Here in Tanegashima, I can hear the sea. Despite growing up and living in an archipelago, I never learned to swim. I love the sea anyway. I’ve been watching this girl surf all day. It would appear that despite her young age, she’s not going to school. Perhaps only for today.
Yesterday a rocket went up to space. I had just missed it. I’ve heard that the space station here has been very busy, and rockets uncouple themselves from the Earth’s gravity on pretty regular intervals.
I come here seeking some answers. Watching anime takes me back in time, even when I travel to the future. It may be because as an older man I witness the stories of my youth. While I’m not really doing a Takemoto bike ride across the Japanese countryside, I feel drawn to his story. What is it about unrequited love that moves me so?
I realize quickly that I’m in the wrong Japan, or in the wrong time. The surfer girl makes her way towards me. She seems cheerful and friendly. She sticks her board in the sand by the edge of the grass.
“Smoking those things will kill you, old man.”
That’s quite rude, young lady. I’m not that old.
“Sorry. Not a lot of people come here at this hour, but you seem okay.”
You look sad, young lady. Did too much saltwater get in your eyes?
“Now you’re being the rude one. My name is Kanae, and I’m not sad!”
Well, I am. Melancholy anyway. I missed the rocket launch.
“You’re lying, but not about being sad.”
I put out my cigarette. I just started thinking about this girl I used to like when I was just a little older than you.
“Did she die?”
No. I did.
I tell her about this girl who I had thought was perfect. I’ve moved on since and found a most satisfying romance, but today is a day of remembering love.
“Did you confess to her?”
Yes. And she loved me too for a short while.
“Good for you. Maybe you’re not so sad after all.”
No, not really. But something tells me you are.
“Yes, but I won’t stay this way. Unlike you, I didn’t confess. But that doesn’t make me a coward.”
Did someone call you that?
“I don’t know. But sometimes I see myself in the water and my own eyes look at me accusingly.”
She then tells me about this boy, Takaki. Whose eyes were forever looking away, whose fingers were always typing messages to someone, and whose kindness was overpowering and sad.
“I can’t compete with a memory.”
That’s all they are, Kanae. I had thought I’d never forget. I was a fool for five years nurturing my sorrow, so I’ve no right to counsel you. However, I gave it up without losing it.
“What does that even mean? To give up without losing?”
Tell me about how you exactly felt when you chose not to tell him how you felt.
“I thought I felt defeated. I could never make him happy so I had no right to ask him to forget. But, but then I thought about my own happiness. Could he ever make me happy? Can he ever give up this memory? She’s not even here?”
I didn’t respond. I looked at her surfboard, muddying the sand around it, and lit another cigarette.
“Why are you smiling? Aren’t you going to say anything?”
When is the next rocket launch? I would especially like to see it.
“Three mornings from now, I’ll be watching it from the waves.”