CH 1 LEAVING (Hanako)
The chances are good that I may have a heart attack, Hanako thinks.
She stares out the car window from the backseat of Joe’s car, mind whirring with the unknowable concept of what was about to happen in the next fifteen to twenty minutes. She stares at the back of her husband’s head. He’s teasing Joe about the playlist.
“Really bro? You’re playing this crap on a morning like this?”
She smiles faintly. Of course, Jiro would have something to say about the music. It was always in some way or another about the music. Jiro was music. He was the kind of music that made people stop and speculate. He was the kind of music people remembered even if they’d only been in touch with him once.
Hanako’s eyes trail back outside to the city she’d loved since she and Jiro had arrived more than five years ago. No other place had felt like home to her the way this sherbet colored desert land did. Soak it in! She tells herself. Soak-in the matte blue sky feathered by lofty palm trees. Open your pores to the last bit of California-grade vitamin D. Fill your lungs with the salty, seaweed scent of ocean infused air.
Hanako’s insides perform a wobbly cartwheel that is centered in her gut. She squelches a groan, not wanting to draw attention to herself because she wants to turn everything inward. She wants to understand what it is that she is feeling. It strikes her that this is how mail-order-brides must have felt back in the day. The future is before you and you seize it because it’s certain to be better than the life you’re leaving behind but then again, how do you really know until you get into that buggy trotting you over to the man who holds all the promises, and good intentions, that your future will hold what he says it will, if only you’re brave enough to go in the first place?
Was someone pulling her by her hair toward the future? Feet dragging? Voice screaming? No. She had chosen this, only she hadn’t known that her choices would make her feel like she was about to hurl herself off a cliff.
Of course, the word she is looking for is panic. Panic that what she and Jiro are about to do is very stupid, and half-baked and…stupid.
“You doing okay back there?” Jiro asks.
Hanako shakes her head. “I might die.”
The guys look at each other and laugh.
“It’ll be okay, sweet, girl.”
“I’m not so sure about that.”
She watches them grin at each other again. She couldn’t believe that they weren’t taking her seriously. She truly felt like she might have a cardiac event before the car stopped at the international terminal at the Los Angeles Airport.
And then, the rectangular green sign, “NEXT RIGHT LAX” with a little airplane next to it, materializes to the right of the freeway. As if a drawing of an airplane could make the approach less menacing.
Before she can take another deep breath, the car stops, and clusters of strangers and mounds of luggage fill her view. People are hugging and Jiro and his brother are laughing because they see some guy grab his lady’s ass in “goodbye.”
Hanako can’t contain herself any longer. She half yells, half whimpers, “I might actually die you guys! I’m so scared I might die!”
They were really leaving this city. She and Jiro were exchanging the City of Angels for the Land of the Rising Sun and in a matter of hours, there would be no turning back.