysterious murder case. A brutal one. With time loops.
Maybe I am not that fond of simple places after all...
Still half asleep, I slowly crawled out of my bed and did my best to dodge the randomly placed boxes on the floor on my way to the flat’s kitchen, and if we just ignore that surprisingly tricky last box it will be obvious to anyone that I managed to complete said task marvelously. I wonder if there is a world record for that.
While the water boiled lazily, as if it was too tired to respect or even consider the laws of Thermodynamics, I too did something without paying it much attention: brushing my teeth. Having such a distracted mind in the early morning could give me enormous problems in the not so distant future. Most of them involved dental care.
However, finding myself in a numb state was not something usual(which is a great thing, considering that at the very least it postpones some rather painful visits to dentists). At that moment there was something disturbing me deeply: it's really incredibly hard to get used to silence when you were surrounded by noise your entire life. Actually, the absence of noise is not pleasing in said circumstances, but truly unsettling.
As you can already guess by now, this is the first day I'm living on my own.
It's pretty unusual for a teenager to do that, especially with their parent's consent (and I guess in my case, I could safely say "relief"). I don't blame them or feel angry about it. It's better for everyone, hopefully.
We have moved around many, many times, but this force I like to call Mystery always manages to find me. They eventually got tired of being in a different town every month and if I hadn't left, they'd probably have grown tired of each other. I couldn't let that happen, not when they gave up so much for me. So, I asked for their permission to live by myself. I wasn't expecting them to like the idea, though.
Which leads us to my first solo flight and the awkward taste it leaves in my mouth. No, wait, I can actually explain the awkward taste. Distracted as I was, I managed to mistake two things that were not similar at all and ended up brushing my teeth with soap. Well, I suppose it could be worse; at least my teeth are clean.
The tea kettle eventually became bored of heating slowly and, after making up with Physics, caused the water to quickly reach the proper temperature and whistle in an earsplitting high frequency that suddenly interrupted the house’s maddening silence.
Ignoring the shiny and nearly bubbly reflection of my teeth in the mirror, I ran to the kitchen to turn off the stove. After adding the hot water to the instant noodle cup, I look at my new whole-floor apartment through the kitchen bar. It seems really big, especially because I am fully aware there will only be one person living here.
My first breakfast alone was both silent and simple, and it tasted a little bit like solitude. And soap.
“I really need to stop doing this.” I said to the air, oxygen and carbon being my only companions. No, that was quite imprecise; I’d better take that back before the rest of the Periodic Table elements in my house start feeling uneasy. “Living by myself can be a good experience for me, and I might grow up a lot because of this situation. This self-pity thing isn’t good for me, and I'm certainly not going anywhere thinking like that...”
If reality was a perfect place, that would be the moment an incandescent light bulb would have magically appeared over my head, mostly for comedic effect, since I assume the sudden materialization of an object above my body for purposes other than comedy would be rather terrifying.
“...wait a second.” My monologue went on, finally bringing some action into such a monotonous setting. “That’s probably the solution; I need to go out! Yes, going out does sound like a fabulous idea to get rid of those unneeded feelings. The timing is perfect! I have a new city to explore and I bet there are many places worth visiting here.”
It sounded like a plan to me at the time. A much better plan than spending the day tidying the place up, which seemed quite pointless since I wasn’t expecting any visitors. It was a Sunday, for crying out loud. Sundays are for rest.
Surrounded by countless boxes I still needed to unpack that didn’t feel like unpacking, I quickly finished the flat’s soundless inaugural meal.
A few minutes later, I started my amazing journey through unknown city streets. There was a lot of green on them, but not enough to classify it as a rural town (hopefully). I could see some fancy shops and a few restaurants of famous franchises. I then realized that I had probably moved to a developing city. My parents sure did a great job buying real estate here, since its value will only rise as the city grows.
I can’t help but wonder what they’re doing right now.
The streets were surprisingly calm, even for a Sunday morning. Keeping in mind that the schools were closed, I supposed the city manages to be a look more crowded on the other days.
Without a proper destination, I walked through the streets and saw several great places to spend and, if it comes to that, kill time. It occurred to me that I could and presumably would bring my friends to some of those cafes and shops. As soon as I made some new friends, that is. Anyway, I guess hanging around in this city will be nice.
Before you manage to mess everything up again, right?
The mysterious yet recurring voice at the back of my head spoiled the whole moment for me. It's really hard to be optimistic about your future when the one pointing out the flaws in your plans is yourself. Especially because you alone can't argue with your own life experience, and every single discussion is pointless because it is nothing but a poorly written monologue in the end.
No, I won't let myself surrender to pessimism so easily. You can only fail if you stop trying, or so I heard. Obviously, I have heard a lot of sayings that didn’t actually work in real life, but that’s certainly not the point. If you haven't stopped trying, every apparent failure is just a step in your journey to victory. Perhaps just another failure, making it a series. Or just adding new elements to an existing set. Anyway, I won't allow myself to succumb to such a fate without even trying!
“Take that, mysterious voice!”
With my self-confidence reaching a new high, I continued walking aimlessly. I approached a bridge that directly connected the residential side of the city to the commercial one. Oh, so there were the big stores, the important buildings and probably the schools. Maybe this city isn't that small, after all. That’s a great thing, since big cities are less prone to unfortunate events such as, just an example, mind, time loops than rural villages. That’s common sense, right?
When I was just about to cross the bridge and resume my exploration, I was stopped by a magnificent, overwhelming vision.
Next to the bridge, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen was staring directly at me.
Her long, golden hair moved like flames due to that precise, perfect action of the wind that we only get to see in ads and fiction. The frilly one piece dress she was wearing was crimson red and combined with skin the colour of sand, made her look like the sun itself. Wait, why do I feel so poetic?
She, whom I could easily mistake for a statue of a Greek goddess, suddenly started moving and I felt my own heart skipping a whole beat. No, that's way too cliché and imprecise; actually my heart had a syncopated pause, a dotted eighth rest which marked a drastic change in the time signature of my heartbeat. Now that I think about it, ‘you make my heart go prog’ sounds like a fairly decent pick-up line for musicians. I can even picture it as a popular t-shirt stamp.
Anyway, it skipped.
As she sweetly came in my direction, I noticed that I couldn't move or look away; it was like her innocent face (that for some unknown reason perfectly matched her well-developed body) was made of quicksand, and I took far too long to realize that I was sinking.
She stopped in front of me, close enough for me to feel her delicious scent, the scent of raw sunflower seeds. The Sun smiled at me and tried to tell me something, but I was deeply lost in the smooth movement of her cherry lips. Once she stopped talking, I realized that I was missing something.
"I'm sorry, what did you just say?"
Now, I need to confess; I understood what she said, I really did. It would be weird if, after paying such devoted attention to her beautiful lips, I hadn't read what they were trying to say. However, I really wanted to see them moving one more time. Call me what you want, I don't mind. You'd have done the same thing, or wished you had.
"I said 'excuse me, what time is it?'"
"Oh, let me see..." I looked at my cell phone screen. "Exactly 11:45."
She smiled, looking so radiant I was afraid I would go blind.
"Thank you very much." She started walking away, then turned and waved to me. "Bye bye!"
I never saw her again.
Just like that. I know, it sounds unfair and kind of dull, but so is life. We could have been through many adventures or solved mysteries or even have common, peaceful high school years together. We'd probably face the possibility of being torn apart at one point, but just to set the scene and build a decent literary climax.
Yeah, a solid climax. If this was a manga or some sort of fiction, we'd probably have a dramatic reencounter under the rain (maybe snow, it depends on the author) with generic sad piano background music and a dialogue that involved the word "promise". No, a whole dialogue based on the word "promise". Yeah, that’s much better.
That was the shipwreck of our romance, I suppose: the fact that it never happened. I believe they call this tragedy.
Back to the story.
I still had a smile on my face (especially because I didn't know right then that I'd never see her again) when the cell phone in my right hand started to vibrate. As the dog biting The Fool in the Tarot's Major Arcana, that message worked as the call of the real world to me. It reminded me of something that I was so used to that I didn't even need to think about it. It was like a built-in mechanism, something that was hard to believe wasn't there from the start.
It was Ryo, and I shouldn't be surprised. She did know that I was supposed to arrive in her city yesterday. I forgot to send her a message saying that I was already here. Anyway, I was so tired from travelling yesterday that I just entered the apartment and went to sleep, without even looking at it. Yeah, I'd better use that excuse.
With that in mind, I pressed the button to read the message.
Where are you?
We didn't talk yesterday, you know ._.
My smile was so wide that my jaw hurt a little bit.
She usually talks like a guy and I blame the internet for her manners, so seeing her act in such a cute way sure is good for my self-esteem. Besides, it's nice to have a friend that actually worries about you. She also has a decent reason for being worried: ever since we met we have been texting each other every single day without fail. Sometimes I wonder if the day will come when we won’t have anything to say to each other.
For a reason I don't know, I felt that I needed to make it up to her. I cannot just say ‘I was tired, lol’ or something like that. It would be really inconsiderate of me, and we have known each other for a while. I need to think of something quick, before she starts to think that I'm ignoring her.
I looked around, searching for an epiphany or, at least, something that I could use to avoid that topic for now. OK, I'm next to a bridge; there are a few shops over there, a French-themed cafe...
What comes next can be very, very dangerous. Don't try it at home, kids.
Hey, I'm hungry: do you want to eat something?
Right now I'm in front of a cafe called Le Ciel Bleu.
Wait, what on Earth am I doing?
Realizing what I just wrote, I tried to delete the message, but my attempt to do so failed in the most miserable way possible: my fingers betrayed me and pressed the SEND button on their own. How could you do that?! I trusted you!
OK, so the message was sent. Big deal, there's no reason to panic. Don't panic. I said don't panic, damn it!
Fine, I just (technically) asked a girl I only know on the internet out and despite talking to her for a whole year I can't help but feel nervous. Not only because I just happened to walk through half of the city and I think I'm starting to sweat, but also because I'm afraid to meet her and see that she might not be exactly like the persona she represented on the net. There must be a way out of this. I just need to relax and think about it. Think, think...
The moment my cell phone quivered in my hands, I felt like its vibration spread through my whole body. It's interesting to think that vibration in English is also a slang for aura, atmosphere. Possibly, that slang started when someone was in the same situation as me. Yes, someone who has also endured the massive, dark wave of dismay that is receiving a text message from a girl you just asked out.
I know I can't run away now. If I choose to ignore her message, I might have to move away from this town. The reason for that is because I am supposed to attend my first day at her school tomorrow. Even if I pretend I never got the message, I'll probably have to face a questionnaire at school. And that would probably mean the end of our friendship, because despite my reputation, I just can't lie.
With another movement of my untrustworthy fingers, I pressed the READ button and faced my destiny. It just occurred to me (a few milliseconds before the screen finished loading the message) that she could reply by saying that she didn't want to meet me or that she was busy (which, according to centuries of mankind's knowledge and experience, most likely meant that she really, really didn't want to meet me). That hypothesis hurt my pride a little bit. Fine, not only a bit.
Don't you dare say you can't come!
Oh, I know that place.
Get us a table next to the windows; I'll be there in 15 min.
Thank goodness, she is coming. No, wait. DARN, SHE IS COMING!
Would you please decide whether you want her to come or not?
It's not as easy as it sounds. You see, both choices have bad points. Lots of 'em. Therefore, while I myself have excellent reasons to want to avoid both choices, I also know that as long as I'm in this town, I can't avoid an encounter (not even by using a repellent spray while walking on the tall grass, since this is probably a boss battle, most likely necessary for plot advancement), which leads me to a dilemma and...
...wait a second. Why is there a mysterious voice that speaks in underlined italics inside my head? I know that "speaking in italics" is an idiomatic expression that implies the use of tone to emphasize certain words, but how does one actually speak in underlines?
Does it really matter? You'd better use your time on getting a table like she told you instead of wasting it on pointless videogame references or discussing linguistics with me.
Unfortunately, the voice was right; I didn't have much time. The Rubicon was crossed and now I had no choice but to face the resulting responsibility from the actions of my treacherous fingers.
I must enter that cafe, get a table and patiently wait for Ryo to show up, even if it kills me.
Oh, shut up.
As I walked toward the cafe's door, I saw mischievous words engraved on a banner. From the moment I read them, I found it hard to conceal my anxiousness and continue advancing easily. Deep in my despair-engulfed heart, I know that it had "Welcome!" written on it but the banner meant "abandon all hope, ye who enter here".Bravely I opened the door and walked straight into the endless darkness.