lost in translation

lost in translation

Christina Zhou | Art by Annie Yao

content warning: abuse, suicide, and war 

this work is about the japanese writer, actor, model and nationalist yukio mishima. he is a right wing radicalist who wanted to revert japan to uphold an emperor and traditional japanese values. he died by committing seppuku (suicide) after unsuccessfully trying to overthrow the new government and seizing a military headquarters. 

sept 1945 

my grandmother’s health hasn’t been doing well. she’s been having more and more outbursts. yesterday i was in my room with my girl cousins while playing with their dollies when she started scuffing around. she came in and started hitting me with a rage. like mother like son, i thought while she screamed at my cousins to get out and relentlessly scolded me. her palm on my skin always tipped the line of stinging and bruising my skin to taking hold of my heart and twisting it around. 

nov 1953 

at night, my father prowled the house, slamming his hand on the table where i worked. where i scribbled on the paper, he ripped, where i put the candle, he snubbed the light, and where i hid the papers, he snatched the corner of the paper away. my father ripping the papers out has made me out a machine pumping and printing out copies of manuscripts until the papers were burnt out by the candle with a puff of smoke. but the candle never ends. you can’t see anything with light, but his wooden hands that snubbed out the light made it catch fire. the light isn’t running out, it burns the world. he can try to hide the candles, but i can always find the fire. 

march 1957 

i’ve seen in some old newspapers years before that the military had actually assassinated the prime minister and then tried to kill some actor from america. newspapers were printing the news everywhere, and it left the nation reeling. this serves those left-leaning politicians right. this revolution better not be in vain. i was also been despising the press, and it has left a disgusting taste in my mouth, so i’ve resorted to bringing home the newspapers mentioning the riots of the left and putting them in the fireplace to watch them twist and burn. 

feb 1962 

i’ve been losing my grip on myself, dammit. i feel so alone, and i’m devolving into a world of madness, but it has to be done for japan. these western people have been insidiously trying to take us over since those damned americans have been seeping into our land. the slightest hint of japanese nationalism has been slapped away and suppressed. where have they gone? how dare these so-called leftists from the western world come and walk all over japan like this. 

sept 1966 

as i walked alongside some of the national guard yesterday, one of the soldiers shared an interesting story that caught my attention. what was most peculiar was that it was the same story my mother used to tell me.

my mother always told me to take frequent walks outside when she tried to calm my father’s tempers. if you walk in a park though, she always told me to bring a piece of chocolate. during the day, the park will always be filled with people, but the night brings out a different world. the colors will be different and the fluorescent lights and the moonlight will illuminate the mist on its own. and in these types of nights, you will see a single figure in the distance, either a little child, a duplicate of you, or a raggedy old dog. 

the child will look like a person you kept close but as a child. you will have to give the child the piece of chocolate, and you will be at peace forever. however, it is only for the pure of heart. alas, only a few in the world are truly pure of heart. one can never bet on meeting the child on one of these days. no one knows who this child is, and there has never been anyone who truly did look at this child when innocence became increasingly rare. 

the raggedy dog is an old soul, lost on its journey to heaven. he is a beautifully haunted dog who had to fare for his pain for years. you may choose to offer your chocolate to release the dog from the world’s pain, or you can play for him for a while, but you cannot save him from its eternal purgatory. 

you will know if you see your duplicate. it is there, but there is something unsettling, a sense of wrongness and aversion about it. the duplicate is human, but it is not. its features are distorted, but not enough to be inhuman. run away, or accept that it is your time to die. 

that night, after listening to the soldier’s story and remembering my mother’s words, i had a recurring dream, always waking me from my slumber in the middle of the dream. however, yesterday i was able to see the whole dream in its entirety. i was in the park, and i saw a little boy with a bruise on his face, clutching a dollie, a lit candle, a pen, and a newspaper. he was crying and crying, and i walked in front of him to pat him on the back with comfort. but when i touched his shoulder with my fingers, he turned around with a distorted and pale face of a younger me, as if it were a drawing, and smudged his face with his tears 

nov 1970 

there must be nothing wrong. no one can ever put their finger on death, because i lose grip on the tapestry it will unravel my plan over their very own eyes. there is honor in dying with respect. the air is salty and the paper is wet, so I will stop writing to prevent the ink from seeping through the other pieces of papers. you will always have me alive and well. you have the film of my death. just reverse the film, and i will revive in your hearts. i am not imprisoned in your hearts, but i live in your souls.