An artist meets a muse that inspires him.
| Hello, my name is not important, so let’s just call me Smith. The reason I am not important is because this story is not about me, it is about an amazing woman I met who lived in a glass box. |
Before I get to the story, I do need to introduce myself, I majored in art in college and once I was done, I had a choice, become a teacher, or do something with my art. I choose the later. I took the money I had saved doing part time jobs during college and went overseas to a land that I had always thought was beautiful, Japan. So, I entered Japan and for around 6 months just traveled from town to town drawing the magnificent landscapes I had seen along the way, I used this time to truly learn the language. I had taken Japanese for 4 years in college but was shocked by what little I knew. These months traveling were some of the best of my life, but as an artist I was starting to grow bored.
With my art suffering from a lack of inspiration I traveled to a city, hopeful to find some. It wasn’t right when I entered Chiba that I found her, but a few days later. I would sit in an area where many people passed, I was certain that it was a muse I was looking for, so I searched the city day and night, hopeful to find her, or if I discovered something new about myself, him.
It was my fourth day of searching, a Thursday, I recall, when I first saw her.
She was striking in the way she walked, and I could not help but follow her. She had long black hair and was taller than most Japanese woman I had seen, she was taller than me in fact, now that I think back to it. She walked down the street and the people seemed to part for her, she had a purpose, she had a destination she wanted to be, and she would not be stopped. It was only when she came across a glass box that she stopped. I had seen these around Japan, they are areas that smokers go to smoke. Japan like most every country has realized that secondhand smoke is a problem, but their solution is a strange one to me, an American, they put in spaces for people to smoke, away from everyone else instead of forcing them to stop completely.
In a way I admire the idea, it allows the smokers their freedoms and doesn’t bother non-smokers like myself. I had even seen some stadiums in Japan had them. When I first saw one, I researched to see what it was. That, however, is just some backstory so you understand where she was going.
So, I watched this woman walk in and lean against the side of the glass box and pull out a pack of cigarettes from her pocketbook and light up. She was amazing to see, there was almost no caring in her eyes, she just breathed in the smoke, then breathed it out, it was as natural as breathing was to me. It was in a word, mesmerizing.
So, I stood back and watched her smoke the whole thing, the whole time she was looking out, at what, I have no idea, I just knew I wanted to know. She exited the box and went on back to wherever she was from, but me, I didn’t follow her, I didn’t approach her, I just let her go, I was a coward.
The next day I set up in a new area of the town, one where I had a direct line of sight of the glass box, hopeful to see the woman again. I looked at my watch and counted down the time till the woman would come again, two hours, one hour, thirty minutes, then it was time, and she did not appear. I was crushed, but I stayed, hopeful to see her again, and see her again I did.
She came about 45 minutes later than she had the day before, and before entering the box, had the same aura to her, one of wanting to be somewhere, one you could see melt away as soon as she was having her cigarette. I again was a coward and just sat by and watched. This continued for a week, she would come at different times every day, and she did not even appear on two of those days, days I am guessing she had off whatever job she had. This all changed on the second Thursday of watching her, this was the day I would finally get up the courage to enter the glass box and talk.
I didn’t know it at the time of seeing her however, it was a new time, right around sunset, and she entered her box, I watched her light up again, something I had grown to wanting to, needing to, see every day when I noticed something different, she looked at the angle she normally did then looked away. I was curious, why did she change her angle, what had changed in her life? So, before I knew it my feet were finally carrying me to the glass box.
I entered and she didn’t even look at me, that made me even more interested, I walked up to her and cleared my throat, partially to calm my nerves, and partially because it was horrible to breath in there, the glass box stunk horribly. She turned around and stared at me and I was taken in. Her black eyes showed almost no life like she was just on autopilot and she held the cigarette in her mouth without her hands, she looked tough.
“Yes?” She asked. Her voice was scratchy but still had a certain feminine charm to it, she looked at me like she would ignore me no matter what I would say, but I had to speak up I, had to tell her.
“I want to draw you.” I said to the woman. Most women would scream, yell, not believe me at all, and it would be the correct thing to do. If you study up on Japan, you learn it has major issues with perverts who will kidnap woman and rape them. The woman did none of those things, she just stared at me, no life in her eyes, if she was scared, or considering what I asked, she did not show it on her face.
“No.” She said to me and turned around, bringing her hand to her cigarette so she could clear it of some ash.
I walked away dejected, but not defeated, I would draw this woman yet. So, I repeated what I had done before, I stayed outside with my eyes on the glass box for another week. When she appeared, my focus would narrow and all that existed in the world would be the beautiful woman and her cigarette. I don’t know when she first saw me, but the Thursday, one week after I first talked to her, she did not appear at any of the times I was used to seeing her.
“Is this where you watch me from?” A voice with almost no emotion came from behind me and startled me, it was the woman. She lined up the glass box with her hand and looked at the angle I had. “I see, this would be a good place for a show.” She then grabbed my hand and pulled me, so I was standing up. “Come with me”, she said then dragged me to the box.
“What is your name?” She asked me while lighting a cigarette and letting it burn in her mouth, and I answered. “Why me?” She then asked and, I answered.
“You are unlike anyone one else I have ever seen. You are not here, but you are, you are looking ahead, but not. I can’t get your eyes out of my mind. I just need to put you on paper, make you last forever. I have never felt this way before, you have made my choice to be an artist all worth it.” At the end of my explanation the woman moved her right hand in front up to her eyes and looked outside trying to see them reflected in the glass. She then moved her hand up and down her reflection’s face.
“Where do you stay?” She asked me and I explained that I stay some nights in a capsule hotel, but other nights I just sleep in a park, I had a decent amount of money still, but I wanted to stay in Japan longer than I had originally planned. “Tonight, you may come home with me, and”, she stopped, took an inhale, then exhaled it, then began again, “draw me”.
Once the woman finished her cigarette, I followed her out of the glass box, and we went to her place of work, which to my surprise was a love hotel. She worked the front desk and she asked me to wait a few hours till she got off work. I just sat there feeling all types of awkward. Men and women would come in at a decent pace and ask for rooms. I know who some of these people are now and if I was that type of person, I could have some political favors for my silence, but I’m not.
The woman got off shift and grabbed my hand and led me to her house. I say house but it is more of an apartment that was only three blocks from the love hotel. She opened the door and allowed me in. She pointed at a chair and I went and sat in it while she went to the kitchen. I could hear her pouring something into a cup and she came in with two cups full of drinks.
“Do you drink umeshu?” She asked and I answered that I wasn’t much of a drinker. She blinked then handed me the cup anyway. I sniffed it and I will admit it did not smell that bad, so I took a small drink of it. The woman did the same and she asked to be excused for a moment.
I waited while she did something and looked around her apartment, it had a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom, and what I assumed was a bedroom. I looked and noticed there were no posters on the wall, art, or even a plant of any kind to add flavor to the room. It had a television, two chairs, one of which I was sitting in, and a table. The woman then walked back in having changed.
Whereas before she had been wearing something I would consider almost formal now she was wearing a much more casual t-shirt and tight jeans. The shirt was black with a white flower on it. She looked at me then directed me to follow her which I did. She led me to her bedroom and pulled a chair out from behind a desk in the room and motioned for me to sit in it. I followed the instructions and sat down. She then went to the edge of her bed and sat down. She sat for a second as if waiting for me to do something before realizing she would have to initiate me starting to draw.
“Whenever you are ready Smith, I am ready.” She said and looked at me. At her insistence, I went into my bag, and pulled out a sketch book I kept with me at all times and my collection of pencils. I then looked up at my subject, but something seemed off. I looked at her with a near confused face before I realized the problem.
“This might seem like a silly request, but can you smoke while I draw you?” I asked the woman. She looked at me and her eyes did not change at all, she just stood up and grabbed a pack of cigarettes and an ashtray off the desk where I had gotten the chair from and she walked back over to the bed and lit up. With her first inhale I was inspired again and went to my drawing. She had regained that look in her eyes that she always had when she smoked, the look that drew me to her in the first place. I had to start with those eyes. After around 30 minutes of drawing, erasing, then drawing again I was starting to feel like she was getting a bit bored, so I decided to talk to her.
“You know”, I started, “I never got your name”, I said then put my pencil down for a moment after my third attempt at her eyes. She blinked a few times and then she put out her cigarette which had been burning in her mouth for around two minutes.
“My name is Kuromi”, she said then stood up. “I am going to go to the bathroom and grab some water, I will be ready to begin again when I get back, she said. I watched her walk away and admired how much presence she had walking even when at her house with only me, a stranger around.
While I was waiting for her to come back, I noticed that the sun had gone down, and it was now night. She had said I would spend the night here, but I was surprised how good of a sport she was about this. She came in and noticed me staring out the window at the night sky.
“It is starting to get late”, she said looking outside, “I am willing to pose for 30 more minutes then I will have had enough. She then looked down at the page the sketch book was on where you could see that I had drawn and erased her eyes numerous times. “Let’s see if you can get my eyes done tonight.” She then sat back down, looked at me for a second, then breathed out before grabbing her cigarettes and lighting a new one. She then looked ahead, and I was in a trance once again.
Having already found three ways to fail portraying those magnificent eyes I went to work and this time I almost had them, almost, but at the last minute, when I had finally felt I had captured what I wanted I looked up to Kuromi’s eyes and was disappointed in myself, I was still nowhere near. I grabbed the sheet out of the sketchbook and crumpled it up and threw it to the floor angry at myself for almost being happy with a failure of a piece of work. I stood up and paced for a minute, Kuromi used this as a chance to tap her cigarette into the ashtray and make it so the ash would not fall. Her eyes followed me as I paced for a minute before I sat back down. I glanced at the clock and noticed I only had about fifteen minutes of her time left. I wanted to get something done for the night, so I stopped trying to capture those eyes and went about sketching the structure of her face.
I have spent much of my time talking about her eyes, but her face was also pretty. It had been worn a bit but still portrayed some youthfulness and I wanted to capture that part of her as well, especially her chin, which was smooth as silk. I barely added some shadow to her face, then used white to accentuate her smoothness and put down my pencil. It was not her eyes, but I had captured a part of her that I adored.
She saw me put the pencil down and put out her cigarette. She then looked at me for a second then grabbed her shirt and took it off. I was taken aback, but she did not care, she barely looked at me in fact, she walked over to her closet and grabbed a shirt, one bigger than what she had been wearing and put it on, I then realized this was what she would be sleeping in.
I felt like she was giving me a hint so I started to walk out, thinking I would sleep on her sofa or the chair in the living room.
“Where are you going?” She asked me, which caused me to pause. “I didn’t say anything about you leaving.” I slowly turned around and noticed she had sat back down on the bed and seemed to be beckoning me to sit on the bed as well. “Don’t tell me you are afraid, or even better, a virgin?” She asked me, which took me aback.
I am not a virgin, but it had been quite a few years since I had my one sexual encounter in college, and I had not expected to be asked to have sex when I had woken up that morning like I had the first time. Kuromi stared at me with her eyes, and I could not say no. I walked over and sat next to her in the bed. The next thing I knew I was lying next to her naked and she was smoking a cigarette. I slowly fell asleep unable to even comprehend what had happened.
The next morning, I woke up and Kuromi was already out of bed. I listened and heard that she was in her shower. I leaned up and looked down and remembered what I had done the previous night. I rolled over and put my pants and shirt back on and went back to the living room and grabbed my bag. When Kuromi went out of the bathroom I nodded my head towards her and went in myself and took a shower before putting on new clothes.
I left the shower and found a note in the living room. “There is some food in the fridge, I will be off work at 6, you can stay here and practice your eyes.” I chuckled at the note and went to the kitchen.
Around 6:20 Kuromi came in and woke me up from a nap I was taking on the couch. I hadn’t had a permanent roof over my head for a while, so this was nice. I cracked my neck and welcomed her back. She looked at me then went to her bathroom. She had gone to change as she had the day before and once she was done allowed me to enter her bedroom.
Kuromi grabbed her lighter and cigarettes again and lit up, sitting in near the same position she had the day before. She looked off into the distance and I was determined, today I would get the eyes. I failed a few times, as I had the day before, but each time I was closer to solving the riddle of what they meant. I decided to as I had the day before, make some small talk to give her a break from posing and maybe so I could find the answer.
“How did you start smoking, if you don’t mind me asking?” I asked Kuromi. She looked down at her cigarette and for the first time, I saw what almost passed for emotion in her eyes, she was remembering something.
“Do you read manga?” She asked me. I really didn’t I explained, it wasn’t that it was bad, but my Japanese was barely able to pass conversationally, reading was a whole other monster. “Oh, well I read a story when I was only 14, it was called Nana.” At this Kuromi stood up and walked over to a bookshelf I had ignored the last two days and pulled out a manga and looked at the cover. She then handed it to me.
I flipped through it and well I caught some words, but I was mainly flipping through. I then stopped on a page, there was a woman with short black hair looking out into the distance as I had seen Kuromi do so often and in her mouth was a cigarette. “Oh”, was all I could say when I got to the page and saw it.
“That is Nana. She and another girl named Nana are two girls who meet and become best friends despite being opposites. Nana’s is a singer in a band, and I, I just wanted to be her.” Kuromi’s eyes at this point seemed almost to be looking back, I had studied her eyes so much I felt I could tell every little change in them by now. “Well, I tried to start a band, and I wanted to be just like her.” Kuromi showed me her brand of cigarettes, Seven Stars. “Nana smoked this brand and I had to too.” She then smiled and pushed down a laugh coming from inside her.
“There were parents’ groups afraid that Nana was making smoking look cool, and honestly, she was, especially the anime.” Kuromi looked to her side remembering something that I had not seen. “Well, on my 18th birthday I grabbed a pack, and I would not take any amount of fighting my body would do against it seriously, and I became hooked.” She then grabbed a fresh cigarette out of her pack and lit up, she almost seemed to relish the first inhale then returned to her face of looking forward to nothing.
“Sadly, that is all I was able to take from Nana.” She took the cigarette out of her mouth and flicked off some ash into her ashtray. “I can’t sing, and it took me way too long to realize that, long enough that I wasted my time in school, and now, now I work in a love hotel.” She then took another drag of her cigarette and walked over to her window and looked outside. “I wasted my life, I have a dead-end job, no one even gives me the time of the day. I am just another failure on the streets.” She paused and took another inhale before finishing. “Does that explain my eyes to you?”
I was speechless, this woman I barely knew had just bore her soul to me. I looked away from her not knowing what to say then I looked into her eyes and finally, knowing her pain, I knew what to draw. I put the volume of Nana Kuromi had given me aside and took up my sketchbook and pencil. I told her to sit down and I started to draw.
It was like my arm was possessed, I needed to erase a small blemish here and there but finally it was coming along, finally I would finish the eyes. Not ten minutes later I was done. I looked at my masterpiece and back to my all too willing model and felt fulfilled.
She stood up once I was finished and looked at the eyes. She then nodded and put out her cigarette and brought me back to her bed. That night, for the first time ever, I made love to the same woman twice.
I woke up the next morning and was a little better prepared. I got changed while Kuromi was still in the shower. I got up and went to the living room and sat in a chair. I turned on the news to make sure I had not missed anything important over the last few days and just sat there. Kuromi came in and walked over to the kitchen and made herself some coffee. As she was leaving to her job she turned around and looked at me for a second before adding, “I imagine with my eyes done the rest will come easily and you will be done soon.” She didn’t allow me to answer and left.
It was true, I would likely be done soon, and I hadn’t even thought of it. I had, in just two days, fallen into this women’s world and just lived within it. I wondered what would happen after I was done. I went to her bedroom, and drew her room, her bed, her desk, and her bookshelf, making sure to make it obvious that the manga in the bookshelf was Nana due to its importance to her. This took up all the time while I waited for her to return.
When she came in, I had just finished a shower and her apartment still had the humid feeling that a shower gives a place with little air circulation. She looked at me for a second before she talked, “I’ll change, then we can get started.”
After she was finished, I went back into her room and she reentered the position I had grown so fond of the last couple of days and she lit up a cigarette. I was able to masterfully capture the rest of her body, her nose, her hair, the way her shoulders hung. The last thing I had to draw was her mouth and I don’t know what it was, but I knew somehow, I should ask this, it might just have been me reading her eyes. “Should I draw you with a cigarette, or without?”
She looked up at me when I asked this and once again, her eyes flicked momentarily, I couldn’t tell what she was thinking, but I could tell she was thinking about something in the distance. “Without”, she said. She then put her cigarette out in the ashtray and looked at me.
I went about drawing a mouth, one that almost seemed to want to form into a smile, like it wanted to, but couldn’t, like everything that had happened in her life was holding it back. I put the finishing touches on the mouth and looked at my sketch, then back at Kuromi and smiled. “Done”, I said in a soft whisper and tapped the sketch, I had captured my muse in the perfect way.
She walked over and looked at the sketch over my shoulder. “I wish it was a little bigger”, she said looking at it, I had drawn it on an 8x11 sheet of sketch paper, and the drawing was around 10 inches high and 7 inches wide. She nodded and we went to the kitchen and had a small supper. After that we went back to her bedroom and I engaged in my third straight night of having sex, a record I sadly, keep to this day. After we were done, she stood up and lit up a cigarette then looked outside. She exhaled almost forcefully and then turned around and faced me.
“Can you please leave in the morning?” She asked. I was shocked, I must have had a horribly dumb look on my face because I swear, I almost saw her smile. “I don’t want you around anymore, I, I, can’t really explain it. I just want you gone.” She then walked over to her desk and pulled out a mirror. “Don’t worry, there are two things I will keep from you Smith.” She then seemed to be visualizing how she would look with short hair by having her hand cover part of it while looking in the mirror. “First, I want to keep the sketch. I find it to be the best picture of me there has ever been.” She then looked down at me, still in the bed and continued. “I believe that is a good payment for me being such a willing model.” She then walked back over to her side of the bed and laid down on it before rolling to me and kissing me on the cheek. “Second, I will cut my hair, to remind me of you.” She then flipped over, away from me, and went to sleep.
The following morning, I did as I was asked, I woke up, took a quick shower, and walked out of the apartment, my eyes meeting Kuromi’s one final time. I walked out the door, certain I would never see her again.
3 years later
I decided not to return to America, I had truly fallen in love with Japan, so I stayed. I was able to find work in Yokohama at a recreational center where I taught young and old people how to draw and not as successfully, how to paint. I carved a nice life for myself, I had an apartment, and a small social life, a few friends I would go out drinking with, and I gained a fandom of Japanese baseball.
I found myself with a week-long holiday and I decided to head to Chiba to go to the Houki Art Museum which I had only gone to for a day when I had been there three years previously. While revisiting this town I found my legs carrying me to a familiar road. I walked down it and found myself in front of the glass box. I looked at it for only a second before realizing what I had to do. I walked to a bench with a clear shot of the box and I pulled out my sketchbook and started to draw it.
My hand was moving faster than my brain could think so it was a major challenge, but after around thirty minutes I felt I was able to capture the essence of the glass box I wanted to convey, the feeling of solitude, of being cut off from the rest of the world. I was about to leave when I felt a hand come across my shoulder. I looked up and I saw Kuromi.
“Hello Smith”, she said, “still drawing huh?” I was shocked by what I saw. She had done as she had promised and cut her hair, it was much shorter, but this did not take any power from her presence, if anything it added to it. Her shorter hair gave her more of a “I don’t care”, attitude, like she did not care about being pretty, no matter how pretty she really was.
The hair was the first thing I noticed, then my eyes went back to where they loved to rest, her eyes. They still had a longing look, but they had changed as well, there was still the longing of the future, but with a bit more of a melancholy feel, like she was looking forward in one way, but looking back in another. A smile crept across her face, which I do admit, scared me, but if she realized that, she ignored it. I stood up and she grabbed my hand, “come back with me”, she said and started to drag me to her apartment once again.
The sea of people parted for this beautiful woman as they always seem to, and I was dragged to the apartment I had spent three days in before. I entered and was shocked to see that nothing had changed. I looked, the television, the chair, the sofa, they were all there, and they had barely moved. It was like time had not forward in this apartment. I went to sit down in the chair but was momentarily distracted by the sound of a lighter starting up. I turned towards the noise and I saw Kuromi smoking a cigarette staring at me.
At first her expression was the emotionless one I had known before but slowly it gave way to one that looked sad. She took her cigarette out of her mouth and exhaled as I had never seen her exhale before, it was like she was trying to get the smoke as far away from her as possible. As soon as she seemed satisfied, she took another drag, and repeated the process. I watched her smoke the whole thing that way, she, and I never broke our eye contact with each other. She finished it off and put it out in an ashtray which was on the table. She then told me to wait and she went to change.
When she came back out, I was shocked to see she was wearing the same shirt she had worn when she first posed for me, the black one with the white flower, it was at this moment I was wondering if I would have to draw her again, my answer came only a minute later. “Please, follow me”, she said and led me to her bedroom.
The bedroom had barely changed as well, the bookshelf was still there, her bed, and the desk next to her bed. It was while looking on the desk I noticed a new picture frame, and in it was my drawing of her. “I loved the picture”, she started, “I look at it every morning when I wake up, and every evening when I head off to bed. It is a picture of me that gets me, and I keep it as a reminder.” Her voice trailed off when finishing that statement. She looked at me, then headed to the closet in the room and pulled something out. To my surprise it was an easel with some canvas on it.
“Please draw me again using this.” She asked of me, and well, I was too taken in, too caught up in her flow to say no, so I nodded my head and we went back into our old positions, me in a chair, and Kuromi on the bed. She paused for a second then grabbed a cigarette and lit up. I stared at her, trying to figure out how I would approach this ambush when I decided to do what I had before and draw an outline of her.
While I was drawing the outline, I decided to engage in some small talk, I had gotten much better at it having to teach seniors art and I felt I choose a good topic to start.
“I did end up reading Nana by the way. It was quite good, wish it ended though.” I told her and looked up; her lip formed a small frown for a second then went back to how it had been.
“I’m sorry I didn’t warn you.” She said back. I then was annoyed at myself, should I talk more about Nana, or what, I looked into Kuromi’s eyes again and went back to drawing. Her eyes were a little different this time, however, they were looking back, almost as if remembering something.
“Thank you for doing this”, she said to me. I stopped drawing for a second and realized something, she had never thanked me before. I looked up at her and she almost had a smile forming on her face, I paused and closed my eyes and exhaled, then went back to the easel. I hesitated about drawing her mouth now, the near smile was simply captivating, but I didn’t know if this was what I wanted to capture, what she wanted captured, or not.
I instead focused on her ears, a body part I did not spend almost any time with when I first drew her since she had longer hair back then that covered them. Her ears were smallish and were close to her head, they didn’t stand out, but I made sure that if you looked at the drawing you would see them.
My hand then started to move to the body part I most wanted to draw, the eyes. I took a quick stab at them hopeful that my previous success with them would lead to another one, but alas, something had changed, and once again I had trouble conveying them. I tried and failed three times before I got frustrated and stood up to calm down.
Kuromi watched me pace and then looked down for a moment, her eyes filling with sadness, something I had never seen in them before, at least not at the surface. She then put out her cigarette and stood up and looked me in the eyes.
“I have something to tell you”, she said. Her voice was not as powerful as I was used to, it almost sounded like she had a frog in her throat, like she did not want to say what she was about to say. “I know why you are having trouble with my eyes. It is because you are drawing them with your memories of how I was when we first met. I was a directionless failure who had no future, but maybe, somewhere in the back of my mind I felt there was still a chance I could make something happen, make my life better.” She then paused, and to my shock tears started falling from her eyes.
“I know now that I do not have a future”, she paused, then breathed in and out before giving me the worst news a person can ever receive. “I have cancer.”
I froze, I didn’t know what to do, what to say, my mind shut down. I didn’t know how to react to what she had just told me. I walked backwards and found the chair I had been sitting in and sat down. I started to cry. I barely even knew this woman, but I cried when I heard the news. It was a death sentence, or the closest we humans have to a natural one, and it had hit this woman. This woman with the most beautiful eyes in the world and I couldn’t help her.
Kuromi walked out of the room and left me there to cry alone. I don’t know how long I cried, I just know eventually I just ran out of tears, it wasn’t that I was feeling better, I just stopped. I looked up and tried to dry my face with the shirt I had been wearing then my eyes went to the drawing I had started. It was all wrong, I took it and ripped it in two, I was going to need to start all over again.
I walked out of Kuromi’s bedroom and entered back into the living room and saw Kuromi sitting there. She looked up when I entered the room and she had regained her composure as well.
“You reacted as badly as my mom and sister did.” She started. “I told them in person, and I feel it was the first time my mom had reacted to anything I had told her in years. She wailed and wailed, and I felt horrible. I wish I could take it back.” She then ran her hand through her hair. “I am glad I found you now honestly, I am going to have to start chemotherapy soon. I, I still intend to fight, but I feel like it is only a waste of time. My mom was adamant that I try to live so I gave in. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t even bother, but seeing them cry, seeing you cry makes me realize that I actually did touch some people.” She stood up and then started to walk to her bedroom. She motioned for me to follow, and I could not say no.
The next morning, I woke up and was surprised to find Kuromi still in bed with me. She rolled over when I woke up and for a split second, I saw a smile, before it disappeared, replace by her typical lack of emotion. She and I stared at each other for a long time before she got up, put on some clothes, and went to make some breakfast. I followed her after putting on some clothes and joined her.
“I don’t have work today”, she explained as I entered, “so we can take as much time as you need.” She paused and almost chuckled to herself, “well we don’t have an infinite amount of time.”
While sitting eating together Kuromi lit up a cigarette and inhaled it like someone who had been starving. I sat there trying to decide if I would breach the subject and eventually decided to do it.
“Did you ever consider quitting?”
She looked up at me and put the cigarette down in the ashtray. She thought for a moment then grabbed it back and took another inhale. She placed it back down and exhaled the smoke. She then answered in one word, “no.”
I didn’t push the topic, I just let the word linger there. Eventually, we both finished out breakfasts and Kuromi went to go take a shower. I went to her bedroom while she was showering, I took out my sketchbook and drew the easel, something to remember this day by.
She came out of the shower and I was finally ready, ready to portray what was going through this woman who had thought she had given up on the future, who had convinced me that she had given up, probably convinced everyone she had, to discover that she had not given up completely, and only discovering that when she felt that she truly one hundred percent had no hope of a future. She went to the corner of the bed, took out a cigarette, lit it up and I started to draw.
I went to work on her eyes and was done in ten minutes, the rest of her came to me just as quickly, even quicker than it had when I first drew her. In barely over two hours I eventually reached her mouth. Once again, I paused and looked at her, ready to ask the same question I had asked her three years before.
“With or without the cigarette?”
She thought for a moment, she rolled the cigarette she had taken out of her mouth in her ashtray to knock off access ash and looked me in the eyes before asking me a question. “Which do you prefer?”
I hesitated, could I really say what I was about to say, these things were killing her. I thought of lying to her, but I looked into her eyes and knew that would be wrong, those eyes wanted the truth, no, Kuromi wanted the truth.
“I prefer with the cigarette.” I answered, then hung my head down in shame.
“That’s fine.” She whispered to me and put the cigarette back into her mouth.
I drew her mouth, with the cigarette being the missing piece of it, the thing that made her mouth, her eyes, her entire face, her entire being, whole. I stared at my completed drawing and smiled, I don’t know if it was better than the first time I had drawn her, but I was satisfied with it.
Kuromi put out her cigarette and walked over to see the drawing. She nodded her head and her lips curled a small bit to a smile. “I am glad I was able to find you one last time.” She said then she started to take off her clothes.
I spent the rest of the day there, then I was faced with a dilemma, I didn’t want to leave her. Sadly, or maybe luckily, Kuromi took that choice out of my hands.
When we laid down to go to sleep that night she started to talk. “You have to leave tomorrow”, she explained, “I am moving out soon to live with my mother while going through chemo, and I need to start packing.” I ignored that she had very little to pack and allowed her to give me this excuse. I really did not want to leave, I loved living in Kuromi’s world, but it was time for me to return to mine, and Kuromi must have known.
That night me and Kuromi had what was as of today, the last time I had sex, no one has enchanted me quite like her since. When we woke up in the morning, I was allowed to take a shower, and then I turned to her before I walked out of the door and said the hardest words to say to someone, goodbye.
Six months Later
It was six months later that this story ended. I got a call one day from a number I did not recognize and answered it. On the other end was a woman’s voice I had never heard before.
“Is this Smith?” The woman asked and I told her I was. “This is Kuromi’s mom.” She said and once again, as had happened when I first heard the horrible news, the world stopped. “She passed away last night in her sleep.” I was walking when I got this call so I found a bench as soon as I could after hearing that news and started to cry. “We are having a wake in a week and she wanted you to come.” I got the information I needed and told her I would see her there.
A week later I went to the wake and met Kuromi’s mom and sister. They were both nice women whose eyes were much more vibrant than Kuromi’s, while I saw the resemblance, I was not interested in drawing them.
“Smith, I don’t know if you know this”, Kuromi’s mom explained, “but you were very important to my daughter. She never talked about anyone she had met after her band broke up, except you. When she talked about you, she seemed happy, I think you actually made her fight a bit harder Smith.” She started to tear up, then sniffed to try to stop it. ‘You meant a lot to her, so much she wanted you to have something.”
Her sister then pulled out a giant envelope and handed it to me. I opened it up and there was the second drawing that I had done of her, the one with short hair and her smoking. I got choked up looking at it and had to be excused from them for a few minutes.
Eventually, I found my way to the wake room where her picture, the ihai, and the flowers were to say goodbye to her, and I froze when I entered the room. Most people use photos for a wake but what I saw was not a photo, it was my first drawing of her.