OTO-SAN (Fiction)


The Twilight Samurai nee Tasogare Seibei (2002)

The train lost momentum through the frozen country. 

Snow descended like a beautiful rain, as it dusted the the myriad of buildings around the train station.

The father looked out, his breath misting the shinkansens window as he stared at an elegant woman in a traditional kimono slowly shuffle her way onboard.

The vibrant colours of the kimono, crimson and ivory with a rich lilac sash reminded the father of the one he had at his home, forever untouched for over a year now.

Hung on a wooden frame, it was the centerpiece of his cupboard at home, and with his two daughters, they regularly brushed and maintained the kimono, ensuring every strand of fabric was shimmering in its splendour.

The father felt his breath catch, as he beheld the beautiful woman in the elegant kimono, slowly walk past him, her alabaster skin, nearly matching the perfect bone-white make-up, and the deep rose lips. Her brown eyes were sculpted to an inhuman level, the deep dark pencil stroke accenting the shape of her eyes and brows.

The raven hair was held up in a fan-style, supported by an ornate lacquered comb, an the father found himself catching and inhaling the soft feminine perfume as she  moved past him and sat down.

The beauty of the woman caught in his mind, the father found himself lurching forwards, as the shinkansen began its slow acceleration again, before flinging itself headlong past the city outskirts and into the countryside proper.

Peering out, he watched as the landscape change from countless buildings, to  natural scenery, as bamboo groves flashed by, their green leaves tempered by snow, frozen lakes resting dormant at the base of mountains and the ever shifting snow, as it fell in the distance, and on the window, only to be whisked away by speed and replaced by another flake.

The father saw the reflection of the beautiful woman in his mirror, and pondered on her ghostly appearance across the landscape of his country, the woman perfectly still as she sat on mountains, trees, lakes and hills.

To his surprise, her face slowly morphed and he was reminded of his great love, his wife of years ago.

Tears welled in the corner of his eyes and the father felt himself short of breath, as he stared out at the woman of his dreams, her serene smile haunting him.

His hand touching the glass, he longed to hold her, but knew such a desire was impossible to fulfil.

So he held it up and stared out at her, the glass barrier invisible to them both and he imagined what she would say, when he met her again.

But her voice, silent for so long, did not come to him.

All he remembered was her shy giggle and the way how she used to make soothing sounds when they slept together in their small cold apartment.

The father’s reverie was broken, when he felt his phone vibrate in his coat pocket.

Shaking himself out of it, he looked at the script across the tiny screen and a smile replaced the haunted look on his face, as he read his daughters’ text messages.

He missed them terribly, the long winter having separated them for months now, and both of them looked after by a kind neighbour.

At 12, his eldest daughter was almost a grown woman, her maturity belying her years, as she learned to be a responsible and serious mother to her baby sister, at 7 years of age.

She tidied up after her sister, would whisper soothing songs to calm her when she was afraid or hurt, and when they missed their father, the eldest sister would do her best to imitate his deep, soft voice and both would invariably hug and stay together as they slept the loneliness away.

She even knew how to cook rudimentary meals and would do her best not to bother her father when he was working, only doing so when she truly struggled with something, like a particularly bothersome maths sum or how to respond politely to the mailman when he delivered their father’s gifts to them.

The father looked down at his wallet and took out the cheap Polaroid he had taken of his daughters, and he kissed his fingers and pressed them to the faces of his children.

The shinkansen sped its way through the countryside, and the father stared out, his brown eyes slowly losing their tired and haunted edge, as he began to recognise more and more landmarks of his hometown

When the train finally slowed to his stop, he picked up his bags and stumbled out, pausing briefly to acknowledge the presence of the beautiful woman, who silently stared out at the station.

The chill clapped his cheeks and the father pulled his jacket lapels closer to his neck, as he pulled up the handle on his suitcase and shouldered his overnight bag across a shoulder.

Rolling his shoulders into his jacket more, he made his way down the old staircase of the station and slipped the ticket stub into the gates and began to make his way through the provincial town.

His feet crunched softly under the snow, and the father kept his pace steady and calm, as he nodded in recognition to the friendly street vendors who called out his name and welcomed him back.

Stopping briefly by a convenience store, he purchased his daughters their favourite candy, ignoring the forlorn lack of notes and coins in his wallet, and placed them in his pocket, alongside hand warmers and the origami paper figures he had made.

Walking back out into the snow, the father saw an elderly man struggle in his garage with boxes and bins.

Looking at his watch, knowing he was late to meet his daughters, the father sighed and set down his bags on a relatively dry patch of ground and offered his assistance, the old man smiling in toothy appreciation as the father lifted the heavy box and set it down, labouring quietly to help the clean up.

The old man placed a hand on the father’s shoulder and offered him a bowl of miso soup but the father politely deferred and promised he would come back to help. The old man, nodding understandingly, let the man go and waved goodbye as the lonely figure of the father trudged his way through an empty street, the white snow blanketing him.

The eldest daughter, sat in the pristine old apartment, the lamp glow casting an amber light across the room, as she and her sister fussed over the simple meal of grilled cod and warm rice and the small cup of sake that she had heated up for her father. Worried, that he was so late, the eldest daughter had just finished reheating the sake, when she heard the the doorbell ring.

Placing the small cup down gently, she and her sister ran to the door and watched as the door gently opened and their father came in.

Both of them bowed low and the father laughing, gathered them up and they both laughed and squealed in joy.

Kissing them both and holding them in his large arms, the father deftly shut the door behind him and set his bags down, his happiness restored as he beheld his beautiful daughters, the very images of his long great love, proof of their time together.

As per his custom, whenever he walked through the apartment, he stared briefly at the beautiful kimono that was hers, and always made the same vow again and again to protect and care for his daughters, the same way he did for her.

Author’s Note

A slightly different approach to writing, I wanted this piece to be a bit more poetic in its word use and reflective in its style. I strive for “slice of life” moments, like when you notice something that is strikingly beautiful amidst a lot of common things. Such things could be a beautiful woman who just happened to put a bit more care into her style and thus stand out from everyone else.

Or when you notice something interesting amongst a lot of boring things.

This was largely inspired by the movie The Twilight Samurai, easily one of my all time favourite samurai films, and I tried to emulate that realism approach the film had to an ordinary man who misses his wife but loves his children dearly.

~ Damocles. 


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