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The Gift of the Magi
It was the first morning of the remaining three days.
I wouldn’t have an observer’s eyes on me.
Thus, Miyagi was gone.
I decided how I’d spend those three days a while ago. In the morning, I filled up the notebook.
Once I was done writing events up to yesterday, I put down the pen and took a few hours to sleep.
When I woke up, I went out to smoke, then bought a cider from a vending machine for my thirst.
I looked back at my bed.
One hundred and eighty-seven yen. That was all. And sixty yen of it was in 1-yen coins.
Three times I counted it. One hundred and eighty-seven yen.
Realizing a strange coincidence, my cheeks burned. Pa.s.sing the three days would be a somewhat uncertain business, but for now I enjoyed that happenstance.
Looking back at the notebook and adding important details, I got on the Cub and went around to the places I went with Miyagi, but this time I really was alone.
I drove under a blue sky as if in search of her lingering scent.
I wondered if Miyagi was off observing someone else now.
I prayed that they wouldn’t attack Miyagi out of desperation.
I prayed that Miyagi could keep working until she paid her debt, and live such a happy life that she forgot all about me.
I prayed that someone would appear who Miyagi found more important than me, and who found Miyagi more important than I had.
While walking in the park, children waved to me. Getting a sudden idea, I pretended that Miyagi was there.
I put out my hand, said “Look, Miyagi!”, and held an imaginary Miyagi’s hand.
It was the same as always for everyone else. “Ah, that idiot Kusunoki’s walking with his imaginary girlfriend again.”
But it was very different for me. In fact, it was hardly the same at all.
As I went on doing this to myself, I was. .h.i.t with such sadness I could barely stand up. I realized Miyagi’s absence more than ever.
I had a thought.
What if it had all been an illusion of mine from the start?
I was convinced my life would end in three days. I knew that all but a shred of my life had been used up. That sensation couldn’t have been a lie.
But did that girl named Miyagi really exist? Had not only her existence, but the existence of a shop dealing in lifespan, been a convenient fantasy of mine as I recognized my coming death?
I had no way of knowing that now.
I sat on the edge of a fountain with my head low, and was called to by a boy and girl in middle school.
The boy innocently asked, “Mr. Kusunoki, how’s Ms. Miyagi?”
“Miyagi’s not here anymore,” I said.
The girl put her hands to her mouth, shocked.
“Huh? What happened? Did you have a fight?”
“Something like that. Don’t fight, you two.”
The two looked at each other and shook their heads in unison.
“Well, I dunno… I mean, even Mr. Kusunoki and Ms. Miyagi argue?”
“If you two get along so well but still fight, then there’s no way we wouldn’t.”
I wanted to say "You know, that’s true.” But the words wouldn’t come out.
Before I knew it, I was crying like a dam had burst. The more I tried to imagine Miyagi beside me to comfort myself, the more the tears came.
The two sat around me in my indecency and tried to console me.
Then, surprisingly, I found that there were far more people who knew about me than I thought.
People of all ages crowded around the scene, as if to say “Kusunoki’s doing something new.”
s.h.i.+nbas.h.i.+’s friends Suzumi and Asakura were there. Suzumi asked me what had happened.
I wasn’t sure how to answer, so I told them that Miyagi and I had fought and split up. I made up a story about how she had turned her back on me and abandoned me.
“What about Kusunoki didn’t Miyagi like?”, a high school girl with sharp eyes said angrily. She really spoke like she believed Miyagi existed.
“Why, did something happen?”, said a man beside her. I remembered his face.
That’s right - he was the owner of the photo studio. The first person to acknowledge Miyagi existed.
“She didn’t seem like the kind of person to do something so cruel.”
“But does that mean she’s gone?”, Suzumi asked.
A young man in a tank-top said to me, “That Miyagi’s a good-for-nothing girl, ditching a good guy like this!”, slapping me on the back.
I turned my head up to say something, but I couldn’t get any words out.
…Just then, there was a voice from behind me.
“Indeed. To think, when he’s such a good person.”
I knew the voice, of course. I wouldn’t have forgotten it in a day or two.
It would take thirty - three hundred - three thousand years for me to forget.
I turned toward it.
I needed to be sure.
I couldn’t have possibly misheard.
But until I saw it myself, I wouldn’t believe it.
She chuckled to herself.
“That Miyagi girl really is a good-for-nothing.”
Miyagi put her arm around my neck and hugged me.
“I’m back, Mr. Kusunoki. …I was looking for you.”
I reflexively hugged her back, smelling her hair. That smell was one with my sense of “Miyagi.”
It was indeed her.
I wasn’t the only one having trouble digesting the situation. Many of the people around were similarly bewildered and amazed. They were probably thinking, “Wasn’t this Miyagi girl supposed to not exist?”
I was stunned into silence when I saw their reaction. Everyone could see Miyagi.
“Might you be Ms. Miyagi?”, a man in a jersey timidly asked.
“Yes, I’m the good-for-nothing Miyagi,” she answered, and the man slapped me on the shoulder.
“Thank goodness!”, he laughed. “What do you know, she really exists. And you’re really pretty, Ms. Miyagi! I’m jealous!”
But I still didn’t understand what was going on.
Why was Miyagi here? Why could the other people see Miyagi?
“So Ms. Miyagi… really was Ms. Miyagi,” the high school girl said, her eyes wide. “…Yeah, somehow, you’re exactly like I imagined you.”
Asakura, from the back of the crowd, suggested that they let us be alone. So the people left us banter and congratulations as they scattered away.
I thanked Asakura.
“Guess Miyagi really was just my kind of girl,” Asakura laughed. “Be happy, you two.”
And then we were alone.
Miyagi took my hand and explained.
“Strange, isn’t it? How can I be here? How can others see me? …It’s simple. I did the same thing you did.”
“The same thing…?”
A few seconds later, I realized what Miyagi meant.
“How much… did you sell?”
“Also the same. I sold all of it. All but three days.”
My face went pale.
“Just after you sold your lifespan, the other observer contacted me. He told me you’d sold off even more of your life to pay off most of my debt. As soon as I heard that… I was determined. He did the formalities.”
I’m sure I should have be saddened.
The person I had sacrificed everything to protect betrayed my desire and threw her own life away - I should have grieved.
And yet, I was happy.
Her betrayal, her foolishness, was now more dear to me than anything.
Miyagi sat beside and leaned on me.
“Quite impressive, Mr. Kusunoki. Buying back the majority of my life with just thirty days. …And I’m sorry. I threw away the life you worked so hard to get back. I’m such a fool.”
“Fool?”, I said. “I’m the fool. I couldn’t live without you for even three days, Miyagi. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.”
Miyagi laughed happily and pressed her chin on my shoulder.
“Thanks to you, the value of my life went up a bit as well. So not only is the debt paid, there’s plenty of money left. More than we could possibly go through in three days.”
"So we’re rich,” I said grandiosely, hugging Miyagi and shaking her.
“Yes, we are,” Miyagi replied, doing the same.
Tears poured out again, but so did they for Miyagi, so I didn’t pay it any mind.
I’ll die leaving nothing behind.
Perhaps some curious person might remember me - as a fool, probably - but it’s a lot more likely they’ll forget.
But I don’t mind that.
I don’t need the eternity I once dreamed of now.
I don’t mind if no one remembers me.
Because she’s here with me, smiling at my side.
Just because of that, I can forgive everything else.
“Well, Mr. Kusunoki.”
Miyagi turned back to me with a lovable grin.
“How do you plan to spend these three days?”
I believe those three days,
compared to the tragic thirty years I would have lived,
compared to the worthwhile thirty days I would have lived,
were of much, much more value.
They say that a fool can never be cured to his death.
But I like to take a slightly more optimistic view of this. Something more like “A fool will be cured by the time he’s dead.”
While we call them all fools (or its synonyms), there actually exist many different kinds of fool. The fool I speak of here is the fool who creates his own h.e.l.l.
What is characteristic of this fool, first of all, is that he is strongly convinced he can never be happy. Made more severe, this conviction can be expanded to become “I shouldn’t be happy,” and ultimately arrive at “I don’t want to be happy,” a most destructive misunderstanding.
Once that point is reached, there’s nothing left to fear. These fools become intensely familiar with dissatisfaction, and no matter how blessed their environment, they find some loophole to avoid happiness.
As this is all done subconsciously, they believe this world to be h.e.l.l - when in actuality, they are just making it h.e.l.l themselves with every step they take.
I myself am one of those h.e.l.l-creators, which is why I believe so, but such fools cannot be cured quickly. To someone who has made being unhappy part of their ident.i.ty, not being unhappy is losing oneself.
The self-pity they used to endure unhappiness eventually becomes their only enjoyment, and they actively seek out displeasure for that purpose.
However, as I stated at the outset, I believe such fools will be cured by the time they die. To be more exact, my thought is “Just before death, I’m sure they’d be cured.”
The lucky ones may get an opportunity to be cured before that actually happens, but even the unlucky, when they realize the inevitability of their death and are freed of the chains of “having to keep living in this world” - finally, then, are they not also freed from their foolishness?
I called this viewpoint optimistic, but looking at it closer, it could be considered quite pessimistic as well. The first time he comes to love the world is when his death is made certain.
However, I consider that through the eyes of this “fool who was cured, but too late,” everything is hopelessly beautiful.
The deeper the regrets and grievances like “To think I lived in such a beautiful world as this,” or “Now I’d be able to accept it all and live,” the more the world appears to be cruelly beautiful in return.
I’m always thinking about how I want to write on that kind of beauty.
At least here in “Three Days of Happiness,” though it would seem I used the story to speak about the value of life, the power of love and whatnot… to be honest, that was not my intention in the least.
- Sugaru Miaki