The Things We Do For Friends
Hirozaki sighed as he stood in line at the customs counter in the Kansas City International Airport. He was getting strange looks from the people around him. Dressed in a gray yakata, his white hair pulled back with a hair tie. His silver eyes glazed some after such a long trip. He simply nodded to those who continued to stare at him and smiled. When he reached the counter, the officer asked him all the usual questions. He had only dared bring what he wore. Anything else he intended to buy as needed while he was visiting here. His friend Ikuro watched from a distance. He shook his head. He understood people watching his friend, it was strange to see someone dress as traditionally as he chose to. Even growing up, Hirozaki refused to dress in western attire. From a young age he had explained to Ikuro his reasoning behind it. Tradition was important. And choosing to forget be it for convenience or to look cool was disrespectful to those who came before us. So Ikuro was not surprised when his friend became a dedicated historian. And later a renowned professor. He expected his students to attend class in traditional attire lest they lose grade points. The ones who chose to refuse to abide by that rule, were given a list of more liberal professors whose classes had openings. This allowed them to be transferred to someone who thought the same at they did.
Hirozaki sighed as he joined his friend. And glared at him for a moment. “Tell me again why you wanted me to come all the way here?” He asks, his voice tired. Ikuro chuckled. “I thought it might do you some good to get away from home and experience something new.” Hirozaki stopped then. “If that’s all, then I’ll just go back right now.” He said with a smirk. Ikuro rolled his eyes, “Come on, I’ll tell you on the way to my place.” Hirozaki followed him. As they began driving back to Lawrence, Ikuro explained to him that there was a festival scheduled on the campus of the local university. An American friend of his who was also a history professor, complained that the students knew nothing about traditional values. They were so focused on social justice that they regularly failed their exams. As a history professor, he did his best to teach the students that if history was forgotten, then the darkest parts of history would repeat themselves. The majority of his students would snicker and simply return to their phones.
So he decided to bring in an expert, hoping that hearing history from someone much older and more experienced would be beneficial. Ikuro smiled. “The Professor was able to procure funding to pay you for your time and travel.” Hirozaki shook his head again. “For how long exactly?” He asked. “He didn’t tell me. He said he wanted to work out a timeline with you and go from there.” Hirozaki leaned back and closed his eyes. As soon as he had dozed off, he felt the car pull in and come to a stop. Ikuro turned off the car and got out. Hirosaki got out and followed his friend into his home. It was a simple two bedroom apartment. Ikuro waited, expecting to hear how westernized he was, but Hirozaki seemed to be to tired to complain. At least for now. He was shown to his own room. Ikuro had at least taken the time to give his friend a traditional place to rest. A tatami mat lay on the floor as well as a small table. He undressed and lay down with a content sigh. This city was so noisy. People were in a rush to get where they needed to go. He knew that there were Americans that did enjoy nature and the country side in their own way. But to him, living in a remote village where it seemed as though all time had stood still, was the best way to live.
Ikuro took a breath and sat down. How had he ended up befriending Hirozaki anyway? He thought back to their childhood. Hirozaki had always been the quiet type. Never one to play with the other children. He preferred to sit and read. It was during one of these times, that Ikuro had accidentally kicked a ball in his general direction. The boy had simply blocked and kicked the ball back. Never taking his eyes off the book he was reading. Having grown bored, Ikuro sat down next to him with an exaggerated sigh. Hirozaki ignored him. “Hey,” Ikuro said, nudging him. “What.” The boy replied. Still not looking up. “Don’t you want to play?” The boy nodded. “I’m busy.” Ikuro had sighed and given up. The other boys waving at him to join them again.
Yes, Hirozaki was strange. Enough so that Ikuro felt that’s why he never married. He chose to remain so focused on his studies and then his teaching. The few times Ikuro had tried to get his friend to go out with a girl when they were in school, ended in disaster. The girl would either be under dressed or too forward. His friend would get annoyed and simply walk away, causing the girl to huff. Or if he was feeling really feisty, he would comment that she dressed like a harlot. This resulted in a sound slap across the face. Hirozaki would simply cross his arms and watch the girl. “Fucking chauvinist pig.” She would say as she turned around and walked out. Ikuro had given up. There was no hope for his friend considering westernization was all the rage. So time passed. They were both turning fifty this year. And while Ikuro had been involved with women in the past, he found that some of Hirozaki had rubbed off on him. He had become bored with simply dating women. He was getting old enough and mature enough to realize that having a family was beginning to sound better all the time.
When Hirozaki woke, it was evening. He dressed and walked outside his room. His friend was preparing dinner. They sat and ate in a comfortable silence. Once dinner was cleared away, Ikuro brewed two cups of green tea and offered one to his friend. Hirozaki breathed in the aroma as he took a sip. “We’ll meet the professor tomorrow morning.” His friend says simply. Hirozaki nodded. “What’s it like living here?” He asked then. Ikuro sighed. “Pretty boring actually.” His friend looked surprised. Ikuro owned a large company in Japan and had expanded his business opening a few branches in the United States. So boring was not exactly what he was expecting. “I thought you would of been married by now.” He says curtly. “Yeah,” Ikuro says sarcastically. “It turns out the women here are far worse than at home.” Hirozaki raised an eyebrow. “Surely not.” Ikuro turned his cup in his hands a few times before taking another sip. The women in the United States always tended to dress to impress, though not men like him. There was something to be said about a women who left more to the imagination. Many of them dressed so scantily that he found himself blushing before he could even attempt a greeting. “You’ve been a bad influence on me.” He tells his friend. Hirozaki smiled. “I guess that means you’ve tamed quite a bit then?” “That’s why i’m bored.” Ikuro got up and held his hand out to take his friends cup. “How about a game of shogi?” He asks then. His friend nodded but a smile crossed his lips. After about an hour of playing and easily losing, Ikuro called a truce. “I would like to show you around the downtown part of Lawrence tomorrow.” He informs him. Hirozaki nodded. “There are a lot of shops and restaurants, it will give you a chance to see the charm this city has to offer.” At least he hoped so. His friend was renowned for finding more things he didn’t like about new places he visited. He wasn’t necessarily a pessimist, but a realist would be putting it lightly. It didn’t help that his friend was content to remain at home and live in the past he cherished so much.