A Woman's Tale (I)
Let Me Love Again (Chapter 2)
Since the priest left her in Tokyo and moved to Nagasaki, she had been grieving deeply. Just thinking of him made her feel as if her heart were broken into pieces. This was a new experience for her. She was young and had never been seriously in love. She could have never imagined loving someone and that love could not be reciprocated would make her suffer to the point that she had many sleepless nights.
"If I knew that falling in love brings so much pain, I would have never loved anyone. How can I stop having a broken heart from now on? If I do not have a heart, I do not have to go through all this. Then why not sell my soul to the devil? Then I cannot be in love, nor no one can love me. Devil, do you really exist in this world? If you do, please take my heart ache away! In return, I promise to sell my soul to you!"
She pleaded to the devil.
A few months passed. When she finally felt that she could refocus on her work and her school, a new man appeared in her life. With him, she felt her suffering was wrapped in a blanket and dissipated. His gentle manners gradually healed her broken heart. She began to feel alive again.
The man was slightly older and worked at the same company. Not only did his colleagues trust him, but he also had a bright future at the company. Being with this man, she felt the pain melt away little by little, so did the memories she had with the man in the black robe. Each time she went on a date with him in Tokyo, her love for him grew - the love that she thought she had locked away. She began to fall in love again! She had forgotten her foolish promise to the devil...
I cried endlessly because of the agony I felt when you left me with a broken heart.
But the beginning of today, that would change because I’m saying goodbye to both my sorrows and tears.
Cause I sold my soul to the devil.
Cause I sold my soul to the devil.
From now on, I won't love anyone, I can't love anyone anymore.
From now on, I won't love anyone, I won’t be loved by anyone anymore.
But from the moment I met you, you captured my heart.
Forgetting my promise to the devil, I just want to love you.
So, please return my soul back to me.
So, please return my soul back to me.
I want to love again. You are the one I want to love.
I want to be loved again. You are the one, I want to be loved.
But the question of "Why was I born into this world?" remained in her mind. And it still tormented her while she was dating her new man. While she was still struggling to find the answer, she was invited to participate in a retreat held in Kamakura. That was where she had an opportunity to listen to a lecture by a priest from Montreal. Father Rogé had been living in Japan more than a decade, so he could speak Japanese and knew its culture quite well. The topic of the retreat was, "As a human being, what choice should we make to live our life fully?" The lecture was so impressive that she listened intently to his every word. And in the end of the lecture, the priest said,
"You are still young, and the future is something you make for yourself. Go and see the world! “
(Note: The details of Father Roge's memorable lecture are described in an essay called "Mt. Saint-Michel.")
Deeply influenced by the words of Father Rogé, she decided to have an extended trip to Europe. She felt that being alone and searching for herself could help her find the answer to the question that had been tormenting her. But such extreme behavior, taking initiative to travel alone in foreign countries, was rare for a young Japanese woman at that time. Her parents warned her that it would be extremely dangerous. But they also knew that her decision would not be changed easily. So, they eventually agreed to see her off. The time came to tell her new love about her adventure. At first, he was a little hesitant, but, in the end, he encouraged her and said,
"If that is what you really want, you should go."
Those words made her appreciate him and love him even more. She promised to marry him when she returned to Japan.
Soon she began to plan her journey to Europe. She first checked how much she could afford to spend on her new adventure. She had been saving half of her salary over two years after graduating high school, but she knew it would not cover all the expense of the trip. Thankfully, her parents pitched in for a part of her expense. The money from her parents was originally going to be spent to purchase an expensive kimono for her in January following year. This was because in Japan, every youngster who became 20 years old was invited to a “Becoming Adult” celebration held by the province. Most of the invitees would attend the celebration wearing the most expensive clothing they could afford. When her parents offered to purchase a kimono for this special celebration, she told her parents that she would prefer to spend it for travel rather than the kimono which she may only wear once in her life. To dress their daughter in an expensive kimono for this special celebration in January was every parent’s dream. But her parents understood their daughter’s reasoning. She did manage to wear a beautiful kimono the following January by borrowing her older sister’s, which pleased her parents very much.
When she visited a travel agent, she found it was easier than she thought to find a suitable trip for her. Because that summer, an inexpensive group tour via Siberia was becoming increasingly popular among young people in Japan. This week-long tour was not only affordable for her, but also it would benefit her tremendously because she could experience various types of travels at once. It included a cruise, a train ride, and even a couple of flights which covered most of the distance from Japan to Sweden. She had never flown before. It would help her to familiarize herself with the procedures before travelling alone. She also purchased a Eurail Pass to avoid the hassle of buying train tickets in European countries. The pass could be used on any country in Western Europe without a reservation. Then she bought a book called "Europe ($5 a Day)" and learned how to travel in Europe spending as little as possible so she could stay longer there.
In the spring of 1970, shortly before she was to take the trip, the World Expo was held in Osaka, Japan. To have some memories together, her new love suggested visiting the Expo and spending a weekend together. His hidden intention was to find out how serious she felt about him before she left for Europe. Not knowing his intention, she agreed to go to the event with him.
At the Expo site, there were various exhibitions and cuisines from many countries around the world. They visited as many as they could that day. Then in the late afternoon, they arrived at the famous Tower of the Sun which was a tall white sculpture accented by two red lines along the side. A face of the sun was placed in the middle, and it had two arms stretched as if they were two wings. There was an outdoor stage set in front of the Tower of the Sun and many people gathered around to see the stage shows. With so many non-Japanese people around her, she felt as if she were already in a foreign country. At the end of the stage show, a dozen of the tall women dressed in colorful costumes began to dance. Some had blond hair and blue eyes, others had brown hair with dark eyes. She thought they were like the entertainers from Las Vegas shows as their figures and costumes were so gorgeous. In the end of the stage show, they began to sing,
"Goodbye, goodbye, it's so good to see you.
Goodbye, goodbye, it's so good to see you.
Goodbye, goodbye, good luck to you forever and ever
Goodbye, goodbye, good luck to you forever and ever."
They were singing in a beautiful harmony in Japanese. The melody was so simple and memorable, she could sing it even after so many years had passed.
A few weeks after visiting the Expo, she resigned from her job, moved out of her apartment, and sent all her belongings to her parents’ house. Then she packed all the necessities into a large backpack which was about half the size of her body. She was ready for the trip of her life.
The day that would change her life forever finally arrived. One early sunny morning in August, she met her love in Tokyo and set off together to Yokohama harbor. After her boarding procedure was done, they walked together to the dock where the ship was leaving. All the while they said silly things to hide the anxiety they had – after all, they may never see each other again.
As they approached the Russian cruise ship Baikal, they saw people at the dock. Among them, she saw her parents and friends in the distance. She anxiously asked her love if she could introduce him to her parents and friends before he left the port. He stopped walking and thought about it for a while. But he decided that it was not the time to see them yet. Then he took her in his arms and embraced her tightly, and said,
"I will wait for you..."
He then turned around and walked away without looking back. As if he knew that this was the last time, he would see her.
When she approached the cruise ship, the people who came to send her off spotted her and rushed toward her. They immediately surrounded her excitedly. When her friends learned more about her adventure and found that she did not purchase the return ticket to Japan, they were amazed. They were having such a pleasant conversation, but it was time for her to board the ship. Then, with the giant ship Baikal in front of her, she boarded the ship, telling herself that she was about to leave Japan and take on the challenge of traveling the world. When she got on the ship, she made sure that her luggage was already in a small quadruple cabin near the bottom of the ship. Then she walked narrow stairs back to the deck where she could look down to the dock. She tossed a dozen pale and colorful paper tapes that had been given to her on the deck. She threw them towards her family and friends who were anxiously waiting for her to appear on the deck. When the tapes reached everyone’s hand, a farewell song started to play in the distance. The Baikal then blew a few loud whistles and slowly left the port of Yokohama as if it was longing to stay there.
As the ship began to set sail, each piece of tape began to rip, first swaying in the breeze as it slowly fell into the sea. Then the surface of the sea between the ship and the harbor was covered with colorful pale colored tapes. Realizing that the final moment was coming, she turned the attention to her parents. Beside her father, who was staring at her intently, she saw her mother taking out a handkerchief from the bosom of her kimono and wiping her eyes repeatedly. When she saw the scene, she wanted to cry with her mother, but she fought back tears. Then she feigned a smile and continued to wave her arms until her parents and friends were out of her sight.
The Baikal departed Yokohama smoothly. Its plan was to sail along the Hokuriku to Nakhodka, Russia, across the Tsugaru Strait. An hour after leaving Yokohama, it was time for lunch, so she and three girls in the same cabin decided to go to a restaurant. Everyone had not eaten anything since early in the morning, so they ate soup and sandwiches until they could not eat anymore. But in the afternoon, suddenly the calm sea became rough, and the ship began to sway side to side. The girls, who had never been on a cruise ship before, suffered from seasickness all night and missed the dinner. Having too much food during lunchtime did not help them either. But by late afternoon next day, the high waves had calmed down, and they decided to go for dinner together again. It was the night before arriving at the last port, so it would be a formal dinner. She changed from jeans to a navy-blue lace mini dress, wore the same navy-blue lace ribbon on her long hair, put on makeup, and excitedly went to the restaurant with the other girls.
At the entrance of the restaurant, they were met by a host dressed in formal attire. When they were escorted to their table, they were surprised to see that the atmosphere of the casual restaurant they saw the day before was completely transformed. Elegant decorations, crystal wine glasses on pure white tablecloths, silver knives, forks, spoons, etc. were illuminated by the light from the chandelier to create a luxurious atmosphere.
The name of the waitress who took care of their table was Nadja. She was a young Russian woman, who was in mid-twenties with blond hair. She was rather plump and reminded her of an outer layer of the matryoshka doll (a type of Russian souvenir, a colorful doll in which several smaller dolls were placed inside).
Nadja tactfully poured water and wine into crystal glasses, and then brought Russian dark sour bread and rolls that were elegantly arranged in a basket. Then she served an appetizer, which consisted of black caviar. Followed by borscht soup, salad and the main dishes which were fish and beef stew. Even desserts were brought in. They ate until they could not eat any more. Such an elegant dinner lasted for an hour and a half. During that time, the girls managed to communicate with Nadja by hand signals and simple English. By the time, the dinner was over, the girls and the waitress began to feel close to each other.
That night, a farewell party was held on the dance floor. The girls were curious and decided to join the party right after dinner. As every guest dressed formally that night, it was hard to believe that they were the same people the girls passed by on the deck during the day. At first, the group of Japanese tourists were very shy as they were surrounded by many foreigners. But by the time the dance floor was lit by the crystal ball, which scattered the colorful lights on the floor, they were relaxed enough to join the dance. Most of the Japanese tourists had never learned how to dance properly, all they could do was “twist”, which was becoming extremely popular around that time. But in the end, someone suggested forming a large circle including everyone in the dance hall. The laughter of guests melted into the loud music. It was like a dream. Everything she experienced that night was brand new to her.
After they left the party, they decided to cool off from dancing before returning to the cabin. So, they went out to the deck and tried to catch some fresh air for a while. When they looked over the sea, the waves that were creating all sorts of problems previous night were very calm and reflecting moonlight. When they looked up, the sky was filled with bright stars that were shining like jewels. The girls leaned against the railing, while feeling very content gazing at such a beautiful scene.
When they decided to go back to their cabin, they heard footsteps from inside the hallway. They looked toward the door and found a familiar face. It was Nadja who just finished working at the restaurant, and she was heading back towards her sleeping quarter. The girls were delighted to see her as if they saw an old friend. After chatting for a while on the deck, they invited her to visit their cabin. Five girls occupied the small space and began to talk. Human beings are such interesting creatures. Even if they do not speak the same language, if they trust each other, they can have so much fun together. After spending a half hour or so chatting, the girls gave Nadja small Japanese gifts to show their appreciation. With excitement, Nadja gave every girl a sincere hug. When it came to her turn to be embraced by Nadja, she felt as if she could just melt into her large bosom.
But when they arrived in Nakhodka the next afternoon, it was a different matter. As soon as the Baikal arrived at the port, the entry procedures for Russia were conducted on board rather than off the ship. With loud footsteps, a few inspectors wearing long dark green coats and hats rushed into the girls’ cabin. On their shoulder, they were carrying a rifle. With a stern expression and voice, they asked the girls for passports and other documents. It was just like a movie – two guards with rifles hauling all prisoners from a small prison just before their execution. The girls froze and became scared not knowing what to do next. The inspectors rudely took each girl’s documents while suspiciously looking at them. But as soon as the inspectors found that all the papers were in order, they quickly disappeared into the next cabin.
That night, the tour group boarded the Nakhodka night train. Again, sumptuous Russian food on a white tablecloth was served for dinner. She looked out from the window of the train and saw a sunset covering the endless horizon. A sight she had never seen in Japan. The next morning, the train arrived at Khabarovsk. Without any sightseeing there, they got on a plane which took them to Moscow.
In a crowded plane from Khabarovsk to Moscow, she met two young Russian soldiers who sat right beside her. Again, not understanding each other’s language, she had to use hand signals to communicate with them. In some cases, they called a flight attendant to interpret their conversations. As they spent more than 8 hours together on the flight, they eventually managed to understand each other without an interpreter. They even began to sing Russian songs such as “Katyusha” and “Working Song” which were familiar in Japan. The people around them were delighted and joined them in their singing in their own languages. It was almost like a big party on the plane. Everyone seemed to enjoy being there.
Eight hours passed sooner than they expected, and the plane was about to arrive in Moscow. As she and the soldiers had such a wonderful time together, they decided to exchange each other’s addresses. She wrote her home address on the soldier’s notebook, and the soldier sitting next to her did the same on hers. Suddenly, the face of the soldier who was sitting two seats away from her became very stern and he leaned over to reach her. Then he snatched her notebook away and tore off the page where the soldier next to her had just written his address. Then he ripped it into small pieces and stuffed them into his pocket. When he returned her notebook with the page missing, she was stunned. She did not know what to say or how to react. No one had ever done such a thing to her before. She even became fearful anticipating what was going to happen next. Then she remembered the travel agent's advice before she got on the Russian cruise ship. According to him, there were cases in the past in which a tourist’s film, and sometimes his camera was confiscated when he took photos of the marching soldiers or the military bases. She then realized that the address the soldier had written down on her notebook might have been a secret military base in Russia. Everything made sense, then. Soon the plane arrived safely in Moscow despite the incident. When it was time for them to leave the seats, the same soldiers smiled and shook her hand and said good-bye as if nothing had happened.