Posted on June 15, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair6.15.2015 Journal Prompt Photo by Issie Suda June 15, 2015: She had a way. Like this:Like Loading... Related
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Haruko was always the fearless one. We would all stand patiently waiting for the school bus, and would notice that she had slid to the front of the line and got a seat before we even got to the door. She would answer a question in class before anyone else could get their thoughts together like she was a game show contestant. By the time we finished high school she had ambitions for her life that went way beyond being the office flower.
So it was no surprise when on our way home from work one afternoon she abruptly stopped her bike at the big hole in the big fence along the highway. She brought the kickstand down sharply and immediately went towards the bent wires with her familiar look of determination. I was eager to get home after a hard day of work but she paid no mind.
“Haruko you know we’re not supposed to go through that fence.”
“I’ll only be a minute—no one will care.”
There was never any reasoning with her when she got this way. So there she went, lab coat, skirt, work shoes and all creeping through the mangled wires that formed the break in the chain link fence.
The fence wasn’t always there. When we were little girls, this area was all just farmlands. Then the bulldozers and big machines came through and the fence went up. I suppose it was to protect the new factory.
In our village we were used to fences. We had an imposing 6-foot fence around our house to keep passersby from leaving trash near our front yard. It helped to keep out lives separate from others. And we could shut out the sounds of our neighbors arguing.
So we knew about fences in our neighborhood. There is really nothing wrong with them. But this fence was different. For those of us who had grown up around the rice fields and ponds, the metal fence and the factory it protected were intruders, an uninvited guest. No one really wanted the factory or its fence but the government and the local officials pushed it through. Some things just can’t be helped.
So here it was suddenly: an opening into its guarded world, a break in its defense against the rest of us. And Haruko ready to invade the barricade.
“You could get us in trouble, Haruko.” The words only seemed to propel her faster through the sharp wires.
Untangling her hair from the wires, and casting her shoes aside she was quickly on the other side. She turned to look back at me with a smile of triumph.
“Remember this is where we used to walk on our way home from school. No highway, no fence. Just an open path with grass and flowers.
“Haruko hurry up. I want to get going.”
“I’ll be just a minute. Look at the grass over here. You can see little spaces where it was just like it used to be.” And she proceeded to walk around stomping her bare feet for emphasis, the green grass peeping through her toes.
“Look at me,” she cried out. “I went back in time by going through the fence. This is the place where we talked about growing up some day and living away from here. With its rice fields and green grass.”
The midday traffic kept roaring by ignoring the two women in work garb. Not even slowing down to watch us. Not checking on the hole in the fence. Busy on their way to their own important destinations. Haruko was right. No one noticed.
Finally she let out a little sigh, like air out of a balloon. “I guess I’m done. We can’t really go back there after all.”
Just as quickly as she had jumped through the fence she returned, shoes in hand.
Getting back on our bikes we worked out way home together in silence. We both remembered what had been, and lost. Like the grass between her toes, the sense from an earlier time will remain alive. As our ride home came to an end, we promised each other to keep within us the beauty of those days.
I love Haruko…. she’s a fabulous creation. And the point of this piece has a genuine ache to it. I have felt what Haruko feels and I recognise it and I feel it again in reading this.
One small niggle… the last paragraph, the last two sentences, for me they weaken the impact of the piece. If this flash stops at ‘We both remembered what had been’ it leaves the reader with the ache and is more powerful for that – in my opinion.
Thanks for your generous comments and the piece that follows. Yes your comments are well taken. I wrote two sentences too far. It is hard to resist the temptation to wrap things up tight. Leaving the piece open ended is more effective.
Inspired by the photos of Issei Suda who tries to capture the tension between the traditional and modern.
Thanks to Patty for the prompt
Kimi broke sticks just for the fun of hearing them crack. And bottles she threw hard at stone-walls for the music of their breaking, and once she rolled a supermarket trolley into the canal for the clatter and splash that it made. All that even before Mr Pituka.
Sometimes she stood in the street with her eyes closed and she was listening sharp as knives or pins, listening for every small noise underneath the bigger noises. She said she could tell the numbers of buses by the sounds their engines made and she could even tell the drivers from the shifting of the gears or the opening of the automatic doors. And she knew when Mr Pituka was out of his house, even if he was a long way off.
Mr Pituka’s as blind as cupboard dark. He walks with a stick, tip-tapping through his day, his head turned a little so it is like he is always looking at the sun, except his eyes are two milk white moons and he sees nothing. He came to our school one day and he talked to the class about how he sees what is about him, only he sees different. Mr Pituka sees everything through the sounds that things make. He painted a remarkable picture of his world – our world, really.
That’s when Kimi started really listening to things. She said everywhere was a whole lot cleaner if you closed your eyes and all you had was listening. She said it was more interesting, too, and sometimes it was a little sadder for there were holes in things – like birdsong when it is interrupted, or water running and the tap is suddenly turned off, or grass when it’s cut.
I didn’t know what she meant about the grass being cut. She said grass makes a sound when it grows, those tiny green blades shifting against each other – like cats when they rub up next to your legs, their tails brushing your knees and it is like a lover’s touch. Grass is the same, she said. Except then it is cut and it makes no sound at all, not even weeping.
And Kimi took me up to the airport once. There’s a fence that keeps you out, but Kimi knows where the fence has a break in it, where the chain-link is unwoven in a jagged tear that snags like goblin-fingers at your clothes and your hair if ever you dare to climb through. Kimi parked her bike and climbed through. I said I wasn’t sure. I said there were rules and if we were caught then there’d be a price to pay, for us and for our parents. Kimi just shrugged and she said if I wanted to hear grass growing this was the place to come.
Kimi was right. About grass and the sounds that it makes. There are patches of uncut grass on the other side of the airport fence and when we lay down in that grass, laying on our backs with the sky like a flat slab or a blanket pulled over us, it was as though we were in another place. Kimi said we had to close our eyes and listen.
Between the roar of the planes – and they made my ears ring we were so close to them – there was a different sound: a silence at first that I thought was empty, as though it was the absence of sound.
‘Really listen,’ hissed Kimi.
And she was right – grass does make a sound, even beneath the buzz and saw of crickets or bees. It is the sound of undressing in the dark, the small rustle of cloth against the skin, like a sigh or a breath, the sound of a kiss just before it is a kiss and it is first breath on my cheek or my lips, the sound of a touch when it is a caress, Kimi’s hand laid gentle on the flat of my stomach. It really is all of those things.
The airport security guard thought we were mad as sticks. He said we had put ourselves in danger and he would have to tell our parents if ever we were inside the fence again, or the authorities he would have to tell. Kimi said his words were all scold and bark, but if you listened there was no bite in them.
I never did climb through the fence again or listen to airport grass growing. But Kimi broke things to see the sound they made when they broke, she was used to that, and I think she went up to the airport on her own when it was dark as pockets or blinks, and she lay down on the grass listened.
And I undressed in the dark of my room, and my eyes shut so I could listen sharper, and I lay down on the bed, and I dreamed of grass growing, and cat-tails brushing my knees, and almost-kisses and certain caresses; and Kimi I dreamed of, too.