A Love Like This
Fujiwara no Sadaie, Fujiwara no Teika
Like the salt sea-weed,
Burning in the evening calm.
On Matsuo's shore,
All my being is aflame,
Awaiting her who does not come.
Chihaya still rattles around in his mind, like a nearly muted television you leave on in the background as you go about your work. Tidying up, cleaning the cupboards and sweeping the dust from under the bed. He doesn't pay much mind to it, but it's always there in the corner of his vision, washing across the backs of his eyes.
because you want me to be
you want me here
you want me
you want me
He sits at his desk, pouring over textbooks and practice exams, and wonders if there will ever come a time where he won't think of her any longer.
As it goes, she sits in a little notch behind his ribcage, toying with heartstrings in the dark. Yet his chest feels empty. Her absence a palpable presence that lives permanently in the corner of his dark room.
Sometimes, when he is too tired to go on- and it is often in the waning afternoon hours, those which in the past were spent on a train bathed in warm, receding sunlight- and when he is feeling particularly lonely, his gives himself the luxury of letting his mind wander to a secret place, a version of reality so removed from how his life is right now that stepping into it from time to time feels like stepping into an unexpectedly warm and sunlit field on a spring day. He imagines he sits studying, like he is now, and he sees her coming up from behind him with her hair wrapped up in a towel as she steps out of the shower smelling faintly of green apples. She would put a hand on his head-his eyes close at this point- and give it a shake.
"Waaah! You're always studying, Taichi! You promised you'd play karuta with me later, don't forget okay!"
He can feel his hand reaching up to wrap around her wrist and tug her down closer to his face. He sees the look of surprise in her brown eyes , he even sees the lovely blush that has settled across her cheeks.
What are you going to do, Taichi?
It is of course, at that precise moments, that she vanishes.
He looks down and flips the page.
The Monk Saigyo
Should I blame the moon
For bringing forth this sadness,
As if it pictured grief?
Lifting up my troubled face,
I regard it through my tears.
Where does the belonging between two people go, once something is broken?
Love, in parts, mistakes itself for grief and chooses to burrow itself a home in his bones. Love, unfed, turns resentful and bitter for a time.
One day, he dug it all out back up again and laid it up in front of himself. He revisited every train ride and all the tears she had shed into the front of his shirt. He dug up the warmth he took in from her presence every time they stood shoulder to shoulder or played karuta next to one another. He recalled her hands with the nails always cut short, her defiant look of blistering determination. He dug out every moment she reached out for him, seeking the comfort of his presence or of his words. He looked at those a while longer than the rest, then folded those moments with gentle loving hands and put them towards the very back of his recollection.
Deeper still, he discovered the times her words had filled him with a hope, without fear. To start something without knowing where the road will end up. To keep going, secure in the knowledge that he wasn't alone, that not every destination comes with a predetermined map and that it's okay, it's okay.
Please play karuta with me, Taichi!
Finally, at the end, underneath it all, he found the silence that stretched between them after he had bared his heart to her.
Back then, it had had appeared to him as a heavy and looming shade that weighed his heart down and followed his every move, mocking his folly.
But really, now that he looked at it properly, it was just small and quivering little creature, fitting in the palm of his hand... it was as scared as he had been hurt by it. How foolish of him to not see...
He would not let it conquer him anymore. He would swallow it whole.
He would not allow it make it all worth nothing.
In this ancient house,
Paved with a hundred stones,
Ferns grow in the eaves;
But numerous as they are,
My old memories are more.
The silence was dismantled the day he went with her to her house and shared a meal with her family, stood before her kitchen sink and spoke the words that would push her towards her dreams, just a little bit more. He could feel the jagged edges of the chasm between them slowly realigning, adjusting here and there to make room for something that was only vaguely familiar, but familiar still.
When he took his leave of them and she ran out after him with her thanks, his only thought as he looked at her was how little she knew of what he would do for her, of what she means to him.
On his way home, he wondered if she felt it too, how well they could belong together.
It was all there. The home, the warm meals around the kitchen table, the television blaring and Chihaya watching karuta and him watching her, bemused at how she never tired of it. He could imagine it so well...
Face burning slightly, he shook himself. Don't be a fool.
Though I do not want
To live on in this floating world,
If I remain here,
Let me remember only
This midnight and this moonrise
The jagged chasm between them still exists, not as gaping and wide as it was before, but enough to swallow him whole if he passes too close to it. Before, there would be frequent moments of his limbs turning to lead, his mind blank and his heart fearful. But that happens less frequently as time goes by.
Lately, he is feeling a little more like he belongs to himself again, whatever that means.
When has he ever fully belonged to himself. Loving Chihaya, whether from a distance, or from right next to her, is as easy to him as breathing. How can he learn how to stop breathing?
Can you let go, Taichi?
Suou's voice asks him.
He watches her on television, her words concise, self-assured and smiling. It irks his mother. He switches the television off, her laughing face blanks out instantly.
He remembers taking her hand one time before a match, just after she'd lost. He had unclenched her tightly wound fingers then and had felt the tension leave her.
He throws himself into his studies. When he retires to bed near dawn, the last thought he has is of her smiling face, eyes masked and distant.
Though a swift stream is
Divided by a boulder
In its headlong flow,
Though divided, on it rushes,
And at last unites again.
When was the last time we walked together, just the two of us?
The times I trace my footsteps to your door in my dreams don't count.
They can exist separately, and they do such a good job at it. But learning to live again, in a changed reality with the same old characters in play is an entirely different matter altogether.
He feels like a puppet, being controlled by some sadistic overload. So, he cuts the strings loose and takes the next flight to Nagasaki.
Making up his own rules is a brilliant distraction. Untethered, he sets out to wherever the winds take him.
Ariwara no Yukihira
Though we are parted,
If on Mount Inaba's peak
I should hear the sound
Of the pine trees growing there,
I'll come back again to you.
Still, his heart is treacherous.
It is New Year's Eve, and before he knows it, it he has typed a text to Sumire and hit send. What Chihaya needs is something he can't give to her without betraying himself. But he will be damned if he can't find another way to get it to her, self-parlay withstanding.
Going to her himself was out of the question. He knew that without the cards laid out around them, without the reader's steady voice anchoring them, he could not stand to look at her for very long.
He likes the trust he has found in Sumire. Odd, how they built this trust between them from the debris of their collective crushed hearts.
Birds of a feather, and all that...
Sumire later tells him how Chihaya was so glad to see them, how she cried. How she asked her and Tamaru to be her card girls for the Queen's Final. The underclassmen from the club she had built at Mizusawa.
A sad smile hovers over his lips and there is a wetness on his face. He feels a warmth in the pit of his stomach even though his heart is telling him it is close to bursting.
She tells him how glad she was to help.
All this time
The Sun never says
To the Earth
"You owe me."
With a love like that.
It lights the
The poems mentioned in order are #97, 86,100, 68, 77, 16.