1945: Hiroshima: 2005

I’m on my way to school, I’m late, it’s beautiful, I’m chasing a dragonfly, it’s sunny, I’m happy to be chasing a dragonfly, I jump up to catch the dragonfly and ---- 8:15 am. I’m climbing in the trees, I’ve just run away from home, there’s a garden below, I can see an old woman sweeping, suddenly she glances skywards ----- 8:15 am. This is the first time we’ve made love in the morning, upon first waking, my lips find her neck, she sighs, reaches for the wall and ----- 8:15 am. Mr. Yamada walks into the shop, it’s good to see you again, Mr. Yamada, I say, trying not to reveal too much, a slow bow, a silent smile, onegai shimasu ----- 8:15 am. I ring the bell for the Aioi bridge, the streetcar comes to a stop, it’s crowded this morning, I start getting the hiccups and I step down onto the street ----- 8:15 am. What do you mean there was only one sound and the whole city is gone, that’s impossible. One sound? ---- 8:15 am. I was lifted off the ground, my feet were lifted, I landed maybe ten meters away, I looked around at the playground and there were bodies, then I noticed I was bleeding, the whole left side of my face had been charred ---- 8:15 am. Inside a cellar a collection of eighty-eight glass bottles are fused together in an instant, the entire neighborhood vanished, a powerful wind is feeding the fires ---- 8:15 am. Then I noticed my shirt was torn and my shoes were gone, burned, the soles of my feet burnt to black, I can’t stand up, I can’t stand up, I can’t ---- 8:15 am. The railroad tracks are twisting, burning, how is that solid iron can twist, the street is gaping open, a dungeon, a cauldron, the bridges are destroyed, the library behind me, my books, where are my books, my library, I don’t see a single wall left, where am I? ---- 8:15 am.

Present day. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. A walking tour. The Nuclear Age. The Nuclear Globe. A-Bombed Phoenix Trees. A-Bombed Eucalyptus Tree. Acute Effects. Lost hair, singed in clumps, her mother rescued the hair from her daughter’s body.

I had just arrived off the train, checked into the hotel and started walking near the A-Bomb Dome, snapped a few pictures when I saw her looking out on the river, silent and still. She was wearing a purple sash, she was carrying red tulips and magnolias, a single dandelion.

Aftereffects. 1000 paper cranes folded by Sadako in a hospital. The proverb is that folding 1000 cranes will make a wish come true. Hers the wish to live. The cranes are on display at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Glass display. Bent iron shutters. Belongings of Junior High students. Belongings, no students. Hat, bag, sewing notebook. Stained by black rain, no student. Glass display.

We came around to talking about her friend, she was on her way to visit her friend in the hospital. It turned out he was Romanian. She wanted me to translate. I said first show me around. We walked to the tourist center.

Iron girders. Damage by the conflagration. Found on the scorched plain. Arts and crafts neighborhood, military stronghold. Reluctant photographer, mid-morning. 355 meters from the hypocenter. Damage by the radiation. White wall stained by black rain. Backpack stained by black rain. Cloth bag stained by black rain. Tricycle. Tricycle. Burned rusty maroon, stained by black rain. Tricycle, no boy. Tricycle. 0.9 x 1.1 meters length, width. Lone tricycle. Glass display. Stained by black rain. Burned rusty maroon.

I asked her if she had eaten yet. She said yes. I said, take me to the museum. She said yes. Everywhere I looked it was green, and golden, and I could feel something shift into the soft luminescence of Bergman in color.

Damage by heat rays. Human shadow etched in stone. Shorts worn by Junior High student. No student. Shorts tattered, burned rusty maroon, stained by black rain. No student. Tricycle. 0.9 x 1.1 meters, length, width. No child. Black fingernails. Human shadow etched in stone. Stone. Stone. Stone. Rubble. Rubble and stone. Fingers. Etched in glass. Glass, a hundred bottles fused together.

I agreed to go with her to the hospital. Her friend was ill, and anyway I had done some interpretation before. I fell into the professional thing. He had been having pains in his hands. Bones. Arms. Knees. I asked him if there was a large Romanian population in Hiroshima. He said he was reading a book, a lovestory about a married man who falls in love with a whore. It’s hard to explain, he said, but it’s exactly how I feel. Only the whore I’m in love with is the man I used to be. I tried to interpret this to the best of my ability, but something was lost between my translation of and her understanding.

Black fingernails. Fingernails. Fingernails. Fingernails. No body. Body no. Black fingernails, no worker. No body. Work pants and chemise. No body. Roof tiles, fused, one lump. No house. August 6, 1945. 8:15 am. Hovering between Life and Death: Hiroshima. A poem by On Nakamura. Hiroshima in ruins.

After we left the hospital we walked around the Nagarekawa district. The sign on the Pachinko building read GOD. It sparkled at night. What an electricity bill, that one. The GOD building. We were walking around the GOD building, the building that uses all the electricity known to man. She told me her story over Nihonshu and fresh oysters, in an oak hut overlooking the Otagawa river.

Material witnesses. Pocket watch. Set at 8:15 am. No wrist. No arm. Glass display. Lunch box. Lunch not eaten. Inside lunch charred black. Reduced to carbon. Female student’s uniform. Glass display. No female. No student. Wooden sandal [geta]. No feet. No legs. No student. Lunch box. Lunch not eaten. Inside lunch charred black. Reduced to nothing. Water bottle. Wallet, school badge, company badge, sheet of tickets. Glass display. The Manhattan Project. Selection of Target Cities. Four target cities prohibition on carpet bombing in order to observe the effects of the A-Bomb.

She wasn’t the kind of drinker that just puts them back, like some gruff cowboy. She wasn’t the kind of drinker who would just put them back indiscriminately. She drank with reserve. She was actually tasting the fermentation of the rice. Does it have a bite, I asked her in my best Japanese. My worst Japanese. Same thing. How does it sit on the tongue for you? I think she said. Surprisingly dark. Nihonshu is usually lighter, sweeter, crisper. This one has had some time to contemplate. It’s a local brew, she said. Most of these are from Kyushu, she said. This one’s from Hiroshima.

Three planes sent to Hiroshima. One for photography. One for science. One for the bomb. The Enola Gay. Nakajima Area [Peace Memorial Park] before A-bombing. Model display. Hundreds of houses. Domestic life. Husband and wife, children. School, lovemaking, breakfast, lunch, dinner. Theatres. Plays. Films. Boys riding tricycles. Girls playing on swings. Protest telegrams, wall display. Hundreds of letters sent to nuclear states France, China, Russia, UK, United States, Pakistan. Hundreds of letters written in protest from Hiroshima city leaders. They hoped each one would be their last. A-Bomb Dome. Remains of Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. Personal testimonies. Hundreds. Audio-visual.

I think about calling her. I walk out of the hotel, she’s already there. She’s in a white dress, black boots, eyes calm, kind and forgiving, almost painful beauty, it’s sunny again, how did she know that I ----