Hierarchy of Desires

by Laurie Bunter


Summary: During his hours off from work, Professor Hanamoto still manages to do some teaching... even if he gets mixed results.

characters for this installment: Professor Hanamoto, Hagu, Ayu Yamada

timeline: Chapters 20-21 of the manga.


Disclaimer: Honey and Clover is written and illustrated by Chica Umino.


Professor Hanamoto had been waiting for this moment.

He knew that he shouldn't be amused to know that Hagu finally snapped. She sat, hour after hour, staring at the huge blank canvas in the back room without moving, without speaking… perhaps without even catching her breath. Her eyes were shiny with trouble. Her cheeks were flushed.

Hanamoto knew that a fever was imminent. There was nothing he could do about it except check the medicine cabinet and wait for the collapse.

He wondered why he bothered to get his PhD. in art history if all he was destined to do what play nurse-maid to his little ward.

"What's wrong with Hagu-chan?" Yamada whispered, as if she was visiting a hospital ward.

He lit another cigarette and inhaled deeply. "She finally realized that what she wants is totally different from what she needs."

Perhaps it was not the right person to hear that pronouncement, but the sentence was waiting to be said out loud. Hanamoto knew it, the moment he saw Hagu fingering the old-fashioned wooden duck brooch at her neck, fretting like a lovesick fairy tale princess.

He wanted to shake her by the shoulders and say, "hey, your failed trip to the art shop with Morita doesn't equate rejection, you little ninny," but… to say that aloud would be devastating. And not just to Hagu either. Hanamoto didn't know if his bruised ego could take it. He felt bad enough, as it is, that Rika Harada relied more on Mayama now…

The professor sighed. Takemoto may be skilled at making miniature Rococo furniture, bless his simple heart, but Hanamoto knew instinctively that Morita made the brooch. It didn't belong in any hard-bound art book meant to be copied by struggling art students. It had a rustic charm he couldn't quite place.

It was just like the pink mules. It was silly and nostalgic.

Only a young woman on the cusp of disaster would be troubled by such a small token of affection.

Yamada shook off her clay-stained apron to reveal a frilly blouse and her favorite Magritte-patterned skirt. She moved towards the stove to make tea. "I don't understand what you mean, Sensei. Is there a difference between what one needs and what one wants?"

Hanamoto pulled himself back to the present. His mind had wandered. He rubbed his forehead in a futile manner. How could he explain this concept to Yamada? Perhaps it was impossible, Yamada had her own relationship problems. Still, Hanamoto was never one to give up trying to make a student comprehend a lesson.

He randomly selected two items on his desk. "Pick one," he said, "and only one."

Yamada peered at his opened palms to see two objects: a pocket knife and a brass replica of Henry Moore's Reclining Figure.

"Is this a joke?"

"No, it's not a joke. You asked me a question, and I ask you one in return."

"You're not serious, Sensei."

"I swear," Hanamoto said, "this is a legitimate exercise in lateral thinking."

"But what do I need it for?"

Hanamoto wanted to grit his teeth. "That's not the point of the lesson, Yamada. You must pick one."

"Do I get to keep it afterwards?"

Hanamoto groaned. "Of course not. These things are mine."

"Then why are you asking me to pick?"

"You asked me a question. This is my reply in return. Now choose."

"May I examine them both?"

Hanamoto couldn't believe it was taking her this long. "Go ahead."

Yamada turned both items over with her hands. The pocket knife was getting rusty at the joint but the edge was still sharp. Its nicked blade was proof it was used for inappropriate tasks like carving wood and turning screws. If Sensei said she needed an object for survival on a deserted island, there would be no question about it.

The tiny Henry Moore figurine, however, was a definite puzzle. Yamada laid down the pocket knife to examine the exquisite treasure. How did Sensei managed to obtain it? She may be a ceramics major but she did know some things about sculpture. She turned it over to look for a signature; yes, it was there. If this was the real thing – or even an authorized copy – it was worth a hefty sum. She knew Sensei collected old Japanese prints, but this item should be out of his salary range. There was no logical reason why Sensei should have such an object and yet, it was here. What did this sculpture mean to Sensei?

"It's too difficult to choose," she blurted out. "They are both so different."

Finally.

Her wide eyes unfurled under such long lashes. "Oh."

"So you finally got it?"

"Maybe," she said. "But what's this got to do with Hagu-chan?"

The professor sighed. Perhaps not. "Everything and nothing at all."

He reached for his cigarette once more. Apparently it had gone out. He still nibbled on the stub, thinking it over.

"This is the crux of the problem. For some people, even two choices are one too many."

Yamada was not listening. Perhaps it was a sensitive topic for her. Instead she cocked her head, as if she heard something stirring in the alcove. "I'll check on Hagu-chan. She may have fainted again, poor thing."

Hanamoto nodded. He knew that Hagu hadn't fainted – but perhaps something he said disturbed Yamada. He slowly got up, and moved the pocket knife and the figurine back to his desk.

When he turned around, he realized that the kettle was whistling. The water for the tea, now boiling merrily on the stove, was forgotten. Hanamoto sighed and turned the flame off.

Too many people expect me to pick up the pieces, he thought.

He wondered, not for the first time, what he awful deed had he did in a past life to deserve this treatment. Whatever it was, he hoped he enjoyed it damn too much.


More to follow.