Chapter 5 – A Cactus That Has a Needle Sticking Out of Its Heart
One season has almost passed since I stopped receiving letters from you, Moto. Shimokitazawa has since completely changed to its winter dress up. I’m sure that you must be engulfed in snow over there. If this was a regular mail exchange, it wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t hear from you for a while. But when I don’t receive a letter from someone like you who is always facile with a pen, it makes me worried.
As for that person, he’s currently begun to receive physiotherapy with a goal towards recuperation. I knew that I couldn’t keep on relying on you like I’ve been doing, so I decided on my own to cheer his rehabilitation on. I imagined what kind of advice you’d give me, and I decided to go and apologize to him. I also placed a request that I wanted to help him with his rehabilitation. One of his legs won’t do as he wills it since the accident, so I am helping him with his walking exercises. Also, because he hit his head very hard, he’s in a condition that makes it difficult for him to manage words, and although this will also take time for it to get better, I have the role of listening to him.
I still haven’t been able to call him “father,” but it’s true when I say that our hearts have become a bit closer. With regards to his children, we’ve been able to open up to each other a bit more, and we’re on friendly terms. When it comes right down to it, I’m not sure if I’ve truly let my guard down, but they have no sins. Not only that, they’re so pure that I can’t even begin to compare, and since I’m related by blood to these people, I truly want to get to know them. His wife is a very nice person, and she worries about me. The other day when we were alone, she opened up to me and told me this:
“Usui (this is his family name) at times would go to the garden by himself to gaze up at the sky. When I neared him and asked him what was wrong, he hurriedly wiped away his tears and told me that it was nothing. It must be that he was remembering you and was worried about where and how you were living.”
I still haven’t managed to accept such words with open arms, but I think little by little, I’ll come to accept them. He has a sincere and kind family that makes me truly envious of him. I was honest with her and told her that I was the cause of what he had to go through, and she smiled kindly saying that that’s not true, and that his actions came about from his feelings of regret. She told me it wasn’t my fault, and she ended up comforting me.
His family is so wonderful that I feel ashamed. At any rate, at this current time, I’m just being an assistant to his rehabilitation doing everything I can.
I’ve also decided to quit my night job at the end of this week. I’ve started to feel like if I stayed any longer, I might never escape from that world, and since I’ve been able to save a bit of money, I’m at the point now where I’m actively going to the Public Employment Security Office and trying to find a new pre-school to work at. If I’m able to find employment at a pre-school, that will be where I’ll re-start my life, so I want to try my best (oh, right. I shouldn’t try my hardest, right? Well, in other words, what I mean is that I want to accept this challenge in a relaxed manner).
That’s why, Motojirou, don’t worry about me. I’m managing to stay afloat somehow. I’m more worried about how you’re doing. It doesn’t matter the content of the letter– even if you’re not doing well, that’s okay (I wish you would let ME comfort YOU for a change), and please write me a letter. It would be nice if I could be your source of strength for a change.
You must be surrounded in snow and it must be really cold there, huh? Please make sure to take good care of your body, and please watch out for your health to make sure you don’t catch a cold.
I want to go on a trip again. It’s so refreshing. I wish I could go on a trip everyday. Where should I go next?
My Beloved Motojirou-sama,
The cactus I had been caring for in my room wilted and died. I never thought that would happen. I can’t believe it.
A cactus is something that isn’t supposed to need much water. It dying despite that makes me wonder just how dry my days have been. Does that mean I’m living a life of indifference to the degree that I let a cactus wilt and die? Perhaps it means I’m living my life without taking a good look of my surroundings.
Now that I think about it, I haven’t given it water for close to three months. That’s your fault, Motojirou. It’s half your fault that the cactus wilted. If it’s not because you’d gotten into some sort of accident that you haven’t written, no matter the reason, please give me a reply.
If something has happened, I might be a bit undependable, but this time, I’d like to be your support. You’ve always been the one to help me, so this time, I’ll show you that I can be a support to you too.
I’ll be waiting for your reply.
I came across a song called “A Cactus’s Heart” on the radio. I don’t know who sings it, but I’d heard it before and I really liked it, so I hastily recorded it. I was able to catch the lyrics to the song, so I’ll jot it down at the end of this letter, okay? These lyrics are me. When I find out what CD the song’s on, I’ll send you a copy, all right?
We, who live in a town in the desert,
Have hearts of cactuses
With needles growing from our hearts.
Because they are needles to protect ourselves,
We push away those precious to us.
Gazing up at the sky burning with stars,
The cactuses are alone, as always.
Embraced by the cold light of the moon,
We continue to wait for tomorrow.
The cactuses of the desert,
Show us your blooms.
Surely, someone will speak to you.
I’m sorry I haven’t written in so long. I truly am.
It was because Fuki-chan had her biggest surgery yet in the middle of November (it was one to make an incision in her windpipe. Once she had this surgery, she would no longer be able to speak. After it, it would become increasingly difficult to communicate to each other our thoughts, so we were both depressed about this). During this time, I couldn’t write you a reply. It was a very serious operation, and although she was able to safely come out of the operation for the time being, her voice was lost forever. Now, a tube has been attached to her throat, and it seems that she doesn’t want me to see her like that. Her body has gotten even thinner, and it’s as if she’s just skin and bones. It hurts me to see her like this.
Since we’re no longer able to converse as we had before, we use this thing called a message board (it’s a bit hard to explain, but it’s a panel that has drawings and letters on it), and she tries to express to me her thoughts using it, but because we’re not able to communicate easily as before, it’s been really tough.
And for a while after the surgery, my visiting hours became limited to twenty minutes a day, so I did have plenty of time to write a reply…but I don’t know how to put this— it took me that long for my emotions to settle down, and I wasn’t in a condition that allowed me to face writing a letter. The life and death of a person strains one’s daily life. It pins one down and strangles that person. Every time I looked at Fukino’s pale face once a day for twenty minutes in the dimly lit hospital room, I truly felt the difficulty of cheering another person up.
I’m truly sorry that my reply comes so late. I’m also sorry about my sloppy writing. I can’t seem to write neatly because my feelings are in such a disarray.
P.S. Wish upon a star.
My Beloved Nagasawa Motojirou-sama,
I’m embarrassed that I was letting the fact that you hadn’t replied to me in so long get to me while you were going through such a trying time. But please, I beg you– don’t hate this selfish pen friend of yours. I really was worried about you from the bottom of my heart. Now that I know about what’s been happening to Fuki-chan, I am just telling myself that I should be cautious about giving advice or overly sentimental words of encouragement.
Despite writing in my letters to you that I wanted to be a source of strength for you, the overwhelming reality that faces me is too much for me.
At times like these, I want to become your strength more than anyone, but I’m ashamed at my own powerlessness. Even though you are taking care of another, please make sure to take care of yourself all the same.
I thought it would be good for you to be able to listen to some relaxing music, so I’ve included in this letter a cassette tape of songs that I compiled. If you listen to this when you’re in pain or when you can’t sleep or when you’re irritated, I think it will soothe you.
I will write down the song titles below:
1. Sentimental Walk (from the movie soundtrack “Diva”)
2. Ave Maria (SLAVA)
3. Gymnopedies No. 3 (Erik Satie)
4. Swept by the Moon (Ariko)
5. Allegro de concert, op. 46 (Eldar Nebolsin)
Ambient 1 / Music For Airport (Brian Eno)
My Beloved Toono Ririka-sama,
Thank you for the tape. It was the best gift I could receive right now. When I live my days just praying like this, music is a source of comfort for me above all. Humans have invented many boring things and have destroyed nature in the process, but music was a magnificent invention. I honestly do believe it is amazing. It is only when you are listening to music that you can open yourself up and lend your body to the melody. Your song choices were the best present for the heart of a person like me, who is in a state of pain and irritability. It must be because we are true pen pals that you are able to fill this hole in my heart like this. I thank you.
Fukino is, bit by bit, thanks to her strong will, heading towards a stable state for the time being. For a while, I was truly worried about what would happen, but the will to live is a mysterious thing. When I see her alive, when I see her smiling in my direction, it makes me want to try my hardest—try even harder for her.
The beautiful songs you sent me have been gently, but surely lending me strength. Thanks.
It’s as if you’re right by my side.
I’m sorry that this letter is so short. It’s just that I’m not in a state right now that allows me to write a long letter. There are so many things I want to tell you, but because I’m in the emotional state that I am, I can’t seem to find the right words. Not only that, but as you can see for yourself, my writing is pretty horrible, right? It’s as if I’m writing this letter being swayed by a train. It’s probably a bit hard to read, but please bear with me and read it.
Oh, right. Today’s Christmas Eve, huh? No wonder it seemed so lively outside. But right now, I just can’t be in the mood for celebration. If memory serves me right, last year, I wrote to you about the illumination ceremony of the Christmas tree, right? It makes me nostalgic for last year.
My Beloved Motojirou-sama,
I’m happy that you enjoyed the cassette. I wanted to be a source of strength for you. I am truly happy that the songs I chose for you have been providing a bit of comfort for the current you, Moto.
To be honest, there’s something I have to apologize to you about. There’s something I need to confess to you.
Right around the two month mark after I stopped receiving letters from you (around the middle of December) I used my weekend to visit Hakodate. The winter scenery of Hakodate (although it wasn’t snowing yet) was my first time visiting the Hokkaido region.
After wandering about for quite a while, I was able to find your house. I was walking around in a town I wasn’t familiar with only you on my mind. Thanks to my experiences from my Okinawan trip, although I was alone, I didn’t feel lonely. I also kept telling myself that this is the town where you lived, so that there’s nothing to be scared about.
It was my first time ever coming to Hakodate, and it was a very unique town. Although I’ve never been there, it resembled the small countryside town of Eastern Europe that I had etched in my mind. The area where your house was located was especially impressive because I could see the history of the town.
Don’t worry though. It’s not that I went to your town because I wanted to see you. I was just in a state though where I just couldn’t sit and wait patiently anymore, so I went to visit Hakodate. That’s why I didn’t ring the doorbell of your house.
I did gaze at your house from afar, but it went no further than me gazing at your house from a block away from the base of the hill overlooking the church that was across from your house. I hastily hid and watched from the shadows of a tree a woman who looked like she could be your mother swinging a shopping hamper as she walked down the hilly road.
Because she didn’t look to be unhappy, I decided not to try to barge in and come asking for you at your house. That time, if your mother– no, I’m not sure if she’s your mother, but if the woman who came out from your house looked even a little unhappy…if she had a sorrowful expression on her face, I’m sure I would’ve knocked on the door to your house without a moment’s hesitation. But she was looking up at the winter sky with a serene look on her face. From that look, I deduced that nothing terrible had happened to you, Moto. That’s why, in the end, I felt a sense of relief from it, so I didn’t even try to go to the ropeway platform. I just gazed intently at the ropeway going up and down the Hakodate mountain from the base of the mountain.
I only stayed one night at a local hotel, and the very next day, I ate some seafood at the bay area restaurant and returned to Tokyo.
My gaze stopped at the olden historic building that was to the left and right of the hill that leads to your house, and I gave myself up to the deep emotion that overcame me as I imagined how you must’ve matured and become an adult climbing up and down this hill.
I apologize for coming to Hakodate without telling you and for seeking out your house. But that was because I was worried about you from the bottom of my heart. I’m really, really sorry.
I’ve started to dedicate myself fully to finding a new job. I went to interviews to two different pre-schools, but it’s definitely not easy. But I won’t give up. I’m sure there must be a pre-school out there that will understand me. Tomorrow, I’m going to another pre-school to be interviewed.
Oh, and with regards to him, he’s doing a lot better.
The other day, when we were all alone, he said this to me: “I don’t have an excuse. I am a failure as a human being for not having come back for you after my life had stabilized.” He also said that giving the circumstances of his life would only be excuses, so that there’s nothing he could do but apologize. I didn’t say anything in response to that. It’s just, knowing that he was always thinking about me, was enough for me. In that moment, I honestly felt like it was time I forgave him. It’s strange I know, since I hated him so much before.
My Beloved Ririka-sama,
What a surprise. I was truly surprised when I read about how you came to Hakodate while I was in a panic over Fukino.
By the way, how was your first time in Hakodate? You probably didn’t get a chance to take a proper look around, but even then, I think you must’ve been able to feel the air of this northern port town.
What did you eat while you were here? When people think of Hakodate, they often praise the morning market and the bay area, but same as it was for you during your Okinawan trip, the best places to eat are the inexpensive restaurants that the locals frequent.
When you walk along the harbour, there’s a slightly shabby cafeteria (that looks kind of grim) that looks as if it’s a place that fishermen would frequent. But you see, you can’t judge a book by its cover, because the belly meat salmon set there is the best I’ve ever had! “Belly meat” refers to the meat located in the stomach area of the salmon that’s chockfull of fat. That’s fried to a golden brown and eaten with Japanese white radish and soy sauce. It’s a rich taste that leaves you speechless. Hakodate’s like a small fishermen’s town in Italy, so if you don’t make judgements based on appearances and you eat the food of the locals, that’s the best way to go.
We don’t hold a candle to Sapporo when it comes to ramen, but curry and omelette contained stir-fried rice is delicious here.
In addition, Hakodate’s a place that’s perfect for leisure walks on the hills. In the area where I live, there are many old hills paved with stones. I recommend climbing up and down those mountains. It would be great if one day, I could show you around town.
I’ll write to you again. I want to stay by Fukino’s side a bit more though, so the speed at which I write replies might be a bit slow, but please wait for me.
It’ll be New Year’s soon. A year passes so quickly; I wish time would pass more slowly. I’m not ready for the new year to come.
Last night, my friend had his wedding ceremony so I went. He looked blissfully happy. I want to become the kind of person who can wish a friend happiness from the bottom of my heart despite experiencing hardships at that time.
He was someone who went to the same school as me since elementary school, and we were in the same class for two years during grades 5-6 and a year in grade 9. Even when we were in different classes, we always hung out together, and he’s a true friend of mine.
Because this was his once in a lifetime event, I didn’t want to attend with a heavy heart. And yet, it’s true that there was a part of me that was envious of their happiness. I couldn’t help but feel a bit jealous; I couldn’t help but keep overlapping the newly wed couple with Fukino.
I felt so ashamed of myself for feeling this way that when it came time to leave, I couldn’t find it in myself to look at their bright faces (I’m no where near the wonderful person you make me out to be).
That’s when, I’m not sure if he caught on to my feelings, but he said to me with his eyes slightly red in an emotional voice: “Thank you for attending during such a trying time” (because he’s a close friend, I’d told him about Fuki-chan).
Now, I wish for their happiness from the bottom of my heart.
Instead of a New Year’s greeting card, I’m writing this. I think it’s probably the case that this is a period in which there is no Christmas or New Year’s to you. Because I can’t just nonchalantly say “Happy New Years!” to someone like you who spends day in day out taking care of another, I’ve decided that this year, I won’t send out a New Year’s greeting card to you.
Time flies– it’s been almost two years since we first began our letter correspondence. So many things are happening each day that it makes me dizzy, but I have a feeling these days will continue to stay this way this year. I have a feeling though that I’ll be able to stand anything that may come my way. It just means I’ve shot through that much of a dark year in order to feel this way. Hey, Motojirou. We need to keep at it without ever giving up.
Oh, right right. At the start of the new year, something good happened to me. I was finally able to find a new workplace. I’ve been going to the Public Employment Office (lately, I heard people call it “Hello Work”) since last year, and I finally managed to find a job. It’s a place that made me think “This is it!” It’s not located in Shimokita, so I have to commute by train, but it’s a gigantic pre-school with lots of teachers. I’m sure that with so many people working there, I won’t experience the bullying that I did in my last work place, and because there are many pre-school children, it looks like it’ll be fun. Not only that, but the pre-school grounds is very spacious (it’ll probably be a pain to clean though), and it seems the children are able to grow in a free and easygoing atmosphere.
I start working next week, but yesterday I went to go meet with the director and the chairperson. They were very kind people who had a gentle atmosphere to them (the director was a man, and the chairperson was a woman. They’re a married couple, and I got the impression that they’ve been married for a long time), and I have a feeling that I’ll be able to work here for a long time. At any rate, I plan to put my heart into this, and do my best facing forward. Motojirou, please cheer me on.
This letter’s a bit more formal than my previous ones, so it sounds a bit stiff, doesn’t it? I quit! Well, when all’s said and done, since this is the start of a new year, I plan to create a self that’s different from the last. That’s what I think. I look forward to your continued acquaintance. Oh, I knew it. That does come off as really stiff (laughs).
This year, days of heavy snowfall have continued unlike any in the years before it, and Hakodate is in a state of sleep beneath all the snow. Just the other day, a heavy snowfall fell right after New Year’s, and it led to a snarl-up in traffic. When I was a kid, I used to enjoy being able to stay home from school because of the heavy snowfall, but now that I’m an adult, that kind of stuff begins to affect one’s work, so I keep praying that too heavy of a snowfall won’t occur. But there’s no denying that snow suits Hokkaido. The sand-like town covered in snow is a pretty impressive sight. The scenery that one can see looking down from the Sanchou Station is in a league of its own.
I spend my days dressing warmly and sighing from the beauty of the world that I gaze down upon.
Happy New Year’s. Oh, but it’s already February, huh? My reply’s late again. I’m sorry.
It seems that spring seems to be coming for you. It is my wish that you succeed in your new work place by putting to use your experiences from your former workplace. Don’t be dazzled by another’s happiness. It’s my wish that you can live your life in a way that allows you yourself to be happy. Your life has only just begun. There’s no need to rush. Also, please don’t hate life and view it in a distorted manner. Don’t look at it distastefully and don’t be envious of others. These are my humble wishes for you.
How is your father doing? You mentioned this in your last letter, but it seems that you’ve reached a peaceful reconciliation. I think that’s a sign that you’ve become an adult. Although the sacrifice was great, I hope that you are able to forgive him. Is there any possibility of you forming a new child-parent relationship with him? I’m sure there will come a time sometime in the future in which you’ll understand the meaning of what I am saying, but for now, please just trust me and be on good terms with your father. I have no doubt that there will come a day when you will be glad you did. There will definitely come a time when you will think that.
Blood linkage is a very important thing. Even if you don’t live together, there’s no denying that there is a strong bond that exists. It will take time for you to become closer, but I’m sure there will come a day that you will be grateful for it.
I also have someone who shares the same blood as me— a sister. This was something I found out later in life. But now, I can’t even see that person. I know where she lives so I want to go see her. But right now, there are so many things that I’m dealing with. There is the serious situation of Fuki-chan, and there is also the issue of my mother, so I can’t go and see her right now. I do believe though that if we were to meet, we’d be able to form a strong bond since we both grew up without knowing a parent’s love, I’m not in a situation that allows me to just go and see her.
Speaking as someone in that kind of situation, I can’t help but feel envious of you for having been able to reconcile with your father.
Since your father suffered injuries to the point of being in a life-threatening condition, I think he has done plenty to atone for what he did. Since he’s atoned for his actions, I think it’s time for you to forgive him. No, I think you need to return something that goes beyond his atonement. In the end, I’m sure there will come a day when you’re glad that you were born as a human. That’s right, even if you’re still in doubt now, a day like that will surely come.
Right now, I’m writing this in Fuki-chan’s hospital room. I’m writing this on the small table beside the bed. Humans live countless different lives, but I’ve never once bore hatred towards the life given to me. There are often times I think “I can’t go on anymore,” but whenever I think that, I have a feeling like someone is talking to me. No, maybe it’s better to say that someone is holding their hand out to me. And I, without hesitation, always cling onto that hand. I think that this is the existence of this being called God. Although I don’t particularly believe in one religion (it might’ve given me more comfort if I had), I do have this thing called prayer. “I don’t have faith in one religion but I do have prayers”— that’s a strange thing to say, right? But it’s true. I don’t have faith in a particular God or Buddha, but I do feel like although I don’t know what this being is, there is this particular being who is always there with an outstretched hand. Before I’d realized it, I had begun to reach out my hand to this being that I can’t see. This is why I’ve never once from the bottom of my heart cursed humans or the situation in my life. Even if I think I am suffering, I always thought that there was a meaning behind this suffering. This wasn’t something I told myself to cheer myself up. I really do believe that. That provided me salvation above all.
The way I see it is, whether you’re a believer or a non-believer, I think all living beings alike have an existence like God or Buddha or others that holds their hand out to them. It’s up to each person to realize that and choose whether or not to take that hand, but I think the truth of the situation is, there is no such thing as inequality among humans.
Even in a world in which the average life span is only twenty-five years, I want to believe that there must surely a thing called happiness, just like there exists unhappiness in a world in which people live to be eighty.
That’s why I’ve made it up in my mind that no matter what, I don’t want to belittle myself, because it is during trying times like these that I can feel a sacred presence. I think to me, that is what prayers are all about. I’m not sure what or who it is that I am praying to, but I don’t think praying isn’t about worshipping another. Prayers are all about accepting yourself for who you are, and releasing all of the pent up feelings within you like one would a breath of air. I think it is about immersing yourself in this world and being grateful for your life. I’ve come to realize that things that cause you joy and things that cause you suffering are both important to life.
Despite the fact that I’m currently living my life taking care of another, I can’t help but feel every single day, in every single moment, as if light is being cast upon me. That’s why I can’t help but always look up to the sky and say my thanks. I also pray that one day I will be able to go to that being’s side. I wonder where that place could possibly be? I’m not sure, but I murmur this to the sky. I think there is a universe beyond the stratosphere that will one day accept me. Perhaps that’s heaven?
I think this belief is why I am able to faithfully and preciously live this fate that has been given to me. It took me a long time to come to a point where I have been able to realize this. But it was Fuki-chan, my mother, and you, who made me realize that. I want to say “thank you” to everyone.
I wish I could thank everyone, to the celestial being above who allowed me to have today.
Happiness can be found in your hands. Thank you. And please, don’t forget. I’ll always be by your side.
After finishing reading your letter, I rejoiced that I am who I am. That was my first time ever experiencing something like that. Until now, I’d hated my own existence, and I cursed myself. But now, I’ve come to accept myself. I can’t explain it well, but I can feel it. I can’t understand it, but I know it. I think that’s the kind of feeling it is.
I want to thank you again. Thank you, Motojirou.
I didn’t want to acknowledge my father’s presence. That’s because that was the way I lived. To act tough was everything to me. But now, I’m taking the initiative and actively participating in his rehabilitation. Whenever I have the time, I stop by his house, and I take care of him. I never thought I could become like this, and although it is a bit embarrassing to admit, I’m in a state now that I’m willing to overlook logic to come to accept him. I think this was something that you taught me to do from our letter exchange.
I’m going to say something silly, but don’t laugh, okay? I’ve finally become used to seeing the bright light. I’ve been able to realize the overflowing energy that one gets from living inside the bright light. It’s as if the time I spent wearing dark sunglasses looking only at what was behind me had never happened. I’ve come to be able to learn the lively motions of being inside the light of the sun. Thank you. I thank you too. I also thank the thing that you said was beyond the sky. Were you referring to a blessing? Was it a blessing you were referring to? Since living beings like us have all been blessed in some way, after all.
I don’t really get it, but I still thank you all the same. I feel like tonight, I’ll be able to sleep soundly. You should also give your soul a rest from time to time.
Today, my father managed to walk on his own. It was a wobbly kind of walk that resembled a toddler’s, but he laughed saying it was as if he had been reborn.
My Beloved Nagasawa Motojirou-sama,
It’s starting to get a bit warmer here, but how is it in Hokkaido? Has the snow melted already? I wonder how much longer it’ll take until the snow that’s enveloped Hokkaido has completely melted?
Lately, I’ve stopped wearing a watch. It seems that it’s not only my sense of time that has dulled– my sense of seasons seemed to have dulled along with it.
What are you doing now, Motojirou? It’s been a long time since I last heard from you, but I’ll be waiting for you. If you ever feel like writing me a letter, no matter when, please do so. As for me, I’ll continue to send you letters at my own pace. I am praying for the two of you from under the Shimokita sky.
Today, I went out by myself to watch a movie. I also went shopping by myself, went to a café by myself, and wrote a letter to myself. I dropped it into a mailbox without writing my address down before returning home.
Please write a reply to me again. It’s okay if it’s only one line…please, just write to me. Please. Please. I’m waiting for you. I’m waiting for one word from you.
Motojirou, how are you doing?
I’m worried about you. I’m really worried. How have you been doing? I took out the last letter I received from you and re-read it, and it’s made me even more worried. Is there a special meaning in what you wrote in your “P.S.”? What did you mean when you said: “And please, don’t forget. I’ll always be by your side.”?
My Beloved Nagasawa Motojirou-sama,
Can you guess where I am right now? Here’s a hint: look at the envelope to this letter. Bingo! That’s right. I’ve come to Hakodate again. Since I’ve been working my butt off without giving myself a break, I asked them if I could have some time off and as a reward to myself. I’ve decided to go on a do-as-you-please one week trip around Hokkaido. Today, since I’ve arrived in Hakodate, I’m planning on going around to different places. I really did end up coming here!
I came on the morning flight. Perhaps it’s because of the season, but it was deserted. The snow had yet to melt, so I was surprised by the winter scenery. I heard that one heck of a sudden heavy snowfall fell upon this place a few days ago. I guess I shouldn’t have expected any less from Hokkaido, huh? All that despite it being almost April.
I’m writing this letter in the lobby of the Hotel of New Hakodate that’s located in the town of Suehiro. Do you remember, Motojirou? You promised me that the next time I came here, you would show me around. But don’t worry. I won’t trouble you because I know you’re busy. Since I’m on a do-as-you-please trip, I might go to Sapporo tomorrow.
I’m thinking though that I’d like to ride on the cableway.
Where should I have dinner? Maybe I’ll have some sushi.
Right now, as I am writing this letter, I’m at a loss of what to think or do. Overnight, my world has taken a drastic change.
Who are you really? Are you really a person named Nagasawa Motojirou? Or do you have another name?
This morning, I went to the ropeway. I couldn’t stand it any longer—I just wanted to get one glance of you. I intended on being satisfied with that and leaving for Tokyo after having seen you working in good health.
I wandered about the Fumoto Station for a while. I really did wander about the premises for many hours. I finally gathered the courage to go up to the Sanchou Station (you get where I’m going with this now, don’t you?). At that station, I hesitated once again, but I made up my mind to bring up your name to a station employee. He had a confused expression on his face, and he told me that no one worked there by that name (what is the meaning of this? Why?). I was taken aback, and I insisted that there must be. That’s when he took me to the clerks’ office and a person in an upper position was there to greet me. Even after going into the back records though, he couldn’t find anyone by the name of Nagasawa who had worked there. Even your father’s name didn’t show up. Were those all lies?
Motojirou, you were lying to me. So what, was everything you told me until now lies too? Then who are you? What is the meaning of this?
After I descended the mountain, I went straight to your house without hesitation. To the cute house with the triangular galvanized sheet iron roof located partway up the hill. I tried ringing the bell, but no one answered. After that, I waited until the sun went down for you to return home, but no one came back.
Suddenly, I was struck by the thought that perhaps this person named Nagasawa Motojirou never existed in the first place.
The houses surrounding yours had light emanating from them. Your house was the only one that was silent and dark; it was as if it was a haunted house.
Motojirou, who are you really?
I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I peered into your mail box. That wasn’t enough. I even went so far as to stick my hand inside.
Inside, it was filled with my letters addressed to you. Even the letter I sent to you the day before was mixed into the bunch. The oldest one was the letter I sent to you stamped on the fourth of February.
On the NTT bill, there was written the name Nagasawa Fukino. “Fukino”…? Is that Fukino-chan? What does that mean? Did you two marry? I’m sure it read “Nagasawa Fukino” on that bill. What is the meaning of this?
Right now, I’m writing this letter in my hotel room despite being dead tired. What am I supposed to do from here on out? Motojirou, do you really exist? I want to see you at all costs, because I have to thank you for all the times you supported me until now.
Please contact me. And tell me the truth. No matter what the truth of the situation is, I promise I won’t be wavered by it.
After posting this letter tomorrow, I’ll come to visit your house one more time. Who is it though that will open this envelope?
I’ve decided to go back to Tokyo on the last flight out today. In the end, I wasn’t able to see you.
Yesterday, I gathered up the courage and paid your neighbour a call. You know her right? Her name is Sayama-san; she was an elegant woman. I didn’t know how to broach the reason for my paying her a call, so I just commented saying: “Your next door neighbour seems to be gone for quite a while.”
When I said this, I noticed her turn slightly pale. She looked at me in puzzlement.
That’s when, in a panic, I explained to her that I was an old acquaintance of yours. Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten about Fukino-san (but as it is now, I’ve become doubtful of even the existence of this person named Fukino-san. It’s not that I’m accusing you of lying. I’m just in a state of confusion right now). Oh, and I didn’t tell her we were pen pals. I didn’t want her to become suspicious of me, so I put on as best of an act as I could. I didn’t even tell her that you lied to me about working at the ropeway. My intention isn’t to look into your conduct. With regards to that, I hope to one day be able to ask you about those things directly. All I wanted was for someone to confirm that you do indeed exist.
The neighbour only told me that those who lived next door have been at the hospital for a while. I sensed after hearing her saying that, that it wouldn’t be right of me to ask any further. You must be spending day and night taking care of Fuki-chan, right? I think that’s probably the case. I wish you could just tell me that.
Your neighbour confirmed your existence. That’s enough for me. It made me think that’s enough, and that I should leave. It made me think that I shouldn’t be nosing around any further.
With regards to the ropeway, I feel as if I’ve been bewitched by a fox, but I’ve decided to give up scrutinizing that, because it’s not that big of a deal. I’m sure you had your reason for lying to me about that.
This letter turned out to be quite an emotional one. Nevertheless, I’m going to post this without reading it before heading back. Letters can be quite the mysterious thing. As I write this letter, I can feel the feelings within me that were murky slowly disentangling. Now, I’m just in the mood to come face-to-face with you and talk to you directly.
My Beloved Motojirou-sama,
Right now, I’m at the Hakodate airport. I ended up arriving a bit early, so I’m writing this letter in the restaurant located inside the airport.
I thought about how many letters I’ve received from you until now, Motojirou. But the majority of that (no, all of it) were letters of lies, weren’t they? You never worked at the ropeway. We made a promise to each other never to lie, so all this time I only told you the truth to the point that I was practically showing you the contents of my heart. And yet, as for you Motojirou, all– or even if I cut you some slack, most of what you said, were lies. They were all lies. Even if there were circumstances for why you lied, I just can’t understand why you would do this. If there was even one lie mixed into the truth, you’re out.
I want you to tell me why you had to lie to me.
Looking back, I can’t help but laugh. That story you told me about you gazing up at the starry sky from the top of the Hakodate Mountain— that was a lie too, wasn’t it? And yet, I was cheered up by such a lie, and I even went so far as to set off to Okinawa. And being coaxed by the lie, my heart became lighter as if I had been placed under hypnosis.
The image of you guiding the students on a school trip to a safe spot and of operating the cableway has long been established in my mind. And strange enough, that image I have of you wearing a uniform and standing at the Sanchou Station is still firmly engrained in my mind, but those were all lies, weren’t they? Despite having never met you, that image of you still remains deeply etched in my heart, right down to the smile.
What did you tell me that was true?
I also have another thing that troubles me, and that’s why you felt the need to lie to me.
I don’t need to hear from you right away. I’m afraid of rushing you and accusing you of things without meaning to and of losing the only friend I have. That’s why…it doesn’t matter when. Please, just tell me the truth. No matter what you tell me, I promise I won’t be surprised.
Were you lying about Fuki-chan too? I don’t know. I don’t know what to believe anymore.
Please…just this once, tell me the truth.
TO BE CONTINUED…
[UP NEXT: Chapter 6 – pg 219-242]