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  The first time he isn’t careful. He cuts his hands deep and wide on the barbed fence. It’s far past midnight and Konno stands in the abandoned park. His chest hurts, his throat is closing, nothing is happening. He stands out in the cold until the sun rises and burns. Shizuka scolds him as she wraps his opened palms and he doesn’t hear a word.

  The second time is a lot like the first, with the added exception of Konno dropping to the discolored burn across the ground and screaming, crying for him to come back. He digs into the black dirt, hoping that they missed something. or maybe he’ll dig deep enough he’ll find Yagasaki himself, who’ll grimace at him and berate him for taking too long.

  Shizuka doesn’t say anything that morning, but her concern is deafening.

  The third time Konno gets smarter. He learns how to maneuver over with no more than a few scratches on his fingers. He wanders aimlessly around the park. He learns quickly that staying in one spot too long brings up things. Only when he legs begin to give out and the sky turns a threatening shade of magenta does he return to the ground he destroyed. He sits down near it and waits for his breath to even out. Konno doesn’t look at the ground, instead opting to mindlessly design in the loose dirt. His coworkers tease him for coming into work even dirtier than usual.

  Konno’s hands haven’t stopped shaking since he left.

  Tetsuya offers him a share of his candy when he goes to pick him up from school. Konno is all too aware his family is worried for him but what can he say? Sorry I’ve been so down in it lately, I fell in love with a man who died in front of me, that I really knew for less than two weeks to boot! Konno thanks Tetsuya and accepts anyways. He decides he can at least keep a cheerful front for his siblings. Tetsuya grins at his accomplishment. Konno pops it into his mouth and the artificial taste of watermelon is choking.

  On the fifth visit, Konno says the words ‘I miss you’ out loud. The response is a light breeze, and a distant sound of crickets.
  Shizuka pulls him aside before dinner and asks him if everything is ok, no Teppei, are you really ok?

  He returns for a seventh time less than an hour after spitting his rage unto Aiba and Yagasaki’s sister. Konno runs all the way there and babbles the story out to Fumi’s ghost. He goes on until he feels like he’s going to burst. He’s already crying. He wants Yagasaki to look at him with that vicious smile he fell in love with and tell him they deserved it. He wants Yagasaki to do anything.

  He makes his fifteenth visit a week later. Konno’s eyes shine and he proudly presents his findings.
  “It’s the book,” he beams, illuminating the whole abandoned lot. “the one you were reading, with Fumihiro as the main character. I, I almost missed it but, oh, I, I got it!” He holds it in front of the burn. No one replies. Konno laughs and nods. Yagasaki would have rolled his eyes and congratulated him on wasting his money on an awful book. Konno spends a lot of time thinking about what Yagasaki would say lately. Maybe deep from his childhood, Yagasaki had to have always been in his heart.

  He runs out of ways to phrase the same regrets and begins just talking. His pauses are never countered but he’s starting the enjoy the white noise of Kumazawa. He can even close his eyes and imagine Yagasaki is still there, pretending to ignore his voice but listening from behind a new novel.

  The twentieth time, and every time after that, the gate is left unlocked for him. A note is left on the handle, but a previous night’s rain smeared it away. He leaves a gift in thanks, which Saiki throws out without opening.

  New Year’s brings the twenty-eighth night Konno spends at the worn down reserve and out loud musing if he should stop coming. He waits for an answer, anything. He knows he won’t get anything but still he waits. He decided that he’d wait forever at some point. The air is turning harsh again with the promise of deep winter.
  Expectedly, there’s no change. His fingers have gone numb and acquired a shade of red. His breath freezes to his face.
  “I’ll see you next year.”
  Konno stops in front of the closure and quietly adds "and I love you" before he turns and begins his way home.