In 1944 a ghost, a mossy gray-green girl once, stood at a village train station, waiting. I’ve heard this story before, how that she will be forever barely sixteen, a volunteer, leaving behind her hand-me-down dresses for a hint of military pantaloons and horsehide ankle-boots, her name stitched inside each new collar. A reflection appearing in the dark glass, unsubtle trying to tell me something as night rolls in.
My world is full of the memories of dead girls, how this one left behind the twisty roads of Mount Hiba, where Izanami, the goddess of creation and death, was buried, how the wind in the red elms over her parent’s house announced a storm, how brown leaves mixed with the elegance of her family’s graves. Are ghost stories maudlin?
I am unshaven, what do I know? Except that ahead of her all of the Pacific is burning, one town after the next will be consumed and finally Hiroshima, a mantra she can’t stop repeating.
Over and over she will practice introducing herself to her new shipmates (Yo-ro-shi-ku o-ne-gai-ita-shi-masu / Please take care of me), she will imagine how they must look, village girls just like her heading to a big city. She will look eagerly out the train window as it pulls into the stations at Osaka and then at Okayama, and then again and again on each of the platforms as they pass by.
Today it is a bullet train, sleek, crammed with office workers and it is impossible to imagine any memory staying alive long enough to ride on it while years before the girl rode out of the mountains and down to the sea and I can feel the rails singing failure, because there will always be children called to war while the sun sets over the mountains with the lights of Hiroshima spread out down below.