Michael Paterniti (thanks, Varma):
Later, lost far at sea, when you’re trying to forget all you’ve left behind, the memory will bubble up unbidden: a village that once lay by the ocean.
Here are the neatly packed homes with gray-tiled roofs over which the mountains rise in rounded beneficence, towering over lush rice fields that feed a nation. Here are the boats that fish the sea, in all of its blue serenity, and the grass in all of its green. There is such peace in this picture of abundance: lumber from the mountain, rice from the field, fish from the deep ocean. People want for nothing here.
This village woven together by contentment is yours, Hiromitsu, and it is here, in the memory of it whole, that you know yourself best, the fourth-generation son of rice farmers. Here among a hundred wooden houses is the concrete one your family built. The house is made with metal pilings, which by your calculations will stand any high tide or errant wave. On your verdant plot a mile from the sea, a garden bursts with peonies, outbuildings sag, a koi pond teems. Here you live with your wife, Yuko, to whom you daily profess your love, and your parents, whom you still honor with the obedience of a child. In the barn are the pigeons you adore, for there’s no more beautiful sight in the world than a flock mystically circling deep in the sky, then suddenly one breaking for home, wings aflutter, straining, as if to say, I’m here.
In this cage lie the chuckling pigeons, and in this barn of theirs, your happiness. Against the wall are full bags of rice seed—and from outside you can hear your wife’s voice calling your name. Hiromitsu. Night falls—and in the bedroom you lie beside her. You will remember this later when trying to keep yourself alive: falling asleep one last time by the body of your wife in your house, beneath its roof of white tin, in the shadow of the sea.