blank page white night

Osaka Rose

Osaka rose in silk clothes with bells that dangle, socks and jandles, and bands of golden holding folds with her candles floating upon the water. Music played plain and simple. Twinkle of a few stars far beyond red lanterns—just one cloud in the night sky. Just a blanket of orange haze to tuck in the industrial monster. With just a hum of Hiroshima. Just a hint of honour. Just a band of punk rockers with safety-pin sepuku tee-shirts waiting at the corner, sipping on cola. Just a bicycle bell to warn you they’re coming. The silvery hum of the shin-kamsen, rattles the cellular-phone conversations. Everyone’s talking together alone. Everyone’s talking from guttural sounds to invisible clouds to satellites in the cosmos. Hubble’s looking right back at us. Everyone’s got their lights that twinkle, their bells that dangle. Everyone’s got their reasons for walking. They all don’t know how to talk to you. Together alone. Cardboard homes under the store windows. We all don’t talk about them, all too busy talking to the cosmos, waiting for the lights to change, waiting for tsugi-wa station. Everyone waiting for the future to call them.

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Work in Progress

Going through some old files I found this piece I started a while back. The premise was of a man trying to complete his novel in isolation when his estranged son turns up. I love the way the two banter thus far, avoiding the actual things they wish to address. It amuses me somewhat that those inspired or driven into the communicative arts often struggle in real life situations.

 

The curtains along the south wall were drawn, the windows behind them open. As the evening easterly outside passed the house the curtains in the room would become bloated with air. Then as the wind turned the drapes would deflate, as if the room in which he sat at his desk was breathing, deeply, stolidly, which made him feel as if he were actually sitting inside some living thing.

He stood from the chair, pausing for the sense of failure, but only long enough to reach for his drink and save the last finger from the dilution of the melting ice. He pressed the glass against his temple, his eyes closed, the room breathed in, he did also and held it. So easily distracted near his denouement, in spite of his urgency and lengths to avoid disruption, his senses seemed too heightened to dismiss the things he witnessed around him. Things so utterly common place yet charged, now, with metaphor, connection, mysticism. The sentence he’d become stuck in was too coincidental to the room in which he wrote, deeply, stolidly, the stag’s dying breaths as his father stood over it with its antler in one hand and the other stroking its crown. The eyes, vapid, his father’s mention of the war, the only thing Peter ever heard his father say about it. Their eyes were all open. The room breathed out. It was the connectedness or coincidence of his work and the outside world, that was the barb. This scene he was trying to render; remembered, imagined and meditated a decade now. No, a lifetime. It was the night his father took him hunting and shot the stag, the night he mentioned the war, the night Peter heard those stuttered words, and perhaps the fear it gave him that let his father down somehow, and how to particulate all that in the animal’s dying eye? Their eyes were all open. To render that somehow he knew he would need to shut the windows, but it was a difficult thing to ask of anyone during such a warm easterly in April.

Downstairs in the kitchen he called his first wife. He told her how Gary Fairfield had walked through the glass sliding door of his own house during his sixtieth birthday. He had to spend two hours away from the party getting eight stitches above his left ear. Peter then toasted two slices of bread under the grill in the oven and with a cup of tea he ate them with butter and honey and picked out the copy of A Moveable Fest from his bookshelf and read how Hemingway sat hungry in the Place St-Sulpice with the stone bishops and lions in the square and when he walked home he walked past the churches mostly to avoid the smells from the bakeries. Peter thought it would probably be wise to waste his time with A Farewell to Arms considering his own work but it was nearly done and well past the war now anyway. He read another chapter and slid the book under the couch and lay there until he fell asleep.

He was out with Duke in the front pond when he saw his son driving in through the front gate. It could have been anyone turning off the road, he could never tell, but by the time the car had reached the front gate Peter could see the decolouration on the bonnet and knew it was Michael, his son from his second marriage. The boy had turned thirty in March.

“Who’s this then?” Duke lifted his head to acknowledge the arrival. “Comeon, let’s go see what he wants.” Peter stood up on the rock and kicked the heel of his gumboots against it to loosen it off. He walked to the end of the driveway in his socks as Michael parked there.

“Hello then.”

“Surprise surprise.” His car smelled like it had been over fresh tarseal. Peter noticed the bags and personal belongings pilled in the back seat.

“I’ll put the kettle on, hungry?”

“Sure.”

Peter had cream crackers in the cupboard and buttered them with Marmite to have with the tea. He asked about life inAuckland, about his niece, about the weather, about the parking. They stood, crouched over their tea at opposite ends of the kitchen bench as they talked. He noticed a nervousness about his son, he seemed to often get distracted from their conversation to check the windows and doors around the kitchen. As if he half expected one of them to burst at any moment.

“I need to ask you, Dad. I need a place to stay a while.”

“I know what they’re telling you, but I’m not on holiday here, Mike.”

“I know. They I haven’t talked to yet. I came straight here, I need to be somewhere I can be left alone.”

“I’ve taken the time off for a reason, I want to finish this.”

“I know.”

“Has something happened?”

“I’m just run-down.”

“Is it money?”

“I’m just run-down. I haven’t had much work either, but it’s just hard to when I’m feeling this…”

“Run down.”

“Can I stay?”

“There’s only the couch to sleep on.”

“Suits me.”

“There was a microwave in the back seat.”

“I really need some time out.”

“An omen.”

“You don’t have one, you can keep it, it’s yours.”

“I don’t want a microwave.”

“You can use it to reheat all the cups of tea you forget about. You only had a couple on the self, I’ll bet you’ve got a few around the house now.”

“What do they call me these days?”

She calls you Gunner Love-Smith.”

“Why then.”

“Cause you’re always gunna do this and gunna do that.”

“Clever.”

“She’s hilarious.”

“My father was in the artillery during the war. She knew that.”

He stood near the window and hooked a finger at the curtain’s edge so that he could look outside. He only had the reading lamp on above the Remington so he was able to see the gloaming out across the neighbour’s rear fields up to the hill. Michael was out there in the dark somewhere, his father stood there waiting for the ember to appear out in the distance by the hill. He knew well enough where to expect it. It had always been Michael’s spot to skulk off to, usually to smoke a cigarette but he suspected it was occasionally pot. He’d been there over a week now and already there was routine. They would watch TV after dinner, perhaps share a drink, Michael would offer to walk Duke and his father would pretend to work upstairs. It was the poplar tree at the foot of the hill that he knew Michael was drawn to out there. That side of the hill had a slip where a poplar had grown at the foot of it. That particular spot caught most winds which were directed along the slip and over the tree. In the decades before Peter mortgaged the neighbouring property the tree had grown at a tilt and subsequently died with the majority of its branches parallel to the ground. Like it was a skeletal hand, cupped and stuck there at the foot of the slip. And his son had always jumped the fence to sit there. And it occurred to him that he should visit Robert and Floss the next day to see if they’d noticed his son had been walking out there in their fields at night.

World War Two in colour was on the television, an expose on German U-boats in the black gap of the Atlantic. Peter pushed a pair of jeans and a magazine along the sofa so he could sit down.

“You’re reading Hemingway,” Michael asked him as he eased back into the seat.

“I’m going to get rancid if you don’t start putting your gear away.”

“I’ll throw it all back in the car after this.”

“The Allies are losing?”

“It’s about to turn I think. You were reading this, it was under the couch?” Michael pulled the copy of A Moveable Feast out from behind the cushion next to him.

“Oh, I was flicking through it before I fell asleep one night.”

Notes on a Heartache

Put down your phone

Leave it in the refrigerator

 

Make a list

The things you hate about her

The fun things you can do

For god’s sake no music

 

Try not to remember anything

You remember

The day it changed

 

Forget back as far as you can

Remember

 

Buy a plant or a cat or an aquarium

 

Show it how much you care

 

Call a friend to sit in the garden and listen

Make a list

Everything you want to talk about this one and only time

 

Memorize the list

Remembering to forget as far back as you can

Remember

 

Consume omega 3

Remember to eat

Exercise

 

Try not to think of anything smart to say

 

Buy yourself and someone in your family the same gift

 

Feed the plant or cat or aquarium

Plants eat light

 

Do number one on your fun list

 

Take your phone out of the fridge and return all your messages

Try not to think of anything smart to say

 

Burn all information

Every instruction manual

Learn to do these things again without them

 

Ask your bookkeeper for something with a little blood and terror

Take it out on the story

 

Console a friend in need the best you can

 

Consume omega 3

Remembering to eat

Exercise

 

Locate the most agitated part of your body and consult a physician

 

Buy new music

But nothing you’ve had before

 

Sit near water

Look downstream

 

Repeat words over and over

Without moving your lips

 

Take it out on a friend

So they can forgive you

 

If you remember anything see how difficult it is to put together

 

Find your old music

Go through all of it

Drink if you have to

Krzysztof Domaradzki

The Face in the Window

He stood at the front gate aware that if anyone could see him there they would make a note of it, they would remember how he stands, the colour of his skin, the cut of his hair, because it was late and he was alone, he did not belong, because a man like that didn’t own things and naturally coveted what others owned. He could see from the gate the rotten weather-boards had been pulled and replaced with treated timber, the netting and curtains gone from the windows, the rooms inside unlit and empty.

In the back of the property his toothache dropped him to the ground. He found himself there with an absent mind wandering around the back of the house until he came across three plastic rubbish bags under the awning of the old woodshed. Down on a knee he tore a bag open, perhaps to find some of his mother’s things, perhaps old letters, photographs, but inside it was scraps in plastic containers, Chinese or Korean writing, the smell of rotten food. It was there the pain from his tooth became the only thing he could feel or think. It dropped him flat though the impact against the ground was something he did not recall, his face pressed into the gravel and sawdust at the floor of the shed, his fist pressed hard against his cheek, none of it mattered, only the phantom roar of his wisdom tooth, an abscess so deep it became everything. He lay there, crazed, forgetting where he was, until some time passed and the nausea ceased and he managed to open his eyes and see that there was in fact a small world of things around him. He saw that he was face down in dirt and coal dust that had washed into the surface of a puddle near his face. He could see the silvery swirls of indigo and violet, the hints of blues to reds and how the surface of the puddle moved as his breath passed over it. He witnessed a swirl, the thin layer of the fossil fuel turning into a vortex. He picked himself up off the ground, steadily, maintaining his focus on the swirl with a small delight in the structure of what he saw and how it coalesced with his thoughts. As he stood he noticed, with clarity, the hollowed acoustics inside the shed, a condition of sound he could not remember when he had entered, and it occurred to him that the pain of his toothache had been so intense it had caused him to briefly lose his body.

He sat on the cemented path between the shed and the back lawn, still holding his jaw with his right hand, meditating on the throbbing, the space between it, the consistency of his heart. The toothache that night was, reflectively, too comical; a part of himself he had neglected, that night of all nights. She was now surely gone from this world, she could have never left this place physically, of her own will, her time had come and his was spent. Never the kind of man meant for this world, the world of cut lawns, work and the evening news. Never had he felt a place existed here for him. God rest her soul.

He stood again slowly and let go of his mouth. The pain was still there, still obvious, but he had to keep moving or it would never get done, he had to return, finally, though to nothing now, just an empty vessel. He turned the handle of the back door gently. It was locked, the door weak and old and he could always shoulder it if he had to but that would make a hell of a racket. He ran a hand along the top of the door-frame to check there wasn’t a spare key, then peeked in the keyhole and saw there was a key left in the lock on the other side. So he removed his coat and wrapped it around his hand and cracked the corner of the glazed window in the door. The sound amounted to nothing more than a cat with a soda can. Carefully he fingered out pieces of the broken glass until he had a hole large enough to fit his hand through and turn the key.

Inside was the old dining room with pitted shapes in the carpet where the furniture had been, a darker stain of wood on the mantelpiece where one of her clocks had been sitting for years. The kitchen cupboards were bare except for dust and crumpled bits of wallpaper that had lined them. In the sitting-room he could make out worn sections of carpet where his mother’s feet had rested as she watched television. The bedrooms past the sitting room had nothing. In his mother’s old room he discovered a pile of boxes which he opened and found the contents of the home’s new owners.

There was nothing of his past life left to confront. He didn’t even know where they might have buried his mother, or where perhaps his son might be now if he wished to find him. He sat down on the floor against the wall and looked along the mantle where there were stains from the smoke. Rain began to fall like gravel on the roof and dinted the light coming in from the neighbours. He lifted himself again, pushing up with his heels and his back against the wall. I am an unsure man, he thought. I am this empty house. She did not deserve it, she had been kind and quiet and loving and scared for him, for his son, for his father. A father that had died when he was so young himself, the same age, in fact, that he had left Nathan and his wife behind and the irony was not lost on him. His dad had left him, it was the standard, though he hadn’t the courage to die like his father had, and now he was here in an empty house that knew nothing of him, that he ever existed, like a dying Alzheimer’s patient. He had left everything because fear was the inevitable surmise of every calculation he made.

He was in the kitchen with no memory of walking there. It happened often with him. The rain moved diagonally across the window, seeing this he realized where he was. The rain in the moonlight, a moonshower, no ordinary thing, and he remembered in that strange light why he was standing there, and what in fact he had become. Maximilian had died a long time ago, died from the fear of living, and now he was something else entirely, an apparition of his past regrets, and he was not here to try and find his son, he could not for the shame and sadness it would bring. He had been called to that place that night, called forth, because his mother had passed alone, and he was here, now, materialized before the rain in the moonlight, and he stood back from his reflection in the window, raised his hands and opened them, looked into his open palms, the lines in them, the scars, his hand quietly radiant in the moonlight. The longer he looked the more he realized; he was something else entirely, the half-way house, the shadowed strolls, trespassing across his old home, his mother’s lost remains, the regret, the fear, the endless watching of others’ lives.

He was a ghost.

He found himself, again, not where he thought himself to be, and was now on his hands and knees in the corner of the empty kitchen. It was the diffused light, in it he had seen the shadow of the wallpaper peeling up off the wall from the corner. The shadow had arrested him physically before his thoughts and he already had the edge of the wallpaper in his hand, the edge which he pulled back from the wall and the sheet almost came off in one complete piece; the glue had long ago dried in yellow stain across the chip-board. As the sheet made its racket and fell behind it struck him why he had been so drawn to the shadow of the peeling wallpaper, because there was something after all, and he dug his nails into the sheet pasted next to the exposed plaster-board and tore more away, most of it peeling with ease. Things were forgotten, his toothache, his disappointments; the frenzy of torn paper distracted every stray thought, the noise, the smell, because there was something after all. He stopped and stood back when he had one wall exposed, though not completely as there were still edges of paper that had dried in the glue, discolorations from the moisture, cracks where the wall had warped and shifted with time. But the outlines and figures were still there, the ink had faded but there was still colour and he could still run his finger along the shapes, and he could read the words, some of them he could still string together. It was still there and he could remember when; the armies of stick-soldiers in blue felt, their bullets firing in curved dashes across the wall, missiles with vapour trails, and the army of red figures with the angry faces drawn in, swastikas on their chests and arms, pools of blood under those that had fallen. He remembered with clarity now, every day for weeks on end they had all drawn on the walls, when the kitchen had been extended it became their collage, the family, and they were still all on the wall, his outline and Karen’s, they were married still, and his blue outline and her green one held hands to show this, smiley faces drawn in to show how happy they were, and this wasn’t a masquerade, they were, they had been, the real trouble hadn’t started though it was near, the niggling, and Max noticed the armies at their feet, around them, the war that his son and nephew had drawn around them, and the arguing had begun by then perhaps, all of it so long ago there was no way to be sure anymore. He tore more paper from the adjoining walls, lyrics to their favourite songs, farm animals and mountain ranges, like hieroglyphics or runes. It became clear as the morning began to break and the pile of torn paper covered the kitchen floor, the rain stopped for a short while and the sky was silver and the chill made his breath a visual thing, and there was no sobbing or pounding his fists against the wall, though his fingers did bleed and his tooth ached. He understood, finally, why he had come and what sense he could make of his world of lies. This was the physical conclusion he had been avoiding, and the pain and weariness drugged his mind beyond the ability to complete a single pure thought. All he had as the daylight gathered was the walls around him, it was there in scrawl, and he focused there as best he could until the sun broke through and he was gone, and the new owners of the house stood at the foot of the small hill of torn wallpaper in the kitchen and looked over in a haunted confusion at a previous family’s etchings all over their walls.

Storm on a Calm Day

discovered on rocksclan.com

Count Dracular

Count Dracula regained composure

and his quivering chest

halted paroxysm to climb with each breath

Eternal ever after

against Winter’s helix bite

Turn the door handle politely that he never enter if he offend

 

A table by the fire

a table by the fire

The matré de a kind face who knew the cut of his tailor

 

There’s an ocean that I came from that long had lost the day

and a nursery rhyme

Orphans sang

of eaten boys for supper

 

Remember to tip him shillings. Remember the fold of your napkin

Remember the people you can count on

A Pinot Noir

The Daily Bread

Fish heads to pick and nibble the jelly from their eyes

 

His women begged forgiveness

When their anxious well was dry

his sex a sexless feed upon a neverborn child

 

I who found the ground deep of dirt and bone

I of sleep and shadow

 

Soup of the day?

 

Soup of the day

 

Across the fields the shadow grows forgetting names of colour

A gruesome dream

a gruesome dream

 

Our things unknown of Others

Hiroshima

The snow had already begun to settle as we drove in toHiroshima. The streets looked new and in the clouded light there was hardly an edge to any shadow we could see. Matty Whitman was still driving, he had most of the way there and had a yellow stain on the corner of his lip from holding his cigarettes there. It suited his stubble. I felt excited to finally be there not knowing what for. As a city it was nothing I really knew of except for its end of the war.

“I’m pulling over,” he said. It was a fair call, he’d been driving for almost six hours.

“Real good job,” said Kuniko. “You been driving so long ay.” She was sitting in the front passenger seat. I was sitting in the back.

“I love it best when you arrive somewhere in the morning.”

“I’m hungry,” she said.

“I’m pulling over, I don’t even care if this is a park or not.”

“Whit, this is for truck ay.” Kuniko picked up her English from our friends back home.

“What truck could fit down this street?”

“Japanese truck ay.” She snickered with a straight face.

“The minivan fits exactly in the space painted on the road.”

“Mum will be upset if her car is towed.”

We jumped out and wrapped scarves around our necks, zipped up our insulated coats. The snow descended in the breeze at the angle of a kite string and the air was clean of smells. It was just past eleven am and there were people quietly moving in orderly precessions on the footpaths with shopping bags and children. We walked until we found a whiteboard out the entrance of a small Yukki-niku restaurant that advertised an all you can eat and drink lunch special for 2500 yen.

“That’s us.” We went in.

Irrashaimas.”

Inside the restaurant it was dimly lit and warm with no windows. The seating in the thin room was divided into six booth areas around tables with a hotplate in the centre. We ordered three lunch specials from the mama-san who delivered two large plates of cut meats with a bowl of kimchee and two litres of larger in a jug. We were the only customers.

“The basic principles of a nuclear explosion are quite simple.” If Whit began a monologue we usually listened. If you could crack open his head on the right day you might just find Oswald’s book suppository. “Think of the uranium as a rubber ball completely covered in dynamite, it detonates, the force compresses the ball into itself. The compressed centre then erupts out with such force atoms tear, causing a nuclear reaction, a force of magnitude.”

Kuniko was grilling the cuts of meat as we talked. She started with ox tongue, pork bellies and sirloin. There was an extractor fan above us but the smoke from the hot-plate still made our eyes water.

“It’s a peaceful thing when snow is settling,” I said. “Like it’s slowly forgetting the place.”

Whitman asked, “Will it get very deep, Magpie?” We called her that because when she came home from a night out she always had a collection of different lighters, anime figures, and occasionally drugs. “Do we have chains?”

“I don’t know these ay.”

“If we get stranded in HiroshimaI’m finding somewhere I can eat whale.” The tobacco stain on his lip, you had to take him seriously. “These beers go down fast in the smoke. Lunch special to isshoni sake wo moraemasuka, soretomo beer dake desuka?

“Only beer ay.”

I said, “They basically caused a war without people.”

“The Cold War, exactly. Just detonations under oceans.”

“Mushroom clouds in back country.”

“Exactly. Our explosions are bigger please stay the fuck away.”

Four Salary Men walked in wearing charcoal suits.

I said, “I drew them on my desks at school, ay. All over, I had rockets and mushroom clouds going off everywhere.”

“I drew penises,” he said. “Same thing really.”

“You are penis ay.” Kuniko had a way of keeping her face so blank after saying something it could insinuate all kinds of things. I looked over at the booth with the Salary Men. It was a comfort I’d discovered living in Japan, not ever concerned with offending others around you with what you may say. The men nodded to each other and probably talked business. To them gaijin were translucent people.

Whitman went for a cooked piece of ox tongue but not before his and Kuniko’s chopsticks meet in combat.

“I have map ay,” she said. “I think we can walk toPeaceMuseumfrom here.”

“Get it out and we’ll have a look.” He systematically began to devour slices of ox tongue off the hot plate, replacing each piece with an uncooked piece so the hotplate remained full. The fat from the meat dripped through the hotplate causing the charcoals underneath to flame and the smoke thickened. I drank more beer to wash the taste out of the back of my throat. By the time we ordered our second jug of beer and third plate of meat another table of businessmen had entered and sat across from us.

I said, “I don’t think I’ve eaten this much red meat before.”

“You eat too much ay.”

“I’m going to drink too much,” Whitman said. “Are the extractors even on?”

“What meat is this?”

“How many litres have we drank?”

“I think three.”

“There were so many sad people after the bomb,” she said. “My father told me ay, everyone was so sad.”

“This city is beautiful.”

“It’s beautiful here because everything is new, there wouldn’t be a building here over fifty years old.” I emptied the second jug of beer into our glasses. Kuniko’s was only half empty but Whitman and I appeared to be taking the all you can quite seriously. I had managed an hour or so nap in the back on the way there but still I felt remarkably removed from myself. It dawned on me that this wasn’t something people should do before they visited a war memorial; all this red meat and alcohol.

Whitman said, “One more jug.”

“You drink too much ay. You’ll be too drunk to goPeaceMuseum.” Perhaps she was a little offended, it was hard to tell. Whitman got up stumbling only a little, then proceeded over to the mama-san behind the counter at the front of the restaurant.

“Have you been here before, Magpie?”

“Yes, with my school ay. It is very sad.”

“What do you see?”

“Shadows, all that’s left.”

“I’m glad you helped me get here, hard to know how to act though.”

“We all different ay.”

“She’s irritable now,” Whitman said sitting back at the table with a jug half the size of the first two. “I think we’ve managed our money’s worth.”

“All she would give you?”

“Only size left apparently. I ordered another plate of meat.”

“Wha?”

“You pig ay.”

“Just half the size. Am I the only one who read the sign out front?”

We sat in the restaurant for what must have been another hour. The smell of smoke was in our coats when we left. We continued up the length of a covered street stopping in a store to buy Kuniko an anime figure and take our pictures in a purikura. When we reached the end of the covered street the cold was refreshing yet no match for how drunk I had managed to get at lunch. Though, the cold did seem to relieve the pain in my stomach.

“What would worry you more living here,” he asked. “Ghosts or radiation?”

We arrived at a junction to Peace Boulevard where we crossed a bridge and the Peace Museum came into view as the wind picked up out in the open. I buttoned my coat further and tried desperately to light a cigarette while Kuniko crouched over to shelter me from the wind.

“I bought us a treat.” As I looked up at Whitman he was fumbling a hand through his coat pocket. Somehow the cigarette in his mouth was already lit. “Here we are.” He pulled a sheet of red film out of his pocket which had sections containing individual pills. “I visited the Nishinari-ku in Osaka before we left.”

“You fucking crazy, man,” Kuniko said as she straightened to look.

Akadamas. Tranquilizer he told me.” He held them out so the sheet flapped in the wind.

“Yes please, Dr Whit.” Kuniko titled her head back and stuck out her tongue. With her hair blown away from her face and the snow rolling behind them, it was a moment that was immediately stitched into the more durable seams of my memories there.

“Give me your cigarette,” I said.

“Careful.”

“My lighter won’t work out here.”

“They’re sweet ay.”

“Nat?”

“Sure, why not.”

We left the bridge by using an off-ramp that led down to the cemented courtyard of the Peace Memorial Museum. The building was white and divided in two, the left side a couple of storeys high with a skywalk to the second building that was on raised cement pillars and aligned with thin vertical widows. We went inside and paid the entrance fee and left our smoky coats at the desk.

Inside the museum there were people walking around display cabinets in all the silence they could muster with their hands held behind their backs. We passed a wall with black and white prints of the city after the blast. There was only rubble that could be made out, no definable shapes were left.

Sumimasen, Kabe kara hazushite kudasai.” It was an old Japanese man in a dusty green suit with a name tag I couldn’t read.

“Were you there?”

Nani? Sumimasen, eigo ha shaberemasen.

“Step back, Nat. You can’t lean on the wall ay.” Kuniko pulled me off the wall and wrapped my arm around her shoulder.

“Where’s Whit?”

“He’s up ahead there, see?” He held his hands behind his back as he read something on the wall. He shook his head.

“I drank too much.”

“Me too ay.”

I concentrated on walking and breathing and finding areas without other people.

I said, “It’s really warm in here.” My neck and back was sticky.

“It’s nice and warm. Look, Nathan.” She pointed to a glass cabinet, in it an infant’s tricycle burned and disfigured.

“What happened to the kid?” There was a small, burnt helmet displayed with the bike.

“Gone ay,” she replied.

“Evaporated.”

Nani?

“I have to walk, I need more air.” We walked away from the cabinet and into another room where there were no other people.

“Your face is wet ay.”

“They’ve got it way too hot in here, are they doing it on purpose?”

“We can sit for a moment. Do you want to look at the stone first?”

“The stone?”

“Over here.” She took my arm off her shoulder and pulled me to the wall on the other side. Was it actually stone or a print of one I couldn’t tell, I had lost my depth of perception.

“That’s a stain on the wall,” I asked.

“That’s a shadow.”

“A shadow of what?”

“A shadow of a person, all that was left behind after it go off.”

“Jesus.” Seared into stone, a person.

“A force of magnitude,” she restated.

When I came to it was the shadowed moist patch on the thigh of Kuniko’s jeans I saw first. It took me a moment or two to realize how it got there and where it had come from.

Tomadachi wo okoshite ne,” someone said. Mousugu iku kara.

Chotto gomenasai,” Kuniko replied. Kare ha kibun ga yokunai. Nathan you have to wake up.” There was a security guard standing over us. Kuniko and I were on a seat still in the room with the shadow on the wall. “You fell asleep ay.”

“Is that my drool?”

“Yes, common, you too heavy ay.”

Arigatou gozaimasu,” the guard said. “Kono tsuro wo massugu itte kudasai.”

“What the hell is happening?”

“You pass out.”

“On your leg, I had my mouth open the whole time?”

“You pin me there ay, I couldn’t get up.”

“How long have we been there?”

“Long time ay. We have to get out of here the place is closing.”

“Oh god, I must have looked like hell.”

“Maybe they think you are very sick from what you see.”

We hurried along a raised hallway with large windows. Kuniko kept looking behind us, probably to check we weren’t being followed. The shame began to well in me.

“The place is closing, how long was I out?”

“Long time ay. I couldn’t get you off me, you too heavy.”

“Hell, Kuniko. I’m sorry.”

We exited through glass automatic doors that opened out onto a massive white cement courtyard. The wind was a refreshing snap that seemed to lift the drowsiness. At the other end of the courtyard I could see Whitman standing by a stone arch near the river. The snow had ceased to fall, only patches remained on the stone and grass.

“Wakey wakey, Nathan.” He handed me my coat.

“I missed everything. Why didn’t you try and wake me?”

“We tried, bro. You were lights out, end of story.” He poked the tip of his tongue out through the corner of his mouth, wetting it before he placed another Mild Seven cigarette there. “What’s this say, Kuniko?” He pointed to the bronzed plaque posted in the centre of the archway.

“This is for young girl who die from cancer.” Hung from the arch were strings threaded with hundreds of coloured paper cranes. The way they were carefully folded they all fit neatly into the next. Their symmetry was beautiful and blew in the wind. The time it must have taken to fold them all.

“Does it tell you why all the paper cranes are here,” he asked.

“There is a thousand on each string.”

“The time it must have taken.”

“Why a thousand?”

Chotomate, Whit san. I have to read it first.”

“I can’t believe I passed out,” I said.

“It was a lot to comprehend,” he replied.

“I can’t remember a thing. It was my idea to come here.”

“Don’t worry about that. You’re missing the most important part.”

“The museum is closed. Kuniko has a patch on her jeans from my drool.”

“This is the Genbaku, the dome.” He pointed up past the arch to the decrepit building on the other side of the river. I could see the skeletal remains of a dome above it; just the iron framework was left. The building, some three storeys high, had been completely eviscerated and only one side of the façade remained without windows or colour. “At 8:15 on Monday morning, August 6, 1945, the world’s first hostile nuclear weapon detonated 300 metres above that dome. No leaflets were dropped before the attack, citizens were given no warning or ultimatum; they were left to begin their week as they had always done before. One hundred and thirty pounds of uranium. The radius of the epicentre was a mile. Five square miles of the city was destroyed in an instant. Seventy-thousand people gone.” I stood back from the arch as he spoke and tried to imagine the eruption of light and heat above the dome. The wind blew off the river. “The energy released from the bomb was powerful enough to burn through clothing on victims ten miles away. The threads of their garments were emblazoned onto their flesh as scars.”

“You saw this inside?”

“Photographs and testimonials. Some witnesses claimed to have seen the bones of their hands in the heat flash.”

Kuniko said, “These are for girl who died of leukaemia ten years after. Sadako was very sick in hospital and told she had less than a year to live. She knew if she could fold one thousand paper cranes she would get wish so she began folding them before she die.”

“Did she manage to fold a thousand,” he asked.

“It doesn’t say. These cranes are folded and left here to help remember her.”

“Or to help forget.”

“I think here it is same thing ay.” Kuniko straightened up and wrapped another length of her scarf around her neck. “Samoi nay.”

“Friggin cold. Let’s get back to the car, hopefully it’s still there.”

“We’re not driving to Miyajima now ay. We should find Love Hotel and get some rest.”

“Are they going to hire a room to a couple of gaijin and a Japanese chick?”

“I don’t think they care ay. Come on, Nat san.”

They headed back across the courtyard past thePeaceMemorialMuseum. Kuniko appeared happy to be heading back to the warm of the car and began to skip. I paused a moment before I left because it occurred to me to take one of the pieces of string with a thousand paper canes so that I had something to remember the place. Memorabilia for something I barely remembered. Some of the cranes lifted in a howl of wind and I stood there, eyes fixed, with my hands secured in my coat pockets. They were beautiful; an array of colour and discipline in such a delicate gesture of grief. I never lifted a hand to take one, realizing there it was the ghosts that frightened me more than the radiation. So I followed my friends across the courtyard and the strong wind helped me walk upright and forget how grey I felt.

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