"Rabbit Run" (Ritsu Act 3-1)

Aug 29th, 2013
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  1. Black is the color of death. As I watch the casket being lowered into the ground, straight in front of me, I feel no emotion.
  3. In Western countries, the color white denotes purity and cleanliness. However, in ancient Asian cultures as well, white is representative of death.
  5. The girl next to me is dressed in all black. She clutches a jet black purse in her hand. Her hairband today, normally yellow, is now black. Her makeup, black mascara, is smeared by the tears running silently down her face.
  7. The coffin in front of me is black—jet, marble, black. In engraved letters there is a simple cross, and the letters TAINAKA written underneath. They shine white in the grey sunlight.
  9. No-one knew Ritsu’s grandmother was going to die. Not even herself. A heart attack at her age is not uncommon—but for such a fit and active woman, surprising. But they always say it’s the unexpected ones that are the worst.
  11. I didn’t know Tainaka-san too well. She was head of Pepsico Japan. She was a teenage girl when the war occurred. She grew up in government housing. She received her degree at age 28, while working as a Pepsi distribution salesman. She was smart. She was talented. She was driven.
  13. She liked cars. She owned a garage at Tsukuba raceway in which she stored a LMP Aston Martin. A car to her, according to Ritsu, was the epitome of art and tool—beautiful—yet immensely functional and powerful.
  15. Although she was wealthy, she did not carry pretensions with her. She donated most of her wealth to charity and the rest she spent on things she truly valued. She told me over dinner that the things she treasured most, money could never hope to buy. She said that this was one of the reasons she had been so successful. Loyalty and compassion were what mattered. She said that seeing me with Ritsu were some of the happiest days in her life.
  17. Her father died when she was a child—conscripted into the army. Her mother worked over 70 hours a week until the day she died—to provide for her children. Tainaka-san was the oldest of her family, and most perversely, the last surviving child.
  19. She made a mistake and married the wrong man, divorced, and raised her children as a single mother.
  21. She held every qualification one could hope to have. She was a certified SCUBA diver, held a FIAA racing license, certified skydiver, and at one point, passed the Japanese bar. She was not only brilliant, but fearless as well.
  23. She was estranged from her family. The one mistake she made as a single mother was putting her career in front of her children. Not actually, but she was so busy working that her family felt no connection to her. Her children, perversely, followed the same tradition. Ritsu pretty much raised herself.
  25. I only spent five days with Tainaka-san. But she treated me like a son. And seeing Ritsu like this… it’s more than upsetting. Her face is a mask. Her chin is straight, but it quivers ever so slightly.
  27. Many important businessmen are here today. They wear expensive suits and have graying hairs on their heads. They have come in their finery—each suit is cut perfectly and each man is groomed to a point. They are a testament to her achievements, but also a testament to the life she chose. At the end, business
  29. Ritsu throws the first shovel in, and following her, I’m second in the line. Her sons and daughters couldn’t fly in for the flight… or they didn’t want to. I’m not sure and Ritsu didn’t mention it.. Her only family was Ritsu. She was an amazing woman.
  31. Tainaka-San told me that her role model was Ayrton Senna—the famed Brazilian F1 Driver. She used three phrases to describe him. Oddly enough, the same phrases fit her perfectly.
  33. My head touches the grass before the grave as I bow.
  35. No fear. No limits. No equal.
  37. ==============================
  39. “I can’t believe it’s real, Hisao.”
  41. The girl in front of me is exhausted. We’re slumped in the same café we were in just weeks before.
  43. Her order has changed—it’s now the same as mine—a red-eye doubleshot espresso.
  45. “It feels like I’m in a dream.”
  47. After the funeral, we had nowhere to go. Not in the physical sense, but there wasn’t really any place to return to. Under Tainaka-san’s will, Ritsu receives the house, the cars, and a staggering amount of money—but I don’t think Ritsu wanted to go back the house just yet.
  49. We drove to the café, but this time we took the 7-Series. Quiet. Discreet. I made the mistake of calling it stock the first time I saw it, but Ritsu quicly corrected me. Apparently it’s a full Dinan stage III custom with a M-series V10 under the hood. Driving through the mountains I didn’t notice any of it. I just felt miserable the entire way.
  51. Death is kind of something you never think about. I thought about it a lot in the hospital—in fact, every minute—but I hadn’t thought about it in a long time. Now it’s staring me straight in the face. I could die anytime.
  55. I could die any minute. I am statistically likely to die well before the average adult in Japan. I have a much higher risk of a heart attack than an old person or even the severely obese. Every minute I have is a surprise and a testament to modern technology. Every minute is a gift. An extraordinary one.
  57. The only thing keeping me alive is sixteen orange bottles of pills. Hisao Nakai. Two tablets daily to stay alive.
  59. Ritsu sighs again. Her makeup is smeared across her face, but she doesn’t seem to care at all. She’s normally so fastidious about her appearance.
  61. I wish I knew what to say, but I don’t. I wish I knew what to do, but I don’t. I think anything I say at this point would be wrong anyway.
  63. “Do you ever wonder, Hisao, why we’re here?”
  65. The question catches me off guard. I look at her in surprise.
  67. “Sometimes, but why the question all of a sudden?”
  69. She gives me a searching look.
  71. “You know, Hisao, why are we here? To do what? What’s it all worth?”
  73. Seeing my blank face, she continues.
  75. “My grandmother had a favorite poem. She used to read it to me over and over again when I was little, and I didn’t understand it one bit. But now I understand it more than ever.”
  77. She takes a long pull of coffee.
  79. “I used to know what I wanted to do with my life. I knew what was where, when I needed to do it, and how I was going to do it.”
  81. She looks at her wrists.
  83. “Then I got injured. Then I met you. Then… this happened.”
  85. She gets up and twirls the keys in her hands, once, twice. It’s an easy, natural, motion, like she’s any teenager taking the car out for a spin.
  87. She’s anything but.
  89. “I need some time to think, Hisao.”
  91. She looks at the key—a utilitarian, stripped piece of carbon. The Ferrari doesn’t even have door locks. Just an ignition barrel, a steering wheel, and pedals. The bare essentials.
  93. What comes next is a shock.
  95. “Would you be ok going back to Yamaku without me?”
  97. She looks at me hesistantly.
  99. The question hits me hard. But I know the right answer.
  101. “I’ll be there, Ritsu.”
  103. She smiles at me, and it’s not hard to see the pain and effort behind her smile. She’s hanging on just barely. The bags under her eyes are deep and unconcealable by any amount of makeup.
  105. We get up to leave, and the Ferrari roars through the mountains, and as the plane leaves the airport, an empty seat beside me, the poem on the gravestone runs through my head.
  107. =====
  109. “empties coming back.
  110. by angelo di ponciano
  113. have you ever sat by the railroad track
  114. and watched the emptys cuming back?
  115. lumbering along with a groan and a whine,-
  116. smoke strung out in a long gray line
  117. belched from teh panting injun’s stack
  118. - just emptys cuming back.
  120. i have – and to me the emptys seem
  121. like dreams i sometimes dream -
  122. of a girl – or munney – or maybe fame -
  123. my dreams have all returned the same,
  124. swinging along the homebound track
  125. - just emptys cuming back.
  128. =====
  131. "Rabbit Run" is a song by Eminem
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