CIRQUE turn and face an older man who wears the ivory and blue kimono of a shrine priest. “She’s shy, but is playful and has a kind spirit.” The priest’s body appears frail, but his veins shine under translucent skin. He gives us an appraising glance. “This is your shrine,” Honda says. “I worship here like many others,” the priest responds. I stare at the priest, and I notice he watches me the way a grandfather watches a child. “Will you be staying with us?” he asks.
Waiting, Harborview Medical Center
We follow a narrow dirt path between the village’s homes. The lanterns shine brighter as we move ahead. I smell boiling rice, stewing vegetables, and roasting fish. Open doors lead to hearths glowing with lingering charcoal, but I see no other people. “My memories are faint.” He frowns. “Like dreams slipping away after you wake.” The path opens onto a wide town square; at its center is a dense copse of cypress, holly, and oak. Rope and paper pendants wrap each tree. Before the trees sits a small wooden shrine house flanked by clumping bamboo. “Everything is clear,” I say. I look down at my wrist and notice the string I had attached to lead me back is no longer there. “Well, almost everything.” “What’s missing?” Honda asks. I try to avoid his gaze, but it draws me in. My cheeks are hot. He puts a hand on my arm. His smile is wide and inviting, but his touch is cold. I gasp and want to pull away, but am unable to move. # “I don’t know you two.” A young girl in a lavender sun dress emerges from the trees behind the shrine. She is small, barely there, but her voice is clear and strong. “Are you new?” “Yes,” I say. “Who are you?” Honda asks. The girl stares up at me with a coy look of concern that makes my heart beat more quickly. Then she runs from us, vanishing among the homes on the other side of the trees. “Don’t mind her,” a voice says from behind. We
# 3 I walk between the village’s homes going one direction, but when I return they look different, as if new ones have taken their place. Although rustic, some show modern touches. One house displays a blue and white Baystars banner from 1998 over the door, from when they won the Japan Series. I remember the year because my father made me attend several games with him, and when he drank too much I got us home on the trains. Another has a radio inside that faintly crackles with kabuki music. I also see lights beyond lanterns, gas lamps and electric bulbs, even though there are no wires strung and there is no smell of fuel. I begin to catch faint glimpses of villagers at a distance: an older man with an expensive suit and briefcase who hurries away from me; two young men wearing matching rainbow bracelets and holding hands; a woman cradling a silent newborn. I call to them, but none responds. Throughout, I notice the girl in the lavender dress stalking my peripheral vision. Back in the town square, I find Honda before the shrine. “Did you see them?” he asks. “Some,” I say. “This town is out of time.” He stares past me. “I met a man my age, but he was dressed like a soldier from a different era. At first he was friendly and welcoming, but then he grew confused. He wanted to know if the Americans had landed yet, and if his family in Hiroshima was safe.” “Hiroshima?” “I asked his name, but he only shook his head and trudged off.” Honda turns to fully face the shrine. He claps his
A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim