“Izukogen station. Doors on the right side. Please watch your step when exiting the train.” A woman stepped off the station, clad in a T-shirt and jeans. She sat on the bench, taking off her backpack and rummaging in it. She fished a camera out of the pack and turns it on, then off. After closing the pack, she wears it and starts briskly walking to the exit.
I haven’t been to this place for a long time. For a small part of my life, I called this town my home - and it was. It’s been so long, I can’t really remember too much. I can remember where I went to school and the route I took every day...not much else. I guess that’s what happens when you go around the country taking photographs for the paper - you see so many things and you frame them in your mind, and my brain can’t fit them all.
There was this girl I haven’t forgotten, however. Huge airhead. Wide smile all the time. I can’t believe that crazy girl pulled me into diving. She had this warm, powerful light in her eyes. Her name - Hikari - must have been for that light that pulled me from my shell and into the world.
A taxi pulls up to the front of the station as the woman emerges from it. She climbs inside. “The beach, please.”
The last memory I had of that town...I just graduated from the high school, and I managed to get into a decent college, but I had to move away. They were all there - the entire diving club, the principal, even the cat...his name was Tea, I think. Warm embraces and tears - mostly mine. Told her I would come often, go for a dive. She giggled in her usual airhead way, and eamed at me. “Yup!” was the last I heard from her.
In my busy state I was always in, I eventually forgot to talk to Hikari. I never took the diving suit I packed out of the box, much less wore it. After all, I was too busy - busy with college, busy with work, always busy.
“Until now,” the woman muttered. The driver made a questioning hum; his passenger quickly apologized. “It’s nothing.”
The editor must have thought I was stressed to death to give me this assignment. “Ooki-san, the paper wants some shots of that diving spot in Izu to put in our summer special. This weekend should be a great time to work on it while there’s not much else to do.” His face just had a touch of pity - he really should work on keeping up a poker face. Shouldn’t open up to people that easily in that position.
“Oh, you might find this handy.” The editor handed the woman a bag. She opens it - an underwater photography kit. “Nobody’s used that for a long time, but it should be in respectable shape. Make sure you bring it back here in one piece.”
I should have come back here sooner. Maybe I’ll grab something for the editor before I head back. Ah, here we are...
The woman steps out of the taxi, carrying her pack in her left hand. In front of her is a flight of stairs heading down, with a sign - “scuba diving” hand-painted in blue. Down the stairs, and she’s standing in front of a humble shack, old but well-kept. Scuba equipment is laid out outside the shack in groups. A placard stood at a table inside the shack.
“Out diving! I will be back by 1:30 PM. -H.”
She’s still diving. I wonder if she still remembers me. For now, a couple pictures of the shack and the sea...she wouldn’t mind, I’m sure.
Nothing much can be heard aside from the waves and the soft click of the camera’s shutter. The viewfinder framed the equipment, then the placard, then the sea.
She was drawn into and loved the sea, and I can’t help but follow her to it. Yes, the sea drew me in - but it was mostly mystique and curiosity. Hikari, though…She just loved the sea. It was her home.
And for the short time we shared, it was mine as well.
She turned away from the water, moving to capture more of the beach. So preoccupied was the photographer that she didn’t hear the characteristic sounds of various scuba equipment being taken off. Only when she was done did she stand still, ill at ease. She turned around and gasped as she met the eyes of another woman, clad in a wetsuit and carrying some equipment, intently staring at her. Both stood still.
Ah. It’s her, it’s really her. That inquisitive gaze, and that light hasn’t disappeared in her eyes. She still smiles as if that was by default. Does she still recognize me? It’s been so long...
The green-haired woman, clad in a wetsuit, dropped the equipment she was carrying. “Dotty! You’re back!” she beamed, running towards the photographer and embracing her. “Welcome home.”
That’s right - I’m home.