Love In 2014

Entry by: Sophie Six

14th February 2014
Tokyo, January 1946

I know I said last time that I wouldn't write, not for a long time at least, but I see glimpses of you everywhere here. I'm talking to you all the time. It's a sham to pretend I'm not, and I know you hate it when I pretend. I might as well give you the chance to reply.

Hana calls it o-furo-no-yurei, the bath ghost. She was sticking yellow prayer papers on the windows last night, asking if I heard the voices in the bath room. I know I scared her at New Years, with all the fireworks exploding and me in a state, yelling at everyone to get down, get under cover, screaming at any Jap face that tried to get close - that's everyone in this neighbourhood. I probably did seem possessed. I couldn't get my head on straight til Hana got me home, and into the furo. I think that was the first time she heard o-furo-no-yurei. She didn't say anything then, but she tuts under her breath when she hears it now, saying it's not good to encourage ghosts. But you know? she never really tries to stop me.

The bathroom is the fourteenth room of the second floor of my building, just down the corridor from my apartment. A big old wooden furo takes up most the space, looming over a stool and a wall tap for soaping up and rinsing off. It's always hot, and dark, and steaming, and its where I come to find you.

Outside, the world so often presses on my nerves, bursting with noise and movement, rubble and destruction, uniforms and soldier's faces, rifles and snatches of memory - a frond, dripping, a severed hand.

Inside, Tokyo's ruined winter-bitten streets evaporate, gone in a humid breath. There's no sound but the water's echo. The faces of the homeless melt into the darkness. The water slips its arms around me. The steamy air presses its cheek into mine. And before know I'm talking to you. More often than not you'll reply, too.

"Remember?" I'll say, "the first time I came to the House?" You duck your face to hide your smile. Sometimes you're sitting beside the bath, head resting on your forearms. Sometimes you're perched on the edge. If I'm really lucky, you'll slip in beside me. "I didn't know anything, did I? I thought baths were for getting clean." Your smile widens into a chuckle, remembering those nights, the hot breath of the desert, the salt sigh of the sea.

I said I'd give you up til I was stronger. Well, one thing at a time I guess. I'll give up the drink before I give up you. And before that, the nurse says I have to deal with what happened in the jungle, in New Guinea. That might take some time.

How many thousands of soldiers fought in those same jungles, and just shut it all off and went home, back to their families, their jobs, their lives? You said the war never ended for me. I reckon you're probably right. I think that's why I agreed to come here. The nurse thinks it's crazy, me fighting the Japs and then thinking I can come over here and straighten them out, fix everything up again, me included. But it feels right to me. We're not fighting them anymore. We're both putting things right. It's good to be part of something that's building up, not tearing down. I think that's part of the healing. I wished my head healed as quick as my back did: everyday is a battle here and I still don't know who'll win. Whether I'll get sent back in a wheelchair and dumped in one of those veteran's homes, wrecked for good. Or if I'll walk off the boat on my own two feet, my bag on my shoulder, walk right up the street and across the front yard and knock on your door.

You're probably still mad at me for leaving. Just when it looked like the war was finally over, too. I saw it in your face, before it all closed over, that you thought I was abandoning you, that I had some kind of heart of stone. It's just the opposite. The Occupation Force won't be here for ever, and then the War really will be over, for good. I didn't want to bring any of that home, baby. Can you see that? I don't want any of that in our house. I'm probably getting a bit ahead of myself there - don't be shy to write back and tell me that. You never were shy before.

Anyway, Hana will be happy: I am going to get rid of the ghosts of the past, one at a time. All but one that is: I hope o-furo-no-yurei will talk to me forever. I'm going to take down the yellow papers on the windows now - not all of them: Hana would have a fit. Just one little corner, just to make sure you keep coming. Who knows, maybe one day I'll take all those papers down, let all the ghosts in. They always seem to find a way in anyway. Maybe that's when I'll finally be able to walk away, a free man. Maybe then the war will be done.

All my love,

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