“so you like it here?” I ask.
He smiles in answer.
Looking at his face I realize that for a Japanese man; his hold of alcohol is quiet weak and even weaker is the infamous lusty dent of character that he is known for, for even in the drunk state he makes no advances. Something that leaves me irresolute whether to be grateful or disappointed.
His lack of gusto in making a conversation is a cue enough and I resume my deed of staring blindly into the dark as the clouds blur out the moon. Takimura's breath relaxes and picks up a more peaceful rhythm. He moves closer to me in what feels like a major time lapse and I fall asleep to the melody that his breath plays against my cheek.
By the time I wake up; the clouds have subsided and the moon glows. It's beauty escalates with the eeriness of the night and the negligence of the approaching dawn. I can feel Taki's hand on my waist. I touch it and turn around to face him, only to get shocked out of my wits. His hazel eyes stare deep into mine in a rubber neck. My tranquillity melts . He senses my dismay yet makes no effort to address it. Instead he gives me a feeble smile; almost as if mocking me and turns his back towards me. For the first time I notice how flat his head is, his hair raven; darker than a crow’s feathers. He is so slim that his spine peeks at me from underneath his t-shirt. I take in all the details, turning my apprehension into disdain by putting the man in front me under scrutiny.
It's then that he speaks; in a voice I fail to recognise. For someone who can sacrifice anything just to escape a heavy conversation his voice begs to differ.
“ I belong to a very poor family Maya. We have been a pathetic victim of penury for generations. The power of hunger was the reason that I left home, in order to out live it. But you know better than anyone; I'm barely there.”
I know that feeling way too well to even doubt the sadness in his voice. I can feel the pain, the struggle and more over the disappointment. What surprises me is Taki's acceptance to it. Apparently you can never know a man to well. Maybe....
His voice rescues me from my thoughts.
“There was this woman that I loved Maya.”
I sigh deeply. The melancholy in his voice astounds me. It sounds almost poetic coming out of his mouth.
But I don't blame him love does that to the smartest of men. It weakens the soul, distorters the heart and above all makes them a better liar.
“A broken forever is it?” I ask.
“She was my great grandmother.” He explains and my heart softens.
“ She was a hundred and five; the last time I saw her. Her hair was more white than rice itself. Her skin more brittle than the autumn’s dried leaves. And her heart Maya? It was the softest of all. Once my father scolded her for not taking her medicines and she cried the whole day till he got tired of begging pardon. It has saddened me deeply she said. Oh! How beautiful she was. She rarely spoke to anyone, always lost in remembrances. But with me? She spoke to me like a friend, telling me stories of the gigantic mountains and inescapable forests and the trees where ghosts lived. Sometimes she even told stories about my grand parents; her son , how innocent he was, how naughty his eyes, how crisp his voice, how he always helped her with the chores, how he sang for her when she got bored, how he had poisoned his wife and then hanged himself. She told me how she discovered their bodies. How the crop failure got her guts. My father was the only reason she made it through that abyss. There was a huge downpour that night. The death of a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent she use to say. It had scarred her forever and ignited in her a deep hatred for rain. She was scared of it. I remember her telling me it use to burn her skin .So afraid she was of the rain that she would cry until it stopped. And after that I would hug her and sing for her; her favourite lullaby. “
The silence stretches like a trampoline between me and Taki to a point that it threatens to break.
“The crops failed. Again. We were barely surviving already. And slowly poverty once again too it’s toll on us. We drank water to keep our stomachs full because there was nothing to eat. I tried working at a factory but it caught fire. And then..... my mother got pregnant. It all fell apart like a tragedy. My father went bonkers but he had promised us. Never would he ever leave us alone. Not like this.”
“ And so one day he did what he thought was needed to be done. He tied the ropes on his shoulders and made Sono (grandma) climb on his back. He took her high up in the mountains and
he came back alone.”
I squeeze my eyes shut as the goose pimples rise and the tears make their way out. But he continues like a sadist, as if enjoying the agony not only of mine but also his own. As if the wound is too dried up and he speaks with the intention to scratch on it until it bleeds again. Until the pain re-emerges after being docile for so long.
“ She was old my mother had said. She did no work and we couldn't take care of her anymore. A dead weight she had called her. But I couldn't let go off her. How could I? I loved her. I slept to her presence, I had laughed and cried to her stories, I had imbibed her morals, I had felt her emotions and she had felt mine. We were friends and we took care of each other. More over I had been up the mountains and I knew how scary it was up there. How could an old woman like her with such a mellow heart survive? But then survival was not what my parents had in mind for her. Ubasute was highly practised in our village by people who disliked immorality but by fact they themselves were morally corrupt . I tried running away to get her, to rescue her but they just wouldn't let me go. My father kept crying begging for forgiveness but he knew this time forgiveness was not coming. That night it rained like the clouds had been massacred. I didn’t cry. No matter what I did the tears just didn't come. Everything inside me had gone cold. I wanted to murder my father but I was a coward. Just like him and his father. Not that it mattered because he died the next morning. Heart attack the doctor told us but we knew. My father didn't die of heart attack. He died of heart break.”
Taki’s silence fills the room and makes the air heavy.
“You miss her?” I ask
He scoffs at my question.
“She never went away from me Maya. She came to me all the time ever since. And she still does.....
Every time it rains on those peaks; she comes to me and I sing her her favourite lullaby.”
Taki turns over to face me. His eyes are blood shot, face red and jaws clenched. I can tell he has been crying.
I can't help but finally ask the question that has been on my tongue for so long. The question that I've been itching to ask.
“Why are you telling me all this? Why tonight?”
His flair for speech vaporises into thin air as he continues with a lot of difficulty.
“ it's raining on the mounts tonight Maya.”
I look at him confused. I understand his sadness but I don't like the change of tone. A dark shadow falls on his face. The atmosphere gets chilly. A whimper escapes Taki’s lips.
And in a mournful voice he sings the saddest song to have ever existed. I don’t understand what he sings about. Unrequited love maybe or battles lost or unfulfilled dreams. However, no matter how exquisite it sounds it's torturous for by now I can feel the presence of a third person in the room. The room which is overflowing with Taki’s melancholy. It's never-ending and so are my apprehensions. As he arrives to the termination my nerves are very near to a break down. My eyes are closed as I struggle to make it through the night. I wait for Taki to speak again. To tell me she's gone. To tell me it has stopped raining. And after a long while he speaks for sure,
“She thinks you're beautiful.” He says.