After the Earthquake


I have come to visit my mother. She has been ailing for months. And now this. The big earthquake has almost destroyed my home town. Luckily the tsunami did not reach to the prefecture that far inland. There were even reports of my hometown on all the TV channels. The town was not near the epicentre but close enough to destroy all those traditional houses we love so much.

 I tried to get leave but the boss would not let me go straight away.

‘The stock market is precarious,’ he said, ‘the impact of the disaster can destroy my business too. I need you here more than your mother does. Someone will take care of her.’

Luckily I had a call from my cousin, on the mobile. Mother had survived and was being cared for by good neighbours whose house was still livable. It is weekend now and I finally got away. The trains are not running yet and the main road has been cleared of debris and fallen trees. I took the car as far as I could, but for the rest, I have to walk. Even though the destruction of the place seems to be total I’m surprised how people can be so sanguine despite of it. Some who recognised me greeted me with a friendly, cheery ‘Hello’. They have experienced earthquakes before. It comes with the territory, so to speak. But it is bitter cold. Ah, well, there is enough wood laying in the streets to keep the wood stoves burning.

 As I climb over debris I can see some people use their push bikes to navigate the roads. It is amazing how quickly we fall back on trusted means when modern technology is not available any more. As I try to negotiate my way through the rubble I can see the green hills in the distance. Good to see them. There is some permanence and that is reassuring. We cling to the familiar during changed circumstances such as this earthquake.

I reach the neighbour’s house. It is leaning a bit, but still standing. Our family home across the road has been flattened. I wonder how mother was able to escape without injury. After my knock on the door a young woman opens the door.

„Aika?“, I ask. She nods, blushes and bows slightly. I haven’t seen the girl from across the road for years. She has blossomed into a beautiful young woman. When she recognises me she turns her head and calls into the house with the chirping voice of a bird in a cherry tree,

‘Mrs Fokuda, you have a visitor!’ And from the inside I’m able to hear my mother’s voice,

‘Is it my boy?’

I know I’m home again, because where mother is, there is home. Aika smiles at me. I’m so thankful to her and I feel the love, she showed to mother, is flowing towards me.

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