I decided to write this after seeing a photo. It was a photo of a man in a man in uniform crying...
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As I look at this painting my wife made, I think of my fallen brothers of war. But most of all my true brother ,that I killed. Even though I never once laid a angry hand to him I still killed him .. For I set this path since childhood.
I always wanted to be General Yokyashi . I pictured myself with broad shoulders, clean suit , and many war medals that showed that I was the most honorable man in Japan.I had little time to play with my younger brother , Kazuma . He was slow and uncoordinated unlike me. He was also drawn to more peaceful and artistic things in life.
I would run the length of the marsh when I was a young boy. He would fall behind and yell out for me to wait for him. I would stand patiently as he huffed p with a red face. " Miyago!! Can we take a break?" I groaned and sat down with him in the dust.
" Kazuma shouldn't you be practicing you music?" He wiped his forehead " No,I'm skipping today. Mom always used to say take a break from rules and just play from the heart. " It hurt me how much Kazuma was like our late mother. He had the same round "melon eyes" as I called them . They shined green in the sunlight and were quite striking . She was also quite peaceful and open minded till the day she passed. I suddenly got angry and pointed at him. "That's foolish ! It takes hard work and dedication! Leave and practice!" His lips quivered " But.. brother" as his melon eyes shrank. I turned around and gritted words I regret even now. "Besides you are just holding me back." I heard a cry and he ran as fast as he could back home.
Every night when the bugs swarmed the marshes or father would come home. He usually had very little to say and neither did I . Kazuma made every effort of talking to father by telling about practice , school , anything that came to mind. Only to get a few grunts in return.
I should've included Kazuma when I asked father to tell one of his war stories to us. As father gloriously pounded and told of how he saved mother I saw Kazuma with his head held low. Father was so busy recollecting he didn't notice that Kazuma left without being excused. I think father drank too much because he shoved a glass of sake my way and loudly bellowed " Here son! You are getting closer to the man I have pride in !" I stared at the glass and he grabbed my shoulder "Come on boy! Drink up!" I took a sip of the pungent liquid and to this day don't know how anyone can drink sake. I drank the whole glass to satisfy father and already felt tipsy. I stumbled to my futon mat with Kazuma's back facing me. I thought he was asleep when out of nowhere he said " You stupid drunk... " My head hurt too much to care. I rested on the mat and rolled closer to him." I'm sorry about earlier today. That was shameful of me . I just want you to be the best with music , so that you can make mother proud of you in a way I can't." All was silent .. Kazuma's voice was dark " She's dead "
I wanted to yell but I feared of waking father. Though I think Kazuma could hear the anger in my tone. " Don't you ever say that! Do you hear me? She is still alive in our hearts and if she knows your upset she will be very upset. Do you want that?" He curled up more and I thought he probably wouldn't say anything else the rest of the night. He turned over and his eyes welled up with tears. The were the color of leaves early in the morning ..His voice cracked " I miss mother "
He cried on my shoulder until the dawn broke above the window. I don't remember falling asleep that night or ever waking up.. .
My wife Sherri nudges my arm " Do you like it?" I'm still staring at it and mumble " Uh it sure makes you think ." Sherri jumps and claps a bit . " Oh goodie !You usually never look at my paintings this long!That must be a great sign" I smelled the smoke and thought it was just my imagination " Yes I can even smell the stench of battle " Her eyes got wide and she cried " Oh No!! I forgot the chicken ! " Sherri grabs the plate without using mitts and burns her finger. " Umm are you sure you don't need help?" She yelled out the kitchen " No I'm fine I think I saved it." She put the platter on the table saying " I know it doesn't look pretty but I bet it's delicious ! ", as she sucks on her burnt finger. In my peripheral I see the framed photos of my happy life. Many photos are of Sherri's family from South Carolina and our family. Alone sits the only picture of my whole family together. My eyes immediately go to Kazuma's large grin and his melon eyes still beaming in black and white. He's holding onto his flute tightly while mother leans in proud of her family. Her sleek hair cascades over her shoulder and her soft grin shows so much love. My father stands straight with a serious face. I 'm in front of him trying to do the same but can't hide my confusion of why Kazuma and mother are so casual. I let out a chuckle as Sherri sits next to me, " Laughing at that photo again? You and your brother were so adorable , but even then you look uptight. " She leans back in the chair as I defended myself" I wasn't uptight only when compared to Kazuma. You might not know this but he had a serious side too!" She tries to hide the disgust in her face after trying a bite of chicken " Really I can't imagine that "
I remember that night so clearly .. It was the night Kazuma became a different man. Broken inside and never repaired. The tea house was loud and bustling as we sat with our new kimonos. We just received the letter saying that Kazuma was accepted to study music abroad. The audition was rough but he seemed calm and ready to play Meditation in Thai . I 'll never forget how beautiful the unknown music was. He stood on stage proudly as if he owned it . The stage was his territory and the flute his weapon. His shoulder length hair swayed as he played but his face was full of elegance. Before I knew it it was over and he bowed. " Do you think I did well? " he asked. I nodded and stayed reserved " You made mother very proud tonight. " The tea house was crowded with fathers superiors, elite musicians , and of course geisha . The geisha's surrounded the man of honor but Kazuma's focus was on Mei Shobake. She was plain looking girl compared to the geisha's but gave something for free that most men couldn't resist. Mei had quite a reputation but it seemed to never cross her mind how wrong it was. Sadly Kazuma was not after her for those services . For years he pined over her and was convinced that he could change her ways. It was supposed to be a joyous night , little did I know things were about to turn bitter.
I sat at the head with father and Kazuma when father stood to make a announcement. "Japan will show it's glory soon to all the world! For we just attacked Pearl Harbor and brought fear to the Americans! " I did not like where this was leading . " My first born son Miyago has trained rigorously his whole life for this. That's why I am excited to say that Miyago will lead the way to victory! For the Land of the Rising Sun!!!"
I turned to my brother who was clueless of the war to come and who he was going to become.