Tanaka was watching an old anime on the CRT TV screen. It was a kids anime about capturing beetles and having them battle each other in the cyber-world. The image became somewhat grainy until it got stuck and a strange noise came from the TV. Tanaka dashed to the TV and pressed the button to eject the boxy VHS cassette from the video cassette player. The tape had come out of the VHS cassette in a tangle.
Where did he even get those VHS tapes? Regardless I could see that Tanaka was holding back tears as he rewound the (probably ruined) tape by hand back into the cassette. It must have held some sentimental value from his childhood… but no that’s impossible since cassettes were a thing of the past already when I was born. What a farce.
Yamada was still working on his plastic model kit. I wondered how he handled all those small pieces with his stubby fat fingers. Then again he had already managed to send two pieces flying my way while cutting them out. Izumi was reading what looked like an impenetrable philosophy book which only a lonely college student with a chip on his shoulder would care to read.
Izumi always sat next to the window, away from the table in the middle of the room, and adjacent to me. The window was the only place in the room not covered with otaku paraphernalia. Now that I had a closer look at her she had pretty fair skin and large dark eyes. It won’t do to get distracted though, so I grabbed my papers and began plotting the next arc for my sci-fi time-travelling novel. The deadline for the competition was just two months away after all. I always cut it too close with these things.
After a while my throat was getting dry, so it was time to make use of my new item. I handled the cheap white plastic kettle and tea-making utensils with care from a paper bag lying at my feet, onto to the small kitchen sink in a separate compartment of the club room, as it were, carved into the room. Although I am fairly self-centred person, it would feel wrong to drink tea by myself.
“Tea?” I asked.
Izumi raised her hand which I think maybe means that she wants it so I looked towards Yamada who was still in his plamo world.
“I would prefer coffee.”
Well, I haven’t got coffee.
When I turned to Tanaka he was still hopelessly trying to get his precious VHS tape to work, so my question didn’t even reach him.
I resigned myself to prepare tea for all four of us whether some of us wanted tea or not. I served tea in some disposable plastic cubs for the three of them and then sat down to enjoy my own cup. At times like these I would usually listen to a podcast or watch a video but now I could do neither of those things. Everyone else seemed to have also taken a break from their work. I can’t blame them, my tea is good, if I say so myself. This break gave me the opportunity to clear something I had been meaning to ask for the last few days.
“Izumi, why is it that you have kind of, but not really, banned the use of electronics in here?”
Of course I could have asked Tanaka, since he seemed eager to talk about Izumi. Did he have a crush on her, and was she wondering whether I had one too?
If I was going to ask anything about Izumi, I would ask about it from herself, not from Tanaka or anyone else. I hated that kind of bothersome behaviour.
After a pause, I was convinced that I had been ignored by Izumi turned but unexpectedly she turned her large, cold eyes towards me.
“Who was the third president of the united states?”
The question was so sudden and out of context that I unconsciously tried to answer it.
“Erm…. George Clinton? Thomas Washington? I don’t know much about foreign presidents.”
What was this history quiz?
“Okay then. What about the third prime minister of Japan?”
“It was probably some count or baron. Look if you don’t want to tell me why you banned phones in here it’s okay.”
“No, that’s not what I meant.” After another pause that made me think the conversation was over she continued. “If you could use your phone then you could have just looked up the answers to those questions. That is the reason why I have banned phones.”
That didn’t sound like a logical answer to me, but that’s okay. I knew better than anyone that arguing with people was useless. I guess that was the one useful thing from the internet, that I did learn.
Izumi opened her book to a page in the middle of her philosophy book as if to signal the conversation was over. And as she had signalled, she resumed reading her book. Speaking with her kind of felt like being left hanging for a reply on a messaging app. I also got back to my writing.
“Thanks for the tea, Ishikawa-san.”
The next day there were four ceramic cups with a slightly different design. One with a bunny design, the others with a mouse, a bear, and a turtle. I guess I was on tea-brewing duty now.