Mayu in the Rain

The rainy season has really begun.

I look over at her; at her soaking wet black hair, her now all but transparent, drenched, white collared shirt sagging and clinging to the small sharp bones of her shoulders. I watch rain water run down her smooth, slightly tanned cheeks and over her pink, soft lips and tiny chin. She blinks lazily, with a bad attitude and I have to smile.

She reminds me of me.

I had offered her my dilapidated, shitty plastic umbrella when the rain began to fall but she refused. “No, I don’t care. It’s just rain.”

“But what about your shirt? Not good if it gets wet. Use the umbrella.” I had said.

She shrugged “Whatever. I’m wearing a bra.”

Then she looked down the grey street in the rain with an expression of boredom, but her eyes were telling a different story and she is wearing a bra; a black one.

My pant legs are soaking wet, so are my shoes. The rickety umbrella I grabbed off a parked bicycle has a couple of holes in it and cold rain water has soaked through my black shirt and occasionally runs down my back. She’s soaking wet from head to toe. Her black school bag, with her name Mayu monogrammed on the side, is dripping wet and more rain water runs down and drips off her little nose, but I get the feeling this one likes it when it rains.

She asks me to stop and I stand under a small awning in front of a little mom and pop flower shop and gesture for her to stand next to me, out of the rain. She ignores me, continues standing in the pouring rain and fishes into her saturated school bag and pulls out a pack of cigarettes. The pack, like everything else in her bag, is wet now. I notice that she doesn’t bother closing the bag and lets it hang open off her left shoulder. She leans her head under the awning and from nowhere produces a purple, clear plastic lighter. Click-click and the smoke is expertly lit. She leans back, into the rain, and takes a long drag from it. A satisfied, slightly defiant look on her face.

I casually reach up and take the cigarette out of her mouth, drop it on the ground and step on it.

She doesn’t react. She just looks at me with utter disdain and then blinks slowly a couple of times before rolling her eyes and shifting her weight from one hip to another.

“You realize I’m a teacher, right?” I ask this slowly, smiling a little, looking down at her, soaking wet in the pouring rain.

“You’re not my teacher. I’m not in your class.” She says without looking at me. Weight shifting again to her other hip.

“I’m not your teacher, yes, but I am a teacher at your school.” I say this hoping it might mean something more to her than it does to me.
She sighs loudly then drops her bag onto the asphalt. A car drives by on the narrow street behind her.

“So? What? Do I get in big trouble for having a smoke? Are you gonna punish me, Sensei?” She says all this while sort of glaring up at me with what could be, if attached to a different set of circumstances, an innocent face, her emphasis on the words big trouble and punish says it all.

It says she’s got confidence.

It says that she’s sixteen and already, somehow, bored with life.

It says she’s still a kid and doesn’t know shit about shit.

“Punish? No. You’d probably like that. Just don’t smoke in front of me. OK? I don’t like it and it’s bad for you.” I look at her as I say this, still I’m smiling, hoping my own feelings of hypocrisy due to my own habits don’t shine through and finally she smiles a little and rolls her eyes in an attempt to get rid of the smile. She looks away when that doesn’t work and with her hand pushes wet hair out of her face and back behind her small, flat ear.

Too cool for school.

I look at my watch. “The station isn’t far from here. Let’s go over there. You can get out of the rain.” I say to her.

She doesn’t look at me but looks down the grey street through the rain and says clearly but not necessarily to me. “I don’t want to go home. I’d rather stand here in the rain.”

Looking at her, at her body and it’s state of confusion; more height than is average in Japan, the trappings of woman-hood present in breasts the size and shape of good peaches and a woman’s hips, but all this carried by the small bones of a teenager. Her face is young, smooth and unlined but lacking the radiance so stereotypically assigned to young. She’s ignorant about things that I know of but jaded from experiences I will never have; could never have.

“Whatever. Let’s just get going.” She sighs and then turns and looks at me and smiles a heavy dark smile that somehow still has the mirth of youth but conveys her sadness.

High School: “The best years of your life!”

But it wasn’t for me, and it isn’t for her. Don’t believe the hype; avoid drinking the Kool-aid. There is more to life than this charade, Mayu. Later there are possibilities and adventures to be had you can’t even imagine. You just have to get through this early evolution without letting them break you. Get through this and that’s when things can become good. Take what works and abandon the rest. Don’t be one of the ones that settles and gets stuck; Like air bubbles trapped in blocks of cement; they just stop because they think that’s what’s expected and they get stuck and suddenly it’s all gone. Life has slipped away like fine, white beach sand through open, outstretched fingers.

I look at her face, a mixture of youth and her coming life as a woman and I want to tell her all this. I feel a strong urge to convey some kind of message to this girl, who I know so  little about but feel a connection with.

I want to tell her to stop smoking.
I want to tell her to never stop dreaming.

But I don’t. The way to do this is lost on me now and I just smile back and sigh lightly.

We are looking at each other and just beginning to move, she bends over and picks up her bag and in a lazy yet agile way takes a couple steps backward preparing to go, still smiling at me, the moment having become a bit happier despite the pouring rain.

Just then without any thought I spring forward, snatch up her right wrist and roughly tug her toward me just as a small white delivery van speeds past the spot where she had been standing less than a second earlier. I hadn’t seen it, I had heard it and felt it and moved.

I look after the van and mutter “Son of bitch…” my posture completely erect and up right, adrenaline lightly flowing through me, instincts having switched on. Then, all at once, I realize that she’s right up against me, and she’s got her arms around me and her wet head is on my chest and I can smell her hair in the rain.

I lightly reach up and touch her back and speak. “Uh, you OK?”

She doesn’t say anything, but she holds me a little tighter, just for a moment. I’m stuck and simply stand there, wondering if I hurt her wrist. It was so small and thin I now realize.

The next moment, smoothly and nonchalantly she steps away from me back into the rain and picks up her school bag that she had dropped again.

“Let’s go.” She says and starts walking toward the station.

By the time we’ve gotten there, the rains stopped. We wait together on the train platform without talking much not because anything feels awkward but because there isn’t much to say, and when my train comes, I get on after saying “See you later Mayu. Be safe going home.” But even as I say this, I know Mayu isn’t going home because that isn’t the train she needs to take to go there. The train she’s going to take goes to Shibuya and there she can find a vast collection of possible opportunities to further deepen her young melancholy and make her doubt the silver linings. I’m a collection of concepts and a history she will never comprehend and despite being half my age she has already been shaped by things I’ll never understand.

Later tonight I will work out hard. Sweat will pour from me, a kind of deep cleanse and I’ll remember my friend’s sister who died suddenly when we were all in high school. I know him well and I knew her oddly and she was Mayu’s age and one morning she was dead. She had small and delicate wrists. She sighed and was skeptical of the projected outcomes. After the workout I’ll walk from the park back to my flat in the dark and I’ll have a whiskey alone in the living room before I sleep.

At Midnight, just as I fall into sleeps abyss I can hear it begins raining again and there are people all around the city without umbrellas and they get soaked by it.

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