Thursday, December 26, 2013

On a streetcar in Hiroshima

I'm on one of Hiroshima's local streetcars, shepherding a group of Americans through the city.  Like me, they are standing, spread out along the length of the car.  They are quieter than usual, as Americans often are when first arriving in this city, as if pondering the act of their countrymen which put the name of this city in the mouths of the world.

An old man is sitting directly before me, his head turned up toward mine.  He is of that certain age…  I look down to make eye-contact.  "Are you going to the A-bomb Dome?'  he asks me.  "Yes," I answer, squatting down to make my eyes the level of his.   

"I was a soldier when I was seventeen, and that morning, the bomb destroyed the barracks around me."  He presses one his palms to his ribs.  "I still have the scars here.  

I don't say anything, just nod as I continue looking at his warm eyes. 

He smiles.  "That was a long time ago.  I've traveled all over the world, seen many countries.  But I've never been to America."

I was expecting this, but not what he said next.  

"Too many guns there."

On the turntable:  Air, "Virgin Suicides Soundtrack"


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