Sakura (Experiment series 2- part 3)

Late afternoon she wheels me to the tree. It is in full bloom and I look up at it in wonder. Eighty two years this tree has lasted.

Okasan was a careful gardener. She’d ensured it was watered and pruned and looked after well. It had been a wedding gift to her, and maybe in its yearly blossoms, she saw her own contentment grow. Otosan and she had been a happy couple. That rare couple that spoke through their eyes, finished each other’s sentences and seemed to live in their own enchanted bubble that not even three children could penetrate.

I inherited this tree, along with everything else.

The blossoms are a delicate pink. One falls on my lap, and I look at it laying there. She reaches for it, and brings it up to my nose. I inhale. They lie when they say that the sakura has no fragrance. To smell the sakura blossom, you have to close your eyes and open your heart.

It was on a bed of fallen blossoms that my heart had awakened to love, and to pain.

His kiss was like a brush of a petal against my lips. My eyes had met his, in longing and in confusion. He’d brushed the hair out of my eyes and leaned in again. My mouth had opened of its own volition, letting his tongue collide with mine, explore my mouth; probe, feel, arouse. His fingers had caressed my face, his touch setting off a thousand miniature explosions in my body. His arousal mirrored mine. We’d fumbled with each other’s clothes, scarcely pausing to think. Hoping that dusk would conceal our lust. Hoping that no wandering feet or prying eyes would find us, limbs entwined, gorging on one another with an insatiable, voracious, urgent desire.

What a strange thing!

to be alive

beneath cherry blossoms

He’d quoted Kobayashi Issa when he first saw our sakura tree. This peculiar guest from America. This boy-man with his blue eyes and his blonde hair, and his odd way of lisping our names. Okasan had taken him under her wing. He was her replacement son, the boy who would substitute for Masahiko whilst he was away being Americanised. This boy who spoke Japanese with a Californian drawl that made me snigger behind his back. My sister Noriko had followed him around like a lamb, fascinated by this strange entity who had invaded our closed but happy world. I had held back. Perhaps even then I had sensed how fatal he would be.

Our assignations were always under the tree. The only place we were unobserved from the house. Just a look from him was enough to send the blood rushing to my head. His gentle exploration of my body, limb by limb. His teaching me what my own body was capable of. His watching me climax, delaying his own gratification. His amusement at my greed, at my contrastingly frantic hunger for him. His placing a sakura bloom behind my ear, and his tongue inside my ear, making me come unexpectedly.

Forty years of living a lie.

How can it be that memories from an age ago are as fresh as this blossom? While everything else is dried like parchment. Dried, crumpled, forgotten.

Was it in those stolen moments that I had fallen in love? In those mysterious glances that passed between us, in the beading of the sweat that lined his upper lip, in his whispered promises? We were young, it was true, but I had never felt more alive than when he held me in his arms. Alive to the possibilities of life and love.

And yet.

I had planned to follow him to America. Convince the parents to let me do what Masahiko had done before me. Such plans we’d had. Such dreams. And the kami had laughed in their celestial abode.

Forty years of living a lie.

Why did I survive? If anyone had to perish that day, it should have been me. Okasan, Masahiko, Noriko – all gone in a boating accident. Otosan crumpling into himself. Losing the other half of him. And I. I, with my survivor’s guilt, watching my dreamt of future receding farther and farther away.

One never questioned duty. It was my duty to marry. To produce the heirs. To carry forward the lineage. I did what was expected of me.

Forty years of living a lie.

Every Wednesday, Midori, my granddaughter visits me. She is the only one out of six grandchildren that has the time for me. We used to talk when she was little. I would amuse her with my origami birds. We would lie under this tree, and I would recite the haiku of Basho, Buson, and yes, even Issa. She still retains an affection for me.

She humours me by bringing me to the tree every week. Even when it is not in bloom. She senses my need, and indulges it with a grace and a sensitivity that will no doubt lead to great pain in her own life.

As for mine; it is nearly over. This prison of a body is letting me down gradually. One day soon, I will be free of it. I let out a little grunt to tell her I am ready to return to the house.


She lowers me on to the bed, shooing the otetsudai away. My eyes thank her. She leans forward, and moves the hair out of them. Her touch is feather light.

“Rest well, Ojisan. I will come again next week.”

She slips out of the room silently, leaving her old grandfather to dream of blushing sakura and trysts with golden haired gods.

© Poornima Manco 2017




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