You’re missing in the soggy, freezing rubble of what was our life. I’ve spent lifetimes looking at bulletin boards with Polaroid images of bodies that have been found and relocated to a storage house further inland, one near that furniture store you liked. The bodies were dull, engorged with death, and eerily reminiscent of their spirit. The faces of some, a medley of bruising, forcing me to imagine your final moments being rattled by the sea, a cage match of man versus the elements. Some were untouched, but empty, a void vessel awaiting burial. Someone must have taken it upon themselves to close the eyes of the corpses, not one photo stares back at me, instead they beckon me to admit defeat and close my eyes. Rows and columns of unclaimed loved ones, a world turned upside down, the ocean of our livelihood turned on us and retaliated. Every so often, someone cried out in anguished relief over recognition. Happy in the sickest way to have found him or her. How sick was I to want to find you on that ill fated board of nameless death? I’d curl up beside your body and say goodbye, I’d tell you that next time I would have held on longer. I shouldn’t let the sea own you, but I am weak, and I do, the sea . . . I fear it owns you, I know it owns me.
I walked the streets zig zagging through the wreckage thinking chance might lead me to you, looking for me. Like those American love stories you always liked to watch, we’d find one another and embrace. We’d settle into the taken for granted routine of us. While I was looking for you I happened upon an injured brown dog. He’d hobble up to me and limp away, I followed, maybe he knew where you were. Instead I was led to a white canine corpse, but then I saw it. The white dog feebly lifted his head at the company of the brown dog, the intimacy so alive, it seemed palpable. I was moved to tears and momentarily I felt a connection to the world again. Their sullen eyes flickered an understanding of the events that shook what little was left of my soul, the fragments, like daggers stabbing my heart, pain saturated every inch of my insides. I wanted to ask the dogs how they did it? How did they manage to stay together through the wave? I don’t know how they did it, but I know I lost you Keiko. These dogs did what I couldn’t do, they survived together. I brought them to an aid tent and left them there, a little bit of hope in a water logged world of disaster.
As I continued my quest to find you, I saw an old wrinkled woman, the lines on her face drew a map of the lives she had lived. Her gaze darted around, she quietly muttered a sequence of words, casting a spell, or reciting a prayer, I’ve never known. I had hoped that she was the answer, that she would know where to find you. Her arthritis riddled hands hung at her sides, her shirt was wet and hung with the heaviness of her futile search, of my futile search. I stopped and stared at her, seeing if I could offer any help. She looked through me as if I didn’t exist, as if I was dead and invisible walking around hell stupidly hoping to find you. Her shadow, a cloak of misery, her brown eyes somber with a touch of insanity. I fear a somber insanity has followed me the rest of my days. She eerily kept wandering, aimlessly calling out his name. I imagined it was her husband, I knew the sound her voice was making, the sonic vibrations calling out into the abyss, it’s one of heartbreak. I stared at our separation in the physical, I’ve never found you Keiko, but I’ve always kept looking.
It’s 60 years since the wave and every night it feels like it was yesterday. I’m with your ghost again, I can smell your perfume on the ocean’s breath. I’ve heard that over time you start to only remember the good, the happy, that it’s in our nature of survival to cast out the bad. I mustn’t be surviving as I see the faces on the bulletin board when I close my eyes, I feel my arms trying to hold on to you in the water before you were washed away. I lost you to the ocean. Everything wet is a reminder of that day. There’s a water stain on the table from my glass. The wetness is ingrained into the wood, forever tattooed striations of dominance in a ring of ownership mock me as I write this letter. The water owns everything.