2 July, Yōko Kurahashi

文字数 4,056文字

“It’s time for the Night Cafe, your regular weekly online counseling space!” I announced, facing the smartphone. I was doing my best to sound like a radio talkshow host.
  “So who is chatting with us today?” My good friend Tina Yamada was talking now.
  Tina and I were both in our second year of junior high. We had been borrowing my grandmother’s cafe as a space to run this “Night Cafe” where we’d eat dinner together with other kids. It was aimed at elementary and junior high kids who were left to eat alone because their parents were too busy.
  Now our Night Cafe counseling space had gone online. It began with the stay-home orders that meant no one could get together any more, and we were still keeping it going.
  “Today’s guest is—Rei Sakurai, second year junior high!”
  I turned and waved to Rei-chan on screen.
  Rei was a meek-looking girl with big eyes and strong features.
  She began in a hesitant murmur, head hanging. “I . . . er . . . I just can’t make any friends. . . .”
  “Oh, then you’re just like me and Hanabi here!” Tina came back instantly.
  I jumped right in too. “True! Tina and me, we’ve both been loners right through school.”
  “Really?!
  Rei-chan was staring straight at the screen. Her eyes were wide.
  Maybe realizing that others had the same experience made her feel more secure, for she slowly began to talk now.
  “I . . . you see . . . I came to Tokyo at the start of junior high and I didn’t know anyone. . . . There were lots of kids in my class who came up from elementary school together, so they just formed groups right away. . . . I never got to join a club right through first year, and then in second year I was away from school a lot . . . and so anyway, I’ve just always been alone. . . .”
  “Oh wow, I so know what you’re saying!” I was thinking of my own experience as I spoke.
  “I just hate going to school so much, you know?”
  “Yeah, I can really get that you’d feel that way.”
  Tina nodded. I heaved a little sigh, too.
  “Me, too,” I said. “I felt so sick of being a loner, I actually tried really hard to talk to other kids, but you know, I was still such a loner in class. . . .”
  “To be honest, if the alternative is hanging out with kids I don’t even get along with, then I’d just rather stay a loner.”
  I saw Rei-chan give a tiny gasp at Tina’s bluntness.
  “I never thought of it like that before. I was just scared all the time about how other people would see me. Like, oh, she’s so gloomy, or she’s so boring, you know . . . just always imagining what they might be saying about me. . . . Hey, it’s weird, but talking like this I’m honestly starting to feel a little better. . . .”
  “That’s so great!”
  Tina and I both said this simultaneously. And it’s true. Having someone around you who’ll listen to you—that’s fundamentally what helps make you feel good. Even if you can’t find any solutions.
  The same goes for me, too. If I hadn’t met Tina, if we hadn’t set up this Night Cafe thing together, I’d still be a loner just like Rei-chan.
  “You know, Rei-chan, school isn’t all there is. Let’s meet up at the next Night Cafe!”


Translated by Meredith McKinney/Arranged by TranNet KK

Yōko Kurahashi
Born in Hiroshima Prefecture. Graduated from Sophia University. Worked as a freelance editor before making her literary debut. Has drawn popular acclaim for series including Kaze wo michishirube ni. . . (With the wind as my guide. . .). Series written for a young audience include Ichigo (Strawberry), Aoi tenshi (Blue angel), Tsuki ga nemuru ie (The house where the moon sleeps), Paseri densetsu (Legend of Paseri ), Majo no shinryōjo (The witch’s clinic), Doji majo Hiari (Hiari the clumsy witch), Porepore nikki (Easy-going diary), Yoru cafe (Night café). Other works include

Ikiteiru

dakede

ii!:

Uma

ga

oshiete

kureta

koto

(It’s okay to just keep living!: What a horse taught me), and

Shōsetsu:

Koe

no

katachi

(A silent voice : The official novelization), adapted from the original manga by Yoshitoki Ōima , among others.

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