Day 19: With Mary-san
Every time someone wearing white enters the corner of my eye, I turn all my attention and find myself disappointed. Yet again, I continue urging on the bike. I’ve already repeated that more times than I can count.
How many hours has it been since last night’s call?
Because I’ve kept the same posture for so long, my joints are letting off an unpleasant grating, my fatigue building like dust piling over itself.
It’s as natural as could be, I mean, the only time I ever stopped the bike was to fill gas. All other time was spent simply speeding towards Mary.
When I look at the sky, the sun is peeking into my face.
That sunlight that hasn’t showered my body in so long, rather than refreshing, it feels itchy. A grilling heat aches the surface of my skin, making me want to scratch.
… I’ll have to rest soon. This bike isn’t the sort of vehicle you can keep riding for extended periods, and even if that wasn’t the case, I haven’t slept. I don’t know if it’s because I’m tired, but the edge of my vision is beginning to warp. The inside of my head’s also gone nicely psychedelic, and just a moment ago, I mistook a shopping bag dancing in the wind for Mary.
Of course, rather than forcing myself all the way, I can at least tell that I’m better off getting some rest and racing to Mary with a clear head.
Yet I just can’t find it in me to rest, even if you ask me for the specifics, I don’t get it myself. It might simply be there was simply no opportunity, it might be I wanted to taste just another ten minutes of Mary’s pain, it might be that I felt if I stopped, I got the feeling I wouldn’t be able to start again.
But the only certain, clear fact was that I was racing on my bike to meet Mary.
Yeah. There was a time I thought like that. It was a time long, long ago, in the before-time.
But as time went on, I got a bit clever and got to thinking of it differently.
What’s impossible ain’t happening. It’s important to know when to give up.
My bike lurches forward as if it’ll collapse at any moment. The only reason I haven’t gotten into an accident is because I’m on a mountain road cars rarely ever go down, and if I went somewhere with heavy traffic, there’s no doubt I’d be hit by hard luck and dancing.
No, look, I worked hard. I worked really hard. Hardest I ever work.
But see, the human body definitely has something called a limit.
I’m human, after all. Not an irregularity or marine life.
Rest. It’s seriously time for me to rest.
I don’t need that hot-blooded zeal or effort anymore. I really am at my limit.
For now, please, just give me a cover.
I thought over that in a corner of my head as I raced the bike with a practically-asleep sense of awareness. I couldn’t find any excuse to stop, so I continued on.
… The next one. Once I pass that light post, I’ll rest. Definitely.
Just how many times have I thought it? My field of vision’s questionably hazy, and I’m in a state where I can’t even determine which light post I picked out, so in the end, I can’t stop. Rather, if I unskillfully hit the brakes, I get the feeling that alone will overturn this rig.
Perhaps this is that. After riding until death, I’ll become a new urban legend, don’t you think… oh damn, that’s actually badass.
I saw a visual hallucination of such an unbecoming ending as I continued on, passed by a girl in a white one-piece and straw hat right by the side of the road, cross-examined myself on when I would finally reach Mary, regret that I should have dropped the cool act, and at least asked for more details on her current location, and after a few dozen seconds, I thought over what Mary even looked like to begin with…
I suddenly hit the brakes.
Gkkkkk, as it raised a metallic sound, I forcefully drew the bike near the shoulder and brought it to a stop. On the verge of falling over, I got over, violently yanked off my full-face helmet and turned around.
“… She’s not there.”
However. The girl I’m sure I just saw was no longer in my vision.
… Did I pass her by? No, before that, she might’ve been a hallucination.
I doubted whether my head was on right as I turned back towards the bike…
“… Please don’t turn around.”
A slight weight and heat were added to my back.
Just as I was about to turn around, I just barely stopped my feet.
“I’m not allowed to turn around?”
“… The urban legend called Mary-san is completed the moment the target turns around… just a little is enough. Please for a little longer, don’t end this time. For just a brief moment, let me be not Mary-san, but just a Mary-san in training.”
“… I see.”
Back to back, we could feel each other’s heat.
Even in these days of summer, Mary’s body heat was an easily distinguishable warm. No, I could even call it hot. From then, quite a long while of silence followed. Just as I didn’t know what I was supposed to say, it looks like Mary didn’t know what to say either.
We tried to say something at the same time, only making it more awkward.
“Um, please go ahead.”
With Mary conceding the right away, in order to play off the awkwardness, I spoke on in a teasing tone.
“What’s that, Mary? You were able to walk a bit, I see. By the look of things, did I even have to come out? … Rather, this is a bit late, but I’m surprised I actually ran into you..”
“… Akira, have you forgotten?”
“I have Clairvoyance… it was easy to see through the fact you were coming towards me and predict your route, you know?”
I felt like covering my face from the embarrassment.
That’s right, I forgot… then that means it’s like that. Right after I tried acting cool saying I have business to attend to, she knows I left the next instant… this is embarrassing.
Once I was silenced from the shame, Mary sullenly spoke.
“… It’s your fault.”
Mary’s voice was quiet, but it has lost its repulsiveness from yesterday, fluent and clear like running water, as if only the places her voice reached were saved from this seething heat.
It was comfortable to my ears. I simply listened in to the young girl’s words.
“It’s your fault… because of you, I ended up walking again. I had no intent to walk anymore, I didn’t want to ever walk again. But even so, I ended up walking.”
“I mean, you were coming for me. Good-for-nothing Akira was coming for my sake… I had no choice but to start walking…!”
I let out a light breath.
“The good-for-nothing part was completely unnecessary. But, I see.”
In the end, she was able to walk on her own strength. I didn’t have to do a thing.
That’s how it should be. That’s the Mary I know.
As I thought over such things, I heard a hesitant voice.
The small weight pressed against my back swayed.
“Why did you come here…? … When it all boils down, I’m a Mary-san in training. Even I don’t know what I’m supposed to do when I stand behind you… and yet, why did you come all the way here…?”
Hearing those words, I felt like collapsing over.
The hell’s with that question?
“… Something like that.”
Think a bit and it’s obvious.
No, do you even have to think about it?
… I’m an arbitrary guy, and the sorta half-assed guy who can’t even get engrossed in anything. I can’t even work hard on my own. Even so, even if I’m like that.
“It’s only natural to lend a hand to the girl working harder than anyone.”
“… You mean…”
“I mean you. Who else do you see here… you worked really hard. Day after day, morning to night, without relying on anyone, you walked all the way here alone… in that case, isn’t it fine? Does it really matter if I go out a few hundred kilometers to meet you?”
Fuu, I breathe out a breath.
It’s not an easy thing to spit out my embarrassing true feelings as-is… this is why Mary is so troublesome. When I’m so half-assed, when I’m nothing more than half-assed, she says everything on her mind so clearly.
No reaction from Mary… When I wondered if I had misread the mood again, I felt an enduring presence from behind.
I spend a moment in doubt.
Mary’s endurance finally breaks down, finally turning into a weep.
Uwaaah, Mary raises a child-like voice as she cries… no, that’s wrong. She really is still a child. Still, and yet, she walked an outrageous distance.
“You worked hard… you worked really hard, Mary.”
Under the noisy cries of cicadas, Mary’s crying voice was like the rain.
Around ten minutes pass, eventually, the cries die down. At times, snnf, snnf, I can hear the sniffling of her nose. Before long that sound fades out as well, and finally, the grand chorus of cicadas is all that’s left to resound.
Yeaaaah… this is awkward.
On top of the awkwardness I felt from having said such an embarrassing thing, I heard Mary cry, only making it even more awkward. While I was mulling over how to escape from this situation, the weight on my back suddenly disappears.
At the same time, I hear the beeping of a number entered into a phone. My smartphone begins to ring.
The incoming call is, of course, from the same number as always.
I take it out of my pocket and press the receive button.
When I turned, the girl in the straw hat and white one piece was there.
She lifted up her hair and hat a bit as she pressed her phone to her small ear.
And after crying a bit, she lets out a slightly choked voice.
“I’m right in front of you. This is–”
When I see her expression, the pace of my heartbeat hastens.
… Oy, oy, at the end of the end, she’s coming in for the kill.
I mean, even as she wipes her tears, even under the strong blaze of midsummer, she smiles like a blooming sunflower… it was only natural, obvious for me to throw away my petty pride and stand entranced.
I’m sure this is what it means to be down in one hit.
The girl names herself. In a soft voice like the afternoon light filtering through the trees, her face tinted a bit red in embarrassment, her eyes gaze straight at me.
For some reason, I feel an excessive urge to embrace her.
After that, she let me use her lap as a pillow.