By the third year in high school, my energy was at the record low. I started to be absent from school frequently, and when I went to school, I took a later train. I could conserve a lot of energy if I didn’t have to go to school, which mandated PE, home economics, and math, that I didn’t need to study to get into Waseda. I saw university as the only way to free myself from the entrapment of home and hometown, so the fear of failing the entrance exam was soul-wrenching.
Around the time I stopped going to school, Izumi also became often absent. When she showed up, her hair was dyed light brown, and her skirt shorter. She had lost weight, and her complexion looked pale. I heard from a friend that Izumi’s apartment had become a hang-out place for her friends from various schools in the city. They got together after school and at the weekends, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. I was a little sad that her intelligence and creativity were being wasted. And it came as a shock when she told me she wasn’t going to university.