震源 Centre

A-bomb hypocenter, Nagasaki, Japan

The only thing that was left was a concrete pillar. A couple of feet high and a foot, maybe, round. Someone had written “center” on that pillar in charcoal — both in Nihongo and English. The land was flattened black for miles. A church in the far corner, a crumbling piece of a wall still stood. A couple of graveyard guardians. A row of lamp posts. Nothing else.

Where Hiroshima is the well-known, Nagasaki is the silent one. The small port town that holds its scars close to its chest. If you walk around the veins and arteries of its streets, you can happen upon them. Turn a corner and be faced with melted concrete, black dripping down the side of stone like ice cream down a cone. Metal corroded with rings upon rings from where it momentarily blistered and boiled.

There is a museum, a peace park, a statue — all like in Hiroshima. But I was the only white faced person. Little six year olds and high schoolers from the local schools on field trips leave the same braided peace cranes hanging on racks, not in row after row of glass enclosures. There is a rainbow tower with cranes people have taken the initiative to tape to it. A personal sign of promise. Quiet and reserved.

This is the Nihonjin way. The quiet and private path. Nagasaki screams of it — of the everyday suffering. The quiet lives lived under the weight of the second atomic bomb dropped two days after the first.

After humanity knew the horror it could create.

And we did it anyway.

And Nagasaki still, to this day, bears up peacefully under that weight.

I was buried under this quiet pain. I, too, could forget and enjoy the beautiful sunsets, the islands just off shore, the sea breeze. Until I would find a river wall rebuilt from rubble and ruin, standing now with only momentary stones of its original scars.

It would take my breath away in the worst of ways. Tears constantly on the edges of my eyes.

I folded a paper crane from page out of my Hiroshima notebook made of the world’s recycled peace cranes, mashed and pressed flat together. I wrote in erasable ink the words of a useless apology for what can I mend? On the insides of the same crane, I wrote my promise to be better than this, to love peace, to think.

That’s all I can do.

I turned and walked along the sea-line and found my way back to the city. There, I went about other things. Just like everyone else.

Advertisements

原爆ドーム – Genbaku Dome

A-bomb hypocenter, Hiroshima, Japan

There is no humanness to these spaces. No feeling of the suffering of those past. It it a completely blown out place. Destruction so complete it is hollow and vacant. Completely different from the concentration camp I went to in Austria. There, you could feel the death inside the gas chamber and the broiler rooms. Here, I felt nothing but shame. White blank shame.

I highly recommend every person goes to places like this in their life. You can then begin to understand what the word “haunted” means. There are places with the weight of history, of our memory, of our humanity. So many hands of scraped these walls, feet walked these ruts, blood stained these grounds. We cannot scrub them out, and we should not try. To know ourselves, we absolutely have to touch them. We cannot be citizens of a global world without actually knowing the shape of both the world and ourselves. Our potential is in understanding our failures. And committing to be better.

It is all we can do. Stare up into these places: a-bomb hypocenters, the scars of firebombed cities, concentration camps, mass graves and think: never again.

Because in the face of these places, there are no other words. Despite using language to have made these decisions, what language can we use to undo them? To make penance? It isn’t even touchable. It exists on a whole different plane of existence. I don’t know where the connecting wire is between the two. I stare at my reflection in the window of the train as I move closer to Nagasaki, to the second bomb’s site, and what am I to think? There is nothing but blank white. A sheet that will not be writ upon, but one that scorched the mind, burns the heart, chars the bones, and tears whatever a soul is apart. Disintegrated. That’s what it is. And it’s not right.

I have nothing but mute, dumb, numb aching in the face of it. I stand with my hands limp at my side, staring blankly at the sky, because what else should I do? Cry? Yeah right.

My tears are no water on this fire. No balm on these wounds. No healing touch on these scars.
I feel so small.

帰っちゃたね!

これ、私の安全で、安心の場所もう来た。今、パソコンを使って、うれしくなった。私の意見や気持ちしか変わらない。私の本心しかな。いいね!

My old place, returned to. In this place, nothing changes. Nothing but my own heart(心) and head (頭) has changed. Nothing but the real me.

It is good.

I am happy.

Arms of home wrap me up and take me on. I return after a year to find you just as I had hoped to find you, just as I had feared you would not — could not be. But here we are. And here you are. And thank you.

One last step. One last unknown. One last hurdle.

後一週間。One more week.

待っていてお願い。

Wait for me.

もうすぐ帰る。

Before long, I come home. And here is something on my mind:

So much good food to return home to. All the fresh local ingredients. Can’t say it’s enough to change one’s entire life over, but it’s good. Piece of the puzzle, not the picture to be aiming for. I am caught in my own head today. Lots to think about. I think I need to avoid disaster and things potentially ready to implode. Things that are radioactive, unstable. I need solid ground or else lose my heart to my fucked up mind.

Glad I have 日本語 to hide in. Exactly what I came to find and here I am, hiding. Letting these 漢字 and symbols like magic keep me safe. Mixed on my tongue are both the places I’m free and the places I’m stuck.

I have been, over the past year, a fucking mess. I was so bad, so fucked up that it almost marred everything and everyone nearby.

Almost?

I would have thought it was so awful it spread across all my connections. Maybe I wanted it to. Maybe that’s horrible of me. Maybe I’m just desperate to not be alone. To feel like anything matters. It doesn’t and that’s what I get to face. Reality, cold and disconnected. I need to know how blank it can be before I dive in. So I know where I will end up at the end of everything. So I am no longer afraid of it. Because when push comes to shove, we are alone. Every cell is its own.

Like cities.

Each city is its own unique creature. The details are what catch me off guard. A wall where a river ought to be. A river where I once crossed a  bridge. Parks atop skyscrapers. Green parrots in long narrow, rain soaked parks and black birds that look like little crows with long tails, but cry out like busted gears and police sirens on end.

And yet, threads through each of them. I can be in Venice, Italy and Bellingham, Washington and Tokyo, Japan all at the same time. Pieces of the same patterns pulled together in slightly new ways.  Like people, like birds, like the ocean, like the stars.

Cities are galaxies unto their own. The fake stars of metal, concrete, glass and paper skylines. How much do they trick the mind?

The more I think of it, the more I see the milky way in Tokyo’s urban arms. The more I see the moon in a neon sign advertising shampoo. The more I see the past reflected in fakery. I cannot see the billions of years I used to see for all this light. Pollution like a white shimmering cloud hangs ever above my head in the thrum and beat of the city of cities.