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Mar 22, 2018 - 12:43 PM

Who I Am (1) ~ I Missed You

It's been nearly three years since I saw him. I tried to keep in touch, but things didn't turn out that way. I went to the States to study, we were told that the middleschool over there is much better than in Japan. But he wouldn't go, because he was too much devoted to his basketball team. He wouldn't leave before the team was national champion.

He did it and I was so proud of him. I remember the day that I received his letter and a picture of his team holding the Inter Junior High trophy. I couldn't have been happier for him. This was his dream and his whole life. He told me that he would join a highschool I haven't even heard of... I actually expected Kainan or Shoyo.

I wondered why, but never asked. I know him well enough to know that he is a very stubborn person, and if he decided something, nobody could change his mind. He's just like me I think. That's why we get along so well.

Then a few years of silence followed, I don't know what happened. I wrote, but he never wrote back. I wanted to call my parents to ask, but I guess the barrier was too big for me to handle. My bad relationship with my parents was one of the important reasons for me to leave, so I was kinda relieved to set off. Our fights got heavier by the day. I don't even remember what we fought about. The only thing that made me unwilling to leave was him. We were best friends, I really wanted to see him play in the finals and to see him becoming MVP. I feel sorry that I wasn't there to share the biggest moment of his life.

But so here I am. Nearly three years later I finally set foot on Japan again. I missed the place and the people. I even missed my parents although our relationship is still bad. But I think I grew up and learned that we just had different points of view and had never tried to look from each other's.

A few months ago I finally heard something from him again. After 2 years 3 months and 12 days since his last letter, he wrote me he had quit basketball for 2 long years but he's now back on the court again.

He hadn't explained very well what happened the past two years, but I think I understand. As I said he's just like me and I'm just like him. The letter was short, but I felt every emotion he had felt at the moment he wrote it. The regrets, the pain but also the new hope. Right after I finished middleschool I bought a ticket to return to Japan, my homeland.

And here I stand at the airport as a stranger.

I can't wait to see him, and I realize that I don't even know how he looks like now. I haven't seen a single picture of him lately. I feel a bit like a tourist when I buy my train ticket at the station. I don't have much luggage, only one suit case and a back pack. My years in the States haven't been the best of my life, and I don't want to talk about it. I left it behind and I want to start a whole new life in Japan.

Looking at the green fields the train passes I think about the last time we had seen each other. That was at the airport, the day that I took off to the States. I tried to hold my tears, but at last cried a little. He said to me: "Silly girl, don't cry, I know you're strong. We're gonna write each other every week. And I promise I'll call you once in a while, okay?" I nodded.

It seemed an eternity ago.

I take out his last letter and read it for the 23rd time. "I'm so sorry. Things happened, I lost myself. But my life has a new start, I'm playing basketball again. It's tough but I won't lose. I read the letters you sent me years ago, that I didn't reply. I hope you can forgive me for not being there when you needed me the most."

I have never been angry with him, I was just worried. He also sent me a schedule of the games he was gonna play, expecting to win every game. I already missed two of the three district finals. Today he'll play again. I look at my watch and know that I still have enough time to watch the game.

When I arrive at the station I take a good look at Kanagawa, things haven't changed that much. I smile at that thought. In the station hall I buy a magazine about the district games so far. He lost their game to Kainan, but won over Takezato with big numbers. As I look at the stats I see that he played very well. My eyes notice a rookie named Rukawa, his stats were marvelous! I wonder who this guy is.

Then I see that the schedule in the magazine says that the game started at noon. Damn!! That means the game has already started! He must have made a mistake... I hurry outside and get frustrated as I see that there's no taxi around. After 5 long minutes I get in a cab and ask the driver to hurry (the hell) up.

The stadium is impressive and memories of him playing for his Junior High team come up. I was always there to encourage him, I've never missed a game. Well, before I left of course. I hurry to get inside. It's pretty crowdy here. Damn, the second half has already started! It's almost over!! I take a seat next to a guy who gives me an unfriendly gaze, as he looks at me he whispers to the three guys next to him.

I look at the court to find the jersey no.14. I feel burning tears as I see him. He has grown taller and his hair is short. He's wearing protective bandage around his left knee... He looks exhausted. Is he ok?

Just as I'm wondering, I see that Ryonan's no.7 gets the ball and the crowd just goes totally wild. Obviously this guy is an Ace player... His dribble is really nice and his speed is stunning. I see that my no.14's movements become slower and shakier. Something is wrong! As I see that his team's center tries to stop the fancy ace player I say: "Fool. It's useless. Score and one..."

A girl's voice near to me yells: "No way! My brother is not a fool!"

The sound of the whistle is piercing, the ball circles on the rim and falls in. The ace player lies on the court holding his fist up. Man, this guy is really good! The crowd cheers and shouts.

Then my heart stands still... I see that no.14 is lying on the floor. I can't see his face, just his jersey number. I jump up and as I'm heading for the stairs I vaguely hear the voice of one of the guys shouting: "Hey lady..." I can't hear the rest, and I don't care about the rest.

After a while I silently stand around the corner on the stairs watching him drinking his can of energy drink, trying to recover. Three years. It's been three years since I was so close to him. I suddenly don't know what to do or what to say. So I decide to just look at him and not let him know about my presence. He must be disappointed that his game had ended like this... I see him clenching a shaky fist and silently cry. His tears burn on my cheeks.

He finally stands up and slowly walks to the entrance of the court. All I can do is silently follow him while looking at the number 14 on his back. I have to admit that I haven't really paid attention to the match anymore, I was just standing at a distance looking at him. Reading his movements, his emotions and his excitement. Till the referee finally whistles the game over. He runs up the court embracing his team mates. Things have changed. I remember team mates would always be running towards him and embracing him. But he isn't less happy, fortunately.

On the ceremony it's officially announced that Kainan and Shohoku are qualified for the IH championships and five players are chosen best players of Kanagawa. To my surprise the guy I called fool is one of them. And also that rookie called Rukawa.

As I wait outside and expect him to come through that door any moment, I hear my heart pounding in my throat and my hands start to tremble. What's wrong with me? I recognize the voice that draws near and I quickly take a deep breath. The door swings open and I see him laughing and cheering. "Let's go to the hospital right a way!"


Then I feel that time is standing still, all the voices around us fade away and I can't even see other people than him. I run to him and embrace him, burying my face in his shirt. This is just like years ago, after every match I would embrace him to congratulate him with the team's victory. He would smell like the game and he would feel like a player who had given everything for the game. Memories and present blend and then swiftly blur.

All I can do is smile and hold him tight. I feel his strong arms around me and his hands stroking my back.

"When did you come back?"

"Just. I hurried to come see you playing..." Still holding him tight.

Then the world around us slowly returns and I hear a loud and piercing voice shouting: "Mitchi, how come you've never told us that you have a girlfriend?!"

I also recognize the girl and the guys from the grandstand. One of the guys is smiling at me, holding up my suit case: "You forgot this one."

I take it and thank him.

"Hey, Mitsui, come on. Introduce us to your cute girlfriend." A rather short guy says with a big grin on his face.

"Idiots, I don't have a girlfriend! This is..."

I interrupt by saying: "My name is Shizuri. Mitsui Shizuri that is."

~~ I've been away too long and every day I missed you more. You look like you did before, only prettier. Every day I love you more. ~~

--> To Chapter 2.