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Vo l . 7 N o . 1 hands three times and bows deeply at his waist. When he rises, I see he is crying. # Honda and I sit cross-legged on the floor of an unoccupied house off the square. A hearth’s fire warms our faces and dries his tears. “My grandmother was also named Nozomi,” I say. “Written with the kanji for ‘wish’ because she was adopted, a gift to a poor family of rice farmers. I never met her. But my parents speak of her strength and grace raising a family in hardship after the war. I was named for her, but given the kanji meaning ‘hope,’ so I might follow her example.” Color seeps from Honda’s face and sweat clings to his sideburns and gathers on his upper lip. He forces a broad smile. “That’s lovely,” he says. “Is anything coming back to you?” I ask. He shakes his head. “I have to focus to even remember my name.” “How awful!” “It’s not so bad.” He puts one of his hands on mine. “At least we’re here with each other.” I blush, but do not look away. There is an ease in Honda’s eyes, but also vulnerability and a growing panic, like a child coming to terms with being lost. I take his hand in mine out of a fear that, without it, the panic might swallow me up. “Tell me another story,” he says. #

own, giving me work, food, and a bed, but it is already too late. I lay down, putting my head on Honda’s outstretched legs. He strokes my hair and I tell him that I do not blame my parents. Sleep begins its descent. If a shrine’s mirror is missing, its purpose dies; it becomes a building, nothing more. Who would worship at an empty building? # 4 The girl in the lavender dress stands in the doorway when I wake. Honda is gone from the house, leaving only a faint impression in the dust where he sat. I wipe sleep from my eyes and motion for the girl to come to me, but she shakes her head. “You don’t belong here,” she says. I stand and walk to her. Her face is a mask of concern, pale and urgent with unexpected creases running from her mouth and eyes. I drop to my knees and take her into my arms. She is hauntingly still. “Why not?” I ask. “Let me show you,” she says. The girl puts a hand on my chest, and with a sudden but gentle strength forces us apart, takes my hand, and pulls until I am standing. We leave the house together. Although I slept for untold hours, the sky remains dark. Ahead, the square is now busy with the light of hundreds of thin white candles placed upright on a tiered series of metal plates arrayed before the shrine. A line of villagers stretches from the shrine; I see hundreds, maybe

Through each torii gate, in a land of ancestors and spirits, is a shrine. These shrines have an inner door that conceals a sacred object, a sanctuary for a divine being and a symbol of power. Often the symbol is a mirror. It is written that the mirror is honesty, that it hides nothing. I gaze into Honda’s eyes, and in them I see myself. Water rises above my head as I leave Tokyo in a tsunami of self-loathing. I hold my breath and cling to the air left in my lungs. My family and I have a bare love found at occasional baseball games and in our kitchen, a love that does not sustain me. My Aunt is childless and she takes me in like her Teklanika River Ice Trail, March Sun Run

Monica O’Keefe

Cirque, Vol. 7 No. 1  

A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim

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