Thursday, March 17, 2011

Letter to Takaaki

As some of you may know my boyfriend, Takaaki, lives in Tokyo. He is there right now, hopefully sleeping.

Since the cellphone systems have been down, and he doesn't use a landline, in the days since the tsunami and earthquake we have been keeping in touch by e-mail and through Facebook. He plans on staying in Tokyo for the duration of the crisis. Food supplies in Tokyo are low, but he has provisions. He has turned off his heat and is bathing at the public bath to help conserve energy. He is trying to see if he can help out the people in Tohoku in other ways, too.

Sometimes the two of us get a little down, being separated by so many miles and surrounded by so much uncertainty. Still, we have been trying keep our spirits up. Here is an excerpt of a letter I sent last night, in case you are curious how we are doing it.

Dear Taka-chan,

I am happy you and Koji had a good night last night. I wish I could have gone to the bath with you! I haven’t been sleeping very well for the last week and I could use a nice evening soaking at a Tokyo sento [public bath]!

We are getting a lot of confusing reports here, too. The BBC says the JSDF [Japan Self Defense Force] is dropping water from helicopters into the spent fuel pools and reactor buildings. It is scary that there is so little food in the stores and that people are hoarding, not pulling together and thinking of their neighbors as much as one would hope. Some have a hard time remaining rational during a crisis. Fortunately there are always a few sensible citizens, like yourself, determined not to fall apart, to do what they can, like those men at the power plant in Fukushima.

People are freaking out here, too, mostly news people and Californians. Everything freaks out the news people. And Californians. Maybe the news people are all from California. Who can say? They lose their minds at falling snowflakes. I am from Buffalo, New York, so the snowflake holds no terror for me.

So, I ignore the news people and look at what the scientists have to say and sift through their opinions myself, piecing together a picture of the situation in Japan as best I can. I am not a physicist, of course, or an engineer. I am, like you, just one man trying to make sense of Chaos. Even so, ignorant as we may be, we both know this: Japan has faced much worse and overcome much greater hardships than the ones it faces now.

There was a picture in the New York Times today, taken in Tohoku, which caught my eye and reminded me of something. In it, a bunch of ojii-san [grand-dads] were arranged in a circle, like stones, around a fire built from smashed houses. They were all sitting in different kinds of chairs—metal, wood, canvas—some of them broken—also probably collected from the rubble. They looked tired, dirty, a bit hungry, but not defeated. A heavy sky hovered above them—dark blue—like an on-rushing sea. But there they sat, outside, keeping warm, defying the darkness gathered above with a little fire they had lit themselves: a fire which all the collected forces of nature could not put out.

That fire is like my feelings for you. That fire is your friendship with Koji. That is the fire which draws people from all over the world to search for survivors in Tohoku. That is hope. Whatever happens, ojii-san, we must take care it is never extinguished.

So, tell Koji I say, “Hi.” Remember to bundle up. Remember to keep warm. Remember I love you.

Even if, in the next few days, I do feel the need to send you a case of SPAM…

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