13. Graduation

In March of the following year, the university held its graduation and party. One of the traditions at the function is for the students to have a group photo taken with their seminar professor which will then be published in the university’s annual “graduation album”.

At the appointed time, I was ushered into a room where all my students were waiting for me. All of them, but you.

“Has anyone seen, Sawajiri-kun?” I asked.

There were shrugs, noncommittal turns of the head.

“Can we wait a few minutes,” I said to the photographer, who frowned at his wristwatch.

“One minute?”

The photographer sucked air through his teeth and gave a reluctant nod.

Just then, you rushed into the room like an explosion of light and music: “Sensei! I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting!”

You were wearing a long-sleeved furisodé kimono with a colorful abstract design like something from Marimekko[1]—large splashes of pale red representing camellias—and over this a pale bluish-green hakama. Your hair, dyed a deep auburn and worn down and over your shoulders, had flowers and other ornaments in it above the ear. I had never seen you look more beautiful.

Scooching down next me in the front row, you said, “I hope I’m not too late.”

“We would have waited. Or, at least, I would have waited. The cameraman, on the other hand, . . .”

The photographer, wasting no time, made a few suggestions—chins up, fists on your knees, men, smiles, everyone—then started shooting.

Sensei?” you said as the photographer snapped away.

“Hmm?”

“Remember what I said last autumn?”

“How could I ever forget?”

“I’ll be looking for you, then.”

“I’ll be looking for you, too.”

And just as the flash of the camera went off, you gave my hand a quick squeeze. As luck would have it, that was the photo which would end up in the yearbook.


[1] Marimekko is a Finnish home furnishing and textile producer, known for brightly colored printed fabrics, many created by designer Maija Isola (1927-2001).

The first chapter of Tears can be found here.

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