The Song Book is a sad story about a young man who finds a book in a second-hand shop and realizes it may have belonged to a girl he went to school with years before.
I was browsing through the shelves of a second-hand bookstore when I came across one book that looked familiar. It was a song book I remembered from our music class in elementary school. Every student in my class had a copy of it.
When I flipped through the pages, I saw the lyrics of all the songs I liked at the time, such as “Like a Blue Sky” and “Green Green”. It made me feel nostalgic, so on a whim, I decided to buy it.
When I got home that evening, I took out the song book and opened the page to “Take Me Anywhere on a Balloon” which had always been my favorite song.
In the margin, in the lower right-hand corner, there was a little doodle. It was a drawing of a boy and a girl, done in the style of girls’ cartoons. Clearly, the previous owner of the book had been a schoolgirl.
The boy was wearing a shirt with a big number “3” on it and the name “Saburo-kun” was written over his head. There was no name written over the girl’s head.
It made me smile a little because my name is also Saburo.
As I examined the book more closely, I noticed that the girl who owned the book had written her name inside the front cover. The letters were faint and faded, so I could only make out part of the name.
When I was in elementary school, there were two girls in my class with similar names. One of them was Hideko Tagaki. I remembered her name, but I didn’t really know her very well. I couldn’t even remember her face.
The other girl was Junko Namaki. Of course, I remembered her very well. How could I forget her? She was my first love.
I felt a strange flutter in my heart as I thought about the possibility that the song book I was holding had belonged to my first love. Could that even be possible? It was just too much of a coincidence. The second-hand bookshop was not even in the same city as my elementary school and there must have been thousands of these song books circulating in the country. It didn’t seem possible, but stranger things have happened…
However, I recalled something about Junko Namaki… She always liked drawing pictures… and she was always staring at me during the music lessons…
I had a lot of mixed emotions as I turned to the next page.
The song was “It Takes Two Hearts” and, in the margin, there was another doodle of the same boy and girl. It was a drawing of them sitting at a table, eating food together.
The next page was “Your Love Gives Me Wings”. The drawing showed the boy and the girl standing together with big smiles on their faces. The girl was holding a baby in her arms. Apparently the girl who owned the book was dreaming of getting married.
The next page was “This Is How I Love You”. There was another doodle of the boy and the girl holding hands, but the girl’s face was scribbled out. Did her classmates do that? I wondered. Or did she do it herself?
The next page was “Why Does Love Have To Be So Cruel”. This time, there was no boy in the drawing. The girl was just standing there alone, crying. On the table in front of her, there was some sort of snail or caterpillar. What on earth happened? I wondered. I couldn’t even begin to imagine.
The next page was “That Wonderful Feeling Once Again”. The drawing in the margin was much darker in style and it left a bad taste in my mouth. It seemed to depict a coffin and an open grave. There were no more boys or girls. The drawings in the song book ended there.
I couldn’t get the drawings out of my mind, so I pulled all my old school yearbooks out of the attic and began leafing through them. I found Junko Namaki. My heart skipped a beat when I saw her photo. How could it not? After all, she was my first love. She was even prettier than I remembered.
I also looked for Hideko Tagaki. However, I couldn’t find her photo. She had left the class when we were in 5th grade, but she wasn’t in any of the other classes and her name didn’t appear in any of the rosters.
The next day, I asked my mother if she remembered a girl named Hideko Tagaki. My mother had been on the board of the PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) at the time, so she had known a lot of the students and their parents.
“I actually do remember that girl,” my mother said. “She passed away. I think it was in an accident when you were in 5th grade.”
I had completely forgotten about it. I vaguely remembered that a girl in the school had died and there was a bit of a fuss about it. I didn’t realize that it was Hideko Tagaki.
“But now that I think about it,” my mother continued, “It wasn’t an accident at all. She killed herself… Yes, I remember now… The girl committed suicide. The police were involved. It was all very sad. Her poor family…”
That was the first time I had heard about it. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I had to know more, so I called my old classmate, Okamura. We had been best friends in school. We always hung out together and were always up to some kind of mischief or other. Okamura said he knew that Hideko Tagaki had died and he had also heard the rumors that it was suicide. We talked for a while and reminisced about the old days.
“You remember that shirt you always used to wear?” he asked. “The one with the big number 3 on the front…”
While we were talking, I had been idly leafing through the song book. Suddenly, I snapped it closed.
I had completely forgotten, but now I remembered. He was right. I did wear a shirt with a big number 3 on it. That confirmed it. The boy in the drawings really was me… and that meant the girl was…
“Remember what we did to that girl?” he said. “What we did to her was really wrong. We were bullying her all the time. It wasn’t right. One time, in the cafeteria, I poured milk all over her head and you put a caterpillar in her meal. Do you remember that?”
At that moment, everything came back to me. Suddenly, I got a sharp pain in my chest. The song book dropped from my hands and I bent over, sobbing uncontrollably. As the horrible reality finally dawned on me, I knew that the girl who owned the song book was definitely Hideko Tagaki.