Joyland

The Midwest |

Pull Me Under

by Kelly Luce

edited by Bryan Hurt

Excerpted from Kelly Luce’s novel Pull Me Under. Available now from FSG. Order here.


The news of my father’s second and final death arrives by FedEx.

I push open the front door and the smell of Sal’s garlic marinara hits me in the face. “That smells amazing!” I call as I kick off my shoes in the entryway. I’m lucky: my husband gets off work by four o’clock every day and he likes to cook. Sal sticks his head out of the kitchen and waves, a wooden spoon in his mouth. His dark hair’s covered by a blue bandana.

Lily sits on the couch with her skinny legs tucked to her chest, arms folded around her knees. My origami daughter. A long rectangular box lies between her and the curled-up cat. As he’s aged, Bagel’s fur has turned dark brown in spots, causing him to look more like a cinnamon roll every year. He flutters his eyes and goes back to sleep, unimpressed by my return.

“From Japan,” Lily says, freeing her hands and picking up the box. She shakes it the way we do at Christmas and birthdays. “Papers and something long. Like, a ginormous chopstick. Dad wouldn’t let me open it. What’d you order?”
  
My appetite disappears like it’s been vacuumed out.

I sit next to Lily, kiss the top of her peach-scented head. She nuzzles my shoulder. She is eleven, no longer a baby but not yet a young woman, and there’s no middle ground between the two; being eleven means jumping from one state to the other at random. Some days—or moments—we encounter the curious, loving child; others, the surly, apathetic preteen. I take the box from her and, for the first time, find myself wishing for one of her apathetic days.

Red and green labels partially obscure the FedEx logo. The return address is in Japanese. On the packing slip, our address and “Rio Silvestri” appear in block print. I stand, focusing on my name, the markered strokes of which seem to sharpen and rise off the surface of the box. This can’t be right.

I left Japan as Chizuru Akitani. As far as anyone in Japan should know, that is still my name. Chizuru gave up her Japanese citizenship.  Rio Silvestri is the new me, the American. That’s how it works: no one in America knows about Chizuru, no one in Japan knows about Rio.

“Where you going?” Lily asks. I’ve crossed the room to the stairs that lead to our bedrooms. I take the steps two at a time, the box clutched in one hand. Lily yells, “Open it here. I  wanna see!”

I stop and give her a look. “It’s addressed to me.” My tone is sharper than I intend.

She’s about to whine, then her face goes stony. “Lame,” she declares, a word she knows I despise. She turns the television on. “Hey,” Sal calls to her from the kitchen. “Remember what we said about attitude?”

Lily keeps her eyes on the screen, feigning interest in a commercial for male body wash. Normally I’d ask her to acknowledge us, like the parenting books advise. But I can’t do it. I can’t do anything until I know what I’m holding. I speed-walk down the hall to our bedroom.

Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s something else, but I’m not as excitable as I once was. The black organ, soothed into submission by my running, retreated even further once Lily was born. It’s still there, though, and I sense it now, just behind my heart. Sal avoids triggering it, either instinctively or by luck, but Lily’s the opposite; she knows exactly how to piss me off. She also knows that if I have to leave the room while we’re arguing, she’s won. I’m happy to give her those victories. She will never see her mother out of control.

Downstairs, Sal says something to Lily that I can’t hear. A second later he calls, “You stockpiling ninja stars, Ri? I had to sign in three places before the guy would hand that thing over.”

Sal doesn’t know all of me. Maybe this is true of all husbands and wives; surely there are inaccessible places in each of us. Places few would understand, and marriage, I’ve come to believe, is about finding someone who understands the right things without digging up the wrong ones. I’ve kept the promise I made to myself. Sal has never heard of Chizuru Akitani, the girl who snapped.

I lock the door and grab Sal’s beard-trimming scissors from the mug on our dresser. The lightest pressure splits the brown tape sealing the box. Sal sharpens these scissors, along with the kitchen knives, every sixth Sunday. He draws a pointy blade on his calendar to mark the dates.

I lift the flip-top lid, which sucks upward the typed letter lying inside.

A lawyer gives assurance in clumsy English—Mr. Akitani’s suffrage was not lengthy, he died in piece—that it happened quickly. The lawyer manages to get the medical vocabulary right: cardiac arrest. I push out a long breath and sink onto the bed. I’m not in trouble. My father died, that’s all.

I set the letter aside and, from the box, pick up a ten-thousand-yen note folded into a butterfly. I’m surprised he’s hung on to it after all these years.

I lift the butterfly’s wings and let them settle back into place. Hiro didn’t  trust  banks.  This peculiarity,  combined  with  his absentmindedness, meant money all over the house. Once, as a kid, I opened my origami box to find a stack of flat, smooth bills. I folded them into swans and placed them in the low alcove in the living room reserved for sacred objects. For weeks, no one noticed the equivalent of three grand sitting in plain sight. When Our Living National Treasure (in private, my mom and I often referred to him using this preposterous title, which we knew he was secretly proud of) was in a good mood, he might hand me a wad pulled from a sack of rice or the shoe cabinet and say, “Look at this! A kid who’s entertained by money without spending it.” Of course, when I was older, desirous of comic books and gadgets, he never gave me enough to buy more than a sticky bun.

I put the butterfly on top of the lawyer’s letter and turn back to the box. Dividing it diagonally is the object Lily called a chopstick. My father’s violin bow. I run a finger along the smooth Pernambuco wood.

During the periods he was home with us in Tokushima, on break from the orchestra in Tokyo, cleaning the bow was my weekly chore. I’d spend an hour—far more time than necessary— coaxing rosin from between the strands of Mongolian horsetail, polishing the pad and stick. He never said a word when I gave it back, spotless. As his trips grew longer and more frequent, and he began spending full weeks at the Tokyo apartment, I’d some- times leave a bit of wax on purpose, to provoke an interaction.

He got mad at my mom all the time, called his American wife “my Western demon,” but I had to work to get under his skin. If only I could raise his passion the way my mother did! Measured against ambivalence, rage seemed a gift.

What’s he done with the violin? It doesn’t seem right to separate the bow from its instrument.

In New York City, during my second and last childhood trip to the United States, I heard a fat man in a tux refer to my father as a “super-auditor.” Like a chef whose sense of taste is so refined he can detect a dash of paprika in a gallon pot. It was true. Our Living National Treasure (or, more officially, Jūyō Mukei Bunka-zai Hojisha, Preserver of Important Intangible Cultural Properties) was ultrasensitive to sound and heard music in the strangest places: the truck that collected burnable trash on its Thursday dawn rounds, but not the non-burnables truck on Fridays. He heard a backbeat as my mother washed dishes. But he was equally sensitive to that which did not resonate—what he called sazam-eki: the Din. The sound of my pen across a page sent him out of the room, but when my mom wrote, he relaxed. He assigned people musical intervals. Whenever I succeeded in irritating him, he whistled mine: the tritone, or “devil’s interval,” that sonic argument one heard from an ambulance. The space between those notes, he said, had driven men to fight, to ravage, to kill. Mine was the interval that could start a war.

There’s  a  sheet  of  notebook  paper  at  the  bottom  of  the box. Japanese writing covers the page. My father’s tiny, precise lettering.

Thanks to YouTube, I know I can still understand spoken Japanese well. But my ability to read kanji is gone. Even the third-grade level I left Kawano with has likely deteriorated from lack of use.

I stare at the page, willing the language to let me in. What is he trying to tell me? I have no idea how he’s spent the last twenty years. I scan the letter but can only pick out a few characters— there are “ten,” and “tree.” And the one for “west” that looks like a bottle, and the name of our prefecture, Tokushima, and the crossed pitchfork, shi, that means “city.” My father’s voice echoes in my head: You are Japanese. You must learn to read and write kanji like a Japanese; not carelessly, like your mother.

Even in death, the man finds a way to point out my deficiencies.

I can’t  read  his  message,  but  really,  it  doesn’t  matter  what the  letter  says.  Even  if  it’s  a  reproach—he  reached  out. Sent something.

Bow, butterfly, letter. This, according to the lawyer, is my inheritance. I can touch these objects, smell them, throw them at the wall. These things handed down have weight and shape. Fragility. My knee can crack this bow. The money will burn. So will the letter.

A state ceremony honoring my father will be held in Tokyo tomorrow. A more intimate funeral service and celebration of life, organized by his friend Leonardo Verutti, will be held in a week in the small city on Shikoku where I grew up, allowing mourners outside Japan time to make travel arrangements. The details of time and place are included along with a map of Tokushima Prefecture. I stare at the lines that represent roads and highways of my childhood, but cannot connect them to my first home just as I cannot make meaning out of my father’s note. I’ve accomplished the goal that drove me for years: leaving that life behind.

But I don’t feel proud. In our Pier 1 bedroom, surrounded by proof of my success, I feel like someone’s pointed out a hole in my favorite sweater. I feel like what I am: a thirty-eight-year-old mother and wife with a retirement fund and a house in the suburbs and a Volvo. My life has been built for safety.

But it has to be like this. I know how it feels to be left, to  be thought worse than worthless. No one I love will ever feel that way.

Three times, I’ve come close to telling Sal the truth about my past. The first was after finishing my first marathon, the Boulder Backroads. It was the race’s inaugural year, and in commemoration, they promised any first-time marathoner a pinecone necklace when they crossed the finish line. I hit a wall at mile twenty- one, and didn’t think I’d be able to make it. My legs felt like they were made of wet sand. My thighs and nipples were chafed raw. My feet, I was sure, would look like pieces of pounded meat when I took off my shoes. But I thought of that dirt yard at Kawano, of the fence that kept us inside; I thought of how I already knew how to separate my mind from my body, and I kept moving. A group of bagpipers serenaded runners along the last quarter mile, and the crowd was buzzed and rowdy. It felt like a welcome-home party.

Sal and I had only been dating a few weeks. He was there at the finish line despite the day’s heavy rain. I fell into his arms, crushing the pinecones between us, and he put a raincoat around my shoulders, pulled up the hood, wiped the water and sweat from my face. The bagpipes sang of mourning and joy. I looked up at Sal and felt something cave in my chest. But when I breathed in to speak, I couldn’t gather the air. The moment passed.

The second time was the night before our wedding, the third when I found out I was pregnant. Each time, I psyched myself up. “There’s something I need to tell you about myself,” I’d rehearse. “When I was twelve...” But no matter how much I prepared, I could never bring myself to start, and I’d retreat into frustrated, shamed silence.



I walk down the stairs, counting the rhythm of thumps and creaks. One, two, creak, four, five, six, seven, squeak, creak, nine, ten, big creak, twelve, floor. “My dad died,” I say.

Lily’s eyes leave the TV.

Sal comes out of the kitchen, asks me to repeat myself. He hugs me tight. He knows my relationship with my father was strained, that I haven’t spoken to him since I was a teenager. But he also knows that right now, this doesn’t matter.

Lily asks, “My grandpa? The one in Japan?”

“That’s  right,  sweetie.  That’s  what  the  box  was  about.  His lawyer sent me some papers and things.” I hold out an arm and she comes to me.

“Did the lawyer send his chopsticks?”

I laugh. “That was his violin bow. You know he played, right?” Last year, Lily went through a guitar-playing phase, and I  briefly  wondered  if  she’d  inherited  her  grandfather’s  musical ability. But she didn’t like practicing scales and complained that playing a song wasn’t nearly as fun as listening to it. I identified completely and was so relieved, I let her quit sooner than I probably should’ve.

“How’d he die?” she asks. “His heart stopped.”

“Why?”

It’s a good question. He was only sixty-four. “I don’t know.”

“Is there anything we need to do?” Sal asks. “Clean out the house, meet with his lawyer?” He doesn’t know everything, but he does know I’m the only child, that my mother is long dead. And I know he’s not going to be happy about the idea whipping up like a summer storm in my head.

I can go. I want to go. Alone.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s much for me to do.” I add, “But I think it would be good to attend the service.”

“We can pull Lily from camp, I guess. I don’t know if they give refunds this close—”

I feel Lily stiffen under my arm. “No,” I say. “I’ll go alone.” Sal’s surprised. “Why wouldn’t—”

“It’s too expensive to fly us all there on short notice, and Lil would flip if she had to miss Reel Girls. Right?” I give her a squeeze and she nods. We’ve already paid for this two-week camp in L.A. that promises to turn young women into the next generation of movie directors. It will be her first sleepaway camp. When we told her she could go, she leapt around the living room, sang “Let’s Go to the Movies” to the cat. For days afterward Sal and I received spontaneous hugs. I was proud of her bravery, proud of us for raising a kid who wasn’t afraid of new experiences, new people. When I was Lily’s age, I was kept inside a locked room inside a locked building inside a barbed wire fence. Which was, I believed, where I belonged.

Sal brings up the idea of a family trip to Japan every couple of years. He’s curious about the place—in his mind, it’s all temples and bamboo and untamed neon. And he thinks Lily should see where her mother grew up.

It’s not that I haven’t thought about returning. I have Japan dreams in which I remember nothing visual or narrative—I just wake up with a sense of having been there. More specifically, having been there, running. Never toward nor away from anything I can identify—more like a sense of movement, of . . . covering ground. And I am curious: about how Japan has changed, how I have. What would Lily think of it? But every time Sal mentions going, I brush off the idea. It’s so expensive. I don’t know who we’ d visit. Lily’s not old enough to enjoy it. It’s crowded. It’s the World Cup/Obon holiday/New Year’s and a terrible time to travel.

The real reasons are too big, too private. I might’ve run into my father. Yes, the chances were tiny, but it was still possible. He’d surely say something awful. Or maybe they’d connect my new name with my old one and turn me away at the airport, revealing my status—unwelcome, unwanted—to my husband and daughter. I might lose control, unable to face the memories. I’d have to explain everything. It wasn’t worth the risk.

But now—now I can dip in a toe. The sentinel, Our (no longer!) Living National Treasure, is gone. The guard’s left his post.

Sal nods toward the TV. “Lil, go finish your show, honey.”

So far, Lily has been too young to care about where we vacation. Our summer trips to Chicago and her beloved North Avenue Beach thrill her. Other than the movie My Neighbor Totoro, which she loved as a little girl (and still does), she’s shown no curiosity about Japan, or any foreign country. Still, I worry about what will happen when she gets interested. I don’t want to keep Japan from her, or from Sal. It’s only who I was in Japan that needs to stay secret.

I follow Sal toward the kitchen, past the puzzle table. The pieces on it are in a day-one array, separated into preassembly piles by type: edge, boot, perfect, different, and the uncategorizable ones Sal calls “Lily pieces.” When I first met Sal, I assumed this taxonomy was universal. I’d only done a few puzzles in my life, and none as large as the ones Sal liked to pore over on weekends or while watching a movie. It wasn’t until Lily came home from  a  friend’s  house  complaining  that  the  girl  didn’t  even know what a boot piece was that I realized this was Sal’s private language.

In the kitchen, Sal leans against the tile counter. I know what he’s going to say. “Why don’t you want me to come?”

Bringing him with me would start a series of questions, beginning with Why doesn’t anyone at this funeral recognize you? “It’ll be easier to deal with it alone,” I say. “Anyway, I don’t want a funeral to be your first impression of Japan.”

“Husbands go to their wives’ dads’ funerals. You need someone there for you.”

Sal prides himself on being a Good Husband, a bona fide family man. I usually love this about him. But not always. A few weeks ago, a planned community opened on the western edge of Boulder, near us—Tuscany Terrace, it’s called. The streets have names like Chianti Circle and Gondola Way; two golden “T’s” are intertwined on the wrought-iron gate at the entrance. Sal mentioned offhandedly that it’d be an ideal place for a small (“but maybe growing?”) family like us to live, “just, you know, hypothetically.” Think of all the new appliances they stock those houses with; imagine a stainless steel fridge and stove, he said. Granite countertops! His interest in such a phony place annoyed me. I told him you can’t buy into the neighborhood of perfect lives. He laughed. That night in bed I imagined my body as a subdivision. Here was the community gym, here the in-ground pool. The girl who killed Tomoya Yu. Nurse. Wife. Mom.

“You are there for me.” I gesture at the kitchen island, where the huge wooden salad bowl, brimming with spinach and diced tomatoes, sits awaiting Sal’s famous blueberry-mint vinaigrette. Every napkin in the house bears a stain from this dressing, and it’s the only stain that doesn’t bother me. Lily has adored Sal’s “blue stew” since she was a baby. Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts— she’d eat anything doused in it. Against our advice, she once put it on a stack of pancakes and ate the whole thing. I look forward to the day she admits how gross that was.

“You don’t need to make a snap decision,” Sal says. “This isn’t the hospital.”

“I happen to be able to make a choice without debating every single option, making a pros and cons list, and checking a million websites,” I tease. But it doesn’t go over as teasing. I touch his arm. “C’mon. I know how I feel. It’s not snap. It’s efficient.”

He gives me a pointed look. “If you go without me, we’ll miss this month.”

Sal’s wanted a second child for years. He joked about how if we had another one (in his examples it’s always a boy) we’d only be point-five kids and a picket fence away from the American dream. Two months ago he told me that if we didn’t start trying soon, he’d seriously regret it. So we did. Or at least, he thinks we did.

“I know. But it’s only one month.”

From the living room, Lily calls, “When are we eating?”

Sal grabs two forks and starts tossing the salad. Pieces of spinach fly out of the bowl. He doesn’t look at me. I pick up the spinach that’s fallen on the floor but he keeps going, sending more leaves flying.

“Are you even okay?” he asks.

I wish it didn’t have to be this way. I wish I could tell him.

But you can’t have everything.

“I’m fine,” I say as Lily comes into the kitchen. “Really, truly fine.”



I come down to the computer after bedtime, sidle carefully past the puzzle table.

The new puzzle is a Springbok, as usual. Sal doesn’t bring his hand-cut jigsaws home unless he’s testing the difficulty level or there’s been a mistake in the cutting. And Springboks are to him like eating a Hershey’s bar even though you’re an adult and have access to Godiva. They were his first love. He did these puzzles with his dad, who did them with his dad, and so on, all the way back to the Depression, when puzzles were a form of cheap, recyclable entertainment. At  Sal’s  parents’  place  in  Little  Italy, there’s a picture of Sal’s great-granddad and a bunch of young men doing a puzzle on the front stoop of the Taylor Street apartment. Sal’s dad swears that one of the men is Al Capone. To Sal, a place doesn’t feel like home until it contains a card table with a half-done jigsaw puzzle on it.

I sit down and run a search for plane tickets. The screen fills with options. I can leave tomorrow if I want; I haven’t taken a sick day in five years—Sal stays home with Lily if she’s too sick for school—so I’ve got weeks of vacation time stockpiled. Two days from now, I could be in Japan. It makes no sense. There should be a spike-covered wall to scale.

My passport’s in the metal box in the bottom drawer of the desk. I flip open its stiff blue cover. The photo was taken eight years ago at Walgreens in preparation for our first and only international family trip, to Cancún. My skin is unlined and my forehead shines. I’ve forgotten: my skin used to be oily. Now, if I don’t slather on Oil of Olay, my face feels like a mask about to crack.

I’m getting older. Thirty-nine in September. And I want Sal to be happy, so I made a show of throwing out my birth control pills. He got choked up and for a minute I considered leaving the pills in the trash. But I didn’t. Instead I remembered how awful it had been to run pregnant, how the morning sickness had kept me from exercising at all some days, and how after the first trimester, when the nausea finally faded, I’d had to wear an adult diaper under my sweats because I had to pee so much, often uncontrollably. Add to that the sheer commitment required and—I just need a little more time. Space to think. This trip can do that for me.

There’s a creak at the top of the staircase. Lily. “Mom?” she says. “How come you’re not sad?”

I meet her on the stairs. “Sweetie, I am sad.” I lead her to her room. “It’s been a long time since I saw your grandpa. I guess I’m thinking about being a little girl, spending good times with him. I’m happy for those memories.”

I tuck her in and sit beside her on the bed. Bagel’s in his usual position, spread-eagle on his back next to her pillow. He’s slept with her since he was a kitten and Lily got her first big-girl bed.

She bites her lip, an old habit. Even as a baby, she fought tears. I touch the corner of her mouth and she relaxes.

“Is Daddy gonna die?”

“Oh, Lil. My dad was old and sick. Your dad is healthy and will live a long, long time. He’ll still be around, bugging you, when you’re as old as me.”

“I’ll never be that old,” she says, grinning. I tickle her feet, grateful for my sweet, healthy kid, grateful she has a father who would never let anything take him out of her life.

When Sal and I started dating, I sensed he saw something in me that wasn’t there. But eventually his belief overrode my knowledge and I became a cheerier, more carefree person. He seemed to be presenting a role and offering me the part. No doubt our attraction was real; I loved that he could pick me up and carry me, loved how passionate he got when he talked about building things, different types of wood, the miracle of laser cutters. We laughed at the same TV shows, liked the same bands. “I want to create something good,” he told me on our third date. We were at Gino’s, a pizza place where the chefs tossed dough into the air and the wine came in carafes. We still eat there. “Normal. Happy. Quiet.” That was the night I fell for him, and the first time we had sex. I told him I wanted the same things he did. I felt like I was getting away with something, and said so when the wine was gone. Sal replied that that was what happiness felt like.

I let go of Lily’s feet. She starts to bite her lip again, stops herself. She’s wondering about something. “I’m sorry I said ‘lame.’ ”

I plant a loud kiss on her forehead. “Thank you, Lil. That makes me feel good. I love you so much, you know that?”

“I know.” She begins to hum softly, a seemingly random tune. She has always been an unconscious hummer when she feels safe and content.

I back out of her room, pulling the door almost, but not completely, shut. She likes it that way and I do, too. That sliver between the door and the frame seems to grow narrower every week. Soon she’ll be closing the door, making use of the lock.

A couple of years ago, I was training for the longest race of my life, a sixty-kilometer ultramarathon. I’d drive to Wyoming, stay overnight, to run it. The course was up in the Bighorns, and I wanted to train as often as I could at elevation beforehand, so I started a routine in which I’d go up to the summit at Pikes Peak and train for a long morning on both of my days off. This was a Saturday, one of my last workouts before the race. I was nervous about  my  performance at  elevation—I  didn’t  think  my  lungs were there yet—and eager to push myself. The night before, Lily had gone to her first sleepover. The two other girls involved were friends she’d known since kindergarten, and because she’d begged me for months to allow it, I was fairly sure there would be no middle-of-the-night call. And yet there we were: 5:00 a.m., hoodie zipped, New Balances double-knotted, Sal sipping coffee on his way to the studio to accept a shipment. The phone rang.

“Mommy, can I come home?” I hardly recognized Lily’s voice. I put her on speaker. Sal set his coffee down.

“Of course,” I said, shifting my weight. My calves felt itchy. I wanted to run badly. “Dad can be there in ten minutes.”

She sniffled. “I want you.”

I looked down at my leg. It was bouncing. I put a hand on it and forced it to stop. “I’m about to go out for a run, sweetie. I’ll see you in a couple hours, when I get back.”

She burst into tears. “You’re always going for a run! It’s not fair! Why do you always have to go for a run when I need you?”

Sal’s eyes were wide. We both knew she was exaggerating; she was emotional and probably hadn’t slept all night. She was clearly being unreasonable. And yet he was watching me curiously. He wanted to see what I was going to do. Which I would choose: running or my daughter.

But it wasn’t a choice about that, really. Was it? Reality split for a moment; I was two equally rational people in one. Of course Sal could pick up Lily; he’d comfort her, put her to bed, and she’d sleep until noon. I’d return while she was still dead to the world. But then there was the me of this moment. Lily wanted me to prove something. I didn’t like that. I had done everything for her, would do anything still, and I believed she knew that. At least, that’s what I told myself when I said, “Ten minutes, Lil. Daddy’s on his way.”

Sal did not react. He just looked at me. “She’s testing you,” he finally said.

“Sure is.” I grabbed my water bottle and purse.

“But if you were about to do anything other than training, you’d be going to get her right now.”

He was right. I would have gone any other time, even if it had meant I’d be late for work.

I glance back at Lily’s door. She hasn’t had a problem with sleepovers in years. So quickly, it’s gone from I need you to Please, just one more hour at Dahlia’s?

The glow from the computer illuminates a corner of the living room. A beacon.

The website wants to know: one-way or round-trip? A one-way ticket, that open-ended dream, brought me to the U.S. nineteen years ago. But it’s not for me now. I need a day for travel and rest, one for the funeral, a few to get out and run. Yet five days doesn’t seem like enough time.

I open a new tab. Hiro Akitani’s Wikipedia page was updated with the information about his death immediately upon its announcement.


Little is known about Akitani’s personal life. Rumors that he was the father of Chizuru A., the 12-year-old girl who stabbed a classmate to death in 1988, appear to be unfounded.[3][18] Throughout his life, tabloids tried to link Akitani romantically to many women without success.[5][11][12] Other evidence suggests he was possibly homosexual.[citation needed]
 


This last sentence is new, though forms of it have shown up before. The changes were made eight hours ago from the IP address 133.65.88.26. Undocumented claims show up all the time on his page. Two years ago, someone modified his bio to say that Hiro Akitani actually had died during his childhood illness, and been replaced by an alien impostor.

Edit this page. Click. Your edits will be attributed to SalSilvestri1974.

Let’s see what the truth looks like. Hiro Akitani is partially responsible for the death of his wife, Elena Akitani (née Brown), in 1988, and is survived by his daughter, Rio, whom he abandoned in a detention center when she was 12, and a granddaughter, Lily, whom he never met.

I close the tab without submitting the changes.

On the JAL webpage, I type in our credit card number. It’s so easy. Those sixteen digits and a box containing a few mementos are all I need. Denver, LAX, Osaka. I’ll stay a full week, pay the change fee if that ends up being too long. My finger hovers a second before I click “Purchase.” I imagine my father standing behind me, cradling his cracked turquoise tea mug. He’s laughing at me because I waited until he was dead to face his beloved Japan—to face him. I hate that I care enough to conjure him.

I know I  shouldn’t: it’s been so long since the door between us hung open.

Still. There’s something in his letter, the bow, that butterfly. An invitation. Even after years of estrangement, the old beast has raised its head and whispered, Come.