震災から1年

Photo: (Kyodo/Reuters)
僕たちは決して忘れない

In my mind, for as long as I can remember (so, 20 years or more), there’s always been an image, one that is always there when I close my eyes and never changes.

There’s a cliff, overlooking the sea. There’s a tree. The cliff is very high. Under the tree, there sits a person. Sometimes the person is me, sometimes it’s someone else. But they’re always there. They’re always waiting.

Since coming to Japan, another scene has started to crop up, too. An empty classroom, near sunset. Again, there’s a person waiting, in the golden light. Again, sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s someone else.

These images are so persistent in my mind that in everything I create, they appear. I sometimes think that the only reason I write at all is to explore these images and try to figure out the “why” of them, and their strength in my mind. There’s something… I dunno, deeply personal about them. I have trouble sharing their existence with others. It’s something above and beyond just “the writer is critical of his work and doesn’t want to share”. It’s more than that. And so, I write things people will never see, hoping to understand through writing what the images mean.

Then March 11, 2011 came.

They’re both still there. The tree. The classroom. The waiting people. But it’s all changed. Now, instead of a calm sea, far below, it’s a swirling froth of rushing water, houses, cars, people, debris. I didn’t experience the tsunami, but it’s indelibly etched on my consciousness. The classroom now features someone (sometimes me) cowering under a desk while the world ends.

And so, I haven’t written. Not really, not for a year. I’ve tried, but even when writing something completely unrelated, the disaster invades. And I cry. I can’t help it. And then I close my editor, or my notebook, and I distract myself. I don’t know how else to deal.

It even creeps into my daily life sometimes. Driving along, a flash of getting caught in a tsunami while driving, or I work out the fastest route to high land, despite being nowhere near the sea. A freight train passes and things shake a bit and I resist my flight response.

I guess I should be grateful, and I am, I guess. I got off remarkably well, if this is the only lasting effect I have. And I suppose I should stop this before someone tells me I’m self-indulgent, and making 3/11 about myself. I’m not, I’m just… I dunno. I’m just rambling.

Even if I wanted to forget (and, to be honest, I’m not sure I do), I’ll never, ever be able to.