Imagine me as a skeleton. My skull is pearly off-white, hard and hollow except for maybe a spongy fragment lingering in the back. Smile at me I'll smile at you because I don't have a choice. Look closely and you'll see every last little flaw over a lifetime of poor dental hygiene. Use my head as a bowling ball if you want; see if I stop you.
The same is true for the rest of my bones, bleached white, perhaps with slight brown-red stains that you can't see because they're on my back or under my legs. Even if those stains are not visible I want you to know that they're there.
Everything else in here still has a place, too. The jeans and magenta nylon jacket keep out the cold, as does the new yellow sleeping bag. The tent is ragged but effective enough. I'm not picky when it comes to camping supplies. I just want something that almost works.
I laugh. Shouta, I say, why does a skeleton need clothes, or a backpack, or a tent to keep itself dry in a forest of endless damp? They're good for picking me out in the dark, which you might need since I can't tell you I'm in here. They're also symbols, but when did a skeleton need symbols. Those aren't for me. They're for you.
I sit cross-legged on my sleeping bag and take my leather Billabong wallet into my hands. It's smooth and worn out. My parents insist I replace it soon, but I ignore them because an old wallet is like an old friend. I accept it as it is.
The contents of my wallet is ordinary and spare. 5,000 yen in five notes is enough for a quick cab ride to the nearest village, perhaps 15 kilometers to the north and then east along a twisting road that borders the Jukai. There's also the receipt from my trip out here, for 110,000 yen, from a bit farther. The tent is dark because the forest is dark and I strain to see as the tent is opaque and blocks any light that percolates down through the trees and finds its way to me.
I dump the contents in my lap and set the money aside. The only other items remaining in my wallet are a bank card and my school ID. Both say my name. Shouta Doi. That's me.
I am my parents son even if they don't wish it anymore. I am here because of them and because of myself.
The forest is close and squeezes around me as branches press against the tent. Zipping the front flap doesn't help, as wind squeezes through microscopic gaps and find every millimeter of exposed skin. I shiver and my arms prickle with bumps as I slip into the sleeping bag.