I own nothing.




I sit in the cafe on the corner fiddling with the Rubik's Cube. I don't even try to solve it. I don't have a strategy, a plan. It's become therapeutic, feeling the squares resist, then slide into a new puzzle, a new formation for a better mind than mine. I could maybe try to get the cube back to its original colors.

I inhale on the cigarette, letting the smoke linger in my lungs. I should really quit. Everyone tells me I should quit. I exhale, and a little bit of grey fog pools out and fades away.

I kinda got the cube to impress people. For a while, I never twisted the cube. I kept it the way it came: solved. And I showed everyone that I had "completed" the cube. I was so proud of that trickery. For a while, I thought I would be Smart Torako. Smart Torako who solved a Rubik's Cube. But no one cares. They just say, "Oh, cool," and you know they don't think it's cool.

I sound sort of like a downer right now, and I really am not. There's a spark of optimism in my outlook. Asagi tells me that I have the soul of a poet. Sometimes I think that's true. Then I look back on high school and I remember: I can't write poems worth shit.

Asagi also tells me that I use the cube to attract smart men. That's not true, either. I have this theory on smart men. They're the best kind of guy, but the worst to get in a relationship with. They have deep reasons for breaking up with girls, and the deep reasons hurt the most. Dumb guys, it's all reasons like, "I like someone else," or "I don't like you anymore." Deep guys, the reasons are so well thought out, you feel like you're reading their thesis. Ryuu broke up with me because "We aren't truly compatible. You are not the person I was destined to love." What the hell? I asked him if he got that line from an anime.

I wave to Asagi, who just got off the bus across the street. I take another drag of smoke and choke on it. Because Asagi's got a new boyfriend, and it's her neighbor's coworker. And dammit, we made a pact!

When we first met Yasuda Yanda, we both sort of liked him. He was cute, funny, and not too intellectual. But what girls, outside of TV, throw their friendship fighting over a guy? So we agreed to not date him. And now they're crossing the street arm in arm. I should have seen this coming. Asagi is so beautiful, both inside and out, no guy can resist her. She's childish in that gamine way, playing on swing sets and chasing the ice cream truck. Now that I think about it, her and Yanda are both stupid in that way that makes you adore them.

I don't have a boyfriend right now, and I don't really mind. For a while, I think I used them for drama. To shock them, to try and get them to "fix" me. They would see my bony frame, jutting collarbone and poking elbows. They would tell me to eat more, and eventually ask, "Torako, are you anorexic?" I wasn't. Honestly, I'm just a bony lady. But I would say, "I don't know... Maybe." And they would embrace me and kiss my forehead, tell me I was perfect, tell me I was beautiful, and feel too guilty to leave me. I craved that attention.

So it started with the false anorexia. Then it was smoking. "Torako, you have to quit." And I would cry and say, "I know, I know!" So they would put up with my bitter-tasting kisses a while longer. It got worse. I would pretend to be alcoholic. Depressed. Suicidal. Anything for them to tell me, "Torako, you're perfect, so perfect."

It was one of the smart ones who figured it out. He grasped my arm to look at the horizontal white "scars" he saw there. "Tora, what the hell is this? Did you cut yourself?" Trying not to smile, I said, "No! No, I don't! Please, don't look!" But he rubbed at a line and the white eyeliner smudged- I didn't have the guts to actually do it. He dropped my arm, looking disgusted. The next morning, he was gone.

So, yeah. I've been trying to stop all that manipulative stuff. One afternoon, the whole story spilled out to Asagi. I cried and I told her, "I'm sorry. I'm sure you don't want to be friends with someone so messed up." She cocked her head, and her brown eyes widened.

"You're not messed up. You're just stupid. So cut it out." It was so great to hear that, because it was true. I did some stupid things. I stopped.

Smart Torako isn't me. Poet Torako isn't me. Childish Torako isn't me. Dysfunctional Torako isn't me.

But I think I can find Real Torako somewhere. She's a famous photographer. She doesn't smoke. Smart guys don't break up with her (in fact, she's married one).

And I hear she loves to solve Rubik's cubes.