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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

and suffer?

 

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.

 

"Hi".

 

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

them.

 

"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

just said,

"Yes. Of course this is the first time".

 

Sachi smiled and said,

"You are pregnant".

 

"Well, maybe".

 

"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.

 

"Hi, Ken"

 

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

subject.

 

"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',

people laughed.

 

"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

wrong.

 

"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

asked.

 

"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

me wrong.

 

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

a citizenship.

 

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

expected result.

 

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

assuring manner,

 

"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

compact camera.

 

"Could you let me know if the parade turns out to

take place? Because these girls wanted to see

the parade."

 

"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

girls.

 

The parade didn't take place. The city didn't

let them. That was maybe good for KKK

themselves.

 

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

Disney characters.

 

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

anyway.

 

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

talking about?"

 

"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

other better.

 

But who is this girl Sachi anyway?

I asked my mother but she didn't know.

"Mom, I met my cousin Sachi."

 

"Did you?"

 

"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

the hospital.

 

"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

know."

 

"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?"

 

"Yes."

 

"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

psychiatrics.

 

I sighed. "End of cousins meeting.

Sachi again stopped knitting, and looked into my

face.

 

"He is not your cousin.

"You are my cousin. He is your brother.

Automatically he is my cousin."

I insisted.

 

"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

father."

 

"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

pregnant.

 

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

me'.

 

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

know.

 

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."

 

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

reaction.

 

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

healthy".

 

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

very usual.

 

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

you."

 

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

pigeons.

 

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

earth?"

 

Sachi looked like she was wondering what's the

point of my question. After a few seconds, she

said,

 

"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

be alright".

 

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?"

 

"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

remember where.

 

"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

round.

 

"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

upset.

 

"I get out of here. I don't belong here!"

I ran to the psychiatrics, where Ken always

goes.

 

"I am paranoia! Is anybody here? I am

paranoia!"

 

"Sachi"

 

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

here."

 

"No, you can't. You can't change the way you

are."

 

"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

hospital floor.

 

"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

gravity."