So many years have passed since then, but I still can’t forget the month of my twenty-fifth birthday, and I don’t think I ever will. It was the month I learned how to live.
At the time, I was a junior freelance writer searching for a place to spend the summer, any place that would give me writing inspiration and freedom from the stress of city crowds. Somehow, I got lucky – extraordinarily lucky. Out of nowhere, my old schoolmate Tadashi extended a hand, and to this day I wonder what kind of person I’d be if I hadn’t taken it. His offer and my acceptance opened the door to what was at once the best and worst summer of my life.
I was at my desk writing a short article for a sports magazine when his call came. My first thought was, Ugh, I forgot to put my phone on silent again? Irritated, I got up from my chair, followed the sound of my ringtone to the living room, and checked the caller ID.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Tadashi and I had been somewhat close in junior high, but we had grown apart after that. I really hadn’t heard from him since graduation. And now, all of a sudden, he was calling me?
I picked up hesitantly. “Hello?”
“Chas? It’s Tadashi…”
His soft, gentle voice hadn’t changed at all. For a moment I was overcome with a strange sense of nostalgia from the sound of his voice alone. Then I realized he had called me by my old nickname. My real name is Cheng-han, but in my school days Tadashi took to calling me Chas for some reason, and somehow it stuck. But I hadn’t heard that name in years.
“Tadashi,” I choked out. “Why… how have you been?”
“Pretty good,” he replied easily. “You?”
“I’ve been alright, I guess.”
“It’s been a long time!”
“I know, right? Ages.”
Tadashi was quiet for a moment. Then he began, “I heard you’re looking for a place…”
“Oh, yeah. Just for this summer. I need to get out of the city – you know how I am.”
“Yeah, I know. Well, look, do you happen to know a Katsumi Nakajima?”
I thought for a minute. “No, sorry.”
“That’s okay, he wasn’t in our class or anything. But anyway, I’m pretty close with him now. His family has this vacation home to the north, on the shores of this big lake, and I’m spending the summer with him there. We were there the past couple summers too, and it’s really nice. It’s some thirty minutes drive from the nearest town, so if you’re trying to get away from people… I mean, we have a spare guest room, and it wouldn’t be a problem if you wanted to spend a few months with us.”
I almost dropped the phone. “Wait, really? Are you sure it wouldn’t be a problem?”
“Yeah, no worries. You don’t even have to pay rent or anything.”
“And Katsumi wouldn’t mind?”
He laughed quietly. “Trust me, Katsu wouldn’t mind at all. We’re pretty close, and I know he’s not the kind of person who would be bothered by a houseguest. I’m sure he’ll like you.”
“Well, if you’re sure, then… god, Tadashi, thank you so much! You’re a lifesaver.”
“Give me your address, okay? We’re leaving Saturday morning, so we’ll come pick you up on our way out.”
I gave him my address. “Thanks… is there anything I should bring?”
He thought about it for a while. “Well, it’s a lake, so if you want to bring swim gear you can. At least bring clothes that you’re okay with getting wet, because we go fishing and kayaking and stuff. Besides that, I’d just say to pack light, and if you end up needing anything else, there’s a market in town.”
“Okay, great. And there’s internet, right? I need to work.”
“Yeah, there’s internet. What do you do for work?”
“I’m a freelance writer.”
“Oh, that’s cool,” he said, seeming genuinely interested. “I can totally see you doing something like that.”
“Yeah, it’s really my kind of thing. I was actually in the middle of an article when you called.”
“Oh. In that case, I’ll go.”
“No, that’s not what I meant,” I said quickly. “Let’s talk more. I haven’t heard from you in ages.”
“We’ll have plenty of time to talk over the summer, right? Go do your work. I have to go pick up Katsu anyway. Listen, I’ll call you again on Friday night. Okay?”
“Okay, yeah, no problem. Thanks again. Thank Katsumi for me, too.”
“You’ll really like him,” Tadashi promised. “He’s great. Anyway, I’ll see you.”
He hung up. I put my phone down and stood still for a moment, trying to get my thoughts in order. After all this time…
I went back to my computer to finish the sports article and then spent the rest of the night sitting around in a dazed wonder, trying to imagine what the summer had in store for me.