Chapter 4 – A Talkative Myna
I quit working at the pre-school. After much thought, I realized that I really had no other choice. I also informed Kiba-san of this, and it seems that he has finally accepted my decision. The Kiba-san at that time looked very haggard, and the broad, fatherly-like chest and shoulders had become like sticks.
I received a call from Mimei, and she told me that Kazu-kun had come back to the pre-school and I’m at the point now where I feel relieved that it seems I have made the right decision for the time being. However, because I lost my job and was in need of money, I’ve started night work. Although I had it decided in my mind that no matter how poor I became, I would never set foot in night work, there was no alternative. I had no money, and it’s not like I had anyone I could seek help from. It was something I had to deal with on my own, so although I didn’t like the idea, I chose the path of night work.
Oh, but don’t take it the wrong way— my job isn’t in the sex trade. I work at a normal club, and all I do is drink alcohol with rich, middle-aged men. It’s a (relatively sensible) job. I go to work about four days a week while I grin and bear being felt up from time to time. Although it can get pretty miserable, if you just think of it as just another job, it does provide a bit of leeway in life, and since it’s a temporary job, I try to think of it as a back-up position just until I can find a formal job. I need to bear it. I need to bear it. It’s all about grinning and bearing it.
I’d like to work at another pre-school. During the day I go to the Public Employment Security Office, and I search for a job that will allow me to interact with children. I’m looking for a job in places like public nurseries and company daycares.
What are you doing, Moto? Are you doing well? Don’t push yourself too hard, okay?
Dispensing with the preliminaries—
I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to write a letter to you in so long; I apologize for not answering your letters in over two months. Although I read all of them, so many things were going on in my life, and it took time for all that to settle down enough for me to be able to write a letter to you.
The reason why it took so long to write a reply was that Fuki-chan’s condition suddenly worsened soon after I sent my last letter (that’s right, right after we had begun dating), and she was in low spirits because of it. I have been tending to her all this time. Her legs began to show signs of weakening, and she became unable to walk and had to be hospitalized for emergency treatment. Currently, she isn’t able to get up from bed, and it’ll probably stay that way until the very end. It’s not surprising that the shock that she received psychologically from this was great. Being faced with the reality that she can’t control her body with her will anymore— it seems she has realized for the first time the horror of death.
Fuki-chan’s disease is truly frightening because it is a condition in which death gradually begins to launch an attack from the outside of the body while aiming towards the heart. It must be the same kind of fear as being slowly strangled over a long duration of time. Until the time comes for her to die, she must live facing the reality of death, after all. I know I wouldn’t be able to bear realizing the cruelty of the reality that your body’s failing you. Seeing Fuki-chan as she bears this weight is such a heartbreaking sight.
When that kind of reality is before your eyes, it’ll change the way you see the world. Even if you curse the early years you spent without knowing a parent’s love, you are still living in the present with a body that is sound. I understand that you are hurting, but there are others out there who are hurting much more than you. There are those who are in a situation in which it is beyond their power. Although I do think that it’s wrong to compare you to people like that, I just don’t want you to think that you’re the only one who’s suffering. At the present time, I feel like I am relearning the preciousness of life.
Currently, I drop by the hospital everyday after work, and I live my days cheering her up. No matter how mature a person one may be, once they become a hospital patient, they can become pretty childish, don’t they? Lately, if I’m even five minutes late than promised, I get an earful from her. She deals with it by getting angry and saying: “You’re late!” Even if it seems like a mere five minutes to me, for her, she’s been waiting the whole day, so even if it’s five minutes, it’s the equivalent of being made to wait twenty four hours. That’s why when I’m finished with work, I always dash across the Hakodate hills. Gazing at the boats anchored at the Hakodate harbour and the rising range of beautiful mountains spread out before me, I run at full speed. I can’t help but feel guilty that I’m so healthy, and I can run as fast as I can stretching my arms and legs.
Falling for someone for the first time ever in my life made me realize that to love someone can be a trying thing. I also learned just how hard it is to put myself in someone else’s shoes and view things from their perspective. I suddenly become aware of the time limit placed on this love, and it stuns me. Despite being able to have fallen in love for the first time and being able to have a requited love for the first time, this thing that is going to tear us apart is threatening towards us. I can’t believe it. Although I’m not you, it makes me want to think that there is no God or Buddha.
But it’s also probably the case that life isn’t all about how long you can live. I’m not trying to force myself to think in a positive manner, but time is nothing more than a yardstick created by humans, after all. I think what’s important is to live every moment to the fullest and to engrain those moments into your memory. The time Fuki-chan has been given is probably not even two years. I wonder if we’ll be able to be together for at least another year. No matter how I think about it, that’s too short of a time. It makes my nights restless. I can’t concentrate on work, and meals taste bland. Fuki-chan is worried that I’m not eating properly. Although I think that I should be smiles in front of her, when I think about how short of a time she has left, tears threaten to fall from my eyes, and everyday I’ve had to hold those tears back telling myself that I can’t cry in front of her no matter what. Who was it that created such a life? What meaning is there in such a test? I do think there is some kind of meaning in this. I try to think that God or Buddha is trying to tell me something through me overcoming this.
When it all comes down to it, the saving grace in all of this is Fuki-chan’s cheerfulness. Although she does get angry at my five minute delay, at the end of the day, she’s a strong person who remains positive no matter what kind of situation she is faced with. The way she tries her hardest to live without ever giving up on life gives me strength. Her favourite saying is “Let’s smile,” after all. She says to me: “Let’s smile. No matter the circumstances, humans weren’t born onto this Earth to suffer, so let’s smile. Make me smile. Make me smile more.” Fuki-chan’s laugh is twice as loud as other people. Her laugh is so loud that it echoes in the hospital room. She’s so cheerful that I wish you could hear her laugh.
Right now, I feel reassured by her cheerfulness that tries to laugh off even death. I have to become a presence who is capable of understanding her fate and of shining a light on the darkness.
I’m somehow managing to keep on going in a place that is set a bit apart from the hustle and bustle of the Hakodate that is in the midst of summer. After this, I’m off to the hospital again. Because I wrote this letter, I am in a big haste as I prepare myself for being five minutes late. I think my writing is in a bit of a disarray, so please forgive my writing. Once I get a little more used to this life, I’ll start writing longer letters again, okay? Please take care of your body and soul.
At any rate, I think this is an important time for you, so please don’t try to rush the answers, all right? I am praying from the bottom of my heart that you will soon be able to go back to a daytime job. About the night work— please be careful. No matter what, doesn’t lose yourself. Don’t sell yourself short. In the end, you’re the only one who can protect yourself.
Motojirou, Motojirou, Motojirou!
Thank you for your reply. I was very happy to hear from you—so, so happy! I had given up hope of ever hearing from you again, so when I spotted your letter in my mail box, although I know this is a bit of an exaggeration, it made me feel as if someone had told me that it was okay for me to continue living.
I understand that it is a very trying time for you right now, and somewhere in my heart, I was thinking that. I regret that I was so selfish and always dependant upon you. As for you, Motojirou, please take good care of Fuki-chan and protect her. And as for me, I’ll one-sidedly write letters to you. Just being able to have someone whom I can tell my true feelings to—just that, is enough to cheer the current me up. Just being able to think that you use up a bit of your precious time from time to time to look through my letters is enough for me. It’s a source of strength for me. Thank you.
Regarding Fuki-chan, it’s nothing I can say this and that about, so someone like me isn’t able to cheer you or Fuki-chan up. It’s just…it makes me think that I have to try my hardest to live as much as she does. When I am about to take it easy on myself, I should imagine Fuki-chan trying her hardest to battle curse of disease (on a side note, I’ve never met you face-to-face either. It’s strange…), and I’ll try my best.
In haste, I send this reply to you with feelings of gratefulness. I have to head to my night work after this, so tomorrow, I’ll write a proper reply and send it to you. Well then, until then.
This is a continuation of the letter I sent last night (I know this is sudden, but I’ll get right to main topic).
To be honest, night work is hard. Because I can’t drink alcohol, as I interact with the middle-aged men, I am covered in the smell of alcohol and tobacco and it makes me suffer. In the morning, I can’t help but be reminded of the refreshing feel of the time when I cleaned the pre-school grounds. I can’t forget the scent of sunshine and children. I can’t forget the gentleness of the trees lining the brightly lit greenways that I went for a walk down together with the children. I can’t forget the children’s sleeping faces, their carefree laughter and their conversations. I can’t forget anything and everything.
Last night, a customer touched my thigh, and I got up and left before I’d even realized what I had done. Afterwards, I got a yelling from the owner. I want to find and go back to the wholesome job of working at a pre-school in the afternoon as soon as I can.
But you see, oh right, I almost forgot about it, but for the weekends, I was able to find an afternoon job. Where do you think it’s at? Well, as it so happens, you-know-who had a help wanted sign for a part-time position at his antique shop.
You know how I didn’t receive a letter from you for a long time, right? I’d quit the pre-school, and the days in which I didn’t talk to anyone continued, and it made me feel a bit lonely, and although I knew nothing would come out of me going and seeing him and despite the fact that I do indeed feel hatred towards him, my body moved naturally in his direction. I only went to see how he was doing. I was only curious as to see what he looked like as he worked during the daytime. When I was peering in quietly through the window, our eyes met inadvertently. Hastily, I shifted my eyes away, and it was then that my gaze fell on the part-time wanted ad that was posted on the window.
He didn’t remember me. That time that he guided me to the station, it was night time, and all I did was follow from behind, so he didn’t remember me. But, he seemed to sense something, so he asked me whether we had met anywhere before. I shook my head slightly and I denied it, and I went on to fill in the blank columns of a resume-like form that was handed to me. Strange enough, everything progressed deftly in a quick fashion as if it was set up by someone.
Without a moment’s delay, my part time job began the following week. I’ve been placed in charge of attending to the shop. There isn’t anyone else working at the shop, and he even does the deliveries himself. It seems to be the case that before, he used to close up shop every time he left to deliver the merchandise. Hardly any customers come. That’s why I was suddenly left all alone with that person, and I felt so nervous that I couldn’t breathe.
Can you imagine it? I’m working under the father who threw me away. He doesn’t even know that he’s related to me by blood. What an unusual situation.. It’s a strange situation which I never once imagined I would be placed in.
I secretly look at him so as not to be noticed. I stare at him from the shadow of the antique furniture. I’m probably looking at him like I’m looking at something really strange, thinking “so this is my real father.” Initially, curiosity was winning, but next, feelings of anger took root within me, and that gave birth to a desire to get revenge. The entire day, I was trying desperately to maintain peace within myself, and I battled the inner turmoil.
I’m a little scared because I’m not sure what I’m trying to do. I’m afraid because I feel as if I might be up to no good again. Since, after all, I’m sure I must be glaring at his back with a very scary expression.
That person who doesn’t know I’m his daughter though teaches me my job with kindness. Although I pretend to sincerely respond to his directions, the inside of my heart was boiling.
As we polished the aged furniture together, he started asking me of my early years. I glossed it over by telling him reasonable sounding lies so that he wouldn’t catch on, but when he asked me what my father did for a living, the blood rushed up to my head and I couldn’t speak. When I stayed silent, he apologized to me. Everything gets on my nerves. I feel as if my mind and soul are about to go crazy. What is it that I’m trying to accomplish by doing this?
I’ll write a letter to you again. Today, I have to head to my night job after this. I kill myself, and I pour alcohol for the customers without thinking of anything.
P.S. At my night job, I’ve come to know a person who writes TV scripts.
Dispensing with the preliminaries–
It’s hard to sleep on summer nights in Tokyo. I toss and turn in bed many times as I battle the summer heat. Although I do have this thing called an air conditioner, the electricity bill isn’t something that one should take lightly, so I sleep with the windows open. By the time I get back to work, the bathhouse is closed already, so I soak a towel and wipe my body with it. The smell of tobacco is hard to wash off.
Oh right, about working at that person’s shop—I quit. That was fast, right? I only ended up working for four days. To be honest, I’m still in a state of suffering. Although I’m not sure if it’s all right for me to talk to you about this, I don’t have anyone else I could open up about this to (even with Mimei, the moment I quit working at the pre-school, the link between us faded. When it comes right down to it, I don’t have anyone that I can truly call a friend, so it looks like I’ll end up depending on you for support); I’m sorry.
I couldn’t help but hate the self that wanted to feel something by being by that person’s side. This must be why I did what I did.
When he returned to the shop carrying a bird cage as if it was something precious, I had already reached my limit when it came to being there. I couldn’t bear the person who carried with gentleness the bird cage from the Qing dynasty that he said he had obtained from a person from the Chinese embassy who lived near there.
“Listen closely– this is a bird cage from almost a hundred and twenty years ago. See? The sturdiness of the wood, the design— everything is magnificent. I was able to get this for free, can you believe it? I guess it pays off to be kind to people, huh?”
I didn’t know what he was so happy about, but he told me all this with a great big smile on his face. I was jealous of the bird cage that he carried with more care than he would his own child.
“How can he look like that?” As I gazed at his smile, my soul shook with anger. Does this person even know how I felt living a life of aloneness? Inside my heart, I was yelling at him saying he probably couldn’t even comprehend how much I suffered in my youth.
Who cares about some stupid bird cage. Is a bird cage more important than your own daughter?
I asked him where he thought the bird that was in that bird cage went. He seemed taken aback and asked me to repeat the question saying: “Eh?” He then replied: “The bird that was in the bird cage? Who knows. It probably died. Otherwise, it probably flew away.” I couldn’t forgive him for his nonchalant reply.
That’s why the moment he stepped away from the bird cage, I grabbed it and lifted it high in the air. My action was in a fit of anger. He sensed my presence and looked back, and he suddenly stiffened. Every single second of what happened next has been burned into my mind. I remember the movement of the air and the moment he showed his true colors. With all my strength, I threw the bird cage down onto the ground. I heard a dull thud, and in the next instant, he yelled in anger “What are you doing!” and pushed me away. I staggered, and I ended up rolling onto the antique sofa that was behind me from the force. The bird cage was in shambles. It was a warped mess, and you couldn’t even tell it was a bird cage anymore. As I watched him try to frantically gather together the parts, I thought: He got what he deserved. I felt like I was able to see his true self as I watched him crawling about on the ground.
After a while, he turned to me. Then, he got to his feet with his face a deep red, and yelled: “What did you just do?!” I tried saying in a small voice: “Daddy” He yelled again saying: “You didn’t hear me? I asked why you did something like this!” His face was red and he looked as if he was ready to lunge at me at any minute.
I then said again: “Daddy, what’s so wrong about that? It’s just a bird cage.” His face froze, and next, he had this look on his face as if he was trying to frantically peer into the memory well. After a short while, numerous wrinkles gathered together between his eyebrows. He seemed to have remembered something.
“Daddy, it’s all right, isn’t it? It’s just a stupid bird cage.” I said this clearly, and I glared at him. His lips began to quiver, and his eyes opened wide as if they were about to pop out. He then made a gutteral sound and said: “You…”
He then repeated himself saying “You…” but he didn’t go any further and his mouth stopped moving. I don’t know if all the pores in my body closed up, but I found it hard to breathe, and without meaning to, I began to breathe through my mouth. My field of vision closed in on itself, and I felt like I was about to faint. The only thing I could see was that person’s face.
I tried asking him: “Why are you happy? Why am the unhappy one? Why am I living such a wretched life?” I also asked: “Why can you be happy being surrounded by a new family while I, who was thrown away, live a poor, wretched, rubbish life?”
We gazed at each other for a short while, but my heart was beating harshly against my small ribs and I couldn’t bear it so I flew out of the place before I’d realized it. I ran. I just couldn’t stand to be there any longer.
What is it that I wanted? Was it revenge? Was it that I wanted to clear away the anger I felt for having being abandoned? Did I want to make him regret what he’d done and make him feel sorry for his action? Or was it that I wanted to test him to see whether he still remembered my existence? Or maybe it’s because I wanted him to look my way? Maybe I wanted to tell him: I’m here. The child who has been living quietly until now is here.
I’ll write again. It must be a lot of work to look after a person suffering from an illness, but please don’t forget to take care of your body too.
Lately, my days are such that I feel strange that I’m still alive. Today, I accepted an invitation from the writer whom I became acquainted with at my night job, and I met with him outside the club. He’s the one I briefly mentioned to you in my last letter. He’s a middle-aged man who’s about twenty years older than me, and he’s gentle and sophisticated. Not only that, but he’s intelligent, and he’s someone who has the atmosphere of my ideal father. He’s someone filled with kindness that makes me think that he’s lived his life piling the years on in a fulfilling manner. He doesn’t have the crudeness of the other male customers; he’s nonchalant in his ways, and he has a cool gaze to him. He’s not young like Kiba-san, and he’s someone who has an image of stability to him.
I was taken to a French restaurant for the first time in my life. To be honest, I grew up in an orphanage so I never went to restaurants like this, and when I confessed to him that I didn’t know the table manners when it came to eating at a place like this, he looked apologetic and taught me various things– in other words, table manners. Like a father would.
At that time though, I had no idea that I would be spending the night with him, but I did have a hunch about it. There was advance warning for it. For starters, I’ll explain what that advance warning was, all right?
Last night, that person (this is referring to my biological father) came to my apartment. A few days had passed since I destroyed his bird cage. I was surprised. I shouldn’t have written down my real address on my resume. I guess I should’ve just made up an address, huh? At any rate, I heard a knock at my door and when I went to answer it, he was standing there. He said he wanted to talk, so we decided to go to a café near my house.
We faced each other in the dimly lit café on Chazawa street. In my opinion, there was nothing to talk about. He, however, kept on apologizing to me— that’s all he did. He apologized so many times that I wondered if he had nothing else to say. I kept my gaze on the top of his head as I told him all about my memories of my days of suffering. I told him about the abuse I endured at the orphanage, about half a lifetime I spent without being able to trust anyone, and about this personality of mine that curses the word called “love.” I also strongly criticized him for being the only one living a carefree life, and for being the only one to have a happy family. When I asked him why he couldn’t have come back for me, he broke down in tears. He didn’t have an answer for that. That’s the moment I realized I truly had been abandoned.
He was crying as he appealed to me that he hadn’t for a second forgot about me, and that even it took his entire lifetime, he wanted to make it up to me. I told him: “You’re a hypocrite.” It’s easy to say stuff like that, but the sin for neglecting a human life is heavy. No matter the excuse or compensation, it’s too late now— they would only be a drop in a bucket. My hatred towards this person who had ruined my life was much too strong.
If he wanted to make it up to me that much, I said that he should die, right here, right now. Since he ruined his daughter’s life, I said that he should atone for it by dying. I told him that I wanted to make his family taste the suffering that I had gone through. That’s when— can you believe it?— he slid down onto the ground and began wailing. I couldn’t stand his crying. If crying was enough to get you forgiven, there would be no need for the police, now would there?
I grabbed his iced coffee, and in front of the other customers, I threw it in his face. When I had emptied the contents of that cup, next, I grabbed my orange juice and poured that over his head too. I also dumped on his head the sugar and sauce that was on the table. During this whole time, he just hung his head and took it all. The customers around us were watching with interest. The waiter didn’t know what to do, so he just stood there staring at us with a shocked look on his face.
His shoulders were swaying fiercely back and forth. Cry! Cry! More! He should realize to the full extent of the sin he has committed.
The invitation from the writer came a day later, and I went along with his invitation as if I was desperately searching for something to cling onto— because I was drowning. If it had been any other day, I think I would have refused. No— I’m not quite sure about that. I did give him my cell phone number, so it might just be that I wanted to seek his sympathy from the very beginning since I am someone without friends. Not only that, but I have no family either. There’s a part of me that wants to be treated kindly by someone. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? It doesn’t matter; this is my life, so I’m going to live it as I like.
After we ate French cuisine, we drank alcohol at the lounge on the top floor of a hotel. Although I usually don’t drink that much, that day, I drank all the cocktails that he urged me to try. I started to feel the effects of the drink set in, and I began to feel light-headed. We left the lounge, and when he went to the cash register and took out his wallet, a photograph fell out of his pocket. It flapped about as it danced in the air. I crouched down and picked it up; it was a photograph of his family. It was a photograph of the three of them—his wife, his daughter and him looking happy. He had his cheek nestled against his daughter who looked to be in elementary school. I felt envious. I was envious of the little girl who had someone to do that.
He snatched the picture from my hand, and the moment he hastily put the photograph away in his pocket as if it was something I shouldn’t have seen, I got it in my mind that I wanted to take in the scent of the fatherliness that existed within him.
When he embraced me from behind in the elevator hall of the hotel, I didn’t resist. It seems to be the case that that was what he had planned to do from the very beginning. By the time I’d realized it, I was being tightly embraced by him on the large, large bed of the needlessly big room. Because of the alcohol and hatred in my system, I clung onto that life raft; I clung onto his thick arm. I was trying to erase my suffering by allowing him to do this to me. I was a drifter who was drowning in the sea.
After it all ended, he gently embraced me into his arms, like Kiba-san had done. I pressed my face into his chest, and I sought comfort for my aching heart.
I’ll write to you again. I’m sorry this letter has turned into such an incoherent mess.
Dispensing with the preliminaries–
During the summer, there are so many tourists, so it was at any rate, an extremely busy time for me. Although I had a couple of partly written letters, I couldn’t manage to finish any of them, and as I went about in my life, September had come. When the season had changed, the letters became like an ancient, out-of-date page from a diary, so in the end, I couldn’t send any of them.
Hakodate’s about to entire my favourite season. The hustle and bustle of the summer has passed, and it is time for the start of the slightly heartrending fall. The view of the fall sky from Sanchou station is truly breathtaking. The small Hakodate town made on sand is under the blue sky, and it looks like a toy town. The trees are changing their colors, and there is starting to be a hint of a change in the feel of the wind and the color of the sea. Seeing the trees as their colorations change by the moment is a truly breathtaking sight.
I wish I could show this kind of beautiful scenery to you, who is troubled by life. Perhaps you should take a bit of time to go on a trip—anywhere is fine, it doesn’t matter where. It doesn’t have to be Hakodate. There are many other beautiful spots in Japan. Going South might be a good idea too. Kyushu and Shikoku would be nice. It doesn’t even have to be somewhere far away– if it’s the Kantou region, there must be many good hot springs nearby, right? Why don’t you try hopping on a train and going out to a hot springs? I think taking a trip and giving your heart some time to relax would be the best thing for you right now. I think what is capable of soothing your heart right now is the power of nature. Why don’t you take some time to relax by yourself and gaze at the beautiful fall scenery? Expose your face to the refreshing fall breeze, and breathe in a big helping of the delicious air, and give yourself a change of scenery?
There is no feeling more painful than the desire to get revenge. I feel distressed as I imagine you being moved by such feelings because humans weren’t born to seek revenge, were they? Isn’t it the case that you were born into this world to become happy? It will never be the case that you will find happiness by seeking revenge. On the contrary, the only thing that will happen is you’ll find out the ugly parts of you, and you will come to hate those parts of yourself. No matter how much you are suffering, you can’t become hateful of humans. I want you to become someone who can learn to forgive, because it is only when you can forgive another that you will be able to make yours a fulfilling life.
Fuki-chan’s managing to do relatively well. Although when I say this, we can see what the ending will be, so I do admit that our days are such in which we are coming to terms with the other’s suffering. Before I can feel happiness, I can’t help but be reminded of the unavoidable parting, so I guess I am in a state in which I am trying to make the most of the limited time we have together.
I talk to Fuki-chan as much as time allows, but the hard thing is to make sure the topic doesn’t turn in the direction of the future. Although this is something I only realized recently, humans are always talking about the future, aren’t they? For example, the topic of what will happen from here on out—stuff like work, marriage, childbirth, retirement. The conversation often drifts to topics like that. As for us though, we can’t talk about the future . We only talk of the past. We’re living only within the confines of our memories. This can take a toll on you. It’s hard to expand on the topic, so we often find ourselves at a dead end. But because I don’t want to make her sad, I try my best to lift her spirits.
I try my hardest to find a cheerful topic, and we talk about things like the happiest day she can remember having. But you know, it took me quite a while to get that answer out of her, but the happiest memory for her seems to be the time when she was still going out with her former boyfriend, and I couldn’t help but feel resistance to that. I felt jealous. But because I couldn’t waste time being troubled by that, I, of course, talked with her about that. At any rate, at this point in time, I listen to the all the events in her life that she wants to remember, like a family member would. There’s not even enough leeway for me to feel jealous. Because if you think about it, she’s going to be leaving this world shortly— yes, she’s going to be leaving (Why?! What does it mean to be gone, to no longer exist?).
Knowing that must be tough on her too. Yesterday, I saw her fly into a rage for the first time. She reacted to something her mother nonchalantly said. I don’t think her mother meant anything bad by it, but she ended up saying: “If you weren’t sick, you might have married Motojirou-san.” Her mother’s a bit of a unique character, and she’s the kind of person who says things before she thinks. Fuki-chan, who is normally pretty quiet, raised her voice. It was a loud voice— as if she was wringing the last of her strength to make it.
Her yell echoed to the outside of the hospital room, and nurses even came rushing into the room. She couldn’t control her muscles so she was flying about in a rage moving the parts that she could, and in the end, the doctor had to give her a sedative to calm her down. Her mother was running around like a chicken with its head cut off all around the room, and it was really hard to watch. It’s true though when I say that if she had been healthy, I would’ve wanted to be joined to her in matrimony, because I have fallen more and more in love with her. But the more I love her, the more depressed I feel at my powerlessness….
Why does such inequality exist? I heard that every day, there are 40,000 children who die of starvation— even in this day and age with the advance of civilization, can you believe it? Japan has become number one in the world for longevity in life. This country has become a place where men live to be 77 and women to be 84 years old. But in a part of the country in central Africa where civil war is still ongoing, the average life expectancy is an unbelievable 25 years old! In that country, men and women alike all die at twenty-five years old. There still exists a world in which at the age of twenty-five, your friends and family are dying one after another. What is this disparity between the rich and the poor?
When I live my life nursing another, it makes me view the world in a different way. It makes me think about what it means to “live” and to “die.” Although I thought “to live” is everything, I have begun to think now that perhaps that might not be the case. Even when it comes to meeting others— it makes me think about all sorts of things. Because I was blessed to have been able to meet Fuki-chan, it gave me an opportunity to rethink the meaning of human life. I’m not sure what it is that I should be learning from our eventual parting. It’s just, because I was given a course such as this, I think there is a meaning in all of this. I think it would be great if I can figure out what that meaning is. It makes me think that perhaps this is so that Fuki-chan can continue to live on in my memory. In the limited time she has left, I want her to experience a limitless life. I want Fuki-chan to feel a limitless life from the limited life she has. I still don’t know yet what that implies, or how I can make that happen, but I think that there will definitely come a day when I will have the answers to that.
There are days I think that it is a miracle in and of itself that morning has come. As long as everyone is alive as usual, I believe that tomorrow is something that will definitely come. But we don’t know how fickle and vanishable the universe is, so it’s not a sure thing that tomorrow will come. Fuki-chan lives her life in constant fear of that, because she knows that there’s a possibility that her heart might just stop beating suddenly one day. Even if that doesn’t happen, she’s living her life knowing that her body that is weakening will one day stop moving.
By the time I’d realized it, I had stopped placing my hope on tomorrow. On the contrary, I’ve come to realize that what’s important is now. If there is such a thing as an infinite present time, that means there will be no such thing as us going our separate ways. I want to seal her in this time. Then, even if the days of taking care of her continue on for eternity, I want to be able to spend that time by her side. That probably is an unreasonable wish though. That’s why I’m living everyday to the fullest, and I am trying to remember everything about her. As long as I am alive, she will continue to live on in my memories. As long as I am alive, it means she won’t die.
Despite the fact that I work, I think about her 24-7. I think appallingly stupid things like what I could do to make her happy.
At the top of Sanchou Station, there is an observation deck, and I took a photograph from there for you. It is a photograph of the clear fall sky. I’ll include it in this letter. Whenever you think that you can’t go on anymore, I hope that you’ll look at this photo. I think the proof that the stratosphere is protecting all living beings is the blue sky. As long as the earth is blue, I think the living beings have been allowed to continue to live here. To say the opposite, it means that this earth is being kept alive and protected from the loneliness of the universe by a power from a mysterious being. The blue sky is the boundary between the universe and the globe, right? The earth is being protected by the blue sky. Whenever you feel lonely, please look up at the sky. As long as the sky exists, it means someone is constantly watching out for you and is protecting you. Please have a big heart and strong frame of mind and overcome whatever is distressing you. There is a quote from Beethoven that I really like. It goes something like: if you overcome difficulties, you will run into joy.
Try going on a trip— a trip to create a big change of pace for you. If you don’t will things to change, nothing will change. Action is a requirement in change. Don’t think about it. Just go take a trip right now. I’m sure you’ll be able to experience something that way.
Dispensing with the preliminaries—
The moment I put my previous letter in the mail box, I remembered something I forgot to write so I went back home in a rush to write this letter to you. That’s why I think this letter will get to you on the same day as the other letter. This is letter #2 though, so please read this one afterwards.
This is the continuation of my advice to go on a trip.
The other day, I had night duty at the Sanchou Ropeway Station so I stayed overnight at the lodging at the top of the mountain. That night, I couldn’t manage to sleep no matter what I did (because I couldn’t help but think about Fuki-chan’s future), and because it was no use, I decided to go out for a walk.
When I walked down the narrow mountain trail in the pitch darkness, it opened up to a large field that spread out on the other side of the mountain. It’s an open space that everyone calls a “thousand tatami mat bed.” How big is it…? Well, I think it’s at least as big as a baseball field. In the past, students used to come hiking up here on school outings, but lately, that’s been forbidden because they say it’s too dangerous. Beyond this thousand tatami mat bed is a cliff, and directly below that is the swift ocean current. But the thing is, it’s a pretty mysterious place, and when you’re looking at the Hakodate mountain from the front, no one imagines that there is a large field like this. So when you do end up setting foot in this place, how can I put it…? I can only say that it’s an amazing feeling. It makes you feel as if you’ve wandered into another world. Although there are no lights or any signs of human labour, one can easily look around the field using only the light of the moon. The grass that comes up to your knees are fluttering from the wind, and it’s as if the field is alive. The soft swishing sound of the wind is pleasant. And because there is no one else here, it also makes me wonder if this is what afterlife is like. Even though it’s dark and there’s no presence of anyone here, strangely enough, I don’t feel scared.
When I try walking across the grassy plain, it feels strange— as if I’m walking in a dream. When I’d realized it, I was standing alone in the middle of the field. When I looked around me, beyond the tranquil darkness, the trees were swaying quietly. It confused me into thinking that I was standing in the center of the universe, and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of dizziness.
I then boldly sprawled on the ground with my arms spread out. That’s when I was surprised to find that there were an amazing number of stars in the sky. Because there aren’t any lights nearby and also because the sky is so fresh and new, there was nothing to obstruct the view of the stars. This must be what they were talking about when they said “a sky full of stars.” It was beautiful; a sky full of stars. Despite living in Hokkaido, it was my first time seeing the sky like this. There was one particular spot where the stars were unusually dense, and it was like seeing a river flowing in the sky. That’s when I realized that this must be the Milky Way.
I was overwhelmed with emotion. I thanked God for allowing me to be able to gaze at such a magnificent starry sky. Ririka, have you ever seen a sky full of stars? As long as you live in the city, you probably won’t be able to, huh? You need to go to a place where there is no light; you need to go to a place where nothing obscures the view of the sky.
It was there that I felt like I understood everything— about what it means to be human. But, I couldn’t explain it in clear-cut words. I felt as if I was also taught that there is no need for words. In that moment, I wasn’t trying to find meaning. It’s just… I ended up realizing that humans are a small existence in this gigantic universe; that’s all.
That’s not enough. When I realized that, strangely enough, I felt renewed. I felt better. It made me think that I should forgive all. It made me think that I should be friendly with everyone. It made me think that I should meet lots of people and shake their hands. It also brought tears to my eyes. They weren’t tears of sorrow but rather, drops of joy for being able to be alive like this, I guess you could say?
You know how quite a few astronauts who come back from space end up starting stuff like farming and becoming a missionary? This experience made me understand why they do that.
That’s why, what I want to say is, Ririka, please go on a trip to see the stars.
They’re there from a far, far distance shining to communicate something to you, after all.
Can you guess where I am right now? Look at the envelope. Hurry! That’s right, I’m in Okinawa. I arrived at the Naha airport just now. Although there was the influence from having read your letter, I also saw a dream of flying in space. I guess that’s why I’m here. When I woke up in the morning, “Okinawa” crossed my mind, and that’s how I ended up leaving right away for the airport. That’s when, coincidentally, there was an open seat and when I’d realized it, I had arrived in Naha Airport. That was fast.
As for work, I made up some reasonable sounding excuse and took some time off. It doesn’t matter. I was planning on quitting a job like that one day or another anyway. Yeah, I think I’ll probably quit it soon.
I sent off the first postcard from the mail box located at the airport. This is the start of my trip to see the stars. Because I ended up coming here having made no reservations at a hotel, the first thing I did was look for a place to stay. When I placed a call to a cute resort inn that was in a guide book, I was able to find an open room, so I decided to stay there. It takes two hours to get there from the airport by bus, but it should be the perfect spot to see the stars.
At any rate, please pray that my trip will be a safe one. Well then, I’m off to start my star-gazing trip!
Just now, I arrived at the resort inn. It wasn’t the kind of cute resort inn that was written in the guide book, but the woman and her husband who own the place seem very nice, and I really like it here. I wonder why Okinawan people are able to smile so kindly? I hear that Okinawa is the place in Japan where people live the longest. It seems to be the case that it’s because of the weather and food, but the locals seem to have forgotten to include their natural smiles as part of the reason. They’re lovely.
I’ll be leaving for the ocean now. I need to walk quite a bit to get to the beach, but I feel excited just thinking about how I will feel when I arrive there after having walked down the mountain path to get there.
Please look forward to the next correspondence from Okinawa!
To My Beloved Moto,
I can only say: Wow–! It’s amazing. The ocean is breathtaking; it’s beautiful. This is my first time seeing an emerald green ocean. It’s amazing– it’s so amazing! It truly is. I’m so glad I’m alive to experience this.
My last postcard was pretty incoherent— please forgive me. It was because it was something I wrote about forthrightly in excitement. The ocean was unlike anything I had ever seen before— it was so, so beautiful!
How can a beautiful ocean like that that make me become embarrassed of my existence? The beach I walked along seems to be one that the locals often use for swimming, but I was no longer in Japan. The wondrous color of the sky and ocean— it’s like a mysterious clash where the two meet in the horizon.
This is my first time going on a trip without relying on a travel company. I never knew that I could be this moved without going around to famous spots. It’s fun going on a solo trip.
I also feel moved that I can send this postcard to the Hakodate-based you whom I’ve yet to meet (although it’s hard to believe, you’re in a town located in the northern part of Japan, and I’m in a town in the southern part). I’m so glad I’m alive to experience this. Who is it that I should thank for this joy? I hold Beethoven’s words close to my heart. “If you overcome difficulties, you will run into joy,” huh? That makes sense.
Tonight, I’ll walk to Tiger Beach again after dinner, and that’s where I plan to gaze at the stars. Is this joy of mine reaching you?
From Toono Ririka.
To My Beloved Nagasawa Motojirou-sama,
I saw it. The starry sky. I’m writing this postcard right now in the lobby of the resort inn. My heart feels much lighter…I’m not sure I can accurately express this feeling in words, but it’s as if I’ve been reborn. No, I guess that would be a bit of an over exaggeration, but it made that big of an impact on me. Why is it that I’ve lived my life until now without gazing up at the starry sky? I’m surprised that I was living my days completely ignoring the meaning-filled universe directly above me. I felt that civilization is in some ways showing contempt for living by not doing so.
I have to go on more trips. I have to walk with my face up towards the sky. I need to go on more trips and come into contact with the unknown world. What I learned from the stars were these things.
Once things have settled down a bit more, I think I’ll be able to express these strong emotions inside of me better, but for now, please just imagine my excitement from the tremble in my writing, okay? I thank you for recommending me to gaze at the stars.
Motojirou, Motojirou, Motojirou!
I just checked out of the resort inn, and I’m currently writing this postcard as I’m being swayed back and forth inside the bus. This morning, I flipped through the inn guide book, and I searched for a place to stay tonight. I called them and made a reservation, and I’m on my way over there right now. It’s lovely being on a trip where I only have to think about where I’m going to sleep for the night!
The bus is currently travelling through a corn field. On both sides are corn. If this were the city, I’d probably be worried about where we’re heading, but here, I don’t know why, but I don’t feel that way.
My Beloved Nagasawa Motojirou-sama,
I was gazing at the setting sun for the longest time. I crouched down and sat in the sand as I gazed up at the sky as the sun descended into the horizon dying the ocean and sky a bright red. It’ll be night soon; that means the end of another day. I’ve never lived my day-to-day life getting a solid sense that the day is ending like this. I tried saying: “goodbye.” I waved my hand saying: “see you tomorrow.” Although my trip started with me questioning what it meant to be human, I realized that there is no need for an answer.
I am grateful to you, Motojirou. I wish I could share this feeling of serenity with you. Please don’t push yourself too hard. Don’t work too hard.
For dinner, I had fried vegetables called “Goya chanpuru.” Everything here tastes healthy. Bitter things taste bitter, and sweet things taste sweet— all the food here taste alive. After dinner, I went star gazing again. When I was in Shimokitazawa, I hardly ever saw stars. Most times, the buildings hid the sky, and because the air is so dirty it was impossible to see the stars. I ignored the sky for a long time. It was a meaningless life. Although it can’t be helped, I wonder what it was that I was trying to find in such a concrete-based day-to-day life?
When I’m in Okinawa, I see things that should have been obvious to me. I guess that’s why Okinawan people live so long. It’s a no brainer that if you live in an environment like this where you can live your life leisurely, you’ll live a long life. The light truly does shine here.
I’ll be leaving now. I feel as if I’m being reborn everyday.
My Beloved Motojirou-sama,
My internal clock is slowly adapting to the Okinawan time, and it feels as if everything is moving slowly. I’m able to sleep deeply at night, and I’m able to wake up relaxed. Maybe it’s because I don’t have stress from the previous night, but I feel refreshed. I guess this must be what they call living like a human being, huh? The days I’d been living until only a few days ago don’t exist here. I’ve started to wish that I could just stay here and become a resident. I know that’s impossible, but…
Yesterday, the owner of the inn where I was staying said this to me: “There isn’t really such a thing as a painful experience.” When I replied back: “What do you mean by that?” He smiled and said: “It’s all about mental attitude.” It almost felt as if I met you, Motojirou, even though he’s already past 50.
“Miss, imagine that suffering doesn’t exist on this Earth. If you do this, then before you know it, all the suffering from inside of you will fade away, and it will all change into joy.”
As I was leaving the inn, he told me something similar to that again. The moment I made my way out the front door and was showered by the sun’s rays, I know this may be an over exaggeration to say, but I felt as if everything had changed. As I took a deep breath of the Okinawan air, I realized that my lungs were here. I’m alive. I want to take in more of this fresh air. I want to immerse myself slowly into this thing called life.
My Beloved Moto-sama,
It’s been five days since I started my trip, but it feels like I’ve been travelling for weeks and months. I’ve come to the point in which I’ve stopped making reservations for accommodation. I’ll take it easy for another few days before heading back to Tokyo. I’m sure though that my step is much more stable than it was when I first arrived. Thank you for advising me to go on a trip. If you hadn’t given me that advice, I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to undergo this transformation.
As long as one’s alive, there really are many things that will happen, but in this current moment and time, I feel as if I’ll be able to forgive all that’s happened in my past.
Tonight, I’ll go out to gaze at the starts again. I wonder what kind of stars you are gazing up at?
When I become busy, I send in a big gust of air into my lungs, and I confirm my whereabouts. I allow the air to come in, and I’ve naturally mastered the secret of how to get along well with others. It’s fun meeting different people everyday. Everyone’s trying their hardest in life. Going on this trip, I’ve come to realize that.
From Ririka with thanks!
Dispensing with the preliminaries—
Thank you for your wonderful travel letters. Reading them, it made me feel as if I was on that trip with you. It seems that my advice of you leaving town and going on a trip was of some use to you; I’m glad.
As for me, as usual, I live my days in a routine cycle of work and caring for Fuki-chan. I’ve become fully adjusted to this life. Strange enough, although I’m the one doing the caring, I’ve gradually started to feel like I’m the one (and I know this sounds a bit odd to say this) who’s being taken care of— as if I’m the one who’s receiving treatment for my heart. This is really hard to try to explain this, but although I’m the one who spends all my time caring for Fuki-chan because I want to ease her pain as much as possible and turning down invitations from friends (actually, I’ve kept what’s been happening with Fuki-chan a secret from my friends at ropeway. That’s why I’ve been getting a hard time from those around me. They’ve been saying that I’ve suddenly stopped hanging out with them as much as I used to. But because they’re all really great guys, they leave me be with looks on their faces like they guessed that something was going on in my life), little by little, I began to realize the preciousness of life through this, and although there is no denying that this is a painful experience, it’s making me realize the value of the time that is passing by.
Being by someone like Fuki-chan who is heading in the direction of death makes me feel as if time has stopped. I honestly believe that I won’t ever forget this sight. That’s right, there has never been a time in my life in which I have treasured each and every second. Although I’m not sure who or what these feelings should be directed towards, I feel grateful. I know this is an odd thing to say considering the merciless days I have been spending, I can’t help but feel thankful for the second that has been given to me. She’s still alive, right? While that remains so, there are so many things I have to do, so I’ve come to a point in time now when I truly believe that it is my role to support Fukino, who won’t give up life until the very end. I know this must be pretty difficult to comprehend, but these are my feelings at the present.
A trip, huh? Sounds nice. I think I told you this before as well, but I’ve never once left this region. Even for the school excursion, I caught a cold and couldn’t participate in it. That’s why I don’t know much other than Hakodate. My experience has been pretty much limited to the two times I went to Hokkaido while I still lived at the orphanage. I want to go on a trip. Not on TV or in photographs— I want to see the world with these very eyes. I wish I could’ve gone around and seen for myself just how big this world is. I wish I could come into contact with the different cultures of the countries beyond the sea— like Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa.
I think you should go and see more of this wide, wide world. You’re in a situation that allows you to do that. You’re free– you have wings. It is my wish that you’ll be able to go and see for yourself the world that exists outside of your city; and if possible, I’d like you to share those experiences with me. In place of someone like me who looks like he won’t be able to leave this place for some time yet.
But you know, even a person like me, back when I was a child, slept with a globe placed by my pillow. Back then, it was my dream to be able to memorize all the major cities of the world. I gave free reign to my imagination and played imagining what kind of people lived there and what kind of towns existed. It was fun. Looking back on it now, it really was fun.
Someday, I think I’ll also go on a trip. I’ll leave this small town called Hakodate, and I’ll go on an endless trip. When that time comes, I’ll probably also send you a letter from my destination.
I’ll make some time to write to you again, but for now, I better go and visit Fuki-chan. As always, please forgive me for my sloppy writing. I have a feeling that my writing’s gotten worse lately. I’m sorry.
Thanks for the gift. I received the parcel yesterday. It looks like the turmeric tea might become a favourite of my mother’s. Also, I decided to decorate the shells you found at the Tiger Beach on my desk.
When I got back from my trip, a graphic reality awaited me. I’m not sure where I should even begin because right now, I’m finding it hard to gather my thoughts together. The reason why I couldn’t write a reply to you right away was because of the sudden cruel joke played on me by God; no— because of the rust-like reality that came out from inside of me.
A few days after I had returned from my trip, that person’s wife came to visit me at my apartment. Because this was something that happened in the middle of the night, I was a bit taken aback, but it seems that he had gotten into some sort of car accident. She said that that evening, he had been carrying a bird cage in his arms as he crossed a crosswalk while the light was still red (I think the bird cage was that one that I broke. He must’ve fixed it). According to a person who witnessed what had happened, he appeared to be hanging his head low as he walked, and it looked as if he was leaping in front of the truck on purpose. He was hit by the truck and was knocked down onto the road, and currently he’s in the intensive care unit of a large hospital. Despite wavering between life and death, from time to time, it seems that he’s been calling out my name. He seemed to have opened up to his wife about me, and she even knew that I was his daughter. She broke down in tears saying if only he’d opened up to them sooner about me. She said to me that although she’d never suspected that he had that kind of past to him, knowing his personality, there’s no question that he must’ve been consumed with grief because of it. She said perhaps this accident was caused as a result of that grief he felt.
I think he was desperately trying to respond to the words I said to him at the café about how he should atone for his sin of abandoning me by dying. That’s right; if that’s the case, then I’m the one at fault.
I was told by his wife: “At any rate, please come to the hospital. The only one who can save him is you.,” and before I could fully comprehended what was happening and before I had restored the order inside of my heart, I went with his wife to the emergency hospital. As a precautionary measure, we had to disinfect our hands at the entrance to the ICU room. It was already midnight by the time I went into that room. He was sleeping. The doctor explained to me that he was in a state close to that of a comatose state. He explained that tonight was crucial, and if he’s able to get through this critical point, that there would be a possibility of him improving. Tears formed in my eyes, and without being able to hold them back, I looked intently at his pale, almost dead-like face. I leaned my head close to his ear, and I tried whispering in his year: “It’s Ririka.” It seemed as if there was a slight reaction, but no sooner did that happen that the doctor patted me on my back saying I should go.
In the lobby were that person’s daughter and son, and it was no surprise that they hung their heads in sorrow. When I thought of how I was the one to have taken away their happiness, I suddenly felt remorse for what I had done—no, I was overcome with indescribable grief. When I thought of how I had beckoned for something that cannot be undone, I even felt as if I had become the devil himself.
I spent the night there with his wife and children. No one spoke a word as the night passed. When morning came and the hospital started becoming a little more lively, the doctor came to tell us that that person had made it through the critical point. Hearing that… I know this is messed up to say this, but it was in that moment that I realized for the first time in my life that God and Buddha does indeed exist. The son and daughter grabbed each other by the hands and began crying saying: “Thank you! Thank you!” That person’s wife told the doctor: “We apologize for putting you through a great deal of trouble.” I felt so grateful that all I could do was bow my head deeply.
In the afternoon, I left the hospital and made my way home, but the inside of my mind was blank. I didn’t know how to draw the lines in my head of what I should do from here on out. I was in a daze. I crawled into my room and ended up falling asleep. For two days, I couldn’t leave my room. I cursed myself and looked down on my existence. I thought how I am only causing trouble for everyone by being alive. A thought crossed my mind: I want to die. It was the same feeling I had back in grade twelve. This despite having just seen the beauty of the starry sky.
But I couldn’t kill myself. It may be that I’ve become too immersed in life to commit suicide— but above all, I couldn’t shake this feeling of fear. It’s strange that I’m comfortably living my life despite the fact that I pushed someone in the direction of death. I’m not sure of anything anymore. I don’t even know what it is that I should do. Moto, is it all right for me to keep living? Is it all right for me to be alive? I feel as if I might take away many other people’s happiness in the future, and I’m afraid. Please help me. Oh…it’s no use. I might even end up snatching your happiness away from you too. This is a very important time for you right now, so there’s no way that a woman like me can get in the way of your precious, beautiful life.
I’m sorry that my letters always turn out like this. The results of that wonderful, healing Okinawan trip has faded away, and I’m back to square one. No, not even at the starting point— I’m in the negative. I wonder if I’ll be capable of getting myself out of that spot?
I’m worried because I haven’t received a reply from you. How is Fuki-chan doing? Is it that you were shocked at my idiotic self for having pushed that person to get into an accident? Did you think that was the last straw and that you couldn’t write to me anymore?
But right now….I need a letter from you, Motojirou. Whenever you have the time is fine. Please…just write to me.
TO BE CONTINUED…
[UP NEXT: Chapter 5 – pg 181-218]