An Untimely Escape

Carolina Smith, Guest Writer

The sun rays seemed to burn with extra intensity as I hurried home with bags of groceries in my hand. The shouts and commotion of the street encouraged me to walk faster and faster until I almost sprinted toward home and my waiting mother. I may have been behind schedule, but my running would help me catch up. Sweat dripped from my hairline and onto my nose, but my speed did not falter. Everything happened according to plan until I passed Mr. Sato’s kitchen window and my foot met day-old cooking grease. Vegetables flew out of the paper bag and into the air with the precious soba noodles close behind. As people continued to swarm around, I scrambled to collect the groceries. My plan was ruined, and it only got worse as my hand reached toward my last precious sweet potato. A lady wearing a ridiculous orange kimono kicked it into the gutter as she passed. My throat constricted along with my hope of a peaceful night. I began the journey home once more with a heavier heart and a cloud of anxiety.

I closed the door softly behind me as I strode into the house. My mother sat quietly on the couch in front of me. “Good afternoon, Kaito,” she remarked. “I presume your grocery run went well?” I could only nod as my heartbeat raced along.

“My apologies for being late, Mother. There were a few complications,” I replied with an even tone. She raised one eyebrow and motioned me to lay the bags in the kitchen. I followed her urging and began to unpack them. Her neat fingernails pranced over each item, most likely as she made a checklist in her brain. My rapid heartbeat screeched to a sudden stop as she inspected the sole sweet potato.

“Kaito,” She uttered darkly. “Where is the other potato?” Most parents would reply to a lost sweet potato with a mild scolding and a forgiving hug, but not my mother.

“I had a second one, but it slipped out of the bag and fell into Mr. Sato’s drain. I’m sorry,” I choked out. Her face grew stern for a moment, but then melted smoothly back into place. I did not hear everything clearly over the next ten minutes. I only felt the fear compressing me and caught certain phrases.

A fist pounded the table. “You know how hard your father works for our money. How do you expect me to feed this family when you are throwing vegetables down the drain?” A slap. “You stupid child.” An unknown vegetable hurled against the wall punctuated her scream. “Clumsy. Incompetent. Disappointment.”

            Projectile objects used to leave bigger bruises and her slaps stung worse before I grew taller and gained more muscle. Now I have become used to it; I don’t feel anything but the panic. I never could deflect the words, though. With every episode, I shrunk smaller and smaller until I became a child once again, even at age nineteen. I think a child will always crouch deep inside me behind a couch, tears streaming down dirty cheeks.

After cleaning up the mess, I walked defeated to my room without supper. I felt so insignificant and the room became far too large. After spending hours in bed, my hurt began to shift into uncontainable anger like always. My cycles of emotion after the episodes never varied. After a night of restless sleep, I would get up and meet Mei, my best friend, at the park early in the morning. She would share in my anger and give me the same advice every time: “Get away.” I would talk bravely of how I’d march to Hiroshima Train Station right that second and ride it to the coast where I’d set sail on a ship to America, far from cruel Japan and my cruel mother.

On my fifteenth birthday I heard how Japan had completed the successful mission at Pearl Harbor. Even then, I knew the truth being shrouded by propaganda: Japan had taken innocent lives and involved another country in the dreaded war. A bruise from a launched bowl had colored my eye hours before I ate my mochi and my friends sang to me. That’s when I realized my mother and country had far too much in common.

After bragging to Mei about my spontaneous plans, I would always go right back home and bow to my mother’s commands at the first opportunity. The same lie comforted me every time: this time it will be different. The rotation began anew seen enough. As I lied in bed that fateful night, I mentally broke the chains of the cycle. Things would finally be different.

As soon as the first rays of sun shone through the small hole in my room’s roof, I launched out of bed. In a blur, money and food had been gathered, clothes thrown on, and the door closed behind me. My feet seemed to work faster than my brain, but I didn’t care. I passed the park where Mei and I spent our time without hesitation, even though my heart felt a small pang. She would understand and even remain ecstatic for me from a distance. Imagining her proud smile gave me the courage to continue. The smells wafting from Mr. Sato’s kitchen reminded me to avoid the puddle at first, but then I decided to stop beside it for just a moment. I ended up owing a lot to that pool of grease. My pace quickened as the sun rose higher and higher, but the heat never became unbearable. I began to smile because I thought the universe had finally turned kind. Maybe America’s sun always shone softly.

Somehow, I found myself flying by the time I saw it: Hiroshima Train Station. It existed only as a figment of my imagination until this moment. So often had I mapped out the path from home to the station in my head, but here it lay at last. The morning sun highlighted the brilliant pillars and its high roof. Its beauty astounded me. I began to close the distance at an even faster pace, but without my consent, my feet dragged to a sudden halt. Every instinct started telling me to run.

            Go back! Incompetent. Disappointment. Get behind something!

            My thoughts blurred together until I could no longer distinguish reality.

Snap out of it, Kai.

Was that Mei? Then I saw it. Not the train station. A cloud in the distance. A boom and a shattering of glass. My brain finally focused enough to distinguish the metal grate sticking out of my gut, exposing my insides to the elements. An overpowering ringing shook my entire skull, and I realized I had catapulted into a nearby building. I morphed into a child again, sobbing behind a faded couch in a rundown apartment calling for my mother. Not for her assistance, but begging her to stop. I looked up to the mocking blue sky through the haze of dust and saw a plane with a shape of alternating red and white stripes and blue square in the corner. My brain immediately processed what it represented, but I refused to accept it.

The cycle began for the last time. Incomprehensible anger after a a spike of sadness. I felt betrayed. My salvation had distorted into my undoing. My hope had led my stomach into the path of a metal grate. America had bombed Hiroshima, Japan. The pain registered seconds later, and I screamed for the last time. Fire consumed all feeling on my skin and in my heart. The thought that had been gnawing at me the second I left the house finally reached the surface: I never would have made it to America anyway.

Inhale. I hate America more than my mother. America betrayed me. I betrayed Japan. Exhale.

Shockingly, an overwhelming sense of peace clouded my brain in my last moment; a new end to the monotonous cycle.

Inhale. Yet now I am free. Exhale. Silence.



Kurzman, Dan. Day of the Bomb. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1986. Print.


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