Fate and Sakura
April 22nd, 1946 I boarded the ship bound for home. Am here with fellow countrymen who are fortunate to be alive now, singing and merry making for this opportunity bestowed to them. I also have some cheers to liven up the atmosphere for being part of the vengeance America had upon it’s enemy. But I do not wish to join their fun as it does not matter anything to me. Am hollow and empty once again. Can’t believe it had been four years now since that crash that changed my life. Everyone are sharing their side of the story claiming to be victors over death and how they fought out of it’s claws. I had nothing to share.
For days I would gaze upon the rising and setting son over far east thinking the same wind which touched me reaches my love and tell her what’s going in my heart. Man had made communication devices which can contact people miles away but did they make anything which trans-communicate messages from heart. Every moment I take my breathe I think of Aiko. What she must be doing now? Is she okay? Does she have the same pain which I have in my chest? I only wish if I get a chance to go back. To hold her one more time and never let her go of me. For days on the ship I wandered around lifeless and at nights would usually spend outside gazing upon the waves splashing behind.
One night I missed her terribly and went out for a smoke at the usual place on the deck. The night was cool and I can taste fresh salt from the ocean breeze blowing over my face. There was someone else tonight as well. Before I could say something he said
“ Beautiful night isn’t it?”
“Yeah so it is!” I replied.
“Oh I am Simon by the way! Pvt. Simon McGallaher of the 21st Cavalry!” he said.
“Lt. Ryan Ashton from 95th Airborne Division!” I replied.
“Oh you are a pilot! That’s nice! What was your last assignment?” asked Simon.
“I was with the 2nd Tokyo raid!” I replied.
“That’s bit long! Is it something to do with the Doolittle raid? Were you part of it?” asked Simon.
“Well close but not actually the first and famous Doolittle raid! We were part of the second raid! Unfortunately we got hit and crashed near Hokkaido! I survived but my co-pilot Pvt. Charles Wakeham died!” I said.
“Oh am sorry to hear about your mate! It happens in war! You don’t know those with whom you are eating, drinking and having good times with next moment won’t be there! I also lost many friends but lucky to be alive! One thing I don’t know why we are so happy after so many loses! Doesn’t make any sense!” said Simon.
“ Indeed it doesn’t make any sense! We don’t know why we are fighting! In the beginning it’s just like we are following orders but as you get to the end we are throwing each others life for just a bunch of cowards!” I said.
“Woh! You have some guts to speak that out my friend! Actually I was thinking no one wants to die but it feels like that we are forced into the death tunnel and we have to fight our way out! Very unfair! You know what! They always tell us that help is coming but most of the time it doesn’t! And then we have to sneak behind enemy lines to another proposed destination! There death is again waiting and when you turn next your communication guy is gone with the device! Pathetic isn’t it!” said Simon.
“Ofcourse my friend it happens as always! When you need them the most they tend to forget you and leave you at nothing but at a mercy of sheer luck! Now the war is over and the come around to claim those who were once thought to be dead!” I said grudgingly.
“Seems like you are not eager to return! Maybe your anticipation had got other interests now!” Simon said in a curious manner.
I didn’t say anything for a moment and then Simon spoke,
“ I won’t ask you why you don’t wanna return or where your interests lies now but lets go inside for a drink ‘coz this ship is not turning around and give our disturbed heart a break!”
I wasn’t sure why he made that statement but maybe he was right about giving myself a break now. Ofcourse no one would listen to what my heart desires and I have to move on. Though it’s painful to digest the thought of losing a life which meant a lot to me but now I have to deal with circumstance which may come across and I can’t deal it by this.
I said, “Sure a couple of drinks may heal something inside!” and accompanied Simon for drinks.
It was pretty late and among all intoxicated we were the fresh recruits. Most of them were still unknown to me but who cares. We drank till 4 am next morning. I wasn’t that good in taking hot stuff now and it had been a while. The newfound friend seemed to be a heavy drinker for a couple of shots in the beginning while my ears were in flame but later he too succumbed to just few sips in every twenty to thirty minutes dragging the night behind him.
I couldn’t take his stories in Okinawa which he repeated more than a dozen times. But somehow I came to get that this man was also in great pain from inside. I didn’t wish to hear it because it was already late and we had to get some sleep now. So when the bar finally closed I helped him to go to his cabin and then retired to mine. One thing am thankful to this man was that for some moment he had strayed my mind away from Aiko. It gave me some comfort but what about days ahead. Maybe trying to socialize with others on board may help to take away her clutched memories in my heart.
Chances of me returning to Hokkaido does not look good unless a miracle happens. Now it’s just me returning homeland and back to grandpa’s farm in Farmington, San Joaquin Valley. Don’t know whether they are alive or not. It had been now month on this ship and in couple weeks I would be setting my feet back on American soil. Within these times the thoughts of Aiko and Hokkaido had been clutched deeply inside my heart. I had chance to make friends with guys like Simon but they too will fade away in time.
It’s hard to believe the very fact of life which is nothing lasts forever no matter how hard you try to get hold onto it. I fear that same may happen to all my memories I have of Hokkaido. Maybe it’s meant to be like that and now God is punishing me for the unwanted sins I had caused during the war. We don’t realize the value of life when we take someone else’s. Now I understand what it means. Me getting out of the claws of death, being with ordinary people who don’t know anything about world, falling in love, learning about life and all those were just an eye-opener. My heart still aches and will continue to pour blood whenever I will think of Aiko. I don’t know when I will see her again but as long as I live now I will devote myself in the service of one who provided me all. I had decided that from now onwards I will join the church and do the will of God.
We arrived on the 4th of July which explains why there was a rush about. I felt disappointed and maybe the only American who was not happy to arrive on the Independence Day. For our arrival the whole port side had been prepared with welcoming ceremony. Orchestral sounds and cheers reverberated the surrounding air. The Royal US Army band and gentlemen with all ranks and sizes appeared neatly dressed up for the ceremony.
Simon came close to me and said “Atleast they had prepared something for us. Can’t hold myself for tonight’s celebration at the pub. I had forgotten scent of a woman and tonight am gonna snatch some!” he patted on my shoulder with an impish chuckle.
I responded “ Yeah but the best fishes are for those man with nice uniforms and coloured badges.”
Simon looked at me and said “Oh common, why you have to be so desponding! Cheer up man! Take it easy! I understand you must have got some serious attachments back in Japan but we are here now and look at all those spoils awaiting you! Don’t be such a loner! Tell you one thing if you act like this then everyone would think differently of you!”
I turned around and said, “I don’t care what they think about me! I didn’t want to come here at the first place even! How can I be happy when they took away my happiness for their sake! I mean no offense but today I am not in the proud Americans list! You can join the spoils later today while I prepare to go home tomorrow morning! Enjoy the party!”
Simon looked at me in astonishment and wanted to say something but didn’t. We watched the whole procession and later joined everyone for the welcoming ceremony at the city hall. I looked around and glory! glory and glory fumed the air around us. Many had gathered to see their loved ones, many had gathered to raise their voices high upon victory, revenge and long depression which had shook the world. Others I would suggest were just there to see how uncle Sam had decorated himself. Senior officials with other man of higher ranks repeatedly barked about how we claimed the victory bringing down the enemies to ruins. I stood in middle of the crowd feeling so numb and senseless lost in the world of my own. I had my own silence amidst the rejoicing crowd.
After the long and exaggerated speeches finally the hour came to get drunk and forget the world behind. I dared not to be with them but as I made my way out to my unexpected guess I came across Sgt. Hayden. He was one man I didn’t want to see especially after all this. He smiled at me and said
“Well Ryan my boy don’t you feel happy to be home again? Where you were hiding amongst those unknown people in an unknown place! Now you are here with your own kind! Isn’t that great!”
I looked at him and smiled halfheartedly and said “Sure sir am lucky to be home, with my people….and my own kind! Wouldn’t have made it so fast if it wasn’t of your help!”
“Nah!! Don’t brag about it! I just did my duty and made sure all American souls get out of that godforsaken place! Tell you what, you don’t wanna know what they did to captured Americans! Some camps I went to and still the body parts were fresh, scattered around here and there! After the emperor declared to surrender some of those Japs couldn’t take it and butchered the prisoners before fleeing away from the camp sites. For sure I didn’t want that to happen to you!” Sgt. Hayden said.
“Well maybe it wouldn’t be happening at the place I was at!” I replied.
“Actually my boy, that camp site wasn’t far away from your village! After we had left God knows they would have come for you did the same! Bahh! Why are we discussing these all know! Bygones are bygones, now it’s time to celebrate! Come have a drink with me!” Sgt. Hayden asked.
“ No Sir, I do thank you for that offer but I should be going since am departing early tomorrow morning!” I said.
“Oh common lad, ok I won’t hold you long! Just a couple of drinks and then I will let you go! I also have to shoot early tomorrow morning!” he replied.
I could not argue with him since he was higher in rank and much senior than me. He can do anything with his report, if I disappoint him. So I had no option but to join him to the pub. On the way he asked,
“ By the way where is your hometown?”
I replied, “Farmington, San Joaquin!”
“Oh, you must be having your lucky day, am heading on the same direction tomorrow morning and I can give you a lift, if you don’t mind!” said Sgt. Hayden.
I was really thankful for all his doings for me but I didn’t wish to join him.
I replied, “It’s ok Sir, but I wish to journey alone since I have to stop by at some places and I really don’t wish to hangout there at every stop for me!”
Hayden paused for a moment and said, “As you wish young man! I just wanted to help you! But if you wish to journey alone then so be it! but incase you change your mind I will be leaving the quarters at 5.30 am sharp! Ok! Anyway lets enjoy the drinks now!” Sgt. Hayden said.
During the conversation we had arrived in the pub and Simon smiled at me sarcastically. Sgt. Hayden introduced me to some of his friends or man with higher ranks. I responded well as an inferior official. After having few drinks with Sgt. Hayden I made my way to the toilet and Simon followed me. He stood beside me as I peed and said
“Well! Well! Well, look who didn’t want to join the spoils! What happened my friend, did Sgt.Hayden promoted you?” and smiled chuckingly.
I responded, “No, it’s not what you think, man!”
Simon trying to hold back his smile and said, “Tell me about it, how come you agreed to him and not me?”
I really wanted to tell him that he should mind his own business but didn’t wish to since he looked more drunk.
I replied, “ Well don’t ask my friend! Now am here let’s join the spoils till morning!”
Simon laughed and said, “ Till morning! And when you are supposed to leave than!”
I held him and said “ Don’t worry! I am home now and can find my way anytime!”
he kept on saying something but I didn’t notice. I knew that with a couple of double shots he will be out. We sat around the bar and chattered for a while. When he was getting louder I signaled the bartender to make double shots for him now. After second shot Simon was out for the night and saved were the ‘ladies with scent’ I thought. With help of some fresh hands we were able to toss him in his bunker. I took my shower after that and hit the sack in no time. I was terribly tired and didn’t wish to stay awake another second. I love you Aiko, I said before retiring for the day. God knows what is to happen next now.