Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Nothing's decided

This is a short story that I wrote when I was around 15, it was for the AS English class that I was taking a year in advance. I really enjoyed our lessons, they were so free, we could read what we wanted and write whatever we wanted for coursework.

One criteria was to write a piece intended for just reading. I chose to write a short story based of Arthur Golden's 'A memoir of a a Geisha'. It tells the story of Chiyo's (the main character) sister. They are taken away to Kyoto and separated. This is Satsu's tale of how she ran away.

I checked my almanac for the third time that day; it read ‘An auspicious day for small changes, a good day for travel in the direction of the Sheep, which was in the direction of northeast, the direction of home.’ Good. “Just trust it.” I said quietly to my self.

But how could I know until I was there? The almanac was a book designed to help with making decisions everyday. It told you whether doing even a small thing would bring you good luck or cause you pain and difficulty. Some people think everything to do with life is fate, and that your destiny is already decided for you long before you existence. Like a long path and you only have to follow it, there are no shortcuts or left and right corners. It’s just a straight line and you travel from one end to the other. I suppose it couldn’t hurt to believe those things once in a while. But it was hard to believe that this is what my life was, the opposite of everything I wanted. I wanted freedom, love, care, friendship, money and opportunities.

But there was just no way of knowing. All I had was trust and my fighting ambition to get both myself and Chiyo away from this place and back to our home. Back to our family and the life we had. I was prepared, my bag was packed and I had told Chiyo where I would meet her – by the river directly opposite the Minsmiza Theatre, and the time we would meet – one in the morning. But our meeting had been brief and frantic, how could I know whether she would turn up or not? I did not know her life now, how she was living and what troubles she could encounter.

I recalled the terror in her face at the parting in Kyoto. “Stay there.” Mr Bekku had said to me. “You’re going else where.” And he pushed me back into the rickshaw with his arm. My feelings and emotions were mirrored in Chiyo’s face, my eyes welled up and I couldn’t see her anymore, but her sobs echoed around me. I wiped the tears from my eyes and my gaze was met by the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Her Kimono was embroidered with the warmest greens and yellows and her face was painted a pure white colour like the colour of the snow on the mountains which I had once seen in the distance back at home. “Mr Bekku,” She said. “Could you take the garbage out later? I’d like to be on my way.” There was no garbage in the courtyard. She continued to talk about herself in highest regard whilst she degraded others around her. I heard no more as the loud rumbling of the car traffic rolled by. A sight and sound I had never heard before.

I gathered the money for Mrs Kishino, the old woman at the door who would not let me past without some sort of pay. She said nothing to me, just nodded and smiled only slightly, I smiled back. Her were eyes comforting to mine. She understood what this meant to me, and maybe she was the only one in this place who really did understand. “It will be alright Satsu.” She said.

“I know” I replied clearly, although she could here the uncertainty in my voice.

“It’s best for you to get out while you can, if you wait until you’re my age your time will have passed. I can’t say that all the luck in the world is with you Satsu, but if you think about how much you want to be with your sister and how much you want to go home, you will make it.” Her old wise eyes met with mine again.

“What if she doesn’t come? What if all my days of planning have gone to waste? What if I get caught then I will never have another chance, it will ruin me if I try and fail, I will have to come back here and work until my days are over, and then…” Mrs Kishino cut me off short.

“Satsu, listen to me.” She began quietly. “I tried to run away and I failed, but only because I didn’t believe in myself. Satsu, believe in yourself and you can do it. You can.”

“Yes.” It was all I could say. Mrs Kishino stroked my hair, just as mother would do back in the village. “Good Luck.” She whispered.

Night after night I would work in the Tatsugo joroa-ya or the ‘pleasure house’ as it was known, feeding thoughtless men with this so called pleasure I could give them. Never once did I enjoy what I did. Never once did I look them in the eye while I gave my service. That was what I was. A service, which was abused, taken for granted, and I did not want to give freely of my service.

The time was twenty-five to one.

I ran, not looking behind myself, just running into the free streets of Japan, the bare soles of my feet slapping against the stone roads. I jumped over the occasional puddle from where it had rained a few days ago. I had run out in it yesterday morning when it was pouring from the skies, and cleaned myself, almost danced through the streets with the smile on my face, which I had so rarely done in the past months. When I returned to the house my Kimono was soaked through and I remembered taking it off and putting on a dry one, feeling the silk on my skin and how lovely it was. That simple thing I had done contented me and I was happy.

I saw Geisha in their brightly coloured Kimono, all on their way home after entertaining their guests not one of them bowed to me, or wished me a good evening,. They all knew what I was. I was not a hostess in the sense that they were, I wished to be though and I felt alone, isolated amongst these wonderfully beautiful Geisha, not one alike, yet all equally identical in a way. The Geisha didn’t smile at me, nor did they look at me with sneering or scowling eyes, they did not whisper rude remarks to their friends or turn their pale faces which shone in the moon light towards me as I walked past them. Instead they ignored me completely; they did not even regard me as a person. I felt oddly invisible yet too bright at the same time.

My pace slowed and I looked behind myself for the first time since I had left the house. I could not help but smile a little. Right now I could imagine Chiyo embarking on her journey to meet me. We would embrace in such a way that we would never let go again, even if we had too. I could imagine her soft dark hair and her pale eyes looking at me and I would wipe away her tears, we would clench each other’s hands and we would run. Run into the direction of the sheep. Home. My father would rush out the door, hold us and tell us that mother was going to be alright, then she would join us and we would hold each other forever and never let go. If only life wasn’t left up to fate.

I saw the Minsmiza Theatre, but I saw no Chiyo. It was only five to the hour, and I knew she wasn’t very punctual. I could almost hear the laughing and see the smiling of the people inside the theatre, who looked at the amazing costumes and watched the remarkable dances being performed.

I felt as if there was a spotlight on me. One or two people walked past me in silence turning their head my way and I stared back searching for Chiyo. The time seemed to go so slowly when one was waiting for something and I took it in my interest to find something to occupy my time with. I threw a stick in the water and gazed at it for as far down the river as I could see. A bird flew into the scene and grabbed my stick between its beak. Probably to build a nest for its family it was returning to. The stick’s journey had ended almost as suddenly as it had started, it would go no further in the direction of the sheep.

I stood by the river and looked into its deep, dark, unknowing waters. I would never know what was in there, how deep it was or where it was going even. All I knew was that it was there now and then the water ran away and it was gone. The curves of the river bed deciding the way for the water to flow and where it should go. Even if I threw a stick in and interrupted the river with something unexpected it could deal with it. It had guidelines that lead it on its way, and I knew I had none. I was alone and no one was there to push me back onto the right track or stop me from going off in the wrong direction. I was alone and Chiyo wasn’t coming. I was alone and I ran.

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