The black dry-erase marker squeaks sheepishly against the whiteboard as the Professor finishes off the integration. Silently I cheer to myself; I was able to work out where he was going with this before he got there. Wave Equation – you’re my bitch now.
It’s only been a few days since I started this ultra-focussed knowledge-binge. I didn’t think I’d advance this far this fast. I wonder; was all of this already stored in my head? Was it simply waiting there like a fossilised dinosaur, hiding for millions of years before a patient palaeontologist plucked it from the peat?
However my elation is offset by a certain something missing from my chest. I know that this elation is coming at the cost of being separated from my Hanako. When I’m sitting alone in my darkened dorm room with the music thumping and the teapot steaming, lonely pangs shoot across my breast. I’d like nothing more than to lie down beside my love, to stroke her hair, to caress her thigh…
Whoa, easy tiger. Eyes on the prize. Hold on for one more night and it will be Thursday. Hanako and I will work the night shift together, and then we’ll both go back to one of our beds together. I imagine that we’ll end up like we did on Saturday night, simply sleeping in each other’s arms. Still, a little “relief” from the study would be a welcome distraction.
She’s probably thinking the same thing. We’ve barely talked on the phone these last few days, let alone touched each other. I’m sure she’d be yearning just as much as I.
Satisfied in my solution of the Professor’s puzzle, I drop my pen, interlock my fingers, and then with my palms facing away from me, extend my arms upwards in a stretch. It’s almost an instinct; I do it without considering the people sitting behind me in the lecture hall.
“Ah, sorry…” I half-turn in my seat to apologise to the person behind me, but in the process I see something that damn near nearly stops my heart.
Hiding under her high school beret is the unmistakable form of my lover, sitting in the back row of the lecture hall. She instantly recognises that she is fooling no-one, grabs her books and runs out of the hall. Before my mind can even process what has happened, my body has scooped up my lecture notes, shoved them in my satchel, and set after her.
Blinding sunlight pierces my eyes as I crash through the lecture hall doors and out into the quadrangle. Eyes darting around the bright open space, it takes me a moment to realise that my prey is not more than three metres from the doors.
Hanako is leaning against one of the columns holding up the awning over the lecture hall’s doors. Her cream chiffon cardigan, once an elegant accessory to her evening wear, hangs lazily from her shoulders as if it were trying to crawl form her to the pillar. As her shoulders quiver with sobs, the cardigan quavers with her, adding to the illusion.
“Hanako? What’s the matter?”
Hanako wipes her face with her sleeve, shuffles her shoulders to re-seat the cardigan. It now hangs properly over her navy-blue one-piece dress. A little formal for most lectures, but someone with Hanako’s figure could get away with it.
“Hanako, what’s the matter? Is something up?”
I pull Hanako slightly towards me, and she half-stumbles into my embrace. Through her tears and her matted bangs I can see her faintly smiling.
She grabs my sleeves and nuzzles against my chest.
“I-I’m just happy…”
Happy? Could have fooled me. Still, I pull her slightly closer to me. Her scent, although masked slightly by her tears, finds its way to my senses. It’s almost as if she had read my mind. At the time when my resolve to excel at school wanned for a second, she was there, waiting to be embraced.
“…happy that you f-finally n-noticed me.”
I reluctantly release Hanako and take stock of the situation. Hanako was hiding in the back of my lecture hall. She even has fake books… no, my books. I can see them scattered beside the pillar. They’re last year’s textbooks, still almost as new as the day I bought them. In the last two weeks my current books have gone from a similar state to a thoroughly-thumbed, post-it note’d and highlighted tome.
In any case, she wanted to fit in with the class. This was a pre-meditated act.
“I-I’ve been w-watching you… w-watching over you…”
“Watching over me?”
She nods meekly.
“For how long?”
“M-most of y-yesterday. A-and today.”
“Yesterday? Didn’t you have work in the morning? And what about your lectures today?”
Hanako casts her gaze at the pavement, deflecting the question. The combination of her rejection, the stress of study and the adrenaline of the situation trigger something in my mind.
“Hanako? What about your work? Your lectures?”
Her gaze guiltily shifts from one paver to another. I already know the answer, but I want to hear it from her. I reach out and grasp her hand by the wrist. Startled, her eyes lock onto mine.
“I… I didn’t go.”
Almost unconsciously I squeeze her wrist.
“What do you mean you didn’t go? I thought we agreed; we both need to knuckle down, right? This is for our future.”
“B-but…” Her face paints a picture of guilt and fear. I’m not sure why, but this raises my bile all the more.
“No, there’s no ‘buts’. We screwed off and had our fun… too much fun. Now we have to pay the piper…”
I release her wrist and take a deep breath. I probably just scared her.
“I’m sorry. I understand. I want to see you too, but we just can’t right now.” I place a consolatory hand on her shoulder. “It’s only for a couple of months. We’ll both graduate, get great jobs, and we can do anything we want.”
“I… I don’t want a g-great job. I… I j-just want you.”
Something inside me snaps.
“I want you too, but please don’t be so short-sighted! Are you saying you’d be happy if we both lived under a bridge?”
“What about our kids? What are you going to tell them when they ask why all of the other kids have a Playstation?”
“Hanako, I love you. And I’m doing this for you. I thought you’d be happy?!”
But Hanako looks far from happy. Already I can see the mascara-stained tears tracing lines across her face like cracks. Her bottom lip trembles, and the corners of her mouth twitch. She’s trying to say something, but she can’t find the words.
Behind me I hear the crash-door to the lecture hall clatter open. Anyone sitting in the back of the hall must have heard my outburst. Even my heart has responded to the call; it feels like a wild drummer is thump-thump-thumping his rhythm against my ribcage.
I’m surrounded; from behind by the inquisition of my fellow students, and by Hanako’s cracked countenance to the front.
But it is too late. Hanako has turned tail and fled. Pulled down by the anchors of my heart, I sink to my knees.