What time is it?
A ray of sunshine poked through a crack between the bedroom curtains.
Locating the clock, my eyes widened.
Then, my head ticked and clicked.
No, no. I’m not…I don’t have to go to work today…
It was Monday, not my usual day off, Seijin no hi, a national holiday in Japan only for those of us who had turned the age of twenty in the past year.
As the passage into adulthood, we were invited to a ceremony, which was held by the local municipal office. Government officials would be congratulating us on being able to legally drink, gamble, and vote and encouraging us to take all the responsibilities expected of full-fledged grown-ups. Nevertheless, every year, images of clueless, inebriated youth dressed in most colorful and latest fashioned kimono, which their parents meticulously prepared and graciously paid for, hit the front page of newspapers and news headlines in the middle of January.
My invitation to the ceremony lay on the table. I, however, chose to skip and sleep in. Seeing friends from high school and going for a drink after on a precious day off didn’t entice me much. They would be dressed in expensive kimono, which I didn’t have, and talk about college things that I didn’t understand anyway.
Besides, I was tired. For a meager salary, I worked twelve hours a day in the payroll department of a big company. Often, I worked on my days off.
I spent the day in pajamas and went back to work the next day.
“How was your Seijinn no hi?” my boss grinned.
“Was nice. Thank you, sir.”
“Well, that’s good. We had another busy day and had to cover for you, didn’t we?” he looked around his overworked staff’s tired faces.
“So sorry to take time off when we are busy…” I shriveled.
He gave me a nod.
I turned to the pile on my desk and sighed. My co-workers had left tons of work for me.
Working late, I caught the last train home.
Why am I the only one suffering like this? All my friends are enjoying their carefree college lives!
Outside the window, the sky was dark, and there was no star to be seen.
One night, I got home a bit earlier than usual and was watching TV when I answered a call from a friend.
“Long time no see…” She sounded somber.
“Yes…” My voice was stiff. She would’ve seen me, had I gone to the ceremony two weeks earlier. “How have you been? How’s college life?” I put on my cheerful voice.
“…I called to tell you M died,” she blurted.
“She killed herself, jumped off a building…yesterday.”
My mind went blank. Then, the image of M’s face flashed.
“The wake is tomorrow night at her house. I just wanted to pass the information along.”
“…Ah…thank you. Thank you for calling and letting me know.”
I hung up the phone and thought of our friend, M. We went to the same high school. Our class was all girls and stayed close throughout the years. M was pretty and good at math and science. She would’ve been at the ceremony with the rest of the gang from that class.
Wasn’t she living a happy college life like all the others?
Continue to seijin no hi – coming of age 2.