The sun was warm today.
Yoite couldn’t feel it anymore, but he could tell it was warm from the way the drops of dew evaporated from the grass just after the dawn and the way the summer bugs came out to sun themselves on the pavestones in Hanabusa’s yard. He could also tell it from the way Miharu squeezed his eyes shut and basked in the chair beside Yoite.
Miharu was warm, too. From time to time, Miharu would shift so that their shoulders pressed together. And, if Yoite couldn’t fully feel the warmth anymore, he could at least feel the pressure – the reassurance – that Miharu was there beside him, for every minute they had left together.
On days when Miharu had school, Yoite had lemonade tea to warm him, prepared by Hanabusa’s hands. Yoite sat and watched the sun and the sky, and Hanabusa swore over the publication of her latest research, which wasn’t coming along smoothly at all.
On days when Hanabusa was away in the field, Yoite sat by himself in the sun and slowly, steadily, knitted one line after another into his scarf. He knew the scarf was warm because he’d tested it around Miharu’s and Hanabusa’s and Kumohira’s and Aizawa’s and Shimizu’s and Gau’s and – on one rare visit – Yukimi’s necks, and they had all assured him that it was very warm, indeed. Even if Yukimi hadn’t said so in so many words.
And there was something in that – in the way that that one scarf had looped around more than half a dozen different necks but warmed all – that made Yoite imagine that he could almost feel the warmth every time he hesitantly ventured to twine it about his own neck.
“Who is it for?” Yukimi had asked him once, because Yukimi seemed to revel in being brash like that.
“Everyone,” Yoite had blinked in surprised response.
Miharu had just snorted.
But today the sun was warm, and Yoite’s scarf was slowly growing longer, and Miharu was drifting half off to sleep, his head nodding every so often on Yoite’s shoulder. There were already two spots of drool on Yoite’s coat, but they didn’t matter to Yoite because he couldn’t feel the damp anyway.
“No more okonomiyaki…” Miharu muttered in a dream-state.
They’d had okonomiyaki just the night before, all of them. They’d all gone to Miharu’s family restaurant, even Yukimi and his sister, and they’d stayed until well past midnight. Yukimi had gotten drunk and needed to be half-carried home. Shimizu and Aizawa had gotten in a heated debate about…something. Yoite wasn’t sure; sound and substance were getting further away each day, so that he couldn’t always fully connect to all the events around him. He hadn’t been able to taste any of Miharu’s cooking, for one.
It had still been the best meal he’d ever had.
“The eggs are radioactive, AHH!” Miharu awoke with a start.
Yoite smiled at him softly and continued knitting.
Miharu blinked the sleep from his eyes. “What was I saying?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Yoite assured him.
Miharu yawned and wrapped his arms around his bent knees and stared off into the distance in the direction of the sun and the sea.
“The sun is warm today,” he said simply.
“It is,” Yoite agreed.
Miharu reached over and rested his palm over the back of Yoite’s hand. “Are you cold?” he asked. “Your hands are cold.”
“I can’t feel the cold.”
“That means you can’t feel the heat, either.”
Yoite shook his head. “That’s not true. Today feels like the warmest day I’ve ever lived.”
“It’s warmer than yesterday,” Miharu agreed.
All around them, one by one, the cicadas sang. The sound seemed muffled, foggy, like it was well off in the distance. Or like Yoite was underwater and could only hear the sounds around him through that filter.
The colors were like that, too, blurred watercolors or an impressionist painting. If Yoite looked too closely, the world dissolved into indecipherable, disconnected lines. Things were fracturing, falling apart. Or actually, that was just Yoite.
But it didn’t bother Yoite because he didn’t need to look too closely anymore. He had nothing left to do but be here in the sun and the warmth, sitting on Hanabusa’s porch and knitting his scarf.
In the end, Yoite’s world was faded and misty, no more solid than the dream Miharu had just woken from.
“Do you think this is a dream?” Yoite asked, because the odd mood struck him to speak his thoughts aloud.
“That would make a lot more sense,” Miharu said.
“It feels like a dream. I had dreams like this once, where everything was warm.”
There were a million words left unsaid there. How not only was Yoite warm, but he was loved and surrounded by those who cared for him all the time, so many that sometimes he thought we would lose count. He did that sometimes when the world seemed like it would fade: counted out on his fingers all the people in his life, and there were so many now, it almost hurt to think of them all.
Miharu had never really needed the words, though. He’d always just known.
“Maybe it is a dream,” Miharu said. “Maybe we’re dead now, and this is the illusion.”
“It feels like heaven,” Yoite agreed.
In the kitchen, Yoite could dimly make out the sounds of Hanabusa preparing tea.
“You’ll stay, won’t you? For tea?”
“They’re not really cold, you know,” Yoite said after a lengthy pause in which he had knitted, Miharu had nearly nodded off again, and Hanabusa had set two steaming hot cups beside them.
“Your hands?” Miharu drawled lazily, as if somehow his sleepiness let him follow the slow pace of Yoite’s conversation.
“I think they’re warmer than they’ve ever been.”
“It feels like any moment they’ll burst into sunlight.”
Yoite looked over at Miharu to see if Miharu was sad, but instead Miharu was smiling.
“I think that would be nice,” Miharu said.
“To become warmth.”
“Ah, yes.” Yoite smiled too. “That would be nice.”
“Work on that, then.” The way Miharu said it, it sounded so casual, inconsequential. Death. “After you fade away… It’s a good way to go.”
And maybe death was inconsequential. Yoite had lived only a brief lifetime, but nothing had been worth living until he’d reached this point past condemnation. If death was the price to pay for the sun and the warmth and the company and the repetitive motion of the needles in his hands, then it really was nothing at all.
“I’ll do that,” Yoite smiled.
Miharu smiled back.
Before them stretched the sea and the sky and the path that led up to Hanabusa’s home, where Yoite could recognize the bobbing heads of his visitors for the day. Yukimi looked hung-over.
“We should all have tea today,” Yoite decided.
Inside, Hanabusa snorted. “You can help make it, then.”
“I’ll do that, too,” Yoite agreed.
He could scarcely feel a thing anymore, but he’d never been warmer.