Chapter 7 – Somewhere in the Corner of this World, I’m also Alive
Dispensing with the preliminaries—
Winter has passed, and the season of tranquility is nearing once again. Time passes by so quickly– one year has already slipped by. How have you been doing?
It has been decided that I will switch from becoming a teacher overseeing four year olds to a teacher overseeing a class of 0-1 year olds. I will no longer be caring for children who have begun to speak. Instead, I will be caring for those children who have just been born and who have yet to be able to sit up on their own. I think it will be a good learning experience for me for when I become a mother. Plus, I love babies. When I am around children who have yet to set down a life path for themselves, I feel as if they could share their hopes with me, and I am cheered up by such a thought. I think the reason why I am able to feel this way is probably because I am in a proper relationship right now. It might just be because we’re considering getting married. I have naturally begun to think about how I might give birth to a baby one day. It might just be because in the near future, I am thinking of raising this thing called a family. I am able to wish for the happiness of others like everyone else. Because of this, I am able to feel joyful from such a thought.
It’s almost hard to believe that there was a time in my life when I hated this thing called society. I truly believe I can feel this way now all thanks to Motojirou, who is in heaven—no, thanks to the guidance I received from my brother. I am grateful to him. I wonder what he’s doing right about now? I wonder where and what my brother’s spirit is doing? This is just my guess, but I think he’s probably taking care of someone again somewhere in the sky. He was a truly kind brother. It makes feel obligated to carry on that kindness. I also strongly vowed to myself that I have to become happy–for my brother as much as for myself.
A year ago, you took me to my brother’s grave. And there, I was able to confirm his death. His grave was surrounded by old grave markers, and his stood out because it was sparkling new. The way it gleamed in the sky left a deep impression on me.
I thought for sure that I would be beside myself when I saw his grave, so it was a surprise to me at how calm I was. The gentle spring breeze blew through the graveyard, and it was like a calling from Motojirou-san’s spirit. Every time the wind blew, I couldn’t help but think Motojirou-san was smiling down upon me.
Since then, a year has passed with great speed. Although it’s only been a year, everything feels so far away as if it had happened many, many years ago. Whenever I think I am about to crumble, I take out the letters I received from my brother one at a time and re-read them. I am glad we communicated through letters. Thanks to our letter correspondence, I was left with his letters. The feel of the letter paper and handwriting are still in good condition, and it makes me think that Motojirou himself is still strongly continuing to live on.
It is as if my brother is still right by my side. As long as I am alive, it’s natural for there to be some unkindness from those around me, but I’ve stopped running away from it like I used to do. Because I was able to get to know Motojirou, I was able to grow and mature as a person.
I wonder what kind of existence Motojirou was to me? The presence of my brother, who is no longer on this earth, hasn’t faded; instead, it has taken root deep inside my heart. It is as if he’s a massive tree that is resolutely soaring towards to the sky. Even now, I am the small child who continues to play, worry and grow in front of that tree. I always gaze up at this tree called my brother, and I squint my eyes from the brightness of the light that is dancing at the edges of the dense, green leaves.
Motojirou’s mother, as long as we are still alive, he will continue to be right by our side. And we will continue to live on together. His beautiful spirit is immortal. As long as we are alive, he will continue to live on in our memories.
I have a feeling that I will forever continue to live my life by his side. The words that he left behind are the words of God to me.
When you have time, please write me a reply. It only needs to be when you have the time—please tell me about your days since. Because it is a time of changing seasons, please take care of your body and be careful not to catch a cold.
As long as you’re alive, there are many things that will happen. For now, I plan on living my life to the best of my abilities for Motojirou as much as for myself. I won’t ever lose. But I’m sure my brother would laugh and say to the me that life isn’t about winning or losing. Still, I plan on doing my very best not to lose to life—no, so that I won’t lose to myself.
Putting to use the summer, I am making plans to go on a trip to Hokkaido with my friend. I am thinking about stopping by Hakodate. This is because I want to visit Motojirou-san’s grave. Once I have figured out the details, I will contact you.
Dispensing with the preliminaries—
Thank you for your letter. I also truly feel the swiftness at which the days and months pass. More than a year has passed already since Motojirou departed from this world. Time is a strange thing. It continues to flow on its own without you having to do anything. Whether it is our wish or not, it smoothly passes by.
In the beginning, I didn’t like looking at the calendar because it felt was if Motojirou’s death was fading away into the distance, but thanks to this very time, I was able to once again resume a human-like day to day existence, so I have to be thankful to it.
Humans are marked off by time, and I think this is why they can bear the range of feelings experienced day-to-day. Whether it be something sad or something happy, time allows one to create distance between these feelings and the person herself.
Motojirou’s death. The reality that pained me so. I was able to heal my wounds in the quiet kindness of the passing time, and now, I’ve come to a point in which I am thinking that I must calmly embrace the life that he did live.
Before he was buried, Motojirou’s remains were brought one last time to his room. I removed his cold corpse from the coffin by myself, and laid him out on his bed. The entire time he was hospitalized, I left his room as it was. This was because I believed he would be cured and return home one day, so I continued to clean it so that he could return any time he wished.
It was as if he was still alive as his corpse laid there on top of the bed. It looked like he was floating as the light from the moon filtered through the curtain— I could almost hear him breathing in his sleep. It was the first time in a while seeing such a serene and gentle expression.
I’m finally free from my suffering. I clearly understood that. I wish I could’ve left him lying there like that forever. Even if the decomposition of his body began, I wish I could’ve left him there until he was nothing more than bones. I wish I could’ve left him there without moving him. Just for a moment, I seriously considered doing such a thing.
I have continued to leave his room in its original condition. His desk, clothes, CDs, stereo, and even his skis have been left leaning against the wall. I’ve continued to clean his room everyday as I have always done—so that he is able to come back one day if he wishes.
From time to time, there are times I feel like he’s come back to his room. When I’m in my room, there are times I hear a noise coming from his room. Once, his light stand had been turned on and I was very surprised. That time, I was happy because I thought: “Oh, I knew it. He did come back.” But when I actually sat down and thought about it, it might just be that I had turned it on by mistake when I went to clean his room earlier that day. But, it didn’t matter. Just being able to assume something like that provides a source of happiness for me right now. Just being able to think that he’s nearby is enough.
Although it took me quite a long time for me to fully accept his death, I have finally begun to re-think the life I have left. I have finally been able to acknowledge his death. Although it is something that is a very lonely thing to admit, I think that’s the first step to moving forward. From here on, I have to work and continue to live my life on my own, so I have to live much stronger than before. But it’s also true that it doesn’t change the fact that humans are born alone and they will die alone—no matter how wealthy a person may be. It’s not that I want to say that humans are solitary beings. Everyone knows that. It is because everyone knows this that they help fellow humans and live their lives working together.
The other day, when I was waiting for the street car at the intersection, I caught sight of Motojirou. He was wearing his summer clothes, and he dashed across the main road with his friends. Before I knew it, I had yelled: “Motojirou!” The moment I realized it was a mirage, I felt a sudden wave of sorrow wash over me, and I crouched right there on the spot and began bawling. Passerbys were kind enough to lend me a hand, and they guided me to the shade in front of an arcade. They asked me if I was all right, so I replied in a clear voice: “Yes, I’m fine now.” Yes, I’m fine now. I muttered this again and again inside my heart. There was no trace of Motojirou at the intersection. The only thing I saw was the aged streetcar creaking as it headed towards the Hakodate dock.
I have a feeling that it was in that moment that I finally acknowledged his death. The cold dry wind blowing down from over the mountains that blew through the town brushed against my cheek, and I silently closed my eyes, and told myself: he’s died.
If you have the time, please stop by Motojirou’s grave. I can just see how happy he would be to have you visit.
Being able to write about myself like this in a letter soothes my heart. I have someone who is willing to listen to me, I have someone whom I can talk to Motojirou about— I feel blessed.
As long as you are Motojirou’s sister, it doesn’t change the fact that you are like a daughter-like existence to me. I promise I won’t get in the way of your life, so please stop by this place from time to time when you have the time. And when you do, please talk to me about your life. Like Motojirou, I will lend an ear to your words, and like him, I will return a gentle smile.
The picture I have enclosed in this envelope along with my letter is a picture from back when Motojirou was a child. The person who shows up in the picture along with him is my husband, Nagasawa Kenjirou. Since they were only able to live a few years together, their relationship wasn’t very much like that of a father and son, but they were very close, and Motojirou looked up to him, who used to be sailor, very much as a parent (after he returned to land, he comes to work at a trading company, and that was where he became acquainted with your father). This is why Motojirou took his sudden death very hard, and he was unable to speak for three months. And of course, the woman standing next to them is me. I am striking a pose wearing a wide brimmed hat, but that day, I wasn’t wearing makeup so I was using the hat to cover that fact up.
Dispensing with the preliminaries—
It’s finally starting to become warmer, isn’t it? I am guessing that you must be at the peak of the early summer there. Since I’ve never once gone out to Tokyo, I can’t imagine what a place like Shimokitazawa is like, but from time to time, I see it on TV being introduced as a young people’s city, and I imagine that you are passing your days cheerfully with the children at your pre-school.
It’s probably the case that even in Shimokitazawa, the roads must be enveloped with green trees, and they are beautifully adding color to the city right about now. I think you must be bathing in that light living in good health.
The other day— thank you very much for coming by to visit my son’s grave. After I lost my son, days in which a cloud hanged over me continued, but after seeing you in good health, it served as a source of encouragement for me to try my hardest as well. Oh, and please give my regards to Andou-san. He placed his hands together and stood in front of Motojirou’s grave for so long even though he’d never even met him before, so I wonder what it was he was talking to Motojirou about? Although I think I can guess. I can’t help but be excited that good news might be coming shortly. No, I guess I shouldn’t go around imagining things on my own; however, that’s about the only thing I have to look forward to, so please allow me to continue doing so.
I’m sure Motojirou must’ve been very pleased as well. I knew from the way the light reflected when you placed your hands together in front of his grave. It was as if you were engulfed in light. It was only for an instant, but I saw a passage of light running through from your head to your feet. It made me think that Motojirou had come down to be by your side.
Motojirou was able to leave this world after giving encouragement to and guiding his sister. I think that was a time of great happiness in his ill-fated life. This is probably thanks to God. I try to think of it like that. Although his life was a short one, through his letter correspondence with you he was able to make his last days a fulfilling one—I truly believe that.
This is why I can’t help but say “thank you” to those who deliver mail. It is because of their efforts that you and he were able to be tied together as siblings.
Right this moment, all around the world, mail carriers are working. I wonder how many letter carriers there are in all? I think it’s the case that the numerous letter carriers are running around in an effort to close the gap in the world. Just thinking about that is enough to cheer me up. They’re delivering the thoughts of the entire world—in this day and age when things can so easily be accessed through the internet. They climb mountains, cross rivers and are able to go anywhere—how strong they must be!
Well, I do use e-mail as well. I also have my own e-mail address. But for important matters, I write letters by hand. When I want to make sure my feelings reach the other person, I hold in my hand a pen. It doesn’t cross my mind to use a world processor because my writing is messy, because it is within that messy handwriting that the human is reflected.
I can understand why he was so insistent on a letter correspondence. And I am thankful that you didn’t become tired of such a way of communicating. This is why, if it is all right with you, I would like to write you a letter again. Whenever I get the urge to talk to someone about Motojirou, I will write a letter to you. I would be grateful if you continue to read my letters.
Whenever you have the time, please come and visit this town where Motojirou lived. I’m sure he was happy when you went into his room. I was also happy. I plan on leaving that room as it is. When you start a family and you set off on a vacation, please feel free to use his room. As a mother in Hokkaido, I will receive you with open arms.
Without meaning to, the contents of our letters always end up about Motojirou, doesn’t it? I guess it can’t be held, but to end this letter, I would like to say something about my self. If at all possible, please try to read this without laughing.
I am thinking of re-marrying soon. There is a person who has been supporting me since Motojirou had been hospitalized, and after the first anniversary of Motojirou’s death, he proposed to me. He is someone who lost his wife early on in the marriage, and because he has no children, he is someone who has experienced similar circumstances. Moreover, he is very kind, and he sincerely worried about Motojirou, whom he had never even met before. I couldn’t open up about him to Motojirou to the very end, so instead, I am hoping to receive approval from you in his place. If you could give us your blessing in his place, I think I will be able to feel at ease and remarry.
Because I feel as if I am starting to ramble on, I think I will put down my pen for today. Please give my regards to Andou-san. I am praying that you two will continue to get along happily.
Dear Nagasawa Fukino-sama,
I am glad that you seem to be doing well. And what wonderful news! I’m sure my brother would be happy about you remarrying. You only have one life, after all. Please don’t hesitate and make your decisions in life.
In addition, with regards to when I went to Hakodate to visit his grave, thank you very much for everything. It is likely to be the case that I caused you trouble by bringing a friend with me—for that, I am sorry. Not only that, but you also treated us to delicious local dishes. They were all very delicious. Fish that delicious can’t be so easily found here where I live. The simmered squid was perfection itself.
The next time I come to visit his grave, please take me to that same restaurant again. Next time, we can go have dinner the three of us with your new husband– no, it would be four including Andou-kun.
On another note, Motojirou’s room left a very deep impression on me. It was like seeing a painting without its frame. There was the air of quiet tension, and I know this is going to sound strange– but it was as if the room itself was alive.
The moment I stepped into his room, I felt something run down my back. My heart was full just thinking about how this was the place where Moto grew up. Each and every furniture and decorative object was breathing, and it felt as if my brother was still alive and living there. No, he IS still alive. There is no doubt that Motojirou is still living. The moment I went into his room, I caught the whiff of the scent of my brother’s life. I gazed at his existence. I felt as if I was able to burrow into his life. Andou-kun said something similar to me.
I’m glad I was able to have a letter correspondence with Motojirou, because it was through my letters with him that I was able to learn the preciousness and importance of life. I vow to never put my life to waste. It is my wish that you, Motojirou’s mother, will also celebrate the wonderful second part of your life. I think that is my brother’s wish as well.
Motojirou is, when it comes right down to it, my one and only son whom I cannot forget. No matter the time, I am always reminded of him. Memories can be quite the painful thing. He was my whole life, so I believe it will take as long of a time as Motojirou lived to be able to shake off this sorrow I feel from his death. I thought “I’m fine now. I can live a new life for myself.” but that isn’t true by any means. Loneliness takes me unaware in an instant. Every time the snow falls, every time the wind blows, every time the rain falls, there is no doubt that I am reminded of the child whom I loved with all my heart. I hope that I will be able to see him again one day.
What I have included in this letter is a copied portion of the diary he used to keep in his hospital room that pertained to you. From time to time, he would write in his diary. I probably should have shown it to you when you stopped by my house the other day, but because I was so elated at having been able to meet you, I completely forgot about it. It probably is the case that I should show you the entire content of his diary, but I’m sure Motojirou would’ve been embarrassed about that, so from my judgement, I’ll show you a portion of it. It is my sincere hope that you will keep in touch with me in the future. Please take care, and don’t push yourself too hard.
Today, I received a letter from Ririka. I’ve been waiting for this letter for a very long time now. Humans are animals that wait. There is no animal though that waits as long as humans do. There’s no doubt that humans were born to wait. And as for me, I’m someone who is clearly waiting for death more than anyone. This is why I feel amused thinking from time to time that there is no one more human than me.
Every time I receive a letter, I feel as if I’m being allowed to live for that much longer. Within each and every letter, I have a feeling that sealed in them is the hope to continue to live. My one and only younger sister. She is my precious one and only sister. The joy that I felt when I found out I had a sister was great, because I thought I would never be able to meet anyone who shared the same blood as me. I want to see her. I want to see her and talk about many things— about our lives. I also want to cheer on her future, because she is the only sister in my world. I want to see her be happy.
Just as I planned, she hasn’t realized my true identity. It pains me because it’s as if I am deceiving her. I don’t know if this is really the right way to go about things. I wonder if I should’ve just identified my self straight out and said: “I’m your brother,” and that I should have opened up to her about how I don’t have that much longer to live. No, that wouldn’t have been right. Her life is at rock bottom right now. To add to her sorrow would be like furthering an attack on a weakening person and pushing her into an unhappy life, because if you think about it, she has been living all this time alone and suddenly out pops her brother who draws her away from loneliness only to die a short time later. That would probably be the equivalent of being thrust down from heaven to hell. I can’t ever let that happen. This is the very reason why I decided to come up with the way of communicating with her through a letter correspondence. By using this method, I can hide behind the various lies, and boost her spirits.
One day, I’ll make up some reason to quietly step aside. And the truth that I am her brother will remain sealed and I will depart from this world. I’ll become a star and continue to cheer her on from the skies. This is the best way.
I’m wondering if I should let her know our father’s whereabouts. Since I don’t have much time left, there’s really no point in me seeing him, but I wonder about Ririka, who will continue to live on for many years to come. I don’t know what kind of life my biological father has been leading, so I can’t easily allow them to meet. If meeting him would only lead to Ririka being hurt, it’s better if they don’t meet.
I’ll ask Mihara-san if she could look into him, and if he seems all right, I’ll have Mihara-san tell Ririka about her father. I think this is the best way to go about doing it. And Ririka, who is at a loss of what to do, will probably come to met for advice. When that happens, I’ll casually suggest that she meet him. Afterwards, I’ll cautiously take it by ear and see how it goes. If he’s not fit to be her father, then that’ll be the end of that. But right now, I can’t nip off the roots to possibility. I want to avoid her being left all alone in this world after I’m gone at all costs.
My father? To me, that person isn’t my father. I only have one father, and his name’s Nagasawa Kenjirou. And my mother is Nagasawa Fukino—only her.
The reason why I don’t immediately open the letters from her is because I want to bask in the after effect of receiving a letter from her for as long as I can. I hold it close to my heart, gaze at it, and at times, I even sniff the envelope. I know it’s not normal of me to sniff it, and I know this is an odd thing to say, but I feel as if the scent that wafts from the envelope is my sister herself. I think it is because we communicate through letters that I can feel this way.
The reason why I always make sure to include a “P.S.” is because I want to receive a reply from her again. Since I can’t very well demand her to write a reply every single time I send a letter, I end up asking all sorts of questions as a roundabout way of hoping for a reply from her.
Well then, I’m about to open a letter from Ririka. And tonight, I’ll once again spend another restless night thinking about Ririka’s future.
I feel guilt for lying in my letter correspondence with Ririka. I wonder if I should reveal my true identity to her after all this time? And even though if the time that is left is short, perhaps we should see each other? I want to see her. I want to meet her and see her face. But, it’s no use… I don’t want her to feel an initial joy that eventually proves hollow. It’s true it would ease the burden off my shoulders to do so. Since I’m the one who has death by my bedside, the existence of my sister provides a significant temporary peace of mind. But who could possibly call her out to Hakodate and confess to her that I only have a bit longer to live? The moment she comes to the hospital and sees my emaciated form, everything will be brought to light. I can’t do something so cruel to her.
Oh…what is it that I should do? What should I do?
I don’t want to die. There are times I suddenly lose grasp of the fact that I am going to die, and I become confused.
I haven’t been able to completely cheer her up yet. If I were to die tomorrow, she’ll lose to the negative feelings again, and she’s going to completely lose herself—I just know it. I can’t die yet. That’s right, God, I don’t care if I only live a third of the average life span, but please…let me live for a while longer. Would it be possible for me to live a year or two years longer? I have to save Ririka at all costs from the hell-like world that she’s found herself in, so what I need is time. I don’t want to die if only for that reason.
Who is it that I’m writing this diary for? It might just be that I’m writing this as a way of resolving things for whoever reads this diary after my death. That’s the action of a pretty soft-hearted person.
Ririka needs me. She’s reaching out her hand to me. She’s waiting to receive advice from me. She’s waiting for me. I’m being useful to her as an older brother.
I re-read her letters many times. Many, many times. And I placed a kiss on the letters. Ririka, you are my Venus. You must live my share too. You must never belittle life; you must celebrate it.
Every time I open the envelope and every time I close it, for an instant, I thank God.
[ THE END ]