It was a warm day on the sandy shores of Manhattan. The heat waves crawled along the ground, travelled forwards and whirled, in the same breath, up a small, ground-going cloud of sand. The blue sky above was completely free of clouds, and gave no protection against the ravishing sunrays. The sea-waves beat timelessly, endlessly towards the shore, with viscous movements like in a slow motion video. Children played on the shore, adults baked themselves in the sizzling sun, and the whole scenery expressed itself like a lively, captivating panorama.
Vaguely, you could see two people walking along the shore, and as they drew closer, the first thing that hit you was how different they were from each other. While one of them was quite high, with blond hair caught by the wind, jade-coloured eyes and the looks of a film star in general, the other one was quite small, with Asian features; ebony, close-cropped hair, dark brown, slanted eyes. Both of them were quite young, probably not even in their 20s, and both wore lightweight, summery t-shirts and denim trousers. Their feet were bare. Over it all there resided a serenity, and most people would have thought they were just two normal friends, gone down to the shore to enjoy the day and the nice weather. It wasn't before they came closer you could see the cloud of gravity that hung over them.
When the two boys arrived at the beach, the boiling hot sand under their feet, they slung themselves down onto a sand dune beside each other, arms outstretched, T-shirts drenched with sweat. They kept laying there, eyes towards the skies, when the blond one suddenly turned around and faced the Asian.
"Eiji," he mumbled quietly. "Tomorrow you're going home…" A sad smile crossed his lips, but disappeared the same moment it'd arrived.
"Mhm," Eiji answered. "…I'm going home. Home to Japan. It'll be nice seeing my family again. Mom and dad missed me, I guess… they're probably worried to death. And my little sister… God knows what little sisters think." He said it with longing, a smile playing in the corners of his mouth, but the happiness wasn't reflected in his eyes.
"You have a little sister? …bet she's pretty." The blond one directed his eyes towards the sky again, his eyes ever searching.
"Geez, Ash, I've told you a thousand times already… Goldfish-brain!" Eiji threw his arms out in an excessive, resigned movement, and continued, "and pretty she's not. She's actually kinda ugly."
Ash chuckled a little to himself, but said nothing.
The children played on the beach, and the sea lay ahead of the boys like a glittering mirror, though disturbed by the children splashing around and the ripples on the water surface. A small girl tried building a sand castle at the shoreline, which the waves immediately snatched away.
"Do you remember when you were younger, and how devastated you'd become when the waves stole your castle? We had a little seaside cottage, and every summer my little sister and I used to build advanced sand castles, which, the day after, always had been washed away. We were just as sad every time. It feels like such a long time ago now, and yet, not so long ago at all." Eiji's smile turned genuine, and his eyes softened, emanating a soft glow.
"…I never built sand castles."
The fresh summer breeze caught a little cloud of sand, and carried it out to sea.
"So, you're going home tomorrow…" The voice died down.
"…have you ever though about how small a part we really are of the greater whole?" Ash turned to Eiji again. "I mean, just look at the sea." His gesticulating hand lead their eyes out to the great blue. "You see a vast sheet of water, bigger than you can imagine, that just disappears in the horizon, and you know for sure this is just a small bit of it all. No matter where in the world you are, no matter what angle you look at it from, you can only see a fraction of the total. However, you can, if you just take a short trip out to town, see thousands of people only with the glance of an eye. Sorta makes you realize how small you are, right? How insignificant… If you die, no one cares. You can easily be replaced." He closed his eyes. "But the sound of the sea is lovely."
The both of them focused their ears on the sea's roaring, which could be heard even over the sound of the children playing at the beach.
He hasn't had it easy. From the sex-toy of a mafia-leader to the leader of a gang in the under ground society… an obvious improvement, but no matter what, he's had to work hard for it. Opposition from every direction, never the feeling that others care about you… it's not weird he thinks that way. Eiji cast his glance down. The crashing of the waves still rang in his ears, and the wind caught his hair and played with it.
"Ash," he murmured quietly, "it's not true that you're insignificant. The ones close to you can never find a replacement…."
"Maybe that's true for you. Not for me." He caught Eiji's hand. "Eiji, I'm a gang-leader in the back-streets of New York. I have numerous enemies, and have killed more than I can ever count. If I should try starting anew, I would just be run down by the cops; cast in jail or given a death sentence, who knows? I have no future, is nothing worth for the world around me. While you," he nodded towards the other boy, " you still have a future. Every road is open. You can choose whatever you wanna do. You have a family. You have people who care." Jealousy sounded in his voice.
The sun hung lower in the sky now, and people started to slowly leave the beach. A small boy emptied his bucket of crabs into the sea again.
They sat quietly. Eiji softly squeezed Ash's hand. "Ash, think of your gang-members. You mean something to them. They've chosen to follow you because they like you. And… I'd also be sad if you passed on." He directed his eyes towards the sea, towards the line where the water of the sea and the blue of the sky melted together and became one. "…You really don't think you're significant?"
They sat studying the landscape. A couple of clouds had appeared from nothing, and clouded, for a moment, up the evening sun. Only the sounds from the sea and the barking of a dog in the distance could be heard.
"Maybe you're right…" The answer came slowly, slowly as if should the words be chewed four times and digested before leaving his mouth.
"Of course I'm right! I'm always right!" Eiji's mouth parted into a huge grin. Ash grinned back.
The darkness approached by leaps and bounds. Not one of the two boys knew what time it was, nor how long they'd been sitting there and enjoyed the last day in each other's presence, but both could feel how the heat of the day had diminished.
"It feels like you arrived here ages ago…"
"Well, it has been quite a while now."
"…and now you're leaving again. It's weird. And sad. I'll be lonely…" Ash's words trailed off.
Eiji gave him a sad smile. "It's not for ever, you know. I'll definitely be back to visit. Oh, and you could visit me in Japan! It's not for ever…" It's not forever. It's just…
"Really…? We come from two entirely different worlds." Ash put words to what Eiji didn't even wish to think about. "You're just a normal guy. Me, on the other hand…"
They sat unmoving, quietly, and watched how the evening sun slowly set in the sea. This sunset marked the end of their last day together. Everything felt silent.
"You?" Ash suddenly asked, and broke the silence around them. "You won't forget me, will you?" The voice had a hint of vulnerability, which it'd never had before. Eiji had never heard him like this.
"No, never," sounded Eiji's melancholy voice, but he added, to lighten the mood: "So, New York's great gang-leader has actually got a soft side?"
The comment resulted in a light punch from Ash's side. He laughed quietly to himself.
From their position they could see how the sun sank deep down into the sea, and how the darkness spread out its coat.
"It's probably time we got back," said Ash suddenly, and stood up.
"Are you coming?"
"Ah, sure…" Eiji stood up too. They slowly started walking, and their bare feet made tracks where they tread deep down into the sand. The waves rushed over them, but long after the two boys had disappeared, you could still see the outline of those tracks. The faint contours, which even the waves couldn't wash away.