March 24, 2003
Myrna got off at Kokura station. She got on a tram heading to Ana’s neighborhood, which happened to pass by Kokura Castle and Kokura Peace Park. The tram was slow, and Myrna could not help but notice just how many foreign tourists there were in the park, and to some extent the train station, yet were to be found nowhere else in the city. Furthermore, the enclave of shops and restaurants around the peace park advertising in English seemed different from the rest of the city. It was really different from Urakami in Nagasaki.
Myrna found Ana at a café near her apartment. Ana waved at her, and Myrna went up to her, and they held each others hands.
“I am so happy to see you again,” Ana said. “The way we were when we last saw each other, it was…”
“I have strong feelings about the atomic bombing and, ah, you stepped on them. I’m sorry that happened,” Ana said.
“I did not understand why you were reacting the way you did, but now, I think I might understand,” Myrna said.
Ana raised her eyebrows.
“I did go to Nagasaki, and you are right, there is a lot more to the city than the fact it was bombed,” Myrna said. “It’s weird to be back here, and see so many tourists around Kokura Peace Park, and only there. It was not like that in Nagasaki. It’s like they come here to be on the film set of The Ghosts of Kokura without listening to what is there.”
“That’s it!” Ana exclaimed. “Can I steal that line from you? The next time I have to explain this, I want to say ‘these tourists just want to be on the film set of The Ghosts of Kokura‘.”
“Go ahead,” Myrna replied.
“Now I feel worse for ah, what happened earlier,” Ana said.
“It’s alright,” Myrna said. “At that time, I did not get it, and I’m still not sure that I get it now, but I know that I hurt you. And I don’t think I would have got it if I hadn’t gone out and saw Kyushu for myself.”
Myrna described her travels to Ana, though she left out what happened at the onsen in Beppu.
“Wow, you went to Yakushima,” Ana said. “Lou has been telling me to go to Yakushima since forever. How is it?”
After they returned to Ana’s apartment, and Ana started cooking dinner, she asked Myrna “Do you know why I have such strong feelings about the atomic bombing?”
“You live here,” Myrna replied.
“And why do I live here?”
“Your job?” Myrna asked.
“Yes, but why did I look for a job here when I already had one in Kumamoto?”
“I don’t know,” Myrna said. Then she remembered something. “You said something about speaking with a Kokura accent, like your father, so…”
The realization hit Myrna’s tongue like an anvil. Why did she not think of this before? Myrna had even met Ana’s father once, so she knew he probably was born some time around World War II, and if he was from Kokura, that meant…
“Your father … was he…”
“He was five years old. He was with his sister and grandparents in the countryside when the bomb fell. About a week later, his aunt took him back to Kokura to look for his parents. His father was already dead. They found his mother, and when he first saw her, he screamed and ran away. She died about a week later.”
Myrna said “I did not know.”
“I didn’t know either,” Ana said. “I remember, I was twelve, we were studying World War II in school, and so I talked to my father about the atomic bombings. That is when he told me, and he also told me that, years later, when he finally saw The Ghosts of Kokura, he saw his mother in one of the shots. To this day, my mother still does not know.
“I told my class about it, and then, for the rest of the year, I was teased with names like ‘atom girl’ and ‘Kokura ghost’. Classmates kept on suggesting that I check for symptoms of leukemia, even though I explained that my father was not even there when Kokura was bombed. The bullying, combined with coming to terms with what my father had experienced … it was hard. I decided that I was not going to tell people about it anymore. In high school, nobody knew. In college, nobody knew. I haven’t told anybody about it since middle school … except you.”
Dinner – miso noodle soup – was just about ready, and Myrna helped Ana put it onto the table.
“How are you now?” Myrna asked.
“Living in Kokura has been good for me,” Ana said. “I knew that Kokura was not just a tragedy, and as I’ve said to you before, that manga meant so much to me because it showed Kyushu without mentioning the atom bomb at all – ah, I guess I didn’t say that part to you – but living here, it’s really helped me feel that Kokura is okay. That it is okay to be from Kokura. And I’ve become closer to my father’s family. They’re my family. If you’re staying another few days, I can probably introduce you to them.”
“I’d like that,” Myrna said.
They ate dinner.
Preview of the last part of this story, “Melting Snow”
As they moved on the stone path, Myrna asked herself – should she tell Ana about Sebastian, or not? Talking about these things was the proper thing for someone recovering from trauma to do. And Ana shared her story about her family – did Myrna owe her a sad story in return?
Myrna tried to imagine how Ana would react…
To be continued…