Valediction

The sole reason for reclamation was regret.

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We’re approaching the end of this set, so these stories may make less and less sense as we go. This one would make the most sense after reading Phosphenes, Acrimony, Lotus-eater, and Brooding.

I’m sorry. Usually, I like to keep them self-contained, but this is the first part of the conclusion of Jin’s arc.

I hope you enjoy. Thank you!

☂ 🎕 ☂ 🎕 ☂ 🎕 ☂ 🎕 ☂ 🎕 ☂ 🎕 ☂ 🎕 ☂ 🎕 ☂ 🎕 ☂

The World Without an Umbrella

Valediction (n): The act of saying farewell

A paroxysm of powdered color flowered against the smooth asphalt of the park.

Limping over, Genji scattered the colored ashes to find the source of the explosion. He grasped at the stout embers of colored chalk, abandoned so carelessly, as if in a fit of rage.

Or maybe some combination of sadness and desperation.

Or perhaps the previous owner merely grew tired of drawing with the same pieces of chalk over and over and finally decided to get rid of them.

After all, there were infinite justifications for throwing something away.  

The sole reason for reclamation was regret.

Jin Genji contemplated the broken stubs of what had once been endless artistic possibilities and wondered if anyone missed them. Regretted throwing them away.

Would come back to get them?

It was too late for that.

Grasping at the multitude of chalk at his disposal, Jin wandered somewhere where the asphalt was unmarred. Where the cool shade of the maples lining the blacktop blanketed him.

His body was no longer strong. Age had done him no favors. He was working on a time limit.

But maybe, that was precisely why this would work.

Any tool could be a weapon in the hands of a master.

Jin burned into the sizzling asphalt the culmination of his dreams, his hopes, his world.

He remembered Hana telling him once—

She had been lying on her back on the cool floor of his studio.

It was summer. Her eyes flickered back and forth

tracing the path of the cooling fan.

“Did you know?”

She had been wavering in the rippling heat waves

like a mirage.

“When snails make trails to move, they rub themselves out.”

“I don’t think that’s true,”

he had replied dismissively, focusing on his work.

“But if it was?”

“Then isn’t that a sad fate? Grinding itself to nothingness?”

Hana made a dissenting sound, as if she didn’t quite agree.

She tilted her head back, so she was smiling up at him upside down.

“Leaving pieces of yourself behind wherever you go.

Isn’t that kind of nice?”

And Jin thought, if this is what grinding myself to nothingness feels like, I should have done it sooner.

He fabricated into existence all of the might-have-beens and should-have-beens.

All of the would-have-beens.

The could-have-beens if he hadn’t been so blind.

Regret always tasted bitter the way down.

“Jin, are you still up?”

“Mmm.”

Looking up, Jin noted how the lights in the hallway

framed his wife in warm hues.

Pale oranges and creams.

“Can’t you come to bed already? We’ve barely talked lately.”

“Soon. I just need to finish up one thing.”

“You’ve been working all day. Isn’t that enough?”

Jin leaned back in his chair stretching.

He looked at his work, seeing the unfinished sections

screaming at him, like broken pieces of glass against a chalkboard.

“I’m almost done. Can’t we talk tomorrow?”

“I have to go in early tomorrow, Jin.

Remember, I told you about the case I’m working on?”

“Oh, that’s tomorrow?”

Tori frowned.

“That’s literally all I’ve been talking about for

the past few weeks.”

“Sorry, Tori. It just slipped my mind. You know my deadline—”

“That’s fine. I just… Anyway, we need to talk about something.”

“What is it?” he asked, going back to his painting.

“I need your undivided attention for this.”

“Give me one second… Okay, what is it?”

Tori suddenly seemed nervous.

She leaned against the doorway,

golden splashes of light draped over her

like a mantle.

“You’re going to be a father.”

 

He rubbed the chalks into the ground with his now ragged, numb hands. The skin of his fingers had been rubbed off along with the chalk.

He engraved on the permeable asphalt all the feelings he had never expressed. The words he had never said when he had the chance to.

“Dad, I don’t understand.”

Jin’s father didn’t spare him a glance.

“Why do you give away your art after

you’ve spent so much time on it?

Don’t you miss it?”

Finally, it seemed like he had caught

his father’s attention.

“My art is not meant to stay piled in my studio, collecting dust.

It’s meant to go out in the world and shape walls.”

 

An artist was known for their artwork.

The remnants they left behind in the world. The fragments of their soul they relinquished to others.

If he was known for nothing but this world he had created in front of him now— from the shattered pieces of chalk forsaken on the road side, he could finally be able to die in peace.

“Dad, what’s the difference between

goodbye and farewell?” Hana asked,

carving a path through the mounds snow.

Cheeks flushed in excitement,

snowflakes crowning her hair.

They were going skating on a frozen lake by their home.

“Farewell means that you don’t think

You’ll be able to see that person for a very long time.”

“So it’s more sad?”

“Sort of. It’s sad, but it’s also a little hopeful

because there’s a chance you will meet again.”

“Oh… I hope I never have to say farewell to anybody.”

“Then don’t. Just say ‘See you later,’ even if you

don’t think it’s true. That way, there’s a greater

chance your paths will cross again.”

“Really?!”

“I think so.”

“Then I think so too.”

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