Color Me Country. My 3 Minutes Radio with Carly Pearce. Weekend Anthems See All. Indie Anthems Apple Music Indie. Music by Mood. Feel Good. Best New Songs See All. City Charts See All. Top Los Angeles Apple Music. Top Atlanta Apple Music. Daily Top See All. Top Global Apple Music. There was a little cot against one wall with clean sheets. It looked as though it had been put there for him. The two women left, locking the door heavily behind him. He heard McGonagall muttering again and wondered what sort of spells she was placing on the house.
Whatever they were, it was better than that awful silver plating. He sat on the bed for a moment, then got up again, restless. He paced the room. Sometimes it felt as though the wolf crept into his mind before it got hold of his body, and as darkness fell outside his senses became sharper, the hot swell of hunger beginning in his belly. Remus removed his clothes quickly, not wanting to rip them. A dull throb started up in his joints and he lay down on the bed.
This was the worst part. His heartbeat was thudding in his ears, and he could swear he heard his tendons creaking as they stretched, his bones and teeth grinding against each other as they elongated, his skull splitting and reshaping. He groaned and hissed until the pain grew too much, then he screamed. He could only hope that he was far enough from the school that no one could hear him.
That first night at Hogwarts was a blur, and he woke up with less injuries than usual. He suspected that he had sniffed around the unfamiliar territory, testing its boundaries. He must have tried to throw himself at the doors or windows at some point, because he had a patchwork of bruises down his left side for days afterwards.
Transforming back was just as unpleasant — a crushing, tightening feeling all over which left him breathless and aching. He wiped the tears from his eyes and crawled into the cot, grateful for a quiet hour of sleep before the sun rose completely.
Madam Pomfrey returned, as promised. Speaking in soothing tones, she lay her cool hands on his fevered brow. No one had ever expressed such concern for him before, and it struck him uneasily. He pushed her away, pulling on his clothes. She made him drink something before letting him get up — it tasted cold and metallic, but he did feel better afterwards.
The three of them stared at Remus, who was about to remove his t-shirt when he remembered his bruises. You posh boys are all a bunch of poofs.
After a few moments he heard Peter whining that he was hungry and they all left. Chapter 5: First Year: Potions. By the end of his first week of lessons, Remus had lost ten house points, learnt one spell, and gained another bruise; this time on his chin. The first few lessons were ok — they were introductory, and while Lily Evans spent each class furiously scribbling down pages and pages of notes, nobody else seemed too bothered.
After a few goes at the spell themselves, Lily had levitated her pinecone at least three feet in the air, and Sirius got his to spin like a top — until it got out of control and smashed a window.
James, Peter and Remus had less luck, but Remus was sure his had jumped once or twice. Transfiguration was just as interesting, but much more serious, as it was led by Professor McGonagall. There would be no practical work at all during the first week, she explained, but she would be setting lots of homework in order to gauge their ability levels.
History of magic was absolutely dire, and the less said about it the better. Remus struggled not to fall asleep as the ghostly Professor Binns floated up and down the aisles, reeling off dates and names of battles. He too set homework — two chapters of reading from the set text. Sirius rolled his eyes at this and muttered to James.
Remus felt sick. But that turned out to involve a huge amount of reading too, and even worse, they had to share the class with the Slytherin first years. The Professor leading Potions was annoyingly cheerful and took almost half an hour just to read the register.
Quite surprised at the sorting my boy, quite surprised! Sirius looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him up. Slughorn continued calling out names. Well, well, along with Mr Black here this class has quite the pedigree, eh?
Let me see… Lupin! I knew your father; not one of mine, but a damn good dualist. He wondered if Slughorn knew he was a werewolf. There seemed to be another rumour going around that he was violent and possibly in a gang. Everyone clamoured to pair up — James, Sirius and Peter immediately claimed the cauldron at the very back of the room, and were joined by Nathaniel Quince, a Slytherin boy who knew Potter and Pettigrew from home. Remus decided he would just wait until everyone had grouped off then see if he could get away with just hovering at the back for the rest of the lesson.
You can join us! Lily was already chattering away, laying out all of the ingredients and heating up the cauldron carefully. Lily measured them out anyway and tipped them into the bubbling brew.
Mulcibur then took the book and stirred for five minutes, taking instruction from Severus on how fast to go and in which direction. Lily gave him the book. He stared at the page. He could see that they were instructions, he could make out maybe half of the words. But every time he thought he had a grasp on it, the letters seemed to shift on the page and he was lost all over again. His cheeks grew hot and he felt slightly sick. He shrugged, looking away. But it was no good. I mean, even muggle schools teach that, surely?
He only had the element of surprise going for him — Mulciber grabbed his collar and yanked him back, punching him square in the face in three seconds flat. Everyone froze. Snape and Remus climbed to their feet, chests heaving. Snape looked worse off by far, his hair ruffled and blood oozing from his nose. Remus had a rather sore chin where Mulciber had hit him, but other than a rumpled uniform he was fine. They both looked at their feet. Mulciber was grinning. Lily was crying. Ten points from Gryffindor and ten from Slytherin.
Miss Evans, please take Mr Snape to the hospital wing. Unfortunately, it being so soon after a full moon, the rich, iron smell of it made his stomach growl. James, Sirius and Peter were waiting for Remus outside after the lesson was finished. Chapter 6: First Year: Revenge. They were in the Gryffindor common room, trying to do their homework for McGonagall. Fourteen inches on the basic laws of transfiguration. Remus pushed it back, gritting his teeth.
Sirius was looking at him, though. Remus wanted to hit him, but he was trying not to lash out so much — James and Sirius sometimes play wrestled, but they never actually tried to hurt each other, like he had with Snape.
Forcing himself to swallow his temper, Remus opted instead to change the subject. Someone had done that to him once. He had a rash for a full week, and on the night of the full moon had torn at his skin more than usual. This had been a matter of great concern to Remus — their dirty laundry appeared to just vanish and then resurface, cleaned and folded in their trunks.
Getting the rose hips was easy. Peter was small and good at going unseen; he crept into the green house unnoticed during morning break and returned red faced and gleeful, with a jar full of rose hips under his cloak. He was a little bit jealous of their friendship. They had so much in common — being raised into magic, both growing up wealthy, both completely mad about quidditch. In addition, it was clear that after only three weeks James and Sirius had managed to secure a reputation as joint kings of the first years.
Everyone listened to them when they spoke. Everyone laughed when they were funny. No one even got annoyed if they lost house points. The seeds and hairs were then decanted into another jar, while the boys ended up eating the leftover rosehips over the course of the week.
It was Tuesday evening when they finally had their chance. James decided that they would have to do it before everyone went to bed. They ate dinner much more quickly than usual that evening, before getting up from the table one at a time and leaving the hall. Peter looked so nervous Remus thought he might panic at the last minute and give them all away.
He made sure to stay close to the smaller boy, just in case he had to cover his mouth or pull him back at some point. After all, how often would he want to get to the dungeons?
The ghost who lived in the toilets was fortunately in a quiet mood, though Remus could hear her sobbing softly in the last stall. He produced a very long, voluminous cloak, woven from the strangest looking fabric Remus had ever seen — silvery grey and shimmery. James was grinning so broadly now that Remus thought his face might split in two. The gangly boy winked at them all, then, with a flourish, swept the cloak over his head, so that it covered him top to toe.
He vanished. Where did you get it? James pulled the hood of the cloak down, so that his head appeared to float in mid-air. It made Remus feel a bit queasy.
Finally, trying not to giggle or whisper too much, the four invisible boys made their way to the dungeons. Remus showed them which tiles to tap in order for the floor to open up in the third stall from the left. They waited quietly on their side of the tapestry, listening for footsteps in the corridor outside.
Once James was satisfied that it was quiet, they all clambered out of the passage. The dungeons were cool, dimly lit and cavernous. There was a strange dripping sound coming from somewhere — perhaps the pipes. It was a plain brick wall. So they did, rather uncomfortably.
Though the corridor was dank, it was unnecessarily warm underneath the cloak, especially with all four of them so close together. Fortunately, two seventh years came hurrying through in the next few minutes. Unfortunately, Sirius knew them. Remus felt Sirius stiffen, pressing himself backwards into the wall. Bellatrix preened, extending a long, ivory arm. Everyone in the school knew that she would be marrying Rodolphus Lestrange, some wizard politician, as soon as she completed her NEWTs.
Sirius had to go to the wedding. The two What Can Daddy Do - Sniff n The Tears - The Games Up (Vinyl women were standing before the brick wall now. Bellatrix was the taller of the two, but they looked very alike. They had long, black curly hair — much like Sirius himself, and that same perfect Black family bone structure. The wall slid aside to let them in, and the four boys hurried after, as fast as possible before it closed.
For the first time since he had been at Hogwarts, Remus was truly glad he had been placed in Gryffindor. It was built like an enormous banquet hall, rather than a sitting room. The walls were richly decorated with yet more elegant tapestries, the fireplace was huge and ornately carved, and a ghoulish green pallor hung over everything. More than that, the place felt somehow wicked. Remus tried not to shudder.
On their way they passed Severus, sitting alone in a corner, hunched over his potions textbook. At the top of the stairs, they entered the first open door which was, thankfully, a bedroom. Remus and Sirius pulled on a dragon hide glove each, grabbed a handful of seeds and began scattering them underneath the bedclothes.
It was true, the bright red little seeds stood out clearly against the white sheets, even in the dark. He pulled out his wand, bit his lip and waved it gingerly over the bed he had just scattered with seeds. And just like that, the seeds were gone.
Well, he knew they were still there; but no one would be able to see them now. Was it in the reading? He really had just done it because he thought he probably could.
We have to get them all, Pete. Are you with us or not? They worked quickly and managed to get every single boys room. Even the last one, which had three sleeping students in it — sixth years. Even Sirius had begged off going in there, but Remus was giddy with the excitement of the prank now, and threw on the invisibility cloak to go in himself.
He even scattered the rosehips over the pillows of the sleeping boys. As James had instructed, they all kept as quiet as possible until they were within spitting distance of Gryffindor tower, and it was finally safe to remove the cloak once more. It was bliss to be back in the warm, bright Gryffindor common room, and they all threw themselves into the nearest available sofa, grinning inanely at each other.
Frank Longbottom called to them from his desk, where he was tidying up revision notes. Excellent first mission, men! The next morning James and Sirius could barely contain their excitement and hurried their dorm mates down to breakfast before any of the other Gryffindors. They were the first students to reach the great hall, other than a few Ravenclaws bent over their NEWT revision books with huge mugs of black coffee. Remus took some toast too and cut it into four pieces.
He spread marmalade onto one quarter, jam onto another, butter on the third and lemon curd on the last. He ignored the look of amusement Sirius was giving him. Remus had never had so much choice before, and was determined to make the most of every meal. Fortunately, they did not have to wait too long before the other students began to trickle in for breakfast. The first Slytherins arrived just as Remus was finishing his toast. Three boys and two girls; third years.
They walked over to their table, quite unaware of the four eager Gryffindors watching them intently. For a few moments it was as if nothing was different. Sirius sighed with disappointment. But then. The tallest boy shuffled slightly in his seat, rubbing his arm. The third kept using his wand to rub behind his ear. As more and more Slytherins filtered in, their problem became more obvious — and more hilarious. Amycus Carrow, a burley sixth year, eventually ripped off his robes, his school jumper and even his tie to claw at his chest which Remus could see was already red raw.
He almost felt sorry for them. But then Snape came in. Whether it was karma or sheer luck, Severus seemed to have reacted particularly badly to the rosehip seeds. He walked in with his head bowed, hair falling over his face, but his nose was still visible and clearly bright red.
Snape spun around, looking up; his hair parted. The left side of his face was covered in an angry red rash, from his temples all the way down to his neck, disappearing under his uniform. His left eye was red too, the lid swollen and irritated. By the time breakfast was over, the entire castle was buzzing with rumours about what exactly had come over the Slytherin boys. Sirius and James looked as though all of their Christmases had come at once, and even Peter had cheered up remarkably — reminding them all that he had kept lookout, after all, making the entire venture possible.
Exploding snap? Raid the kitchens? Then my Herbology detention is over the weekend. He was always being punished at St. Though exploding snap did sound like a lot of fun. Remus rolled his eyes, getting up from the table. Later that day, Remus was on his way to his detention with Slughorn, when he ran into Lily Evans.
He was perfectly happy to keep walking, but she smiled and fell into step with him. Who could guess who the target had been? Madam Pompfrey gave him a sleeping draught while the swelling goes down. Remus sniggered, without thinking.
He glanced at Lily, who was looking back at him with reproachful green eyes. She shook her head. The other day in Potions or on the train. The door was closed, and there were raised voices on the other side. Perhaps it was one of the girls. Rosehip, from the greenhouses. Lupin felt as trickle of fear run down his spine. Very clever. Remus and Lily stepped back, guiltily. No need, dear girl, no need. Or any classes, for that matter, hm? Remus and Lily had almost made it to the end of the hall when McGonagall suddenly called out.
I will complete all assignments set. But he knew that James would eventually want to know why Remus never read the set text. And if he told him, then he was equally sure that James and Sirius would try to get him to explain to McGonagall — both boys had unerring faith in the teachers of Hogwarts.
Remus, however, had never met an adult he trusted. What good was an illiterate wizard to anyone? Once his detention was finished, he climbed through the portrait hole and into the common room to find his three roommates waiting for him. Peter and James were engaged in a very serious looking game of chess of course the pieces are moving. Remus thought to himself, everything has to bloody move in this castle. His eyes grew bright when he laughed, Remus had never seen anyone exhibit such pure joy.
It made you want to punch him and be his friend all at the same time. This is the day we became legends; the day our friendship was forged in the fire of itching powder! Or a gang of marauders. Raise your glasses, boys! He said this with such a dramatic flourish that it could only be followed by stunned silence. James was grinning, Peter glancing at him for direction, not quite understanding what was going on. Remus burst out laughing.
The next full moon passed much as the first had. This time the wolf had clearly grown restless, because Remus awoke with a number of deep scratches. The cuts closed up almost instantly, Remus stared, amazed.
I can write you a note. About people like me? She sat down on the bed as he finished dressing. She did make him promise to bring it with him next time, and he agreed, hoping he sounded sincere. James, Sirius and Peter spent half of the lesson trying to get his attention, but he steadfastly ignored them until McGonagall threatened to separate all four of them.
In the halls on their way to Charms, Remus knew there was no escape. It was a good five minute walk. Where were you?! Was it the same place you went last month? Remus cursed himself for not having LP of that — detention would have been the perfect cover. Remus had been too busy evading questions to look where he was going, and had run smack into Snape, who was coming around the corner. Already wound up, Remus squared his shoulders and attempted to push past, roughly.
Prove it. But I will. Had to have been one of you. Remus clenched his fists. James had taught Remus one or two, but he was too blind with rage to remember any of them now. It was Professor Flitwick, stepping out of his classroom to see what the holdup was. Remus felt overheated and agitated for the rest of Charms, which was usually his favourite lesson. It relied more on practical work with his wand than reading or writing, and he often did better than even James and Sirius.
Finding it difficult to calm down, he kept shooting his cushions across the room like missiles rather than guiding them carefully through the hoops Flitwick had hung from the ceiling. Remus himself generally felt able to complete any task if it looked simple enough. Peter, on the other hand, worried about everything. He read and re-read his textbooks, trying to copy the complicated diagrams there rather than just copy what Flitwick showed them. The book was enormous, about half the size of the tiny professor, and looked as though a fully-grown man might have trouble carrying it very far.
Remus had managed to calm down by lunch time, but still had trouble controlling his magic later in the afternoon and was glad they only had Herbology and History of Magic.
He wondered whether it was his temper — which had always been short — or whether it was the full moon. He always had a lot of energy after a transformation, even before he knew he could do magic. Now his wand buzzed in his hand like the static in a TV aerial. He knew the word, well enough, and could spell it out if he concentrated hard. Remus lived in fear that if he wrote it down, or said it out loud, then somehow everyone would find out his secret. Speeding tickets. Contempt of court.
Then why is the jail so crowded? And why are so few prisoners released? Sometimes the best education a lawyer can get is a short stretch of hard time. Anderson Cooper. Tabitha Brown. You are seen, you are loved, and you are heard! Tabitha grounds her lessons in stories about her own life, career, faith, and family in this funny, down-to-earth book, built around the catchphrases that her fans know and love, including: Hello There!
Iron Widow. Xiran Jay Zhao. An instant 1 New York Times bestseller! The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn't matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. When year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it's to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister's death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed.
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Cloud Cuckoo Land: A Novel. Anthony Doerr. From the Pulitzer Prize—winning author of All the Light We Cannot Seeperhaps the most bestselling and beloved literary fiction of our time, comes the highly anticipated Cloud Cuckoo Land. Thirteen-year-old Anna, an orphan, lives inside the formidable walls of Constantinople in a house of women who make their living embroidering the robes of priests. Restless, insatiably curious, Anna learns to read, and in this ancient city, famous for its libraries, she finds a book, the story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky.
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Andrea Bartz. A novel with crazy twists and turns that will have you ditching your Friday night plans for more chapters. But on the last night of the trip, Emily enters their hotel suite to find blood and broken glass on the floor.
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The Downstairs Girl. Stacey Lee. By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady's maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, "Dear Miss Sweetie. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby.
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Seven Days in June. Tia Williams. Eva Mercy is a single mom and bestselling erotica writer who is feeling pressed from all sides. When Shane and Eva meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their buried traumas, but the eyebrows of the Black literati.
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Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairy tale, happily ever after? Look for the sequel, Tokyo Dreamingin ! Laura Dave. Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Naoko climbed a small mound, walked out of the forest and hurried down a gentle slope. I followed two or three steps behind.
We walked the rest of the way side by side. Writing from memory like this, I often feel a pang of dread. What if I've forgotten the most important thing? What if somewhere inside me there is a dark limbo where all the truly important memories are heaped and slowly turning into mud? Be that as it may, it's all I have to work with. Clutching these faded, fading, imperfect memories to my breast, I go on writing this book with all the desperate intensity of a starving man sucking on bones.
This is the only way I know to keep my promise to Naoko. Once, long ago, when I was still young, when the memories were far more vivid than they are now, I often tried to write about her. But I couldn't produce a line. I knew that if that first line would come, the rest would pour itself onto the page, but I could never make it happen.
Everything was too sharp and clear, so that I could never tell where to start - the way a map that shows too much can sometimes be useless. Now, though, I realize that all I can place in the imperfect vessel of writing are imperfect memories and imperfect thoughts.
The more the memories of Naoko inside me fade, the more deeply I am able to understand her. I know, too, why she asked me not to forget her.
Naoko herself knew, of course. She knew that my memories of her would fade. Which is precisely why she begged me never to forget her, to remember that she had existed. The thought fills me with an almost unbearable sorrow. Because Naoko never loved me. I was 18 and a first-year student. I was new to Tokyo and LP to living alone, and so my anxious parents found a private dorm for me to live in rather than the kind of single room that most students took.
The dormitory provided meals and other facilities and would probably help their unworldly year-old survive. Expenses were also a consideration. A dorm cost far less than a private room. As long as I had bedding and a lamp, there was no need to buy a lot of furnishings. For my part, I would have preferred to rent a flat and live in comfortable solitude, but knowing what my parents had to spend on enrolment fees and tuition at the private university I was attending, I was in no position to insist.
And besides, I really didn't care where I lived. Located on a hill in the middle of the city with open views, the dormitory compound sat on a large quadrangle surrounded by a concrete wall. A huge, towering zelkova tree stood just inside the front gate. People said it was at least years old. Standing at its base, you could look up and see nothing of the sky through its dense cover of green leaves. The paved path leading from the gate circumvented the tree and continued on long and straight across a broad quadrangle, two three- story concrete dorm buildings facing each other on either side of the path.
They were large with lots of windows and gave the impression of being either flats that had been converted into jails or jails that had been converted into flats. However there was nothing dirty about them, nor did they feel dark. You could hear radios playing through open windows, all of which had the same cream-coloured curtains that the sun could not fade.
Next to the common building stood a third dormitory, also three storeys high. Broad green lawns filled the quadrangle, and circulating sprinklers caught the sunlight as they turned. Behind the common building there was a field used for baseball and football, and six tennis courts.
The complex had everything you could want. There was just one problem with the place: its political smell. It was run by some kind of fishy foundation that centered on this extreme right-wing guy, and there was something strangely twisted - as far as I was concerned - about the way they ran the place. You could see it in the pamphlet they gave to new students and in the dorm rules.
The proclaimed "founding spirit" of the dormitory was "to strive to nurture human resources of service to the nation through the ultimate in educational fundamentals", and many financial leaders who endorsed this "spirit" had contributed their private funds to the construction of the place.
This was the public face of the project, though what lay behind it was extremely vague. Some said it was a tax dodge, others saw it as a publicity stunt for the contributors, and still others claimed that the construction of the dormitory was a cover for swindling the public out of a prime piece of real estate.
One thing was certain, though: in the dorm complex there existed a privileged club composed of elite students from various universities. They formed "study groups" that met several times a month and included some of the founders. Any member of the club could be assured of a good job after graduation.
I had no idea which - if any - of these theories was correct, but they all shared the assumption that there was "something fishy" about the place. In any case, I spent two years - from the spring of to the spring of - living in this "fishy" dormitory.
Why I put up with it so long, I can't really say. In terms of everyday life, it made no practical difference to me whether the place was right wing or left wing or anything else. Each day began with the solemn raising of the flag. You can't have one without the other. The flagpole stood in the very center of the compound, where it was visible from every window of all three dormitories. The Head of the east dormitory my building was in charge of the flag. He was a tall, eagle-eyed man in his late fifties or early sixties.
His bristly hair was flecked with grey, and his sunburned neck bore a long scar. People whispered that he was a graduate of the wartime Nakano spy school, but no one knew for sure.
Next to him stood a student who acted as his assistant. No one really knew this guy, either. He had the world's shortest crewcut and always wore a navy-blue student uniform. I didn't know his name or which room he lived in, never saw him in the dining hall or the bath.
I'm not even sure he was a student, though you would think he must have been, given the uniform - which quickly became his nickname. In contrast to Sir Nakano, "Uniform" was short, pudgy and pasty-faced. This creepy couple would raise the banner of the Rising Sun every morning at six. When I first entered the dormitory, the sheer novelty of the event would often prompt me to get up early to observe this patriotic ritual.
The two would appear in the quadrangle at almost the exact moment the radio beeped the six o'clock signal. Uniform was wearing his uniform, of course, with black leather shoes, and Nakano wore a short jacket and white trainers. Uniform held a ceremonial box of untreated paulownia wood, while Nakano carried a Sony tape recorder at his side. He placed this at the base of the flagpole, while Uniform opened the box to reveal a neatly folded banner.
This he reverentially proffered to Nakano, who would clip it to the rope on the flagpole, revealing the bright red circle of the Rising Sun on a field of pure white.
Then Uniform pressed the switch for the playing of the anthem. The two stood to attention, rigid, looking up at the flag, which was quite a sight on clear days when the wind was blowing.
The lowering of the flag at dusk was carried out with the same ceremonial reverence, but in reverse. Down the banner would come and find its place in the box. The national flag did not fly at night. I didn't know why the flag had to be taken down at night. The nation continued to exist while it was dark, and plenty of people worked all night - railway construction crews and taxi drivers and bar hostesses and firemen and night watchmen: it seemed unfair to me that such people were denied the protection of the flag.
Or maybe it didn't matter all that much and nobody really cared - aside from me. Not that I really cared, either. It was just something that happened to cross my mind. The rules for room assignments put first- and second-year students in doubles while third- and final-year students had single rooms. Double rooms were a little longer and narrower than nine-by-twelve, with an aluminium-framed window in the wall opposite the door and two desks by the window arranged so the inhabitants of the room could study back-to-back.
To the left of the door stood a steel bunk bed. The furniture supplied was sturdy and simple and included a pair of lockers, a small coffee table, and some built-in shelves. Even the most well-disposed observer would have had trouble calling this setting poetic. The shelves of most rooms carried such items as transistor radios, hairdryers, electric carafes and cookers, instant coffee, tea bags, sugar cubes, and simple pots and bowls for preparing instant ramen.
The walls bore pin-ups from girlie magazines or stolen porno movie posters. One guy had a photo of pigs mating, but this was a far- out exception to the usual naked women, girl pop singers or actresses. Bookshelves on the desks held textbooks, dictionaries and novels. The filth of these all-male rooms was horrifying. Mouldy mandarin skins clung to the bottoms of waste-paper baskets. Blackish grime and bits of indefinable matter clung to all the bowls and dishes on the shelves, and the floors were littered with instant ramen wrappers and empty beer cans and discarded lids from one thing or another.
It never occurred to anyone to sweep up and throw these things in the bin. Any wind that blew through would raise clouds of dust. Each room had its own horrendous smell, but the components of that smell were always the same: sweat, body odour and rubbish. Dirty clothes would pile up under the beds, and without anyone bothering to air the mattresses on a regular basis, these sweat- impregnated pads would give off odours beyond redemption.
In retrospect, it seems amazing that these shitpiles gave rise to no killer epidemics. My room, on the other hand, was as sanitary as a morgue. The floor and window were spotless, the mattresses were aired each week, all pencils stood in the pencil holders, and even the curtains were washed once a month. My room-mate was a cleanliness freak. None of the others in the dorm believed me when I told them about the curtains.
They didn't know that curtains could Album) washed. They believed, rather, that curtains were semi-permanent parts of the window. We didn't even have pin-ups. No, we had a photo of a canal in Amsterdam. I had put up a nude shot, but my room-mate had pulled it down. I wasn't especially attached to the nude, so I didn't protest. Everybody sympathized with me for having Storm Trooper as a room- mate, but I really wasn't that upset about it. He left me alone as long as I kept my area clean, and in fact having him as my room-mate made things easier for me in many ways.
He did all the cleaning, he took care of sunning the mattresses, he threw out the rubbish. He'd give a sniff and suggest a bath for me if I'd been too busy to wash for a few days. He'd even point out when it was time for me to go to the barber's or trim my nasal hair. The one thing that bothered me was the way he would spray clouds of insecticide if he noticed a single fly in the room, because then I had to take refuge in a neighbouring shitpile. Storm Trooper was studying geography at a national university.
As he told me the first time we met, "I'm studying m-m-maps. This was one of the very first new impressions I received when I came to Tokyo for the first time. The thought struck me that society needed a few people - just a few - who were interested in and even passionate about mapmaking. Odd, though, that someone who wanted to work for the government's Geographical Survey Institute should stutter every time he said the word "map".
Storm Trooper often didn't stutter at all, except when he pronounced the word "map", for which it was a per cent certainty. Racine, lonesco, Shakespeare, stuff like that.
I felt sorry I had done that to him. I just happened to pick drama, that's all," which was not the most convincing explanation I could have come up with.
But not you, huh? I gave up trying to explain myself. Then we drew lots matchsticks to choose bunks. He got the upper bunk. Tall, with a crewcut and high cheekbones, he always wore the same outfit: white shirt, black trousers, black shoes, navy-blue jumper. To these he would add a uniform jacket and black briefcase when he went to his university: a typical right-wing student.
Which is why everybody called him Storm Trooper. But in fact he was totally indifferent to politics. He wore a uniform because he didn't want to be bothered choosing clothes. What interested him were things like changes in the coastline or the completion of a new railway tunnel. Nothing else. He'd go on for hours once he got started on a subject like that, until you either ran away or fell asleep.
He was up at six each morning with the strains of "May Our Lord's Reign". Which is to say that that ostentatious flag-raising ritual was not entirely useless. He'd get dressed, go to the bathroom and wash his face - for ever. I sometimes got the feeling he must be taking out each tooth and washing it, one at a time. Back in the room, he would snap the wrinkles out of his towel and lay it on the radiator to dry, then return his toothbrush and soap to the shelf.
I was used to reading late at night and sleeping until eight o'clock, so even when he started shuffling around the room and exercising, I remained unconscious - until the part where he started jumping. He took his jumping seriously and made the bed bounce every time he hit the floor. I stood it for three days because they had told us that communal life called for a certain degree of resignation, but by the morning of the fourth day, I couldn't take it any more.
I'm still supposed to be asleep. I don't know how to explain it exactly, but that's how it works for me. Somebody on the third floor would complain. Here, we're over a storeroom. On the lawn. I don't have a transistor radio. I need to plug it in. And you can't do radio callisthenics without music. Mine was a transistor portable, but it was strictly FM, for music. It's so damned noisy. What do you say? What's that? Bouncing up and down. I was ready to give up, but I wanted to make my point.
I got out of bed and started bouncing up and down and singing the opening melody of NHK's radio callisthenics. I guess you're right. I never noticed. I can put up with the rest. Stop jumping and let me sleep. I've been doing the same thing every day for ten years, and once I start I do the whole routine unconsciously. If I left something out, I wouldn't be able to do any of it. What could I have said?
The quickest way to put a stop to this was to wait for him to leave the room and throw his goddamn radio out the goddamn window, but I knew if I did that all hell would break loose. Storm Trooper treasured everything he owned. He smiled when he saw me sitting on the bed at a loss for words, and tried to comfort me. Naoko chuckled when I told her the story of Storm Trooper and his radio callisthenics. LP hadn't been trying to amuse her, but I ended up laughing myself.
Though her smile vanished in an instant, I enjoyed seeing it for the first time in a long while. We had left the train at Yotsuya and were walking along the embankment by the station. It was a Sunday afternoon in the middle of May. The brief on-and-off showers of the morning had cleared up before noon, and a south wind had swept away the low-hanging clouds.
The brilliant green leaves of the cherry trees stirred in the air, splashing sunlight in all directions. This was an early summer day. The people we passed carried their jumpers or jackets over their shoulders or in their arms. Everyone looked happy in the warm Sunday afternoon sun. The young men playing tennis in the courts beyond the embankment had stripped down to their shorts. Only where two nuns in winter habits sat talking on a bench did the summer light seem not to reach, though both wore looks of satisfaction as they enjoyed chatting in the sun.
Fifteen minutes of walking and I was sweaty enough to take off my thick cotton shirt and go with a T-shirt. It was nicely faded, obviously having been washed many times. I felt as if I had seen her in that shirt long before. This was just a feeling I had, not a clear memory. I didn't have that much to remember about Naoko at the time. It's not that bad, I can stand it. Then she bent over and carefully retied her laces.
Living in a dorm? You could let a lot of things bother you if you wanted to - the rules, the idiots who think they're hot shit, the room-mates doing radio callisthenics at 6. But it's pretty much the same anywhere you go, you can manage. She seemed to be turning something over in her mind. Then she looked straight into my eyes as if peering at some unusual object. Now I saw that her eyes were so deep and clear they made my heart thump.
I realized that I had never had occasion to look into her eyes like this. It was the first time the two of us had ever gone walking together or talked at such length. Then she sighed and looked down. Never mind. She continued walking east, and I followed just behind.
The plump cheeks that had been a special feature of hers were all but gone, and her neck had become delicate and slender. Not that she was bony now or unhealthy looking: there was something natural and serene about the way she had slimmed down, as if she had been hiding in some long, narrow space until she herself had become long and narrow.
And a lot prettier than I remembered. I wanted to tell her that, but couldn't find a good way to put it. We had not planned to meet but had run into each other on the Chuo commuter line. She had decided to see a film by herself, and I was headed for the bookshops in Kanda - nothing urgent in either case.
She had suggested that we leave the train, which we happened to do in Yotsuya, where the green embankment makes for a nice place to walk by the old castle moat. Alone together, we had nothing in particular to talk about, and I wasn't quite sure why Naoko had suggested we get off the train. We had never really had much to say to each other. Naoko started walking the minute we hit the street, and I hurried after her, keeping a few paces behind.
I could have closed the distance between us, but something held me back. I walked with my eyes on her shoulders and her straight black hair. She wore a big, brown hairslide, and when she turned her head I caught a glimpse of a small, white ear. Now and then she would look back and say something. Sometimes it would be a remark I might have responded to, and some- times it would be something to which I had no idea how to reply.
Other times, I simply couldn't hear what she was saying. She didn't seem to care one way or another. Once she had finished saying whatever she wanted to say, she'd face front again and keep on walking.
Oh, well, I told myself, it was a nice day for a stroll. This was no mere stroll for Naoko, though, judging from that walk. From there she followed the tram tracks to Komagome.
It was a challenging route. By the time we reached Komagome, the sun was sinking and the day had become a soft spring evening. We made this big arc. I was just following you.
Thirsty, I had a whole beer to myself. Neither of us said a word from the time we gave our order to the time we finished eating. I was exhausted from all that walking, and she just sat there with her hands on the table, mulling something over again. All the leisure spots were crowded on this warm Sunday, they were saying on the TV news.
And we just walked from Yotsuya to Komagome, I said to myself. I used to do the 10, metres. And my father took me mountain climbing on Sundays ever since I can remember. You know our house - right there, next to the mountain. I've always had strong legs. But you can't judge a book by its cover. We've never done that before, just the two of us," I said, trying without success to recall what we had talked about. She was playing with the ashtray on the table. Do you think we could see each other again?
I know I don't have any right to be asking you this. What do you mean by that? My reaction to her request might have been a little too strong. I can't really explain it," she said, tugging the sleeves of her sweatshirt up over the elbows and down again. The soft hair on her arms shone a lovely golden colour in the lights of the shop.
I was looking for another way to put it. Failing, she sighed and closed her eyes and played with her hairslide. I'm not sure how to put it, either. I try to say something, but all I get are the wrong words - the wrong words or the exact opposite words from what I mean. I try to correct myself, and that only makes it worse. I lose track of what I was trying to say to begin with.
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