I long to step out into the frigid night of Hokkaido, where untouched snowflakes line the roofs of sloping gazebos and sky-high apartments. Juxtaposed between the ancient and the novel, I stare up at the night sky dotted with white specks and backlit illuminations of a sun bidding adieu. In my ears echoes the harmony of the piano’s adagio and the strikes of the bow, a rendition of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. It isn’t quite the day yet, but right now, I feel as if everything should and will be celebrated. It has been a long year, a grueling march accelerated into the terrifying unknown. So tonight, I feel ever so tightly embraced by the serenity, her whispered reassurances melting away my worries, akin to a candle wax traveling down the base of the chandelier so the wick may burn brighter.
I think back to the time when I first heard this song in a nondescript sushi restaurant as a nine-year old child, only a few months into my new home away from home in White Rock. It was just my mother and I there, unfathomably far away from everything I had ever known in life up to that point. I relished at the novelty, but perhaps hearing the oriental undertones of Mr. Sakamoto provided solace to a fearful child who just didn’t know any better.
In between these two points of the past and the future, I sit here in the ennui of my suburban bunker, penning words of an event that is too late to rectify and one that is too early to secure. Only those who have been trapped amongst the two planes of time can truly appreciate the comfort offered by pixels of letters being typed across the screen.
With words, I transcend the boundaries of time. I float in the ether, where everything “is” and “can” and “will.”
I close my eyes once again to return back to that snowy night, where I now have tears running down my cheeks. They freeze and pierce my skin, which makes me feel all the more present. I smile at the irony — I always imagined my jubilation would arise from monumental moments. But here I was, surrounded by the deafening silence of the sleepy town, interrupted by the crisp crunches of the foot. It was the sublime.
When they wished Merry Christmas to Mr. Lawrence, did they know it would be their last time?
I reminisce about my grandfather who passed away. I realized I never got to wish him a Merry Christmas. I never got to appreciate the temporality of our mortality, a mere blot in the book of our universe. His last words were inscribed many pages ago, but I had skimmed over them, foolishly thinking I could flip back at my own whim anytime. But the inscriptions had faded away into the void, and no penmanship could dare to restore the vestiges of ink.
Did he ever dream of walking along the snowy streets of Hokkaido, ruminating in sonder as he looked at the lights scintillating the windows of each home? Did he dream of listening to an unforgettable melody in the exact spot where he dreamed of being, day and night, while toiling away in the present? Perhaps it’s better that I will never get to know — every being deserves the secrecy to their most intimate desire.
But still, grandpa, if you want to rewrite those words onto a new sheet of paper so that I may still absorb them, even if it will truly be the last time, you know where to find me. You may just have been another flicker of light against the monumental backdrop of humanity, but from that flicker arose a flame that radiated across the stories of many. And for that, we are forever grateful.
Merry Christmas, grandpa. May your rest be eternally blanketed in soft snow and nostalgic melodies.