My Own Private Nakamura


The war between the U.S. and Japan ended in 1945. For Teruo Nakamura, a soldier in the Imperial Japanese Army, the war did not end until nearly 30 years later. In 1974, Nakamura was accidentally discovered in Indonesia when a pilot flew over his hut. He, like a number of Japanese soldiers, was unaware or unwilling to accept that Japan had surrendered, and that the war was, finally, over.
I don’t subscribe to “all’s fair in love and war,” but I’ve come to appreciate the nouns therein. “Love” and “war” are not “all,” but to those experiencing either, they feel total; like any trauma, life afterward can take a long time to reach equilibrium.

I’ve heard it takes half your life to learn who you are and half to accept who you are.
I care more than I care to. I think I love so rarely because I’m so often ready to love.
My boyfriend instincts die off slowly; like Nakamura, they’re wary of the new world, remnants of an imbroglio long since run to ruin. “Die off” isn’t the best way to put it. More like “erode.” Every minute of every day, there’s a gust of wind, a wave of water, seconds give way to minutes, hours, days, weeks, months; a watched pot never boils; a watched heart never heals. Healing only becomes legible through the lens of time.


I have a new apartment. Moving in next week. My command of language has not evolved far enough for me to express how _________ I feel about this. So I’ll keep it simple: me happy.
I have about a month before I resume teaching. Planning to spend that time working on the new novel, editing the short story collection, and editing a new client’s novel. Planning to spend time getting into a sustainable routine that puts what I want first. It’s been years since I put what I want first. I think I’ll like it.
My heart is on sabbatical. I don’t like anyone—“like like,” I mean. I’m tired of meeting women who don’t say what they mean or say what they want or mean what they say. I’m officially out of the game for now. I want to write. I want to improve as a teacher. I want to hang out with friends. I want to exhale—I haven’t exhaled images-144since June 18th.

Sometimes people hang out with me, wait till I’ve had 4 or 5 drinks, and then tell me news about my ex.
The past 4 months, I’ve been living in Mastic. Near where I’ve been staying, there’s a Y in the road. One branch of the Y is Mastic Road; the other is called Herkimer. For weeks, if not nearly a month, I always took Mastic Rd. when I headed home, and Herkimer when I headed out. I never put it together that these two roads forked and hit the same highway. It’s not that I didn’t know. I didn’t. But I never committed any mental energy to even consider the thought.
When I lived in Rochester, I used to take bike rides or walks in neighborhoods near my house. I turned my brain off when I did so. I was able to walk these same roads for years without ever knowing what they were called, without remembering how they connected. It was a conscious effort to stop my brain from learning, because by not learning, the process always felt new. Not knowing made the world a bigger place. I like when the world feels bigger. Being able to lose yourself somewhere you’ve been hundreds of times is a wonderful, wonderful feeling.


Maybe this is a post-internet cognition; maybe it stems from so many moments in the day where one chooses not to know something because one knows that information (or, in rarer cases, knowledge) is always within reach. Why expend energy or take up space in one’s head knowing something that doesn’t need to be known right now? Why make the world smaller if you don’t have to?
I’m not in love. I’m not at war. Equilibrium is as sweet as rainwater and as elusive as the wind. Every day my own private Nakamura erodes. Every day I am grateful.
I wonder what Nakamura felt in his heart when he was forced to face living in a world he may have suspected he already occupied. I wonder, when my last dying ember of the world that was extinguishes, what light I’ll see by then. I suspect I’m already there.

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