I don’t know about you, but my high school years were… not very exciting. I spent a lot of time by myself, reading in the corner of the classroom or somewhere quiet in the library at lunch. I had a group of friends, yeah, but there were only a few that I’d ever really talk to. Even then, I’d always decline if they ever asked me to go out somewhere, telling them about how busy I was or how I “had other plans”.
I never said much. I remember a few of my classmates sometimes asking why I was so quiet all the time, why I only tried to just sit there and read. I never knew how to answer. That was just how I was, I guess – I didn’t like talking, and I wasn’t very comfortable around most people. Why? I’d tell you I was shy, but I wouldn’t be saying very much. And it’s not like I was bullied or anything – no one picked on me or hated me in particular. I might’ve preferred being by myself, sure, but I still had a few friends – it wasn’t like I hated being around people. I think someone called me mute once.
It’s been almost a year since I graduated and I’ve… moved on… since then, but I’d be lying if I said it’s all just in the past. When we graduated, that was that – some of us went to the same university, some didn’t. I ended up cutting ties with most of those who didn’t, and I still don’t find myself talking a whole lot with those who did. But, hey, at the very least I’ve come to realise how silly I used to be, trying to stay away from people like the plague – it’s all just a natural part of growing up, and only now did I get the chance to finally join the club.
OreGairu understands this. All of it. Everything. You see it in the slight furrow of Hikigaya’s brow as his head rests on his palm, eyes brooding over to the noisiest parts of the classroom. You see it in the droop of his shoulders, hands finding solace where his trouser pockets were, as his bag bounces in perfect rhythm to each of his slow, dreary steps. OreGairu knows what it’s like to sit in that corner of the classroom, by yourself, never talking, with you finding your mouth a little stale when it’s time to leave because it’s been closed for so long. It’s just that OreGairu… does not think these things are silly.
People are weird. We say one thing when we mean the opposite, we’re quick to find flaws but we’re not quick to trust. We’re nasty for the sake of nastiness, and we’re still all sorts of vicious to others even when we don’t know it. People are complex and hard to understand, incredibly strange and all sorts of unpredictable – no one plays by exactly the same rules, and we will never reach a perfect understanding of each other no matter how hard we try. I’m with Hikigaya on this one: why do we still keep trying to get caught up in this mess when we know it’ll just cause us all sorts of problems later?
…Or that’s what I’d be saying a year ago, at least. Because to someone like Hikigaya – someone like me, in the past – we can’t explain why people find themselves inevitably drawn to each other anyway.
Because to OreGairu, you don’t need to.
It’s how when you strip away all of his self-defeating cynicism and hateful snark, Hikigaya is actually a pretty ordinary teenage boy, with all the same desire, jealousy, and fear as any other. We see it when he’s with Komachi: he’s not with the outside world anymore, he’s with someone he knows. He’s calm, he’s open, and she listens while he lets out all of his deepest wounds, all of his most buried secrets. It’s no surprise, of course, when they’re family – they’ve been there for each other for fifteen years, and they’ll be there for another fifteen more. Hikigaya says he lives the way he does because he has no other choice, but that’s not true – he lives the way he does because he doesn’t trust the world enough to share himself with it, to share the Hikigaya that banters so naturally and playfully with his little sister.
But it’s a slow process. OreGairu only manages to give us a vague eventuality, a “one day he’ll change” kind of thing, because it takes actually spending time with your closest friends to realise how far you’ve managed to distance yourself from them in the first place. Hikigaya’s finally starting to open himself up to the world, even if just a little, and through OreGairu we see how that can have profound effects on other people. Even then, he still doesn’t get anything more from those who aren’t close to him than a “you’ve kinda changed”, with them finding him only slightly less boring to look at. Because… that’s how it is. Because it’s the small things like that that show how, someday, maybe when he’s dusting off one of his old yearbooks he found in his garage, he’ll be able to look back on this moment as just an embarrassing memory – when he could say he was more open, honest, and true to himself than ever before.
My birthday’s coming up in a few weeks. I’ve never been to many parties, but maybe I’ll invite a few people to a movie or something. I know I won’t change in a week, and I certainly won’t change tomorrow, but in a year, maybe two, I might not be saying the same. OreGairu gave me a chance, and I’m not letting it go. But I can thank it later. For now, it’s time to turn OreGairu off – I have some old friends to catch up on.