She was on the beach – surrounded by friends. They caught me looking, and their laughter disappeared to giggles behind their hands. She gazed back at me with an intoxicating mixture of shyness and confidence.
We would officially meet later that weekend. I had come out to watch the sunrise, it seemed the rest of the world was forever asleep. Except for her.
Her name meant “fresh and new” in the oldest of Japanese. Arata. She laughed at the caucasionality of my simple “Henry.” I was “Enree”.
I was visiting Japan on my way home from serving in the Peace Corps in the Philippines. A farmboy from Idaho. When I met Arata’s parents, I was the first American of peace they’d ever met.
Their generation had seen such terrible things, experienced the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. His father said in broken English, he believed I had shinrai or trust that he had never seen in one of us before. “Us”, the “other”.
When it was clear we were to become more than just a passing fancy, he took it upon himself to teach me their family history, so that it would not as he said “disappear in the melting pot.”
I wrote my parents explaining that I had met Arata and thought perhaps that my place was with her in Japan. I could feel my mother’s heartbreaking that her boy was not coming home. I could feel my father’s pride that I had found my own way in a complicated world.
My Arata and I were married on a beautiful fall afternoon in 1967. I had never thought myself the marrying type. As I climbed into bed, naked against my wife that first evening, I had never experienced anything more beautiful in my entire life, except for her.
This was my entry in week four of the “150 Words a Week Club” on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/groups/1855374944730803/