I remember one year that the flu spread throughout the dorms and St. Catherine’s like the plague. It was rumored that almost half of the students had it, although the numbers were likely far less.
Our dorm was quarantined. The staff brought us plenty of blankets, food, water, juices, medicines, basically anything we needed to get better.
My roommate and I were good friends. I had a bit of a cold about two weeks before the quarantine but was currently healthy, and my roommate didn’t have the flu either. We simply played games and talked. He had an acoustic guitar that he liked to play.
Classes were cancelled during that time, but the instructors still came to the dorms to hand out homework. I’m not sure if they were truly interested in education or simply to give us boys something to do. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” so says the proverb. (Proverbs 16:27, The Living Bible).
—Personal experience of the influenza outbreak of 1995 at St. Catherine’s
Kato woke up to Tachibana’s alarm clock blaring away. He got up and turned it off. Watanabe was gone already. He must have slept through the swapback. Tachibana was not here either. He got himself ready and went to breakfast.
Takahashi was there, and he gave a small smile and a nod. Kato smiled back, wondering what had gotten into Takahashi this morning.
He looked a Murata, who looked like he was half-dead. “You okay, Murata-san?”
“Yeah.” He yawned. “Didn’t get much sleep.”
“Oh? Why not?”
“I swapped with Nakamura-san. You’d think that someone as quiet as him wouldn’t have a lot to say, but you’d be wrong. He talked my ear off until the wee hours of this morning.”
“What did you talk about?” Kato was curious.
“Oh, nothing heavy. Just about books we liked, music we liked, places we traveled to as kids, and the dumb things we did as kids to get in trouble with the parents.”
“We fell asleep together.”
Kato choked on his food. “You what?”
Murata chuckled tiredly, “Yeah. We were both sitting on the same bunk and as he was telling a story, I dozed off. Apparently, he laid me down and then slept beside me.”
Kato had a burning question that he just could not ask. But he also had a simple mind that almost anyone could read. “No, we did not have sex.” Murata laughed.
Kato blushed at the implication Murata made that he was thinking dirty thoughts.
“Anyway, it was pleasant. He’s got a big heart. He did not do anything to me without my permission. He respected my boundaries.”
“Are you going to have sex with him, though?”
Murata laughed. “Why, you wanna be there to watch?”
Kato blushed again and looked down at his food. “No,” he squeaked out.
Murata was still laughing when he said, “No, I’ve only known him less than a week.”
Kato realized that so much had gone on this past week that it, in fact, had only been a week since he arrived here, last Wednesday to be precise. It seemed like a month ago.
Kato entered the classroom. The first thing he noticed was Handa and the bandage he had wrapped around his head. Serves the bastard right, he thought to himself. He walked to his seat and smiled at Takahashi who smiled back. Then he sat down.
The teacher came in and, after a short lecture, had the students work on their assignments from the book. Kato happily worked away at the math problems. He always felt a small sense of accomplishment solving large equations. Why can’t life be this simple? he thought.
At break, he had to pee badly. But he was just so damn afraid of that bathroom. He stood up, went over to Takahashi and said, “Hello.”
Takahashi sat up in his seat. “Hello.”
“Um,” Kato started. Then he stopped. He was too embarrassed to ask Takahashi to go to the bathroom with him.
“Let’s go get a drink of water.” Kato offered.
“I’m not thirsty.”
Kato boldly reached down and grabbed Takahashi’s hand. He had to pee badly. “Come on,” he said as he tugged.
Takahashi huffed. “Fine. Let go.” He got up and Kato led them to the water fountain, which was conveniently next to the bathroom.
Kato took a drink, then said, “Um.”
“I gotta pee.” Kato was hoping that Takahashi would understand.
“Fine,” said Takahashi. Kato went into the bathroom and Takahashi followed.
All the stalls were occupied, as usual. So, Kato took the urinal at the end, as usual. Takahashi was at the sink, wetting his hair a little, trying to fix a cowlick.
And in came Handa. Takahashi and Handa exchanged glares. Kato figured this truce between the two was very tenuous. Handa went to one of the middle urinals, leaving a few empty ones between them. Kato finished up his business and went to the sink to wash up.
Then an evil thought came to Kato. He said to Takahashi, “You looked cuter with the cowlick.”
Takahashi looked like he was going to blush. He said, “Shut up,” with a grin.
“Here, stop. Let me help.” Kato wet his hand and started to work out the cowlick. “If you combed your hair in the morning, properly, this wouldn’t happen.”
Takahashi was resisting, trying to bat away Kato’s hands and ducking. “I can do it,” he complained.
“Oh yeah?” Kato started to purposely mess up Takahashi’s hair.
“Hey! Stop it!” Takahashi started to laugh. He grabbed at Kato’s two hands in an effort to get him to stop but Kato was quicker, so he only got the one hand.
Kato was laughing too. Handa went over to the sink to wash his hands. He looked at the two playing, then he harrumphed and walked out of the bathroom.
Kato stopped goofing around and just smiled at Takahashi.
“What was that about?” Takahashi had a puzzled look on his face.
“Ah, just wanted to give Handa-san a show.”
“Oh?” Takahashi grinned.
“Yeah, make him jealous, show him what he’s missing out on.”
“Missing out on?” Takahashi scratched his head in confusion. He looked into the mirror as he tried to fix his hair.
“Pfft,” was all that Takahashi said. “Are you sure it’s wise to antagonize him?”
“Probably not,” Kato admitted.
After a minute of getting his hair straightened out, Takahashi asked, “Do you really think I look cuter with messed up hair?”
Kato laughed but said nothing as he walked out of the bathroom and back to class with Takahashi following behind.
Chemistry class was entertaining. The instructor was demonstrating violent chemical reactions. He had a large fish tank and he took a tiny scoop of sodium and dropped it in the water. It madly hissed and smoked and caught on fire as it jumped around on top of the water. It was neat. Besides the math part of Chemistry, he loved the experiments.
Lunch was uneventful. Murata wasn’t there again. Kato surmised that he was probably having lunch with Nakamura. He was wondering when Takahashi would cook for him.
Afternoon class, the instructor droned on about some more skirmishes in other parts of the world. Kato couldn’t care less. He let his mind wander. But every time it did, it always seemed he was thinking of Takahashi. He couldn’t understand. He had an entire life of memories to draw on, but he simply thought about this past week.
There was still something puzzling about Takahashi. He couldn’t figure out why Takahashi was so hot and cold, and angry. A couple of years ago, he had a friend that was bipolar, which was something completely new to Kato. He learned a little about it. He wasn’t an expert by any means, but he assumed that wasn’t the reason Takahashi behaved that way. He simply had no ideas on what to do or say to Takahashi about it. Time will tell, Kato thought to himself.
Kato waited this time for Takahashi to come out of the dorm so they could walk together to the Sports Complex. It was a nice day, a bit warm, and no clouds with a slight breeze. Kato looked about and watched various boys walking past on their way to the complex, joking and laughing.
After spotting Takahashi, he waited for him to come up and he greeted him.
“Hey,” Takahashi replied as he walked toward the complex.
Kato instantly realized by Takahashi’s flat tone that something was wrong. He started to walk beside Takahashi. After a minute of hoping Takahashi would say what’s on his mind, he decided to speak up first.
“Something wrong?” Kato asked.
Kato knew he was lying and instantly became angry. “Don’t lie!” he barked.
“Fine!” Takahashi exclaimed. “You succeeded in pissing off Handa-san and I think the truce may be over.”
“You didn’t attack him, did you?”
Takahashi turned to Kato, looking wounded, then angry. “I didn’t touch him.”
Kato grumbled, “For once.”
Takahashi stopped and shouted, “Hey! What the fuck is your problem?”
Kato stopped too. He was irritated at this sudden attitude from Takahashi. “You lied to me,” he said.
Takahashi angrily huffed, then said, “I just didn’t want to talk about this right now.”
“Oh, yeah? And when would you talk to me about it? He hates me and wants to hurt me. Shouldn’t I be informed?”
“I would tell you when it became necessary,” Takahashi said.
“You never tell me anything. You’re so fucking hard to understand,” Kato turned to the side, crossing his arms.
“What the hell do you mean by that?” Takahashi asked.
“Well, one minute you’re this caring guy, giving me things, and the next minute you’re as cold as ice and jump all over me when I try to show any care for you.”
“Whatever,” Takahashi replied.
Kato threw his hands in the air. “See? Then you shut down. And that just pisses me off more.”
“What the fuck do you want from me?”
Kato glared. “I don’t know. Maybe just tell me what’s going on sometimes?”
Takahashi stood there glaring back at Kato, not saying anything.
A group of boys walked by and Kato felt a little embarrassed to be arguing again with Takahashi in public. He suddenly, Kato didn’t feel angry anymore, but sad. “All I’m saying is that I can’t read your mind. I just don’t know where I stand with you.”
Takahashi looked down the road, then said, “Come on. Let’s go.” He started walking.
Kato could feel the anger rise again as Takahashi was obviously avoiding these issues, but he didn’t want to keep arguing about this right now. So, he followed behind Takahashi.
Looking at the schedule, Takahashi had basketball today and Kato had tennis. They both said their goodbyes and went their separate ways. Kato chided himself for wasting the precious few minutes he was probably going to get to spend with Takahashi today by fighting with him.
Tennis was a blast. Kato didn’t have a long reach or long legs, but he was very light and very nimble. He could get to the ball quickly. They played singles for the first half of class then doubles the second half. He recognized a couple students in his Grade, but he didn’t know their names.
After class ended, he went over to the baseball court to see if Takahashi was playing. He didn’t see him, so he asked one of the boys and was told that Takahashi was in the locker room. Apparently, he had hurt his ankle.
Kato went to the locker room and saw Takahashi there resting on a bench. His foot was wrapped in a bandage. He went over and sat next to Takahashi.
Takahashi glanced at him then back to his foot.
“You okay?” Kato quietly inquired.
“Yeah. I think I just rolled the ankle a little. It smarts but I should be fine by the weekend.”
Kato didn’t know what to say, but it was time to go back.
Takahashi sighed and let out a slow curse word. Kato looked at him, and Takahashi looked back. “My body is beat up,” Takahashi said with a small smile. Kato nodded. “Seems like I’m always in pain,” Takahashi lamented.
“Well, maybe chill for a couple days, rest on the weekend, and be back to health by Monday.”
“Yeah,” Takahashi nodded. “Let’s go.” He started to stand, and Kato grabbed his arm to help steady him. Takahashi tested his ankle by putting some weight on it. When he determined that it was alright, he walked, and Kato followed.
One the way back, they said little to each other. Kato understood that Takahashi was wounded, and he wasn’t really wanting to fight anyways. So, he kept silent.
They said their goodbyes at the door of the dorm.
Takahashi wasn’t there for dinner, which was no surprise to Kato. He probably didn’t want to walk on that ankle, Kato guessed.
Murata prattled on about his sport today, volleyball. Kato hated volleyball. He had played it before, and the ball smacked him in the head and broke his glasses. He hated it ever since. He didn’t really need his glasses to play sports. Things were only very slightly fuzzy as he was nearsighted. But, if he didn’t wear them, he would start to develop a headache after four or five hours.
After dinner and showers, he spent the evening doing homework. He tried to keep his mind occupied so he would stop thinking about Takahashi. Then he went to bed.