Now, don’t get me wrong here. It’s not like Taiga gave me this magical speech and immediately I became a good person. Something about his words tugged at me, that’s all, and I decided to go to one of my classes that afternoon for no other reason than I suddenly felt like it. I didn’t think all that much about Taiga’s lecture, I didn’t start contemplating morals or ethics or the sad state of my life at that moment. I just went.
It was a history class that I had signed up for, as I mentioned earlier, just to meet the minimum unit requirement to stay enrolled. You might be wondering why I even bothered to apply to college in the first place. I didn’t have much idea about that, either. But from the beginning, I’d been told that going to college after high school was just the thing to do, so I just went and did it. This has been a pretty common pattern in my life: I just go and do things, without really thinking about them.
Anyway, this particular class turned out to be a sweeping overview of world history – go figure – and on this day that I attended, the professor was talking about imperialism. I arrived to the lecture hall a bit late and sat in an empty seat in the back row near the door. All the students around me were taking notes; I didn’t even have a pencil to write with, let alone paper to write on, so I just watched and listened.
Did I know anything about imperialism prior to this lecture? No, not really. And I didn’t care to hear about it. But I was there, and the professor’s voice was loud, so I couldn’t help anything. She went on and on about imperialism and capitalism and their definitions and their impacts on human history, and somehow, for some reason, I actually paid attention. Maybe the alcohol had jacked up my brain.
After the class, as I was slowly making my way back to the dorm, I spotted one of the guys from the train gang – not the leader, just some other dude – walking toward me. I don’t think he actually saw me, since he was staring down at his phone the whole time, but just to be safe I ducked into the closest building and took an incredibly roundabout way home. I didn’t want to talk about that whole incident with anyone, let alone one of the guys who had almost killed me.
I arrived at our suite some thirty minutes later and found it empty. Taiga and Isabella had cooked, eaten, and left without me, as usual – not because they didn’t want to spend time with me, but because I never wanted to spend time with them. Anyway, I was glad they were gone. I took off my jacket, threw it on a chair in the kitchen, and checked the fridge to see if there was anything I could eat. There was a new bowl of curry rice, still slightly warm; I glanced at the dish rack and saw two similar bowls, empty. I heated up the curry some more in the microwave and settled down for a delicious lunch.
Isabella didn’t always cook for me. Most days I’d eat out somewhere or just have something stupid like cup noodles, or else I wouldn’t eat at all. But occasionally, she or Taiga would leave some leftovers in the fridge, and I’d just take it without asking. They never said a word. Sometimes, I suspected, they purposely left food for me – like when the leftovers would sit in the fridge untouched for a few days, or if there were a lot of leftovers for a meal that really shouldn’t have been a problem to just make two portions. I couldn’t comprehend for the life of me why they’d do that, but I didn’t think about it too much. I just took the food and ate it.
Taiga came back home before I’d finished eating. He saw me at the table, smiled, and went into our room without saying a word. I went on eating and watching pointless videos on my phone. After a few minutes he came back out to the kitchen wearing his work clothes.
“How’s the curry?” he asked.
“Um,” I said. “It’s good.”
“Not too spicy?”
“Do you prefer your curry spicy or sweet?”
Slightly dumbfounded, I replied, “I don’t really care…”
Taiga nodded. “Isabella and I both like it pretty spicy, that’s why I was asking.”
I couldn’t fathom why he was making small talk with me. I just kind of nodded and mumbled along. He talked about curry for a little while longer, and then he said goodbye and headed off to work.
It occurred to me then that I had no idea what his internship even was. I’d never thought to ask. When it came down to it, I realized, I didn’t really know very much about him, or Isabella either. Back then, I didn’t know much about anyone at all – not even myself.
I finished my lunch, dumped the dishes in the sink, and almost instantly passed out on my bed. I figured there wasn’t anything better to do, anyway. I didn’t feel like searching for a party or hitting the streets, and it’s not like I was about to start my three weeks’ and four classes’ worth of homework. I napped for a few hours, woke up, went on my phone, and then rolled over and fell asleep again. By the time I finally pulled myself out of bed, it was nine o’clock at night. The world outside our window was dark and unforgivingly silent.
For a few minutes I leisurely paced around the room, waking myself up and trying to remember what I had been dreaming about. It had been a bad dream, that I knew, but I didn’t remember any single detail of it. And I hated that. That’s saying something, really. I didn’t have strong feelings about very many things, but I hated not remembering my nightmares with a gut-wrenching passion, and I still do. Something about it bothers me.
Eventually I gave up on my memory and went outside. Isabella was puttering around in the kitchen; she looked over at me, nodded without smiling, and went back to cleaning and washing dishes. Taiga was sitting at the table with his computer in front of him, an online textbook on one half of the screen and a note-taking application open on the other. He had early on taken up Isabella’s policy of not using paper unless absolutely necessary. He turned around in his seat to look at me, gave a slow, soft smile, and waited for me to say something.
“Hey,” I said awkwardly.
“Hey,” he replied.
“… I, uh, fell asleep…”
“Are you hungry?” he asked. “There’s some soup in the fridge.”
“You can just cook some noodles to go with it.”
He nodded, turned around, and resumed studying, and I went up next to Isabella and put a pot of water on the stove to boil. None of us said another word.