Since the house was made of wood, the door often made creaky sound when opened. It would be fine after I applied some oil, but I intentionally left it that way because I liked the sound.
It bothered me that the man kept trying to escape through the window. Hence, I purposely put my blanket close to the bed and right below the window to see his movement. I had only been using the bed since my time at the hospital and even after I came to the island. However, I became accustomed to sleeping on the bare floor after doing it for several days out of boredom.
As I spread the blanket and tidied it up, the man looked at me with a dismayed expression and said, “Why, why would you sleep there…?”
“Well, in case you decide to go out and photosynthesize early in the morning. It could be problematic. You’re finally getting better, so if you push yourself and made your condition worse, what will we do?”
There was no need to hide the reason, so I honestly explained to him, causing the man to turn his head with an embarrassed expression. So, he seemed like he really was thinking of running away again. He was like an open book sometimes. I felt sorry for him for some reason.
After finishing the blanket arrangement and tossing firewood into the fireplace, I said to the man, “Um, I’m sorry. It was a lie that I would prepare a full-course meal with octopus for the packed lunch.”
“Well, I can cook with octopus, but on this island, we can only catch them in summer. I went too far with the joke. I’m really sorry.”
As I approached the bed and apologized once again, the man’s expression became strange. It didn’t seem like he was angry or dumbfounded, but it was difficult to read his thoughts.
After a very brief silence, he hesitated and replied, “It’s not your fault. It was my fault for unnecessarily lying in the first place.”
I could clearly read his expression. It was a face that seemed apologetic and somewhat ashamed. I sat down on the chair I had placed next to the bed and shook my head.
“Well, that may be true. But I didn’t do anything good by making a joke like that either, knowing that.”
“Hmm… was it that obvious?”
“Yes, very much so.”
He had an embarrassed expression. But out of all the expressions I had seen over the past few days, this one seemed the most relaxed. So I smiled and replied, “Tomorrow, I plan to make sandwiches and small rice balls. The sandwiches will have eggs, mayonnaise, and ham. The rice balls will have tuna and mayonnaise. I’ll also bring strawberry juice and cheesecake. Is there anything you dislike?”
The man shook his head. I was a little worried that the tuna might taste different from what the man was used to, but if he could eat fish, it should be fine. The tuna I would use tomorrow was canned tuna. Yes, there was a machine on this island that made canned goods.
When tuna was added, it became canned tuna, when conches were added, it became canned conches, when mackerel was added, it became canned mackerel, and when peaches were added, it became canned peaches. Empty cans can be recycled by putting them into a recycling machine, and they could be transformed into ores, which I utilized quite well.
However, the canning machine was very large, so I had dismantled it while decorating the garden last year. Nonetheless, I had made plenty of canned goods and stored them. Since there was a possibility that they may not suit his taste, should I try adding other ingredients?
In truth, this was my first picnic since middle school, so I was secretly excited. Being with other people was different from wandering alone.
I was contemplating what to add when he suddenly asked a question, “Do you think I’m ridiculous? I claimed to have no attachment to life, yet I’m flustered over a mere octopus dish.”
His tone seemed as if he found himself extremely pathetic.
He seemed quite timid. Hearing that, I calmly chose my words in my mind and replied, “Well, I understand because I’ve experienced it too. Having no attachment to life and having an unpleasant experience are entirely different matters. So, why does it matter if you don’t want to eat a certain food when you’re going to die?That’s a different issue altogether. Dying is dying…”
However, even though I responded calmly, my words didn’t flow smoothly. It was fortunate that I didn’t stumble over my words, but it was still meaningless babbling that failed to convey the intended message.
As I furrowed my brow and organized my thoughts, the man murmured, “Miss Yuri, you’re quite understanding. Taking care of a suspicious person like me wholeheartedly, comforting me so I won’t feel embarrassed…”
It was a soft voice, but it clearly reached my ears at close proximity. I felt relieved at his added words of comfort. Even though I spoke foolishly, it was a relief that he seemed to understand me perfectly. But most of all, I was grateful for his slightly open attitude.
I responded with a calm voice, “If you think that way, then I’m also a suspicious person. This island and all…”
“I can’t deny that.”
“That’s right. But I genuinely hope you recover quickly. It brings me great joy to have someone I can have a conversation with after being alone for so long.”
“Miss Yuri, how long have you been alone on this island?”
If I consider the change of seasons as a reference, it has been exactly five years, and if I go by the time I know, it has been one and a half years. But to make it easier for him to understand, I provided the answer in days.
“Today marks the 492nd day.”
“About a year and a half.”
I widened my eyes and nodded. It seems that where he lived and where I lived had the same or a similar timeframe. With such a trivial commonality, an internal sense of closeness grew unexpectedly. I couldn’t hide my smile as I asked in return, “Do you happen to have any memories?”
He was really remarkably composed. Actually, what I was most curious about was his name. It would be nice to at least hear that since it was uncomfortable to keep calling him without a name. Nevertheless, there was no need to rush. We had all the time we needed here.
“If you have anything you want to say, please feel free to share it.”
The man nodded. As the conversation ended naturally, I stood up from my chair. I pressed the light switch next to the door, and the dark room was now enveloped in the soft glow of the fireplace.
I laid down on the prepared blanket, putting my hair, which still had a slight dampness, onto the pillow. Suddenly, I remembered that I hadn’t properly washed the man after rescuing him from the sea. I had only managed to help him brush his teeth…
On the island, there were two ways to brush teeth. I could either use a toothbrush or drink ‘Peppermint tea’ a mixture of salt, mint, and hot water, which was stated to have the same effect as brushing teeth. After drinking it, your mouth will feel refreshed and invigorated.
Sometimes, when I was feeling lazy, I would just drink the tea, and the scent of mint would linger in my mouth until the next day.
The man was unable to move for a while, so from the second day, I only brought him the tea; I completely disregarded washing his body. His hair remained silky and there was no smell, so I didn’t realize it…!
As I sat up abruptly, I noticed the man lying quietly while facing the ceiling with a seemingly focused expression. He somehow still looked neat and fresh.
When I was hospitalized, it only took two days for my unwashed hair to become noticeable. And before any surgery, excessive sweating was a concern, so cleanliness was of utmost importance.
Yet, his hair was fluffy without a smell at all, so I didn’t notice…!
With those thoughts in my mind, I mustered up the courage to speak to him in a voice loud enough for him to hear.
“Um, excuse me! Would you like me to help you with bathing tomorrow…?”
Even though I said that, it was impossible for me to wash or bathe the unfamiliar man’s body. Maybe if it was just his hair, I could manage it. But I couldn’t bear the thought of bathing him when he wasn’t conscious. It was already embarrassing enough.
Offering to help meant taking him to the bathroom. Unlike him, who couldn’t even descend from the bed alone, I could use my arms and legs quite freely.
Nevertheless, the words felt awkward, so my voice trembled involuntarily. The man’s body visibly flinched, and he slowly turned his head.
“Was there… a smell? Did you smell something?”
“Oh? No, no! Not at all! There’s nothing! You’re really clean, fresh, and good-looking! It’s just that you’ve been lying here for a few days, and I was worried if you might feel uncomfortable!”
I blurted out reflexively, even shaking my hand. What I was worried about was how it would be uncomfortable for him if there was an odor coming from his body, or if the room became stuffy because of it.
Maybe it was because of the darkness around us. But for some reason, it seemed like he smiled.
“While I don’t necessarily need it, if you insist on it…”
What did he mean by he doesn’t necessarily need it? It was a phrase I couldn’t understand, but I was too embarrassed to say anything more.
“Then, after we go out tomorrow, I’ll take care of it! If you feel unwell while sleeping, make sure to call for me. Well, then… have a good dream.”
After rambling on, I collapsed and pulled the blanket over my face. I faintly heard the man saying thank you.
With his words, the surroundings fell silent, and when our breathing was the only sound that passed between us, I turned my head to look out the window.
I really don’t understand.
The curiosity that I deliberately turned away from suddenly surged up again. Why did that person got caught on my fishing rod? And why does he want to die? The image I had seen from him until now was a silly, timid, and kind man, which made me worry about him even more.
If our relationship becomes better, will I be able to find out what circumstances he was in?
Amidst the questions, I let out a small yawn and closed my eyes.
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