Hot Hiroshima

 

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It is early morning, August 15. Rich is at work. The boys are taken care of back in Idaho. I am back in aparto (apartment) 401. I am not out on the balcony. It is too bloody hot. Yes, I think in a mixture of my mother tongue English, Japanese and British. That’s what happens when you watch a lot of BBC programing. Why am I watching so much television? Because it is so bloody hot outside.

The eerie thing is, there are no people on the streets. At all. No obachans to ojichans(grandmas and grandpas) walking their inu (dogs) in the early morning. No salary men and women hustling to work, no students zipping to school during the morning rush. I don’t even see housewives (Japan’s word) pulling their carts to the grocery store later in the day. What adds to the emptiness is the lack of melody. No birds chirping or bugs creaking. Only the cicadas’ buzz fills the air. Even the crows and ravens are too hot to caw. They perch with their magnificent beaks panting. The sky too is void of any gentleness. No puffy, soft, clouds. A haze of humidity sits on the horizon. Above it, the sky is a harsh electric blue. There is no breeze. Nothing moves. It’s so hot I can’t seem to get enough oxygen when I inhale. There is nothing inviting me outside.

Inside is a little better. It’s cooler because we have air conditioning.   The curtains block the heat and my view. I keep the lights off. Intellectually I know they are not adding to the heat but I still can’t turn them on. The aparto is dark and small. My own body seems to radiate an intolerable amount of heat. While washing the dishes I feel perspiration soak into my shirt. Drips slide down my legs. In the toughest boot camp, Chuck could not get me to sweat like this. Sitting and watching TV is the only thing that doesn’t generate a trickle.

This weather punctuates a painful reality. Most of my friends are not here. And if they are they are busy. Due to the weather, most non-Japanese I know go home. Go somewhere cooler. It is Obon; the Japanese two weeklong holiday where families return to their main families to honor their dead. That is why the streets are bare. Everyone is somewhere else.

Holes. I have holes. Holes created by people. My two neighbors, Amy and Magali, will not be returning for they have moved. I still miss Etsuko my neighbor. Even though she has been gone a year, there is space. Funny how even small contact, occasional hellos and a weekly walk around the river created space that has not filled up. My friend Dawn and I started texting “good morning” along with a sticker. She has also returned to Idaho. My phone is quiet. Dark. Well, at least it isn’t generating heat.

We need money so I put on as light and breathable clothing as acceptable and head to the 7-11, our local bank. Due to thrombosis I must wear compression panty hose. Like the crows, I am mouth breathing trying to get cool. Heat is radiating off the structures and the road. The few women on the streets look very different from me. They have every inch of their body covered. Usually in black. Many wear this long black visor that keeps the sun off their entire front. Long black gloves cover their entire arm. They carry a parasol and wear straw hats. We look at each other with skepticism; but not for long because we need to get out of this sun.

 

 

Entering the 7-11, not only am I greeted with a hearty “Irrashyaimase!” but also a blast of cold air. I stand, blocking the entrance, soothed by the gust. The people behind me just go around. I come to my senses and head to the ATM. I’m so sweaty I can’t get my card out of my wallet. Every inch of me is clammy. Humans aren’t the only ones impacted. The humidity has made even the stiffest material limp. My debit card seems to have fused within my wallet. I practically destroy both trying to pull it out. This is why the Japanese wear a thin towel around their neck, to wipe the sweat away. I have never experienced anything like this before.

Now to the popsicles! Japan has the best kobini (convenience) stores. In them are the best selection of snacks in the world. Everything under the sun is made into a treat. Sweet, savory, fishy, nutty, chocalaty, chippy, cookyie, gummy, chewy, minty, jellyie, seaweedie, you name it they have it in snack form. Just google “kit kats in Japan” and you will see what I mean. But I am at the open frozen case. I hover over it like the famous photo of Marilyn Monroe over the grate. Eyes closed, skin cooling, I listen to the Japanese tunes and conversation around me.

Luckily my friend has written an article about it so I know just what I want. {ice cream} Pinkish pulp chunks of frozen grapefruit in bar form hits the spot in this heat. If there is sugar, it is only a little. It is delightful. But as I walk back home, it is melting really fast and I gobble it up so it doesn’t fall off the stick. Hmmm. That’s annoying. I have eaten many popsicles in my day and it has never been like that.  [Later when buying an ice cream in Innoshima, the shop keeper will tell me to take extra napkins because it will melt very fast in this humidity.]

 

The next morning I am dressed and ready to walk the river when Rich leaves. Its eighty-five degrees but my phone says “feels like 98”.   Walking next to the river feels cooling. I am struck by how different it is. Its 6:30 and there are few walkers. There are no birds chirping. No herons flying around. Even the kites seem to have found somewhere else to be. The vegetation is tall, overgrowth crowding the path. The river is low. A small stream cuts through the mud. Tracks show that it’s a busy place at night. Flights of dragonflies hover the tall grass. I wonder why.

Splash. The sound attracts my attention. A silver shiny fish jumps. Then another one, then another, like skipping stones. Joy ripples through my body and comes out a chuckle. Could it be I saw three fish jump in a row? I look around to see if anyone heard me talk out loud. Nope. There is no one on the track. As I continue my route, up and over the water gate, I scan the river. My breath and pace quicken with anticipation. Splash! A ring of water directs my sight. Suddenly a fish hurls its body upward and forward out of the spot. Its shiny silver body flashing, and lands with a splash. And yes, another one comes out (or is it the same one?) upward and forward, landing with a splash, on its side and yes the third one (or time) out of the landing spot. The sound of the side of the fish impacting the water is as delightful as the sight of it. In that moment of watching the fish jumping out of the water all my crankiness dissolves.

 

How wonderful! How wonderful to live in this river, to jump like that, to be shiny silver. How wonderful to witness it; to experience the sight and sound of jumping fish. I am still hot. But I am no longer cranky.

3 thoughts on “Hot Hiroshima

  1. The beginning made me laugh out loud. The combination of description and narrative helped me to experience this all with you on the literal and metaphoric levels. The way the heat and the empty city and the inner emptiness/crankiness reinforced each other helped me appreciate not only the experience but deeper meanings of human experience in a highly aesthetic and coherent way. Thank you for sharing!

    Like

  2. Dr. Suess’s wife wrote a child’s book, “A Fish out of Water”. A quote from it splashed into mind as I read your blog.

    Don’t ask me why. Your words fed me and I jumped a lot, knowing You were looking and going with the flow.

    “When you feed a fish, never feed him a lot.
    So much and no more! Never more than a spot,
    or something may happen. You never know what.”

    Like

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