It was the middle of July, right after Summer Festival. I walked under the overly-sunny sky to my favorite place. Well, if you thought it is a garden with lot of flowers and cherry petals, then you surely got wrong guess. It just a small park in behind a small Shinto shrine, with a pond and a single bench.
Its location which far from street made people rarely come to this place. It was perfect for me, as I seek for quiet nap under warm sun. A morning full of lectures will surely killed anyone in this season.
However, it would not become my usual summer siesta…
As I reached the park, I found my favorite bench occupied. There was a girl reading a book and sitting on that place. Well, it was not like I reserved it, but having your siesta cancelled would likely bother you, right?
The person sitting on the bench looked at me as I got near her. Then—
“Can I help you?”
“Ah, can I sit here?”
I sat awkwardly beside her, knowing that she was someone I know nothing about.
I took a small glance at her. There was a distance of two people between us, but I could clearly see her face. She had long white hair and dark blue eyes. Her face was filled with seriousness while reading a foreign language book. Her small lips are tightly closed, but sometimes she showed smile.
“Something in my face?”
“Ah! No.” Realizing that she knew I was staring at her face, I quickly turned my face elsewhere.
However, I kept peeking at her, to find that she kept showing various faces while reading, as if she had secluded herself from the entire world.
Then the fairies of silence danced around us for another fairly time. It was not my intention to keep silent all the time. I felt that if I didn’t do something, the silence will surely killed me. But suddenly starting conversation is not something you would consider to do to person you don’t know. Then—
“Today is a nice day, isn’t it?”
I turned my head and put an airy smile on my face.
“Haha… If you mean the dog day of summer is a nice day, then you sure have a nice taste.”
“No. That’s not what I meant. It is my first time I feel such a warm summer. It is my first day in this country after all.”
“Well well… I’m happy that we can offer you such a warm greeting for you.”
“I don’t think I want your cold greeting too…”
Well, I thought sarcastic toned words to start a conversation is not appropriate, but the fact that it warmed the atmosphere, I thought it was not unnecessary.
“But, if you like this kind of day, then I think you don’t need to worry about tomorrow.”
“I’ll take that as a promise. Umm…”
“Shoichiro. Shoichiro Akasaka. That’s my name. And you?”
“Karila. Karila Shirakawa.”
For the entire summers in my life, all I did in this park was just napping and spending the time uselessly. Nothing special about my summer. That is, until the day I met this girl.
After the death of my mother on a car accident on my eighth grade, I lived together with my father. Well, technically we were not lived together, as he constantly worked overseas and rarely came home. I suppose it was the reason why I started to thinking about probability of living alone. However, after fifteen years living under protection of someone else, I reluctant to leave this kind of life. Or more precisely, I didn’t have any urge to living alone.
As I started my life as college student, these thought to leave my home and started a new life sometimes appeared in my head. I thought it was the reason why I always spent my time in the park behind the shrine.
“So you came from Europe?”
“Yeah. My father is half English.”
“Then, it makes you three-fourth Japanese.”
It was fourth day since I met her. At first, we still reluctantly spoke to one another. I forgot who started the conversation, in the end we found out that we had talked about various things. From the weather which was constantly hot to some trivial things like the festivals.
At first, I thought it was not just a coincidence that I met her in this park. Of course, I didn’t ever hoping that I will meet her again in that place. For me, visiting this place in the heat of summer was already become my daily life.
However, when I reached that park, I found the figure of the girl sitting right on the same spot.
“Are you living on yourself?”
“No. I live with my mother. We just arrived last week, and she is already busy with her new work.”
The sound of cicadas echoed in the air and it came from the small forest nearby. At distant, the pitched voice of birds can be heard ready to welcome the night. The sun was also close to setting and lit up their path home in many shades of purple.
“Well, then. It’s my time to go back, Shoichiro. Let’s meet here again tomorrow.”
It was just a promise to meet up in this small park, but somehow it became something I really looked forward every day. On the sunny days after hours of lectures, it became the perfect place for me to cold my head. Or in the hot pitched days of summer, although it was unnecessary for us to come to this place in that kind of heat, I unconsciously came to this park and found her welcoming me under the parasol.
Two weeks has already passed since first I met her in this place. Now that I think about it, the usual days which was supposed to be filled with leisure nap now changed into joyful chit-chat.
“Hey Shoichiro. I’m curious why there is no people around here.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, this place is beautiful, not counting that you will be easily getting peaceful sleep here…”
Urgh! I think I knew that last one supposed to be.
“So why I didn’t see any other people in this place?”
“Maybe, because no one realize that there is a place like this around here. Can you look at that?” I pointed my finger to the shrine building near this park.
“Ah, that beautiful shrine.”
“Yeah that shrine. People only came here to visit that shrine. Moreover, this place is in the middle of forest and the only way to get her is through that small pathway. Even in the festival night, there is no people wanted to go through dark woods to get to this place.”
“So, that’s the reason.”
Maybe it was just my feeling, but the more time I spent with Karila, the more I wanted to know about her.
It turned out that she came with her mother, who was born in this city. Part of the reason why they came here is because of her mother’s job, but she told me that she wanted to know the country where her mother born and met with her late father.
So, we are both alike, huh? This city was also a new place for me. Up until five years ago, I lived in another city. It was my father who decided that we should move here. This city was also the place he first met with mother too. It’s weird. For two people who know nothing about each other to have same story of life. It almost fairy tale.
And it might be the reason why I was so interested with her.
“Ah, you are home, Sho?”
I was surprised by the figure inside the kitchen in my house.
“Huh? You’re home, dad?”
“Yeah. I just arrived this afternoon. Just sit there, I’ll prepare the dinner.” The always busy father of mine who rarely seen in this house was doing something that looked like cooking. Hey hey, are you kidding me? Do you believe that this father who’s always useless in chores doing our dinner? I just hope this will end with just stomachache.
“And here, your mother’s favorite dishes.”
In front of me, several dishes were placed. After one bit, I was surprised that it was surprisingly edible.
“Hey, Sho. Mind if we speak about something?”
“What is it, dad? Your work? I said I don’t mind if you fly overseas again.”
“No. It’s something else.”
“Then, what is it?”
“Do you mind if I marry someone?”
“So, your dad is going to remarry?”
“Yeah. Kinda like that.”
Again, I found myself spending my spare time in this park. And as usual, Karila sat beside me.
“Haha… Actually, I still don’t know what I should feel. I know that it’s father’s choice to remarry, but thinking about that, I’m just scared it might change my current life.”
“Have you meet that person? I mean your father’s lover?”
“No. But I’m supposed to meet soon, my father told me to meet her afterall.”
“Well, it’s better to know her more- Ah, rain?”
I looked at the sky. Yeah, it was cloudy that day and it was in the middle of summer, a humid summer. Although I foresee that it would be rainy that day, but neither of us bringing umbrella.
“We can take shelter on the shrine.”
The shrine was empty. We decided to spend the day in this shrine, at least until the rain over.
“You know, it is first time for me to see the real Shinto shrine.”
“Is that so? I think this shrine is quite famous for tourist. They believe that your love will be fulfilled if you pray in this shrine.”
“Ahaha… But is not love supposed to be a sin?”
“It’s Dante’s. He told that love is source of all sins.”
“But, I thought God’s love is supposed to be a pure thing?”
“Yeah. It is human who defile it. They often kill each other or sacrifice themselves for love, some even love other’s wife or even their sibling, and these acts defile God’s love.”
“Eh? You sure know many things”
“No. I just read it somewhere. And this shrine, I think people came here not to make their love fulfilled, but to cleanse their love. Isn’t this place is supposed to clean all evilness.”
“Then I think I should clean something.”
I walked to the front of altar, throwing some coins and prayed.
“Hee… So you have someone you loved huh?”
“No! It was just… You know, I just want to prove your theory.”
“Ehehe… Your face is red.”
“No, it’s just…” I hid my embarrassment by turned my head.
“Then, I think I want to do that too.” She did the same things as I did, throwing some coins and prayed. “I hope my wish would be come true.”
“Eh? Who is the lucky person who you wished to be with?”
She ran outside. Rain was over, but the soil around the shrine was still wet so I worried she might trip herself. “Be careful.”
I didn’t hear any answer, instead she said something. “I hope we can meet again tomorrow and spend our time in that park again.”
I answered that without knowing that it might be the last time we spend our time in this place.
What should I do?
I agreed to come to Japan because I thought it will be the best for me. I have dreamed about this land ever since I was child. Beautiful islands and sceneries. It was all my thought about this country.
We moved to this new country right on the middle of summer. Although we missed the summer festival because our flight delayed, I didn’t regret it. There will be another festival next year. Then two day after festival, the second day after I arrived in Japan, I met that person.
I wasn’t foresee our meeting actually. That day, I decided to spend my day walking around the city. I remember that when I walked along the pathway in a small forest, I found a beautiful park. There was only a pond and a single bench there, but I thought it was perfect. Then, when I leisurely spent my day in that place, that person came.
At first, there is only silence around us. I didn’t remember who the first to start the conversation was. When I realized, we had spent the entire day talking about many things.
The day after that was same. Instead, it was him who came to that place first. And same with the day before, we spent our time talking about each other life. The day after and many days after, we still did the same thing. Sometimes I met him on the entrance to the park and we walked together along the path.
For me, those days are the most precious memories since I came to this country. And that man, I didn’t know when I started to grow feeling for him.
Today, I was also met him in that park. Although the rain interrupted our conversation, I did happy because something else happened between us.
“Karila, are you ready?”
“Yeah. I’m coming mom.”
I ran from my room toward my mother who’s waited for me in the front door.
“Are you sure about this, Karila?”
“Mom, I have said it for million times. I’m agree with all of these.”
“Then, shall we go.”