A Journey to Japan
Updated: Sep 5, 2022
Last Thursday Sasha finished drawing the scenes for his cartoon. In the cartoon, he made himself the captain of a big white ship, who was carried by the waves to the island of Japan. There lived the family of Hiroshi Sasagawa, who donated the money for his treatment — Sasha had the same disease as his son Fumihiro. He could not remember what the disease was called, but every time it reminded him of the wizards from Harry Potter. Sasha and Fumihiro stood together on the bow of the ship, holding each other by the shoulders like two brothers. Their parents were right there with them. A week later, Sasha was gone.
For a long time, his mother could not believe what had happened. Years later, she still remembered his smile, the color of his hair — everyone else in the family was blonde, and only Sasha was born with black hair, which didn’t change with age. Before Sasha got sick, she wanted to change her job, dreaming of all the wonderful things she could do. But the fight against the disease, and especially Sasha’s death had sucked all the life and energy out of her. She had no desire to change anything and stayed at her job in the library. She often fantasized about what would have happened had Sasha survived. What would he be like now? Would he turn into an uncontrollable teenager, dye his hair blue as she once did, listen to heavy metal? She wouldn’t scold him like her mother did, and he would respect her for that. They would go to the concerts together. Maybe...
She had long suffered from insomnia, and only a combination of sleeping pills and tranquilizers could put her to sleep. A bigger dosage would be fatal; no doctor would prescribe this to her. But she had tried everything. There was no other way for her to get that much needed rest. She put the pills in her mouth and gulped them down with water, then reached for the light switch. As soon as she closed her eyes, she heard a knock on the door.
Who could it be? She put her feet down, felt around for her slippers, went to the front door and looked into the peephole. Behind it stood a woman in a white medical coat.
“Who are you and what do you want?” Sasha’s mom asked nervously.
“Please open! I have good news for you… about Sasha!”
Good news? This is so rare. But what does it have to do with Sasha? How dare she!
She turned the key. The door creaked open.
“Listen, if you think it’s funny, you are very wrong and must be ashamed of yourself. I’m calling the police!”
“Excuse me, I didn’t mean to offend you. In fact, I’m Sasha’s doctor. We finally found a cure. He will live!” the doctor said excitedly.
“What are you talking about? Sasha is dead... you must be playing a joke on me."
“With the latest improvements in medicine we can treat patients long after they die,” the doctor said. “Get ready, we're going to the hospital!”
“But how...” Sasha’s mother muttered, pulling on her coat over her pajamas.
She didn’t change her shoes, didn’t even lock the door. She was running down the stairs as if chased by someone or something. The doctor was waiting for her downstairs next to the ambulance. Inside, Sasha was lying on a gurney. His mother touched his face and kissed him lightly on the forehead. Sasha opened his eyes and smiled.
“Sasha, I buried you,” the woman said, crying. "Forgive me."
She pressed her face into his chest.
“What are you doing, mom… stop it,” Sasha said, giving the doctor a sheepish look. “We are going to Japan. Fumihiro is waiting for us.”
“The hospital ship will bring him to Japan for the last surgery,” the doctor confirmed and signaled to the driver to start the car.
The whole way to the harbour Sasha’s mom didn’t let go of his hand and didn’t let him close his eyes. It seemed to her that should he fall asleep, his body would dissolve and disappear from the world.
“But I’m sleepy!” Sasha protested weakly.
“We will sleep later,” his mother told him. “We will fall asleep together.”
Half an hour later, they reached the harbour. The white, stately ship with a red cross painted on the hull was already waiting for them. Fumihiro waved to them from the deck. His parents, Mr. Hiroshi and Mrs. Hikara, were there, too. They were all happy to see them. Mama helped Sasha walk up the ramp. They heard the noise of the engines, and the ship slowly moved away from the shore. Soon you couldn’t see Sasha, or Hiroshi, or their parents. Even the red cross seemed less like a cross and more like a big red circle on the white horizon. Finally, they were on their way to Japan.
The cover: Hiroshige, "Mount Fuji seen across the water"