To this day, I do not understand what was behind my impulse to hide from the middle-aged man. It was not that he looked dangerous or anything. When you think about it really hard, he looked somewhat similar to a young teacher who scolded us in the classroom when we were third graders. But that was just a superficial likeness. For all I could tell, his intentions were good. Kindness radiated from his countenance. And yet, somehow I wanted to hide from the man.
Perhaps I felt that peace and tranquility had been disturbed through the conversations with him. Although the chat was lively and enjoyable, probably I would have preferred being alone in the forest, listening to the sound of silence. Possibly I was secretly indignant that it was too late to regain that desired tranquility. The day was already almost spent. And I had to start heading for the station very soon. Probably I was angry with the man. Or perhaps I was just being a little bit shy.
"Ooi! Where on earth are you?!" "Ooi, are you all right?" The middle-aged man kept shouting, and his voice became louder gradually. He started to sound quite concerned. Probably, he thought that I was lost or something. He might have been thinking that I was hurt and unable to move. It might have well been that he feared I was unconscious.
When I put myself in the position of the middle-aged man now, I can well understand his concerns. Here was a 12 years old boy alone in the mountains, chasing butterfly. The boy had been chatting in a very friendly manner all the while, and all of sudden the boy was no more. No matter how often and loud you called, the boy did not answer. Maybe there had been an accident. Maybe there had been something serious. With the benefit of hindsight, it was no wonder that the middle-aged man was concerned.
I could see such a line of logic on that day, even. I felt that I had a moral obligation to yell back. However, something inhibited me from doing so. There was this strange and uncontrollable agitation in my heart. As time passed, and as the middle-aged man's calls became louder and more desperate, I increasingly felt that it was now probably too late to answer back. In the beginning, it was just a tiny twist in my whimsical mind. I just failed to answer the first few yells. And yet, now that I had remained silent for such a long time, the middle-aged man should be suspecting that there was some intention on my part, something hideous, something even vicious. And I could not bear such thoughts any more.
(This story is to be continued tomorrow)