new chapter from Island of Kanaloa
Yoshi was seated on the low flat couch. He sat straight and had a serious expression. Lentil was placing the second chair behind the camera closer to the bathroom and he gestured to Teddy that the chair would be his.
The three sake cups had been refilled and Lentil handed one to Yoshi, and one to Teddy. The three of them did a silent toast and drank the cold liquid. Again, Teddy was impressed by the quality.
Yoshi smiled, “Now, we are ready to begin!”
Lentil nodded, “I agree. Ready to record.” He reached out and took Yoshi’s empty cup and set it on the kitchen counter next to his. Teddy stepped over and carefully set his down next to the other two. Lentil stood behind his camera, waited for Teddy to be positioned behind his and said, “Record.”
Yoshi stared straight ahead between the two cameras. Teddy’s pulse bumped, waiting in the silence. He looked closely at the camera screen and registered the blinking red dot, the word REC, and found Yoshi’s face centered. He wondered if there would be enough light in an hour. He looked up at the small ceiling lamp and guessed that it would have to do.
Lentil gave a thumbs up and Teddy nodded back.
“Ok, Yoshi, we’re ready to begin. Can you tell us the background for your story. Maybe starting here in Nayoro.”
Yoshi made a short quick bow, looking first at the ground and then up to Lentil’s camera.
“My early years of schooling, were here in Nayoro. When I was a young student I studied Math and Science. Physics. Very early on I aimed towards Astronomy because here in Nayoro we have a small but famous observatory. Famous in Japan. And when I younger, I know I want to work with this telescope so I study very hard.
“In University I also meet local surfers from the coast who also study in my Math classes. We became friends. And during that time I first learn to ride surfboard. And it is very different from my life before. Very good. And I wonder how I might make both of these passions work for me in my life.”
Yoshi wiped his forehead and smiled toward Teddy.
“I find opportunity to study in Hawaii. In University program there with bigger telescope, and famous professors. For me it was a very exciting time. And I win national scholarship which makes the moving to Hawaii possible. And I become very focussed and serious about my studies. I also dreamed of getting to have surfing in Hawaii.”
Lentil spoke up. “Was it that time in your life when you had… um… your first encounter?”
Yoshi looked into Lentil’s camera, and then straight at Lentil and nodded.
“Yes. In the months before I left for Hawaii it first happened. I was very concerned. Because I knew I must keep everything secret. Or I might jeopardize my plans. My scholarship.”
Yoshi was silent for a moment. His eyes out of focus. He took a long breath, and still looking at the ground he began.
“Life with telescope can be strange. Maybe two weeks I attend school at normal daytime hours. And then for next two weeks I work only night time. Sleep almost all of day. That routine not super healthy. And many times astronomers have some strange behaviors.
“For me, when I get two weeks of normal daytime life. I very much want to drive to the ocean just north of Omu, and go surfing, and get some time to relax my mind.
“It was there, wintertime, very cold, on a weekend surf trip. Just me. And I rent a small room at a family hotel that is mostly empty in the winter, and I surf with a few of the local guys during the day, and have quiet nights that I very much enjoy. Very peaceful.
“On the Saturday night of this weekend trip I have a, how do you say, very strange experience. I’m in this small room of the hotel. It’s very quiet and something outside my window catches my attention.
“I go to the window and think about opening it. But I know it is very cold outside, so decide not to, but I press my forehead to the glass, and cup my hands around my face, and peer out into the dark.
At first I see nothing. My reflection in the frosty glass. The darkness of night outside. A few yellow street lamps, a few lit windows in other buildings. But my eyes are drawn up to the sky, the moonless, starry night. And it is very clear. No clouds. It’s a very beautiful, star-filled sky.
Now as a passionate student of astronomy, a clear night sky, to me, is always captivating. And down by the coast, away from my telescope and my duties, that night sky held a sort of sweet freedom. A… magic. That I might enjoy it without any responsibilities. It was a rare pure opportunity.
So I am convinced. I quickly pull on my warmest layers, my shoes, my hat, and my jacket. I switch off the lights, lock my door behind me, and head quietly for the main door of the hotel.
Outside it is quite cold, and the smell of the ocean is strong. This is a quiet place and I can clearly hear the soft sounds of the waves. There are a few lights in that small coastal neighborhood, and I decide to walk away, down the road towards a stretch that has no lights.
I know, of course, that from that small degree of deeper darkness I will be able to enjoy more that enchanting night sky.
I began to walk along that road, quite content out in the cold night alone. Quite peaceful.
In my memories I am not sure for how long I continued walking on that road. My next solid piece of reference was that something caught my attention from above, and me, pausing there, and staring up, getting my bearings on the constellations above me and being, well shocked, that the small constellation called in English ‘the Pleiadies’ was quite positively pulsing in the night sky. Quite bright, and then dim, and then bright again. Like a beacon. I had never seen anything like that, and as I stared in both wonder and confusion, my mathematical brain immediately began trying to form a guess… that perhaps the salt in the air, me standing so close to the sea, might have some sort of affect. Or, perhaps something to do with aurora borealis…
And a small fear also developed. A fear that something beyond my understanding was occurring. My throat tightened, and for one second I thought about looking away, pulling myself away, returning to my small room, and pulling the covers over my head like a child.
But I was curious. I continued to watch the constellation do its strange pulsing, and eventually, my face relaxed and I let myself enjoy the strangeness of the experience. Like watching a butterfly dance over blossoms. I smiled. I began to feel… almost giddy. Definitely happy. I had a warm feeling return to me, one of simple innocent wonder, looking up into the night sky. That was a feeling I hadn’t had in many years, for much of my work at the telescope was quite mundane and monotonous.
I stood there in the cold and watched this strange celestial show that I didn’t understand at all. And I fell deeply in love again with all of the mysteries out there.
When, in the morning, back in my small room, I woke in my bed, knowing right away that something was odd. And I wasn’t under the thick blankets, but rather on top of the bedding. And I still wore my shoes, all my clothes, my jacket, even my hat. I became concerned. Disoriented. Besides the immediate urge to get to the bathroom and urinate. I felt famished. I was overly hungry and thirsty. I rushed from the room to go pee. Splashed water on my face. Feeling almost like I was hung over. Perhaps I had consumed too much sake? It had happened before. I looked curiously into the mirror, shrugged, and made my way to the small dining area where breakfast is served for the hotel guests.
And the lady of the house… the landlord, she assessed me strangely, saying good morning and disappearing to fetch me a tray of food. When she brought my meal she politely asked where I had been ‘yesterday’.
And I had eaten dinner with her the previous night. Just the two of us. And I told her so, already fearing something strange. And I felt strange. And she shook her head, and politely corrected me, and said that we had eaten dinner on Saturday evening. And that it was now Monday morning. And she looked at me very oddly. And my hands shook as I looked down to my digital watch and saw that she was correct. Somehow it was Monday morning. I was missing a class at that moment. I had never missed a class. And very quickly I began to question many things. I ate the food she had brought me ravenously, and politely asked for three refills of my tea. I calculated that I wouldn’t make it back up the hill in time to make it to any of my classes for the day. And somehow, with that realization there came relief. A feeling of weight lifted. And I had the impossible thought of never returning. And of giving up my scholarship, and my very near plan of relocating to Hawaii to continue my studies.
And I was very much surprised by these blasphemous thoughts being in my mind. It was very strange and new. And the chain of thoughts were like a serpent, moving in a direction that all I could do was observe nervously. Basically, the conclusion came that I would of course make it to Hawaii, but that my dedication to telescopic astronomy would never be the same. And the relocation in my future would have much more wide-ranging goals. I would be doing things differently.
I finished my breakfast. Astounded by how different I was… from what I was two days prior. I apologized to the landlady for staying an extra night, and thanked her for understanding, and told her I would check out of my room soon enough.
She shrugged an nodded, still looking at me distrustingly.
I returned to my room feeling very confused, and again a small amount fearful.
I was fearful for my sanity, and fearful that something had perhaps happened that I had no memory of. And I strained my mind, trying to figure out where a whole day had gone.
I undressed, wrapped myself in a towel and went down the hall to bathe. I got to the tiny bathroom, with the standing tub, to take a hot soak, and of course it sounded nice. But I stood there looking at it, and I decided I would turn around, return to my room, put on my thick wetsuit and go find a wave instead.
A New Line
There wasn’t much swell that morning. And the air and the ocean were frigid. I saw one surfer out in the water, maybe a quarter mile down the coast, and walked briskly towards him, happy to have someone to share the morning with.
There was almost no wind, which was a nice detail, for even though the waves were small, they were very beautiful.
I paddled out, recognizing the surfer as one of the locals who I had made friends with over the previous years. We exchanged ‘good mornings’ and then sat silently watching the horizon. I found that I didn’t have a hunger to catch the little waves, but I found great relief in sitting out in the ocean.
I thought about telling the local surfer about the strange events of the morning, and the loss of a day… but quickly decided that I would rather figure out the mystery on my own. And that it would be best not to tell others of the strange experience. I had a creeping anxiety that perhaps I was losing my mind. Not something unheard of in University life in Japan.
That short surf session would have been unmemorable, short the therapeutic effects of being in the sea, but after forty minutes or so, a fog bank, that looked like it might bring snow with it, slid in from the north, and though my gut feeling was to return to the beach before we were swallowed, the local surfer made no move to flee, and I felt like I would have to wait for a good wave in to show that I was equally brave. I know it sounds childish. But it was my true reaction.
As we were surrounded by the white cloud, sure enough, flakes of snow began spinning around us, and it was eery and at the same time charming.
I had a smile on my face. Convinced that this weekend trip to the coast had been my strangest yet.
When, to my wide eyes, out of the fog came two shapes. Big. Coming from the deep. And at first, I was sure they must be to humans, perhaps on a small boat. And I looked at the other surfer, and he had fear in his eyes. Which made me wonder if I should be scared. And the two forms came closer, fast, and sure enough they looked like two more surfers wearing thick wetsuits and hoods, but as their details came into focus, I gasped. They were creatures.
Both of us, the other surfer and I, recoiled, as our eyes registered the strangeness, and both of us realized in a second that they were large seals, swimming in from the fog, and the big animals must have been equally shocked to see us.
The seals changed direction. And the other surfer and I, spun and paddled hard for the beach. Both of us catching a small wave in. Shoulder to shoulder. Laughing. Relieved that the big seals hadn’t bowled us over.
And we hit the beach together, and walked back towards the buildings laughing and retelling what we had seen, and thought, and assumed. Ghosts, or monsters… we laughed it off, said our farewells and went our separate ways.
I took my wet booties off outside and left them by the door, and made my way quickly to the bathroom to take that hot soak, that sounded better than ever. I chuckled at the experience, and knew that I would return to school that evening a very different person than the one who had left.