“I wonder what it would have been like if she was still alive?” I said to my father
He crossed his arms as his eyes looked slightly to the left.
“Hmmm. I don’t know. Things might have been very different” he said.
“So… what happened? ” I asked. But before I could finish my question, the waitress cut in with our food to our small little table. We were in a smokey and slightly crowded Japanese bar in my dad’s home town.
“Oh here it is!” he said with glee. “This is what my buddies and I used to always order!” He pointed to the stir fried bean sprout and egg dish that came out and took a sip of his beer.
“Go ahead, eat!” he said.
I took a bite of the dish and started to taste the flavors, but my mind was stuck on the question I had asked. “What happened to her? What was her story?”
Only a couple of minutes before, I had come with my father to the streets of Akabane, Tokyo to a place called “ICHIBANCHI” for a little father and son hang out. My father wanted to take me to a couple of places that he would go to drink when he was young. We crossed the Akabane train station and headed into a cheaply lit area with a very corny but charming overhead sign. Passing the overhead sign led us into an area full of different other signs and lights all indicating multiple places to go drinking.
My father led me down to the left and into another even smaller street packed with different restaurants. We then walked upstairs and through a small wooden door. The restaurant was nothing special. There were no Michelin ratings here, no top-rated food critic had every come here, nothing was upper class about this place at all. Just regular old people, eating regular food, and drinking the same old drinks. But it felt to me very deeply rich with a lot of history.
We sat, order food, and my dad started recounting old memories scattered throughout the restaurant. The seat right across from us was where his old volleyball coach had taken him and given him his first sip of beer. Across the other side, him and his friends would usually sit, goof off, and talk about girls. As he pointed and recounted memories, I imagined my father being young, free, and living in his prime. It was interesting being transported to my dad’s past. As if watching some deleted behind the scenes footage of an old movie I’ve seen so many times, my understanding of my dad’s life was becoming clearer. It was a piece of history that I not only got to hear but also SEE for the first time.
“So what was this again?” I asked pointing to the food.
“This is called champon it’s what me and my friends would always order when we would come here” he said.
More food came. Yakitori, some pickles, and other meat dishes. We drank our beer and mentioned how good it tasted.
“So what happened to her?” I asked after things had settled. “I’m guessing she was like the others?”
“Yup. She was unfortunately lost like the others.” he said. “It was sad, we really thought we could have another child after you”.
The Parallel Present
“She” was the sister I didn’t have. It was the first time I was hearing about how I could have had a younger sister. My father talked from his own perspective what it was like, how hard it was, and where he was when all this was happening. As my father was talking I imagined what my sister would have looked liked if she was here. Would she have my mom’s eyes and my dad’s nose? or the opposite? What sort of conversations would we have had? Would she have been right here with us drinking at this very restaurant?
My dad proceeded to talk about how special it was that I was born and that the only difference between me and my sister was that I was”made” here in Japan and not in the U.S. Was the fact that I wasn’t cringing hearing how I was “made” because of the alcohol or a sign that I’ve finally matured into an adult?
“Yea, I really wonder what she would have been like” I said as he finished. My dad nodded silently as he drank his beer.
We got out of the restaurant to head to the next destination that was on my dad’s plan. “Next, we are going to go just down this street to another bar, where my old friend who I first stayed with when I moved to America owns!” As my father walked ahead I turned around to take another picture of the street we were on. And then it hit me.
I was looking at the restaurant that my dad had been in the past. Where he grew up and where his path from young to mature had been.
And at the same time in the present I (his son) was standing on very same road and path he had crossed hundreds of times. Probably never even even thinking at the time that his son would one day stand here.
I looked at my hand and thought of my sister who could have been here right now. How we might have taken a picture of this together or how we might have just been fighting like siblings do.
I looked back at my dad walking forward to our future destination where we would be going.
It was as if all the paths of time (past, present, future, parallel) were all passing right through me at this very moment and time. All focused on this one point.
And that’s when I realized, I was floating through time.
And then I looked up in the sky to thank the One that had made me and went on my merry way into the future.