Last month my recollections of the past finished with me being caught red-handed on suspicion of train fare dodging and having to give up my three-month pass, which I had only just purchased, and pay more than three times the usual fare for the journey I had taken. Let me continue.
In my first summer after reaching the age of 20, my daily diet consisted of no breakfast, a simple sandwich made with a croquette bought at the butcher’s for lunch, and noodles for dinner. That was my humble routine.
One day, as I was following this routine, I received a reply to the letter I had sent to my father back home. Just a postcard, and no mention of any bank transfer. He simply wrote, “Everyone here is fine. Good luck to you too.” Since I fully understood my father’s personality and the situation back home, I knew that he was telling me to stand on my own feet.
Realizing that I would have to borrow from a friend, I went to a dormitory of the Ministry of Labor (as it was then known) in Motosumiyoshi and waited for a chap called Hashimoto to return. While I was waiting outside, it began to rain. I must have been waiting for more than three hours, but I didn’t leave. However small the amount, I needed to borrow something. The caretaker of the dormitory then came out and, saying “You’ll get drenched out here. Come and wait inside,” showed me into a small room inside the entrance.
Hashimoto, who had been an evening student, was older than me, but we had got on well after I had entered the school and spent pleasant times discussing things together. He finally returned at around 20:00. “Wada!” he said warmly. “Come up to my room!” We went upstairs and entered his room, a cozy pad of about eight tatami mats in size.
“You haven’t eaten, have you?” he asked. “No,” I replied. Hashimoto then filled a bowl with some rice he had cooked that morning and handed it to me. I was thrilled and, expressing my gratitude, wolfed it down. Looking at me across the table, he then asked, “But what brings you here?” I explained my situation and asked him to lend me ¥2,000. “I only have ¥500 on me,” he replied, “but you are welcome to borrow it.” I thanked him and told him when it would be repaid. Hashimoto let me stay the night too. Lying on the futon in his room, I enjoyed a leisurely, snug time there.
After leaving Motosumiyoshi, I next headed for Tsurumi to visit a high school friend called Tazaki. We used to ride on our bicycles together to school. When I asked Tazaki if he would lend me ¥2,000, he replied, “Wada, I have ¥3,000. Take it all, and there’s no need to pay it back. Good luck!” I insisted over and over again that I would pay it back, but he just kept on saying “No need! No need!” In the end, I thanked him, borrowed the money, and said, “I’ll definitely pay it back.”
About a month later, first of all I repaid the loan to Hashimoto. Then I visited Tazaki’s place, but he was no longer living in Tsurumi. I asked the people at his workplace, but they all said that he had quit his job and they didn’t know what he was doing now. I phoned Tazaki’s home too, but they said the same.
When the winter holidays arrived, I boarded the Hinoyama express train, a steam locomotive, and traveled back to my hometown. The journey took 24 hours. Recalling how Tazaki used to ride around astride a black horse, I visited his home.
“We haven’t heard from him,” said his father, “but I guess he’s okay.”
I had come with the ¥3,000 that I had borrowed from him, plus another ¥1,000. “When he returns,” I said, “please give him this.”
“We can’t take that,” his mother replied with a smile. “Our son gave it to you, so you should keep it.”
“But Tazaki really helped me out. Please . . .”
“No. We really can’t take that.”
Giving up, I went to stay at my parents’ home for two or three days. Eventually my father said, “When are you going?” In an instant, I knew there was no place for me there.
“Tomorrow,” I replied.