I Saw Her Again or The Legend of Lumi Fujimoto

Her name is written with an L despite its being Japanese, perhaps because it would be pronounced incorrectly in Spanish if it were an R (a long, rolled R would ruin it). She always said she had a Japanese eye and a Colombian eye—one was pleated and the other wasn’t. She taught our class how to make paper cranes, and I always made the ugliest ones. She ate raw ramen as a snack. She had practically every existing Sanrio product. She gave me Japanese candy (which was an honor, considering the fact that she seldom gave anything to anybody. She appeared on TV, in Foto Japón commercials (Foto Japón is, ironically, a Colombian 1hr photo lab), and stood silently in a kimono beside her little sister (in a kimono too) while a guy announced the winners of raffles organized by this company. She had a tape with Japanese children’s songs, and we all listened to it in Music class. She went to Japan and ate onigiri, and I begged her to tell me what it was like: she simply told me it was a rice ball with some kind of peach inside and a leaf outside (translation to real life: a rice ball with plum sauce and seaweed outside). I spent years and years trying to figure out how the heck you could eat a peach inside a rice ball… until I finally ate onigiri in Chicago. Her mother told my mother she had to teach her how to smile, because she was becoming as silent and serious as her father. She didn’t like to tell us her father’s name because she thought we’d think it’s weird and laugh about it. I didn’t.

I saw her father a few times. The occasion I remember the most was during a friend’s birthday at a country club. He stood on the grass beside his wife (who was talking to my mother). He was bald, his arms were permanently crossed, and he scarcely said hello or goodbye… his expression was EXTREMELY dry and serious… However, for some reason I obviously can’t recall (I must’ve been about 9 years old then), I wanted to say something to him. I wanted to talk to him, being a real Japanese from the land of Noppo San!

… I didn’t say anything, though. I’m quite shy and it seems I’ve been so all my life.

She had become a legend in my mind. She left our school when I was in fourth grade, and her sister left soon after. I liked to think she left for Japan, perhaps forgot her Spanish, rode the train everyday, ate sushi like Colombians eat empanadas… I liked to think I’d be able to meet her under bizarre circumstances in Tokyo, if I ever went there. However, I saw her yesterday. Her pretty face hadn’t changed. I always thought she had a pretty face. She was only a few meters away from me, talking to a girl from my school. If that girl hadn’t been there, I would’ve stood up, approached her, asked her if she was Lumi Fujimoto, and told her all the things I thought about her: how she was quite influential in my present life, how I always remembered her and thought I should’ve tried to learn Japanese with her, how I never forgot that presentation we had for Spanish class—with toy elephants, hers was called Kaori and mine was Bartolomeo—,… how she was my connection with a culture I have always loved, one which I always end up bumping into.

I would’ve loved to tell her all those things I had stored for so long. However, seeing her again was a mortal wound to the legend that had built up in my mind. I observed her carefully and concluded she was still living here. What if I gave her my stupid corny speech and she just laughed at me and concluded I was in love with her or something??? (totally NOT the case!!!) Or what if she had become an average arrogant girl who’d look at me as if I were an Indian untouchable??? My usual fears kept me away from her.

Maybe my silence was better. I don’t really want to know what became of her. She doesn’t have to know I fell in love with a Japanese boy (and would she care if I told her? of course not!). She doesn’t have to know she was some kind of childhood hero to me. She doesn’t have to know I was scared of Japanese men because of her father (of course she doesn’t have to know!!! I wish I could’ve talked to him, though… but now I know they smile and joke and can be pretty much the best friends on Earth).

No, she doesn’t have to know.

She just needs to remain a kid forever in my mind, the little girl with the thousand paper cranes and raw ramen who liked to sing “Tú por mí” (a Spanish song about a friendship as bizarre and beautiful as hers).

Mountain Conquerors & Cave Dwellers

It’s strange how one’s path through life is revealed. Some people never find one at all, and devout themselves to wander around, nowhere-bound. Others step on the path they find most useful and force themselves to walk, walk, walk… even if their feet are bleeding and the landscape they’re finding is not the one they want to see; after all, it’s the path to being Somebody.

How much does one have to fight to be happy? Is happiness the top of a cloud-laden mountain or a cozy cave just found along the way? Is happiness a distant echo that happens to be your own voice projected all around the world or a tickling whisper on a loved one’s ear? Sometimes I think about Great people in the world, people we remember for their great/terrible deeds. I wonder if those have been people who haven’t found themselves comfortable in their Normal Citizen suits, and have taken an extra step to find their happiness. Maybe those people see satisfaction on the top of the mountain, and as they strive to find it, the rest of the world sees them climbing and acclaims them. There are some individuals who never seem to find their right way, and yet they live their lives in a suit that doesn’t fit. I wonder, what do they think when they die? Do they have a revelation of what they should have done?

A generally accepted ideal is that of being a Somebody, having your name printed in books and newspapers, having a recognizable name and face. Fame and fortune are the great parameters people use to measure Happiness. However, what if on your way to the top of the mountain you stumble into the coziest cave ever? What if you definitely couldn’t leave that cave for some other occasion, for times when you’ve already come down from your trip to the mountain top? How do you know happiness will be the fire waiting for you at the end of every day instead of your name engraved in gold on the book of The Important History?

I used to write stories and poetry thinking of the possibility of reaching the top of one of many mountains, maybe the highest (what do you know)… Then I found my favorite pair of eyes and a pair of hands flying like hummingbirds, telling me not to go… I found my cave… How can I keep climbing when the fire is right here?

How do I know I’m not supposed to get blisters in my hands anymore? Maybe it’s all up to me. Maybe I’m the one who controls my own dreams. I’m the one who decides where to go, hoping not to fall on the way there. Maybe I’m not that ambitious, after all. But who cares! So many cave dwellers have become mountain conquerors for those who have sat around them to hear their stories…

I don’t know what I want. Now that’s an easy thing to say. If I think about it hard enough, perhaps my real desire is to wake up every morning and, when I remember what kind of life I’m living and what kind of people are walking by my side, to smile the sincerest of smiles.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

—Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

Undine’s New Soul

… And if he ever left, what would be left of me? I can’t imagine a world in which he doesn’t exist, now that the sole memory of his astounding eyes always brings a smile to my glum face.

I feel like Undine, a water nymph who was created without a soul, and who obtained one by marrying a mortal. With it, she also obtained pain and suffering. Maybe life was much, much easier when love wasn’t roaming around my heart, but I’m not willing to get back to that path now that I’ve seen what true happiness looks like. What if he ever got tired of this awful distance? I have to work hard to tighten this bond across the Pacific Ocean. I can’t imagine how things would be if this ever shattered, if I had to go back to a soulless life. Anyway, now that I have a soul, some aspects of life seem to hurt me much more than they would hurt somebody else (I don’t know, it’s how I feel). Maybe a soul is actually a dagger. Why can’t he be here to stop this wound from bleeding? Why can’t I be there to recover the sunshine in my eyes?

Undine was never meant to be Penelope, and yet mine is a life of waiting!

Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand

Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore

Alone upon the threshold of my door

Of individual life, I shall command

The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand

Serenely in the sunshine as before,

Without the sense of that which I forbore –

Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land

Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine

With pulses that beat double. What I do

And what I dream include thee, as the wine

Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue

God for myself, He hears that name of thine,

And sees within my eyes the tears of two.

—Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet VI

100 Characters

This loneliness sucks.

The sky is deep blue and the sun pierces my skin slowly. I wonder when it will finally melt. I abhor it. Day after day after day after day I do exactly the same things, I climb the same hill, I ride the same bus and I eat the same food. I see the same stupid little girls dressed all the same; rubber bones to eat, dogs behind them. I have to study. It’s the only way to keep the days going. I mean, days could perfectly go without Saussure and Cervantes and the Popol Vuh, but I’m a citizen of this little town and I’m supposed to have my responsibilities.

That life used to suck. It was cold as hell, I had to run and let that air freeze my lungs. Now my lungs are fried with all that despicable nicotine air. What’s better, what’s worse? Of course here’s better. I’m learning more stuff. I have my home. But I don’t have you. All I have are these pieces of you floating around, stupid little messages, that’s all we’ve got! 100 characters to tell each other stories? 100 characters to say how unbearable the pain is? Can’t you see? Of course you know it. But you’re home. So am I.

I’m tired of being here. It’s a cage of routine. I don’t have a second to myself. All my life is supposed to be devoted to Cervantes and Silva and to the thought of “I wish all those stories were mine. I wish I were there.” Yeah. I envy my teacher. I envy him because he’s been there and I’m stuck here. He speaks the language and it’s still all drawings to me. This is not my place. My place is wherever you are.

I’m a nowhere girl. Making all my nowhere plans for nobody. Making all my silly nowhere plans for you. Trying to keep on this routine to forget that I have a beautiful hand to hold at the other end of this saltwater ball. Everybody’s got somebody and I’ve got 100 damn characters to bleed.