“Hey, Kinjirou. What do you think about your name?”
A hospital room filled with the smell of chemicals.
Lying under the bed sheets, my old man said that to the young me.
Father’s face was very thin.
Ever since he was born, his body… especially his heart, has been weak. He somehow managed to live, deceiving death again and again, but five years after I was born finally came the moment when the doctor told him that he wouldn’t be able to continue living without a surgery.
The chance of success for the surgery was 50%.
Half a chance to live and half a chance to die.
That day was the day that the surgery of fate was going to happen. Even though it could be the last conversation between father and son, my old man calmly asked that.
“Idiot. Don’t go saying that the name I gave you is uncool.”
He lightly beat my head. It didn’t hurt, of course. Being hit by such a thin arm wouldn’t hurt. But still I lowered my head and moaned, “It hurts”. Somehow, I felt that I should do that.
“Listen, your name has a deep meaning behind it. It is not just an old fashioned name.”
“…But it sure feels old.”
“Well, just shut up and listen. Do you know the meaning of ‘stand by me’?”
The still-young me answered “A relative from a gasoline stand?”(1) Dad laughed so hard that he had problems breathing, even though he could be dying soon.
“Wrong. ‘Stand by me’ means something like, ‘I want you to be by my side’”.
“Not this kind of soba. More like ‘stay close to me.’ How is it? Romantic, right?”
“… I don’t understand.”
“Haha. Well, this was expected. The hurdle is a bit too high for a five year old kid.”
It is a bit unreasonable to ask that to a kid who doesn’t even know how to write his name correctly.
I am sure that Dad also knew that.
But—Even so, Dad continued the conversation seriously.
“Here, Kinjirou. The kanji in your name means [close](3). The main point is, I want you to become a man that can say ‘stand by me’ to someone.”
“Yeah, someone. And I’m sure that this someone will be a very important person to you. Your mom, Kureha, and someone that you really care about. Be a man that can say ‘stand by me’ to these people. This meaning is inserted into your name. Isn’t it cool?”
“Hmmm… a little bit.”
For some reason, Dad was laughing with a funny face.
“Become strong, Kinjirou. I’m sure that being my and your mother’s son, you will become strong. Become strong and protect the important people by your side. This is a promise. ‘Stand by me’. This is a promise between me and you—Between Sakamachi Jirou and Sakamachi Kinjirou.”
“…Hmm, I got it.”
In truth, I didn’t understand anything, but for the time being I nodded.
Maybe because at that time my dream was to become a superhero, I just wanted to become strong, or maybe I just tried to understand Dad’s words desperately.
But it’s troubling, I still don’t understand it very well.
Stand by me.
The meaning of these words that you left behind in your final moments.
Why did you have tell me that no matter what…?
(1) Stand by me in Japanese is スタンド・バイ・ミー or sutando bai mi. But as a child, Kinjirou had no idea what it meant so he came up with the only thing he could think of: relative from a gasoline stand, read as ガソリンスタンドの親戚 or gasorin sutando no shinseki.
(2) He is talking about this Soba.
(3) Kinjirou is written as 近次郎, where 近 means close, 次 means next, and 郎 means son, children etc.