You know all those stories about daily life in a high school? How much fun it was? Or perhaps the perfect memories they made? Could be the first love. Maybe even changed the world forever. It's not going to be one those sorts of stories. No, it's just about me and how one wish turned my world upside down.
Sure, things changed a lot around me. I'll never forget what happened. It's impossible for me to forget what happened. It's burned in me, almost literally. Like someone took that white-hot brand they use to mark cattle and just rammed that into my brain. It's permanent. No way I'm forgetting it. Some days I wish I could and other days it's a reminder. Either way, it's a part of me. It's what I've accepted. Nothing I can do about it. It's a choice I made and it's a choice I live with every day.
This is still a story about a high school student, Yoichi Nakazawa. That's me, fairly regular second year high school student with not much going on. The days are fairly ordinary at school. Nothing exciting happens and I'm fine with that. If something exciting did happen I think I'd feel like I was living a fantasy, probably. But since I'm not, it's just normal life. It's not going to be interesting, reality rarely ever is.
Every so often something weird will happen. A teacher freaks out over something completely inconsequential because they broken up with their boyfriend the night before. Some loser gets picked on by the local bullies and no one does anything to stop it. Just the normal stuff. It breaks up the rut when it does happen. Hardly anything to really hold my interest though.
That's how it always is each day. Sure something different happens, but it's over quickly. It's a distraction, but that's all it is. Honestly, I wonder why I decided to go to high school. It seemed like the thing that was supposed to happen, is about the only answer I can give. Well there was also the parents factor. However, if you asked me what I'd do if I didn't go to high school I couldn't give you an answer. I've asked myself a few times when sitting in the back room of class staring out the window. No clue.
Really why am I here?
I just am here. That's about all I can really say on the subject. I don't have a better answer. I need to figure it out first before I can tell you why.
Back row, window seat, that's where I was at the moment. Perfect for me. When I don't want to listen to the lecture, most times, I can just stare out at the sky. It's about as entertaining as the lecture, but at least it doesn't expect anything from me. No expectations, that's a nice thing to have. It's quite annoying, expectations.
Teachers have them, they want me to be a smart and diligent student. Always asking about my future as though it's a runaway train about to hit me and I have to decide to save myself or the girl. I'm not even a third year yet and they're already hassling me. Really, they need to learn to calm down.
Then there's my parents. They're a broken record like teachers. In fact, I think I have mistaken them for each other. They're happy I'm a student, but nag even worse than the teachers. I need to stop hiding up in my room all night. I need to stop coming home just before curfew. The nagging just doesn't end.
And everyone else, ugh. I don't really even want to get started on them. So driven by appearance and position. You've got a nice face, I hear. It's not average, not hot, but you can make it work. Why don't have you have a girlfriend already? Oh you've got a cute face, bet you get all the girls.
I hear that a little too much at times, mostly from guys looking for a wingman. Or a catty girl with too much time in someone else's business. Sure I'll admit I'm not ugly, like they said I'm definitely not hot or the most handsome man you ever saw. I don't make the girls all sigh when I pass. I'm better than passable, which is more than enough trouble.
When I was younger I got a few more comments than I wanted on looking less than manly. I was born with this face, can't do anything about my looks. So that's how I arrived at my situation now. A slightly disheveled appearance, messy enough to mask out any of the things people want to point out. It minimizes a lot of the problems and that's the way I'd prefer it.
A school life free from critiques and expectations is the life I want.
It's what I had.
I had no clue how things were going to change that day. Nothing would be the same and the biggest problems in my life then would end up being microscopic in comparison.
It was a normal day that turned in what I thought was the best day ever. My dream come true.
Chapter 1 – Best Day Ever
A normal day, yeah I guess that best describes it. Most of class was a bit of a blur to me. I paid attention enough not to get into trouble, but that was as far as I went. Mr. Murata's Classic Japanese Literature was about as thrilling as taking drill to the temple and letting play magical tunes on your forehead until you smiled your last breath away.
Ouch, hurts to think about that image.
Anyway, I can't even recall what we were analyzing. It was about the lowest point of the day. The man just drones on and on, as if stopping meant he'd die. So I usually try to do something else to distract myself.
I probably remember that time better because I was actually looking around the class to find something that interested me more. Which meant checking out the girls in the room. Even though we all had required uniforms, you could tell a little about each person from how they tried to accessorize. There were the ones that didn't care like Ashia or Funaki, who you couldn't even call them strict because they didn't do anything but wear their uniform. No, they didn't even really care about that. It was something they had to wear, but the top button was open and the collar was completely crooked. Another person might have thought that they were yankees, but it wasn't even that.
Then there was girls like Hattori, too quiet and shy to do anything. She just kept everything clean and straight, which is honestly more boring to look at. I moved on quickly. Ijichi, the class rep, looked like she read too many manga, as she had the strict by the books type down so hard it I thought she might actually be trying make a parody of it. Nope, there's just really people like that in the world.
On the other side, you have girls like Iwasa, Konoe and Saigo who tried too hard. Their make-up was overkill, not so bad as though they were in kabuki, but I remember laughing a bit the first day when I saw them. I also remember never doing it again.
Moving on, Wakai feel a bit more into the normal group. She had a cute ribbon tying back her hair and gently painted nail soft blue. It was a nice understated look that worked well for her without jumping out. Next to her in seating, Nemoto sat with bright green frames which seemed like they rested on a cushion of air, I swear they never actual touch her skin, weird. You'd think the bright green would be a bad pick, but she actually makes it work. Don't know how, but it just does.
And almost forgetting them was Kumiko Torisei and Haruki Kurofuji, two girls I saw together since they started school here. They barely had much on my radar never standing out too much, but always seeming to get along with everyone. Just two normal girls that seemed to be getting along in life. I usually just forgot about their presence since they were so uninteresting.
Last, there's Mizuki Harada, she makes all of the other girls fade into the background when I look at her. She always mixes things up each day, but she always makes it work in the right combinations. Helps probably that she's got a great body and face for it. Life's lottery roll for her was almost unfair, but she never let it go to her head. She got along with the other girls and was really polite to everyone. I easily found myself staring at her. That day was no different.
Once I saw her, the rest of the class pretty much ended. It was fortunate that lunch came after Mr. Murata's class otherwise I don't think I would have survived. Only the recharging beauty of Harada kept me alive. Thank the heavens for someone like her!
For lunch, I kept to my corner by the wall, but don't think I'm some anti-social loner the way I've been talking. Sure, I keep to myself during class, but I've got my friends. Two of the best anyone could ask for. We hang out for lunch, but there's an understood distance. They don't dig into my private life and neither do I. Just three guys shooting the breeze, don't need to dig deep. Private matters are private for a reason and they understand that. We aren't that sort of touchy-feely get involve type.
Mostly I lean back in my chair rocky precariously on two legs and half listen to what they're saying, enough to be able to provide an answer when needed.
At my right, most days, Kenta Asano is the more reserved in class. I don't think I see him really talking to anyone else, but apparently there's some rumor going around about him and the last girl he dated. He's a nice guy, probably too introverted and shy, but it's probably why I get along with him. He's not like the other over-bearing ones. Rumormongers can go sit on a box of tacks.
Borrowing the chair in front and turned around was Yutaka Kawachi, the more outgoing of our trio. He did the whole self-introduction and self-insertion into the group, but I could see that he was trying too hard. He didn't seem like meant any trouble and it gave Kenta someone to talk to when I was distracted or uninterested. Yutaka was quick to excite, but more socially awkward. He's never dated anyone I'm quite certain of that, not that I have a lot of room to talk. But I'm not judging him, it's just really obvious.
Kenta and Yutaka get along in their conversations pretty well without me. It wasn't much different that day either.
I was just reclining in my chair with my eyes poking through the different girls. Nothing really to say about them. I already saw everything. Mostly, I was just trying to kill the time when Kenta threw me into the conversation. "What do you think, Yoichi?"
"Rena's pretty cute, but they over do her costumes during the live performances," I replied with my commentary.
Yutaka nodded a little too accepting, "That's what I've been trying to say! Her producers are too desperate!"
"Eh, it's not so bad. It's not she's the only one doing it. They're just trying to compete with the rest." Things were going to quickly devolve into an idol debate, which is rather funny since they both like her. It's not even them trying to declare their idol is better than the other. Not sure why they're arguing over something they agree on. I zoned out on the rest of the squabble. Did a winner really matter?
Remembering the rest of the day is too much effort for me. Especially when it's not really even important. Established players were all that were necessary, so remember them. It'll be important. You'll understand eventually.
Now the where things pick back up. This is key. The moment school ended I bolted from classroom. My books were already packed away with everything I needed. If you could tell, I was waiting for the final bell. I always did. Every day was like that. Rushing out, dodging everyone that I could to reach my shoe locker. Drop those shoes and throw in the loafers. I might have slammed the door on the locker, I was in a rush. No idea if it happened or not.
I lugged my gym bag over my shoulder as I ran out of the gate to the school. By any outsider, I looked like a student late to something with no regard for who stood in my way. Which is fairly accurate. Though they would have been wrong that I was late to a meet or practice. Nothing like that.
Checking the crosswalk, I made it to the park that was three blocks away from the school. It was the closest location I could find. Off to the backside of the park, partially hidden by a group of large bushes, was a bathroom.
Inside, it was empty. I was ahead of the student crowd and it was still too early for the regular businessmen or standard workers to be getting off. So most times, I hit it at the right time. That day was no different.
The far end stall was my pick. Locked door, closed lid. Everything was set. The gym bag dropped on the seat of the toilet.
If I had a tail or a stalker, they would have been confused. In went a normal everyday male high school student, but they'd never see them exit. The only one to leave would be a fashionable teenage girl who looked like she came from the wrong side, but it'd just be a trick to their eyes. Something like that would be impossible, no girl would make such a mistake. Then she'd be gone and they'd wait on that high school student for thirty minutes before going in to check and finding nothing.
Because that's my secret. Everyone has at least one big one. This is mine. That smartly dressed girl is me.
I can image there's a million thoughts or questions immediately coming to mind learning this. You're already looking down on me aren't you. Why do you think it's a secret? I haven't told anyone before. I'm only willing to talk about this now because of what happened.
So let's get a few of the things out of the way. The diligent probably remember me making a point of saying I had a sort of pretty face. I received some comments in the past that I had a bit of a girly appearance. No, I wasn't bullied over it. It's just something a few kids said off-handed. I just have a more roundish face than a sharply cut one. I don't have those harsh or rugged lines that certain women go for in men. I'm just more in the middle ground.
But that's neither here nor there. It's not about my face. I'm not doing it because of that. So you can rule out the idea that my mother dressed me up as a baby and I developed a complex. And no girls didn't play with my hair in elementary school. No inferiority complex about my face. Nothing like that.
What you think this is some manga or anime you watched?
No, this is something that I started doing more recently. It was more of a random thought I think when it became an idea.
I was standing in front of the women's clothing store, as I was on that day. The display was different, but there was a dress hanging there. A bright white dress, just any ordinary dress. It was simple, no laces or frills, no ribbons or bows, no belts or straps. Just a good simple dress. Yet I stared at it for an hour.
A male high student blank faced staring at a women's clothing store had to have looked quite strange to the passersby on the sidewalk. I never noticed them. So I can't say what sort of expressions they had. It had sucked me into its own world. I could see it on me.
At first, I think it was more of a curiosity. Stare at something long enough, you're going to come up with a lot of different ideas. But the thought never left me. I wanted to know if it would actually fit me.
So I bought it.
I snuck it home in my school bag getting it horribly wrinkled. But alone in my room I put it on. Most would say that I'm just crossdressing or maybe something worse. However, in that moment that wasn't the thought I had.
No, it felt right. Like it somehow belonged on me. Nothing was strange about. My heart was calm, at ease like it had never been for the past few years.
That's how it started.
All I can say is I feel like myself when I'm doing this.
Though I wonder, what do others think when they are doing the same thing. Do they have the same feeling of contentment that I do when I'm strolling through town in a dress? Does reality feel more like an embarrassment? Do they just want to show it off to everyone? But also know that no one would understand them? Do others feel like this?
I don't know anyone else like me. So I can't say. The media just focuses on the appearance and makes it into a joke. But it isn't a joke, not to me. Saying what I'm doing is just a joke… I'd just…
It makes me so angry!
I don't want to be angry, no not while I'm like this. It's the only time I feel I'm being true to myself. The real me. My happiness, it's like something that I can wear. Something tangible.
But I'm getting distracted from the story.
After visiting the clothing store like I always did, I took a rest on a bench. Resting under my arm was my gym bag, hiding my school uniform. "Such a nice day," I said aloud. "Wish I had a little more of an allowance, I'd be able to get that blouse I saw Harada in last weekend."
Starting out I took a lot of my advice from her. She seemed to be the most knowledgeable from all of the girls I saw in our class. Though now I just check out magazines to see what's popular. But it's hard to ignore her with the style she's got. I could hardly do better for a role model.
She was the best.
The best of all them.
Bemoaning my lack of money, I simply sat on the bench, resting by the side of the street. It was a busy afternoon like any other. The details of that moment were hardly something I focused on. I was pretty spaced out during the whole thing. It was the only time to myself I had. So I lived up the moment as much as I could. I haven't a clue what everyone else was doing.
Nothing important happened there. That much I'm certain, it would have left a bigger memory on me. Most of the day was just a blur. Remembering it all is hard. However, a little setup was in order.
Now the next part I remember clearly, except for the reason. I honestly don't think I had a reason. Ignoring what I know now, I shouldn't have done it. It was completely irrational and made no sense. Yet I did it anyway.
I guess those rumors going around class actually got me.
I knew I wanted a little more time as me, rather than that. So I was did whatever I could to delay myself. A common thing for me to do really. When I get home I just cover it up with excuses like study or hanging out with friends, as if I had friends. But parents are dumb, as long as you're not causing trouble they don't dig. So they don't question anything. I do supposedly lead an upstanding life after all, the right life.
Delaying tactic or not, I ended up at a local shrine. 'So this is the place with all those rumors?' I thought, as I stared at the rather unkempt entrance.
Time did not seem to have forgotten the place like everyone else did. Weeds grew up out of the cracks of the stone steps. Just a breeze made the old wood of the torii groan like a hunger-starved howl of a wolf. Even the shrine sign with engraved bronze was too covered in dirt and vines to actually be readable.
So I don't even know the name of the place. It was pretty far off my route home, but I was looking for a detour as I said. The locals probably know, but in school it's only known as the Wish Granting Shrine. Though depending on who's telling the story it has another name, the Regret Shrine.
It's a complicated story and I never listened to all of it.
What I know is that it's highly regarded in making wishes come true. Which if that is actually true and they're not just bullshitting each other, makes you wonder why it's so run down. No grounds keeper or priest, is one reason.
It's an abandoned shrine. But, and I'm guessing this is the part the students love to play with, is that it is visited by a powerful, yet capricious god. It is a wish granting god. However, I think they say capricious to cover up for the fact it doesn't actually work. It's commonly just used for girls wanting to confess, which doesn't really require a wish. If they succeed or fail doesn't really play into the god's wish granting powers. But it doesn't stop them from saying it does.
However, as I said, there's another story too. It's called the Regret Shrine and this is more of an urban legend or ghost story than anything. Everyone in school knows it and probably a lot of the town. The story roughly goes that in feudal times a woman lost her husband due to circumstances beyond her control. However, in her grief and longing for her lost lover, she had convinced herself that it was her fault he died. And so she went to a shrine praying everyday to be able to correct her mistake.
One day the gods visited her, seeing her earnest desire and granted her the ability to reset the time and correct her one biggest regret. However, no matter how she tried she could not change it. Everything was beyond her control. And so she remains endlessly caught in a loop she refuses to acknowledge purely for the sake of her love.
The shrine's location is unknown and people make up where it is all the time to tell a good story. However, being rundown and pretty haunting looking. It really did seem to serve the story well. So as the ghost story ends, they say like all good ghost stories, if you go there at night you can hear the voice of a woman praying to the gods to undo her single greatest regret.
Thus, it is sometimes call the Regret Shrine.
Since it is often associated with regret, depressed and suicidal people are often lead here. Which only works to fuel all the ghost stories.
It sounds a little contrary to have romantic girls coming along with death-seekers. I guess people pick what they want reality to be.
But I'm not really a religious person, at least not anymore so than the average person. I don't believe praying to the gods really will get your wish granted. But maybe, maybe there was something.
If it was silly.
Or just plain superstitious.
I still went inside.
"This is just as unsettlingly creepy as they make it out to be," I commented, trying to ignore all of the perfectly timed eerie ambience setup for me. "I should probably just leave." I said that, but I didn't act on it. I guess part of me really did want to hope against hope, hope against reason and logic against what I knew to be reality.
Just maybe someone might be listening.
I remember rushing the last few steps, just to get to the top of the shrine almost as if I really was being chased by ghost. It was just the wind, but I'll be damned if it didn't sound like the voice of a woman in my mind. I really should have just listened to my body and ran away. But I discovered something I didn't really know I had, at least in such volume.
I mean sure everyone can be stubborn. I'm not special in that regard. But I'm pretty sure it was the only thing keeping me from running away. It doesn't really make any sense, but it is the only thing I can say to explain it. Since it clearly isn't logical. That got thrown out the window the moment I thought about asking the gods.
At the top, I found the actual grounds of the shrine to be in slightly better care. As though the entrance was a test for only the brave or worthy to make it through. I guess I passed that trial.
It was a fairly small shrine, probably an old local branch shrine. Some wealthy family likely had it made for themselves. And now with such things in this day and age, the old falls out of vogue. Being a small tiny out of the way shrine hurt it. Left to sleep alone and praying for better company than those draw being regret.
Unfortunately, I gave no better company. I was here for the same selfish reasons everyone else came. Though, I probably was a slight improvement as I wasn't looking to kill myself.
Standing in front of the shrine proper, it looked like it could fall apart at any time. I actually hesitated breathing a little thinking that I was going to knock it over like a house of cards. It was so old, from a time when people had stronger faith in the mystical. So maybe there was power here. It was something I mused with anyway as I stared.
Minutes dripped away as I felt hesitation. It was like admitting I had done something wrong. I didn't want to say it. So I just stood in silence with just the wind whirling around me, doing its best horror movie impersonation. Though at that point, it really did not even affect me.
The great debate.
The power and meaning behind verbalizing it. Even if nothing happens, the act itself has meaning. Whatever happens it was not something that could be taken back. And it would be an acceptance of a very important fact. One I cloaked up in happiness everyday to forget.
"I'm unhappy," I said simply. I remember that more than the rest of what I said, so the wording of everything else might be a little off. But more so, it was best way to start and the most accurate thing I could say. It was the reason I stood at the shrine. The reason I was doing something so illogical as praying to a god that didn't even exist.
I was unhappy.
A painful remainder that everything was a lie.
It was the truth. Down inside, I wasn't happy. I wasn't happy with just pretending. It was a false happiness. It felt good and warm like eating fresh baked cookies out of the oven before they can even hit the plate. It was the best feeling. But it was self-deceit.
"I'm unhappy," I repeated, "I hate my life as it is now. All I can do is go around acting and pretending I'm Harada when I can't ever be her! All my effort and time will end up being pointless. This'll be something I can't do forever, age will get in the way. Society will stop me. Parents won't understand.
"No one understands.
"The truth is I was born a boy, but there has to be a mistake. Why do I feel this way even in this false happiness, if it is not a mistake? Why would you do this to me? What's the point of it? Why put something out of my reach and taunt me with it? Do you just get your kicks off this? Is this some twisted game that you enjoy watching me just run around your little maze? Are you sitting back there laughing at me?
"I hate this reality! This world! Everything!
"I wish it was all different! I wish you would stop taunting me! I want things the way they should be! The way you show me. I want the life you say I can't have!"
I hadn't realized it, but after I finished it all I was on my knees. I guess my legs had lost their strength at some point. I just was shouting crazy for a whole minute. Once I started I could stop. And all that was left was tears.
After I said everything mind caught up with my heart and mouth. I realized what I said and what I admitted. What I thought I promised myself I'd never say aloud. The darkness in my heart was supposed to be something locked away forever. Only acknowledged in unmentioned passing. Knowing it was there, but never giving it even a look, because if it got even a sliver of attention it would grow into a wild forest beyond all control.
I was there for the same reason everyone else went.
I regretted something, something uncontrollable. Not unlike the woman in the story.
I regretted the lottery of life that assigned my gender. Nothing could be so far out of my control than that. Enough to make you laugh. I know I laughed, a more sad and depressed dark laugh, but it's the same thing.
Eventually, I wiped away the tears and I left. It was a meaningless gesture. But perhaps just saying something I kept bottled up for long aloud was enough. I felt a little better afterwards. So maybe that was enough. Nothing was going to happen.
Back in my other cloths and home, everything returned to the status quo. Nothing really had changed. Dinner went in relative silence and I locked myself away in my room. I said I was going to study, so they wouldn't end up bothering me.
Taking off my shirt, I contemplated the wearing the cloths again. After the stop at the shrine, it was even more on my mind. While not the first time, it always was a risk. Since I wore those cloths outside now, I limited how often I did at home to reduce the risk of getting caught.
My mind thought about what happened at the shrine. It was hard to ignore anymore. Admitting it all so openly, but I was still myself. Now that I said it, felt I should try to embrace the whole thing more. 'I wonder if I should tell them,' I considered, it was quickly dashed as foolish. But I wondered if I should be more open about it. It was fairly freeing.
It took a while for me to realize that I had actually started to absentmindedly rub the scars on my arms. Once I knew what I was doing I stopped. A bad habit and bad reminder of a worse time, when I couldn't understand anything.
This is me. This is my reality.
I ended up not doing anything else that night, I'm pretty sure. All of it was pretty hazy. Maybe it was the food or I picked up a bug from school. But I just laid down falling asleep. Can't really explain it too well. Everything's a blank until I woke up.
When I woke up, everything began. The day that changed my life forever.
This part I remember very clearly. It's something that's hard to forget. Even when I'm old and senile I'll still remember that day. Forget everything else in my life, I'll still remember.
I woke up slowly in the morning to annoyingly unfamiliar sound. 'What's the hell is that obnoxious noise?' I moaned in my sleep. My body really didn't feel like getting up. Something about it just felt off and sluggish. Yet that stupid noise just kept going.
"Tomiko! You're going to be late!" yelled my mother through the house.
"Late?" The notion of being late to school was enough to motivate me out of my bed. But then I looked at my alarm, which oddly enough was in a different location than normal and seemed to also be the cause of that awful racket. "The hell? I still got like an hour and half before school, how am I going to be late? What's mom on?"
Still, there wasn't much I could do. I was fully awake thanks to that noise. "What's with the clock?" It looked similar to the one I had, but it was purple, not black and more rounded. "Is someone playing a trick on me?"
Around now was when I started realizing something was off. The alarm was just the warning sign. I realized even more things were weird. The bed, the sheets, stuff animals, things were in the wrong place. Some things I knew I had out were not even present. And I saw woman's clothing just hanging out in the middle of the room and even on the floor. "What the hell's wrong with me?! Was I so screwed up I left things just everywhere?"
I quickly picked everything up and went to the closet. However, things were even more of mess than they should have been in my room. It didn't make any sense. I always kept the place clean, it was rather important since I had a secret I was hiding.
The rest of the junk didn't really matter, it wasn't going to reveal my secret. Not woman's cloths just spread everywhere. It wasn't ideal, but stuffing them away in the closet would be fastest in case I got a reminder visit. "The hell?" I exclaimed, finding that none of my cloths in the closet were mine. They were all woman's cloths. "What trick is this? Has someone learned my secret?" Paranoia started to set in.
Everywhere I looked nothing was right. I realized my entire room was completely foreign to me. I didn't recognize any of it. "If I didn't know better I'd say I was in a girl's room." Sweat started to bead up on my skin as it got hot. Was someone watching me and getting their jolly's off this? This some sort of blackmail having learned my secret? What was it?
And then it finally happened. All the excitement and adrenaline rushing through me I completely ignored it. Something else wasn't right. By happenstance, I caught sight of pictures. Picture of girls, some I knew from school, but one that showed up in all of them that I didn't recognize. She had something familiar about her, but I couldn't place it. It triggered a question in my mind. 'Could it? Is that what I think it is?'
I grabbed the mirror off the nightstand next to my bed and stared at it in shock. "It's her! She's me!" In my shock, I dropped the mirror and fell to my bed. "How is this possible? I can't be…" Doubt still filled my mind. It was completely illogical. A fantasy. Nothing like this could possibly happen.
I had to check. A yelp escape my mouth from my surprise, even though I was sort of expecting it. It was a first-person view of a girl's breasts, mine somehow. I had forgotten I fell asleep without my shirt, so I ended up topless with full view of them. Another yelp of shock came from my lips when I grabbed them as the final verification.
They were real.
I was real.
Fantasy was real.
"What the hell is going on?!"
To be continued…