Toshiro stepped out of his apartment’s calming marble entrance lobby and into the craziness of the city street. The pavement was packed, and Toshiro hated crowds, but he needed to see his cousin, Haruki. He needed to talk to him about what had happened at school earlier. He could still hear the screaming inside his head.
He’d taken only a few steps before he glimpsed the balding head and goatee beard of Mr Sasaki, his chemistry teacher. Mr Sasaki was the last person on the planet that Toshiro wanted to see. Was Mr Sasaki searching for him? Had he been found out? Had Dayu and Fujio told on him?
‘Takahashi-kun. Toshiro. Wait.’
Toshiro veered right down a side road. Best to pretend he hadn’t seen him or heard him. Best to pretend he was in a hurry to get somewhere. Toshiro broke into a run. He dodged newspaper stands and rubbish bins, leapt over a fallen bicycle and scooted around a sushi vendor. Skidding left into the main street, he merged with Tokyo’s evening rush-hour crowds and snaked through the squash of bodies. Small for thirteen, his face was level with most people’s armpits. The stink of sweat and deodorant flew up his nostrils.
The darkening city bombarded him with sensation–flashing neon lights, blaring car horns, advert jingles, grilling fish, exhaust fumes, coffee. He dashed on, his breaths sharp and shallow. He was getting a stitch.
Toshiro didn’t dare look behind. If he did that, Mr Sasaki would know he was deliberately avoiding him. How far could middle-aged men run? Surely, he’d stopped chasing him by now.
The traffic lights ahead changed colour. Toshiro forced himself into the huddle of people crossing the road, like a fish seeking safety in the centre of a shoal. Once on the other side, he darted through a shop doorway hoping that Mr Sasaki would run past.