It was when I was working my part-time job at Giuseppie’s coffeehouse one Saturday night. Right as we were closing and the manager stepped out the back door to have a smoke, and also to keep a watchful eye on me while I dumped the trash, in the dark and starless neon skies above Shibuya, and the rest of Japan for that matter, strange circles which had a swirling center that wasn’t quite blue or purple distinctly began appearing one by one, pockmarking the sky in an ominous way.
Now, this might sound like a precursor to some kind of monster invasion, where they just drop out of the sky portals and begin wreaking havoc on the country the moment they land, but in fact not a single damn thing happened that night.
Well, one thing happened that night, I definitely met a monster, but it wasn’t the kind from a fantasy novel or anything… It was the real life kind.
That monster took the form of one seriously bitchy gyaru named Yamasaki Shoko, the selfsame girl who, since I was in primary school, had bullied me relentlessly. Of all the times and places I could have run into her, it was in the park I purposefully cut through in order to get home about ten minutes faster. On a small wooden bench, with a black duffel bag lying underneath it, she sat there with her face in her hands, and was audibly crying.
Now, with the level of trauma I have from years of her bullying, I can recognize Yamasaki-san from a hundred yards away, and that’s no joke. Seeing as how she is not only in the same class as me, but sits in the desk immediately to the left of me, the fact that I’m here, in such close proximity to her that I couldn’t possibly mistake what I’m seeing, I couldn’t help but reflexively gulp and begin to feel an anxious panic coming on.
After all, she has an image to uphold. Her, being someone in the top of the school caste, and me, being at the very bottom, does not bode well for whatever sadistic things she could do to further my already hellish school life. I could care less that she’s crying, and if being able to ignore it would spare me, I surely would do so. However, though I may be bullied daily, I’m not a heartless wretch with lifeless eyes. I still have my pride as a decent human being. The kind of pride which led me, of all people, to speak up first to the person who is the closest thing to the devil in my life.
“Ano… Yamasaki-san? Is everything alright?”
I would like to reiterate that she hadn’t seen me at all until I spoke. I could have passed by entirely unnoticed, and certainly should have, considering our history, yet I hadn’t, and now her sobbing had quieted down. There was a single sniffle, and her body tensed up having heard her name being called. Was it because she recognized my voice, or did it not matter who it was, only that they knew who she was? Either way, she slowly removed her hands from her face and looked up at the perpetrator who had just violated her privacy. Me.
Yeah, expecting her to address me properly was a foregone conclusion. She called me as casually as she wanted without even a basic honorific even though we weren’t close, or remotely friends at all.
“What are you doing out this late?”
I almost had to pinch my hand to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. She wasn’t even talking to me with the harsh intonations she usually did, so I was on edge that something major had in fact happened with her. Was it that she had gotten dumped or something, and came to the park because she was down and out?
Shit! I knew I shouldn’t have gotten involved!
“Ah, um, m-my part-time job… I was just… l-leaving it… to go home…”
Whenever I am around her, I can’t help but stutter a bit. This was magnified due to her staring at me intensely, as delinquents often do, noticing that her tear-stricken face and ruined makeup hardly did anything to mar her otherwise perfect outward beauty. Now, I didn’t owe her a single thing, but seeing her in such a state had left me more angry at myself, that I wanted to help her, even though she damn well didn’t deserve it. Though, the fact that she wasn’t acting hostile to me immediately was what bothered me the most about this whole sudden encounter.
“...forget you saw me. You didn’t see anything, okay?”
No, rather than her not being hostile, it was definitely more of her being ashamed of something and wanting to have never been seen having a public moment of weakness, especially by me of all people. To be honest, I didn’t think a girl like her had any idea what shame was. However, I wasn’t about to abandon an easy exit to this situation that she herself prepared for me to use.
“Uh… I’ll… do that…” I replied, and grateful for the escape, I quickly hauled my ass back to my apartment.
I had brought a whole cake home with me, as it was my birthday today. I ended up putting it directly into the refrigerator, since I had lost all appetite for some strange reason. I imagine it was probably due to the stressful encounter I had with Yamasaki-san, and since the cake wouldn’t go bad anytime soon, I was sure I’d get around to eating it tomorrow. Foregoing the cake, I decided to lay down on my bed to relax, but the only thing I could see behind my eyelids was the sight of Yamasaki-san sitting on the bench in the park, in the dark, alone, crying to herself.
At some point, it became too much for my conscience to ignore what I had seen. Even if I hated Yamasaki-san, it left me uncomfortable to think she might still be there in the park by herself. I have no doubt she could take care of herself, however, it was pretty cold out there tonight, and with those strange circles that had appeared in the sky, did she even notice how ominous they were?
I hated myself for it, but I had to check on her. I hoped that she had left and gone home, so that it wouldn’t be my problem. Armed this time only with my house keys and phone, I locked up my apartment and footed it back to the park where I had pretty much abandoned her to the dregs of the night.
My shitty luck, eternally ever-present in my life, would of course lead me to finding her still there. On the very same bench, she was now lying down, using a rolled up shirt as a pillow and facing away from anyone passing by. But the question foremost on my mind right now was why…?
Why was Yamasaki-san sleeping alone on a bench in the park?
I mean, it would be pretty bad if a police officer came through and caught her, or even worse if some questionable vagrants with ill intentions came across her as well. Even if I detest her as a person, it’s not like I want her to suffer unnecessary trauma like I had to. I’m not a cold hearted person, even if, only to her alone, I want to be. All that was left was to nudge her shoulder, and hope she didn’t take a swing at me.
“Yamasaki-san?” I called out to her softly as I touched her shoulder, but her body’s reaction to my voice and touch was to immediately startle in fright. “It’s okay, it’s just m-me…”
She craned her neck around to see that it was me. The black bag which was previously under the bench was something she was clinging to tightly, as if I would one of my dakimakuras
“Subaru? What are you doing back here?” She asked, cautiously.
“I… was w-worried, okay?” I answered her, truthfully.
“You were worried about… me? Bullshit.”
I nodded with a heavy heart. I mean, she had every right to be suspicious about it, hell, I did too! But, that decent part of me felt that it was too much to leave her to sleep alone on a bench in the park tonight.
“I know… you’d rather I just g-go away… but… I live close by. It’s really n-not safe to sleep here in the park. If it’s… not unreasonable… w-would you c-consider coming to my apartment… and sleeping there at least, for the night?”
Her body turned fully around on the bench to stare at me with incredulity. “Why would you offer to help me? Don’t you hate me?”
I shook my head.
“I can’t answer that either… but for both of our sakes, won’t you at l-least spend the n-night at my place… where it’s safe? I… was troubled and unable to r-rest easily thinking you were out here alone.”
She took a long moment to consider what I had just asked her. It was colder outside now than it was a while before when I first encountered her, and if I wasn’t enjoying the situation just being out here for the few minutes that I was, feeling chilly, there’s no way in hell that she has been for at least the last hour or more.
“L-look, I’m not expecting anything to change between us. It’s just a warm room to sleep in for the night… t-that’s all.”
I don’t know why I continued to press the matter. It’s not as if she’s going to take me up on it anyway. She’s going to tell me to fuck off or something, but knowing that I at least tried, my guilty conscience should quiet down.
She sat up quickly on the bench, and unzipped her bag, stuffing the rolled shirt she had been using as a makeshift pillow quickly into it. I… hadn’t actually expected her to accept my offer at all, but now that she has, well, I… don’t know what to do exactly. It’s not like I had this grand plan to invite her to spend the night at my house, I was less okay leaving her out here alone than checking on her well being.
Sometimes being decent is difficult on its own, but one thing my father and this kindly neighborhood granny often told me growing up, is that the charity you are capable of showing someone when they can’t do a damn thing for you, is what determines your true worth as a person.
I had offered to carry her bag, but she immediately refused. She did however follow quietly behind me and out of the park, down about a block away to the multiplex apartment where I lived. My residence was a small one bedroom with a living room, kitchenette, and a bathroom. I don’t have much that I can call home as it is, let alone to offer to share with someone else for a night, but it was for sure at least a far better option than being stuck sleeping on a park bench on a cold and very strange night.
While there was a pair of house slippers she could use, she opted to remain in her long socks, depositing her shoes messily in the entryway. I didn’t really care either way, since she’d only be here for a night. She was looking around cautiously while holding on to her bag.
“If um… you n-need to use the bathroom, it’s right over there. A-are you hungry at all? I have some instant noodles that can be made q-quickly… or there’s…”
The moment I mentioned food, there came quite the audible rumble from her stomach. If she were to refuse my offer of food now, it would only be an obstinate move on her part instead of politeness. It was clear she was trying to hold on to what she had of her pride, and I fully intended to let her for as long as it was possible.
“It’ll only take a couple of minutes to h-heat up. Just relax on the sofa for now and let yourself warm up.”
I gestured to the only piece of furniture in the living room aside from the table in front of it, and that was my black leather sofa. At least, I think it was leather. She nodded regardless and made her way over to it, setting her bag down on the floor right next to her when she sat down. While she was occupying the couch, I found one of the more filling deluxe bowls of ramen I had stashed away in one of my kitchen cabinets, something which claimed in the packaging art to contain both bits of dried meat and vegetables within.
I had boiled some water quickly, and after pouring it into the plastic bowl of noodles, I had brought a pair of disposable chopsticks and a bottle of cold oolong tea along with it out to where she was sitting. She accepted both with a nod and no issue. A verbal thanks was not forthcoming, but I didn’t really feel like I needed one. This whole thing was me satiating my own conscience, and so technically she was humoring me just by accepting my offer to come to my apartment for the night.
She ate all of the food without any reservation, quietly, except for the sounds of slurping noodles. That did make me feel better at least. It was warmer, safer, and she was at least fed now. My only aim here with Yamasaki-san was just to make sure the basics of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was met given the strange circumstances happening outside tonight. That was it.
While she was eating, I went into my room and pulled out a simple set of clothes I had often used as pajamas, though not recently since they had been washed. When I returned to the living room, she had finished eating, and so I placed the clothes on the couch next to her bag.
“I… uh… d-don’t um, have a laundry machine, so… while I don’t know if you w-would want to use them… but these are clean clothes, and you can c-change into them for the night if you want to after taking a bath… a-again… only if you are okay with it. I’ll tidy up the room quickly so you can sleep in the bedroom and lock the d-door if it’ll make you feel safer… I won’t mind sleeping on the c-couch tonight.”
She simply, plainly, stared at me. I could see from her eyes, there was just a single word cycling there that she wanted to roll off her tongue.
Yet, it was not something I felt I could sufficiently explain to her well enough for her to understand. This was because I barely understood it myself. But she took her black bag, along with the change of clothes I provided and went into the bathroom. Maybe to humor me, or for her own reasons, I don’t have a clue, either way the door was closed and the lock was pressed. I wasn’t about to walk in on her, but I’m sure it’s not unreasonable to think I might have had an ulterior motive. At least from her perspective.
I disposed of her empty cup noodles while she was in there, and after tidying up my bedroom a bit, I played a game on my smartphone for a few minutes until she finally exited the bathroom. Her hair was a little wet still, and she had changed into the clothes I picked out for her to use. But that wasn’t the issue. The issue was what followed.
Yamasaki-san walked over to me immediately and then dropped to her knees, reaching for the belt on my pants and began to unbuckle it. I quickly took a step back, wondering what the fuck she was doing.
“Um… what are you… d-doing?”
She was leaning forward, still holding on to my belt.
“This is what you want, right?”
Did she think I wanted her to give me some kind of sexual favor for letting her stay the night!? How preposterous. Besides, it’d only be fuel later on should she ever recall doing something like that to… me!
“N-no! Nothing like that… really. Don’t um, d-don’t… treat your body so indifferently, okay? I just wanted you to not have to spend the night outside in the p-park on such a cold and strange night.”
She had yet to relinquish the hold she had on my belt.
“You don’t want to take this opportunity to get back at me… for all the years I’ve treated you like shit, Subaru?”
“E-even if I wanted to… I wouldn’t go about it this way!”
She let go when I protested. It led to her sighing.
“Ha~ah. I don’t get you, Subaru.”
“M-me either, okay? I don’t get you at all, Yamasaki-san.”
She stood up on her own. I had done my best to give her as much berth as possible, but seeing her outside of her flashy clothes or school uniform, dressed in one of my oversized black shirts I’d used as pajamas with a blue-haired musical anime character with twintails on it, I thought for the briefest of moment that she looked… cute.
Cute? What the hell am I thinking!?
“You don’t have to give me your bed. I’m perfectly fine with sleeping on the couch.” She said, coldly.
“It’s… no trouble.” I responded.
She stared at me again for a moment, before shrugging her shoulders. “Alright, since you’re insisting and it’s your place.” She walked right past me and through my bedroom door.
“I’ll leave it unlocked, in case you change your mind. I can only pay you for the stay with my body anyway.”
She pushed the door closed, but not to the point of it closing completely. What the hell was that about? I had the foresight to bring out a pillow and a blanket beforehand while she was in the bathroom, so I quickly made a bed for myself on the sofa and laid down. Sleep didn’t come easy for me, but it did come, along with the morning after, and an abrupt wake up in the form of her kneeling down in front of my sleeping face, and just staring at me.
I can’t even begin to express how much waking up to her that close to my face scared the living shit out of me!