Short Story | ‘Memories of Life’ by Ben White, Illustration by Hong Rui Choo
Kuroda lost his sister in a car crash outside of their Tokyo prep school yesterday. Her uniform, her clean pressed white shirt, was smudged with grease from the car and dirt from the street, scratched and torn. Rain continued to fall hard, rivulets weaving across the concrete, pooling around the crowd and the young girl. Her body was soaked as he watched the ambulance take her to the morgue, dripping like the pieces of paper that had fallen out of her leather bag, which he gathered.
He stood unmoving in the rain as the traffic began again, the leather bag unclasped and open over his shoulder in the intersection. Soon the cars began to swerve out of the way as they crossed, but none blew their horns because the boy appeared purposeful in his silent vigil. Minutes passed, and the evidence of the crash, the traffic jam, all of it went away—except Kuroda—and the cars began to get impatient with the boy, who was sopping wet and holding two school bags over one shoulder.
At night, he sat on the floor of the room they shared, reading through the papers of her bag, trying to decipher the smudges of ink that survived for lessons and messages. The intricate lines of her writing were nearly lost, and he discovered nothing of consequence, merely random bits of schooling, destined for recycling, not memories of life.
He walks down a leafy street in Tokiwadaira, the green of the grass and the cherry blossoms still shimmering with yesterday’s rain, which drips with the touch of the lightest of winds. He carries her bag, its leather scratched and torn. There will be a funeral. Everyone will stand in silence, stolid and unmoving to pay respect and honor her. But it is not enough, not enough to stand still. He passes the landscaped trees, dozens in a row down the street, a street where the rain would bring only taller grass, brighter flowers, more life, and at each Sakura tree, he takes one of her papers, buries it in the moist soil, and cries softly, slowly, as if the rain drops have merely fallen from the blossoms onto his cheeks.
Illustration by: Hong Rui Choo