In my Tokyo office, at two o’clock on a Thursday, I find that I can’t get anything done.
Though I’m busy, though I whack away at my laptop keys, the only thing I’m working on is my blasted memoir. I take frequent coffee breaks and pace nervously. The section manager comes to chat me up about some new IPO or some new major player in the market. He talks about the rising influence of certain hedge funds or some company he’s bullish on. I nod my head, but in truth he doesn’t exist. Nothing around me exists. At least not the way Nagasaki exists.
As I write about Nagasaki, my life in Tokyo fades into a monochrome background. I walk back to my desk. The office lady that has a crush on me shows up to compliment me on something or other, but I can’t even acknowledge her existence. She talks about her sister. Her sister’s in trouble and needs to get a job. She needs to stop mooching off their parents. Oh, and how have I been lately?
And then, I can’t even hear what she’s saying. It’s not her Japanese that’s confusing. It’s the smallness of her voice. It comes from somewhere far away, from that place behind the back of her throat, a place I’m not sure exists.
It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. I’m too focused on my writing. My bloody, obsessive writing. My reports, whatever they’re supposed to be about, are late. Nobody seems to notice. They all point to me and say their “sugoi”s (fantastic!) and what not, because to the casual observer it looks like I’m deep into my project.
And I am. The dangerous excavation of my past is well under way. Its currents will no doubt lead me to ever more constant coffee breaks. I will nod at people with their far-off voices from places that don’t exist. I will nod because that is the only meaningful action I can manage―and because Nagasaki is more real than anything else inside the break room.