It is all that he hears. Gentle raindrops fall beneath his feet, creating ripples on watered streets. The bottom of his pants are soaked and muddy, but he pays no mind to it. He walks on, armed with an umbrella, in the calm that the storm brings.
S N O W I S W H I T E A N D E V E R G R E E N
Takao is about to take another step when a car honks at him.
The driver opens her windows and yells, “Watch where you’re going!”
The shrill of her voice is enough to shake him out of his thoughts. He apologizes to the woman and takes a step back towards the sidewalk.
His eyes dart towards the pedestrian light, which glows a vibrant red despite the rain.
Like the red from his jersey, huh?
He hears nothing but the sound of cars passing until the light turns green.
He drops five coins into a plastic container and waits for his ticket. Several clicks later, a train ticket is slid across the small hole that separates him from the teller. He picks up the card in front of him and leaves, brushing past unknown yet achingly familiar faces—tired, lost, and confused.
The whistle from the train officer, along with the blaring sound of the train’s engine, reaches his ears halfway his way to the train platform. He quickens his pace, eager to save himself at least a space in the soon-to-be-packed train. He rushes down the stairs, his footsteps like those of the fingers of a beginner playing around the piano.
But right at his last step, the train closes its door.
The moment he hears the engine of the train, he picks himself up from the cold hard ground that he’s sitting on and readies himself to win the second most daunting battles in his life.
Especially that he has lost the first one.
Takao stands beside three high school boys wearing an all-too familiar red-white-black basketball jersey—the one that Izuki wore back then. Despite not wanting to, he tunes in to their conversation for a lack of a better thing to do.
The tallest one, having a royal blue hair and glasses, proudly proclaims that they will reach the Nationals and win it.
The other one in the left, quite thin and sporting a buzz cut, smacks the tall guy in the nape of his neck, telling him that they should concentrate on defeating the other team first.
The guy in the middle, the smallest out of them, then says out of the blue, “Wouldn’t it be a sin to concentrate?”
The tall guy asks. “And why is that?”
“Because when you do that, you conSINtrate!” the small guy answers with such enthusiasm. “Hah, gotcha!”
The tall guy cocks his head to the side out of perplexity. The buzzcut guy sighs.
Takao snorts and then bursts out in laughter because this scene hits too close to home. He doesn’t mind the weird stares the people give him or the rock of sadness sinking in his heart.
Perhaps, with this, he could at least try to pretend that nothing ever happened between Izuki and him.
The rain has stopped, Takao notices, when he steps out of the train station. He folds back the umbrella that he is supposed to open and treads carefully down the slippery staircase.
When he reaches the exit, he looks up to the sky and sees a small ray of light peeking through the gray clouds.
It is the only thing that welcomes him.
He expects guitar riffs and drum beats to play when he arrives, since today is a Tuesday and Izuki likes his music rock every Tuesday.
But there are no guitars, no drums.
Only a final countdown without the song.
He lets his bag fall near his feet.
It hits him.
Not only the bag, but what is happening.
He doesn’t cry, he doesn’t sneer.
He doesn’t turn on the radio, nor does he pick up his guitar and pluck its strings.
He sinks on the floor of his patio and hugs his knees.
He stares at the wall and thinks, I shouldn’t have left him.
In the silence of his home, only the four walls could hear the shattering of his soul.
His phone vibrates in his pocket.
He wants to leave it be, to shut off everything, but there is hope in him—the hope that Izuki would call, that Izuki would give him another chance.
He clings to that hope, no matter how little it is, and picks up his phone.
When he clicks the button on the left side of his phone, the screen flashes a picture of them together, at the eve of their third anniversary, and a notification glowing bright.
Perhaps this is the sign that I was looking for.
He takes his chance and makes a call.
He grips his phone tightly.
Only three words. Just let me say them.
His breath is shaky, there is a knot in his throat, his head is spinning round—he feels like he is caught in a whirlwind of inexplainable feelings, not knowing which is which, uncertain if he could take them all.
The fourth ring comes.
The ringing stops.
His heart stops.
Silence greets him.
The number you have dialed is unavailable as of the moment. Please try again later.
He doesn’t try again later.