Wrapped inside the searing heartache of being a teenager all over again as I watch the sakura petals of Scum’s Wish, I’m reminded of how special and significant it all was. But particularly in Hanabi’s relationship with her friend Sanae, I’ve come to reframe one of my own first loves in a new light. The scene in which Sanae confessed to Hanabi, crying out in a collision of hope and desperation, selfish in her longing and yet selfless in wanting a better love for her friend, was like looking in on myself at the age of about 15. Overcome with the desire to clear the air at a sleepover that slipped out of control. One minute walking in the door, then suddenly over the line, in the middle of an utterance or action you never agreed to in your own mind.
Just as Sanae seems to predict between the lines, I somehow knew that I too would be rejected. I knew we had completely different feelings for one other, had a lingering awareness that her parents would have been against us. My friend, let’s call her Sophie, couldn’t have seen me as I wanted her to, so I hurt for Ecchan as she cried to her first love and Hana looked up bewildered, almost afraid. I had seen a look like that in somebody else’s eyes, after all.
Hanabi gives a boy in her class what is perhaps the worst putdown he’s been slapped with in his short life: “Is there anything more revolting than the affections of someone you have no interest in?”. I could feel that sting from both sides, the self-loathing, unease and sickening disappointment. With Sophie, it seemed to be different, but only some of the time. When I touched her, sometimes we could pass it off as a bit of fun; an experiment in figuring out the boundaries. But other times I pushed too hard, and she gave me that same look. She was probably expecting me to come out somewhere down the line, preparing the right words for that eventuality. I’ve only just started to wonder: did her words reflect how she truly felt about me and the confession I’d just blurted out? Or had it all been vaguely scripted in her mind long before, edited so as not to upset me?
Even though we remained friends for a short while after, and she was as gentle as she could be in letting me down, I knew from then on I had broken something. That our friendship could never be the happy, innocent thing it had been at the start, years before. I felt Ecchan’s embarrassment, the dread of that unavoidable future, in that stretch of time where Hanabi stared up in her stunned silence. It was ruined, after all that precious time together, for the sake of my own feelings. Nobody, not even my own family, believed that my love for Sophie was real. Nobody saw anything genuine to me crying in the dark when she found someone else to love.