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Rin - Lies

Dec 21st, 2012
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  1. (I wrote this a while ago but recently decided to clean it up and post it. Comments to KSFFWriter@gmail.com )
  2.  
  3. It's times like this that I miss my Yamaku uniform.
  4.  
  5. Not the uniform itself, exactly. But when I wore that thing, people wouldn't get too close for fear that there was something wrong with me. It's hard to avoid missing that when being pressed into a Tokyo traincar with hundreds of other miserable people. I don't normally take this train, but visiting my parents ran late last night and.... excuses, I guess. Being smashed into a traincar with so many people is intensely uncomfortable. I don't know why they don't just schedule more trains.
  6.  
  7. I'm lost in this kind of idle complaining when I hear a voice speaking about three inches from my left ear. "Hisao?"
  8.  
  9. I turn, surprised to hear someone call my name on this train. I freeze at the sight of her, and feel my heart skip. She looks the same as she did in Yamaku, five years ago. Same tussled, messy red hair. Same dark green eyes. ... Even the same uniform, strangely enough. As I turn, her face wears an expression of shock, quickly replaced with the still strangely familiar deadpan look I had grown to... well, maybe not love. Appreciate, in highschool. I think I open my mouth, but no sound comes out. A second passes before she speaks, in a tone lacking emotion.
  10.  
  11. "Hello."
  12.  
  13. I cough into my hand, trying to clear my mind. "... Hi. Rin. It's... been a while."
  14.  
  15. It's been five years, I want to say. Five years since we took that walk in the rain. Five years since she left for schooling in Tokyo, and five years since I last saw her. Rin, meanwhile, seems to have drifted off, staring blankly past my face. Given that we're mashed up against one another, I guess I thought she wouldn't be able to ignore me.
  16.  
  17. "Rin, how have you been? Are you still at that school?"
  18.  
  19. She blinks, once, thoroughly, and then nods. "Yes. To being at the school. I have been fine."
  20.  
  21. She pauses, a slight smile on her lips. "I'm an artist. I sell them. The art."
  22.  
  23. I smile, and nod, and try to sound enthusiastic despite her lack of enthusiasm. "Oh you made it? That's great, Rin. Really great."
  24.  
  25. Rin just stares blankly to the left of my shoulder.
  26.  
  27. I clear my throat and try again. "I'm uh. I'm working in a tech company now. We're nearing a breakthrough, I think, on some very interesting supertensile polymer research."
  28.  
  29. A blank look... Nope, she has no idea what I'm talking about. I'm used to that with other people by now. The train intercom dryly reads out the upcoming station. Rin speaks simply after the announcement. "I'm going to leave."
  30.  
  31. It's been five years, and her attitude still annoys me. "This is your stop?"
  32.  
  33. "Yes."
  34.  
  35. I hesitate. My boss won't miss me for one day, and how often do you meet a girl you used to love, or something like that? "Can I come with you?"
  36.  
  37. Rin shrugs, and doesn't say anything else, as the train arrives at the station. I decide to throw caution to the wind today and force my way out of the train with her. I follow a few steps behind the silent girl as she walks out of the underground station. She's still thin, dangerously so, really. Her Yamaku costume has seen better days of course. I'm amazed it's still holding together. The bottoms of the pant legs are covered in paint stains, and there are spatterings over the shirt as well. I guess it still does a job of covering her body, and for someone like Rin, that's enough.
  38.  
  39. We walk down the street in the early morning light. My mind moves back to Yamaku, and her gallery opening. It must have gone well, if she's gotten this far. With her condition and her unique mindset, I shouldn't be surprised that she's in university a little longer than normal. As we walk, I can't help but notice people looking at her. It's nostalgic in a way. I haven't been gawked at in years; I had almost forgotten what it was like.
  40.  
  41. The school grounds are much smaller than Yamaku, and more littered with various sculptures that some overly credulous people might be willing to call art. Rin doesn't look around much, strangely, and just walks forward with direction. She seems intent on being somewhere quickly. Something about her seems different. She's still withdrawn, distant, and hard to understand. But something else is off in the way she moves, the way she acts. Maybe she's just matured a little.
  42.  
  43. I open the door to the building she approaches, and she jumps a little, as if she had forgotten I was there. We walk through the quiet hallway to what looks like a gallery door, which she unlocks with a key on some kind of ankle bracelet. When we go in, I hear the lock clack behind us. The gallery is well lit, with paintings lining the walls, mostly in an abstract style similar to what I remember of Rin's. I see her name on a few of the placards accompanying canvases as we walk through the gallery, but the images aren't interesting enough to make me stop.
  44.  
  45. Another locked door, this one left slightly ajar after we pass through into the small studio behind it. A half-finished canvas sits on an easel, surrounded by a mess of paints and brushes and palettes. This part of Rin, I remember. "It's a mess in here."
  46.  
  47. Rin flumps down in the seat in front of the easel, leaning back a bit and picking up a brush between her toes, dexterously spinning it as she looks at the painting. I look at it as well. Looks... like Rin's style. Mostly. "That's not bad."
  48.  
  49. The girl turns and regards me blankly. "It is bad. Bad luck, too."
  50.  
  51. She adds that last bit with a slightly wistful smile. She then presses her foot to a tube of oil paint laying on the palette, some of the color spilling forth. She takes up the brush and begins work, while I lean back against the wall and watch her. She frowns slightly as she works, sliding the brush along the canvas in broad strokes, occasionally pulling another tube of paint and squeezing more onto the palette. Something is off about her. I can't help staring in silence, I guess you never really lose old habits.
  52.  
  53. I try to remember how it was at Yamaku, watching her paint. I remember she looked so at peace then, yet interested, really obsessed with, her art. She would move back and forth, almost ducking and weaving around to see that she was getting it all done correctly. Now she just leans back in her little chair, and almost idly dabs paint onto the canvas. The style is similar to her old work, with flowing areas of color and abstracted bodies and shapes. Still, something is strange here.
  54.  
  55. I decide to interrupt. "So this is what you do? Painting all day?"
  56.  
  57. Rin pauses her motions, looking at me. I had forgotten how penetrating those eyes can be, when she's really paying attention. After a moment, she turns around and returns to her work. Her voice is strangely bitter when she speaks. "I don't paint. Anymore."
  58.  
  59. What a ludicrous thing to say as she does exactly that. The canvas is nearly full, but the swirling colors and figures just don't impress me like they used to. Maybe I was just a dumb high school kid after all. I decide to take a walk around the gallery, Rin is just... still herself, and I don't want to yell at someone I haven't seen in so long. She doesn't seem to notice me leaving the room.
  60.  
  61. I stroll slowly through the weird hallway-like gallery. The place is obviously designed to display as many paintings at once as is possible. They're all similar in style, all abstract. Rin's paintings compose maybe a fifth of the total. I have to read each placard to tell if one or another is hers, however. They don't grip me the way they used to.
  62.  
  63. My wandering stops on one of hers, a distorted face, with hands pressed to its cheeks in a terrified scream. It's... horrifying. It's the first of Rin's paintings that actually made me feel anything all day. I look at the placard, Rin Tezuka. It was painted two years ago. I look back to the image. There's nothing especially different about the art, technically. But this one seems so much... better. I speak my thought aloud, as I have a tendency to do. "This is what I remember."
  64.  
  65. "It's old."
  66.  
  67. I jump at the sound of Rin's voice coming from right next to me. She's standing there calmly, looking at me. I guess I was more absorbed in the image than I thought. I try to keep calm as well. "Yes, the date is printed. Most of the other work is newer, I'm surprised this one hasn't sold yet."
  68.  
  69. Rin presses her lips together into a thin line, her eyebrows furrowing slightly in thought. She stays that way for a moment, and I keep quiet as well. I'd forgotten how difficult she could be sometimes. When she finally speaks, her voice sounds nothing more than tired. "It won't sell. My paintings don't much."
  70.  
  71. "You said you were selling them. That you had made it as an artist.". I try to keep the disappointment out of my voice. I still thought about this girl from time to time. I had always hoped that she'd found whatever she had been missing, that one friend who could really see her for her. At the least I had hoped that she had succeeded financially.
  72.  
  73. Rin just frowns slightly, turns on her heel, and walks back to her studio. Dammit.
  74.  
  75. I look at the image again, sighing back to the screaming face. Beside it is another image of Rin's, painted last month. Similar artistic talent has gone into both pieces. Both depict distorted human forms and swirls of color and motion. They even have similar color schemes.
  76.  
  77. I give up, and walk back to the studio again, to see Rin has set down her presumably finished piece and set another canvas on the easel. The sketch is already mostly complete. I look at Rin again, as she paints. It's not there. The peace, the interest, the obsession of creation. Rin looks like she's... well. In Yamaku I only saw Rin doing homework once or twice. But this is what it looked like. The blank expression with only hints of resigned boredom, the almost limp body language, the half-lidded eyes as she squishes the oil paints around. Rin is bored out of her mind doing something she always loved.
  78.  
  79. "What are you doing?" My voice seems loud in the silent studio.
  80.  
  81. Rin pauses her motions, but doesn't look at me. "Work."
  82.  
  83. I stay silent for a moment, and a few seconds pass before she starts her work again. I lean back against the wall and watch for a few minutes, but her expression doesn't change. "Why don't you paint anymore?"
  84.  
  85. Rin's foot falters, shaking slightly. It's unsettling. When she speaks, her voice is small and distant. "I can't. It doesn't... move. Or... it doesn't."
  86.  
  87. I suppress my exasperated sigh. She's still Rin, alright. I look away from her shaking foot. It makes me think of that image in the gallery. "That last one, the last painting. It makes me feel terrible."
  88.  
  89. There's no spoken response. I hear the brush against the canvas again, but it sounds shaky and uncertain.
  90.  
  91. I decide to be honest. God knows I've lied to this girl too much in the past anyway. Besides, what am I going to lose? We haven't spoken in five years, what do I care if we don't speak again after today?
  92.  
  93. "These new paintings are boring, Rin. There's nothing to them. I miss your old painting. Hell, I miss YOU."
  94.  
  95. There's a weird sound from Rin, and I look back to her, before my blood freezes in my veins. She sniffs again, like she's never done it before. Tears are running down her face while her foot stays next to the canvas, brush pressed to the fabric. Rin's body shakes slightly, a suppressed sob moving through it. I don't know what to do.
  96.  
  97. Rin's voice is tiny and scared, hurt desperation clear from her tone. "Why are you doing this?"
  98.  
  99. Oh god I don't know what to do. I take a step toward her, and then stop myself. I don't think I've ever seen Rin actually crying. Even when she broke down in the gallery opening, she didn't do this. Rin half-coughs and half-sobs, the brush dropping from her toes and clattering to the floor. I stay frozen.
  100.  
  101. "Why are you here? You're doing... this again. You can't... no one can, but you're... still the best at it." Rin's body shakes, each word spoken through clenched teeth. Dammit, this is killing me. I have no idea what she wants me to do. There's only one thing to do with a crying woman, isn't there?
  102.  
  103. I take another step forward, and another, before bending down and hugging Rin to me. She doesn't resist, though she doesn't press into it. Her body redoubles its sobbing shaking. I instinctively pull her close, almost cuddling her despite the weird positioning of our bodies. After another moment, I feel her press herself against me. It almost reminds me of that time on the roof where she 'hugged' me.
  104.  
  105. Her sobbing slows, and then stops. I don't stand up, however. I just hold her, and she stays there, warm tears soaking through my office shirt. She speaks into my shirt, her voice muffled but clearly strained. "Sit down."
  106.  
  107. Well... okay. I look behind me to make sure I won't be sitting in any wet paint, and then I sit down on the cold tile floor. Rin doesn't pull away, and ends up being pulled down to sitting on my lap. Her face remains buried against my shirt as we sit together. I didn't expect this kind of situation when I followed her off the train. I don't know what situation I expected.
  108.  
  109. A few more minutes pass in silent warmth, as I cradle her frail body against mine. She's not crying anymore, she's not sobbing and no more tears press through my shirt. But she's still there, and she doesn't pull away. I'm not going to push her away either.
  110.  
  111. "What happened?" My voice is quiet, uncertain. I know she doesn't really like questions.
  112.  
  113. Rin doesn't respond immediately, but she never does. "It's like telling lies."
  114.  
  115. How nonsensical. I stay silent, and after a few moments, Rin continues.
  116.  
  117. "These paintings. They don't say anything, but people like them. Lies to make people feel better."
  118.  
  119. Her voice is quiet, matter-of-fact. All the emotion and misery seems to have drained from her already. But I still keep holding her anyway, and she still doesn't pull away. I hesitate to speak again, but I feel like I have to say something. "... Your old paintings, the ones that say something. They didn't sell, did they? Everyone must have been upset that the new student couldn't sell anything."
  120.  
  121. Rin's answer has nothing to do with that, that I can understand. "Real paintings are like talking. But no one listens. Not even Hisao."
  122.  
  123. I sigh, still holding her. I tried to listen, Rin. I did. But I can't. "It must have felt pretty bad, to be here and still no one got it..."
  124.  
  125. Oh, I see. "... That's what that painting was, wasn't it? A last cry to make someone understand."
  126.  
  127. Rin doesn't say anything for a long time. I don't break the silence again either. We just hold one another, in our own stupid, silly, pointless ways. All the memories of this girl come rushing back as I hold her to me. The walks in the rain, the stupid useless chatter, skygazing, dandelions. All these memories that had been pushed away for my normal life to resume. Maybe neither of us are any good at forgetting.
  128.  
  129. When Rin speaks again, there's less bitterness in her voice. "... it's like talking in the rain."
  130.  
  131. It takes me a moment to pull myself from memory and back into the present. "What?"
  132.  
  133. "In a dark storm. When it's loud and the sky is yelling and you have to yell more and no one understands anyone anyway."
  134.  
  135. I sigh, and she stirs a bit in my arms, before pulling back. I let her, and she sits up in my lap, looking at me with those penetrating eyes. She holds my gaze a moment before she looks away slightly and speaks again. "But everyone is too far apart and there's noise and cars and no one can hear. You're the only one close enough. You only get a few words."
  136.  
  137. I don't know what to say, and a moment passes before Rin speaks again. She looks up at me, her eyes blank and emotionless again, but with the slightest expression of hope in her face. "Maybe that's enough."
  138.  
  139. I hesitate, and then reach out and smooth her tussled hair. It doesn't want to stay down, and she looks at me in some mixture of confusion and misery as I take too long to answer. I try to go through what she's saying, what she said five years ago, and how I even feel about this silly girl. "If I promise to look, to try to listen, can you paint?"
  140.  
  141. Rin closes her eyes in thought, and I stop messing with her hair. It was just to have something to do while I was thinking anyway. Rin stays silent, just sitting on my lap with her eyes closed. She's giving this simple question way too much thought. Rin was important to me, in high school. She's important to me now as an old friend. But I think I'm something more to her than that, and it makes me uncomfortable. I don't know that I can be whatever it is she thinks I am.
  142.  
  143. Rin stands up, and looks at the canvas on the easel. She casually kicks it to the floor with her foot, and then picks up one of the half dozen blank canvases on the other side of the room, hopping over on one foot and setting it up on the easel. I get to my feet as she sits down in the chair again, and picks up a brush. She dabs at the black paint still on her easel, and hesitates as she looks at the canvas.
  144.  
  145. She turns her head slowly, and looks at me. Her eyes are sharp, and I feel like she can see completely through me, for once. After a moment, she turns back to the canvas, and presses the brush to it, beginning some outlines and sketching a form.
  146.  
  147. At first it's slow, uncertain sketching. The voice of someone who hasn't spoken in a long time. But after a few moments, her eyes open a bit more, and she sits up in her seat. A smile tugs at the corners of my lips. I stand there, leaning against the counter, and watch Rin as she paints. After five minutes, she's leaning from side to side to consider her painting. After an hour, she's bobbing her head back and forth and half smiling.
  148.  
  149. I check my watch, and find that it's grown to early afternoon. I speak to Rin, not sure that she'll hear me. "Hey, I'm going to go home. I'll come back on Saturday, okay? Meet you outside this building, around ten?"
  150.  
  151. Rin nods, still painting her base colors. After two or three more strokes, she turns to me as I leave. "Hisao."
  152.  
  153. I turn my head to look back at her, waiting to hear what she has to say.
  154.  
  155. "Thank you. For listening."
  156.  
  157. Her expression is unreadable. I smile back at her, to no effect. "Thank you for talking to me."
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