Taking a step forward, I hesitated. Then brought my other foot forward & immediately took an about turn. Rapid march back to where I started from. 10 metres from the bridge.
The bridge, was a pretty busy thorough-fare where carts of fruits had gone over, friends chatted gaily while crossing over to join other nakama, students skipped across to get to the marketplace where the fun stuff could be found. Of course, where lovers who lived on opposite side of the bank met.
Sturdy, steel, with beautiful arcs which formed the structure. It’s a familiar sight over the past 3 decades of my life. I’ve seen it in reflective sunsets, as well as hopeful sunrises. I’ve crossed it umpteenth times to get to the town centre, then back home, repeating the commute day after day. I’ve met my love, bumping into him while frantically trying to rush across to get to the hairdressers’, where I worked as the hair-dresser master who did the hair-do of the many geishas who sought their trade in the town. He was carrying a stack of books & it was a mess when we “bumped” into each other. The books flew, some fell into the river.
That “bump” began many lovely evenings of long conversations, which eventually became long embraces & deep kisses. Our meeting of minds was the talk of the obasangs who came for their hair-dos. “You both think so similarly! As if you are of one mind, just different bodies!” I blushed. Seemed to remember saying lovers are two hearts living with one mind, or two minds with one beating heart… Both seems absolutely apt for our passionate love.
A lovely sunset, which we both enjoyed, we chatted over a poem he read me, laughed & bantered. Then something in the atmosphere seemed to be adjusted when he took a long deep breath, and let out a long sigh. “Aishteroo, Yuki.” I smiled. “I know, Ren.” I quietly took his hand & pretended to study the lines on his left palm. My heart was pounding hard, especially hard this evening for some reason. I was blissed out, really. But at the same time, I remembered the fortune teller who recently came up to me & told me with sorrowful eyes, “Your Ren will be going away, to a faraway place. He loves you, but he does not have a choice.”
“I have been drafted, to fly the planes, my Yuki.” I kept my eyes on his palm, frantically trying to wish this moment away, to wish I’d wake up from this nightmare. I have heard about it. The war that is happening somewhere outside of my home country, the Land of the Rising Sun. I never understood war, but I have been told that it is necessary for us to gather more land & resources. I have also heard about how our brave warriors fly their planes, to knock down strategic enemy towers or buildings. Their families will then be given a good sum of money, and the young men will be honoured in the Roll of the Highest Honour. Honoured for their sacrifice. Sacrifice of their future, their relationships, their livelihood. Sacrificing their lives, flying the kamikaze planes. That was, apparently turning the tides to our favour in the war.
Now, my Ren has to join them too.
He placed two fingers on my chin & lifted my face, which now has 2 wet streaks flowing steadily down my face. He looked me in the eye, smiled & brought his lips close to mine. Paused, took a breath, and planted his manly lips on mine. I felt weak in his arms, with deep love rising for him, but at the same time, a massive streak of pain in my heart, as if a knife has been driven into my chest. As we got drunk in the deep embrace, we found the grip on each other tightened, as if hoping that by holding real tightly, we’ll never need to let go. He didn’t have to go to war.
Here I am, standing 10 metres from the bridge, I hesitated. I had dressed up for an occasion. An omiai. The usual for a lady of marriageable age, to meet a prospective husband, who has shown interest in her, under the watchful eye of a chaperon. My concerned aunty has arranged this. “It’s been 2 years, Yuki. His family has already mourned his death. Let him go. You have a whole life ahead of you.” As an obedient niece who has lived under the roof of my Aunty Sakura, I have prepared myself for the omiai. In my best turquoise kimono, complete with my Aunty Sakura’s “lucky hairpin”. “That was what got your uncle hooked on me, Yuki. Listen to me, let Ren go. He’s a memory now.”
2 years has since passed, when news of his plane crashing into a “strategic” warship has been announced by a messenger from the military. There was no elaborate funeral, just 3 days of mourning at his family home. I sobbed, as quietly as I can, in my own room. Afterall, we were only lovers, not engaged, nor married. My Aunty Sakura won’t have it – when Ren asked for my hand before he left for war.
And now, I stood. 10 metres from the bridge. A total of 60 metres stood between my past & my possible future. Has my heart really let go of Ren already? Will I be able to love as I have loved Ren? Or being in the 3rd decade, as Aunty Sakura says, too exorbitant an age to still hope for a love-marriage? That I need to be contented & grateful that there’s even interest in marrying an aged bride, that love can be cultivated during the married life.
Will I be able to love someone else, as I have loved Ren? Though the waiting bridge beckons to me, to the little bit of courage leftover from losing Ren.
I stood still… Wondering if new memories can be made to add onto the sweet ones made on this bridge, and to replace the painful goodbye with Ren on this very day, 3 years ago.