Recapping the story told so far:
A young man still in his teens arrives in Tokyo from the then East Pakistan (presently Bangladesh) to study and happens to meet Shokichi, his long time pen pal. Together, one day they visit Kamakura, the military capital of feudal Japan, to explore. There, awash in the splendor of the seaside city, they suddenly discover telltale signs of misery and realize all too well that it isn’t all beauty extending before them… The mystery deepens when something terrible is whispered to the young man from Dhaka who could hardly suppress the rending cry now pressing deep in his heart… Then one day, Shokichi’s mother visits… and speaks against the girl her son loves…Shokichi listens intently, then, begs her to let him be… but discord lingers… Yet life evolves amid all its imperfections and mysteries and slowly things begin to take shape, as if on their own… And Yuriko, Shokichi’s mother, seems to undergo a subtle change of heart… Life’s dilemma still lingers… And, one day, to her utter disenchantment, Chiyo appears in the scene, followed by Crystal Clear…Then, Yuriko visits and meets Crystal…who later returns to America. In an unexpected turn of events, Marie suddenly encounters another reality of her life, as does Shokichi as she begins to drift away from him… Then one day, fond memories of his past begin to torment Shokichi… and continue to do so for a long time…
Beguiled, mystified and visibly offended, there he stood; oblivious to the glory of the fading sun, trying to sooth himself from the hurt deep inside, as splintered, fragmented bits of memory seemed to tug on him without a stop. Opposite him, in the shade of a pine tree, stood I, thinking nothing in particular, but enjoying the throbbing, pulsating colors of the evening sky.
Just about then, when the rushes and slanting hedges on the river bank and everything else in nature were smoking dusk, Shokichi stepped forward, and stood in front of me, and looking straight into my eyes, said, seeming quite out of sorts,
–“Is that all you could think of? Like me having Crystal as a substitute for Marie?”
–“Which makes one thing absolutely clear to me that in spite of so much time spent together, you could grasp very little of me.”
Thus, added Shokichi, rather as an afterthought.
It was, as though, he had a regular mask on, which was suddenly yanked away, baring him utterly, and revealing all things unsightly.
On hearing Shokichi, a twinge of regret ran through my mind, but before I could react, a voice from inside reached out to me, whispering: Go on, you had it right.
It was kind of weird, but I paid little attention to it, preferring to remain silent, and concentrating, rather selfishly, on things of my picking. But soon, I grew aware of the weight of things unsaid coming down to rest heavily upon me, and supposed, Marie might have seen things in a different light.
Now Shokichi, too, fell silent and let time slip past him. It was then that he got aware of a sudden stir inside him, as though, it was something akin to the echo of time rushing past him like a cool morning breeze, unseen, unheralded. And as if, it was, the whisper of bygone days, clamor of the churning of wheels of time that never stopped… not for once… since it all had began from the dawn of times, even before the big bang when stars and heavens exploded into existence…. and long before the discovery of mathematical eternity, and the very beginning of time that man viewed with an overpowering sense of awe.
Separated by time and historical perception… and …unaware of the tragic reality of our earthly existence, we stood upon this remote corner of planet earth, swept by a tide of a new kind of realization and an upsurge of wild emotion.
It was not that I recalled everything in an orderly manner, retelling things the way they happened… and it was also quite possible that they never did… Yet the images of things past were coming, literally, of their own, as if from the vast and unseen storehouses of memory.
However, then in an unusual turn of events, we suddenly found ourselves traveling back in time regardless of our own feelings, and presently, traced ourselves back in Kamakura, once the center of power in feudal Japan, as time tick-tocked, click-clocked past us, as we moved forward, and suddenly grew aware of the sniveling whimper of a child, which rose and fell in utter melancholy, piercing the stillness of this scenic seaside city. We looked around for the desperate, miserable child, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Now, in a very special way, life took on the quality of a dream, here, in the broad daylight of this city of Kamakura. And we found, to our surprise, that our sorties into the past could well stretch into long days and nights, and we could do absolutely nothing to hasten it to our advantage, and thus remained kind of prisoners of age and time.
The child, in his heart-rending anguish, cried unceasingly for a time, drawing sharp lines of torment upon our faces. Presently, he stopped for a time and then, cried, as if from within our hearts, the whining sobs now coming only sporadically, troubling us to the core. And the hurt feelings lingered
Soon, though, Shokichi hovered back to the present, and fell to thinking of Crystal, recalling that all initiatives for their physical intimacies were taken by her, and in a way, he was innocent of all that transpired between them since that time, when he was invited to her private flat for a home cooked evening meal and he was duly greeted by her, as she came out of the shower, wrapped only in a bath towel, which slipped down before his stunned eyes, even before he could reach her to hug, generating in him an insatiable hunger for the soft touch of a woman’s flesh and a desire to travel all the way.
This lust and hunger also led him on a later day to Chiyo who came visiting him one evening when light and shadows played before them in the western horizon. This timing, and something magical overcame these two young persons and they were soon joined in a perfect physical union. However, come morning, the things underwent a rapid change, and the pleasures of the night before were soon washed away by the onslaught of a torrent of tears issuing from Chiyo’s swollen eyes, even though Shokichi did nothing, and nothing at all, against her free will.
We were finally made aware of the nature of things transpiring in Kamakura. It wasn’t all that beauty that we thought of. There were tears, too, shed in the colors of red and blue. Slowly, the gravity of the situation began to grow on us. The light-hearted playfulness in our personalities was no more. We stood speechless like strangers in the wilderness, no grain of the fun loving humor in us, remaining.
Could this pathetic cry of the child be for his father who had just been beheaded by the sword of a samurai? Or was it for his mother who might have been ordered into exile for no crime of her own?” Or was it a lament for his own life, appearing so expendable? No one could quite tell with a degree of certainty.
Thereon, the mournful whimpering rose again… and this time, it was coming from a distance, and was gradually fading. Soon, it grew louder once again…then faded… It continued this way for a time, grating unendurably upon the nerves…
Though utterly strange it might sound, Shokichi, too, had now begun to act somewhat erratically. His heart seemed to swell up in misery until it filled his bosom. And he had other things to mind, and other crosses to bear.
Now, in another strange turn of events, we saw blood in the nature, flowing thick and crimson, among the mountains, blackening with time…
We saw swords of the samurai in action… men cut dead on their feet… blood spurting out and dripping down onto their feet and earth beneath… bodies twitching in the throes of death… sleep-drenched samurai, the common men with loincloth, tousled hair, peering out… heads rolling free… more blood gushing out… and flowing randomly… bodies falling onto bodies, lifeless, and some still alive and grasping for air…
The dead and spent bodies, piling up high upon the lamenting, rocky earth… and the assassins walking sure-footed, in the gathering furor, and under the cover of darkness… walking over fallen men and women, into the innermost corridors and outside gardens of the daimyo, with swords ready and poised for death thrusts… and spill more blood…
I turned around from all this and froze, refusing to see any more scenes from the samurai past, which are riddled with sudden spurts of cruelty.
Shokichi looked at me and smiled pensively, but didn’t utter a single word of comfort. He remained silent like a statue, smiling, as if sculptured in solid bronze.
–“Did Shokichi see what I did?” I wondered.
–“Or could all this be, of my own making? But how could that be?”
I inquired of myself in utter incredulity… Life was strange, and inexplicable, I surmised… and probably fate, too, having a part to play.
The day was clear, but the wind was blowing forcefully from the sea. That drove away the heat and the sweat with it. The sea was so near I tested sea salt in the air… I was still in a trance, and flinched from falling shadows… and saw figures in samurai garbs walking past me with drawn swords… And I noticed kids dressed, too, like samurai, playing among the people with top-knotted hairs upon their heads… Young ladies in colorful kimonos, their legs curled under them, were seen bowing and serving tea to assembled guests in the house of a Daimyo, the top samurai in the region…
Presently a number of maids entered the parlor with covered dishes….They all wore uniform kimonos with blue and pink flower works on them and matching blue and silver-checked obis… The covered dish contained an assortment of specially prepared meat, fish and vegetables. It was served with a bowl of rice, soup and salted pickles.
An abundant supply of rice wine was also available for the honored guests. A lady with skillful fingers played the samisen, a stringed Japanese musical instrument in one elevated corner of the room… Suddenly, the purity of the music, the lushness of its rhythm, filled the hushed night with sheer ecstasy. The aggregation of samurais in the parlor, which was open to the garden and the sea beyond, sat spellbound, intrigues momentarily forgotten.
I seemed to enter into a world inside a world existing in parallel, and I didn’t know how I did it. I found myself extremely vulnerable communicating between the two realities. Shokichi was pressing me to walk to the seashore. But I wouldn’t move out of the city center as I found myself entrenched outside the parlor of the gathering samurais, enjoying the moment… Finally, with some persuasion and jostling, Shokichi succeeded in dragging me out of the crowd and on to the seashore. It was a ten-minute walk in a splendid environment. Once there in the seashore, we sat on the raised concrete embankment relishing the scenic beauty of the Pacific Ocean beyond which lay my motherland.
The waves breaking against the shores of Kamakura were cresting, and the gusts of wind were frothing the waves decorating the shores with a pale whiteness in the approaching evening darkness.
Suddenly… not vaguely or…distractedly as you might think… we saw her… Shokichi and me… standing clearly within our range of view… the lady in brocaded kimono who played the samisen in the parlor of a Daimyo… the gold threads of her evening dress catching the dim light of the station and shining, as she raised her hand in a gesture of goodwill…
Her lips pursed in discontent, as she realized, with a bit of drama, what were to come, but Marie did not like it. She did not like the thought of it, not after Shokichi’s encounters with Crystal, the American girl, and Chiyo, her childhood friend, as if everything had happened quite mechanically, his brute emotions gaining the upper hand.
Marie would never approve of it.
Suddenly, the sky opened, and the rain came down, gradually raging into a terrible fury. The rain pounded the earth mercilessly.
And Shokichi, his expression intent and serious, and his eyes shaking in utter repentance, tried to beg her pardon, but Marie would not hear of it. Shokichi’s words were wrought with longing, but they did not touch her heart.
She had forgiven Crystal and Chiyo, but not Shokichi, for he had never imagined his adventures could have any negative consequences.
However, there was one very central, and unshiftable truth — Shokichi was no longer physically pure, which she was. Marie knew love involved a degree of suffering, but not this kind of suffering, for sure.
One strange thing was that, deep in her heart, Marie did not suffer from any hurt feelings, regardless of what Shokichi might or might not have done.
Would that mean she was never in love with him, not even for once?
The answer to that was probably yes, which is what hurt her the most. There, though, one might readily ask: what had she been doing with Shokichi this far?
She could not say.
It was probably life that took over by then, she supposed, speeding up things or events or scenes with people in it. No single human being had any part in it to play.