the endless winter

Chiharu stood alone on the platform with the box under her arm. She closed her eyes and drew her coat close to her body and waited for the station chime of the approaching train. The train was empty, one conductor­less carriage snaking down the gorge, following the river to the sea. The sleeping forest grey in the winter light.

Her grandfather had passed away. It had been, as noone needed to say, a relief. After he was moved to the home the spaces between the visits, like the lapses in his memory, became longer. Recognition became familiarity and then something vague that he couldn't name. Family became strangers, friends became forgotten. All except Chiharu ­ who was the only one who would visit him in the end. She had bought him a dictaphone so that, in those rare moments of lucidity, he could capture his memories on tape. Chiharu took home a shoebox full of tiny plastic dictaphone cassettes and began to transcribe them.

I may ask you your name, again but if so it's only because you seem so familiar –
but so does everyone else which makes me wonder how long I've been here.
Chiharu my dear granddaughter, thank you for visiting me.
Chiharu my dear granddaughter, where are you?
Please come and visit me soon.

Many of the tapes were full of static, the sound of breathing, the medical devices, the reassuring beeping of his beating heart.

Chiharu my dear granddaughter,
I am proud of you
Chiharu my dear granddaughter,
what is the weight of a life?
It is only that which you can hold in your heart
Chiharu my dear granddaughter, I want to tell you so many things. About your grandmother, about the war – there are so many things I
wished to forget ­ so many terrible things.

In a way, she thought, it was a blessing without a name. Guilt finally and irretrievably disappears.

Chiharu my dear granddaughter –
the surface of the lake
holds every cloud
every drop of starlight
every ripple of every raindrop –
there is nothing to be afraid of my dear granddaughter
– I hope to see you soon.

Chiharu stopped the tape and closed her eyes. Outside snow was falling covering everything in silence.