(Previous post in Part 2)
And so, the five of us settled into what must be one of the oddest groups in the class. Because everybody else managed to stay with their friends, they knew each other already and were able to work easily with each other. Thankfully, the group work progressed smoothly, and everyone turned up for the first substantial meeting, much to all of our surprise. What started out as awkwardness soon transpired into a session of gossip, teasing, and goofing around, though we still managed to do some work. In joking around, T kept referencing to our past conversations prior to the meeting (which only started because we are now group members). I, however, gave him totally blank and blur looks because I had forgotten some parts of those conversations. (I usually pride myself on remembering things about people and conversations, but this time I really ‘outdid’ myself.)
Once, I tried to properly thank him again when we were alone. It was especially so since only three of us (me, T and H) turned up for subsequent meetings and the rest of the two vanished, and I felt the full impact of a three-person group which was weighing down on all of us. That made me feel bad.
“Nah, don’t worry about it. I wasn’t forced, you know. I made that choice myself.” He waved it off.
“Yeah I know that, but … ” If I didn’t continue dropping obvious hints that I really wanted somebody to come over with me, you probably wouldn’t have felt so bad that you needed to volunteer yourself, right?
He must have seen the look on my face because he said. “If you really want to thank me, you can … do me a favour.”
“What kind of favour?”
“I’ll tell you when I think of it.”
However, due to conflicts in schedule and clashing commitments, we found 80% of our project undone right on the morning directly before the presentation. Moreover, our consultation with our professor that morning made us realize that we had to change the direction of the project. In essence, we had 90% of it left. We worked all the way till close to midnight , when we were chased out of the school library, with the security guard screaming at us ‘this is not open 24/7, you know?!’ And yet, we hadn’t done at least 50% of the work. The presentation was during afternoon the next day.
While walking with T to the bus stop, we continued discussing a little on the substance of the project. And then was silence.
Maybe I should think of something to say. I thought.
He suddenly spoke. “You know, it’s been two years.”
“It’s been two years, but every day when I wake up, I still think about it. It’s the first thing that goes through my mind.”
What he was talking about suddenly hit me. He was talking about his long-term girlfriend of six years whom he had broken up with about two years ago. Despite not personally knowing him then, it was a rumour that spread throughout the school, because it was in the middle of term, when he suddenly disappeared on leave of absence. He probably knew of the rumours travelling around, and assumed that I knew about it too.
“Like, how do I put this. Sometimes I feel that I am still angry at her. I mean, she just got up and left one day, because there were ‘better options’ out there. Sometimes its like a dull ache that I can feel it sort of eating away at me… I feel like I did everything but sometimes … ”
“Its like you consciously know there’s probably nothing else that can be done, that you probably did everything in your power to prevent the breakup. But subconsciously, that feeling of regret and wondering ‘what could I have done better’ still comes crawling back, even if you may rationally know that nothing could have changed it. ” I said quietly.
“Yeah. Exactly. I couldn’t have put it better myself.” He looked a little surprised, when he looked at me. I felt that he was really looking at me, for the first time, at that point.
He then launched into an exposition of his feelings. Despite knowing it was not worth it to mope around for so long, it was just something that he couldn’t stop yet. Even if two years was considered to be quite long. I silently listened, with a nagging doubt at the back of my mind.
“But even two years isn’t enough to heal and recover? With so many girls in this school? With so much work to distract you? I know its hard to get over such a long relationship, but ….” I asked. I felt something growing in the pit of my stomach. Was it pity? Empathy? Sympathy? Anger? It was hard to tell. “It’s such a waste of … I mean it’s not hard getting somebody for someone like you.” Such a waste of good looks and character, I thought. I remember that most of the girls, in one of those girl-talks (i.e. gossip sessions) of which I happened to be a member of, thought he was one of the best looking guys in the school. I didn’t disagree.
“Really?” He raised an eyebrow in amusement. Then his features schooled into a more serious expression. “So why didn’t you choose somebody in school? Three-quarters of the guys here are at least your age or older than you.” Just as my mind was still struggling to switch from his bizarre leap in topic to topic, he continued. “Plus, I am probably not the first guy who puzzles about why you are single. Or asks you why.”
My turn to raise my eyebrows. “Wait. We’re talking about you, right? Don’t change the topic.”
“So why?” He prodded.
“Its not really about that sort of statistical probability. I mean, you can say that, but it’s not easy to really find that someone who fits … …”
“You see?” He smiled as if he was satisfied. Then before I could even respond, his bus came. “See ya tomorrow!” he ran off. “Oh, and thanks for helping me my favour!” he shouted before he hopped up the bus, leaving me nonplussed. It wasn’t a while before I realised what he meant. So cryptic. I thought. As if it was happening in fiction or anime.
The next day came, and I was in jitters as everybody was frantically trying to finalize different parts of the project. The previous night, most of them stayed up till 5am and still managed to reach school at 8.30am the next day, while I conked out at 3am because I seriously needed sleep otherwise I would be a walking zombie the next day. And that’s terrible when you had a presentation. In the end, we submitted the slides and started rehearsing before our presentation at 12pm. Or rather, they did, because I actually had a class between 9am to 12pm so I didn’t get to rehearse with them, or discuss anything about Q&A.
So when 12pm came, I was in a mental wreck. Because the core of the project had been completed at the 11th hour, there really wasn’t enough time to think much about the quality of our content or to think about how to deal with questions. Having not rehearsed or thought of my points, I was also in a disadvantage. T must have seen the pale look on my face so he tried to reassure me. “C, don’t worry too much about affecting the group. Remember that I am here. So is H. We’ll help out. Just do what you normally do.”
The presentation time came and then it was Q&A. The inevitable first question came hurtling to me like an arrow with my name pinned to its end. It was from one of the deans’ listers, incidentally one of those who always asked the hardest-to-answer questions. Though, he must have seen the look on my face because he softened his tone.
I felt like it was history repeating itself. Palms turning clammy, breaking out in cold sweat, mind freezing itself. I took a deep breath. You can do this. You can do this. You’ve done this before. You succeeded. They are here. He’s here. He’s right beside you. They’ll support you no matter what and how you do this.
Out of habit, I turned halfway towards T, but not before he asked matter-of-factly. “Professor, excuse us as we discuss this a little.” He then whispered the gist of the points he could think of as possible answers to me. I then ventured my own answers, of which coincided largely with his. He nodded slightly and encouragingly, mouthing to me. ‘Go on. Try it.’
So, I opened my mouth. What came out of it wasn’t stellar, or particularly astounding, but it managed to capture the gist of what I wanted to say, and what sounded right. As if on cue, T immediately picked up the hanging thread I had left behind, and continued to elaborate on my point, even if it wasn’t his part. Then it happened for the next question. And the question after. And the question after that.
By the time we had finished the presentation I was so relieved that all the fatigue of only 3 hours of sleep nearly made me topple. Previously I had kept myself running on adrenaline, tension and stress, so now that it was over all I wanted to do is sleep. We were high-fiving one another, genuinely happy about how we did. It was terribly last minute, but the moments we spent goofing off as a group, even though there were certain bouts of unhappiness when people didn’t turn up for meetings, were something to remember the project by.
“See, I didn’t have to save you at all, right?” It was T. He then caught my slightly puzzled look and laughed. “Did you forget? I was in the same class as you at that time.” It then all came rushing back to me. Oh … right. How could I have forgotten?
“You never really needed to be ‘saved’. You just needed to know that somebody is there for you to depend on, that there’s somebody to ‘support’ you no matter what. Even in the unlikely event that you screw up. And in the end, you see? You have that ability to answer questions substantively. Its just you thinking too much and fearing that event of ‘failure’. You always had that capability, you know.”
Then I realized that all of that was true. Previously, I had been so scared and fearful that I hid myself behind the backs of reliable teammates, praying that that would get me through each Q&A session each time. Even if I wanted to learn to answer, I never wanted it enough. Yet, in the midst of that struggle to prove myself to myself, or to simply just rely on my teammates knowing that somebody else will eventually have to answer the question, T provided an opportunity to learn for me. By not jumping in immediately and discussing with me to help me reconfirm the gist of our group’s stand, he had slightly shoved me into a situation where I was best equipped to answer the question, and learn what he knew I was terrible at through doing it. Even if it was at the possible expense of me saying something wrong, whether out of lack of practice or lack of capability.
Perhaps after reading all of that, it wouldn’t be a surprise that the impact of Souma and Megumi’s teamwork was something that resonated in me so much that I had to break my previous blogging conventions and present what is essentially my personal story in an essay that is probably one of the longest posts I have ever done. As a teammate, Souma kept a positive attitude throughout, giving Megumi the basis to believe in herself, hence boosting her self-esteem. He was a good team player in giving her the utmost technical support and expertise under the confines of the strict rules of that particular shoukugeki. By his silent support, his dependability reassured Megumi, a chronic worrier, and enabled her to freely let her creative juices flow. In always knowing the right things to do and say to counter Megumi’s fear, Souma exemplifies the ideal teammate and friend.
It is rare to see this happen in real life, and I am often quick to be cynical about these things. But sometimes, occasionally, we can meet people who change what we have always staunchly believed in. Ultimately, why T decided to help me, whether it was a calculated decision or a simple desire to help, probably doesn’t matter as much. I admit that living in such a climate has led me into a path where I start predicting others’ behaviour by what they could possibly gain or lose from it, and sometimes I forget that there are still people out there, few as they are, who are nice because they are nice, and nothing more. And from these people, I learn lots, not only from their different perspectives from the way they go about doing things, but from the new chances they give me, and the new experiences they bring.
Anime captures all that essence, and though mostly only presenting a pretty picture of life, can sometimes prepare us for occasions when humanity and kindness is shown by others. Personally, I find it very fulfilling to think ‘ah, so anime does happen in real life sometimes.’ After all, to surprise and to be surprised is probably what life, and the joy of living essentially is. No matter how cynical I claim to be, as long as I remember events and moments like this, I guess I won’t completely lose hope in humanity, no matter what.
So that marks my first post in 2016, or should I say – three posts. xD I wrote some of it back in 2015 when it happened, but somehow I hesitated on completing it. Recently, though, since I kept seeing that same scene in Food Wars being mentioned by other anibloggers here, I thought that hey, maybe I should post this as well.
While that scene in Food Wars was the first anime moment that led me to think about this personal experience, as you can see if you read, what transpires in real life isn’t quite exactly the same as what happened in Food Wars. Seeing that it’s a real experience and I certainly don’t have the power to change what I experienced to suit the confines of the anime more, I hope you guys don’t think I have gotten terribly off-point, and that you have enjoyed reading this despite its length. I have always been reluctant to write about personal stories/experiences in length and I can safely say this is the first time I am doing this because of the encouragement I have gotten thus far by you guys to write what I feel like writing about, so I hope I don’t regret this xD
As usual, thank you so much for reading this, and feel free to like, comment, or share your views or own personal stories of any anime moments that you have that happened in real life! I am pretty sure you guys have loads of interesting stuff to share *gossip radar activates* *rubs hands in anticipation* 🙂 Extra love to anybody who has bothered to read and comment on this! Hehe :3
(Go back to Part 1)