Trapped by Sachi
By Midori Sawaki
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My cousin Sachi is pregnant.
I met her at the waiting room in the hospital.
In fact, the hospital is the only place I can see
her. When I come to the hospital, she is there.
When I leave, she is still there. It seems she
is always there.
On the day I first met her, I was waiting to see
a doctor at the obstetrics. It was not my will
that I came to the hospital. I didn't quite
understand why I had to come to the hospital. I
just realized that I don't bleed anymore.
Bleeding was extremely annoying, making me feel
so sick every month. I was happy it seemed to be
gone. I finally got rid of it. Somehow I felt a
bit proud of myself about it. So I told
everybody. You know what? I don't bleed any
more. Oh isn't that nice? People said, at
first. As the conversation went on, however,
people no longer thought it is a nice thing.
They gave me a suspicious look. 'Do you feel
sick in the morning?' 'Sometimes, yes. But it's
quite normal to me that I feel ill sometimes.'
But they didn't agree. 'That's not normal. Go
to the obstetrics.'
They sent me here. Who are they anyway? I
hardly know them. They are just those people I
come across on the street sometimes. What do
they mean by 'normal'? Is it normal if I bleed
Then Sachi appeared, from nowhere. From
somewhere maybe. But I didn't notice her until
she stood right in front of me and said, "Hi, I
am your cousin, Sachi".
"Hi, Sachi", I said, looking up. She is an Asian
woman of my age. She has fairy big pupils in her
fairy small eyes. Her hair is fairy black and
long. And she has fairy fair skin.
Then I didn't know what to say. I didn't know
that I have a cousin. My Mom told me she has
nephews and nieces, but I haven't met any of
"Have we met before?"
"No. This is the first time we met".
The earth is round and goes around the sun and it
has gravity and that's why apples drop on the
ground. The way Sachi said that it was the first
time we met was the same way people say those
facts. If you said you don't believe those
facts, people of our times would take you stupid.
So I hesitated to question Sachi of what she
said. Just like those facts first sounded to be
ridiculous centuries ago turned out to be true,
what Sachi said sounds it might later turn out to
be true. Or maybe because I am not sure about
anything I was confident enough to question her.
But anyway, I totally agreed with her on the
part that this is the first time we met. So I
"Yes. Of course this is the first time".
Sachi smiled and said,
"You are pregnant".
"I am pregnant too".
She had this friendly look on her face: we have a
lot in common!
Sachi sat right next to me. I noticed that she
has a big paper bag. Out of her paper bag she
took orange knitting stuff and started knitting.
We talked no more. She kept knitting silently.
Suddenly, she looked up.
She looked at me and said,
"That's my brother Ken".
The guy didn't look like her brother. He is
very tall and he has blond hair. He doesn't look
like an Asian.
He seemed to be in hurry. He just smiled at
her, passed the obstetrics waiting room, and
disappeared to the psychiatrics.
That day, my doctor told me that I am pregnant.
Is pregnancy sickness?
Sick people come to the hospital.
I come to the hospital.
Therefore I am sick.
Sachi comes to the hospital.
Therefore Sachi is sick.
But she looks well. Lots of women at the waiting
room have a big belly. Sachi doesn't have a big
belly. She is thin. Her waist is fit and nice.
She looks totally well, but she is always in the
hospital, claiming that she is pregnant. Is that
true? If she claims so, it should be true. She
is always there anyway. She is always at the
obstetrics, sitting and knitting in one of the
chairs for pregnant women. She is knitting
something blue. I always think it's a nice
color. So I told her so. And she smiled. Then
I said, "what is it?", but she didn't answer my
question. She just kept knitting, moving her
wrists very quickly. She must be very good at
knitting. But there is something weird about her
knitting. She is knitting all the time, every
week I go to the hospital, all the time we are
sitting in the chair. Yet it doesn't progress.
Only a couple of inches she has knit so far.
Every time I look at it, it's two inches length.
It never becomes longer.
As thinking or discussing about Sachi's knitting
progress seemed to go nowhere, I changed the
"Do you think pregnancy is a kind of illness?"
I don't say 'sickness' or 'sick'. I say 'sick'
in my head, but I don't utter the word. When I
have to talk about sickness, I would rather say
'illness'. If I say the word, 'sick', people
start laughing. It happened when I was with
those people I don't know much. They asked me
'How are you?' I was not feeling well at the
time. I guess I caught cold then.
"I am sick", I said. Or I thought I said so.
But as soon as I pronounced the word 'sick',
"I said I am sick". I said it again in louder
voice. Then people laughed even louder. What's
so funny I am sick?
I think I now know why they laughed. When I
pronounce 's', it becomes 'sh'. So maybe it
sounded like 'shick'. There is no word like
shick, so their ears decided to take it as a word
that sounds similar, which is 'shit'.
I am shit.
After that, I practiced saying 'sick'. I tried
hard. But I can never say 'sick' properly.
People still laugh when I say the word.
If you start learning a foreign language after
puberty, you will be able to speak it but it
won't become perfect. You will be fluent, but
you will have some accent. Some linguist said
so. I have accent. I don't mind it anymore.
But I mind people don't get what I said. I get
upset when people take what I meant differently.
I get upset because I get confused. I get
confused because when people take me differently,
I take myself differently: Did I say I am shit?
Do I really think I am shit? Am I shit? Maybe
yes. I am shit. What's the difference between
shit and sick anyway? Maybe those are very
similar. When I am sick, I am a bit like shit.
When I am shit, I am almost sick. Maybe because
there is not much difference between sick and
shit, I confuse those words. I say I am shit
simply because I am shit.
It's also possible that I actually say it
properly. Maybe it's just that people think it's
funny that I am sick.
"I am shit!" One day I told them. Then they
suddenly looked worried and said, "Are you all
right? Take care of yourself". So it's possible
that when I try to pronounce 'sh', it becomes
's'. Or possibly I confuse the meanings between
'sick' and 'shit'.
The fact is I don't know. I just don't know.
I always worry when I speak English. I say
things and they say, 'OK, we understand you'.
But the things is, most of the time they say so,
they are taking me wrong. The other day I was
talking to my friend on phone.
"Can you fax me?"
I was asking him to fax me for some information.
The moment I said it, I got worried. Maybe I
didn't pronounce it properly. Maybe he took me
"What I am asking you to do is send me a fax.
You write the information on a paper, set it on
your fax machine, and press my fax number then
enter. That's it. That's all you need to do.
And that's all I want you to do". I was so
worried that I very quickly paraphrased what I
"OK. I understand you", he said.
So I was somehow relieved and waited for the fax
to come. I waited for the night, slept near the
fax machine, then morning came without the fax to
come. There was no call to confirm about the
fax. Maybe he forgot my fax and phone number.
Maybe he pressed wrong fax number and it was sent
somewhere else, and he didn't know about it,
saying, 'That's it'. Or.... No. Maybe this is
the situation I was most worried about: he took
I could have called him. I actually picked up
the phone. But then I didn't know what to say to
him. It is most probable that he took me wrong.
I already felt it embarrassing to talk to him
about what I asked. Furthermore, I didn't know
what word I can use now. It seemed impossible to
have him fax me.
I wish there were no word like 'fuck'. I hate
the word. Such a word is unnecessary. Lots of
people don't like the word. Those classy old
ladies shopping at David Jones especially hate
the word, I believe.
Hatred creating words should be abolished.
Hatred is incompatible with a healthy peaceful
society. The word is harmful to the society.
When I was doing student movement as a college
student, it was our motto: if you find there is
something harmful to your society, you should be
the one to stand up, attack it, and get rid of it
to change your society better.
So I stood up, went to David Jones, and talked to
those ladies. I was right. A lot of them agreed
and joined me. Let's get rid of the word! On
George St. we demonstrated. No more fuck! Fuck
the fucking fuck! Our placards said.
Not everybody agreed with us, though. There
are those so-called pro-fuck people. They came
up to us to point out the usefulness of the word.
Hey, you can use the word to describe almost
everything; when you are in trouble, you can say
'I am totally fucked'; when in hurry, 'just give
me fucking money and so on'. You don't have to
know a lot of words. Just use this word 'fuck'.
I knew how to contradict their argument.
Efficiency doesn't foster our language skill. If
you use only one word, your skill of abstracting
wouldn't be fostered. Fuck-word using society
creates less-intelligent people. Those ladies
liked my educational perspective argument. And
they kept saying, 'Fuck the fucking fuck!'
From then on, more people are saying 'Fuck the
fucking fuck'. It seemed more people agreed with
our idea. But it didn't take us long to realize
that it's not that they agreed with us. People
found it's kind of fun especially when it is
uttered very loudly on the streets. So people
now don't hesitate to use the word.
Consequently, people now more frequently use the
word 'fuck'. This is not what we expected. But
I guess this is the way a word spreads: a word
uttered loudly and repeatedly goes everywhere,
and it marries a local and it will eventually get
That is the last time I did some movement a bit
political. I am not politically active anymore.
I lost ideology. Or it would be better to put
it this way: I know the patterns of things now.
Even if we intend something, we don't get
Those things happen all the time: unexpected
results come out. For example, there is this
story in NYC.
It was I think not a demonstration but a parade
planned by KKK. It happened in the fall of 1999.
They were planning to parade Manhattan their
body all covered with that white costume.
On the weekend in a tourist's hotel in Manhattan,
a Japanese tour guide was talking to a concierge.
She was a young woman of mid-twenties, and
behind her were a couple of Japanese girls of the
same age. The guide was asking the concierge,
"Is the parade by KKK taking place this weekend?"
The concierge was bewildered but said with an
"No, we believe that's not going to happen."
"Oh it's not".
"It's not. We don't let it happen. Besides,
parading in the costume is not permitted."
The tour guide looked back to the two girls and
explained in Japanese. They somehow looked
disappointed. The concierge realized that both
girls were carrying a camera, a very small Canon
"Could you let me know if the parade turns out to
take place? Because these girls wanted to see
"Do they know what KKK is?"
"I guess so. They said that they saw KKK's
picture in their costume in a high-school history
textbook, American history section."
Anything on high-school history books has
tourist's value. Just like tourists to China
want to see the Great Wall of China. Its picture
is of course on the page of Chinese history. And
when people go there, they take a picture
imitating the angle that the picture in the
textbook is taken.
The concierge imagined those two Japanese girls
would approach a KKK person and ask to be in the
picture with them. The KKK guy would maybe go
'OK' if they luckily talked to a very moderate
KKK, if any. And the guide would take their
picture with that fashionable compact camera.
And the developed picture would be a KKK standing
in the costume between the smiling two Japanese
The parade didn't take place. The city didn't
let them. That was maybe good for KKK
If it had taken place, KKK would have suffered
their identity crisis. If they meant to show
anything to the public, it would be to scare
non-white people. But when they paraded, young
Japanese girls would come up to them, giving them
a friendly and a little shy look, and beg for a
picture. KKK would realize that they are somehow
popular among non-white people. That's not what
they are meant to be. It would be a big issue
for them: they cannot give others the impression
they intended; they can no longer stay KKK.
Maybe any parades in the US big cities are
confused with a Disney Land parade for those
Japanese girls. Or the US itself is taken as the
whole big Disney land. KKK might, however, find
it nice to be popular, as in general people like
to be popular, and decide to live more like
KKK in Mickey Mouse costume.
I think experiencing being misunderstood is not a
non-native speaker particular thing.
Miscommunication can happen to anybody at all
levels of communications.
KKK and Disney Land.
Sick and shit.
Fax and fuck.
I wrote down this miscommunication list on a
piece of paper. These have very similar pattern.
I just don't know if those Japanese girls would
take Disney Land for KKK although they take KKK
for Disney land.
When I finished writing the list, I suddenly
came up with some idea and picked up the phone.
It was an experiment. I called the guy again to
have him fax me. I forgot the information I
wanted him to fax. It was not very important
This time, I succeeded in having him fax me!
He picked up the phone,
"Oh, it's you. .... Listen, I was thinking about
what you asked me, but...."
"No, forget it. Today I am calling you to ask
you for something else".
"What is it now?"
"Can you fuck me for the information I was
"Oh, that's no big deal!"
A few seconds after that, I got the fax. Now I
have this hypothesis: miscommunications have
patterns; when people don't understand me, I can
just observe and analyze to find some
miscommunication patterns, so that I will know
how to get my communication succeeded.
Sachi was knitting.
"Pregnancy is not an illness," she looked at me
with her hands still kept knitting, "we just need
some care. That's all."
I thought it was sweet of her that she used the
word illness not sickness. It was felt that she
was trying to use the word I use so that we can
avoid miscommunication and can understand each
But who is this girl Sachi anyway?
I asked my mother but she didn't know.
"Mom, I met my cousin Sachi."
"Do you know her?"
"No. I have a lot of brothers and sisters in
this country and in that country. I believe they
have a lot of kids in this country and in that
country, any of those kids I haven't met."
My mother talks like this all the time. She
never uses proper nouns. This way of talking
gives me the impression that she keeps distance
from things. Maybe she is afraid. Maybe she
feels alienated. I once asked her why she refers
to things by pronouns, this something or that
something, then she says,
"Well, for example, I call this country this
country because I am an immigrant and do not feel
familiar enough to call this country by this
country's name. Likewise, I call my home country
that country because I left the country and no
longer feel that country familiar."
She doesn't call me by my name. When I am within
2 meters distance from her, she calls me this
child. When beyond, she calls me that child. I
never ask her why she doesn't call me by my name.
I guess I am afraid that she might say, "Because
I don't feel you familiar." This would be sad.
But she once named me when I was born. After
she registered my name, however, she has never
used it. It didn't take me long to realize that
everybody but me has a name. They asked me my
name. At first I was saying that I didn't have a
name. But people wouldn't let me stay nameless.
They demanded that I have a name. So I went to
see my birth certificate to check my name. I
think it goes, Yoko, female, the first child.
But I thought it funny to have this name simply
because it is registered. I never feel this name
familiar, because it's never with me. I wondered
if I should call myself this me or that me? That
makes sense to me but wouldn't make sense to the
others. So I name myself sometimes. It's nice I
can choose unlike all those who cannot. My
previous one is Scarlet. My current one is
Midori, named after a green liquor I got to know
at a nightclub the other day, which in my native
language means green.
"Hi, Sachi and Midori".
It was Sachi's brother Ken. He always comes when
Sachi and I are sitting at the waiting room.
"How are you guys?" his green eyes slightly
shined as he smiled.
"I am pregnant and fine", I said, "and yourself?"
"I am fine."
He looks fine. Just like his sister Sachi looks
fine. I wonder what's wrong with him. I haven't
asked him why he comes to the hospital.
Sometimes people don't want to talk about their
illness. Is he sick? He must be. He comes to
"So are you ill?"
When I asked this question, Sachi stopped
knitting and smiled.
"He just said he is fine."
"Yes, I am fine."
"But why do you go to the psychiatrics?"
"Because I am paranoia", said he, somewhat
proudly. The way he pronounced paranoia is so
clear and beautiful that I felt jealous of him
for being paranoia.
"What's paranoia like?"
"Well unless you become paranoia, you never
"Is it like pregnancy? I mean, did you one day
realize that you are paranoia?"
"No. It's not like pregnancy."
"Did you choose to be paranoia?"
"Can anybody choose to be paranoia?"
"No. Only those who are talented to be paranoia
can become paranoia," he grinned, "So you didn't
choose to be pregnant, did you?"
"No. I was just told that I am pregnant".
"Then maybe they are just deceiving you and you
are not really pregnant."
"Is that the way paranoia people think?"
"Well we just know better. Nice chatting with
you", he turned back and left for the
I sighed. "End of cousins meeting.
Sachi again stopped knitting, and looked into my
"He is not your cousin.
"You are my cousin. He is your brother.
Automatically he is my cousin."
"No, he is not. This is just how things are.
You can do nothing about it."
Sachi looked worried as if I was saying something
totally wrong. I didn't think I was wrong. But
at the same time I got confused. Sachi's
sentences are repeating in my head. This is just
how things are. I can do nothing about it....
My doctor asked me when I first saw her,
"Do you know who the father is?"
"Paul", said I. Then I was not sure. "Maybe
David and Greg"
"For one pregnancy, only one man can be the
"Well, then I don't know."
My doctor sighed, and said,
"It's all right then."
It's not alright because I didn't choose to be
They came to me. First came Paul, next David,
then Greg. Maybe David came first. It doesn't
matter who came first. What matters is that they
all looked at me in the same way. In the way I
didn't choose myself to be looked at.
I think it was Greg. And it was in a cafe. I
was reading a book and when I looked up to have a
sip of coffee, I noticed he was looking at me.
"Do I know you?" I asked him.
"I am looking at you not because I know you but
because I want to know you."
So I let him try to know me. I let him simply
because I wanted to know what he means by 'know
All Greg, David, and Paul said that they know me
now. But I don't know the girl they know. When
I look at their eyes, I see someone else I don't
Or is it just I don't know myself? Do they
know me what I don't know about?
I know only patterns of things. Thus outcomes of
things can be predicted. I just fail to see the
patterns sometimes and get an outcome I didn't
expect. And now I am pregnant.
Sachi has some pattern too.
One time at the waiting room she was looking at
the window. Near the window outside, pigeons
were resting on a branch of a tree. Then she put
her knitting stuff on the chair and stood up.
"I am going to the hospital shop to buy some
Sables is a French word for cookies. Her
pronunciation of sables was very clear. Maybe
she knows French.
There is another time Sachi showed a similar
Across Sachi and I, there were a couple of
women of our age talking.
"What kind of eggs do you eat for breakfast?",
one of the women asked the other.
I thought I just misheard, "How do you cook
eggs for breakfast?"
The other one, however, said,
"I eat eggs of rabbit. It's low fat and
I thought that I misunderstood again and she
must have said that she eats meat of rabbit. But
still, eating rabbit for breakfast didn't sound
Sachi, knitting and listening to their talk
silently, suddenly stood up.
"I am going to the hospital shop".
As soon as she said it, I realised that I
didn't misunderstand their talk. I quickly stood
up and said,
"I go to the shop to get some chocolate for
Sachi looked surprised,
"How did you know that I want chocolate?"
"I know because things have patterns".
Around 13th century in my native country, a
shogun was ruling the country. He set the
capital in Kamakura, the south west of Tokyo.
It's a beautiful city in a vast rich forest with
a castle, a huge Buddha statue, and a lot of
As it was the capital of shogunate, the city is
historical and thus a tourist spots. And just
like any tourist spots create some specialties,
Kamakura has the famous 'pigeon shaped' tasty
cookies called Kamakura Pigeon Sables.
Pigeons Shogunate Kamakura Sables
Eggs Rabbits Easter Chocolates
I am not enjoying detecting patterns of things.
I think it's pointless. It's just that patterns
come out in front of me. And I end up analyzing
them. Unfortunately I don't come out patterns.
This is a big difference. If I came out
patterns, I could choose not to be pregnant but
to be paranoia.
"Are you comfortable being pregnant, Sachi?"
"Why do you ask that?"
I didn't answer Sachi's question and went on to
another but the same kind of question.
"Do you think apples are happy to drop on the
Sachi looked like she was wondering what's the
point of my question. After a few seconds, she
"I am not an apple so I don't know".
"Then are you happy to be pregnant?"
"Oh," Sachi put her hand on mine, "it's gonna
There was a silence. We were apparently not
communicating well. Sachi was thinking, trying
to know how to make me feel 'alright', I guess.
Some time passed. Half an hour or almost one
hour. It was a long silence. When I almost
forgot what we were discussing about, Sachi
suddenly looked at me. Her eyes were clear as if
saying that the entire problem is finally solved.
"You know what?"
"I have a gift for you."
Her hands are on her back. Seems like she is
hiding a gift for me behind her back. Behind her
back slowly came out was a tiny orange knitting
stuff, that stuff Sachi was always working on.
"This is for your baby".
I took it in my hand. What is it? This knit
looks so weird. Firstly, it is small. It is too
small even for a baby. It's only about 15
centimeters in length. Secondly, the shape is
weird. It looks like some wrist supporter except
that it got a few small holes and one even
smaller hole at the edge. Then I remembered I
saw something similar somewhere. But I couldn't
"How does my baby wear this? It doesn't seem
to be the right size or shape."
"This is the right size and shape. See. This
hole is for the neck", she showed me the biggest
hole, "these four are for the legs...."
"Four holes for the legs?"
"Yes. And this smallest one is for the tail".
I now remember when I saw it. I saw it on the
street across this hospital at the pet shop
window, a cat was wearing the same thing.
"Sachi", I said calmly contrary to my
bewilderment, "this is for a cat baby."
"Yes. And this is for your baby."
Sachi said it as if saying that the earth is
"Sachi, is the earth round or flat?"
"The earth is round."
"Am I having a cat baby?"
"Yes, you are."
I could have just stopped talking to her at
that moment, but what happened is that the moment
I heard that, I became unsure. I became
confused. And I felt my confusion growing bigger
and bigger. True. Anything might happen in this
world. Just like I cannot make the earth flat, I
cannot help myself pregnant of cat baby.
Before it filled me, I stood up and screamed,
"This is enough!"
"What's wrong?" Sachi didn't understand what I
was so upset about, which made me even more
"I get out of here. I don't belong here!"
I ran to the psychiatrics, where Ken always
"I am paranoia! Is anybody here? I am
Ken came up to me.
"You don't belong here. Go back to the
obstetrics," said he, holding my shoulders.
"No, I decided to be paranoia. I have to stay
"No, you can't. You can't change the way you
"Yes, I can."
"No, you can't."
I got his hands off my shoulders and ran to the
window. As long as I stay in the hospital,
things will stay the same. Out there, things
must be different.
"What are you doing Sachi? It's dangerous
climbing up the window. Come down here."
Ken and Sachi were both trying to persuade me
but I didn't listen. I don't listen to anybody
anymore. I listen to myself only.
The window didn't look so high from below, but
it was felt very high when I was actually
climbing up there. I finally reached the window,
opened it, trying to get out.
"Come down here. Getting out there makes not
much difference. It's just safer and more
comfortable for you down here."
I didn't listen to them. But then I felt a
very strong force from outside. Is it wind? The
irresistible force pushed me back and I dropped
inside on the floor.
"Are you alright, Midori?,"
Sachi's concerned face was over me lying on the
"It's alright. Everything gonna be alright."
Every word of Sachi coming out of her mouth
dropped on my face. I was looking at it falling.
Falling and falling just like I fell and the
words trapped me on the hospital floor.
"Don't worry Sachi. It's alright. It's just