I returned to my home in the unremarkable town of Tajimi with a newfound love for beautiful, traumatized Hiroshima and a disgust for something I couldn’t quite name. Not for a specific person or government, but for something as simple and abstract as the concept of enmity itself. Naturally for the Bomb as well. I could still see the logic in why they chose to drop it and then drop it again, but could no longer see that logic as “justification”. How could you justify the mass cooking of a city filled with civilians? I love civilians. And the ones in Hiroshima, among other things, make the world’s best okonomiyaki. Also they deserve to live.
Back in Tajimi, I found myself with lots of time on my hands. At night, I started frequenting a local darts bar for a change of pace and to get myself away from myself, who was, it turned out, obsessed with checking his damned pulse. The bar was just a few blocks away, across the Toki River and past the first overpass. It was called “BL,” which stood for “Bull’s Landing,” a darts reference. Incidentally, this was also the acronym for a gay high school romance novel I had begun as a translation assignment two years previous–“Boys’ Love.” Aside from making me a pure chick magnet, it was a pretty lousy book. But that’s neither here nor there.
The bartender at BL was a kind gal of 24 named Mayu–she was chummy and prone to saying things like, “I woke up at the crack of 4pm today.” I remember slightly resenting her for being a year younger than me, a continuing link in the recent chain of reminders that I was no longer the Youngest Person in the Room all the time. She was neither particularly attractive nor particularly repellent, but could hold a conversation and sure did enjoy darts. In fact, everyone at this darts bar was certifiably into darts–not the way some people are “into” skeeball when it happens to be in the vicinity, but in the way some people are into breathing after they haven’t done so in awhile.
The staff. The fact that everyone at this darts bar was more into darts than drinking seemed to point to an alleged trend that gaming was contributing to the alcohol industry’s waning sales amongst young adults. The other big contributor: Porn.
I, by contrast, was not very into darts. Probably more than I was into Boys’ Love, but still not very. Still, as long as I could have some sort of drink and some sort of conversation, I was happy to stay. On my first visit, I chatted with Mayu about something or other, and eventually she brought up that there was a regular customer who once lived in America at a young age.
“Oh, that’s neat,” I said.
“Yeah, well, sort of. She kind of underwent some trauma while she was there, apparently.”
“‘Ooh,” I said. “‘She.'”
Later that very evening, the “she” showed up alone. She was short-ish and attractive–nubile is the word–with straight hair and blonde highlights. She sat down at the opposite end of the bar and drank a non-alcoholic mango juice by herself. I noted that none of the other customers–all of whom were young men–were talking to her or even looking at her. “Probably because they’re so into darts,” I thought.
BL. See that seat on the corner of the bar? That’s my seat.
Mayu introduced the two of us and I learned that the girl’s name was, well, let’s say “S.” It was a pretty name. Unusual. S spoke with a slightly awkward lilt which immediately betrayed the weirdness her beauty had initially helped hide. I soon learned that she had lived in Berkeley, California for half of her sixth grade year. During that time, her school had received some bad students shipped in from out of town (Oakland, maybe?) and they were mean to her, probably because she was an awkward little girl who spoke poor English. According to her tale, one girl in her class brought a handgun to school one day and held it to S’s head. This traumatized her so deeply that she was still dealing with it some fourteen years later.
Having dealt at this point with a seemingly never-ending string of depressed, wounded women, I grew concerned. On the one hand, I was hoping to soon bring an end to said never-ending string. On the other hand, I felt bad that this poor girl’s image of America had been marred by gun violence and felt compelled to try and change her view. Maybe it would even help her deal with her trauma. We chatted for awhile longer, exchanged phone numbers as seemed to be a more casual thing to do in Japan since phone email was the primary form of communication for many, and I left, wondering vaguely about my own motives. I put two fingers to the underside of my wrist and took a deep breath. The pulse accelerated and decelerated so that I couldn’t get a solid read. “Curse this hammering heart of mine. I don’t know what it’ll do.”