There was a kid in my sixth-grade homeroom named Takashi Nizaki. He was really smart and got good grades, but at times he could be a sadistic bully and a bit schizo. He would be friends with you one day only to cut you dead the next. He was smart and good at sports, and he could talk circles around everybody, but there was something a bit spooky about him. Still, he ruled the class. The only one who could stand up to him was Masaki Urayasu from the class next door, and when Urayasu was beating the crap out of Nizaki, it was Urayasu’s friend, Yoji Kaneda, who waded in to break it up.
Urayasu was really built, bulging pecs and all, and the punches he threw were on a whole different level from Nizaki’s. In fact, at the moment, he was pummeling Nizaki’s face—maybe because he could see how handsome it was—and each time he connected, Nizaki’s head spun around, his silky hair whipping back and forth in time with the impact. The fight had started in the hall after school. Just about everybody in our class had gathered around to watch, but nobody was trying to break it up. I guess some people might have been thinking that they should step in—that Nizaki was a bully but he’d never really hurt anybody—but when you looked around and saw that no one else was doing anything, it seemed easier to leave it alone—let Nizaki get a little of his own medicine. That’s what I thought anyway. His mistake here had been in picking his opponent—or rather in not picking him carefully enough. At any rate, by this point Urayasu had been beating on him for a minute straight, and Nizaki’s eye was all bloody, and I thought he might go blind if it went on like this. Then I realized Nizaki was crying—right in front of everybody. It was the first time I’d seen him cry, and I’m sure that was true for everyone else too. You could feel the shock—and maybe a little bit of excitement. There was this low whistling sound every time Nizaki breathed in through his nose, and then it got all sniffly—susususususu—like he was having a fit or something—right in time with his shoulders heaving. He’d sort of blow the air out—haaaaaa—and then suck it back in—susususususu. His stomach bucked, and you could tell he was having trouble breathing. To tell the truth, it was an awesome sight: here was a shithead bawling his eyes out. What kind of man was he? If he was going to get the crap beat out of him and cry like a baby, he should never have started this in the first place. Then I realized that Kan and Shima were standing right next to me, and I wondered whether they were feeling a little sympathy for Nizaki now that he was blubbering. But then I noticed they were yelling to Urayasu to keep going! I didn’t want to appear too out of it—so even though I’d been about to tell him to quit just a second before, I found myself suddenly hoping the jerk would get everything he had coming to him. I guess the real fun was thinking how hard it was going to be for him to show his face at school after this.
Urayasu went on thrashing Nizaki. Mercilessly. For whatever reason, he seemed to want to beat the last bit of shit out of him. The voices urging him on trailed off. It was getting a little scary. And Nizaki looked pretty awful—wonderfully so.
At this point a very ordinary-looking kid in a blue polo shirt—Yoji Kaneda— appeared on the scene. He wasn’t particularly tall or well built.
“Give it a rest, Ura,” he said. “Don’t you think that’s enough?”
“Not quite, Kane. I beat the shit out of this guy and he still doesn’t get it.”
“So why don’t you leave it at that—you beat the shit out of him and he doesn’t get it.”
“So I’ll keep on till he does get it,” Urayasu said.
“Nah, that doesn’t make much sense. Give it a rest.”
“I know it doesn’t make sense, but what the fuck!”
“Just back off a minute, how ’bout?” Urayasu had been straddling Nizaki, and as he climbed off, Kaneda patted him on the shoulder. “Pounding the crap out of a guy is hard work. Look at your hands—they’re all torn up.”
Urayasu glanced down at his raw, red knuckles.
“Shit! I fucked up my hands.”
“And they’ll know you were fighting if you go to the nurse’s office,” Kaneda added. “Just go wash up,” he said, sending Urayasu off in the direction of the boys’ room. When he was gone, Kaneda turned to Nizaki, who was still sobbing on the floor, and reached out his arm to help him up.
His long, slender, beautiful arm.
I can still remember exactly how it looked: the delicate joints at the elbow and wrist, the graceful taper so completely different from Urayasu’s beefy knob. As if something wonderful—an angel’s wing—had been called in to replace something awful—a pig’s foot maybe. That’s how it looked to me, anyway.
Cowering on the floor, Nizaki covered his face with his hands and kicked at the outstretched hand.
“Leave me alone!” he blubbered. “What do you think this is?”
To which the boy in the blue polo shirt replied quite simply: “It’s love.”