Meeting My Husband Again
It was very late at night on August 15th, when there was a sudden commotion at the front gates of the school. I had already put Masahiko and Sakiko to bed, and was still up mending the split seams on their clothes when I heard loud voices. I put my sewing down and crept down towards the front door to see what was going on.
“They’re from the meteorological station,” one of the women said as they stood in the hallway. I gasped and hurried into the entryway. Beneath a dim light, I saw several men. Among them, I immediately recognized Mr. Narita, a meteorologist from my husband’s office. I ran about looking, “Where is my husband?” But I didn’t see him. I sank with bitter disappointment against the metal bannister. As if I had lost any will to live, I just stared at the faces of the men from our meteorological station as they lowered their rucksacks to let people see what they brought.
Then suddenly, Masahiro, my eldest, said in a strange voice, “There’s Daddy!”
I jerked awake and looked where Masahiro was pointing. My husband was separate from the other men—he kneeled at a table—surrounded by a crowd, and was writing something. When he finished writing, he talked with the Hoantai, the Korean police who had brought our men. I grabbed Masahiro and crumpled to the ground in tears.
There were eight men who returned to us that night. With these men, now there were eleven families restored, made whole again. But six men did not return—their families sat desolate as the rest of us rejoiced. I touched my husband’s rucksack and asked if I could take it. He shrugged as if he didn’t care. “Go ahead,” he said. There was a mountain of things for us to talk about, but when we took his bag to our ‘home’ in the classroom, he gently touched the cheeks of our sleeping children, Masahiko and Sakiko. Then he laughed, and took out a wrapped present for Masahiro. He started to go talk with Dancho Tono, to catch up, and I stopped him to say, “Be sure to thank Dancho Tono. He’s been a good leader despite his missing wife.
He nodded his head, again surveyed my ‘home,’ our family’s sleeping area on the school room floor, and strode over to Dancho Tono and they talked quietly for some time.
I was delighted as I went through my husband’s bag. He brought a new blanket for us! And his winter underwear. I was so happy with the thought that we would sleep under a warm blanket that night. Happy families here and there laughed and talked late into the night.
But I noticed the six families left out of the happy reunions. They sat apart from us—dejected and silent. I waited for my husband to come sit by my side. I was so happy and relieved, and repeated to myself, “My husband is back.” I wanted to chatter about everything—all my complaints, my worries. Although I knew I would sound silly, I didn’t care anymore. “I can talk with him.” I pulled out the Longines watch I kept in my clothes to show him.
“See. I still have it,” I proudly said. The pocket watch swung on a heavy black silk rope. He took the watch and put it up against his ear to listen, to drink in its nostalgic ticking. When I tried to untie the watch to give it back to him, he refused. But that watch didn’t mean anything to me now that I had my husband’s breathing to replace its sound. The hands of the Longines pointed to two a.m.
I think my husband hadn’t expected to ever see us again. In his bag, there were no clothes for the children or me, but I found a small square package wrapped in cloth. Out of the cloth, photos fell out. He had taken them out of our photo albums. Photos from our wedding, photos of the children, about ten photos in all, carefully tucked away.
That night, as soon as he curled his body around the children, he fell asleep. Grateful for the warm blanket that he had brought, I silently thanked the universe before I lay myself down on the other side of the children. His sunburnt face glowed in the moonlight shining through the window. After I gently lifted my side of the blanket to slip in next to the children, I fell into a deep sleep, so deep it felt like several nights rolled into one.