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A Letter to Stephen

“We aren’t so different, human beings and plants” (192)

Dearest Stephen:

Let me begin by stating the obvious. You are a fictional character, born from the recesses of Gail Tsukiyama’s mind, wonderful woman that she is. I am a human, an emotional creature, capable of bleeding, feeling thirsty, interacting with other humans, crying, feeling hungry and doing the hundred or so things that a hormonal teenager would do. I assume that you are a human too. If you are not….well, that’s another story. Nevertheless, you have one crucial difference. You can feel, cry, bleed and die, but ultimately, you are just a piece of paper. You don’t really exist. You live within the mutually exclusive worlds of Hong Kong and Tarumi, while I live in the mutually exclusive worlds of The Samurai’s Garden and real life. I read your story, knowing what would happen in your future, yet I am not omnipotent. I cannot control what happens to you. I can talk, but you can’t talk back. You could, however, listen. And you should….listen, I mean, especially to what I am about to say right now.
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, STEPHEN? How could you let your first love Keiko just run away like that? Were you afraid of her reactions? Were you afraid of yours? Poor Stephen, I pity you. You live a sheltered life, safe in the arms of your mommy and daddy. I know, I can relate. I lived a sheltered life too. In fact, I still live a sheltered life. Up to this day, I am never allowed to go outside. I have never “hung out” with my friends, school projects notwithstanding. I had never had a sleepover, nor my nails manicured nor dyed my hair. I don’t even know how to cook. When my family is gone, how can I fend for myself? I can’t. I don’t want that to happen to you, Stephen. You mean too much for me to get hurt.
I like you, Stephen. You are a kind, intelligent and thoughtful soul, a “kindred spirit”, as my friend Anne would say. And I know you have changed, Stephen, coming to Tarumi from Hong Kong. You have climbed a mountain, saw the devastating fingers of leprosy, withstand a tsunami, fought a fire etcetra, etcetra. You have even struggled through design Sachi’s rock garden, for goodness’s sake. In the end, you have gotten stronger. You have gotten more independent. How does that feel, Stephen?....Great? Good. You should be proud, Stephen, proud that you have not succumbed to the ravages of tuberculosis, proud that you have the courage to live. Now be proud that you can survive the cruel blow of knowing life could be brutally, savagely unfair.
Yes, I’ve said it, life can be brutally and savagely unfair. Matsu once said “everything that happens in your life is for a purpose” (193). I don’t know whether that is true or not; I certainly had many events in my life that seemed to be pointless at first glance. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What matters is this: are you the same person you were before? Most likely not. I agree with you, Stephen-chan, that “Keiko isn’t a pine tree” (193). But are you, Stephen? Are you a tree? Not to go all Matsu all here for a second, but are you the tall evergreen tree that stands firm no matter what storm, what tsunami, what plague threatens your very sanctity? Are you the flower, while seemingly weak, who promotes a grace so beautiful that none dare go near it? Or do you remain a naïve sapling, breathing only because of the caressing hands of the gardener, ready to fall apart at the first puff of wind? You see, “we aren’t so different, human beings and plants” (193).
What’s my point? My point is this. Stephen, you lived a sheltered live and because of that, it might be easy for you to go back to your cozy little life whenever something threatens you. But I highly doubt that, I highly doubt that. You have gotten a taste of freedom…and it tastes sweet, doesn’t it?
Live your life, Stephen, live your life to the best you can. Stay true to those whom you love the most, like Matsu, and stay gentle and humble, like Sachi. Keep living, despite, in spite of, the carcass and rampage going around you. Fly a kite. Build a sandcastle. Eat ice cream. Read a book and oh my goodness, paint. Paint and feel proud of what you have painted. And for goodness’ sake, grovel on your knees if you want, but get your lady love back. Keiko is a good woman. She deserves a good man like you. And while you are at it, spray some water at Mika’s face because she is an annoying….never mind.
Crepe myrtle, Matsu once said, “has a short life span, but you know just what to expect from it” (193). You are not a crepe myrtle. But in that world, at least, you are a human. What can I expect from you, Stephen? What can Matsu or Sachi or Kenzo (God rest his soul!) expect from you? What can the world expect from you, Stephen? But most of all, what can you expect from yourself?
Your life is your hands, Stephen. Take good care of it; no one else will.
Best,

Petrichor
P.S. Here’s hoping we meet again soon! At least for another reading log.





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