Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Book of Memories

Summer be coming like a rocket, where we show off the results of our gym time on the beaches, without shirts or sometimes even pants, so it feels quite timely for me to put this up. This piece actually won me a writing contest a while back, and editing it made me a bit misty eyed about both the past and the future, but in a good way. See if it conjures up some of feelings in you, about the things you leave behind.

Summer, the time where I'm supposed to be happy and full of joy, and yet I'm not. My family is gonna move to San Francisco ‘cause of a job my dad got, that means I'll have to leave all my friends here in Japan behind for good. As me, my parents, and my 3 sisters pile into the van I look to the front door and see my memories start recalling themselves. Watching my littlest sister run to the van with her short brown hair and wide, hazel eyes I saw the little girl in her navy colored school uniform from all those years ago, a grin from ear to ear and perky as the day she began middle school. Wearing an ocean colored tube top and white cut offs my sister glanced over at me, asking, "Aren't you exited, Makoto?" I glared at her with my own now world-weary eyes and said, "About what? Leaving all my friends behind and moving to a country where about 10 percent of the population speaks my language?"

"Aww, you're no fun." I saw her pout as she sat next to me. Sensing it would be a long drive; I rooted around the back and pulled out an old leather scrapbook brimming with photos. As I opened that book of memories, a picture of me and my friend, Hiroko, appeared, and we were posed in front of a DDR machine.

I remember that it was my first time in many weeks after my breakup with my then boyfriend Hiroyuki that I stepped outside the house and went somewhere, trying to forget all the pain he inflicted on me when he left. Before we went into the Game Center she sat me down on the bench out front and said, "Makoto, there are more important things in life than a guy.”

“How can that be possible? I gave him my heart and did everything I could to help him be better, ‘cause he said he wanted to be. Then he went and ran off with some random slut to go join a fucking gang. He lied right to my face to get what he wanted, just like the rest of those men.”

“Just because one man broke your heart, doesn't mean all of them will. Someday you'll meet a nice guy that'll treat you right, but until then don't beat yourself up! He chose his path, and now you can choose yours." A small smile appeared on my face as she said that, tears streaming down my face as she lead me by the hand into the arcade, where I made a total ass of myself on the machines, especially DDR and that Para Para Paradise machine. Ahh, those we're the days.

I looked up to the car window and saw that we were in the middle of a traffic jam, and remembered that I was about to leave her behind, too. I sighed as I flipped the pages, searching for something to get my mind off my misery. Finding nothing, I placed it in my lap and stared at the endless array of skyscrapers outside the window. A few moments later I heard my sister say, "You look cute in that bikini." Upon hearing the word "Bikini" I snatched it from her and looked to see a picture of my white, two-piece clad self with my equally well-dressed friends at the beach, the rocky rise of land behind us serving as our backdrop.

After the pic was taken I took Takashi, the tall, dark, and handsome boy on my right, for an aside. The day before, I found out that his woman was cheating on him with Hiroyuki, and he was devastated. He tried to hide it behind that charming smile of his, but one look into his half closed eyes told me all I needed to know. Trying my best not to stare at his highly developed pecs, I looked straight ahead and told him, "Takashin, I heard what happened and I'm sorry for what she did to you."

"Why are you apologizing?" Struggling to form something coherent I rubbed at the back of my neck and answered "Err...well...she cheated on you, and... Well...there's other fish in the sea...and all that..." I could remember feeling my face flush as I uttered those words. He then started to giggle, prompting me to ask "What? What's so funny?"

"You know, you look cute when you blush, Makoto." I felt the blushing spread even further, stomping the sands and saying, "I'm 17, dammit! I'm not supposed to be cute!"

"Then what are you supposed to be?”

"Well I...uhh..." He just kept on giggling as I tried to think of something to say, everybody now looking at my rapidly reddening body. I finally managed to get out, "Sexy, I guess..." I remember someone from the back of me shouting, "Look everyone, it's Sexy Girl Makoto!" He then smiled as he said, "I agree, you are quite sexy. "

"Oh stop, Takashi..."

 "You know what? I like you. You're kind, cute, and apparently very sexy." He then smiled and walked up to me as asked, "Wanna go on a date sometime?"

"Uhh..sure..." Everyone jumped and cheered when I said that, and Takashi just came up and hugged me, kissing my cheek as he let go. We've been going out ever since that day, and he's made me one of the happiest girls in Japan. And now I'm about to leave that behind, as well.

As I looked up from the book we had arrived at Narita Airport and the sun started to set, almost as if the gods themselves are telling me that my greatest memories are also sinking into the horizon. Before the rest of my family and I took our bags to the luggage check in I put the album in my carry on, so I could at least not worry about my most precious possession getting lost in the shuffle. We dragged our way through the mob of people that apparently has the same plans as us, my dad got into an argument with the clerk about ticket prices and finally got to the check in counter; putting the fate of our stuff in the airline’s hand, thinking that when I see them again I won't be able to see my friends or Takashi ever again. That thought came even more of a reality when we entered our gate and the plane took off, Japan becoming nothing more than a spec underneath us. As that began to dawn on me, tears began to fill my eyes, running down my cheek. I looked at the clouds passing us by from my window and thought, “This is it. I'm leaving behind everyone I've ever loved...” I then opened the scrapbook to the last page, where one picture was displayed front and center: Me and Takashi; holding hands in a park, sitting on the bench.

It was taken the night before I left, and he told me this: “Makoto Kisaragi, I want you to know that this will not be the last time we meet.” I looked at him, tears filling my eyes, and asked, "Why? Why do you say that? I'm going to America; do you know how far that is? And do you know how far away I'll be from you? Do you know how much it'll hurt for me to be without you?" I buried my head into his chest as I uttered those words, and he held me in his gentle embrace as he said, "It's alright, Makoto, I'm here."

"But that's the thing, you won't be here. You'll be gone, gone from my life, gone from my touch, gone from...from me..." I then looked up at him, and he smiled and said, "I knew you we're gonna say that. I thought the exact same thing a few days back. Then I talked to your little sister about it, and she told me something that changed how I saw you moving, and gave me much hope."

"What did she tell you?"

"I can't say."

"But why?"

"’Cause if I told you now, you wouldn't understand." He ran a hand through my hair as he said; "I think it's best if your sister told you. She'll know when the time is right. Until then I'll leave you with these words: I, along with everyone you else you meet in your life, is like the wind." Then he kissed me on the lips and walked off. I was left there a slightly, scratch that, very confused and still heartbroken girl.

I think I woke my sister with my sobbing, because I heard her wake up and ask, "Hey sis, what's up?" I turned to her and said, "Nothing" Although the river of tears kind of gave me away. She then said, "Yeah, sure, nothing." She looked at the open scrapbook in my hand and said, "Can I see that for a second?" I handed it over to her, and she began looking through it, stopping at what seemed like random pages for a moment, but when I looked closer, were the exact same pages I had flipped to that day. She then looked up at me and said, "You miss your friends, don't you, sis?" A small gasp emerged from me as I looked at her, then nodded. She then giggled and said, "Oh sis, why would you miss them?"

"Because we're moving away from them, and I'll never be able to be with them again."

"What makes you say that?"

"Well...we're moving to a different country, and-"

"You can't send them snail mail, E-mails or IMs?"

"Well...I could, but it's not the same." She then made a small laugh and held up the scrapbook, saying, "Sis, what is this?"

"My scrapbook."

"And what does it hold?"

"Pictures of-"

"Wrong. They're not just pictures, they're memories of what you and the people in these pictures did together. This scrapbook holds all the joy and happiness captured on each picture. I mean, that is why you like them so much, right?" Shocked to hear such wisdom emerge from her tiny body, I said with bated breath, "Uhh....yeah..." She then turned it to the last page and said, "And if all these pictures we're gone, would that mean the memories they each hold would be gone, too?"

"Well, I-" She giggled, then said, "Oh sis, I always thought the older one was supposed to know all this." She closed it as she said, "Of course the answer is no, and your feelings about your friends should be the same. I mean, just because you can't see the wind doesn't mean it’s not there, right?" I saw a gentle smile cross her face as she said, "Your feelings about your friends are no different. Yeah, they're in a different country and all that, but as long as you keep what they've done for you in your heart, and I'm pretty sure you do, they'll never truly leave you. Much like the winds, they'll be with you wherever you go. And besides, they wouldn't want you to be sad, would they?" To that, I could only say, "Err....well I guess not..."

"Of course they don't, they want you to be happy, to enjoy living in a new country. So live it up! Make new friends, create new memories, and take new pictures for that scrapbook. After all, what use is moving to somewhere new if we can't enjoy all it has to offer us?" I then started to smile, then said, "You know what? You've absolutely right, Momoko. I've gotta stop all this damn moping and start being happy. America is a very big and very fun place."

"That's the spirit, sis. And besides, a lot of guys over there love Japanese girls and culture, so maybe you could teach them a thing or two." I giggled and said, "Yeah." I then remembered what Takashi said to me the night before,

I think it's best if your sister told you. She'll know when the time is right.

Then I looked at her and ruffled her hair as I said, "You're a lot wiser than you look, lil' sis." She then shot a small smirk at me as she said, "Well they say some of the best things come in small packages, big sis." She looked at the scrapbook and said, "I wonder what kind of new memories this thing'll hold?" I gently took it from her grasp as I said, "That much is uncertain, but…if they're as good as or better than the old ones, then I think I'll enjoy my time in America..."

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