THE WAYS YOU REMEMBER
by Tari Gwaemir
Hikaru returning from his annual trip to Innoshima.
When he came back, he was still frantic, unable to believe that Sai could have simply disappeared, without a goodbye. Without one sign that he had gone except the sudden silence. When he came back, he was still searching, holding his breath at every corner, sure that the ghost would be there, just around the bend.
It was the first time Hikaru had ever needed faith, but there was no miracle to reward him for it.
When he came back, the next time, he had long been resigned to the knowledge that Sai would not return. He still saw him in his dreams, sometimes, always silent, never like the way he was when he was still there, inhabiting a corner of his mind. When he came back, from Hiroshima, having mourned ritually, dutifully, going through the motions of honoring one's teacher, he felt strangely numb.
Hikaru returned to his room, and to the waiting goban at its center. He reached for the black stones, always black for him, and was surprised to find tears dripping down his chin.
When he came back, he felt restless, needing to fill up the silence with something, anything. He turned up the volume on his headphones and tapped his fingers against the glass during his return home. Once he came home, he called Waya and asked if he could come over for a game. The habitual banter, the easy rhythm of their conversation distracted him for the moment, but when he came back to the empty room, banging the door shut behind him, he felt an uncomfortable weight in his stomach.
Hikaru went, as he always did, to the goban, replaying their many games one by one, each stored precariously in his memory. He saw the familiar pattern of the stones, and the weight lifted.
When he came back, he buried himself in kifu, studying the traces of Sai's genius in black ink on white paper. He placed the twenty-fifth hand of Sai's forty-seventh game on the goban and once more contemplated his inadequacy. The memory of the last loss to Ko Yeong-ha still smarted. The commentators could gush over his phenomenal growth all they wanted, but that wasn't enough to bring back Sai, or to find that perfect Hand of God.
In his heart, he could see them, Touya, Yeong-ha, Sai, always a step ahead of him. He kept on chasing, but they continued on forward relentlessly. There was no relief.
When he came back, he did not head to the Kiin or Waya's house or back to his room, with its waiting goban. Instead he went to the park where he sat on the bench and flipped pebbles across the pavement, watching pigeons skip above them. He was tired; he had spent the past week playing tournament games and the last day wandering throughout Hiroshima, paying his respects at every Shuusaku shrine. He thought wistfully but incoherently of Torajirou and his flawless calligraphy.
Before he knew it, he was asleep, his head awkwardly fallen against the bench, and he woke up to find a worried Akari standing over him. He grumbled at her, as he always did, and walked back home alone.
When he came back, this last time, it was different. He sat across the train from Touya, and they were both unusually silent, avoiding each other's eyes. He looked out the window at the late spring rains, the blurred green and grey of the passing landscape. The droplets on the surface clung to the glass in regular lines, and he could nearly turn them into the opening fuseki of Shuusaku's first castle game. He shook his head and closed his eyes.
When he opened them again, Touya was sitting next to him, with an unreadable expression on his face. He looked up inquiringly, and the other boy replied, automatically, "I think I believe you."
"Because of the ways you remember him."