Behind the scenes, I encouraged Okusan and her daughter to engage with K. His heretofore reticent lifestyle, I believed, was doing him great harm. I could only conclude that his heart, like steel left untouched, was showing signs of rust.
Okusan remarked with a laugh that she found him unapproachable. Her daughter offered up a specific example by way of illustration. When asked if he had coals in his hibachi, K had replied to her that he had none. When asked then if she should bring some, he'd declined, adding that there was no need. When asked if it wasn't cold, he'd acknowledged it was cold but stated again that he needed no coals. That had been the end of it. I couldn't just brush this off with a forced smile. I felt bad for her, and I did my best to try and smooth things over. It was springtime, and coals were by no means essential, but at the same time I could understand how the women were finding K difficult.
From then on, I did what I could to intervene in bringing K and the two women closer. If K and I were talking I would call one of them over. Or if I were with them in the same room I would pull in K. In either case, as the situation allowed, I worked to draw them closer. K, of course, did not appreciate my efforts. On one occasion, he abruplty rose and left the room. On another occasion, I called for him and he failed to appear. Where was the value, he asked, in idle chatter. I laughed this off, but I was well aware of the contempt in his voice.