An evening with Onodera-san

I spent this evening at Onodera-san’s, in one of the few houses in Ohara that stayed standing after the tsunami in Ohara, and my nearest neighbour. I used to spend most nights at his place, drinking, laughing, and talking, but I haven’t spent so much time there on this trip. It’s partly because I need more sleep than I used to so go to bed early, and partly because I rarely drink these days. But I’m ashamed to think that it might be partly because I may have been avoiding the evenings we used to spend together — I have had some of the most intimate conversations here on Oshika with Onodera-san. We have always had a way of communicating that hasn’t necessarily needed words, and I have always felt a special connection with him. I have never really known why.

But I went over to his house tonight, and he opened the bottle of red wine he had been saving for me, because he knows I like red wine, and it wasn’t too long before he said to me, “Caroline, your heart is down.”

“What do you mean? I’m fine.”

“I can see it in your eyes. Your eyes have changed from the last time you were here.”

“No, I’m OK.”

“I don’t know what’s happened since you were last here, but something has changed. All of us in Ohara can see. Your eyes show everything. Your eyes don’t smile anymore. We love your smile. We all love you. We are so happy when you are here. Please know that we love you. I love you.”

And I was embarrassed that I couldn’t stop the tears flowing down my face because he was right. About it all. Something did happen in the time since I’ve been away, but I thought I was hiding it really well. It’s not something I ever want to think about again. I didn’t want to tell him, but I hate secrets and I knew I was keeping a big one from them. I’ve never been able to lie, and it has been said by many people for many years that my eyes show everything. I’m glad I can’t lie, but sometimes I hate it that I can’t.

And I hate that I can’t lie because sometimes it means sharing some really awful stuff with people you know love you, and in sharing that stuff you make them feel a bit of your pain. And instead of using your phone’s dictionary to look up lots of words you usually need when talking about light-hearted things to make people laugh, you use it to look up words like “bullying,” “domestic abuse,” “lawyer”, “judge,” and “injunction.” And you hold someone’s hand because they are shedding tears for you as they hear your story.

And I wish my dictionary could tell me how to express to my friends in Ohara just how often during the past year or so I held on to the thought of being right here again with them. But my dictionary can’t. And there’s really no need. Something tells me that Onodera-san knows.

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