It was a very gloomy day indeed. And why not? My friend’s going back to her native country, America. It seems as if we met years before but we got to know each other only a month ago! We’ve really shared such unforgettable moment during these past 30 days and now that she’s going my life seems to go to an end. She’s going back, to a far of place, deserting me and her grandparents (with whom she was staying)!!!I wonder what urgency forced her well-off and busy father to leave Japan so soon. Whatever be the thing I am sure we’d meet next year and 1946 would be a very lucky year for me.
So you must be thinking who am I? I am Hisako Matsubara, a 10 year old Japanese girl and my friend Mauler, is also a 10 yr old but is an American. During our holidays, we’ve really enjoyed a lot and also made certain promises. We would start on our chatting, playing, singing and doing every possible thing together soon after I returned from school to home, relished my sushi and sometimes sashimi or maybe rice or noodles, with a soup, and okazu or even maybe ichijū-sansai (“one soup, one side” or “one dish meal which means soup, rice, and one accompanying side dish–usually a pickled vegetable like daikon) and ofcourse after I would have completed my daily chores. We even made promises like we’ll always and always miss each other once we’ve parted.
“I’d really miss her mom!” I just sat down on the couch, folded my arms and started to think about those days of our friendship. The worst thing was we couldn’t even write letters as Mauler only knew to speak Japanese and didn’t know to write it; not even her parents. And I didn’t even know a single thing about her language and this thing was totally bumming me out.
“Don’t be sad, Hisako dear. Life will keep on moving and if destiny wants then your wish really would be fulfilled,” mom explained.
“ I never knew destiny would be so harsh. I wish I could stay with her for few more days…………”
No use wishing! The next day seemed to come tooooooo early, much earlier than other days…………… I saw Mauler, waving her hands, giving me the last hug………I expected that day to be very very boring but rather something very unusual happened; something that changed the direction of my life and maybe America shouldn’t deserve to be blamed, maybe it was just a dirty prank played by destiny!!!
I was sitting alone trying to do one of the things I used to do normally but couldn’t concentrate on anything-not even singing, the thing that I loved most of all. Such was the effect of loosing a friend but how did I know there was something which had a much more affect than that. I suddenly got carried away with the thought of World War II. I was thinking about the fight going on between Japan and America………………and that that America had been throwing bombs over most of our cities…………and it could be Hiroshima even…………and it could be here………right on Misasa Bridge, here where I live!
‘What a freak I am’, I thought slapping myself hard on my face, ’such thoughts bring me nothing but sour feeling. Better if I don’t think ‘bout that!’ Saying this to myself I decided to meet my 2 yr old friend and also next-door neighbor Sasaki Sadako. But as soon as I just stepped out of my house I could feel an incredible heat and when I looked up at the strong light above I could feel slowly and slowly everything going black…not even a single thing could I see. ‘What happened to my eyes? Why am I not able to see anything?’ I kept on rubbing my eyes but nothing changed. Suddenly I experienced a shock wave. I turned back and suddenly I knew I hit something maybe the table or sofa but then something falling down…but what? How awkward was it to not be able to see anything. I soon felt dizzy and fainted.
As I woke up and opened my eyes…I knew I opened my eyes so why still everything black?
‘Mom, why am I not able to see anything?’ I stretched my arm forward looking for my mom’s face………….It was then I got to know, I was blind, forever! But this thought kept on triggering that why did I get blind? And that by just seeing at the sun above! But I soon knew it wasn’t the sun that blinded my eye. That strong light…….that incredible heat………..and my heart saying something is wrong!
After few days I could suddenly hear my mom crying loudly. She told me everything about what she heard on the radio. She told me that America had dropped a new kind of a very devastating bomb (just what I was thinking the day before. Was this the power of my thought?) in Hiroshima and we were miles away from where the bomb had been dropped. She said that this bomb has affected till far of places. I came to know the cruelty of this bomb when mom told that this bomb caused the wood to char black white old and the dirty concrete bleached white. Even the roads had melted and fused leaving only a black patch. Most of the people had their hands burnt and swollen and great sheets of skin had peeled away from their tissues to hang down like rags on scarecrows. Even there were people whose shadow had been burned and they were killed by having been vaporized by the heat and the subsequent shock wave that arrived a few seconds later. Oh god! Such a devastating effect?!? Which demon has ever thought of creating such a bomb??? But you must be thinking why should I be so scared when I am safe! The main reason of concern was my father. Thinking of him gave me the creeps and my eyes reddened with fear so all I did was pray and pray and only pray……………….
Luckily dad was saved from such a suffering and I was totally overwhelmed to see him after he returned from his long trip just few days before. Even after that what concerned me again was when I heard that he had wounds but mom told they were just minor wounds and not to be scared of! Then after few days my mom told me something that my coward ears didn’t deserve to be heard. Dad started loosing his hairs and had started getting blisters and suddenly his skin had started to peel and most of all he was vomiting clumps of blood. No one knows what was it…not even the doctors. Could this be the effect of that devastating bomb? I felt happy somehow to be blind as I know I wouldn’t have been able to see such an effect that had undermined my dad’s constitution. But even though if not my body’s window but my mind’s eye (soul) could feel those 10 days of agony and torture my dad suffered. Is that what the destiny wanted? I am very happy Mauler moved from this place long ago…even though she was an American!
I did not mourn my late father’s death on September 14th. I knew those 10 dreadful days were enough for my father’s good soul to suffer. The only memory I grieve upon is the poem below that he wrote during those terrifying days and I often ask my mom to read it out to me:
Oh the divine and sweet angles,
I cry out to you, from my heart so true,
Take me away to some far away place
Maybe to god, so that I can see his face
This world impure
Not fit for me
Oh the sweet workers of god
Please once listen to me
Let me see you with your shining wings
And the purity in you
Which in this big hollow place is needed.
Let me not stay alone,
On the land of evil
And don’t force me to be a part of them
I don’t want to stay among such devils.
But before going if I only can; once change the world,
Make me strong and not a poor, sweet and innocent thing.
So oh my lord
I ask you to send
Some angle like friends
Before the day ends!!!
I knew what this meant and am quite happy that god fulfilled his wish partially. We all knew that these aftereffects were all because of that nuclear bomb so I could feel my dad’s pain and I knew what depressed him. As he knew what was to suffer like this he had been thinking of thousands of those people who maybe suffered more than him. At the same time I could feel his desire to change the past and to again be normal and live his happy life again!
It was 1954 and I grew up to be 19.What amazed me was that I could feel certain changes in me which also occurred in Sadako, my 2 yr old friend who was now 11. I never saw her growing but would listen to and respond her motivating words even now when she’s not well.
I knew I’d developed a cold and mom told me more. She told me those strange change which caused a lot of pain in actual were lumps developed on my neck and behind my ears. I felt such swollen things moving towards my face time by time. After 1 year we both (Sadako and me) developed purple spots on our legs. Till then I didn’t even remember how was purple color. The only thing I knew was that it was my favourite color. Soon in that year it was diagnosed that we both are suffering from leukemia. Leukemia………………..and we both had only a year to get all the love. I could feel my mom’s pain. Ofcourse even she suffered through a lot of illness but the most of the pain she suffered through was the thought of her was loosing first my father and now me. We both were her best possessions in her life and now she’d loose us both. She often told me that she won’t be able to survive after I passed away and these days I felt more than depressed.
Soon I was hospitalized and in those 365 days I felt myself to be much more closer to Sadako than before. I even felt that there still were people who at least grieved our pains. The people of Nagoya used to send us one thousand origami paper cranes as a “Get Well” gift. What a pleasure those days were! There was a plenty of time left in the hospital so I used to tell Sadako a lot about the stories my mom used to read out to me.
”Hisako, why do we get these cranes as our “get well” presents?” Sadako asked me shrilly one day.
“Because there is a famous Japanese belief saying that one who folds a 1000 paper cranes is being granted with a wish”, I reported.
And then suddenly a crazy idea struck her head. She wished to live and wished that I would live too! So she decided to fold 2000 cranes but I very well knew that with the time left with us, she wouldn’t even complete a 1000 cranes! So to lessen the burden of the thought of folding 200 cranes I told her was that I had no desire to live and that she should do as much as she could for herself. I knew that this Japanese saying wouldn’t take her anywhere but how could I ever break such a young heart? Determined in her actions, she soon started folding the cranes. Each morning the moon went away, the sun came and our lives became more and more shorter. Knowing this Sadako became much more gritty and no pain or excruciating feeling could stop her but the only barrier in her dreams was that she lacked paper. But still she never stopped. She went ahead and used the medicine wrapping and whatever she could scrounge upon.
“Hey Sadako, where are you going,” I once asked her.
“I’d just return in few minutes,” she then replied.
And then I heard her footsteps coming, and heard her talking, her voice reflecting both sad and excited feeling.
“What happened?” I queried.
“Hisako, as I am running short of paper I went to other patient’s room to ask to use the paper from their get well presents…………..”
“So they didn’t give it to you?” I again asked.
“No! They gave and that too very happily but I am sad to ruin their get well presents”
But that was the only way she could find paper for folding cranes. She even used up her “get well” cranes and even I used to give her mine so she’d never have to borrow but as you know mine and her cranes were too less for her such big ambition!
I thought she’d never be able to complete but at the time of her death she did wonders. She indeed folded 1,300 cranes! Human’s mind can really achieve the most impossible things like USA achieved a nuclear bomb and my little friend, 1,300 paper cranes but sadly that never fulfilled her wish. Then one day I felt short of her encouraging words. Yes! She died and I knew my death was very soon to come!
My feeble body lay asleep when all of a sudden I heard a soft, gentle voice and I very well knew I heard such innocent voice sometime long ago but it was becoming tough for me to recognize it.
“Hisako, it’s me, Mauler.!”
“Mauler!” I screamed excitedly even though it pained when I did so.
“I know you’re angry”
“Angry, but for what?”
“For whatever my country did!”
“Oh common! Atleast it ended the 2nd World War and I am very thankful for that!”
“I wish my co-citizens could have possessed such a kindness that’s in your heart” said Mauler, “I even wished to come here long ago and do something for you but that wasn’t the correct time.” Saying this Mauler took my weak bony hands into hers and my mom did the same with my other hand and they both started weeping. That was the last time I felt Mamma’s & Mauler’s touch and after that I became lifeless……
© 2016 Mind Pickles
I wrote this story at the age of 13. I posted this story on my old blog: Queen Of Goodness. It’s my little twist to the tale of Sasaki Sadako as I made her my protagonist’s friend at the hospital.
Madhulika Mitra (a.k. a Luna Lune)