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January 18, 1987

Dear Ash,

I really hope you can answer this letter. Ibe-san got a letter from Max last week, which said you were conscious but still in hospital. I have been so worried that you may die. I was so relieved when Ibe-san told me you are getting better. Please write when you can and tell me if you are okay. (There are so many times I was told you are dead or may die. Stop that, okay? It is enough! Ha ha.)

Your friend,
Eiji

***

January 26, 1987

Dear Eiji,

Thanks for your letter. It was really great to hear from you. Yeah, sorry about all the near death stuff. It kind of follows me around, but I'll try to lay off. I'm doing a lot better. It's kind of weird to be in a hospital and not feel like there are nurses out to assassinate me. It's kind of restful.

So I don't know if you've heard, but when I'm more healed up, I'm going to trial for murder. Don't panic, okay? This was bound to happen. In fact, if my options are basically get shot in the street, be on the run all my life, or go to jail, jail's not sounding so bad. I know you'd say, "come to Japan", and I'd really like to, but let's face it: I'd never get a visa, and I look way too conspicuous for a fake I.D. So it's really okay.

Have you heard from Sing?

Your friend,
Ash

***

February 5, 1987

Dear Ash,

I have not heard from Sing, but if you want, I will contact him. Do you want me to ask something especially? I will ask if he is okay.

I did not know about trial. I will come back to the USA to testify. I make plans right now. Ash, you are an amazing person, but you give up too easily. Okay, it's true: it's probably hard to get visa for Japan. But you have many possibilities. And you will be innocent at your trial: it was self-defense. I will see you soon.

Your friend,
Eiji

***

February 12, 1987

Dear Eiji,

I was just wondering if you heard from Sing. Nothing special. Well, I can't tell you not to come to my trial, because you're going to come anyway. It'll be nice to see you anyway, even if it's just in the courtroom. I'm not going to argue with you about all my "possibilities".

Alex came by today. He said the gang was doing fine, and I thought, "The gang's doing fine". That's such a weird thing to say, like being in a gang with the cops and the mafia constantly after you is the high life. I almost told him to go home to his step-dad, but I thought better of it.

Ash

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September 28, 1987

Dear Ash,

I hope this letter approaches you. I am so angry that you go to prison. This is huge injustice and I will fight it. Everyone who knows you knows you should not be in prison. It is very unjust and also bad for the world. You have so much to give. You know so much and can do so many things. To lock you up is stupid and horrible. I don't care who reads this. It is true. If there is guard reading this letter, guard, you should know this is true. You are guarding wrong person.

When you broke the law, you did in self-defense. Why can't they understand that? I keep talking to Max about it. He has friends in the police. You can also appeal. Don't give up. Ganbatte ne, we say in Japan. This is very important expression; you should learn it.

Your friend,
Eiji

P.S. Also I can't believe they don't let me visit! I am risk you will escape? So you are escape risk, so you can't see friends? This is inhumane treatment.

***

October 7, 1987

Dear Eiji,

Jesus, it's hard to get through to you. Let me try to make myself clear. I want you to stop wasting your life trying to get me out of prison. Okay?

First off, I am guilty. Sure, of the hundreds and hundreds of people I have shot and stabbed to death, most of them were going to kill me a second later. Most, not all. There's a least a few--I can't even put a number on them, which kind of makes me disgusted with myself--I didn't need to kill in self-defense. There's some I executed to make a point to Arthur's boys. There's a few who just weren't that big of a threat to me. I could have knocked them out or just run, and I didn't. Look, there's at least 10 or 15 people I've killed I didn't have to. That's a better score than most serial killers, Eiji. I am guilty. I should be going to the chair. But I'm young and cops like me, so I'm getting life, and it's okay.

Second, it's not so bad here. No one's trying to kill me. Security's better than in county jail or juvie, which means less shit to deal with. I'm not saying it's heaven; it's prison. I get stir crazy, but it's kind of calming. I can study; I can read. The Union Corse is not putting hits on me. And there is no natto. Hey, I have time to learn Japanese. It's okay.

Stop wasting your time on this. Yeah, it sucks you can't visit. But I am a flight risk; I've busted out of tons of places. Just keep writing me, okay? Let me know what you're doing.

Your friend,
Ash

***

October 15, 1987

Dear Ash,

I will never give up on you. I understand that prison is calming. You give good reasons. But that is now. You are there for life. You will hate it. I can't let that happen. There will be a way for new trial, but I don't talk about that now.

Because you want to hear what I'm doing, I talk about myself, okay? I plan to return to New York to work as photographer. I feel that I belong in the USA. I want to be close to you, even if I can't see you.

Also I heard from Sing. He is getting GED. I think he wants to stop gang life. You said it is not good life. You said that you wanted to say that to Alex. I think Sing feels like that way. But he is kind of friends with Yau-Si now. I don't really understand this, but I guess to make peace is good, right?

Your friend,
Eiji

P.S. You can stop talking about natto now. Jeesh.

***

November 30, 1987

Dear Eiji,

Tell Sing I'm so sorry about Lao. I know the words don't mean anything after what I did to Lao, to Shorter. It's like my purpose in life was to take away everyone he cared most about. I'm sure he hates me. I wouldn't blame him if he wanted to put a bullet in my brain. I'm not asking him to forgive me. I don't want him to forgive me. I just want him to know I'm truly so sorry.

Ash

P.S. Maybe you do belong in the US. All us Americans have warped you. (Joke--kinda)

***

January 2, 1988

Ash,

I don't hate you. I get what happened. I really do. I grew up on the same streets as you did. I miss them like hell, Shorter and Lao, but I get it.

--Sing

P.S. Don't worry. I'll look after Eiji.

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June 12, 1990

Dear Ash,

The show went really well. We raised $2,135 for after school programs. Ibe-san arrived in time to see the show after all, and he said very nice things about my photos. They are not that good, but I was proud. We talked about use for light in NYC: sun, moon, city lights. NYC is a special place for light in photos. Sing helped a lot with setup. You would not recognize him; he gets so tall! Kong and Bones helped too. I didn't see them for a long time. It was nice to see them again.

Ibe-san also came from Japan with my sister. It is fun to show her New York (the nice parts), but she keeps nagging me to get married! She is engaged. Well, maybe she thinks that she is engaged. She is too young, and I think that she will break up with him. She should finish college first.

By the way, I didn't show any photo of you. They are for me and you.

How are your studies? Are you still reading about Iraq? Nihongo wo benkyou shiteiru no ka?

Your friend,
Eiji

***

July 18, 1990

Dear Eiji,

Glad to hear the show went well. It's just very "Eiji" to raise that cash for charity. I'm glad you did. You're right about the lights in NY. Damn, there's a lot of this city I miss seeing. Thanks for sending some of your snap shots. Send more, okay?

Your sister sounds obsessed with marriage. I guess a lot of girls are. I agree she should finish college first. Did you take her to the Natural History Museum?

Yeah, I'm still reading about Iraq, but it's depressing as fuck. The way things are going, this war's going to fizzle into sanctions, which are going to go on for approximately ever, basically starving the Iraqi people and not being much skin off Saddam's nose. And when enough people (in the Middle East and US both) get tired of that status quo, there'll be another blow up, and that's pretty much going to be the pattern until the oil economy is superseded in, like, 2100 or something at the current rate of political will. It makes me angry for the soldiers. Not just them, but I think about them a lot.

You know what used to make me really angry? Ronald Reagan co-opting "Born in the USA". It really pissed me off.

ええ、毎日日本語を勉強している。Well, not literally every day, but most days. Got nothing but time.

Your friend,
Ash

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August 13, 1990

Dear Ash,

I don't know how to begin this letter. Hm, that is a bad beginning. It sounds like something horrible, which is not exactly...

I slept with Sing. I don't really know why. I am very surprised. Maybe you will think that it's very strange too. I'm embarrassed. I don't know how to say this to you. I know that Sing is not gay. He sleeps with girls a lot. I am not gay too. I am also attracted to women, even though I don't sleep with them.

You asked me a long time ago if I had girlfriend in Japan. I said I had just friends, but I think I was culturally confused about this answer. I meant that I didn't have sex in Japan, but I did have girlfriend that I dated, Yuki. I dated her when I was pole vaulter. I was pretty popular because I was an athlete. I broke up with her after I was injured. I thought that she wanted to break up with me because I was not such a popular athlete anymore. Maybe that was not fair to her. I did like her. I don't know why I slept with Sing. I think he worries about me, he worries that I am lonely. Probably, that's why for him.

It was your birthday. Is that worse?

Your friend,
Eiji

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September 20, 1990

Dear Eiji,

It's okay, you and Sing. I'm guessing you're worried I'll be freaked because you had gay sex. Eiji, I'm the last person to have any right to criticize you for that. And I don't really care whether you're gay or straight or whatever. If Sing makes you feel better, that's a good thing. You deserve to have someone. As for him, I don't know--maybe he's bi--but I know he cares a lot about you. Who the hell cares if it was my birthday. (Thanks for the card, by the way.)

Do you love Sing?

Your friend,
Ash

***

October 27, 1990

Dear Ash,

Yes, I love Sing, but not as much as I love you. It's complicated. I really love Sing so much, but I can't be what he wants. I don't know what he wants, but I know I can't be that. This is strange, isn't it? But it's true.

Thank you for your nice words. I am glad that you are okay with what happened. Since before I wrote, we slept together one more time. I still don't know what this means. I don't think we are a couple.

Anyway, do you like the Halloween card that I send? It is a pretty picture of a pumpkin, isn't it? Halloween will be over when you get this letter, but I hope you can still enjoy happy, smiling pumpkin face for a long time.

Your friend,
Eiji

***

December 1, 1990

Dear Spawn of Satan,

You are evil. I flushed Mr. Happy Smiling Pumpkin Face and will do the same to all his happy, smiling kindred.

Have you thought that maybe you and Sing should be a couple? You could do worse. Whatever you decide, don't worry about me. I love you too. I want you to live your life--really live a good, full, happy life. As for me, as long as you're okay, I'm okay.

I realized the other day I'm writing regular letters to 14 people. I don't know how that happened: you, Max, Alex, Nadia, and then this bunch of professors and stuff I somehow picked up. I've got two sociologists, a chemist, an M.D., an anthropologist, a lit professor who writes on Hemingway... It's crazy, but it keeps me occupied. I like your letters most though. Don't stop writing, okay? I know you won't, but I just wanted to say it.

The M.D., who works on infectious diseases, drove home one thing to me. It is a bonafide, motherfucking miracle that I don't have HIV. I mean, when Golzine was pimping me out, he was pretty careful about keeping me clean--for his own sake, you know? But I've been done by so many other people on the streets, in jail, etc. that the odds of me being HIV-free have got to be something like 1/10,000. But I am. They've tested me three times in here. So don't tell me I never catch any luck.

Your friend,
Ash

P.S. It would be ironic if you had less luck than me, so use protection, 'kay?