The Linnet's Wings Summer 2014 - Page 34

creeping up the sides, weeds, but also elderly people living inside. Where was I going? The sun was hot, just a little after midday, and I was going up a steep hill. I was looking for the hiking path that would take me up the mountain to the highest point of the island. I was sweating profusely again. I reached the path that was specified on the walking map, but not easily. It was weeded over and it took me a few minutes to figure out how I was going to get through, indeed whether it was possible to walk through. If I started, I knew I wouldn’t turn back. Even if the thing became an atrocious slog. But I was here. I had come this far, and I had already been drenched in my own sweat, seawater, and my own sweat again, so there it was. As I climbed, for some reason I began to think about my dad. He’d passed away several months before. That, too, is another story. The stories just seemed to pile on, one after the other, and meanwhile chapter three, my life, my will to go on slowly festered, swam around in circles, and dared my crushed spirit to squat in a decrepit apartment for the next five years. Such sentiments in the middle of weeds! When I reached the top, I would write it all down. It seemed important. When I did reach the top, I saw all of Takashima. The concrete lookout tower on top of the mountain put me in a position where I could see the entire island. I still have the pictures today. Who was I? Could I be a novelist? Could I be a teacher? A squatter? For the moment, I was just a young man, twenty-six, standing on a mountain (more of a large hill really), on an island where order was slowly giving way to neglect. I thought of my dad and I wanted to cry. I looked over the island. In the background was Gunkanjima (battleship island), a city that died a long time ago. There was Nagasaki City, Iojima, and me, an anonymous foreigner. Nagasaki was made of magic, I thought. I still believe this. The novel I was working on was (is?) shaky to its foundation, insecure in its progression, but was at least wise enough to get that right. Even chapter three gets these essential things right. The sun was hot, but the breeze felt cool, inspiring. Can the breeze save the island? There are stories here: the story of the provincial politician trying to save his town, the story of the old timer in the decrepit apartment, long estranged from his son. There is the story of the man who was supposed to be there to fix the fish tank but had to leave it with the cover open. The world is suddenly filled with stories. The world is and has always been made of stories. They bump up against each other and create me out of words, some weird foreign kid without a job, perpetually carrying a duffle bag full of snorkel gear, suntan lotion, and bottle rockets. The summer of 2008 is still happening. * But there I am in the summer of 2008. I’m on the mountain top, thinking of my dad, who diminished like the city. I’m there, and here I am trying to write a feeling. There doesn’t seem to be a story here: a lost boy goes to an island off of Nagasaki. I am trying to write a feeling. Maybe the story goes something like this: we all get stuck in chapter three sometimes. We get stuck in the middle with no understanding of the end. It’s all feeling and details with no clear path. The path is too weeded over and now that I’m at the summit, I have no way of knowing whether I can ever go down again. And yet, it’s not quite right. I do walk down the mountain, get back on the boat to the mainland and go to my apartment. I don’t spend the next year on the second floor of the Nagasaki port building eating ramen and writing my novel. Instead, I go back to Florida. I finish the novel while taking more graduate classes and learn a thing or