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Suwa’s Guide to Managing Unrequited Love} ?> Unrequited love hurt a lot worse than getting my wisdom teeth removed. When I was a teenager, I experienced unrequited love firsthand. I took classes with this boy I liked, but he was interested in someone else. To him, I was nothing more than a friend—a “little sister” he could hang out with. I watched him grow closer to the girl he liked, wondering how much it would bother me if they started dating. There was little I fantasized of more than his noticing me, especially when I was a part of his life for so long (much longer than the other girl was).
It’s strange to me, then, that a twenty-six-year-old man, married to his high school sweetheart and a proud parent, would have regrets about his relationship. But Suwa, from the anime Orange, has a big regret. When he was in high school, one of his classmates, Kakeru, was in love with Suwa’s wife-to-be, Naho; Naho returned Kakeru’s feelings at the time, but Suwa pretended not to notice, choosing instead to tell her how he felt about her on New Years’ Eve after she was vulnerable from a falling out with Kakeru. Then, after Kakeru committed suicide, Suwa proposed to Naho, who accepted the proposal because she had begun to love Suwa for the support he showed her after Kakeru’s death.
Suwa regretted, not the relationship with Naho, but ignoring the love Naho and Kakeru shared in favour of his own feelings. In order to erase his selfishness, adult Suwa sends a letter back in time to his high school self in order to save Kakeru and pair him with Naho. In this alternate timeline, Suwa purposes to stay quiet about his own feelings.
“Back then, for some reason, I wasn’t able to support Kakeru and Naho. But, when Kakeru passed away, and Naho became a sobbing wreck, I wondered why I hadn’t done a better job of looking after the two of them,” Suwa writes. “I really regret it. So, to the me of ten years ago, please watch over the two of them. Please see to it that they both realize each others feelings. Please make it so the two of them can smile together ten years from now. I leave them both in your hands.”
After young Suwa receives this letter, he immediately invites Kakeru into his group of friends and says he will be happy if Kakeru and Naho start dating, setting them up in situations that will force them to be together. When Kakeru is hesitant about being with Naho and asks if he is making the wrong choice, Suwa tells him, “To begin with, this ‘fall in love’ or ‘don’t fall in love’ thing isn’t something you can choose. . . Do the thing that’ll make Naho happy.”
Once my crush started dating the other girl, I never tried to get in between them, and I remained friends with both. I watched from the sidelines, silently hoping that maybe something would work out for me—perhaps they would decide to just be friends and he’d change his attitude towards me.
Suwa loves Naho. He did not choose to love her, but he chooses to do what will make her the happiest—and he’s positive that means helping her end up with Kakeru. Even Naho, who also has a letter from her future self, which prompts her to save Kakeru and tell him how she feels about him, acknowledges that having directions does not make completing those actions any easier.
It is no less difficult for Suwa, who has a picture of himself, Naho, and their baby from the future—a symbol of what he’s giving up to make Naho happy.
Suwa explains to his friends that he will never tell Naho how he really feels. This time, when he meets Naho on New Years’ Eve after her falling out with Kakeru, he does not pledge his love for her; instead, he vows to bring Naho and Kakeru together.
The older I get, the easier it is to let go of my unrequited feelings. Time truly does heal a broken heart, but distance doesn’t necessarily make the heart grow fonder. Although I don’t feel like my longings will ever entirely go away, even though I don’t see him as much any more, I have decided not to wait around for another Prince Charming. I always wanted to be a mother, but in case that never happens, I became a godmother. Investing in a young girl has filled the empty places left behind by a potential relationship. One day I want her to know how she saved my heart.
Naho’s letter tells her to notice all the times that Suwa has been kind to her: “If you notice his kindness yourself, please tell him, ‘thank you.’ I’m sure he’ll be pleased. Suwa is the dear person who saved my heart.” When Naho does finally thank Suwa, the acknowledgement brings tears to his eyes.
My unrequited feelings are a burden I have carried for many years, but that burden eased the day I congratulated my two friends for finally tying the knot and he told me, “Thank you.” I cannot choose to fall in or out of love. All I can choose to do is be content with my new source of fulfillment, refuse to wait for something that may never be, and never compromise another person’s happiness to satisfy my own.
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