Today, I accidentally spilled soda on my keyboard.
I screamed in magnified despair.
This was like what happened to Shintaro
But in here, there was no annoying cyber girl.
There was only me, an open bottle of soda, and my wrist
Which all conspired
To drag me away from my cybernetic precious.
My mother arrived with curiosity and concern.
It’s a good thing that she wasn’t tired
Or else I would have been screamed at.
I desperately talked about my problem
And my mother told me,
Like a cold, sharp knife:
“Go to the department store and buy a keyboard.
You really need to know the outside world’s worth.”
I’m not a hikiNEET like Shintaro.
I’m just a kid who’s been through a lot of bad times,
A kid who finds social interaction in the open annoying.
But still, if I don’t go out,
Then I would have no more time with my cybernetic precious.
Reluctantly, I went out with my younger brother.
My younger brother had more confidence than me
And my mother decided to let him be my energetic guide.
His energy was as annoying as Ene’s
But I would get lost in the streets without his support.
Under the blazing sun, we walked into the air-conditioned store.
I felt like a little bug.
I felt like I wouldn’t be accepted.
I angrily marched to the electronics section
And I bumped into some guy hanging out with his friends.
War flashbacks played in my mind,
Causing me to bow down repeatedly with apologies.
I didn’t want a rerun of my nightmares.
I didn’t even want to talk about them.
Luckily, they were a calm and energetic bunch.
Not annoying, but accommodating.
They weren’t the Mekakushi Dan,
But man, I felt so glad.
Suddenly, I remembered that my brother wasn’t annoying at all.
They kindly offered help
And I took it.
With my brother following us,
I went to buy a keyboard.
Awkwardly, I asked them to let me complete my purchase.
I realized that social interaction in the open is inevitable
Even if I don’t like it.
With stutters, mutters, and fumbling letters,
I bought the keyboard that I needed.
To be honest, I suddenly felt better.
I did it.
I can do it.
My keyboard’s importance decreased
And social interaction’s fun increased.
My friendly acquaintances offered us to have lunch with them
And my brother and I accepted.
We didn’t encounter a terrorist attack
But we encountered happiness.
I felt shy and awkward while we ate and talked,
But my shell slowly melted
And my heart warmed up.
It was an amazing feeling.
I didn’t need to be in some crazy fictional fantasy.
I didn’t need to die and get swallowed by a snake.
I didn’t even need to encounter a terrorist attack.
I found friendship and happiness in this “mundane world” that I once hated.
A fist filled with hope had punched through the steel walls around my heart.
It was a fist that I could never ever stop.
Slowly, the war flashbacks were punched away to the back of my mind.
I couldn’t remove them, but I slowly accepted them.
No one is perfect.
I’m not better or worse than everyone else.
After so many punches, hope, along with my parents’ and teachers’ lessons,
Broke the steel walls of my selfishness.
After a fun lunch time, we went out to the arcade.
It wasn’t an amusement park, but why am I even thinking of that?
I’m not Shintaro Kisaragi.
I’m a kid who found friendship and happiness.
I hope Shintaro finds friendship and happiness, too.
We all went home happily after our gaming time
And I almost forgot that there was a keyboard stuck under my armpit.
In one of my hands was a sheet of paper
Containing my newfound friends’ contact details.
In their hands were my and my brother’s contact details as well.
When my brother and I had arrived at our home again,
My mother and father noticed my appearance.
They smiled, and they asked me:
“So, how was your trip to the department store?”
I smiled brightly,
And I told them today’s story.
I still felt scared about facing tomorrow,
But my parents and my brothers had my back.
My newfound friends also had my back, too.
I once thought that there was no one who could help me with my social issues,
But it turns out that there was at least on person out there who could,
And I had to help myself if I wanted to be helped.
The soda on my keyboard flashed in my mind.
That incident was an accident,
But I felt like something inside me wanted to do that.
My optimistic self’s voice seemed to be louder already.
I remembered how I dealt with despair back then,
And before it could swallow my mind again,
My optimistic self said:
“You can still improve.
You did it.
You can do it.”
With these scrambled thoughts about friendship and happiness running inside my head,
I decided to send a text message to my newfound friends:
“Wanna hang out tomorrow?”
Nervously, I waited.
I smiled again.
I still felt scared about tomorrow,
So I let my optimistic self remind me:
“Your family and friends have your back,
And there will always be at least one person who’s got your back,
So don’t worry.
Even if the world around you is in despair,
You can still choose to keep on hoping.”
And so, as I went to sleep,
I happily thanked the soda on my keyboard,
Because without it,
I wouldn’t have found friendship, hope, and happiness today.