Utaha smiled at the old lady—Haruchika Haruko.
“Can you tell us more about Haruko-san? Like when and how she died, her personality when she was alive and so forth. You can just tell me what you know.”
“What happens if I tell you? Supposing that my grandmother’s spirit is here, are you going to…..erm, send her to heaven? I am still not sure what is going on around here.
“Sorry for the confusion. A short while ago, Aikawa-san explained briefly that she was a spirit but I call them <<lost words>> to be precise.”
Words needs to be accurate, if you bestow them with the wrong name, there is a possibility of giving them a different nature. From now on, I will refer to her as Haruko’s lost words. Think of it as a promise.”
Seiko nodded without understanding anything.
“Please explain lost words to her, Aikawa-san.”
After Utaha left, Keito told Seiko about lost words in his own way. Although he is not confident whether he can explain it properly, but after listening to his explanation and thinking through,
“What were my grandmother’s last words……..that she wants to tell?”
She muttered in a trembling voice.
“I am not sure about that, but I am sure Harukchika and the rest will probably convey something important to us. I think that is not wrong.”
“There is something I would like to confirm with you, Seiko-san. Did Haruko-san had dementia?”
Yesterday, Utaha has made the assumption about this old lady, in other words Seiko’s grandmother’s lost words.
Seiko held her breath as she nodded and say “yes”.
“Normally she was levelheaded, but sometimes the symptoms will kick in. During time like those, she would forget about the family and there are times that are worse where she would think that her money was stolen or make a ruckus about losing her things.
She is actually a really nice and kind person. That is why…………….it only happens when she is sick…..”
When she said that, Seiko choked on her words again. He waited for some time, but the silence persisted as if he is trying to find words for a follow up.
“Can you brew your usual coffee Utaha-san?”
Since Utaha took up on Keito’s proposal and got up from her seat, he is now alone with Seiko. To be precise, Haruko’s lost words was nestling beside them.
“Errrm…….are you okay?”
“Many things is happening since evening and I might not understand it at all.”
Seiko faintly laughed.
“Sorry for getting you involved in a such a weird thing. But this is definitely important. Would it be better if I left the place?”
There is two types of category, the type where you talk to a complete stranger and the other is the things you can’t say because you know that person. One would be hesitant to expose the circumstances to a friend because it is someone acquainted.
“Thank you, I am okay. Utaha-san is a little strange right? I don’t meant it in a bad way. She is really beautiful and mysterious, cool but enthusiastic. I might want to draw a picture of her.”
“Your drawings would definitely be attractive, Haruchika.”
“This is really a nice place. Is this a cafe? Or an art museum? After settling down, I would like to take my time and look around. Just telling about this place makes me very delighted to have visited this place.”
“Sorry for the wait.”
Utaha carried three cups and placed each of it before them. Keito knew the original taste was anticipating Seiko’s reaction.
“That is an odd taste.”
Seiko took a sip and frowned. It seems like it is not to her liking.
“This is not the so-called coffee right?”
“So you found out. This is not a coffee brewed with coffee beans. Instead of beans, it was brewed from dried dandelion’s roots.”
“So this is dandelion coffee. I have heard of it before but this is my first time drinking it. It taste a bit like medicine but will it be sweet once I gotten used to it?”
Seiko took another sip, drank and gulped.
“This is a first. I thought the coffee was strange though.”
“This is a memorable coffee that my mother taught me. You don’t have to force yourself to drink if you don’t like it, Seiko-san. I can just pour another drink.”
“No, I am fine.”
Seiko drank finished the coffee, together with the chocolate.
“Aikawa-kun, Utaha-san, I will tell you about my mother and grandmother.”
After finally calming down, Seiko began to talk in a formal tone towards Utaha who was keeping the cups.
She just said her mother and grandmother. It seems like not only Haruko was involved but so was her mother as well.
“Even from my view point as a child, I think my mother took good care of my grandmother with dementia. Other than her heart which is a little poor, she was constantly moving around.
Because of that reason, it was awfully troublesome when her symptoms appeared. Occasionally, she would use violence and abused my mother. Nevertheless, I still have respect for my mother who cared for my grandmother.
I went to complain to my father, but he was busy with work and I had to attend school so my mother is the only one who can look after her in the daytime as expected. We also had a very young Shouta.
I also helped out during the holidays. People from the institution would visit us as well, but it is not like her symptoms would appeared all the time and when she was fine, she is able to spend her daily life on her own. On the contrary, requesting for care-giving was a pain as well.
I think my mother was tired. She had a calm posture, but that was clearly not the case. However, there is very little we can do. My father has to go to work and I had to attend school.
Day by day, my mother would become less vigorous. My grandmother would switch from a gentle face to an angry one in irregular timing without any warning. From the end of last year to the start of this year, my home was devitalized.
Then one snowy day…………she collapsed. There were three people at home, my mother and my little brother. My mother had to take care of my little brother, shoveled snow and prepared food for the family. That is why she didn’t noticed my grandmother had collapsed. When she finally called the ambulance, the road was jammed. Apparently the vehicle didn’t arrive in time and by the time they carried her to the hospital, it was already too late, she had passed. When I got in touch with my cell phone, everything had ended.
The cause of her death was heart attack. The doctor said that her weak heart had been strained more due to the cold.”
Seiko’s grandmother died about four months ago from now. That day was snowing heavily, which is rare in Sonomiya City. Keito still remembers that going to school on that day was problematic.
Seiko hung her head in regret. The feeling of loneliness and frustrations for not witnessing the dying moments of someone special is something Keito know too well. Perhaps something could have be done? It could be possible that Seiko was tormented by her incompetence.
“Till this day, I still dream about that day occasionally. Grandma was alone holding her chest and suffering. However, no one came to her aid. Not my mother, not me, not anyone……….When I woke up from that dream, my chest would also feel like it is being split apart, as if my bare heart was gouged out with a knife. That is how I feel. Maybe this is not a dream…..”
Keito had a hunch of what Seiko was trying to say and thought it was stringent for her to say it.
When he turned towards Utaha, her mouth was tightly shut. The only one talking is him.
“It is possible that your mother might have noticed it but didn’t do anything……..is what you are thinking right, Haruchika?”
Seiko widely opened her eyes then agreed with Keito before he finished.
“Recently, I can’t get that kind of feeling out of my mind. I knew that I shouldn’t doubt my mother, but……….I can’t……It is possible that I am more worried now than when my grandmother was alive.
After all, I can’t ask my mother about that.
That is why, I am afraid of what my grandmother is trying to tell us.
Would she accused my mother? No, this is my responsibility in this as well. Maybe she is trying to tell me that. I couldn’t support my mother due to schooling so I am equally guilty…….”
Seiko hung her head in shame after saying just that.
For a moment, Neither Keito nor Utaha spoke. Keito was unable to speak lightly about the anguish that she was carrying.
Utaha started the ball rolling.
“We as the messager must deliver the lost words to the person it is trying to convey to.”
“Even if the listener refused it?
“None of us know the words Haruko-san is trying to convey. Therefore, there is a good chance that you will hear the truth that is different than the one you are worrying about, Seiko-san. Then supposing if you are right about your concerns, it is still necessary to convey the lost words to the intended recipients nevertheless.
“You said that if the lost words are not delivered as it is, it will eventually disappear right? Then wouldn’t it be better if you just wait until then? They said that ignorance is bliss.”
“I can’t do that. Unfortunately, there are some areas that I have unheard of which ends up like that as a result. However if there are lost words before me, I can’t abandon my role in it. That is my pride as a messager.”
“Utaha-san, Aikawa-kun, I want to hear the words my beloved grandmother wanted to tell us.”
Seiko interrupted their conversation.
Keito exchanged looks with her as if to ask if she is fine with it and She silently nodded.
“Aikawa-san can you tell Seiko-san about the state of Haruko-san’s lost words from the time you found her up till now?”
Keito collected himself and told her what happened the day before yesterday after school.
He recounted about how he found Haruko-san sqautting at the roadside and called out to her, carrying her on his back in the end and arrived at the front of this building. And before he knew it, Utaha was in the store.
“I see. So Aikawa-kun was the one who found my grandmother. Thank you”
“You also the words <<Chikako>> when you carried her on your back right? Seiko-san, do you have any ideas?”
“Aikawa-kun, you carried my grandmother…….”
Seiko muttered “maybe” with regards to Utaha’s question.
Moreover, towards Seiko’s futher questioning,
“Can you leave the rest to me? Seiko-san, you are a compassionate person. I think Haruko-san never forget about that.”
Utaha took a paper from the desk. It is the same kind strip of paper that the Michizane write his waka before.
Utaha took writing brush and faced Haruko. The expression shown on the figure was hazy, or hollow.
“Next, please listen, Seiko-san.”
He encouraged Seiko who stood behind him to come forward. Keito then kept an eye on what is happening behind Utaha.
“Aikawa-san, please look at what is going to come.”
Utaha lightly dipped the brush’s tip in black ink and beautifully shook away the drops of water.
Holding the strip of paper on her chest with her left hand, the brush on her right hand was flowing through her fingers as if it was running.
『Carried mother on my back as a joke and crying softly as I walked three steps.』*
At the same time, the words assembled by from that mouth is a song to remember an old mother. The old mother that one was carrying after a long time was so light that it was surprising to the point that one would cry.
It is a song by Ishikawa Takuboku.
I learned in class that it was included in the songbook 『A handful of sand』.
Keito survey the building interior from his seat and visualize the image of the beach which might be associated with the word 『Sand』.
Seiko walks on the beach under the setting sun, treading while stooping down with each step she takes.
On her back, there is a figure of Haruko and Seiko is carrying her.
Her feet was weak so she will probably have trouble walking. Nevertheless, she kept on walking, with no destination in mind. After walking straight ahead with all her heart, leaving her footprints on the sand.
Both Seiko, who was carrying and Haruko, who was being carried were happy.
They were probably heading back to the home that they want to return to.
The illusion disappeared in an instant and Keito realized that Utaha is still with him.
Haruko’s lost words was staring at Utaha. After that, it shifted it’s gaze towards Seiko. It’s eyes contained a potent radiance like never before.
The words muttered from Haruko’s mouth clearly recognizes Seiko.
The names of the family continued to reverberate similarly to the previous one but the strength dwelling in it was different.
The first one to feel that nuance was none other than Seiko.
“Did you hear that too, Haruchika?”
“Yes. Not only can I hear it, my grandmother is over there……I can see it. I can see it too.”
Seiko staggered as she approaches Haruko, placing her hand on Haruko’s wrinkled face and pat it with affection.
“Seiko, Shouta, Minoru, Atsuko-san. And Katsuo-san.”
Haruko called out the names of her family as if she was instructed to do so. The current situation was clearly reflected before Keito’s eyes. Her <<lost words>> had remained the same but that eyes were concealing it’s intention, leaving emotions in those words.
“Yes,yes, everyone……….is fine.”
Seiko nodded numerous times.
Naturally reminded of the previous spectacle, Keito suggested.
“How about giving Haruko-san a piggyback ride?”
When he turned towards to Utaha, she silently nodded as if to say she would rely on Keito.
Seiko crouched in front of Haruko and showed her back. Haruko’s lost words place her small wrinkled hand on her shoulders as if she was being pulled in.
“Heave-ho. This feel somewhat strange…..To think I can piggyback someone again. You are lighter than I remembered, grandma. However, your warmth is circulating onto me…..”
Her voice became hoarse by her tears at the end.
“Seiko-chan, thanks to all of you, I was in total bliss. Thank you for everything. I didn’t get to say it but I am always grateful.”
Haruko’s <<lost words>> announced behind Seiko’s back.
That is her only departing words. However, it seems to be enough for her. After finished conveying her message, she smiled with satisfaction. Seiko didn’t see the importance of that smile.
“Haruchika………..Haruko-san is smiling.”
Upon hearing Keito’s voice, Seiko lowered her grandmother from her back.
“Please………..grandma…..talk to me more……let me see your face………”
Seiko took her hand as if to cling on to her.
When Seiko added more pressure to her grip, Haruko frowned slightly. That was the proof that Seiko’s affection was getting through to her.
As she said it again with a smile, she disappeared in front of Keito and the rest.
The whole thing only took no less than a few minutes.
*TL: Here is the actual sentence,『たはむれに 母を背負いて そのあまり 軽きに泣きて 三歩あゆまず』. It is a compilation of poem from the songbook <A handful of sand> by Takuboku Ishikawa in 1910. I really don’t know how to translate it Japanese literature properly but here is meaning. Anyone has a better way of phrasing it is welcome to do so.
The mother got older and small in stature was from the reality that she have suffered many hardship in her life and the child turned away. But when the child decides to carry the mother on his back as a joke, her lightness of her weight was handed down to his back, thinking to himself how hard it was for her to get to here, thinking how much love he has received from her. He tried to take a step or two but he was unable to do because tears are hindering his sight of vision.