A/N: This idea has been bubbling in my gut for some time now, but I wanted to keep it on hold until I finished up some progress on my other fics. I just couldn't hold it back, though.

This is a series of vignette-ish one-shots. They're a little bit on the short side, but I'll take what Shakespeare said to heart: "brevity is the essence of wit."

Constructive criticism is GREAT. But I'm just happy I got the drive to write this story. Enjoy!


Since the end of its feudal period in 1868, Japan has constantly excelled in its raw academics. Even now as the nation is going through a soul-searching period as to its position in the world's cultural and economic spheres, the Japanese educational system still consistently turns out massively impressive results.

While Japanese students are exemplary in the arts and sciences, critics point to the fact that they are overworked and overburdened. They assert that the Japanese educational process drains students of personality in a Confucian cultural setting.

Despite this, Japanese students are not a single group of mindless drones. Despite the nation's penchant for highlighting group identity instead of individual identity, cultural critic Karl van Wolferen once wrote "I believe that Japan is a nation of individuals, all 120 million of them."

No better example of this can be seen than the sailor uniform. Shortened in Japanese to seifuku, the school uniform for girls varies in pattern and type from school to school. Students often incorporate seifuku design into their choice of schools. A wide range exists; the girls' uniform can be a Western-esque blazer and skirt, whereas most schools adopt variations of the sailor type. While most American attitudes decry the uniformity as a stomping on individuality and freedom of expression, most Japanese students do not mind the uniforms. However, the uniforms do limit how a student can express their individuality to very few items: jewelry (Often banned or regulated while in uniform), shoes (Often restricted as well; moreover, indoor shoes are almost universally the same plan white slipper style), hair (Also somewhat regulated), etc. About the only thing not enforced is what type of socks to wear.

An old adage says that you can find out a lot about someone by their sock drawer.

Sock Drawers

1: Black Socks

Maybe I just want to fade into the background.

Am I supposed to be anonymous? Or should I stand out? It's not like I don't feel like I'm worth it, but I've always felt comfortable on my own, not really depending on others. Yes, I was a little wistful about it in junior high and elementary school... especially since a lot of people made it difficult for me. "Look at the gaijin!" they would fake-whisper, like I wasn't Japanese just because I was a few centimeters taller than they were. It got worse when I started... well... developing... but I don't like to talk about that too much.

Even as I get dressed in the morning, I try not to blush as I look at myself. I have a lot to be confident about, that's for sure. I'm good at what I do. Just because I want to. I know that there's so much riding on my future by what I do in high school... even though there's a recession, even though the economy is changing, I'd still look better if I did well enough on my entrance exams to get into a really good college. Even Tokyo University graduates basically coast through four years to get a degree, then they get swept right up. Lifetime employment with one company isn't the norm, but at least you'd get a job.

So I thought I'd get lost in the process, maybe just be a decent enough student. I know I'd do well at whatever I put my mind to.

Was there something wrong with not wanting to be recognized for it?

Ever since grade school, we've been told "ganbare;" to do our best, to persevere. I did well enough at what I did in school and I did wonderful in sports. I did my best. I still do my best.

Here I am now, the product of all that work. I do well enough in class... of course, nobody can top Chiyo-chan, and I often reach up there with Yomi-san's scores. Kagura-san keeps jibing at me being her rival, but I don't really have any sort of rivalry like that with her. I don't feel the need to compete in sports. I just wanted to do my best. So I did.

I don't need the praise... it's not like I try to dodge it, it's not like I want to be ignored... but I just want to be me, see what I can do, understand myself that much better.

I don't think it's a matter of expectations... I'm a good student, a good athlete, and for some reason, the girls in class started to look up to me. Was it just because I was selfish enough when everyone else was joining teams and clubs to be living for myself? Was there something wrong with me because I would sigh at the Japanese edition of Cat Fancy magazine? I pursued my interests, and while I wasn't shunned for it... I wanted to feel like I was doing something for myself.

I really don't know why I hide in the background. I want to be unseen, but I want to do things that make me seen. If I really wanted to be unnoticed, would I do what I do? If I wanted to be on my own...

If I wanted to be on my own, would I have friends like I do now?

I don't really know the answers to this. They're questions that I try not to question. I don't ignore them, but I don't approach them. They're just these big, nebulous blobs of "Why?" that crop up.

Maybe I stand out, but even though we're all dressed alike, I try to blend into the background.

From the calf down, I try to fade into the background, but from the calf up, it's Sakaki the wonder girl. Sakaki the lone wolf, Sakaki the 12th best in the grade. Despite my best efforts, and despite dressing as basic as possible, despite black socks, I stand out.

It isn't such a bad thing, but I keep wondering if I really do feel this need for some other drive, some other force that wants me to step out and be noticed. I never thought I'd sing karaoke, despite doing it well, but I'll never forget how hard I blushed afterwards.

Maybe I don't want to envy more outgoing girls, but something just keeps pushing me towards that.

Black socks have their limits sometimes like that...