Day 6 of the A to Z Challenge is the letter “F”:
“F” is for Far, Far Away
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, approximately 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry (60% were American citizens), were relocated to ten internment camps:
Along with 16,000 others, nine-year old Sachi and her family were taken by train, far, far away, from California to Arkansas. The four-day ride was crowded, uncomfortable and frightening, as they traveled under guard to a land they did not know. Sachi’s seventeen-year old brother describes it as nagare no tabi, a stream’s journey. In this excerpt from The Red Kimono, he’s on the train with his little sister and mother, halfway to Arkansas:
The train clacked and swayed through yellow summer heat that beat down from a cloudless blue sky. With windows to the outside world barely cracked open, the air was thick with the smell of too many people who hadn’t bathed in two days. Nobu rubbed his forehead. The attempt by some to use perfumes and colognes to mask their odors had given him a headache.
But the sultry, heavy air in the train car was a sedative; the rhythm of the train a lullaby. Many slept. Those still awake fanned themselves with hats, a newspaper, whatever they could get their hands on to move the sticky air.
Nobu listened to Sachi sleep, her gentle purr each time she breathed in and out. He brushed a wisp of damp hair off her forehead and watched tiny beads of sweat trickle off her nose. When she slept, her face was serene, like an angel. Such a change from the wicked glare she sometimes gave him, a reminder that she was still angry he told Mama about Sam. It didn’t matter to her that they would have had to leave Santa Anita whether or not Mama found out about Sam. And that wasn’t Nobu’s fault.
He fanned his face with a ball cap. The heat made everybody a little grouchier, and he felt himself growing more hot and irritable with Sachi’s body stretched across his lap. Still, he was grateful for her slumber. She’d cried off and on since leaving Santa Anita two days before, and though he tried to blame it on the miserable conditions on the train, he knew it was because she missed Sam.
He pulled his journal out of his satchel slowly, afraid of waking her. A tiny moan escaped her, and he froze. She rubbed her nose and returned to sleep again. He began to write.
I wonder what Arkansas will be like. If the countryside we have passed through is any indication, it will be in the middle of nowhere. No big cities since leaving California. Only a lot of empty space. Tiny little towns. Every time we pass through, the guards make us pull down the window shades. Is it because they do not want us to see out? Or because they do not want the residents of these towns to see us?
And it’s hot. Everywhere, it’s hot.
Thinking about it doesn’t do any good anyway. I have no choice but to go where the stream takes me. Nagare no tabi.