The Domestication (Chapter 1: Observation)

February 5, 2013
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I feel the faint vibrations of the watch as it ticks against my skin, its monotonous rhythm rivaling that of my own pulsating heart. Sweat begins to pool at my hair line, but despite the discomfort I don’t move. After all, we were trained to be lifeless, emotionless, heartless. I glance at my partner, his face set like stone. Not a bead of sweat or tense muscle appeared on his face. His lips sat relaxed as though they were a cat comfortably lying underneath his crooked nose. Time and stress have weathered at his face, creating cracks and crevices that should not be present at his age. Suddenly I hear the soft screech of an old car with bad breaks pull up behind us. “Breaker fluid no good.” I hear my father’s voice in my head, the voice of an old Japanese mechanic. In the rear view mirror I see an old Hispanic man, his face lined with neatly trimmed coarse hair and his eyes caressed by crow’s feet resulting from years of smiling and laughter. A man older than me gets out after him, he is thick bodied and dark skinned, most likely from working outside. But it is the wheelchair in the bed of the old pickup truck that catches my attention, and the old woman who is helped out of the truck and into her wheelchair. My eyes follow them on their path to the door of the adobe home with a brunt brown roof and a small garden of desert growing plants in front of them, and I can see the light in her eyes as she approaches. The men behind her smile large hearty grins, their white teeth contrasted against their tan skin. I see three small heads pop up from the window and a tall, pretty older girl who looks as though she is seeing an old friend walk up to her door for the first time in years. The little ones bounce with excitement, as if they are seeing Santa and his reindeer walking right up to their house.
I notice one of them is a little boy, his straight black hair cut into an awkward bowl cut, and suddenly it as though my body is switched with his. Before I can stop myself I look at the arriving group through the eyes of myself as a young boy. The scene has changed now that I am at his place by the window. I see the street of an old San Francisco suburb, twenty years ago. The slanted streets outside seem to lead to the focal point of the town; the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, which are surrounded by a jungle of old buildings and a few lone trees. The window pane feels like a rock I am clinging to just to keep myself grounded in place. I feel as though I am going to blow away as I watch Obaasan approach the house, my grandmother, closer to me than my own mother. I faintly see the children run to the door in the window as my own mind is remembering this moment. I run to the door as though I have wings on my feet and I embrace her before she even has time to remove her shoes and a gust of thick briny air from the bay swells in my nose, making me crinkle my nose. From outside my dream world I hear the real cries of joy from front porch of the house beside us as the family is reunited; however, my fantasy continues. My grandmother smells of cherry blossoms and the coolness of the mountains of Takayama, my home village in Japan. She strokes my hair and says in a voice sweeter than honey, “Oh my dear Masa-kun, how I my heart has ached to see you.” Her beautiful slanted eyes are full of tears as she kisses my face and I cling to her silky skin as though she will disappear if I let go. My heart swells with happiness and it is as though I never left my home.
I feel a tap and I snap back into reality. I feel a cold shiver cross my skin as my grandmother’s warmth leaves me. “It’s time to go, Hajimoto.” I look up and see that the family has already entered the house. Slowly I nod, “Alright Simms, let’s go.” I grab the handle of the van door, and despite the heat inside the car it feels ice cold in my hand. I feel Simms’ hand on my shoulder but I don’t turn. He must already think I’m weak. “Hajimoto…Just remember; we’re just doing our job.” I don’t reply because the gravity of what our job entails strikes me, almost as hard as when I got pelted with rocks by the white kids at my school in San Francisco when I was eleven. Suddenly I’m transported back to that moment and I flinch. Rocks fly at my body as I curl up in a ball, holding up my arms to shield my face. “Go back to Pokémon land you dirty Jap!” I hear them yell and jeer. For a moment I feel the pang of the metal screws which are driven through the very bones of my hand where it was broken and shattered all those years ago. I shake it off and remember my training. Hard as stone, heart of stone, cold as stone; the motto drilled into us during our training for the past five years which were supposed to have prepared us for this moment. So I simply nod, my emotions dammed back behind a stone wall, my morals and ethics sealed inside of me. I step out of the car without thought or remorse, though the only thing that enters my mind is how every tremor of the scorching ground beneath my black shoes is about to be magnified one thousand fold as it shakes the lives of this family and all the others in this barrio. The dark, vividly green sod in the yard and the bright flowers of the cacti in the garden are the last bits of light this place will see in the hours to come.

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