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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/1854849
Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Romance/Love · #1854849
Shinhada, a student at Tokyo U, falls in unrequited love with her teacher Tanaka.
The day I met him, I knew Tanaka, Aki was different.  He was easily the youngest professor in the Japanese Literature Department and, without a doubt, the most handsome.  His dark hair just brushed his shirt collar, and his tennis player’s physique prompted the comment “Kakkui” from several other girls taking Heian Literature.  Despite Tanaka’s abundant ‘kakkui’ qualities, his eyes enticed me the most.  Usually the famed absent-mindedness characterized the older faculty.  Intrigued, I wondered where Tanaka’s mind had led his half-veiled, unseeing eyes.

Once Tanaka had explained the course expectations, he opened his battered copy of The Tale of Genji and said, “I have several passages to share with you today.”  My classmates glanced at one another and some rolled their eyes.  Yet, the moment Tanaka began his narration, their doubt faded, as did the mist in his eyes.  In his voice, the characters, their passions, cares, and woes lived again.  Genji himself could not have been more tender wooing the latest courtesan to bewitch his heart. 

Tanaka’s enthusiasm peaked during our subsequent discussion.  It was as though he were hosting a party, intent on acknowledging every guest with personal kindness.  His animation was contagious; not one person frowned in boredom.  The remainder of class passed quickly.

At the class’s end, I went to his desk.  Our eyes met, and I spoke with uncommon ease.  “You read Murasaki’s work well.”  As my cheeks went pink, I let my gaze fall to the tabletop.  Tanaka wore a band on his ring finger, but compared to his watch, the gold was rather dull.

“No, no,” he insisted.  “Many read it better.”

“It seems to me that you share a special understanding with Genji.” 

Tanaka’s smile bloomed slowly, a reluctant flower.  “Yes, you could say that.  Forgive me, what was your name?”

“Shinhada, Yoriko.”  Midway through my bow, I noticed his outstretched hand.  As I shook it, his warmth flowed through me, even as the ring stung me with its grave-cold fire. 

“Do you have a class this next hour?” he asked.

I shook my head. 

“Perhaps you will join me for a cup of tea?  We can continue our discussion of Heian literature.”

I agreed.  We drifted in silence down an avenue lined with cherry trees to the nearby coffee shop.  When I glanced at Tanaka, the beauty of falling flowers had seduced him.  Even at the coffee shop, Tanaka only emerged from his dream when the hostess welcomed us with a proclamation of “Irashaimase!”

Over steaming cups of green tea, we talked in detail of Heian literature.  Our conversation was so lively and comfortable that I almost forgot that he was a teacher, and I a mere student.  The remnants of Tanaka’s cigarettes soon eclipsed the glass bottom of ash tray between us.  Smoke rose like wisps of the past summoned by our words.

“If only modern society placed as much importance on love and romance as Genji’s society did.  Today, everything is so crass and hurried.”  I can only describe Tanaka’s reaction as that of a man who had recovered something dear to him, which he had lost for many years. 

“How often I have thought the same thing,” he said.  “Though Genji’s society lacked technology, I do not believe ‘conveniences’ have made life easier.  Certainly they have not made it more beautiful. We have no time for ceremony or romance anymore.”

Had Tanaka known me all my life, he could not have articulated my feelings more clearly.  My heart beat faster, but before I could voice my agreement, the cuckoo bird announced the hour. 

Tanaka double-checked his watch.  “I must return to my office.”  He sighed; I wondered if it were in reluctance.

“Thank you for the discussion,” I said.

Tanaka nodded, a benign emperor conferring a favor.  “I enjoyed it,” he said.  “We should endeavor to meet again.”

Blushing, I nodded my agreement, thankful for the dimness of the coffee shop.  Outside, we walked together, still talking until we absolutely had to part ways.  Even at my dorm room, Tanaka’s presence pressed around me like a strong embrace.  His words lingered in my mind until I could have recited all he said from memory.  When I closed my eyes, I found his face trapped beneath my eyelids. 

The next day, I could not stop thinking of Tanaka.  It hardly helped that all of my classes were intimately connected with my major, which had never excited me, even before I chose it.  Nonetheless, my parents believed my mind was too good to waste on literature.  They deemed a major in medical science much more suitable.  Heian literature was just an elective, but works from that period were my secret passion.  That I had found someone who shared that enthusiasm made my present classes all the more odious.  I could not wait for my escape that evening.  It would bring me that much closer to tomorrow when I would hear of the Heian period again and see Tanaka. 

I arrived fifteen minutes early for Heian literature on Wednesday, so I took out The Tale of Genji and started to read.  No matter how I tried, I could never choose a favorite passage.  All of them were so romantic, yet without losing their dark undercurrent of tragedy.  I began to imagine a modern era in which Heian-style courtship was still practiced.  However, a glimpse of Tanaka, ten minutes early, distracted me from my dream. 

He had stopped at the corner of the hallway to talk with a woman dressed in a white blouse, navy blazer, and matching skirt.  Although her voice remained too low for me to hear, her scowl broadcasted her fury as clearly as any shout. 

Tanaka raised his hands as though he pleaded with her.  Then both of them noticed me.

The woman drew in a sharp breath.  She made a final remark to Tanaka, then swept past me.  Her high heels drummed on the tile.

Tanaka laughed uneasily when he saw me.  “Hello. You’re early.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.  “I did not mean to overhear.” 

“It does not matter.”  Shadow tinged Tanaka’s eyes, and I wondered if he heard the words he uttered.  “You had no way of knowing we would pass this way.”

I wondered at once what was on his mind.  Was that woman his wife?  However, I did not dare to speak of it, lest I embarrass him further.

In class, Tanaka’s lecture focused on the samurai in The Tale of Heike and how they likened the cherry blossoms to their short, but brilliant lives.  Then he announced that a hanami (1) would be held next week outside the coffee shop.  In place of class, we would conduct a reading and discussion of our favorite excerpt from The Tale of Genji or The Tale of Heike. 

Once the others departed, Tanaka said, “Tonight is a full moon.  Perhaps you will join me for a walk around Sanshiro Pond?”

My face went hot.  It was almost like an invitation in a Heian romance.  All I needed was a poetic note from Tanaka written in calligraphy.  “Perhaps,” I said.

That night, moonlight poured like a waterfall from the sky.  I found Tanaka sitting by the pond.  Together, we ventured into the night.  Cherry blossom petals floated like tiny boats on the water.  “How like the Japanese people they are,” he said.

“What do you mean?” 

“Our country is a great tree.  But ‘the nail that sticks up gets hammered down’.  Even if that nail would not have been out of place only a few generations ago, the present has no sympathy for those who prefer the past.  The nail that breaks free entirely has no one; the others find it comical at best and pitiable otherwise.  Blossoms that break free die alone.”  He fell silent. 

“Sometimes, there is a miracle and one blossom finds another, a kindred spirit, and they drift on the wind together before death claims them,” I said.

Tanaka shook his head.  “I have never seen such a thing.”

His somber mood made my laugh hollow and fragile.  “You must look, sensei.”  So I said.  But my thoughts were in quite another direction.  Sensei is alone…as alone as I am.


The next week at the hanami, my classmates drank and joked together over a profusion of bento boxes(2), which they passed around in lively trade.  I wondered what it would be like to have friends and the time to make memories with them.  Days without lab research and hours of studying were inconceivable to me.  How different would I be if something as simple as saké and karaoke were satisfying?

When everyone had eaten their fill and sat back watching the cherry blossoms or talking amongst themselves, Tanaka started the readings.  I had been practicing my own reading the entire week.  Tanaka had so inspired me with his readings that, though I knew I could never speak with his skill, perhaps I could equal his passion. 

Several people read before they passed the book to me.  I let it remain in my lap.  In the depths of clear memory, my eyes attained the distance I imagined Tanaka’s wandered each day.  “The bright full moon of the Eight Month came,” I began.  Then I saw Tanaka’s eyes close, and I knew I spun the fabric of his dream.  I gathered my courage to continue.  “Genji stayed over at Yugao’s house. Towards dawn…”  When I finished with the line “Viewing the outside together, they promised their never-ending love,” my classmates applauded. 

After the class readings, Tanaka and I walked among the avenues of flowering cherry trees.  For a long while, the only sound was that of our footsteps.  Yet, his lips were parted as though he had something to say, but lacked the courage to utter it.  “I composed a tribute to their beauty,” he said.  “Would you like to hear it?” 

“Of course.”

“The cherry blossoms bloom together,

But, seduced by song of the spring wind

Fly free

To solitary deaths.”

“That was beautiful,” I whispered.  Yet the poem was reminiscent of his dark words from the week before, and I barely refrained from voicing my worry. 

After hours of saké and karaoke that boomed through the quiet of evening, the Heian Literature class dispersed.  Tanaka and I wandered the areas where their blankets had been.  Now instead of people, mounds of trash sat beneath the trees, much of it pinker than the blossoms above. 

Tanaka sighed.  “There were still hanami in Heian times.  But the aesthetic was better.”  He smiled wryly. 

I wondered if there were anything modern times had not managed to corrupt.

The week after the hanami, Tanaka and I continued to go to the coffee shop after class.  However, neither of us had issued a conscious invitation since the first time.  One day, while the embers of Tanaka’s first cigarette faded in the ash tray, an enormous man in a brown suit entered with a young girl.  I guessed she was a third year junior high school student at the most.  She wore Calvin Klein jeans and carried a black Gucci handbag. 

         The waitress started to lead the strange pair to a table near the back.  However, the man in brown stopped.  “Excuse me, please.  Might we have a table near the front?  They are, without a doubt, the best.”

         I gave Tanaka a questioning look.  The best tables were in the back, overlooking the tiny garden with its rock paths, the curving footbridge over the miniature stream, and the Japanese maple that blushed red in the fall.  There were many more sakura trees in the back as well.  Front tables presented only a view of the boulevard and the students passing. 

“Yes of course.”  She motioned them to a table almost right next to ours.

         For several minutes the man in brown spoke little, but his eyes kept sliding to Tanaka’s and my table, until I could feel the pressure of his stare like fingers on my shoulder.

         I watched them out of the corner of my eye and wondered if he knew Tanaka.  Finally, I whispered, “Do you know that man?”

         Tanaka’s nod was barely perceptible.  “Sato-sempai has been a professor in Japanese history for many years.”

         “Who is the girl?”

         Tanaka’s shrug confirmed my suspicions, and I scowled.  Few people I knew openly condemned enjou kosai (3), but I had always considered it little better than prostitution.  Determined to ignore Sato, I drew Tanaka into a discussion of paintings done from _The Tale of Genji_.  Soon we forgot the pair sitting beside us. 

         The next day, I sat on a bench under the pink boughs of the cherry trees.  A notebook lay in my lap like a dozing cat.  I had come outside with the intention of penning some poetry if inspiration found me.  If not, it was enough to dream in the sun. 

For two years, I had tried to feign interest in the Premedical Honor Society.  They met every Saturday afternoon for three hours.  My finding a husband there was about as unlikely as my interest in the workings of atoms surpassing my love of the Heian period.  Mama and Papa would be furious when they learned I had quit the honor society.  But they would forget their anger if I made enough money after graduation, which I was certain to do.  At the price of my social life, my grades were stellar. And money was what it ultimately came down to for them. Between a husband’s money, or money I had earned, it made no difference.

All afternoon, footsteps passed and paused around me.  At one point, a strange feeling, as though I were being watched, compelled me to take true notice of my surroundings.

         Sato, wearing a slightly darker brown suit, stood before me.  Pouting, the girl clutched his arm.

         “I saw you yesterday at the coffee shop with my colleague,” Sato said.  His voice resonated with age, wealth, culture, and a university education.  Nonetheless, it lacked the music that dreamers recognize in one another.  “I wanted to introduce myself, but you seemed to be very deep in discussion.  So I did not wish to interrupt.”  I caught a whiff of expensive cigars. 

Suddenly I was tempted to tell him to move along; he was interrupting my dreaming.  Not that I could say such a thing to one of his age without being exceptionally rude. 

“I am Sato, humble professor of the History Department.  My specialty is the Meiji Period.”  He bowed. 

I rose, intending to banish him with the swift application of politeness.  “I am Shinhada, Yoriko,” I said, making my own bow deep.

         “It’s nice to meet you,” the girl said.  The full light of day revealed her dyed red hair.  Her scowl belied her light pleasant words.  “I am Toyama, Reika.”

         “The weather is very fine today,” Sato said.  “Perhaps you will join Reika-chan and me for a walk?”

         “I am sorry,” I said.  “At the moment, I am rather busy.” 

Reika’s face relaxed.

         “Are you waiting for Tanaka-san?”

         Sato’s question caught me off guard.  At the sound of my teacher’s name, my heart gave a little jump.  “Yes,” I lied.  “I thought I would compose a poem while I waited for him.”

         Sato’s eyes shone dark with purpose.  “Are the two of you in a relationship?”

         I swallowed.  Tanaka was still married, despite the problems he and his wife were having.  “No,” I said at last.

         Sato nodded his approval.  “Reika-chan and I are very fond of karaoke.  You must come with us some time.” Although I wore a modest skirt and blouse, his gaze sent chills prickling up and down my body. 

         “Karaoke is for children,” I said, forgetting myself.

         “Would you prefer something more ponderous, like a day trip to a shrine?  Honestly, Shinhada-san, how did you become so solemn?  I thought all young girls were cheerful…like Reika-chan.”  He sounded exactly like my parents.  I bit down hard on my fury.

“Lighten up,” Reika said, but I could tell she didn’t mean it.  If I were as dour as an old shrine maiden, all the better, so long as she could obtain the benefits of enjou kosai with Sato without interference.

         “Tanaka is a promising young man,” Sato said.  “But so often, young lives go astray and come to nothing.”  He caught a few cherry blossoms in his fat hand and crushed them.  Then he and Reika were gone.


Sato’s question haunted me that entire term.  Although Tanaka and I were together as much as ever, it was always in the sense of two dreamers.  In all our meetings, the talks in the coffee shop, and the walks in the moonlight, we never touched once. 

Like a poisonous growth, Sato’s question took seed within me.  Always before, I had ignored my attraction to Tanaka.  After Sato approached me, I started to wonder about Tanaka and his wife.  Would they stay together?  More importantly, how did Tanaka view me?  Was I an intellectual equal?  A nuisance?  Or did he consider me, as I once supposed with innocent nobility, the answer to his dreams, one who could share them to the fullest extent another person could? 

I wondered how it would be to press my body to his, for our hearts to beat against each another.  Then thoughts of Sato overshadowed me.  Despite the blight of my fear, I could not deny my painfully real feelings.  Once I had believed that passionate courtly love was confined to books.  Now, I had found someone to whom I might reveal all of my soul and receive his full understanding.

         The third Monday of July came, and Tokyo U closed its doors for the summer break.  Normally I found the forty days after Marine Day all too brief for my tradition of going home to Chiba City and renewing relations with family and old friends.  This time, I had a new habit that heaped years upon the mere forty days of summer break: checking the mailbox religiously.  Tanaka had promised to write to me because he did not care for email.  At the beginning of the summer break, his letters came every few days.  Even this frequency could not mitigate the brutal odyssey we spent apart.  I found myself reading his letters two or three times in a row.  At the end of a drought, I would assemble his letters and review them chronologically, charting his progress. 

Tanaka began his letters in Tokyo.  As time passed, he took a brief holiday in Kyoto, too brief, he wrote.  The summer humidity discouraged much exploration, though he had some photos to show me when we returned to the university.  His last letters spoke of his regretful return to Tokyo U and the lesson plans he must construct in time for the start of the semester.  After that letter, I heard nothing from him.

My daily trip to the mailbox, once so full of anticipation, became a certain dose of dread, followed by disappointment.  I tried to console myself with the fact that as a new teacher, he was likely overwhelmed with work.  However, it would have been more true to his character to write to me, no matter what the situation.

During this dearth of Tanaka’s letters, my parents overheard from my younger sister that I was moping over a collection of love letters.  “We would like nothing more than to see you married, Yoriko-chan,” they told me one night at dinner.  Then Mama and Papa scrutinized my face, unconsciously as one, seeking something there to confirm their most desperate hope, that their odd, eldest daughter had at last found a prospective husband.  Crushed by Tanaka’s silence, I could only answer their unvoiced question with silence of my own.

I returned to Tokyo for the August Bon Festival (4).  Although Tanaka’s unspoken rejection still stung me, I decided to don my summer kimono and forget him in the fireworks that would explode over the student commons.  That night, armed with saké, I stood slightly apart from my colleagues and watched multitudinous flowers bloom in the sky. 

Purely by chance, my gaze left the sky to wander the crowd.  At the edge, I saw– impossible!  My heart leaped in my chest, and adrenaline burst in my veins.  Wisdom born of disappointment warned me not to go to him, but still my heart compelled me beyond the edge of the crowd to Tanaka. 

“It has been a long time.”  He smiled in greeting as though we had never left one another.

My mouth hung open as questions fought to be voiced.  Where had he gone?  Why had he not written?  In the end, the only word I could get out was, “Sensei.” 

He sighed heavily.  “Will you walk with me, Shinhada-san?”

I had thought my heart beat fast before, but the previous pace was but a crawl.  Was it possible that nothing had changed between us?  Or was something about to change?

I followed Tanaka into deeper darkness.  There he bowed.  “I regretfully admit that I have not written to you in a very long time with no explanation.”

Sensing that he had more to say, I remained silent.

“My dear friend died this summer.  His name was Suzuki, Hiroto.”

“I’m sorry.”

“He lived in Sendai.  Unfortunately, I had to attend his funeral right after I returned here.  The trip was very long, and I spent many days with his family, mourning.  Do you know what claimed his life?  Karoushi (5).  They found him in his cubicle.  He had fallen out of his chair.”  Though Tanaka’s voice resonated with emotion, it was no longer raw grief.  Time had tempered it into something else, a powerful experience.

“How terrible,” I whispered.

“It is.  I am grateful every moment to be in this profession that allows me to escape to the Heian period.”  Tanaka’s voice fell so low I could barely hear him.  “Such a terrible tragedy would never happen then.  But…”  He cleared his throat and wiped at his eyes.  “It is past.  Shall we return to the others?  Tonight it is almost as though the Heian period has returned.”

I agreed.  Before we left, Tanaka appraised my kimono, deep purple iris on a blue background.  “Your kimono suits you,” he said. 

That entire night, I smiled.  In a small way, things had changed between us, but for the better.

Though I had no classes with Tanaka this semester, we still managed to meet.  The muggy evening weather made strolls unpleasant, so we drank tea instead.  One night, Tanaka suggested we forgo the coffee shop for a small restaurant near the campus.  Puzzled, I agreed with a shrug.  At the restaurant, to my great surprise, Tanaka ordered a pitcher of heated saké. 

“What’s this for?” I said.

“A toast to endings.” When Tanaka poured the first cup for me, I realized his wedding ring was missing.  Though I tried to be covert about my discovery, he sensed my eyes on his hand.  “Kirika and I married too quickly, I suppose.  In the end, we simply did not understand one another.” 

I poured some saké for him, and the two of us drank in silence.  The rice wine burned bitter in my mouth.

When we finished drinking, Tanaka escorted me to my dorm, which he had never done before, even when we parted in the dead of night.  Perhaps the saké made him forget himself.  We paused before the doorway, just like the myriad couples who shared their goodnights here.  Suddenly I came aware of his subtle cologne and the warmth of his skin.  “Goodnight,” Tanaka said, as tenderly as though we were lovers.  From the barely-checked yearning in his eyes, I half-expected him to pinion me to his chest and plunder my mouth with a kiss to make the Heian courtesans blush.  Yet our parting that night ended no differently from its predecessors; it culminated in nothing.

Thoughts of that night kept me preoccupied all through class.  I wondered if Tanaka really had been about to kiss me.  If I closed my eyes, I could smell his cologne and taste the saké in my mouth.  The only explanation I could think of was that it was too soon after his divorce for such things, that he would come around in time.  My conflicting feelings led me to his office that afternoon. 

Tanaka hummed as he straightened his desk, his melancholy toasts of yesterday forgotten.  At the sound of my footfalls, he turned.  “Ah. Shinhada-san.  I hoped you would come.” 

His smile made happiness quicken the beat of my heart.  “You did?”

“Yes,” he said.  “I found your present from Kyoto this morning; it was lost before.  It’s not much, but here it is.”  The crinkly paper and the gift beneath it fit comfortably in both my hands. 

“Thank you!”  I smiled down at the gift, wondering what this first present between us could possibly be.  Tanaka came closer, and the inevitability that precedes an embrace drew us together like a strong tide. 

“Good afternoon, Tanaka-san, Shinhada-san.”  I stiffened.  Sato!  Somehow he had sneaked up behind us.

“Sato-sempai.”  Tanaka bowed low.  “What brings you here?”

“I have important news for you.”


“Not only that, you’re one of the first to know.  The official announcement isn’t until next week.”

“How did you manage that?” Tanaka said.

“I have friends in many places.”  False humility ill-disguised Sato’s smirk.  “As one interested in the Heian period, you, too, may find this intriguing, Shinhada-san.”  Though Sato’s face was all open friendliness, I did not trust him.  “Kyoto University is collaborating with Tokyo U for a symposium on classical literature.  If you compose an especially good paper for it, you may get selected to conduct a temporal comparison of literature with a team of professors.”

“Interesting,” Tanaka said.  “There usually isn’t money for such studies.”

“How they dredged up the grant for it remains a mystery to me,” Sato said.  “In any case, if you are selected, you’ll spend an entire year in Kyoto.  It is a great opportunity for your career and for you, Tanaka-san, seeing as you are half-stuck in the Heian period even now.”

Tanaka’s eyes lost their dreamy state.  “Why, that is valuable information.  Thank you very much, Sato-sempai.” 

“Yes, of course.  I thought first of you, Tanaka-san.”

There was no denying that Sato’s announcement had essentially brought Tanaka’s dream to life.  But after our talk last spring, I trusted him less than an assassin with his hands behind his back. 

Initially I expected Tanaka to turn his attentions from me to his paper.  However, passion for both drove him to four hours of sleep, five at the most.  I insisted that he not spend so much time with me to focus on the paper that was so important to him. 

He responded that I inspired him.  Spending the evening with me enabled him to write with vigor the entire night.  I wondered if hope and inspiration had deluded him.  For all those months, his pronouncements never wavered.  My modern ear wondered if he was all right.  My Heian ear, however, heard passion and perhaps love.

Despite the time we spent together, we never spoke of the gift he had gotten me: a silk fan.  The design showed cherry blossoms around the edges, floating through a crystal-blue spring sky.  Beneath it, strolled a dancer from the Heian period.  Though she faced downward, I had the feeling she possessed enough beauty to not be upstaged by the scene.  Yet, I felt no words were necessary in this case. 

Tanaka and I never spoke of his feelings or our need to be together.  Some nights, even when we had not planned to meet, I found myself loitering outside watching the moon or breathing the crisp autumn air.  Then, as though I had summoned him with a secret letter, he would appear.  We could finish one another’s sentences.  One would think at this point, there could be no more discussion of Heian, that we had exhausted that era of all conversation-worthy topics. 

It was just the opposite.  The more time we spent together, the more we had to say.  And the farther autumn progressed, the less time we had to say it. 

Sometimes, I tried to convince myself I could not fully express my affections for Tanaka because to do so would jeopardize his dream.  Often, I could not make do with this self-imposed constraint and agonized just what it was he wanted.  He seemed happy in his strange unacknowledged relationship with me.  Yet, this semester was a stage of static.  His parting was not yet imminent, which made these days the one time that such disparate interests, as my love and his desire to live in Kyoto, could serve one another.

The farther we progressed through autumn, the more I had to tell Tanaka, until each hour away from him filled me to bursting.  In desperation, I tried to believe that our feelings would burn out like the violent flames of a sudden fire.  Instead, Tanaka’s inevitable departure bound us tighter together.  My attempts to exhaust my tolerance for him built stamina.  Every endeavor I made to purge my heart led to greater sympathy and understanding. 

I felt I had known him for half a century, that I could predict his reaction in any circumstance.  Yet he had never acknowledged his love, nor had I so much as mentioned mine.  When it came to Tanaka, I had all and nothing. 

As winter drew nearer, Tanaka’s dreams imparted light to his spirits, and they shone with the radiance of vanished summer days.  Never had I seen him so joyous.  Even as his happiness fed mine, those very dreams and their certain realization cast darkness over my heart.

At last, the gray skies of winter closed in and with them, the symposium selection results.  Tokyo U’s homepage broadcasted what I had already expected: Tanaka was not only going to the symposium, but he had been chosen to conduct the temporal survey.  With great relish, Sato posted the announcement on every bulletin board in the History and Literature departments.  Though I had known that Tanaka would succeed, my smile was bittersweet.  In surrendering a victory to one infinitely better than he, Sato had won.  No matter what happened, he would not win me, however.  That I vowed.

After my classes concluded that afternoon, I reached a decision that made me tremble.  At the close of the week, Tanaka would leave for an entire year.  My studies were far from concluded, so there was no way that I could follow him.  Today I would make my love confession.  Before he left, I had to know if he returned my feelings.

The question I had to ask made my walk to his office seem something unusual and forbidden.  By the time I reached it, my heart beat so fast I feared he would see it fluttering like a bird trapped beneath my shirt.

“Shinhada-san,” Tanaka said when he at last noticed me standing in the doorway.  “Please come in.  Sit down.”

I did not and stole a last glance at the hall instead.  “Tanaka-sensei,” I said.  “We have known each other for nearly a year.”

“We have.”

“It seems much longer.”  I struggled to find the next words.  “Sensei, often it feels as though our friendship is a cover for deeper feelings.  Always we speak of the romances of the past.  But what of the present?” 

Tanaka flinched, and his eyes went dark.  “Mutual understanding such as ours can be deceptive.  I did not mean to mislead you.”

His lie turned my blood to ice.  My vision clouded, and I could not see Tanaka’s face as he said, “For that reason…”  Forever came and went in the space of his pause.  “I can’t.”

Outside the window, fall leaves broke free from the trees and soared on the wind.  “I see,” I said.  “Congratulations…on your trip to Kyoto.”  Only one thing remained to say, the hardest of all because, despite its inevitability, it was what I least wanted to say.  “Sayounara (6).”  I lingered on my bow, but he never answered. 

The end.

Japanese Words and Phrases

(1)          hanami Japanese flower viewing party at which the members get heavily intoxicated.

(2)          bento boxes A meal (usually lunch) that consists of rice, fish or meat and pickled or cooked vegetables

(3)          enjou kosai Young girls date older men for money. 

(4)          bon festival A Japanese Buddhist holiday that honors the departed spirits of one's ancestors

(5)          karoushi Death by overwork, usually from a stress-induced stroke or heart attack. 

(6)          Sayounara “Goodbye”, with the connotation that you and the person to whom you say it will never meet again.


A/N: I hope you enjoyed "His Answer". To read more of my original "short" stories, please visit my website http://www.firesidestories.webs.com/

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