The flight has been quiet
and my knees have not been too painful. They have swelled slightly but
the pain is not something about which I complain. Some pain, I find,
is tolerable after a while, and there is little, it seems, I can do
about them anyway. Air travel does not help them, though, and so as
a rule I do not like such long flights, but this one has been endurable.
The route is one I know well, and there is little to do but read or
drink. I have never been much of a drinker, and reading I find difficult
on planes, so usually I sleep throughout the trip. I like to look out
at the city as we leave. Tokyo shone in the evening sun as we left this
time God knows it is not an attractive city, but the sunlight
improves it a little. I tried to see my own house. I thought I did
I always like to look for it from the air, but it is hard to pick out
an individual house -- even a house like mine -- from so many, and my
eyes are not what they were. I have seen it for sure on many occasions,
but this time I am not certain. One of them definitely looked like mine.
It could have been, and perhaps it was. Seeing it filled me with happiness.
A foolish, childish happiness, and not one I have ever shared with anyone,
of course, but an indulgence I enjoy. An old man is allowed a few.
After that, though, there is nothing to see from the windows, except
for the wrinkled surface of the Pacific seven miles below not
an ocean from this distance, more a vast grey desert, its waves
perhaps dunes is better -- marching in endless regiments across the
miles. Usually I turn away from the window and fall asleep. This time,
however, my eyes have barely left the window. I have stared out into
the night for nine hours, yet I do not feel tired. I have watched the
sun set over Japan. Now, as I continue to stare, the blackness is becoming
a deep blue in the east, and I know soon the sun will rise over the
How many times have I seen this? It must be hundreds. The first time
was in 58, just after I had finished University. I suppose I was
lucky but no, luck is something I do not really believe in. I
worked hard, damn hard. Perhaps I surprised myself, but I was determined.
I was never considered a brilliant man, but I gained my Masters nonetheless,
and a good one at that. Perhaps ultimately this worked in my favour.
I was saved by my lack of genius my colleagues at University
went on to glorious academia and the thrill of the lecture hall, whereas
I went on merely to a $3 billion dollar fortune and control of Japans
second largest engineering firm. All this through a basic understanding
of Physics and a modest level of ability at the subject.
I have had a fine life. Our trade with the United States has left me
wealthier than I could possibly wish to be. I own many houses, whole
islands even, and a magnificent hundred metre yacht. My suits are cut
from the finest cloth. My house is staffed with servants, whom I have
always treated well. They will mourn my passing, it is true, but I have
left every one of them enough to live in splendour for the rest of their
lives, and they are thankful. They know that they do not have long to
wait. Now that the cancer a cancer always lurking in my cells
broken and blasted DNA has finally become insurmountable, they
know that I have little time left. I instructed my chief of staff to
dress the house as for a funeral. He wept openly, but I quieted him
with the promise of millions. Money has the power to silence. I have
bought silence on this flight, in fact. The entire first class section
is empty. There were some angry faces in the departure lounge, and some
raised voices, and I was a little sorry to have inconvenienced so many
people. The airline, I am sure, will take care of them: I heard mention
of another flight being put on specially for them.
I was forgetting. They will not be needing the next flight.
The sky warms to red and then to orange as we make our way down the
western seaboard. Cities pass beneath us and then a city emerges which
does not pass. We bank left and begin to circle. A bell sounds and the
flight attendant makes the customary announcement and I adjust my seat
belt. The plane begins its long descent into San Francisco.
The immigration form lies on my lap. How many times over the years have
I completed this form? I could do it in my sleep. Name: Satoru Anakawa.
Date of birth: 18 May 1935. Purpose of visit: Business. Are you bringing
gifts of a value of $10000 or more into the US? No.
Until now, that is.
My gift is worth over forty-five million dollars. At least that is how
much it is worth to my company, or what my engineers have spent on it.
To me it is worth far more than that.
The plane banks steeply and the city rolls out beneath our wings. I
see the Golden Gate and the brown hills surrounding the city. How much
it resembles my home town! There is a certain resemblance even in the
shape of the harbour. The brown hills stand like sentries. Standing
on their summits, the view would be almost identical, I am sure.
Not that I have not seen that particular view since that morning, of
course, the morning when my mother and I had driven up into the hills
to pick berries. I had stood on top of a great boulder and looked down
at the city. I tried to pick out my house. The city had looked like
a toy. Look at all the little houses, Mummy! Then the air raid
siren sounded and I jumped down from the boulder into its shadow, which
of course saved me or rather doomed me to a protracted death
-- as the sky blew apart. My mother could not look at the city as her
face had pulled away from her skull. Her eyes were puddles of boiling
jelly running down into the charred cave of her mouth. I tried to pull
her body down the slope but she was too heavy and I had to leave her
behind. I had to leave her alone in the dust on a burning mountain.
Years later I thought of returning to try and find her but I knew it
would be pointless. But by then I realised that I could ensure that
her death would not go unnoticed.
Now the rising sun is drenching the city in a brilliant white light.
It is a magnificent sight. What must we look like from the ground, I
wonder? A single silver plane in a azure sky; are there heads raised
to see us? Will anyone notice us, just a routine flight from an unknown
destination? Perhaps they will. Perhaps they will not. It does not matter.
Enough. I say a final prayer, and reach for the briefcase.
© Oliver Moor 2001