The Linnet's Wings Summer 2014 - Page 31

This was a normal enough thing for me. The ship rides to the islands were fairly cheap, especially to Iojima. There are three islands close to Nagasaki by boat: Iojima, Takashima, and Gunkanjima. I had been to Iojima many times. The island is a resort island that caters to tourists and day-trippers like myself. Then there’s Gunkanjima, an abandoned mining town that one could only look at from distance by tour boat. Like the other islands, it had once been a site for coal-mining. But unlike the others, Gunkanjima is now uninhabited and inaccessible. I’d never been to Takashima. Whenever I talked to friends and students, none of them would ever really try to sell me on the merits of visiting the island. When all things were weighed evenly, it just never seemed worth the time and effort to go there. It was a bit more money for the boat ride and there was a lot less to do, or so I heard. (Some students did mention that there was good fishing off the island.) There was one incentive to go the island though, and that was that I had never been snorkeling there. That day I was feeling adventurous. I needed a change. I needed to be inspired. I bought the boat ticket, grabbed some pamphlets about walking and cycling tours on the island, and then waited. The next boat wouldn’t be leaving the dock for at least another hour. The best case scenario was that I would go to the island and be inspired to move past some recent writer’s block I’d had with my novel. I was stuck on the third chapter of what I expected to be a six-chapter book. The middle of a story is always the toughest. The easiest thing for me is to get lost in the middle chapters and never find my way out. I would snorkel the reefs off Takashima, ride a rental bike around the island, and come back refreshed to work on my book. Everything would go beautifully. The day was filled with possibilities. Rational exuberance was taking over. * Subtle things let me know that day was different. At the port building, waiting for the boat that was to take me to Takashima, I found myself on the second floor instead of on the first. It was the first time I had ever been to the second floor of the port building. There I had a better view of Nagasaki harbor. I found a nice spot near the window. After I’d finished my bowl of ramen soup, I sat there and daydreamed about what it would be like to do this for the next few years: to bring a notebook, sit in the port building, look out into the bay, and just write. As I sat there by myself, the moment seemed unreal and hopelessly dreamlike. With each passing year, notions like this, that I could sit somewhere of my choosing and dream freely, were becoming both more realistic and hopeless at the same time. Realistic because I frequently found myself doing things (even on occasion dreaming freely), and hopeless because some vague “grownup” future seemed to be bearing down on me. Adulthood was troublesome. Truer words have never been written. * The fifty-minute boat ride to Takashima was only slightly longer than the thirty-minute journey to Iojima. Yet, the differences were very apparent the moment I stepped inside the Takashima port building. Subtle things were amiss. For one, there was a fish tank in the port building that was in miserable disarray. It was dirty—really dirty. (Things were never dirty in Japan). I could barely see the fish inside, which I assumed (hoped) were still alive. The cover for the bottom of the fish tank generator was off too, its wiring and machinery exposed as if someone meant to repair it but had just given up midway through. The lighting for the building was off somehow. All of the lights were working, but the port building seemed dimmer than it should have been. (When were such details never attended to in Japan?) Across from the entrance was a small bar/ shop that advertised beer and ramen, but there were no customers, and at around 10:30