Each summer, the school hosts classes on driver’s education. Considering the size of the property, there is plenty of paved road to practice. The last week of the class, the instructor will accompany the students onto city streets for advanced lessons. It’s the goal of St. Catherine’s that all students become safe, and licensed, drivers.
—The “St. Catherine Cares” Program
“You’re in a good mood,” Tachibana observed as Kato entered the room.
“Are you implying that I’m normally in a bad mood?” Kato asked with a grin.
Tachibana chuckled. “You’re silly.”
“What about you? I’ve noticed you seem like you’re in a better mood lately too.”
“Yup. Happy to be single again.”
Tachibana smiled. “All the stress is gone. I don’t have to plan my day around anyone else anymore.”
“Must be nice.”
“Yeah, movie night was kind of lame though. I ended up sitting with a couple other single semes.” Tachibana chuckled to himself.
“Think you’ll find another uke?”
“No, not for a while. I just want to relax a bit and not have to worry about another person.”
“I see,” Kato replied.
“Anyway, I’m off to class. Later.” Tachibana waved as he went out the door.
Kato thought for a few minutes about singleness. He’d been single all his life. He’d never had someone to worry about. And the only person to ever worry about him was now gone. It hurt. It ached. He had friends, but they were all gone too. His new friend, Murata, was a likeable guy, which helped a tiny bit, but the ache was still there; a consistent, dull pain.
He thought about Takahashi. He couldn’t seem to put it all together, but he knew that Takahashi was as soothing to that ache of loneliness as the cream he applied to Kato’s back. Nothing else even came close.
Enough of that, he told himself. He was in a good mood and he needed to gather his stuff and head to afternoon class.
Kato enjoyed history to a certain extent. It was interesting learning how and why things became the way they were. This class for this quarter was focusing on the Cambodian-Vietnamese War, which was as part of the Third Indochina War. The instructor, Father John, gave a long lecture on Democratic Kampuchea (1976-1979) and Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge (KR). He was saddened to learn of the death of millions of Cambodian people through forced labor and genocide caused by the very hand of the leader of the people.
Kato walked out of the door, headed to the Sports Complex when Takahashi came from behind. He was carrying a large bag and a smile.
“What’s that?” he pointed at the bag.
“Stuff,” Takahashi sang.
Takahashi smiled. “They post the schedule at the Sport’s Complex every Sunday afternoon and I got word that you’re in my Monday weight-training class.”
“Oh, I was wondering about when I would get a schedule.”
“Still, the stuff?” Kato pointed at the bag.
“Well,” Takahashi continued, “when you show up, they will give you clothing that you will change into.”
Takahashi wore a face of disgust, saying, “Yeah, sometimes it’s new, sometimes it’s used.” Takahashi shuddered.
“So… I have some new stuff that you can have.” Takahashi sang.
Kato wondered what the hell was up with the good mood Takahashi was in.
“Thank you, I suppose,” Kato cautiously replied.
“Aye, no problem.” Takahashi grinned.
“So, what do you have?” Kato was now curious.
“Well, I got a 2 pair of boxers, 2 pair of shorts, 2 shirts, 6-pack of socks, a pair of shoes, some sweat bands, towel, padlock, deodorant, soap, wash cloth—”
Kato interrupted him. “Whoa, whoa, what the—”
Takahashi interrupted back. “Gotta take care of my uke.”
Kato stopped for a minute. He just did not like being called that, but again he didn’t want to ruin Takahashi’s mood by fighting right now about it. So instead he asked, “Why?”
“Why what?” Takahashi asked.
“Why all that? It’s too much. I can’t accept that.”
Takahashi narrowed his eyes and spoke with determination, “You will accept it, even if I have to rip your clothes off and dress you myself.”
“Okay, okay, sheesh,” Kato replied. He attempted to take the bag, but Takahashi dodged.
Takahashi laughed, “Ha ha so slow!” He started running and Kato chased him. Thus, they ran quite a distance before Takahashi gave up, tired and laughing too hard to run with that big bag. Kato was laughing too but gave up on trying to take the bag as they walked the rest of the way to the complex.
At the entrance, sure enough, there was a schedule. Kato noted that Monday afternoons this quarter, he was scheduled to do weight training.
The building that housed the weight room and all its training gear was huge, and there were lots of students of all ages and sizes here. There was an instructor, but he simply supervised the Grade 12 students who were leading the groups.
Takahashi lead the way to the locker room. He started unpacking the bag and handed Kato some clothes to change into. He opened his own locker and pulled out some clothes. Kato was thankful that neither of them had to get naked as just changing pants was enough. There were other boys also changing clothes, fooling around, and telling bawdy jokes.
All the students were paired up and, of course, Takahashi paired up with Kato. They went around the workstations. Kato was fit. Even though he was in shape, he was nothing like Takahashi, who seemed tireless. Well, at least I’m better at ping pong, Kato humorously thought. Takahashi was very encouraging, telling Kato to push himself, but was all business. There was no idle chitchat.
After a 90-minute workout, it was time to call it a day. They went back to the lockers and cleaned up a bit. There was an open shower room to the side with valves to turn on and off the water and control the temperature—if anyone wanted—but just about all the boys used a wet cloth to clean off their bodies.
Kato was standing at the sink with his shirt off, using the washcloth to wipe down. He looked over and saw Takahashi walk up, take off his shirt, wet a cloth, and start wiping himself down. Takahashi’s skin was taut, and though he wasn’t a bodybuilder, there was tone and definition. He guessed that Takahashi may work out a little in his room. He also noticed several bruises on Takahashi’s back. No doubt these were a result from the caning due to his recent fight with Handa. Kato wanted to reach out and touch them—
Kato snapped back to reality. He realized he was staring at Takahashi. “Sorry!” he quickly apologized and ran his washcloth under the sink.
Takahashi simply sighed and walked away.
Kato felt ashamed. Why do I keep looking? he chided himself. He looked around and nobody else seemed to have noticed their exchange. Kato stood at the sink, probably longer than necessary. He was kind of hoping Takahashi would leave early. He was not looking forward to being confronted again. He sighed and went back to the locker.
Takahashi was standing there in nothing but a pair of boxers. He looked like he was waiting for Kato. The other boys had left, and it was only them now. Kato looked down and walked over, ready for the beating he was sure to get.
“Look at me,” Takahashi said as Kato approached. It was gentle, but firm.
Kato looked up at Takahashi. “I’m sorry—”
Kato stopped. Takahashi simply stood there, staring at Kato. It made Kato nervous and start to blush.
“Kato-san, what are you blushing for?”
“I dunno.” Kato looked down.
“Look at me, please.” Kato sighed and look up again. Takahashi continued, “I’m sorry I overreacted at the pool. You are not like my old uke. I saw lust in his eyes. I only see curiosity in yours.”
“Sorry—” Kato started.
“Stop it.” Takahashi replied firmly. Kato didn’t move. Takahashi sighed. “I wonder what’s it going to take for us to be comfortable around each other.”
“Well, let’s get dressed and get out of here,” Takahashi said.