Here is One of my most Jumbled stories, where i experiment with character dynamics and length.
THE WONDER YEARS
Inspired By Super Car and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
We formed on my final year of high school; it has been just four of us from start to finish: myself, my best friend Okuso, my brother Jisai, and Miho. We made up The Wonder Years, a mirror of angst and the beauty of growing up. Right now I’m sitting on a small bed in a dark room recollecting those days… as I fall to sleep, drifting… drifting… drifting…
The final performance was most beautiful climax of our entire legacy as a band. That show wasn’t for the fans, but for us. Two months before Miho had accepted the engagement proposal of my dear brother Jisai, Okuso was expecting child, and I had been creating music on my own sense then.
So different from the time that was started several years ago. This time only two of us are in the tour van. That’s Okuso and I of course. We are having fun though, listening to Pop bands like Lush or The Pastels, with windows down, making fun of commuters and ourselves. Before there were always all four of us in this band, running low on gas and everything else, this van is bonded to me. Right now, Jisai and Miho are on their way in their new Toyota which my mother had bought them as an engagement gift, instead of with us.
I’m feeling a bit tired now. I never really liked staying in one place for too long and cars are the epitome of that phobia. Okuso keeps telling me about how excited he is to be having a daughter, but I see myself in her shoes, as the only child who can’t relate to things like that.
“I wonder how our dynamics will be tonight,” he says.
“What’s to wonder about? Things will work out… we are all here for the same reason right? The only difference is we’re grownups now,” I say.
“I suppose so” he says.
“Yeah, that’s a good attitude. We have about 45 minutes until we reach the city. Would you call Jisai and see where they are exactly”
Okuso dials the phone on speaker-mode, and instead of Jisai, it’s Miho.
“Hey … oh Miho-san, we’re about 45 minutes away. Itashi is wondering where you guys are” he tells Miho.
“HEY! We are in Tokyo now. Actually, do you two want to meet at a pizza parlor or at a bar and have a celebratory meal before our final show? Jisai mentioned he would enjoy that,”
Okuso glances at me, “Sure,” I say under my breath.
“Okay, Itashi’s in. and I love pizza so let’s go for it” he says with a smile.
“Alright then, let’s meet at the Miura parlor” and then she hung up.
“Alright then, it’s finally starting,” I say to myself in my head while turning the stereo volume up to the max and then patting Okuso on his shoulder. We both take to deep breaths and smile.
Arriving at the pier, where the Miura parlor is, Miho and Jisai are in the parking lot smoking. Jisai waves and I give him a thumbs up through the windshield. Miho seemed as beautiful as she possibly could be. People say there are no limits to beauty, but this was a refined persona nothing less than captivating. I began to recall a photograph she gave us when we first met her. It was during the time we were holding auditions for a second guitar player aside from myself. We worked really hard to recruit the best possible member by posting handmade fliers all over the different schools around our neighborhood in Nikko, Tochigi prefecture.
Okuso had just graduated from high school. My brother and I grew up with him and lived in the same neighborhood. We had all been playing music since grade school. In the case of Jisai and me, we were very lucky; my mom and dad were both Asian-Americans who had grown up very much into music. After they graduated college, they moved to Japan. Being far less conservative than a typical Japanese couple, they encouraged us to listen to all kinds of bands like The Beatles or The Smiths.
My Brother played bass, and I played guitar. My mom instinctively created this lifelong partnership for us, something I am very grateful for today. The three of us, Okuso, myself and Jisai decided to form the band because we never had anything else to do, and music was our greatest hobby, in every way.
Miho placed the wallet size photo into my hands after dropping by for a rehearsal in Okuso’s garage. When she showed up, my brother and Okuso didn’t take her seriously, but I thought to give her a try while they went off for some lemonade from Miss Kurasaki up the street. By the time the picture was in my possession, I was blown away by her charm and talent.
“The picture is for all of you boys, so don’t hog it, okay Itashi?” She said laughing.
On the back was her contact information. She was gone down the street after that. When the guys got back, they asked me how it went. Ultimately, I knew she was the one. Miho was our neighborhood idol for that month. She had done something really artsy in the background of the photography by mixing light projections of the primary colors against a white wall. She posed like a zombie leaning over to far right; her hair was messy and so cool.
She had a round face, like a cute baby pig or something. She seemed so independent. What impressed my mind though are the three wrinkles you could see in her light pink lips. I always wanted to kiss the Miho in that photograph. We had immediately agreed if she didn’t have talent at least she had beauty, and that would be enough to power this band.
Soon after, she became our second guitar player. She went to an all girls school close by our neighborhood, so it wasn’t hard for the band to get together regularly. She agreed to join us over the phone, and from the moment forward, we all would meet every Sunday morning and spend hours playing and planning our music. By the late afternoon, we would be playing Frisbee or Shogi while drinking pink-lemonade and bullshitting. We managed to do this without telling any of our friends. It made it kind of like a secret club, and the joy was all the more sweeter because of that.
Our very first show was the school talent show. We were all very nervous that day because it was time to see the fruits of our work. They would decide if it was power or play. Instead of practicing the Sunday before, we did a ritual; it involved putting each of our names in a coffee can and the having us draw. Okuso got Miho, I got Jisai, Jisai got Okuso, and Miho got Jisai. Then we proceeded with the second part of the ritual in which we bought who ever we drew a band t-shirt of our choice. We felt this way we would be wearing each other, some kind of support I guess.
From that day forward, we were officially popular enough to decide against going to college. In this time period, I realized our lives would grow to be fast and brilliant. I promised myself I would never fall in love with Miho.
At the pizza parlor, I gave everyone a hug.
“You ready for tonight?” I asked.
“Yeah, I hope the crowd appreciates this” my brother said.
“Don’t worry, tonight will be the best thing we have ever done” Miho said confidently.
Inside we ordered a large bowl of super salad, a cheese pizza, and two pitchers of beer. Everyone reached into their wallets and gave me some wrinkled bills. When I got to the counter, I apologized for the wrinkled bills and thanked the clerk for the food.
“Dig in” I said setting the food down.
Everyone grabbed a slice. All the arms reaching in like a Hindu goddess. While we ate, Miho brought up old tour stories about the food we use to eat and the peculiarities we would find, like when we met an old Japanese man who was a masterful Italian cook; it surprised us so much, but the food was delicious.
The night was solemn. None of us really had much to say, but I felt some strength in that moment. Once we finished we all went outside for a smoke, it was getting closer to show time, and the mood of everything seemed to have switched to concentrated.
“Alright then” Miho said, and we headed for our respective vehicles. I put the key in the ignition and set my eyes on the city, while we cruised through with New Pants on the radio. When we got there, people were already lined up to see the show. I got out and two roadies asked how they could help out. I directed them to Okuso because he was extremely particular about our instruments. This was due to the fact we had all worked extremely hard to be at that place. I began to feel excited as I walked into the venue from the front. I scoped out the egg shaped building that seemed taller than its width. When I found my brother, I yelled at him in excitement. He responded to me with the same vocal treatment. For a brief moment, I felt something deep and akin to mysticism; it must have been the power of blood connection. I felt as if my brother and I were solely responsible for this moment.
Before a show, there always seems to be an elongation of the times value in which you are bored with anticipation and eager with the constant verbal expressions of “are you ready?” to band mates. Once the room was filled, I could hear the usual mass of sound from backstage.
You would be surprised at how beautiful the combined chatter of three hundred young adults is. Miho entered the stage first and the kids got silent followed by Okuso, Jisai, and then myself. Clapping hands directed their crackling sound toward us. Without hesitation we assumed our musical positions and began as my hand dropped down across my guitars strings. The energy of the crowd shifted from a small pond to a roaring ocean.
The words I sang are now just a memory:
When two becomes three
We start our dividing
I thought it was you who said, nothing
Was worth figh……ting, for.
If something is between us it may as well be her
That causes two brothers to part
It’s violent like high school science class
Seeing Human nature through the window Glass
When two becomes three
We start our dividing
I find that she loves you and not me.
A year after the band formed, we were becoming very successful in the Tokyo Indie scene. We decided to record, design, and distribute our first releases completely on our own. We were having fun. When we weren’t working hard, Miho had convinced her parents to let her transfer school after the talent show performance. Both her and Jisai were now seniors, and I was working with Okuso at his father athletics’ store.
We continued to meet each morning, meeting up at a small park that was close to both Miho’s house and our neighborhood. Then we would walk to the train station and split for our respective rides that would take us to our daily destinations. At work, Okuso and I spent a lot of time writing acoustic songs in his dad’s back room. Whenever a customer would come, they were subject to ringing a hand bell at the counter, summoning us to attend them. I’m surprised his father never really lost any business because of us.
Things went smooth into summer; Okuso and I were getting paid generous wages by his father of which we saved every penny of to afford better instruments in the future. Jisai and Miho had grown too. So close that they must have felt romantic towards each other, but being so young, they could not express it well.
One day, I came home to find out that my father had been badly injured while riding his bicycle to the family’s small coffee shop business, hit by a delivery truck, the driver said my dad flew upward and then smacked his head straight onto the asphalt. The man was very disturbed and begged us to help in any way, but my mother was so shocked she simply asked him to leave with a deep bow.
The result was brain damage and complete retardation of my father’s body and mental capacity. It was now the beginning of summer break, but also the beginning of so much stress and hardship for my family and the band. This marked the development of unbearable angst and depression for Jisai. The transformation of my father from role model to something more akin to a statue humbled my brother to a silent, hidden; sorrow.
I talked to my mother about sending him to our grandparents in Hokkaido for a month. She didn’t want to because she felt his presence was crucial for all of us to recover together. But after a few days of Jisai not getting out of bed, we sent him off using some of the funds from my savings. I gave him an acoustic guitar and asked if he would please continue to write music. He boarded the bus; I waved after promising to call him regularly.
I grew up in so many ways that summer. My brother was not the only one who learned something from my father’s condition. What it taught me most was to be realistic about life and realize the briefness of joy. The band had been on a reactionary hiatus for three weeks since my father had returned home from the hospital. I hadn’t heard from or seen Miho since, but she responded soon enough with a postcard of Mt. Fuji on the back, it read:
I’m so sorry; I have not made contact with you guys for so long. Itashi, is you father alright? Before the semester ended, Jisai was angry that I would not go out with him. I felt as if he was using me as an emotional crutch. Even though I wanted to be there for him, I decided it would be best if he could get strength from this tragic moment of his on his own, I hope I have not hurt or offended anyone. I was simply doing what I thought was best. I got a text message today from Jisai; he said he was leaving for Hokkaido. I’m worried about the band. Let’s meet at Naota’s Ice Cream shop this Sunday. Well if it’s convenient, I miss you guys.
Later that day I showed the letter to Okuso.
“You know, things have been very sludgy lately. I mean if we don’t do anything now, we might as well call it quits.” I said
“I can see why your saying this, I’m not really happy about not progressing with the band, but it’s not as if we asked for this or did it with intention. I think it’s natural that we came to pause with your father’s accident, but you are right; now is the pivotal point to learn something from all of this and stop crying.” Okuso replied.
“The only confusing matter is that Jisai has left for the summer. I think we should practice as much as we possibly can while he is away, and then when he returns we will release our third and best album!” I said talking the talk of dreams.
“That sounds like the only thing we really can do. Miho seems pretty bummed about all of this as well. We could have her play bass and mail or phone Jisai guitar tabs to play or something, what do you think?” Okuso asked.
“Well it is summer now, we should all have more time to figure this out, but I say we are on the right track. Let’s talk to Miho at the ice cream shop Sunday and see what she says.”
We met Miho that Sunday; I was excited to let her know our plan but also wondering how she was fairing in the game of life. Once we told her she was in all the way without hesitation. We ordered an XL banana split and shared it between the three of us. Okuso got a treat because both Miho and I do not like chocolate covered strawberries, so we gave them to him.
We started talking about Jisai, my father, and Miho’s relationship to my brother. She said that Jisai had become increasingly dependent upon her, and she didn’t like it. She told him, but he felt betrayed that she did not want to support him. She seemed pretty saddened by all of it, and felt as if she was part of the reason Jisai left; I didn’t really know what to say except that I had proposed he take the break, and that despite my brother actions, I thought he was being irrational out of love.
Once we finished our ice cream we headed back to the house together, almost like those early mornings we use to walk together, except we were all headed to the same location that moment. That day we began a routine that set our creativity on fire. Miho got a Job doing paper work at the athletics store, and we were together almost every day. Our hours hardly ever varied and so the three of us tried to brainstorm constantly. We mostly fooled around, but I think we grew the most as people in that time period.
After work and on our off days, we sat around in front of my room playing acoustics and mapping out the skeletons of new songs. My father was usually close by in his wheelchair and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the sounds and emotions that were coming from our front room in those days. My mother made it to the point to keep my father close to us that summer.
As the summer progressed, I became much closer to Miho. We usually spent the evenings together melting candles, eating popsicles, and playing records after Okuso left. Still, we didn’t talk much; it was mostly an experience. We would play Go and bring my father close up to the table to watch. Whenever one of us made a bad move, he would blink his eyes or groan in an indicative fashion, but we couldn’t see what he saw anyways.
One of the other reasons I kept my father around the two of us was to provide a barrier between us from expressing romantic feelings because I knew they were there in both of us, but I could not allow myself to betray my brother or the band.
By the end of summer, we had truly missed our chances of getting into college. Jisai was on his way home, and I was eager to see what had become of my sorrow torn younger brother. I had a feeling he would be the one to carry the band into a new direction, which we grew even more savy.
Because Okuso skipped out on college, his father bestowed upon him the rigorous training to become head of the family business. The process was started by another unheard of action, he hired Jisai. When Jisai came home, he was solemn. I asked him how Hokkaido was, he said,
“It’s cold even in the summer. Grandpa is an alcoholic and Grandma insisted that I learn calligraphy, so I brought these back for you guys” He handed three rolled scrolls, when I opened them I found three paintings of traditional dragons.
“It’s a symbol of passion, because while I was gone, the thought of the three of you helped my heart to expand, and I think I am what you could call a man now,” he said. I grasped him for a deep hug as three tears rolled down my eyes.
“Glad you are back,” I said.
With such an ideal work and living situation, it wasn’t hard for us to communicate. We continued to practice, but ended up trashing most of what we wrote without Jisai. In exchange for the sweet melodies, he developed on his own up in the mountains of Hokkaido. The finished album was amazing; it was the fruit of something tragic that guided us to self growth and supreme artistry.
Once the album was finished, we collectively put in a percentage of our paychecks until we had enough money to start doing small weekend tours. We would leave in the very early morning hours of a Friday and play a show that night along with Saturday and Sunday. We stayed in Honshu because we never really could afford to leave Okuso to work his newly inherited business on his own. At first we thought this might slow down our growing reputation, but the opposite occurred, as we became a distinctive mark of the Tokyo Indie scene, and people began to travel to see us on the island as we got even more popular.
Jisai was never the same after my father’s accident. Initially I thought he might be drowned by his pain, but now I think that his return powered us up. He began to carry the band on his own, and a new dynamic was born in which he was also seen as a leader figure of The Wonder Years.
These times were sheer fun. Miho fell in love with my brother, so did I, I think everyone did. It seemed as if the only life worth living was one where my brother and I manifested our art through live performance.
For a few seconds the intensity of the crowd filled my lungs, leaving no room for breathing. When I managed to exhale, I found myself feeling ecstatic as we burst through the third song of the night, Miho’s voice lead us into another story.
You cut me off, now you have the flesh like dream
All you ever wanted, it’s me in you
Water your seedling, water, water, baby
Everything that is good is green
You’ve been gone for a month and a few moments
But you put yourself where you belong, doesn’t he belong?
It’s unfortunate I will never meet her
Be sure to thank her, for the Joy she has given
I smiled as they cut the ribbons
Everything that’s green is good, in my own selfish way I was sorry and yet understood.
Two years from the third album’s release date, we released a double LP. We invested our entire being into its creation, and everything was done by our hands from the Artwork to the inspiration…
By this time we had grown up and gone through many things beyond words. Okuso had remained the silent, underrated, and underappreciated member from the very beginning. He was the most loyal though, but one day he decided to vanish.
We were in the process of recording and all of our spirits where on high until, Okuso disappeared. We tried to continue our business thinking he would come back soon that day, but he never did. We ended calling all the places we thought he might be in Osaka, but no one knew where he was. He left all of his belongings in the hotel room.
At first, I became angry and then saddened at this strange disruption. We had to postpone the finishing touches on the final albums, while waiting and wondering about Okuso. It was a period of patience and growth for me. None of us found it very satisfying to stop in the middle of the recording process.
I began to feel alone with Miho between my brother and myself. They seemed to be encapsulated by love. They were living together now, and at the hotel, had shared their own room. They had so much dynamic. The energy really powered up their influence on the band at that time.
“Where could he be? And what should we do? Why didn’t you tell me?” I pondered to myself in the hotel lobby.
“It is sort of confusing, why would he just vanish? I don’t know, but for some reason I think it was for a wholesome purpose. I believe we can trust Okuso to return responsibly, sometime soon. He has never been someone who does irrational things,” Jisai said while unraveling the wrapper to a peppermint he got from the receptionists, now a vacant desk.
“There was someone he had to take care of. I’m not sure who, but I noticed he has been on the lobby phone a lot. I don’t think it’s an emergency, he actually seemed more alive than usual when having those conversations.” Miho chimed in her opinion.
“Well… it doesn’t make any sense to me to let ourselves get any more upset about the disappearance. I think we all have faith he will be back soon, so…. why don’t we just take a break, some time for us to develop as individuals. We can explore Osaka and chill out,” I said.
“Yeah! Let him do his thing,” Miho said pushing her bangs out of her eyes. Okuso called three days after. He apologized, seeming remorseful, yet, happy at the same time. It turned out he had fallen in love with a fan who wrote him letter every month since our early days. I never knew about this girl until now, but after he explained I no longer blamed him for what he decided to do.
They exchanged numbers at our last mini tour show and had been talking on the phone a lot recently. They had been talking a lot about the day when they would actually be able to meet up. Now, I felt this was a good enough reason for someone to vanish, heck, I probably would have done the same, maybe. But thinking back on those summers, I knew I had witnessed how spontaneous love could be; it was something far beyond a regimented scientific aspiration.
He asked me for two weeks. I lied to everyone, so he could know what love is like.
The show had reached the middle of the performance, the middle of its life, seeming so cinematic, in my heart I felt so grateful for this gift I had somehow been given, or somehow earned as a young man with my family and these four people, extensions of myself. It was so beautiful.
You can feel the emotions of the audience. As they stare at you and all sorts of things race through your mind. I remember turning to find all three of them smiling at each other while I drank some water. The moment was picture perfect, something I will never forget. Then I opened my mouth as the drums crashed and roared.
What is love? And who am I?
A promise is a promise
But her face is beautiful
To lie is to deny
A hotel mirror cannot portray my sorrow
I am thankful, on the coast
When I bury myself the sand and I are so close
So close to Heaven, summer is the season I made a promise
To protect Him
Okuso’s disappearance gave me time I needed because I had been holding feelings inside my heart for too long. I didn’t care what Jisai and Miho where doing, and yet I did. We had past the threshold as human beings, the one where if a face becomes familiar enough you will trust it to carry you.
I decided to stay at the hotel I found that was close to Southern beach. I woke up every morning eager to walk, walking everywhere, but my most common destination was a specific rock on the beach. It was rough; some kind of volcanic stone, but it was whole. I often wondered if it was the stuff I was made of.
This went on for exactly two weeks until the phone in my room rang three times; it was a cheerful Okuso on the other end. In that instant, I snapped out of it. Time flew from the point on we finished the album with a swiftness I had never experienced. I realized you cannot have everything you want, and how important what you don’t want can be. I had doubted myself, and the band for no reason.
Our final song was written by Miho and it went:
The streets where cold in April.
So where they
When it rains, it hails
Cherry blossoms become cicada shells
Never once asked, but twice received
A family of 3 and sometimes less
I could breathe in spring and what about summer
I never want the wonder years to be over.
Looking back, I realized, Miho was right in the hotel waiting room. At the end of our final show, I realized that I gained an answer to life in a priceless experience that I shared with those three people. I learned to live, and never forget the proof that you have done so, which is why I cannot forget the memory of my wonder years.