On the right, toward the kitchen, in an inexpensive glass and brass frame, sits a souvenir sepia-toned postcard portrait of Wilfred Owen I purchased in London in 1996. Wilfred Owen was my first love. He introduced me to poetry, just prior to the passing bell from 1st to 2nd period on Monday, November 4th, 1985. I was seventeen. We had just finished reading ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ in AP English. The textbook we were using was Sound and Sense, edited by Laurence Perrine, 4th edition, 1973. When the bell rang, I moved mechanically to Calculus. The rest of the day dissolved in a fog.
On the left, a Kodak print—my boyfriend and me—smiles in an identical frame, at about the height of my pillow. We are sitting on Ayano’s bed in the East 50s on New Year’s Eve in 2006. I am wearing a beer-drinking grin and he has closed his eyes because he hates flash-photos.
Around midnight, maybe just after, we will have a vicious argument involving mochi (a Japanese rice cake, a traditional holiday treat) that will escalate into nuclear war. I will storm out of his apartment and stagger to Grand Central and board a train for Stamford, Connecticut, where I am living at the time.
We will not speak to each other for two months. In early February of 2007, a fever will break out. He will call, coughing up his lungs—sick with bronchitis—having made himself extremely ill over many sleepless nights. Seventy-five minutes later, I will be rising to his apartment in Manhattan with a carton of Minute Maid orange juice.
This trip in the elevator will trigger another memory, of another magical evening, one early in our relationship, the night he told me that his father was a young kamikaze pilot who was saved from suicide by the atomic bomb. I will transform that moment—the exact moment I realized that I loved him—into a poem of 924 lines, 66 sonnets. Takaaki will be my first book of poetry.
Empty as my apartment may feel sometimes—Takaaki had to return to Japan three years ago to care for his elderly father—this is my home. I am more or less happy here. This is where I Skype. This is where I type. This is why I type. When I look up from my laptop, I see myself, I see Takaaki, and I see Wilfred Owen. The reason I have no other pictures on display is that I am a finicky housekeeper and I hate dusting. I can see everyone else in my family when I close my eyes.
I suppose it is no coincidence that exactly in the middle of that shelf, between my two great loves, you will find the spine of Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir, Speak, Memory. Everyman’s Library. Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.
Links to Eric's books: