What's On: Annie Lennox - Into The West
I'm reading a book right now called "Kushiel's Dart" by Jacqueline Carey. Its kind of a historical fantasy, set in an alternate history version of Europe, and one of the recurring themes is how much the D'Angelines love their home.
A repeated phrase is
"All exiles carry a map within them that points the way home."
I've only been out of the country once, when I was too young to remember much of it. I have very faint memories of my great aunts house, where I'm convinced I saw a ghost, but what I remember most is the plane trip back. I couldn't say how old I was, and there's no one left alive who could tell me exactly. But I remember being on that giant plane, and looking out the window at night and seeing the lights of the cities beneath us.
To this day, flying - particularly at night - has been one of my greatest joys.
But I didn't come here to talk about that. I came here to talk about exiles.
So I've lived in America pretty much my whole life, barring those few years I spent somewhere in the UK.
But I've been interested in Japan since about sixth grade, when my friend introduced me to Sailor Moon, and I realised that the shows I'd been watching for years - Speed Racer, Thunder Cats, there were probably more - were different from the usual cartoons because they were anime, from Japan.
My love affair with anime of all types was instantly cemented, mostly because it came from Japan. As I got older, I tried for four years to take Japanese in high school, and I learned little bits and pieces on my own, and I gradually became interested in the history, the culture, the clothes and the language, and more than just the cartoons they exported.
One thing was clear, through everything.
I wanted to go.
I found a book once, about reincarnation. Its been long enough now that I'd need to reread it to remember exactly why it struck such a chord in me, but I remember it was about that time that I first read it that I started thinking about what I may have been in a past life (aside from a very bad person, apparently, because my life has been hard enough that I've often wondered what I'm making up for this time around).
I have a vision in my head of being a civil war soldier, fighting for the south, and taking a ball to the chest. Dying alone on the field, surrounded by the smell of smoke and blood and grass and the sounds of other men dying, howling, screaming, moaning in pain, calling out for their families. The sounds of gunfire echo in my ears. To this day, things like fireworks and thunder scare the shit out of me. I don't know why; I enjoy storms, and I love looking at fireworks, but hearing the fireworks screaming up into the sky and exploding, it brings back a feeling - so faint that it can't even be called a memory - of cannons.
I'd never had much interest in World War II until I read that book, and as I said, something about it hit me so hard that I cannot believe that this isn't true, though I have no proof.
But whether or not I fought in the war, or if I was just one of those people caught in the nuclear blast at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, I believe that in a past life, I was Japanese at the time.
I'd like to think I was a pilot, that I flew one of the planes that drove themselves into ships for the glory and honour of dying for their country, but that just might be because I love flying.
I think I may have said this here; I don't care about people. I love the people I love, and the rest can go to hell. I'm outraged by the so-called war on terror, because I feel I should be, not because I actually am. No one I know has been impacted by it, and so I don't care. I don't care when people die, except to the extent that I worry it might be someone I care about, but I pretend to because its the human thing to do. I used to worry that I was sociopathic, because I recognised this pretending in myself, but there's not enough cruelty in me. Sociopaths tend to turn up early by setting dogs on fire or kicking kittens - cruelty to animals is one of the biggest warning signs. And I love most animals - even the ones I don't like - more than I love most people. (We have three dogs. I hate dogs, and I hate the ones we have, but at the same time, I love them. I also think I've said before that I don't make much sense, and I freely contradict myself. It drives some people nuts.)
Anyway, tangent aside... I don't care. About people, about death, about just about anything except what I do care about.
So it took me by surprise, my senior year of high school, when I finally managed to land a Japanese class and we watched a video about Hiroshima, and the bombs America dropped on them. On citizens, whose only crime was good weather, and being Japanese.
I cried - openly, in the middle of class - when the museum showed a school uniform from a local elementary school.
An elementary school.
It wasn't even a complete uniform, but the scraps they'd salvaged were all they'd found.
Nothing - not the War on Terror, not the 9/11 attacks, NOTHING - has horrified or disgusted me as much as what America did to those two cities by dropping those bombs.
So I might not have been a pilot; I might have been one of those kids whose uniforms they didn't find.
I could have been a woman who was just hanging out the laundry to dry, or a man on his way to work.
But I know, deep down, that I was there.
And in this life?
I want to go back. My every thought for the past fifteen years has been bent on traveling the world, getting out of America and seeing what I can, learning everything there is to learn.
And then settling down somewhere in Japan. Because I once thought I could be happy anywhere, but then I realised I'm not happy away from sea level. And then I decided I had to live on an island. So, Japan, England, Hawaii, the Philippines, all viable choices.
But the more I considered it, the more I knew.
It had to be Japan.
I could be happy somewhere else for a time, but I know that my heart would always yearn to be somewhere else, and it came as a revelation one day.
Japan was the home of my heart.
I've been reading the blog posts of a friend who's spent time there and regrets leaving, and I'm friends with another girl who went for a year as a transfer student in college and ended up staying.
I know that once I set foot on that soil, I'll be home.
I look into the setting sun, and I know that if I keep walking, my feet will carry me west. I look, and I know that across the continent and past the ocean, into the west, I will find my home.
All exiles carry a map in their hearts that leads the way home. Mine points west.