Halo One: Family:
-November 13th, 1986-
“I’m home,” Makoto said in a tired way. He didn’t make much money today, but he did return with another treasure. Three years and he still struggled to make ends meet. Makoto barely held down a stable job for too long. He lacked a full high school education due to dropping out just before turning eighteen. He didn’t even know how to speak any other languages. The best Makoto could get around Ikebukuro and other districts around Tokyo was construction work. Luckily for him, he was good with hands.
Makoto walked into the living room. He found Hyacinth Girl sitting on the floor.
“Welcome home,” she said.
“What are you doing out here?” her husband asked.
“I just put the baby to sleep,” she whispered. “What did you bring home today?” Makoto looked down at the wrapped bundle in his arm.
“Ah,” he said. “Take a look at this.” Makoto set the bundle down on the floor and unwrapped the grey towel. Hya-chan crawled over for a closer look. Her husband opened the lid. He blew the dust from the LP player inside.
“Do you like it?” Makoto asked. “I stopped by a pawn shop in Ikebukuro before I went to the bus station. Didn’t find anything worth looking at, but the shop owner looked frustrated with this thing. I asked him what the problem was. The man said an American GI pawned off this broken LP player five days ago. He didn’t care about the money; he just wanted to get rid of it.”
“They can do that?” Hya-chan asked.
“The GI managed to do if after haggling with the shop owner for an hour. I think he just wanted to get rid of the American and shut him up. Anyway, the owner and his brother couldn’t fix it. They were thinking about throwing it away when I walked into the shop. I offered to fix it up and they let me. The owner even offered to let me have it if I could fix it.” Makoto grinned and flipped back his black hair from his forehead.
“I fixed it up to work like new!” he bragged. “They were show shocked that I could do it.”
“Wow! You’re so amazing!” his wife said. Her praises made him feel better about himself, but still hurt at the same time. He wished that he could do more to make her proud of him. The role of the man was to be the provider. He could barely even do that on a good day. Sometimes, he would let Hya-chan and the baby have dinner while he watched them eat.
“Aren’t you going to eat anything?” his wife would ask. Makoto would smile and wave her off.
“I already ate,” he’d lie. “I ate before I came home.” He could tell by looking in her eyes that she knew he wasn’t being truthful. Makoto wished that he brought enough to have meals for all three members of the house. Maybe even bring home pricey food items like beef or crab. For the moment, Makoto broke into a huge smile.
“That’s not all that got for us today,” he said.
“What else did you get?” Hya-chan asked.
“Oh yes,” Makoto said. He reached behind him and pulled out a paper bag of LP’s.
“Another American G.I. had just walked into the pawn shop after I fixed up the LP player,” he went on. “He stood the owner his pop rock and soft rock albums for a low price. I got the whole bag for 100¥.”
“Wow!” Hya-chan said. Makoto took out the records and spread them out on the floor.
“What would you like to hear?” he asked. Hya-chan looked at the selection in front of her. She picked up one LP and stared at the cover with intent.
“Don’t Dream it’s Over?” she asked. Makoto crawled over to her side for a look.
“Hm,” he said. “That looks like it would be interesting. What do you think? Shall we play it?” Hya-chan perked up.
“Okay!” she said. Her husband chuckled and patted her on the head.
“Alright then,” he said. Makoto removed the vinyl for the black and white sleeve and put it on the empty surface. He lowered the arm and the opening guitar riff filled the air.
“Thanks for dinner,” Makoto said at the dinner table after he put down his chopsticks. He looked up and saw Hya-chan smiling at him.
“What?” he asked.
“I’m just so happy to see you eating with me for a change, Mako-kun,” his wife said.
“Well, we have enough fish and rice tonight,” he said.
“It was great that Suzuki-san gave it to us today.”
Makoto let out an uncomfortable titter. “I wish that she didn’t have to though.”
“It’s fine. Her son’s walking late in Ikebukuro tonight anyway.” Hya-chan gave him a puzzled look as he sat back, sighing.
“What’s the matter?” she asked. “Suzuki-san’s only trying to help us.”
“I just don’t want us to rely on her too much,” Makoto said. “I want to be the one to provide for all three of us.”
“There’s nothing wrong with asking others for help.”
“I still don’t like it. It feels like we’re imposing on her.”
“She doesn’t mind. I just think she’s lonely. Her son lives all the way in Nagasaki and he only comes by when he’s working Ikebukuro.”
Makoto frowned and lay down on the tatami mats. His wife frowned and lowered her chopsticks.
“Why do you have to starve yourself for us?”
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
“You always watch me eat at dinner. How do you manage to get food for yourself?”
“I grab bites to eat here and there.” It hurt when she could see through his lie. She shouldn’t have to fuss over him so much. He was supposed to be the one to take care of his wife and son. But how could he even do that when there wasn’t enough for all three of them to eat? Hya-chan reached over with her napkin and wiped Makoto’s cheek.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“You had a little rice stuck to your cheek,” his wife said. Makoto reached up and wiped his own cheek.
“Oh, thank you,” he said. Suddenly, their baby started crying down the hall.
“Oh, he’s awake now,” Hya-chan said. She started to get up, but Makoto held up his hand.
“No, no,” he said. “I’ve got it this time.”
“You sure?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Makoto said. Hya-chan sat back into place.
“Alright,” she said.
“I’ll be right back,” her husband said. Makoto rose to his feet and walked down the hall.
“Coming, coming, little buddy,” he said softly. “Daddy’s coming.”
Makoto returned to the living room after dealing with the baby. Hya-chan sat against the wall with her needs to her chest.
“How is he?” she asked.
“Good,” Makoto said. “Changed his diaper, gave him his bottle, burped him, rocked him to sleep, and put him back to bed.” His wife leaned forward, smiling.
“Can we play ‘Don’t Dream it’s Over’ again?” she asked. “I really like that song.” Her husband threw back his head and groaned.
“Again?” he asked.
Makoto looked at her, smiling. “Sure.” He walked over and turned on the LP player. He took his seat next to his wife. Hya-chan rested her head on his shoulder.
“I love nights like this,” she said.
“Yeah…” Makoto mumbled. He sighed and looked down at his lap.
“What’s the matter, Mako-kun?” Hya-chan asked. Her husband shook his head.
“I just wish that I had more money to really take care of you,” he said.
Her question about made him fall backwards. “What do you mean?”
“Why are you obsessed with making more money?”
“Well… Look around. Our house could look better. We could use a bigger place.”
“But I love this house.”
“I know you do. But, I still want to give you nice things. Pretty dresses. Pretty jewelry. Maybe a color TV so that you won’t be so bored around the house when I’m at work. And maybe even a night on the town for you and me like a little date night.” He looked down to see Hya-chan shaking her head.
“No?” Makoto asked. “I don’t understand.”
“You don’t need money to be happy,” she said. “The richest man in the world could be very sad and lonely in real life. One of Suzuki-san’s friends read this poem called Richard Cory to us today. I forgot who wrote it, but it was about a rich man who seemed to have everything. Everyone in town wanted to be like him. They even envied him.” The light in her face started to die a little.
“Nevertheless, the rich man shot himself in the end,” she said. Makoto frowned.
“Lovely,” he muttered.
“The point is, all of that wealth and status didn’t make him happy,” Hya-chan said. “I’m grateful that we’re still happily married, we have a healthy, happy baby boy, a nice house filled with love, we’re both in good health, you are able to work and find work, a nice LP player, the great music we’re playing right now, and we have a nice neighbor that helps us out.”
Her husband sighed. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I just wish that I could give you nice things from time to time.”
“But you already have today. I really do love the LP Player and the music.”
Makoto finally and patted her on the head. “I’m glad I did something you could be proud of today.”
She took hold of his left arm. “I love you, Mako-kun.”
“Heh, I must be doing something right.”
“I really love nights like this. I wish they could go on like this forever.” Her words sparked something inside of her husband.
“It’s almost perfect,” Makoto said.
“Huh?” Hya-chan asked. Her husband gently pushed her off and rose to his feet. A tingle of worry came over his little wife’s face.
“Mako-kun?” she asked. Her husband looked over his shoulder.
“I’ll be right back, I promise,” he said. Makoto disappeared down the hall. When he came back, he held their sleeping ten-month-old son in their arms. Hya-chan’s eyes widened as she covered her mouth.
“Mako-kun…” she murmured.
“Shhh!” he was quick to say. “Don’t wake him up. It took me several minutes to calm him down earlier.” Makoto carried the baby over to his spot and sat down next to his wife. Hya-chan took hold of her husband left arm again and leaned on him. She had a gentle smile on her face as she drew her eyes closed. Makoto smiling over his sleeping son.
Maybe Hya-chan’s right, he thought. He forgot about not having much money again for the time being. Within ten days, that happiness would be shattered forever.