Somewhere in the back of her mind, Hanna registered the sound of a door opening and then slamming shut. She remained in her bed, eyes closed, refusing to acknowledge it. A few moments passed.
“Hanna,” a firm voice called. “I’m here for a visit.”
She didn’t reply. She didn’t want to. She didn’t have the energy for it.
“I brought tea and cookies,” the voice said.
Hanna rolled over to look at her friend. He stood quietly at her bedroom door, regarding her with gentle eyes.
“It’s okay,” he said after a moment. “I know you’re tired. You don’t have to say anything. I’m just gonna leave these in your kitchen.”
He paused and watched her thoughtfully. “I’ll come back tomorrow, okay? I’ll stop by on my way home from work. And if you need anything, you can let me know. You can text me or write me a note or anything, whatever you feel up to.”
Hanna was grateful.
“I hope you know that this is a normal and healthy part of life… don’t let anyone tell you different or make you feel bad for feeling down. Well, anyway, I’ll be going now. I don’t want to be a bother. See you tomorrow.”
He left in a flash, the door once again opening and closing, the same familiar sounds echoing through the hall. Hanna lay on her back for a moment, staring at the ceiling. Then she rolled over and went to sleep.
Even in the dead of night I know that I am not alone. Across time and space, memories always keep me company.
For instance, the memory of a brief but eternal plane ride, the one that set the gears in motion for us to become closer than we’ve ever been. The plane ride that led to the great bridge, to the two of us standing together at the water’s edge, to the terrifyingly vulnerable confession, and everything after.
That’s a good one.
Or the memory of her face that night, flooded with genuine surprise and delight and embarrassment all at once. It takes on a soft, pensive look as four hands run over the piano keys in the background. For a moment it almost overflows with love, but it doesn’t, because love can’t overflow – it builds, expands, acting as its own container, its own master, the pace of its growth only restrained by the being it fills, but always on an endless journey towards infinity.
That’s another good one.
Sometimes, I am kept company by other people’s memories rather than my own. The memory of a broken childhood, of parents angry or never there, of social harassment and tears and pain and rage and above all a single, desperate, unspoken question, still perhaps unanswered, a question that a human being shouldn’t even have to ask.
This memory is not mine, but it may as well be, because when I lay awake at night this memory comes to me with the same depth of emotion as my own.
Memories are strange. They can evoke happiness, or suffering, or a million other indescribable things. They are not always reliable – they can change, become corrupted, or lost into the vast reaches of the universe, to be recovered someday, or not. They can be shared, or kept hidden, or they may be public in the first place. But in any case, it is memory that sustains life.
After all, memory keeps dead people alive, and it keeps living people alive along with them.
Hi! Kohaku here. I hope everyone had a great week.
I wanted to give myself room to do more traditional blog posts and casually express my thoughts, so I think I’ll write an open journal entry every Sunday from now on. Well, I’ll try it for a little bit and see how I like it.
Today, I made oatmeal raisin cookies… I’m really into them right now. It’s strange, because I normally don’t like sweet foods or desserts or anything. This is the third time I’ve made this recipe, and I really think I should stop. I’m getting addicted to them…
Anyway, I was thinking about reorganizing the post categories and navigation menu on this blog. Right now most of the categories are general topics like music, but I also want to organize my writing by style – short stories, poetry, journal entries, longer works, etc. If I do both, it’ll probably be too cluttered. So I’ll have to think about it more and figure out which categories to cut.
Also, I was trying to start a longer story the other day, but I could barely get even the first paragraph out! I guess the idea hadn’t quite taken shape yet. I’ll try again.
My friend J is coming over tomorrow to play music with me. I haven’t seen her in a while. I think I’m blessed to have friends who will do this kind of thing. Most people don’t appreciate their friends enough… everyone, do something nice for a friend today. That’ll make me happy.
On that note, it’s my friend E’s birthday on Saturday, and I haven’t yet decided what to do for her. I have to do something. Don’t neglect your loved ones, especially on their birthdays – it’s a special day to celebrate their life and think about how much they’ve impacted yours. Make a meaningful present, throw a surprise party… at the very least, give them a call. What if something happens to them – or you – tomorrow? You’ll regret not spending enough time with them, right? Try to live without giving yourself a chance to feel regret. That’s important.
Because it’s too easy to lose someone you love… I always think about that when August is right around the corner.
Well, that’s all for now.
This week, practice showing love, and giving it. The world needs more of that. And, as always, take care of yourself.
I sit at the edge of my balcony, staring out at the cloudless night sky. Over the city, pollution has dimmed the light of the stars, but the view tonight is still spectacular. The yellow moon is bright and full, and it’s so close I can see the alterations of light and shadow on its surface. Its power is overwhelming but not oppressive; rather than feeling small, I feel drunk. As I stare at it my mind seems to be pulled in a thousand different directions at once, chasing after the possibilities of my – and our – future.
I have to remind myself to breathe.
The moon hints at many things. For instance, it tells me that tonight is a night for talking to old friends. It’s not the only night, of course – it’s just a good opportunity. I take it gladly, and spend some time thinking over who I want to talk to. But I have no time to choose; behind me I can hear that one friend has already arrived.
“See, you’re not so hard to find,” she says as she opens the balcony door.
“I was worried I might be,” I reply. “That’s why I came outside.”
She smiles at me, joyful and energetic, her eyes deep pools of grey.
I drink in her image. “Did you cut your hair?”
“Yeah. Looks good, right?” She runs a hand through it as she comes over to sit beside me.
“Shorter than last time,” I laugh. I give my own hair a little toss. It’s definitely longer than I would prefer, and it just keeps growing.
“I like short hair,” she says. “What’s wrong with that? Anyway, I haven’t seen you in so long!”
“It’s been a few months, right?”
“Something like it… I don’t know. Time seems to flow differently nowadays…” She closes her eyes, brow furrowed slightly as if intently concentrating on something.
Watching her, I say quickly, “That’s okay. Sorry for being… I don’t know. Inconsiderate.”
She looks at me and beams. “It’s not inconsiderate. I’m glad you’re talking to me! I miss you.”
I reach for her hand by reflex, and regret it immediately. But she happily reciprocates, locking her slim fingers with mine. Embarrassed, I tell her, “I miss you too.”
“It gets kind of lonely…” She trails off and then gives me another of her trademark energetic smiles, but this one is a little on the wild side. “By the way, I like it when you play music for me. Thank you.”
“Of course!” I say. “I think it’s so much more meaningful than… you know, flowers and wine and stuff…”
“My little brother leaves me wine sometimes. He knows I don’t like wine! People’s likes and dislikes don’t change just because they die… I bet he does it to spite me a little.”
“Is he still mad?”
She nods. “He’s got all of this anger locked in his heart. And don’t get me wrong, I know he has a right to be angry at me, but I just wish he would learn to… let go a little, I guess.”
I smile faintly. “He’ll learn. Just give him some time.”
After a few seconds of silence she gives me an odd sideways look. “And what about you?”
“What about me?” I ask, surprised.
“Are you mad?”
“Me?” I shake my head and reply honestly, “I was never mad.”
She leans toward me, still holding my hand, and her face takes on that wild look again. “Define ‘mad’,” she says persistently.
I throw my head back and laugh. “You’ve caught me. You were always good at that.”
The compliment doesn’t even throw her off. She leans her face toward me a little more and speaks in a determined voice. “So you are angry?”
I raise my free left hand to my face and rub my eyes as I try to find an answer. “I’m not angry in the usual sense of the word,” I say. “It’s more like… I wish you hadn’t gone and died on me, that kind of feeling.”
“So you’re like my brother,” she comments. “Just not so intense, right?”
“Not so intense as to leave wine at your grave,” I laugh. “My, I’ve missed you. The way you joke around, the way you create the perfect lead in for my own jokes… you’re brilliant with words, you know? I never told you that.”
She blushes a little. “You really think so?”
“Absolutely brilliant,” I affirm.
Grinning, she turns away with satisfaction and looks out at the city sprawled below us. Then she raises her head and gives a low, contented sigh. “The moon is pretty tonight…”
I nod. “I’m glad you’re here to see it with me.”
She pushes on my shoulder playfully. “Reminds you of the time we met, right?”
“Tell me something, Haku.”
“Did you really want to see me tonight?”
I look at her with surprise. “Of course,” I say, but as soon as the words are out of my mouth I begin to feel guilty, and she knows it. But the new expression that crosses her face lacks any sense of jealousy or hurt feelings; instead she seems concerned for me. As soon as I see this I think: I never once deserved this woman…
“My dad died last month,” I tell her. “I’ve been meaning to go see him, but it’s hard… Especially for my mother and all. So when I saw the full moon tonight… I was thinking of him.”
Her grip on my hand tightens. She glances away for a moment while she tries to string together an answer – we both hate the robotic, meaningless I’m sorry for your loss that gets thrown around so often. Finally she returns her gaze to me and says with overwhelming compassion, “The night’s not over yet, so I’m going to go, and then you can talk to your father, okay?”
I start to choke up. “Wait, hold on, that’s not what I…”
Determined, she lets go of my hand and stands up. I rise with her as she says firmly, “Haku, my sense of time might be degrading, but even I know I’ve been dead for a long while. At any rate, you come see me pretty often, and you play music for me and talk with me, so you know what? I’m blessed to have so much time with you. And right now your dad isn’t so lucky. So I’m going to go, and you can talk to your dad.”
I search for words. For a minute we stand in silence, facing each other on the balcony, enveloped in the yellow-white light of the full moon. In the end all I can manage is a heavy, passionate “Thank you”.
She gazes into my eyes and smiles wide. “Come see me soon, I’m getting lonely…”
Then she heads back inside and vanishes from my sight.
I bite my lip, trying not to cry, and return to the edge of the balcony to wait for my father.
The tales speak of a strange phenomenon where the shadow of a person who has loved deeply throughout their lifetime may on the day of their death wander the earth until the disappearance of the setting sun. Of those tales, the one below is, in my opinion, the most convincing.
Last year, the first Monday of April, at roughly eight o’clock in the morning. I was sitting on my balcony enjoying a leisurely breakfast when the call came. I picked up, irritated – I don’t like being disturbed on my days off – and asked who it was. “I need you to come over to Bren’s place,” the voice said without any introduction. It was our manager. I said fine, hung up, and sat there for another half hour finishing my cereal.
Looking back I can hear the pain in her voice – or maybe that’s just reconstructive fantasy. Whatever the case may be, I didn’t think anything was wrong that morning. I had no idea that my life was changing right before me, totally spinning out of control, everything I had built in the past fifteen years completely falling apart. I thought that I had all the time in the world – and so I sat there, eating cereal, rereading my favorite book, savoring a cup of coffee, while my partner hanged himself.
People in our line of work commit suicide all the time, but you don’t hear about it. I’d never imagined Brennan would, but in a strange, retrospective way, I’m not surprised. There’s more to us than you think.
When I got to his apartment the police and paramedics were already there. Even at that point I had no idea of the tragedy that had befallen us. Some of our younger colleagues were there too, standing outside the building, and when they saw me they started to stare with faces full of horror, grief, and pity. None of them spoke to me, and I got irritated with them because I thought they were being disrespectful. Then I pushed past the police line and went up the stairs to Brennan’s room. The door was closed, guarded by a pair of stoic policemen, and Kiara, our manager, was standing outside.
I think that at that point I knew. I saw the look on her face and this horrible feeling started forming in my gut; my chest tightened and for a moment I couldn’t speak. She stared at me with tear-filled eyes, said hoarsely, “Henry, I don’t think you want to go in there.”
Of course I went in. How could I not?
I don’t think words can even convey everything I felt that day. We’ve known each other since first grade, Brennan and I, and we’d entered this business together straight out of high school. We pulled each other through the first few years of scarce work and low pay. At one point he paid the rent for my apartment, and another time I bought him dinner for two weeks straight. After that, because of some immensely kind senior colleagues and Kiara’s hard work, we were able to make it. The next ten years went by in a flash. Our popularity wasn’t always steady, but for the most part, we survived – or at least I thought we had. Clearly, I was mistaken.
You know, we didn’t always have the greatest relationship. It’s hard to work with the same person, to see them almost every day, for years and years on end. We got angry with each other at times. But we also cared for each other more deeply than most people realize. I was best man at his wedding, and became godfather to his kids. When his wife died of cancer I cried an ocean and then spent a couple of weeks practically camping out at his place, helping take care of his daughters. He was also the first person I came out to about being gay, and the reaction I got from him was the most loving and supportive one I’ve ever received. Honestly, I don’t know who I would be or where I would have ended up if I had never met him. That morning, standing in the middle of his living room, I couldn’t imagine my life without him in it – and that’s why afternoon found me once again at the edge of my balcony. Sitting on the rails, staring out into the self-manufactured darkness, I was in that moment utterly devoid of thought or feeling. Of course I hadn’t really “planned” this – I think most people don’t – but whatever the case may be, I was completely ready to die. I was just waiting for the right moment to do it.
And that’s when he appeared.
I thought I was hallucinating. He stood a little to my left, leaning forward with his hands on the railing – not a ghost but a silhouette, a dark gray shadow with depth and form, at once both faceless and recognizable. When he spoke his voice was deeper and more full-throated than when I’d known him in life. With a slight tinge of anger he warned me, “Don’t you dare.”
I choked. “Bren?”
“I didn’t kill myself just for you to follow me, idiot,” his shadow replied. “Get off there.”
I swung my legs back over and joined him on the safe side of the railing. “How…”
“Listen, Henry,” he said abruptly. “When the sun sets, I have to go. I just came to ask you to take care of my kids.”
I swallowed hard, still trying to comprehend what was happening. “Wait,” I managed to say. “What?”
He shifted so that his face – or what would have been his face – was looking my direction. “Take care of my kids,” he repeated, and this time he really did seem angry. In all the years I’d known him he had never spoken with such force. And it worked – I couldn’t refuse. I mumbled some kind of agreement, and from then on, knowing he had guaranteed my life, he seemed to relax.
I stood still for a minute, trying to form my thoughts. It was a good thing that I had already cried my heart out that morning, because now there were no tears to break my voice. I asked slowly, “Why’d you do it?”
“You of all people know why.”
“No, that’s not … I meant, why did you leave me? And your kids? Why now, without any warning?”
His shadow rippled with gentle, sorrowful laughter. “If I warned you, you would have stopped me… And listen, you know, I got in too far, for myself and my family. I’ve been dealing with some dark things for years that I’d rather my children not have to be a part of. Look, don’t misunderstand. I love you and I love my kids and I love all the work we’ve done. But I couldn’t escape it, and in the end I think it’s better for you all that I move on. Don’t be angry with yourself, Henry. It is what it is. Just let me go.”
After that he refused to talk anymore about his death. Instead, standing together on the balcony watching the sun lower itself to the horizon, we reminisced for four hours about his life. We talked about the time we first met – sitting across from each other in the same first grade class – and about the time we mutually decided we weren’t going to attend college. We talked about his marriage, his wife and kids, and about my boyfriend and our plans for marriage. We talked about our work, the minute legacy we had left behind. We talked about all the beautiful things we had seen and done together, and all of the suffering we’d endured together, and what I thought the rest of my life would look like. Towards the end, as the red-orange sun hovered just above the horizon, I asked him, “Are you happy?”
He thought about it. After a minute he said carefully, “I’m not happy, but I am content. How about you?”
“I don’t know,” I started to say – and then darkness enveloped the world and he was gone.
And so it was. My partner died, and I lived.
Since then I’ve quit my job – I realized I couldn’t do the work without him – but I’ve found another one, relatively low-paying but simple and fulfilling. My boyfriend and I got married, and we adopted both of Brennan’s kids. Now we’re a happy family of four. I still think of Bren often, and time has not soothed the hurt, but in a way, I’ve found peace.
I remember that day. On an overnight island trip, we woke up early one silent, misty morning. We rose from our beds, exited our tents, and wandered the paths down to the beach – together. We walked, side by side, parallel to the shoreline, watching the waves crawl across the sand. We held hands. We found rare seashells. We embraced this quiet, powerful moment of communion, something that neither of us could put into words back then, something that many do not understand even now. It was a morning I will not forget.
I close my eyes and wonder why the image of this day comes so strongly to my mind. But the answer comes to me quickly: I probably wouldn’t be alive today, if you had not given me memories such as these.
I wasn’t the greatest friend to you, I know that. In middle school I was struggling with symptoms of depression that I couldn’t understand. I was too focused on myself, on my problems, to see yours. But still you held my hand. Still, you stood with your back to mine and promised we would face the world together. And we did – and we won.
We won, because we both made it out alive. And although we are divided now, separated by time and distance and situations over which we have little control, I know that if I ever need you again, you will come for me. And if you ever need me, I will come for you. Together we will stand, back-to-back, alone in the rain, until the storm subsides… until the world decides to let us free.
Because, as you told me so long ago, there aren’t many like us.