Chasing Life With You (Chapter 10)


Tadashi whipped up some breakfast sandwiches, and the two of us sat down to eat on the porch, trying to enjoy the beautiful post-sunrise atmosphere. Before long, Katsumi came downstairs and joined us at the table. He looked at neither of us and said nothing. He was wearing a loose, comfortable-looking gray shirt and khakis, and his black hair was still wet from the shower. He dug into the meal in silence. I watched him warily out of the corner of my eye. I was trying to figure out what he was feeling, but that was really an impossible task. Considering the way he had woken up this morning, he seemed preternaturally calm… the sea before a storm, I thought. Or is it after?

“Chas,” Tadashi said after a while, “any plans for today?”

“Mmm, I think I’m going to listen to your album,” I replied.

“Cool. Let me know your thoughts, okay? Anything else?”

“Not really.”

“Want to give guitar a try?”

“Oh, sure!”

“Let’s do that this morning. You can listen to the album after lunch. How’s that?”

There was something of a point to his words, some kind of hidden motive, but I couldn’t quite figure it out.

I nodded. “Fine by me. Thanks for breakfast. This sandwich is really good.”

Tadashi smiled. “I’m glad you like it.”

I glanced at Katsumi, part of me expecting him to butt in with one of his typical banterous rebukes, but he gave no indication he’d even heard our conversation. Tadashi followed my gaze, frowned, and focused back on devouring his food.

In the midst of this uncomfortable silent tension, the three of us finished our breakfast and cleaned up. Tadashi beckoned me up the stairs; Katsumi followed us up but then whisked by and vanished into his room. Tadashi looked after him for a moment, quiet and unreadable. Then he met my gaze, set his jaw a little, and led me into the studio.

“Sit down here,” he said casually, pulling out a chair.

I plopped down obediently and watched as my friend crossed the room and picked out one of his acoustic guitars from the rack.

“Let’s go with this,” he said, turning back to me. “I like this one. It should be easier for you to play.”

He pulled over another chair, sat down, and rested the guitar on his leg for a moment to demonstrate how to hold it before handing it to me. I took it, slightly surprised by its weight and size. As I experimented with getting accustomed to this new item, Tadashi began to talk about music, about the differences and similarities between various instruments, about how a guitar actually works, about the sounds a guitar can make. I tried hard to understand what he said and commit it to memory.

For the entirety of the morning hours we spent in the studio, I did not actually learn any chords or try strumming or anything. I simply sat there with the guitar in my lap, listening to Tadashi’s impromptu lecture, asking questions whenever I had them. Tadashi brought over another one of his guitars so that he could demonstrate various things to me as he talked about them, and I paid as much attention as I could. It was a somewhat strange experience for me. I hadn’t learned anything new in a long time, at least nothing as new as this, and I didn’t know how I should feel about it. But some part of me was very tangibly thrilled.

Sometime around ten or ten-thirty, Katsumi walked in. Tadashi was in the middle of playing part of a complex guitar solo in front of me; he stopped midway and stared as Katsumi entered. The black-haired musician ignored us, walking to the back of the room and picking up a left-handed bright yellow electric guitar. He sat down in the corner, set up quickly, and started to play something very fast and very loud.

Tadashi looked back at me. Rather than being annoyed at the interruption, his expression seemed slightly triumphant.

“Thanks, Chas,” my friend said, leaning in close so I could hear. “Let’s stop for now, okay?”

“Okay. Thanks for the lesson.”

I gave him back the guitar and left the two of them in the studio together. Unsure of what to do next, I wandered downstairs and loitered aimlessly around the kitchen for a while, listening to the chaotic music raining from the floor above.

I wonder what he thanked me for… That was kind of weird.

Slightly unsettled, I poured myself a glass of cold water and sat down in the living room. Outside, birds vibrantly chirped about, and upstairs, Katsumi’s solo playing went on and on. As I gazed out the window I thought about the various events of the morning, beginning with that horrifying scream. It was definitely a change of pace from how rhythmically relaxing the past few days had been. Suddenly remembering, I opened up my laptop to jot down my impressions of my first guitar lesson.

Just as I was finishing up my notes, I heard Katsumi upstairs cut himself off. I cocked my head towards the abrupt silence, wondering what might be going on. A few minutes passed, and then Katsumi started playing again, on acoustic this time. He launched directly into a song, and before long Tadashi joined him. The melody was strangely familiar…

The two of them began to sing, and then it struck me.

That’s right, I thought. It’s the song they played for me that first night. What was it called again…

“Unsuitable.”

I sat quietly and listened to the song for the second time all the way through. It was just as beautiful as it had been a week ago. I wondered why Katsumi had chosen to play it – why this song, and why now. I don’t normally try to psychoanalyze people, but his strange behavior the whole morning had been a mystery to me and I wanted to understand it. More than anything, I wanted to know what his prophetic dream had been about – but fat chance of finding out, I knew. If he wasn’t telling Tadashi, there was no way he’d tell me.

Unsuitable…

As the song came to a close, I silently agreed with the conclusion I’d come to after first hearing it: strange name, and strange lyrics, for a love song.

Katsumi didn’t play anything more after that. Without a partner to play with, Tadashi came downstairs to start making lunch, and I sank into the couch to get some work done, trying to put the jumbled events of the morning out of my mind. But it wasn’t happening. I was already swept up within that strange seventh day, and it wasn’t ending anytime soon.

Lunch came and went; Katsumi didn’t come down for it. I helped Tadashi clean up the kitchen, then lay down on the sofa and put my headphones in to listen to their album. “Unsuitable” was the twelfth and final track. I ran through the whole album first, to get an overall feel of it, and then the second time around I opened my computer and wrote down my impressions for each individual song. The style was diverse and captivating, and the technique and quality were on point, as I’d come to expect from the two. Taking in the album as a whole left me breathless with awe at the power these musicians had to convey and control emotions, to inspire and impress, to leave somebody in tears of joy and sorrow simultaneously. And with that morning’s guitar lesson, I couldn’t help being hopeful and excited at the idea that I could be that powerful someday.

I headed upstairs to find Tadashi, bursting to talk to him about it. He wasn’t in the studio or in the workout room, and the door to his and Katsumi’s bedroom was closed. I went to knock on it – but as I leaned in I heard something that stopped me in my tracks.

I couldn’t tell what it was for a moment, but then I suddenly knew: Katsumi was crying.

I stood outside their room in shocked silence, swallowed my excitement, and and fled back down the stairs. My thoughts on the album could wait.


4 thoughts on “Chasing Life With You (Chapter 10)

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