Dying Happy, It’s Time

“Haku… don’t go…”

Well, I’m sorry. I can’t help it if I’m going to die today. Most people who die really can’t help it.

It’s okay, though. It’s good to die. It’s much better than being alive forever, that’s what I think. Anyone who could manage to go on forever and still be kind, compassionate, considerate, and loving, while still appreciating their own life and the lives of others… that would be a sight to see. I’d really admire someone who could do that.

Well, I can’t, and it just happens that I have to die today, so that’s that.

What? You’re wondering how I know I’m going to die?

Hmm, well, it’s kind of hard to say. It’s a long story, so I’d better leave it. But it’s nothing bad, so don’t worry. It’s not like I’m getting executed or anything.

Besides, I’m happy. And isn’t that the most important thing? It’s really hard, but it’s important to live your life in such a way that you can die happy. The trick is, you never know when you’re going to die. You might die tomorrow. So you have to live well, today.

Because “life is short”…

Isn’t that right, Ryū?

After I die, you should go out and live your life. Go live and love and find your own happiness. Make your dreams come true. And every morning, take every opportunity you can get. “Regretting that you didn’t do something will haunt you forever.” Isn’t that right?

Well, it’s time for me to go. I’m getting sleepy…

ride the barrier with me ~one day, freedom~

gazing at you through the veil of my laughter,
I can’t help but think that you’re beautiful…
I wish you could see and believe it, too

spending time with you, I’m so happy
I’m so glad I’m alive
if I have the power to make you happy, even a little,
isn’t it more than responsibility?

just tell me, who says we can’t love each other?
riding the barrier to freedom, we are
we’re not hurting anyone but ourselves
this doesn’t concern anyone else
and they can’t control love, can they?

spending time with you, I’m so happy
I’m so glad I’m alive
if I have the power to make you happy, even a little,
isn’t it more than responsibility?
I love you…

but what a stupid word that is!
four letters to contain all of the feelings in the world,
it’s absolutely laughable
maybe in another language I wouldn’t hate it so much
but we’re all humans after all
so I guess I shouldn’t ramp up my expectations?

spending time with you, I’m so happy
I’m so glad I’m alive
if I have the power to make you happy, even a little,
isn’t it more than responsibility?
I love you…
someday, the world will understand me

I want to embrace you and hold your hand,
please believe it
how beautiful you are to me
anyone who says you’re worthless or ugly or stupid
just doesn’t have the strength to see,
the imagination to feel,
the will to give you love

spending time with you, I’m so happy
I’m so glad I’m alive
if I have the power to make you happy, even a little,
isn’t it more than responsibility?
I love you…
someday, the world will understand me
and we can live as we were meant to be.

手紙

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

Dear ◯◯、

If you are reading this, can you tell me?

If you’re alive, will you send me a sign?

Today is your birthday

Again, this year

I have passed many of your birthdays

Without you.

I will play music for you, today

Will you please listen?

From wherever you are

Whoever you are

I hope the sounds of the piano will reach you

And maybe the sound of my voice

Or yours

Are you still sick?

Are you happy?

You made me happy

When I was feeling depressed

And couldn’t name it

I wish you had someone

Who could make you happy too

All I can do now

Is play music

And remember you

How long has it been?

Every year I feel regret

Around this time

You have taught me

Not to make such regrets

Have I grown since then?

If you have returned to the stars

Or not

Do you still remember me?

It doesn’t matter so much

I’m still alive, after all

I just want you to be happy

At least today

On your birthday

Can you feel it?

Time is slowing down for you

So that you can smile again

Today

Someday.

From 〇〇

August 2019

Zuihitsu #3

Someday, you will be happy.

Someday you’ll live in a world where you are valued. A world where every person, every book, every movie, screams out I love you, a world that affirms your very existence, your right to life as a human being. A world of freedom and peace, a world where the sun shines bright and never goes down. A world where the curtain never falls. Where darkness is something unknown to man.

Someday you’ll live in a world where you don’t need me. A world where you don’t have to call me in the middle of the night crying. A world where you don’t have to silence yourself, restrain yourself to just looking at me with pleading eyes, hoping I’ll see your pain. A world where you don’t have to lie awake at night trying to understand… why. Why you exist. Why you suffer. Why nobody seems to care.

Someday you’ll live in a world where you are not alone. A world where you are surrounded by dozens, hundreds, millions of people who love you unconditionally. A world where you are understood, accepted, invited in with open arms. A world where you can talk freely, act freely, where you can put down your facade, your safety net, your wall. A world where you can simply be you.

Such a world doesn’t exist. I know that. I’m not naive. But hope doesn’t have to come from a place of innocence.

Sometimes, hope comes from a place of love.

And sometimes, hope is just hope. It doesn’t have to get any more complicated than that.

Happy Children / Modern Life

Today, after a long day of work, I went to the beach with my dear friend to see the sunset.

We sat side-by-side in the sand, watching as the sky took on brilliant shades of orange and pink and purple. For the longest time we were quiet. We both just wanted to enjoy the natural spectacle, and to enjoy the feeling of our being together.

As the sun was dropping below the horizon and its light was beginning to dim, my friend Takahashi finally said, “People don’t appreciate things enough…”

I looked at him. Studying his dark brown eyes, his graying hair, the lines of his face, I thought to myself, He’s getting older. And I guess, so am I.

It’s a wonderful thing, this feeling of growing old with someone else.

The beach we were at was smooth and sandy, so the waves were not large. The blue-green seawater crawled toward us and then crawled away in a steady, calming rhythm. I closed my eyes, tasted the salty air, and tried to appreciate this moment with the core of my being.

“Question,” Takahashi said. “Whenever you see children, they’re almost always incredibly happy, for no apparent reason at all… and adults aren’t. Do you think that’s a bad thing?”

I smiled. “I love your questions. Let me think about it.”

It’s true, really, I love his questions. To have somebody with whom you can talk about these kinds of things… this is also a wonderful feeling, and it’s rare. I can count the number of these companions I have on one hand.

“I don’t know if I could say it’s bad, necessarily,” I replied after a while. “But I definitely think adults need to reevaluate happiness. You’re right, most children are so happy, and most adults aren’t. It’s kind of silly when you think about it – we spend our whole lives pursuing happiness. But we already had it when we were kids, and we just gave it away.”

He nodded slowly. “Why do you think we gave it away?”

I was slow with my answer, working it around in my head. He waited patiently, listening, focusing on me and my words.

“I think the act of giving our happiness away was unintentional, and for most adults, it was passive. In other words, we didn’t actively give it up. It was taken from us, and we just let it go. And I think what took our happiness from us has to do with how modern society works. It’s hard to explain, but… I don’t know, in today’s world we have so much technology and all of these gadgets and inventions that are supposed to make life better, to make work easier, to make us happier, and we spend our lives chasing after them… but at the end of the chase, when we look back at who we were before, we realize that we’ve lost everything that made us happy in the first place.”

Takahashi smiled at me when I was done.

“I like that explanation,” he said. “You’re probably right.”

For a minute we were quiet, watching the waves, watching the sun’s slow disappearance.

Then he spoke again. “So, Haku, what makes you happy? What are the things that you don’t want to let go of? Actively speaking.”

I threw my head back and laughed. “I knew you were going to ask that…”

Letters for the Living, Words for the Dead

I lay on the floor in the darkness, breathing quietly. Up above, the white ceiling of my bedroom stares back at me. It’s almost midnight, and I’m alone. Like always.

I close my eyes for a moment, listening to the silence of the night. Something is wrong, but I can’t tell what. Maybe it’s just in my head. I smile to myself, thinking, here we go again.

It might seem strange, but I really like turning off all the lights and just laying on the floor sometimes. I can see and hear pretty well at night, and I love how peaceful the world feels when most humans have gone to sleep. I know that it’s just an illusion, of course – people are still dying, people are still killing each other, the earth is still on fire. But at night it’s easier to pretend that things aren’t so bad.

It’s also easier to talk to the dead.

Sometimes when I’m on my back gazing up at the ceiling, old friends will visit me. They’ll say, what are you doing, Haku? And I’ll say, looking at the ceiling. Then they’ll go, oh, okay, and they’ll lie down next to me and look at the ceiling, too.

What’s that? You think it’s strange to look at your ceiling? Well, I don’t think it’s that strange. Have you ever actually looked at your ceiling? If you haven’t, who are you to tell me it’s a strange thing to do? Ceilings and roofs are so important, really. You should look at your ceiling more, and learn to appreciate it. For instance, when it’s raining, look up and say thank you for once. Don’t take these things for granted.

Hey, who are you, anyway? And why am I talking to you?

Oh… you must be another spirit, come to visit me. Well, thank you for visiting me. It gets lonely otherwise.

What’s that? You just died recently? I’m sorry to hear it. I hope you didn’t suffer too much. More than that, I hope you were ready to die. So many people these days just aren’t ready to die when their time comes… it’s sad. Don’t you think people should talk about death more often? Things like, when I die, I want you to take care of my children for me. Or, when I die, I want you to remember to be happy.

Did you think about these things, before you died? Did you think about your loved ones and what you were leaving behind for them?

I did.

I wrote secret letters for my loved ones and hid them away. I told a friend about them, and when I died, she went and found them and delivered them for me. In the letters I wrote about all of our good and bad memories together, and then I said things like I want you to remember to be happy and don’t you dare follow me. And then I wrote about how much I loved them.

What’s that? You think writing these letters was a silly thing to do? Well, listen. Don’t you think the words we leave behind are important? Words are like magic. All by themselves, they can save lives, or end them. There’s so much power behind that… it’s kind of scary. I’m sorry that you don’t feel the same way.

Well, it’s okay. Everybody is different, I guess. Anyway, as long as you’re happy where you are, I’m happy for you.

What’s that?

You’re not happy?

Hmm… why not?

Because you’re dead?

I see. That’s unfortunate. Most humans don’t live with their death in mind, so they end up unhappy when they die. Personally, I think you should live in such a way that you’ll definitely be happy when you die. But I guess it’s too late for that…

Or is it?

She Saw My Scars

She calls me in the middle of the night, for the first time in months. I’m sitting at my computer listening to music when my phone goes off. I pick it up, surprised, and say, “Hey, are you okay?”

“Hi. I just need to talk to you,” she tells me. “It’s been kind of bad the past few days.”

“Where are you?” I ask.

“Outside my house. There’s a community pool in my neighborhood. I go there when I need to think.”

“Okay,” I say. I make a mental note of that. “Well, what’s up?”

“So we went to a hot springs bath the other day,” she says. “And I cut, right, and my parents didn’t know, and I forgot to cover it up. And my mom saw my scars… she saw my scars and started blaming me. She started yelling at me saying how she doesn’t even put that much pressure on me to do good at school or anything but she does, she does, she just doesn’t realize it. She doesn’t realize she’s causing so many of my problems and she just blames it all on me.”

My throat tightens in anger and pain as I try to find a way to answer her. This, I find, is a common thread among many of us – people who don’t understand, who don’t listen, who blame us for our own problems without realizing that they’re the cause. And at this age, many of us are just stuck with these kinds of people. It’s worse when they’re your own family and you can’t do anything about it.

I start asking her about her plans for her future. I want to hear what she wants to do, where she wants to go. She can’t give me anything concrete – people who are suicidal usually don’t plan that far ahead. I stare at the wall of my room and tell her slowly, “I have an old friend who was in a similar position. We were talking one time, and he explained to me, ‘But I’m willing to burn bridges as I stand on them for a life I’d rather live.'”

I let that sink in for a moment. She says in a small voice, “That’s a good quote.”

I tell her, “Plan for a better life. It will hurt, but if your family relationships are toxic, that’s a bridge you should be willing to burn. Pursue your own life, your own happiness, because that’s more important in the end.”

We sit in silence for a little while. Finally I ask her, “Well, what do you want to do?”

She says, “I kind of want to go to Korea to teach English…”

Happy, For Now

I sit on the piano bench, let loose my fingers on the black-and-white keys. For a moment I feel detached from myself – listening to the music as if I’m not the one creating it. The melody washes over me. I breathe slowly, feeling a powerful calm, treasuring the moment.

Two songs later I pause for a break, and he takes advantage of the moment to say, “You should stop now.”

I feel my face flush. “I know.”

He stares at me, amber eyes burning, and gives a wry smile. “You aren’t going to stop, are you?”

I laugh and lay my fingers back onto the keys. Another song fills the air, charged with sorrow and pain, almost haunting. I fumble on some of the notes, the piece still new to me, and struggle to turn the pages of my sheet music while retaining the heavy emotional mood.

Behind me he says, “You’ll pay for it later.

I ignore him and continue on. I wish he would make himself useful and turn the pages for me.

When at last I land on the final tragic chord I look over at him and say angrily, “I’m not stupid.”

“You sure look like it,” he retorts. “What are you doing with yourself?”

“Making myself happy,” I reply. “What’s wrong with that?”

“Making yourself happy? You won’t be happy tonight when your shoulder hurts so bad you can’t sleep. You’re an idiot.”

I’m happy right now,” I say. “Isn’t that enough? Wouldn’t you rather be happy now and miserable later than miserable all the time?”

He quiets for a moment. “I don’t understand how you live,” he says.

For some reason I find the statement ridiculously funny. “I don’t understand how I live either,” I say amusedly. “But why do I have to try to understand anything? Why can’t I just live?”

He reddens and looks away. “If you’re going to keep playing, shut up and play.”

I shut up and play, and the day wears on.