Due to a recent collapse, Building 13 will be closed indefinitely. The plans are to demolish the building as it is a pressing safety hazard. We are looking for students who would like to join in the demo process and there will be monetary compensation. We will have safety equipment and specialists on site to ensure the safety of all our workers. Another notice will be posted at a later date with more specifics.
—Building 13 closure notice
“Soda?” Takahashi asked.
Takahashi stood by his bunk. “Come on in, don’t stand at the door. I said I don’t bite.” Takahashi smiled. It still made Kato a little sad that Takahashi’s lip was still a little swollen. He really did like his smile.
Kato smiled back, “Unless I’m into that sort of thing.”
Both boys laughed a bit.
Kato started first this time. “I’m sorry, Takahashi-san. I—”
“Huh?” Kato thought he misheard him. Did he just use my given name and mispronounce it too?
Takahashi smiled. “From now on, in my room, please just call me Ken. I hate my long ass name.”
“How’s your back?” Takahashi quietly asked.
“It aches a little.” Kato came prepared for a fight, and in a small way he was looking forward to it, but Takahashi’s concern seemed to soothe him a little.
“Take your shirt off and turn around.”
“What?” Kato objected.
“Damn, dude. Just do it.” Takahashi barked as he reached for a small jar on the counter.
“Fine.” Kato acquiesced. He took off his shirt and turned around. He couldn’t explain it but even such a silly thing as this he blushed slightly.
“This might hurt just a little.”
Kato felt a very cold cream being gently, almost tenderly, applied to his back. The odd contradiction between the coldness of the cream, the warmth of Takahashi’s big hands, and the dull pain of the injury was oddly pleasant. Kato actually was starting to enjoy being cared for like this—
“Ok, you can put your shirt back on.”
Kato was a little disappointed it didn’t last longer. He put his shirt back on and turned around.
“What was that stuff?”
“Ah. It’s a simple cream that will help reduce pain and swelling. It also helps with stiffness so your back won’t get so tight.” Takahashi put it back on the table.
“Thank you, Ken-san.”
Kato looked at Takahashi in the eyes. He simply couldn’t sort out his jumbled-up emotions. Why did he want to fight Takahashi one moment, and then want to feel his touch the next?
“About this morning—” Kato started.
“Sit for a minute,” Takahashi said as he pointed to a chair. Kato obeyed.
Takahashi went over to his guitar case and opened it up. He pulled out an acoustic guitar. Kato’s ears twitched at the thought he was going to get to hear a song. He really wanted to settle things with Takahashi, but he let it go for now.
“I’ve been practicing some music lately. Some old, some new.” Takahashi was tuning his guitar while speaking.
The first song Takahashi played was an American rock song. Kato had heard it before. English was not an easy subject for Kato, but he could understand most of the words in the song even though the imagery was all but unintelligible to him. It had something to do with a hotel somewhere in California. He didn’t understand what “colitas”* were but figured he would look it up later.
[* The Eagles “Hotel California.” In Mexican slang, colitas refers to the buds of a cannabis (marijuana) plant. At of the time of this writing, marijuana is illegal in Japan and carries stiff legal penalties.]
Takahashi was quite an excellent guitar player. Kato wondered at how many years it must have taken for him to get this good. His voice was very excellent for this type of song. There was a lengthy outro and it was played masterfully.
The next song Takahashi played was “Zenryoku Shounen” by Sukima Switch*. Kato was absolutely enthralled. This was one of his most favorite bands. He found himself humming along to the catchy rhythm. After Takahashi finished, Kato applauded. He couldn’t help himself. Takahashi laughed and flashed Kato that smile that he liked so much as he stood and gave a small bow.
[ * スキマスイッチ 「全力少年」]
“Ken-san! Oh please, do you know any more of their songs? I so love them.”
“Sure. I know one more you might like.” Takahashi chuckled. He adjusted his guitar a bit then he started to play “Kanade” by Sukima Switch*. Kato knew this song and he blushed slightly; it was a love song. Takahashi’s voice was so pure, so sweet. Kato felt his face heat up as their eyes met while Takahashi sang. By the end of the song, Kato didn’t realize he had tears rolling down his cheeks. He wiped them away.
[ * スキマスイッチ 「奏 (かなで)」]
“That was amazing, Ken-san.”
“Thank you. I also like that band and I’ve memorized lots of their love songs.” he replied.
“You like love songs?”
“Yeah. Crazy, huh? I’ve never been in love, but I really like them. I’ve wrote a few of my own too. Maybe next time I will sing one for you.”
“I would love that!” Kato exclaimed.
Takahashi laughed. “Well, I’m not as good as Sukima Switch.”
“Doesn’t matter! I still wanna hear it.”
The door opened and Takahashi’s roommate entered. Kato stood and politely introduced himself.
The boy politely replied, “I’m Riku Aizawa.”* He looked to be a little taller than Takahashi, rather thin though, and not as muscular.
[ 相沢 凌久, Aizawa Riku (eye-zah-wah ree-koo)]
“Oh, we’re in the same class. I remember your singing. It was nice.” Kato smiled.
“Thanks,” Aizawa replied with a smile.
“I should leave now, to prepare for afternoon class,” Kato spoke up.
“Okay, see you in a bit, Ren-san.” Kato didn’t remember giving Takahashi permission to use his given name but now wasn’t the time to discuss that.
“Excuse me,” he said as he bowed and left the room. As he returned to his room, he was humming the lyrics to the last song Takahashi played.