"You're dying." The elderly doctor looked at his patient, only to
find the young man staring blankly at the wall. "I'm sorry."
Soichiro Otonashi never noticed him leave, still overwhelmed by the news. He'd gone to his physical thinking that it was just going to be another routine checkup; a visit spent mostly at the waiting room reading magazines months old until he could be told that he had a clean bill of health. He was obviously wrong.
Soichiro wordlessly walked out of the antiseptic white office and into the chilly December rain, oblivious to the water trickling down his face.
How had this happened? He was still so young.
Maybe the doctor was wrong and he. . . No. It was the most modern hospital in Tokyo. They didn't make mistakes in those places, did they?
"What am I going to do?" he muttered while looking at the overcast sky as if it would give him the answer he sought. "What about my parents? They're going to be devastated. Who's going to take care of them after—after I'm gone?"
Soichiro halfheartedly kicked a can across the sidewalk while waiting for the train. He watched it clatter noisily before ending up near a giggling high-school girl who never even noticed it.
He looked around to see if anyone else had, but everyone kept right on walking as if the can didn't exist; as if he didn't exist. The only response he got was the mournful wail of the wind dying briefly, as if paying its final respects.
The ride home was as uneventful as always, yet he found himself noticing things that he would never have thought twice of before: the sounds of raucous laughter from the businessmen heading home after a couple of drinks, the wide array of uniforms as students from all over Tokyo went home from cram schools, and the smell of the yakitori that a housewife was bringing home to her family.
Everyone else seemed oblivious to the beauty of it all; the little details that made each day different from the last. They were all in such a hurry to go somewhere they deemed more important. He wondered if any of them would ever appreciate it before it was too late; or would they wander around the rest of their lives with blinders strapped on, concentrating only on the end of the journey and not its path.
It was a short walk from the station to his house, but he was drenched by the time he got home. He knew he was late for dinner. He tried to sneak past the dining room to get a dry change of clothes before his mother could see and lecture him, but luck just wasn't on his side today.
"Soichiro, look at you. Dry yourself up before you catch your death."
He wanted to laugh at the irony, but a quick glance at his mother's concerned face changed his mind. Instead, he went up to her and hugged her tightly. "I love you, mom."
"What brought this on? The last time you did this, you were trying to butter me up so I wouldn't get angry when you brought home that dog. You didn't have another one follow you, did you?"
He laughed and hugged her tighter. "No, not this time."
"Well then go and change. You're getting me wet."
He moved her to arms length and cupped her face. "Let's stay like this awhile. I want to look at you a little longer."
"Will you please stop being silly and change? You see me all the time."
"Yes, but I never really looked. I never took the time to tell you how I appreciate everything you do for me."
"A mother always knows, Soichiro," she answered, stepping back. "Now, go on."
He reluctantly released her and headed to his room. By the time he sat down to eat, his parents were absorbed in a game show on TV.
The announcer was telling the winner the free trip she had won when his father suddenly sat bolt upright and said, "That reminds me, I've arranged for a vacation to the Izu Peninsula this summer."
"That's wonderful!" his mother exclaimed. "It's been years since we were there last."
"Remember how afraid you were of the ocean when you first saw it, Soichiro?" his father inquired.
"How could I forget? I was so convinced that a monster in it was after me that I slept in your bed for a whole summer."
They sat in silence, smiling fondly at the memory when his mother said, "By the way, Soichiro, I forgot to ask. How did your appointment with the doctor this afternoon go?"
Looking at his parents' smiling faces, he couldn't bring himself to tell them the bad news. "It went fine," he lied.
"We knew it would," his father said while slapping him heartily on the back. "Instead of wasting your time on something you already knew, you should have gone out to find yourself a wife. We're not getting any younger, you know."
He refused to look at them, instead opting to stare at remains of his dinner. "Would that make you happy?"
"Of course. Why wouldn't it?"
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Rumiko Takahashi. No infringement is intended.