Detective X: Part 5 by Shirley Pesto
After a delightful and full meal, Komori called another cab to bring him home. It was raining heavily when he was dropped off at his apartment building. With just the short walk from the curb to the entrance of his building, he got completely soaked. Nevertheless, he was happy to be home from the hospital.
When he made it into his apartment, he found that he was getting a dull headache and took a few of the extra strength anti-inflammatory pills that the doctor had prescribed. After finishing a full glass of water that he had poured himself from the tap, Komori lightly rested the empty glass on the kitchen counter. Instinctually, he reached in his pocket for his phone until realizing that he had smartly kept it in the plastic bag from the hospital. It was one of the few items that remained dry from the rain. After retrieving it, he gave Flower Mart a call. He was sent to voicemail again, so he left a message to let Boss know that he was back from the hospital and planned to be into work the next day.
As he hung up the call, he backed away from the kitchen counter and made one fluid motion to the bathroom to run a bath. The faucet knobs squeaked as he turned them. As soon as the water started to get hot, he plugged the drain. Steam from the hot water quickly caused every surface in the bathroom to collect condensation. He peeled off his clothes and stepped carefully into the tub. After soaking in it for about ten minutes, he started to feel better. His headache was mellowing, though it hadn’t yet completely subsided. He removed the face cloth he had resting over his eyes and rung it out to lay on the side of the pink tub. He stared forward and studied the square tiles that lined the enclosure of the tub area. The tiles were white with a little pink circle in each corner, so when the corners of four tiles met, it looked like a flower with pink petals.
Out of the corner of his vision, he saw Setsuko’s business card that he got from her the night they met. The business card was just barely clinging to the pocket of his rain-soaked pants. It must’ve jostled out of his pocket when he haphazardly tossed his clothes into his Flower Mart branded hamper, which was full. He made a mental note to do laundry over the weekend.
The night he met Setsuko was so magical, he had almost forgotten that it was the same night he ended up in the hospital. Just the thought of her sent him into a daydream that went over every second from when they met to when they parted at the train station.
His phone made a notification ding and buzz from were it was resting on the floor and coaxed him out of his daydream. The bath water sloshed as he reached over to anchor himself on the side of the tub with his armpit and elbow. With his fingertips, he reached and slid his phone towards him. It was a text message that said they found a new teacher and English class was on for that evening.
He felt a revitalizing jolt of energy and decided he would finish up his bath and get ready to attend the class. He would be lying to himself if he said the jolt of energy didn’t come from the thought that he might see Setsuko again. He got out of the tub and, even before getting dressed, retrieved Setsuko’s business card from the hamper and carefully placed it behind his toothbrush cup on the counter to allow it to dry. Then he proceeded to prepare for class.
Komori arrived early to the English lesson and used the reflection in the frosted glass portion of the door to put on his Tom wig. He was sure to be careful with the wig over the tender part of his head. As he looked at his reflection, he remembered that John was no longer the teacher. Momentarily, he felt disappointed, until he felt a familiar tap on his shoulder. It was Setsuko. She had her Lucy wig on, too.
They started the class and met their new teacher, Nancy. Nancy had straight blonde hair and a no-nonsense sort of attitude. She seemed befuddled as to why they were wearing wigs and appeared to have an aversion to hugs. Komori and Setsuko showed Nancy what they had learned previously from John. They bellowed out loud salutations, used their English names, and demonstrated their ability to high-five and hug.
Nancy was not impressed. She opened up a folder to what looked like her lesson plan and proceeded in a sterile fashion. Komori observed the juxtaposition between Nancy’s teaching style and the building’s nightclub atmosphere. It made him smile a little, but when he made eye contact with Nancy, he felt self conscious of his actions. The tension in the room made him feel awkward.
Setsuko seemed upset and suddenly got up to leave the classroom. Komori thought to go after her, but Nancy shoved a workbook in his lap and asked him if he could read the words aloud to her. She seemed unconcerned about Setsuko leaving and more concerned about retaining at least one student in the class.
At first, not wanting to be rude, Komori obliged and tried to read the letters he recognized. With each second that went by, he could feel the opportunity to connect with Setsuko slipping away. He thanked Nancy, but handed the workbook back to her and went after Setsuko. By the time he made it outside, nobody was in the alley except for the man wearing sunglasses and an employee having a smoke break. There was no sign of Setsuko.
Instead of continuing the class, Komori decided to walk home. His headache was coming back, full force, and he felt like he needed to rest. He barely made it home before he collapsed in his bed where he had a deep sleep until he woke up from his alarm the next morning.
When he woke up, he was pleased that he felt good enough to go into work like he planned. He was looking forward to seeing Boss, and even Shunichi. The walk to work felt invigorating. As he walked, he took in a few deep breaths and let the brisk air wake up his lungs. Making it into work a little early, Komori decided he had some time to have a quick cigarette before he clocked in. It was his first cigarette since before his stay at the hospital, and he felt like he deserved it. He poked his head in the door but didn’t see Boss in his usual spot. As he was walking back to his smoke break perch, he lit his cigarette and inhaled. In contrast to the cool morning air, the first drag of his cigarette felt and tasted so good.
As soon as he exhaled, he heard the automatic sliding door open. Expecting to see Boss, Komori turned around with a smile, but it was Shunichi. Komori maintained his smile and said good morning.
“Good morning, Mr. Komori. I got your voicemail from a couple weeks ago. Are you feeling better?”
“Yes, thank you. Apparently it was quite a fall and the hospital kept me there far longer than I expected. I apologize I was out for so long.”
“That’s fine, Mr. Komori. It’s no problem, really. I’m glad you are better. So look… I didn’t want to tell you this over the phone. Especially since you were dealing with your own ailments. I’m not sure if you heard the bad news, but Boss… he died a couple weeks ago.”
Komori didn’t quite comprehend what Shunichi just told him. “What…?”
“It was a suicide. He… Boss threw himself in front of a train at the Kinshicho station. It was actually the same night you ended up in the hospital. The next morning, I came into work and everything was locked up. After I got into the store, I got your message and assumed that Boss wasn’t here because he was checking on you… but later in the day I found out what really happened.” Shunichi sucked air through his teeth and shook his head. “It’s a real shame.”
Komori didn’t know what to say. His mind felt like a vessel that was receiving too much liquid, too fast. The more the news about Boss sunk in, the stronger the pressure felt in his brain. He grabbed at his own temples and needed to rest his weight against the wall to steady himself.
It had only been a few months since Komori met Boss, but he felt he had a connection with the young man. While he understood that the reasons for suicide have connections to complex psychological health factors, it didn’t stop him from thinking that maybe he could’ve helped Boss in some way.
Shunichi offered to let Komori go home for the rest of the day, but he politely declined the offer and thought it was better that he finish out his shift. Throughout the day, there were so many thoughts going on in his brain that he didn’t quite know where to land. When the time came to clock out, both his mind and body were tired and he decided to go straight home after work. He spent the entirety of the walk home in a sullen mood.
The stress of the news started to make his head ache again, and it also led him to think of his recent loss of Noriko. When he arrived home, he changed his clothes and splashed some water on his face. On the bathroom counter, peeking out from behind his toothbrush cup, he saw Setsuko’s business card that he had set out to dry.
With his hands resting on the sink, he looked at himself in the mirror and made a silent promise that he would give her a call the next morning. He would ask her if she was still interested in continuing the English classes. The fact that she was visibly upset during the last lesson didn’t bode well for his hopes that she would want to continue. Ultimately, he was just trying to find an excuse to call her so he could talk with her again. He wanted to talk with somebody about losing his friend.
The next day at Flower Mart felt even more strange without Boss there. He kept his mind on studying the usual patterns of the day to keep his mind busy. On his first break, he gave Setsuko’s work a call. On the other end of the line, an indifferent voice answered the phone.
“Hello, this is Hirayanagi.”
“Yes, hi. I’d like to speak with Setsuko Kawashima.”
“Setsuko? Oh… she’s on vacation. Can I take a message?”
It took a bit of courage for Komori to even pick up the phone and call Setsuko, so not being able to speak with her right away left him feeling utterly disappointed. He declined on leaving a message, but made a note of when she was returning. He planned to check in with her when she got back. Maybe by then, he’d get up enough nerve to ask her out for lunch.
A few days later, his initial disappointment of missing a chance to speak with Setsuko was snuffed out when he received a postcard from her in the Flower Mart mailbox. It read:
How is teacher Nancy’s class? I met John in LA.
Writing from sunny San Diego, California.
She was all the way in the United States; meeting with John, of all people. He imagined all of the adventures they could have there. Komori noticed that, instead of the work office location on her business card, Setsuko wrote a different Tokyo address as the return address. He studied the picture on the front of the postcard and then held it close to his nose. He closed his eyes and inhaled. It smelled like printed ink on cardboard with a faint scent of sweet nicotine.