GAIDEN: KIZUNA

"In that book which is my memory, On the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you, appear the words, 'Here begins a new life'."

- Dante Alighieri

STANDING UP TO CHEER

1

Cady Hall – South Green

Ohio University

Athens, Ohio

September 2004

Ryan was relieved to get a single room. It wasn't typical for freshman to get a single but since he was twenty-one, the residence director allowed it. He didn't have to worry about being stuck with some annoying bastard of a roommate that would either smoke weed in the room or steal or both. On the flipside, it left him mostly alone making it a bit harder for him to meet people. Sure, he could have been able to put his name out there by having a roommate and have someone to talk to but that would only work if the person was tolerable and not some stupid stoner. The pros of being alone outweighed having a roommate. One of those pros was decorating the room and not worrying about someone else.

The room wasn't much to look at. It still smelled like Murphy's Oil. Just a desk, bed, a microwave and a mini-fridge. He didn't plan on leaving the room spartan for long. The Steelers and Bulls posters he brought would go a long way helping his room look better. Then there was his coveted Britney Spears poster that would stand alone but he hadn't decided where yet. It was a nice one of her wearing a cut off pink shirt showing off her stomach leaning against a post.

He set up his PS2 and TV on the shelf in between the closets. His books lined the back of his desk with his own Star Trek novel out in front. While he liked to show it off, he didn't tell anyone that was his book. He used a pen name for his books. Even if he had used his real name he didn't expect anyone to come into his room, let alone notice his name on a book.

His stomach growled as he finished organizing things. Now was a good time as any to head to the dining hall. Nelson was the closest one. He shoved a book into his backpack thinking it'd be better to read something than to just sit alone at a table and looked awkward.

The catwalks led to the dining hall. He walked by the giant windows that showed off the giant dining area. It was a little after five and packed. He let out an audible sigh but begrudgingly continued inside only to see a line wrapped around the corner. He continued into the lobby past the line to see what else was offered. There was small store on his right that sold various items including candy. It said Snack Attack above the entryway. Straight ahead was the Nelson Market. The lobby wasn't anything to write home about as it was relatively bare. There was a lower level seating area where some students sat eating food from the grab n go place, with its own long ass line, that was situated next to the main doors to the dining hall.

He remembered there was some fast food places nearby where he and his family had gone to for lunch. They didn't seem too far away if he remembered correctly. He was about to get ready to leave when he realized he could just have pizza delivered to him. It was settled.

2

Nelson Dining Hall – South Green

Ohio University

September 7, 2004

Ryan finally got into the dining hall for lunch after his morning classes. The dining hall had just opened for its lunch hours. He handed the cute girl behind the counter his ID card and she swiped it through a black machine. It beeped allowing him access. He mimicked the person in front of him and went around to each area. The serving stations were in the shape of a horseshoe with the drink station in the middle of the area.. The desserts and sandwich stations were on the ends with the main food in the middle. The right side served fast food while the left side served other various types.

Ryan inspected the first area where they were serving ravioli. He jumped at that one. He proceeded to the next line and got a burger and fries. The drink station had a good variety in terms of drinks but only had Pepsi products as far as pop was concerned. He sat down at the table behind the girl at the counter who swiped his card. She had a nice athletic frame that her form fitting clothes complemented. He pulled out a notebook to map out his next story so that he could focus on something else other than the cute girl.

"Hey Kim," a voice said that for some reason caught Ryan's attention. A linebacker built black guy in a tie approached the girl. "How we lookin' so far?"

The girl slid a piece of paper over to him. "A little slow at the moment but I'm sure it'll pick up later."

The guy nodded and gave Ryan a glance making him feel like he may have taken the guy's normal seat. He walked off grabbing a tray before heading to the serving lines. Ryan went back to his notebook. A few minutes later, Ryan looked up at the sound of a tray being set down nearby. It was the guy from before. "Hey how you doin'?"

"Not bad," Ryan said. "Just getting into the swing of things?"

"Like it so far?"

Ryan nodded. "Yeah, it seems like a nice area from what I've seen. Kinda similar from my hometown."

"Where you from?"

"Liberty Falls, Pennsylvania."

The man froze and his eyes widened as he stuck a utensil full of food in his mouth. "So your school was…?"

Ryan nodded. "Yeah. That was my class. I was one of the hostages."

The man leaned back in his chair looking exhausted. "Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to bring that up."

Ryan waved his hand back and forth rapidly. "Don't worry about it. It was traumatic but I don't mind talking about it."

"So what's your major?" The man asked as he leaned forward to take a bite.

"History Education but I'd love to teach English in Japan."

"So why not major in ESL or at least English Education?"

"History is my first love when it comes to subjects and if for some reason something happens and I can't teach in Japan then I have a fallback plan of teaching history here."

"You have a good plan. I like that in a person. What do you do for work in the meantime?"

"I don't have a job yet. I was wondering where would be a good place to work."

"You want a job here?"

3

Nelson Dining Hall

Ohio University

Ryan's availability was greatly limited due to his practice schedule. He found out that it was normal for college students to work a few hours a week. He originally thought he'd have to put in several hours a day but there were some who only did two hours a week. He could understand doing that a day but only for the week, what was the point?

The job itself didn't require any skill once the person was trained by one of the student managers. The one who trained him gave off an aura that he was incredibly intelligent. His actions were slow and methodical. He chose his words carefully when explaining how to perform certain tasks. His small oval shaped glasses also helped with the image. Wearing glasses did not give this same feeling when it came to another manager. He was skinnier than Ryan's trainer with a head the shape of a football sitting on its tip. He was a frat boy, a Phi Delta Theta. It was something of which the guy was extremely proud. It was the first thing out of his mouth when he introduced himself.

With lunchtime over, Ryan began to work on cleaning the fryer. The other person assigned to cleaning the kitchen worked on the flattop grills next to the fryer. His name was Kevin but everyone called him Roe. He spent a few years in the Marines before going to college. It turned out the two were neighbors as they lived on the same floor in Cady Hall.

"Hey," Roe said. "Come get some of these before they send them back to the pots and pans area. He grabbed a handful of chicken nuggets from one of the pans and shoved him into the pocket of his apron.

"Wait, are we allowed?"

"No but these things are fucking delicious. They're just going to throw them out anyway."

"Well shit, in that case." Ryan also helped himself to the half full pan of nuggets. He popped one of them into his mouth.

"I saw that," a voice said. The startled pair turned around to see a girl sticking her head through the pass through window. The girl was a runner for the hot line. Her job was to come back into the kitchen and grab food and either stick them into the wall warmer or carry them directly out onto the line. Ryan also didn't know why they called it the hot line. All the other stations had names that made sense such as the fast food or desserts. Why not call it something else instead of hot line since the food at the other stations, except for desserts, was also hot?

"You saw nothing," Ryan shot back heading back to the fryer.

"Give me some and I won't say anything," she said.

"You're such an extortionist, Quinn," Roe said.

"No, extortion would be telling you to join the Japan Club or I'll tell on you for eating on the job."

"That's the same thing," Ryan said.

"I know. I'm just trying to get more members to join."

"Extortion is one way to do it. What do you do in Japan Club?"

"We have a weekly movie night, we do tea ceremonies, we go to DC in April for the Sakura Festival."

"Sounds fun, I'll have to think about it. I want to teach English in Japan so maybe the club will be helpful."

"That's even more reason for you to join."

"Do any Japanese girls come?"

"Not really. It's mostly Americans."

"Oh well now you're only going to get a maybe out of me at this point."