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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

***

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

***

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?

Chapter Text

August 12, 1994

Dear Ash,

Happy 26th birthday! (お誕生日おめでとう!) Though you will get this late. I hope you had a good birthday. What did you do to celebrate?

This has been exciting time here. My big show will be soon, and Ibe-san's niece, Akira, has come from Japan to visit. She is 13, and Sing is teasing her like she is his little sister. They are already good friends! I'm glad Akira is able to visit. She has some hard times back home, not so bad but her father wished for a son and she always feels a little badly for being a girl. Her name is mainly boy's name, like Akira Kurosawa, and she is a real tom-boy. But she is very sweet girl and is enjoying her visit, I think. She doesn't speak English much, so Sing practices Japanese with her a lot. He's getting pretty good.

She is also very curious about you. I guess Ibe-san never told her a lot about you, because she thought at first that you were girl! I think she was jealous because everyone said you are so great. (Now, I am kind of sad she knows you are a guy and lost good female role model!) I showed her the big picture of you by the window in our apartment, but I don't put it in my show.

The other day, Sing said I am too sad for you. He gave me big hug and told me not to be so sad. I don't think I am so sad. I just wait for when you can get out of prison. Someday, you will. You may not believe this, but I do. I miss you. I wish that they will let me see you.

Happy Birthday! (I enclose some snap shots of photos I will use for the show.)

Your friend,
Eiji

***

September 15, 1994

Dear Eiji,

I ain't no one's role model. God help the poor sucker who thinks otherwise. Why exactly did Akira think I was a girl? What are you guys saying about me?? I'm glad Akira had a good time visiting NY. I can absolutely imagine Sing playing big brother. So how'd the show go? Your photos are great. God, I miss seeing trees and sunrises.

Sing is right: you shouldn't be sad for me, and you shouldn't be waiting for me to get out of prison.

I don't remember how I celebrated my birthday. I probably got up, had breakfast, did exercises, read, answered letters, had lunch, read, chatted with Bruno (that guard), stared at the ceiling, had dinner, stared, did exercises, read, and went to bed. It's not like one day's different from another.

Your friend,
Ash

***

October 20, 1994

Dear Ash,

You sound depressed. Are you okay? How do I not wait for you to get out of prison when it is such a waste that you are there? I talk to Max and George about your case. It is difficult because you confessed, but there is thing called "affirmative defense" that means you can be guilty but have extenuating circumstances. This is so true for you. You saved so many lives and stopped international incident by stopping Banana Fish. I know this was said at your trial already, but we need to talk about it again. I keep working on this. Don't tell me not to. I don't listen.

In other news, Sing is doing really well with his thesis. I'm proud of him. The other day, we went to Chinatown to see Nadia and the baby. The baby is surprisingly not fussy. I think Nadia is a natural mother. Did you know Alex got married? I had no idea. Kong told me the other day.

Your friend,
Eiji

P.S. Should I send more photos, or do you miss outside more if I do?

***

November 24, 1994

Dear Eiji,

Yeah, Max sent George to talk to me. I don't know. I guess it's worth a shot. I'd like to get out if I can. I've spent more than half my 20s in the slammer, and I guess it kind of hit me that that's just the start. I don't want to be here when I'm 50, 60, 70... So I'm working with George on it. Thanks for lighting a fire under me, you and Max both.

I didn't know about Alex. In fact, I've been meaning to ask you about him. His letters petered out a couple of years ago. That's not surprising. Letters are a pain to keep up with when you actually have a life. I figured that's all it was, but I was going to ask if he was okay. Guess he is. I'm glad he got off the streets. Hope he's with a nice girl; he was always a sucker for a pretty face.

Nadia sent me a picture of the baby (actually she sent 10). She's cute. It made me kind of sad though, to think Shorter's never going to see her. He'll never get to be an uncle; he'll never even get to be an adult. I really miss him sometimes. We met in juvie, you know. I'm sure I told you about it. I could tell right away he was different. He knew how to take care of himself, but he knew how to do it without being a rat bastard to everyone who wasn't part of his posse, and that's something most kids on the street never figure out. Shorter got it. Sing. Cain. Short list.

Shorter told me once that he used to jack off to this angel on this old Christmas card. I don't know why I thought of that right now, but I really liked that he said that. It sounded so stupid, and he was willing to say it to a kid he barely knew. He had that kind of confidence--real self-confidence. That's something you and him had in common. I'd like to aspire to be like that, but I worry way too much about what people think of me. I'm always afraid someone will see the real me.

Your friend,
Ash

P.S. Photos: not for a while, okay?

***

January 3, 1995

Dear Ash,

I miss Shorter too, even though I only knew him for a little time. Sing told me that, when he was a kid, he called him "Sorta Wrong," (not to face) not because he thought he was wrong, but because it sounds funny. I think maybe Shorter knew that but thought it was okay.

Ash, you are the most self-confident person I know. And you are, like Shorter, not afraid to look stupid or bad. You were even ready to show porn of yourself in order to expose corrupt politicians. That is extremely confident. You just think you are not so because you aim so high. You get unconfident sometimes but with things so huge that most people would never dare to try them, like responsibility for many others' lives.

I am glad you meet with George. You will get a new trial, and justice done. 頑張ってね。 I am confident. Also Alex said he will write with wedding pictures.

Your friend,
Eiji

***

February 8, 1995

Dear Eiji,

We all called him "Sorta Wrong." It's obvious. He had a thing for a while where, whenever he'd see me back off from something, like a rumble, he'd say, "Ash Blinks." I liked that; it was a good code for telling me when he thought I should reconsider. I didn't always agree, but after he died, I missed that perspective.

You are utterly predictable in your misinterpretation of who I am inside. No, I'm not confident. Sorry. But I'm not going to bicker about it. That won't stop me from pitching forward with the trial.

Got pics from Alex. I don't really care. Is that a horrible thing to say? He was a good friend, but I think the operative word for both of us now would be "was." Life brings people together and pushes them apart. Some friendships form because of who the people are, and some form because of circumstances. Alex is a great guy, but we were friends because of circumstances, and those circumstances are over. I hope he'll be happy though.

Your friend,
Ash

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March 4, 1998

Dear Ash,

I am so tired. I feel that I'm unfair to say that; you must be much more tired. I can't believe they won't overturn your conviction. I can't believe it. Can't believe. I always believed that there is justice deep down, that there are many corrupt and horrible things, but justice is deeper. I guess it is so deep that we can't dig it up.

Probably, tomorrow I will feel better and will think of a new plan to help you. I will talk to George and Max. Right now, I can't think. It seems hopeless.

Your friend,
Eiji

***

April 9, 1998

Dear Eiji,

I've never heard you sound like that. You're taking this harder than I am. You need to take a load off. You just need to not think about it for a while. Then, if you need to, keep on looking for ways to get me out of here. If you need to, then do it. But don't you can't let your life be about that. Get some rest; that's what I'm going to do. I'm not going anywhere, and there's time to rest up and refuel.

I'm actually glad I've had this battle to fight, even though I lost it. It gave me something to work for these past three years. So it didn't pan out. It gave me some drive back to do stuff with myself. Now that the trial is over, I'm going to devote more time to the literacy program and the job skills program in here. If you want to help, we could use some of that cash you're good at raising for charity.

I'm also going to knuckle down and put some serious work into the Bosnia book. Dr. Renau has been on my case about how slowly my chapters are coming. They'd come faster if they gave me internet access, but oh well.

We do need more computers for the job skills program though. Even without internet access, we can teach word processing and spreadsheets and stuff. These are essential job skills today. It's criminal (ha) that so many people never even get taught the basics.

You 頑張って too. Be that plucky Eiji again. Nothing keeps you down.

Your friend,
Ash

***

May 14, 1998

Dear Ash,

I'm so proud of how you bounce back. It makes me think I have to bounce back too. I smile to see everything you do, even in prison. But I wonder a little bit if you say some of these things so I don't worry. Is it really okay? I wish I could talk to you alone. I wish we could write letters guards don't read. I almost wished not to see you at the trial because it was hard to see you but not talk except in courtroom. I want most of all that you tell me the truth, good and bad.

I am better because of your letter. I have idea about your case: presidential pardon. I know this sounds very far-fetched, but you have done great service for your country, and your case is famous, so you are a good candidate if friends lobby. (Also you are not a menace to society.)

When money comes in the for the auction next month, I will send funds for literacy program and job skills program. I'm glad you work on this.

Your friend,
Eiji

***

June 20, 1998

Dear Eiji,

Yeah, Clinton's going to give a presidential pardon who that guy who's co-authoring a book on how his policies in the Balkans are immoral and counterproductive to US interests. No, I'm not going to pull out on the book. But thanks for the thought. I appreciate your tenacity; I really do.

As for life in prison, nothing I've said about it is a lie. I'm glad to be working on the projects I'm working on. Of course, there's some shit I don't usually write about, which I guess you want to hear because knowing is better than guessing, right? It was worse when I was new here. In the beginning, I had to find a delicate balance between coming off tough enough not to get beat on but not hammering on people so much that I lose privileges and get sent to solitary. I actually kind of enjoyed that; it was an interesting puzzle to solve. The end result was I did get beat up once in a while, and I got sent to solitary once for breaking a guy's leg. Since I've been here, I've only been raped three times, and that was all years ago. I guess now I'm nearly 30 (Christ Almighty) I don't give off the everybody's-bitch vibe so much.

Actually, I've put on weight. I don't know if you could tell in court. My last checkup, I weighed in at 161, which bugs me. If I'm not careful, I'm going to end up a fat bastard like my dad. So I've been exercising more in my cell, outside of the exercise periods. They say it's good for lifting your mood too.

Speaking of getting older, when did you start wearing glasses? They make you look practically like a grown up.

Your friend,
Ash

***

July 26, 1998

Dear Ash,

I hate to break bad news, but no one is going to read your book. Americans don't care very much about the Balkans, so just a few professors and people with special interest will read. It will not be embarrassment for Clinton. However, giving you a pardon could spin as a big political win because when you fought the Banana Fish conspiracy, you fought a lot of conservative policies on Central America, so a pardon for you would be embarrassment for many Republicans associated with Reagan Administration. This is my angle. (I will read your book though.)

I started wearing glasses about five years ago. I get a little astigmatic, which is bad for the photographer! You are far-sighted, right? That helps with aim.

You worry too much about weight. You should not worry so much but eat well--as well as you can with prison food. I wish I could cook good Japanese food for you: nutritious and low fat. Lots of seaweed. No natto. Miso, but just once in a while to keep low sodium. Sing gets a little heavier too. He works out a lot too to keep fitness. As for me, I am naturally willowy, and so thumb nose at both of you.

Your friend,
Eiji

P.S. Thank you for telling me more what it's like.

***

September 1, 1998

Dear Eiji,

I hate to break bad news to you too, but Billy-Bob has no interest in embarrassing the Reagan Administration. Billy-Bob is Reagan-lite. By all means, keep working on it though. I'll get a lot of chuckles out of tracking your progress. Seriously, I've never heard you sound so Machiavellian. It's a little weird; don't go too far with it.

I didn't say I was eating less; I said I was exercising more. And you are not willowy. Willowy is tall, and that ain't you. Puny, maybe. Baby-birdlike?

Thanks for the money for the literacy/job programs. It's truly been a big help. We were able to hire a new teacher for fall and got two new-used computers. You are either the most fantastic photographer NY has seen in the last decade or you are a naturally gifted fundraiser. I'm betting it's some of each. Have you thought about doing non-profit work as a career--or addition to the photography?

By the way, I got a letter from Michael the other day. It was typed and all full of sideways smiley faces and frowny faces. I felt like I was reading a letter by a five year old. All his "I"s were lower case. And this kid is applying to Yale? Actually, writing skills aside, he sounds sort of qualified, must take after his mother. (Please feel free tell Max I said so.)

Your friend,
Ash

P.S. I am 30, Eiji!

***

October 9, 1998

Dear Ash,

I am 32, so there. Akira also e-mails with many emoticons. Japanese emoticons are better than English language emoticons. They are bigger and also the right side up, like this: (^-^) (Do I put period after that? I don't know.)

I'm sorry I sound too Machiavellian. I will try to find "delicate balance," as you say, between understanding politics and not being too deep in it. But Max and I do keep working on the lobby for the presidential pardon.

Yes, I do consider non-profit work. I am working with Sing on some ideas for higher education funding: mostly grants for arts and sociology. We will probably go to Japan for a while. I told Sing I'd like to show him Gizmo--oops, Izumo--and I would like to see my family again. Also Sing has a job opportunity for one-year lecture position at Akita University. So my letters may come a little slower, but I will still write faithfully, on pretty Japanese stationery.

Your friend,
Eiji

Chapter Text

April 2, 2003

Dear Eiji,

It's true I feel totally behind the times when it comes to music, but in a way that's always been true for me. I hid it in the old days by pretending I wasn't much of a music lover, but I was never into teen idols when I was a teen. My whole life I've stuck in the '60's and '70's.

When I was a little kid, Griff had this Jefferson Airplane record he used to play all the time, as a result of which I developed a lifelong attachment to "Somebody to Love." He used to carry me on his shoulders and we'd boogie on down to it. God, what I wouldn't give to hear it this minute. I used to really like "White Rabbit" too, when I was too young to get what it was about. Since everything with Griff, though, I can't really listen to it anymore. Which is a shame: they did a good performance of it on the Smothers Brothers that one time.

Sorry. Babbling. Oh, those books I mentioned on computer evolution came; I've been enjoying them, but I wish they'd let me have a computer, you know one with internet. And not DOS. (I'm exaggerating: we have Windows 95.)

What's up in Japan?

Your friend,
Ash

P.S. You remember computer haiku?

Chaos reigns within.
Reboot.
Order will return.

***

May 24, 2003

Dear Ash,

I remember you once said Madonna is a hooker, but I think you meant her music sold more from sex appeal than music appeal. That is all I remember you said about music in the '80s. One time you played Janis Joplin when you thought I was asleep. I didn't know it was her when I heard it, but I looked at your tape's contents later.

I have news. Sing and Akira become engaged. They will get married in July. I think they are a good couple. They tease each other a lot, which is good, right?

Sorry, I am a little tired by taking my nephew to amusement park. He made me ride many roller coasters, which was fun but also reminds me a little bit of the time when my pole broke (head goes over heels), so it makes me tired. I will write more next letter.

Your friend,
Eiji

***

July 3, 2003

Dear Eiji,

Your news about Sing's marriage blindsided me. I thought you and him were pretty solid. Thinking back, you haven't talked about him much for a long time, but I always figured it was because you didn't want me to feel bad thinking about how you two went to Japan and I'm stuck here, etc.

So, um, おめでとう? To him, I mean, not you. For you, it kind of seems like you're losing your boyfriend. How do you feel about all this? Is it sudden?

I think the Janis Joplin was "Bobby McGee." I don't remember the time you're talking about, but that's my favorite song of hers. She squawks like a banshee, but you know, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." I can feel you and me getting freer by the moment.

Your friend,
Ash

***

August 28, 2003

Dear Ash,

I was also blindsided by Sing's engagement. I feel silly because I should not be surprised. I knew Sing and Akira got close. I was pretty sure they were sleeping together sometimes. I feel stupid not to know for sure, but Sing always slept with girls; maybe we didn't talk about it enough. Also, Sing and I didn't really live together much the past two years. I travel for work, and he teaches, so we were apart. So we were not like couple, but I think of us as a couple. This is bad communication. We are still good friends though. I don't lose him: it is okay.

The wedding was last week. It was a pretty, Western wedding. Western wedding is popular in Japan. Sing's mother came from NY; I only met her a few times before. She is very quiet. I think he has a lot of pressure by relatives to get married and have kids. Of course, he wants it too: the normal life. It makes sense. I am happy for Sing and Akira. They looked very happy at wedding.

If freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose, it is the same as to not care about life. This is Zen. Do you know a famous Japanese novel, 門 (The Gate)? It is about a man who has problems in life and tries to find enlightenment through Zen retreat but fails. Sorry, I spoiled the plot for you! He cannot let go of life, so he is not free.

Your friend,
Eiji

***

October 9, 2003

Dear Eiji,

I think it really sucks that Sing has treated you this way. I get that relationships are complicated and bad communication is a two-way street. I get that he's under pressure to get married because he's the only son. I also get that I wasn't there, and I'm not qualified to give an opinion on what went down. But I think it sucks. No way should the guy you've been involved with for years spring this marriage thing on you.

You say you're okay, but are you really? If Sing was seeing other people, have you been too? Do have someone else? For that matter, aren't you under pressure to get married and pass down the family name? Are you thinking about marriage? Are you all alone? Give me some context here.

I hadn't heard of 門, but I'll read it. Existential (or in this case Zen) books like that are a pretty good fit for prison. (Last month, a troupe came to perform Waiting for Godot here, which is an utterly obvious prison pick, but for good reason. It is like being in prison, waiting for a guy who will never show up.) Prison makes you think about strip things down to the basics. Yes, freedom is about letting go of life. But if you do that too soon, then what's the point of having been alive?

Your friend,
Ash

***

November 24, 2003

Dear Ash,

Yes, I am under pressure to get married, as you say, because my sister's kids will not pass down the family name. But it's not so bad. I say to my family I won't get married unless I love someone I can marry. My mother says I don't look hard enough, but they mostly don't expect me to change my mind. My mother says, "Eiji, you are the most stubborn person I ever know."

You ask if I am alone or have someone. I think you asked me this once before! I will make same answer: I have just the friends. I did date a woman I met at a fundraiser for a couple of months after Sing's engagement, but it was not serious. We don't "click." We did have sex though; it was first time I slept with a woman. Can you believe it? I am so old! I was nervous, so I am not sure if it was good. Maybe I am sorta gay. Or maybe I am just very used to Sing.

I really miss sleeping with him--not just sex but presence. I miss his warmth and smell. I miss his snoring even. I am used to sleeping alone for a while but also used to coming back to him. It is hard to understand that he will never come back, even though we still see each other as friends.

I miss someone to touch. I remember we (you and I) used to hug a long time ago. It was so nice. I think about it a lot now. I wish I could hug you. I would not let go. It must be worse in prison. You mention friends sometimes who are inmates. Do you have special friend?

You are still my best friend.
--Eiji

***

January 12, 2004

Dear Eiji,

You're still my best friend too. So you want to know if I have a "special friend," huh? No, I know you didn't mean it like that. Well, you kind of meant it like that. Anyway, no, no one "special." I've made friends here. I've known some of these lifers for sixteen years: Marcus, Jake, Rudy--they're good friends, like Alex was, or Cain. Not more than that. And, no, I don't have sex with them.

Yeah, you're old to be sleeping with a woman for the first time, but heck, I haven't ever. I've never had consensual sex at all. I'm a consensual sex virgin. I really do envy you what you've had with Sing. I really have trouble imagining it. It's not something I could do, even outside the slammer.

I miss hugging you too. You made me feel... safe. I can't even explain what I mean by that, because I was never "safe" with you. You couldn't protect me. Hell, it put me in danger to try to protect you. But emotionally, I felt safe. I felt safe lying in bed, watching you sleeping. I guess it was because when you were right there beside me, I knew the most important thing in my life was safe with me.

--Ash

P.S. Your mother knows you well.

Chapter Text

November 19, 2006

Dear Ash,

Do you hear about "Kira"? It's in the news, so you probably do. This person is poisoning criminals or something, including many people in prison. I worry about you. I hope you're not a target.

I'm kind of ashamed that this person is apparently a Japanese. ("Kira" is the Japanese form of "killer": a good name.) I read a news article that says this person is from Kanto area; this is the area of Tokyo. No one knows how Kira kills people; it's a big mystery. But it's scarier to me that a lot of people approve. Many say Kira is the force of justice. They don't understand the complexity of crime, do they?

I hope you're okay. I have checked with authorities to make sure you are alive, but every day I wonder if you are still okay. I'm glad I'm back in NY, so I can be well informed of the situation of your prison. I would say, "Please be careful," but I don't know how a person protects themself from Kira. Be careful of food maybe? But I guess you have no choice. Be careful anyway.

love,
Eiji

***

December 25, 2006

Dear Eiji,

Merry Christmas! Thanks for the card.

Yeah, the Kira buzz is everywhere. It's interesting. I've been following the investigation as much as I can.

I don't think I'm a target, and I'm not just saying that so you'll feel better. Kira targets people he (almost sure it's a "he") perceives have not been adequately punished, people who got off, or people who got light sentences for heavy crimes. I got life. He's very rarely gone after lifers. Moreover, he emphasizes recent cases. He's gone for some older cases, but not many. My case is 20 years old. He probably doesn't care. This focus makes me think that Kira is pretty young. He just doesn't seem plugged in to stuff that happened a while ago.

Here's some other thoughts:

* I doubt he's poisoning people. How he'd do it all over the world with that precision? A network?

* I doubt he has a network. It's almost impossible to imagine how he'd pull this off without one, but I find even more impossible to imagine him working one. It would probably have to involve some prison guards. These are not super spies or assassins. Sure, some of them could be brilliant, but a world-wide conspiracy? They'd fuck it up and blow the whole game within a week, a month tops.

* His MO is also too standardized to involve a lot of people.

* He kills people by somehow giving them heart attacks. What could do this? Drugs? Sure, but again, how would he administer them? We thought the BF conspiracy was big, but this would be infinitely bigger.

* What else? Electric shock--that's all I can think of. And he's obviously not hooking them up to something. But maybe he has some kind of new technology, something that can trigger a shock by remote? No, I don't know how. If he could do it by remote, theoretically, he might be able to do it all over the world, just by himself.

* He obviously has an in with Interpol. That's the only explanation for how he'd get all his intel.

* Since there's good evidence he's Japanese, Occam says he has an in with the NPA.

* To those guys who say he's God or has some kind of magic, wouldn't that be spiffy?

* They say he needs access to a name to kill someone. Makes sense: he wouldn't want to kill the wrong person. He has a strong sense of justice in an infantile, megalomaniacal way.

I'm enjoying this, Eiji: not the people being killed but trying to get to the bottom of it. Anyway, don't worry about me.

love ya,
Ash

***

February 1, 2007

Dear Ash,

I smiled at your letter. Kira is not funny, but it's great to see you so interested. (Of course, I know you have many interests, but I think you don't write much about them, to me, because I don't know so much about chemistry of AIDS treatments and such things. It's fun to see you write your interests.)

I also take comfort by your explanation that you are not a target. I think you're right.

I guess you hear about the many FBI agents the US is sending to Japan. Everyone is trying to find Kira. I guess you know L is leading this case. I read he has an unbroken track record of success in cases, but he does not catch Kira yet. Maybe you heard about that Japanese TV appearance a few months ago, when a man pretended to be L and Kira killed him on TV. After that man died, the real L spoke on TV in Japanese. He sounded like native. It was very surprising. Both Kira and L are Japanese?

I once told you life was calm and peaceful in Japan, but maybe Japan is very exciting.

What else is up? I will have a new show in two weeks. They are the pictures I took in Thailand last spring. Most are from the same orphanage, and the money I raise will go there. But I will also send some to Doctors without Borders, at the request of Japanese doctor I met in Thailand. I think I mentioned him before? I mentioned we discussed how it is hard to find someone to date, remember? But it is not hard to find Japanese. Japanese are everywhere!

love,
Eiji

***

March 7, 2007

Dear Eiji,

It doesn't surprise me one bit that a guy who calls himself "L" is Japanese. We all know how envious you Japanese are of La Lettre. Seriously, it would have been the easiest thing in the world for him to hire someone else to voice the "real L." But that said, from the recording I've heard, I don't get that vibe. He sounds real; the whole thing's a bit too spontaneous. Which means he's really putting himself on the line, narrowing his identity down from "could be anyone in the world" to native Japanese speakers--male? The gender I'm not sure of, though it would be my guess.

I doubt they sent many FBI agents. Advertising it has the feel of a fakeout.

Yep, I remember the doctor in Thailand. You wrote two pages about him. I kept waiting for you to start dating him. I hope your show went off well. I remember when you first sent those pictures. They really captured something.

Not much new here, except one guy, Tyrone, got killed by Kira. Turned the whole place into nut house for a week or so. I don't know how many times I had to tell people Kira wasn't suddenly going to start killing everyone on our cell block. Tyrone utterly fit the MO: a real bastard in for just five years due to smudgy DNA. Marcus thinks he's next. I keep telling him Kira's attacks don't correlate to race (except for a bias toward attacking Japan and, less so, China, and S Korea). But I can't blame Marcus for going there, considering.

love ya,
Ash

***

April 15, 2007

Dear Ash,

You don't blame Marcus for considering what? I'm nervous that anyone on your block got killed, but you're right it doesn't mean you are especially in danger. I am sorry anyone was killed though, even a real bastard. Maybe DNA was smudgy because he was innocent.

Do you hear that there is another Kira? This one is also a Japanese and an admirer of the first. (I guess that makes sense: if first is a Japanese, other Japanese will feel closer to him.) What do you think about this?

Sing came for a visit a couple of weeks ago. It was strange. It was very fun and also a little sad: on the surface, it was fun. We went to Chinatown and saw Nadia and Michelle (she is so grown up!) and had congee and went to movies and also West Side Story off-Broadway. But it was sad because we used to do all same things (except West Side Story), but we were different people then. We were a couple, not just friends visiting briefly. I thought he seemed sad too. I think it was not just me. Anyway, after we saw WSS, Sing spends a whole day saying things like, "I and Eiji do this and that." Next time, he says he will visit with Ibe-san.

love,
Eiji

***

May 22, 2007

Dear Eiji,

Sorry things were a bit rough with Sing. It makes sense you'd both feel some melancholy; it's like that when relationships end, even if some form of them keeps on going. It sounds like you had a pretty good time though. It'll get easier as time goes by. What possessed you to see West Side Story??

The other Kira is a piece of work. Her (probably a her) murders were an embarrassment to the first one. She kept going after minor criminals that would be beneath his notice (often for "women's issue" crimes, hence my gender guess). She also killed innocents; so does he, but he does it less frivolously. Luckily for him, she appears to be a psycho-admirer, so he hasn't had too much trouble putting a plug in her, so to speak. Unluckily for him, she's a psycho-admirer. I'd like to be a fly on the wall.

The question, though, is how do they both do it? They have the same tech; no one else does. Did they work for the same lab?

L appears to be making no progress, but I'm guessing appearances are deceptive. For one thing, why spout off to the public till the case is closed? The public's not funding him, not directly enough to have a voice. For another, if he were on the rocks, I feel like he'd be louder, trying a stunt like the Lind L. Tailor thing. Instead, I sense a cat stalking. No, that's wrong... an eagle, like a thunderbolt. Didn't Tennyson say something like that?

Try not to be too bummed about Sing's visit. Life is like that. Eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow the shit hits the fan again--and again and again. Que sera...

love ya,
Ash

P.S. I meant I don't blame Marcus for considering race to be a motivating factor given the bias in our prison system.

***

June 30, 2007

Dear Ash,

We saw West Side Story because it reminded Sing of gang life enough to be nostalgic but it is a fairy tale enough to not be difficult. I think it is a little bit like gangs of NY crossed with The Nutcracker.

The other day, I watched rerun of Evangelion, a big anime hit of the 90s. In a weird way, it made me think of you. It has teens who have to pilot big mecha to save the world from scary beings. OK, this sounds silly, but it is moving story. These kids have a lot of very hard psychological damage because of so much pressure and danger. I think it is like a metaphor for your teen years.

It also has a funny scene where one guy who is sexy character tries to slip his girlfriend secret message while they have sex by slip it in, well, secret place. This reminded me of that time you kissed me. But we were more successful.

I hear nothing new about Kira except more people are getting killed. I hope this case is solved soon. It is very creepy. A while ago, you said it is "spiffy" some people think Kira is God or has magic power. You think this explanation is silly. I actually think "magic" is not so silly. Remember Sherlock Holmes: when probable is disproved, whatever is still there, even if improbable, must be truth. Kira is hard to explain.

How are you? What are you up to?

love,
Eiji

***

August 5, 2007

Dear Eiji,

Richard Dawkins would whup your ass. Yeah, Kira's hard to explain--so's the origin of life or the reason Laura married W--but that doesn't mean I'm going to resort to "it's magic" any more than I'm going to accept that there's an invisible teapot in orbit around the sun just because I can't prove there isn't.

Speaking of Kira, there have been changes: I think there's another one of them now. More of the victims are corporate types. It's not well publicized, though, takes some reading between the lines. Seems like a small group of individuals, not necessarily strongly tied to each other, who all have the same tech. Maybe the tech could be traced through the corporate murders, but I'm not seeing an obvious pattern that suggests a tie to any high tech company. Puzzling. But not magic.

As for that anime, this is a kids' show?

As for WSS, now I want to see Tony in a tutu.

As for me, nothin'. I read the news and play around with the Kira stuff. Still talking with Dr. Bronson about population distribution and anti-retrovirals. Read 心. That's a good book, but it's too short. Soseki is hit and miss for me. At his best, he's really got the human condition. At his worst, he maunders on about college boys who can't get their shit together in a sort of pre-postmodern way I ain't got much sympathy for. Nothing else except I pulled a tendon last week doing freaking jumping jacks! Getting old, Eiji. But you're getting older.

love ya,
Ash

***

September 13, 2007

Dear Ash,

Evangelion is everybody's show! Shounen (got mecha), seinen (got dark drama), shoujo (got cute boys and girls), josei (career women). My father even likes it.

I think you have read the best of Soseki. His others will probably now seem less good. I discovered a new author. Well, he's old (18th century) but new to me: Akinari Ueda. He also righ writes good stories about the human condition: many different types of people: young, old, men, women. He had a lot of love for mankind.

I start to date someone. Her name is Abbey; she is a PE teacher and track coach. I help out coaching a little. It's strange. I thought I would forget that world so much, but it feels very natural, like riding a bike. I also realize that I still can coach well, even if I can't do sports. But I also feel a little sad that I can't do these things anymore: not just pole vaulting but all physical things. I run slow; I get tired; I do few pushups. As you say, I'm also getting old. But I enjoy it overall, and Abbey is a very sunny person. She has a daughter, Jessie, who is eight and wants to learn le parkour. (It took me like an hour of google to find out how to spell that.) I introduced her to Nadia and Michelle, and she and Michelle became friends!

I like that you work so much to find how to distribute AIDS treatment. It is unfair. You do such good things but you are called a criminal. Sometimes I think I'll try presidential pardon again, but Bush does not like pardons. I miss you.

love,
Eiji

***
***
***

April 19, 2010

Dear Eiji,

Not the same Kira. This guy's a nut job, a typical psycho out to get anyone he considers "impure." Either that, or Original Kira has just gone off the deep end. Or maybe both. I'm reaching the point where it all feels like a big joke.

I'm reaching the point where I wonder if Kira is going to be a default part of society. One gets caught or goes away or loses his magic taser, and another, crazier one just pops up. What bugs me more though--yeah, even more than the Kiras--is the Kira-ites. I can't believe this has become such an uber-cult. Actually, I can. It makes perfect sense, just like Obama keeping the wars going and the US spending more on bombs than schools. All you need to do is follow the smell of human nature: money, fear, herd instinct. Sorry, my view's sounding a bit low. I'm throwing this letter off real fast. Don't take it too seriously.

Don't worry, though. This joint hasn't been hit by the new psycho. He's just not as smart as the Original, and American prisons are a bit off his radar. So I'll be okay.

Rudy died ten days ago. It wasn't Kira, just plain old lethal injection. I fucking hate this joint. Rudy killed that woman, yes: 27 years ago. He wasn't the same man. He wasn't on drugs anymore. He wrote his kids every month on the first of the month, even though they never wrote him back. He could have been someone. This bites; I'm sorry.

Ash

***

May 18, 2010

Dear Ash,

I am so sorry about Rudy. It's crazy that countries still have a death penalty in the time of Kira. Everywhere should abolish a death penalty in protest and also because it's immoral and not deterring and expensive. I'm sorry his kids didn't write back. I guess they were very hurt to have father in prison, but it must hurt him too very much.

One of my neighbors is in Kira's church. I am polite to her and don't talk about it, but it's very scary. She is a nice lady. She has sweet laugh lines and two grandchildren. Just below people's surface, there is no blood or tears.

Sorry, I'm throwing off this letter too. I am preoccupied because of this phone call I got from Sing. He and Akira will get divorced. I'm very upset about this. I feel so sorry for Ming. It's so hard when your parents split up. I also feel guilty because I broke up their marriage. Sing says he can't stay with Akira because he loves me, and he is with a wrong person. I feel bad because I told him Abbey and I broke up. I wonder if that helped him make the decision. I feel so bad for Akira. She was always told she should have been a boy, and now she is losing her husband to a man! This must be such a big smack in the face. I don't know what to say to Ibe-san. I am the home wrecker for his niece!

We both have hard times, ne? I'm sorry to be a bummer when you are already having a hard time. I feel for you, okay?

love,
Eiji

***

June 14, 2010

Dear Eiji,

Sing's decisions aren't your fault. Ming will be fine. Lots of kids come from broken homes and do great. She's got two great parents; she's luckier than a lot of kids out there. It's a tough situation, but divorce happens. People survive. In the long run, Akira will probably be happier not to be with a man who obviously wants to be somewhere else.

Are you and Sing getting back together? You talk like you are, like you're actively involved in his divorce. It's okay if you are. You'd make a great "step-dad" or whatever to Ming.

I'll be okay. I'm still sore about Rudy, but this shit happens in prison. It's prison. I don't really feel like writing right now, so I'm going to cut this one short, but let me know how things are with you and Sing.

love,
Ash

***

July 9, 2010

Dear Ash,

Of course, I am not together with Sing. It would be too crude to steal Akira's husband like that. But I am a little amazed. I always thought Sing was with me because he worried I'm not okay without you. He felt guilty that he didn't handle some things so well in the gang: Shorter's death, Lao's feelings. He felt to blame that Lao attacked you. He felt to blame you couldn't be with me, so he stayed with me instead. When he married Akira, I thought he got over it. I thought he was not so worrying and blaming himself, so he didn't feel that obligation to me anymore.

But I was wrong. All these years, I was wrong. Sing loves me. He wants so much to be with me that he even thinks about moving away from his daughter. This is very scary. A little part of me is happy. This is scary too. I don't know what I should feel. I don't know what I do feel. Love is way too complicated.

Tell me if you are okay, or tell me if you are not. I think I said too much.

love,
Eiji

***

To: eiji.okumura@newhopesfund.org
From: sing71@yowzah.com
Subject: Ash
Sent: July 17, 2010 at 4:21 p.m.

Eiji--

I just got your email. I checked with the police just to make sure there wasn't a mistake. I tried calling you, but your phone was off. Are you ok? Call or email ASAP cuz i'm worrying a lot about you.

I don't know what to say. Kira's been a threat for years, but we all seemed pretty sure he wouldn't target Ash. Hell, he should target me. I've committed lots of crimes and got off scot free. I can't believe this.

Call me. I'll come to NY as soon as I can get ahold of Akira and drop off M. Don't worry; I'll make it up to her. I need to be there with you.

--Sing

Chapter Text

March 30, 2020

Dear Eiji,

If you get this letter--and I'm making damn sure you will--it will be a product of phenomenal wheeling and dealing. It's the first and last one I can send that won't be in some sort of code, so I'm going to lay everything out for you.

You know my handwriting; you know it's me. You've read the rumors about how people killed by Kira have come back to life. And like any sensible human being, you've probably assumed it's a crock, maybe even more so because you wouldn't want false hope that I'm alive, but I am. I came back. It's crazy. Maybe it is God. I just woke up in an alley, naked, bald, spent about a week scraping around after clothes, food, some damn grip on what happened.

Then Blanca (code: Sergei; let's keep it simple) found me. He'd read about the first resurrections and kept an eye out for me coming back. He smuggled me out of the country. We're in Russia now. I'm going to stay with him for a while. I'm shaky. Besides, the old geezer needs someone to look after him. We're supporting some government reform groups here. Illegal but...

I'll write you via an address I wheedled of out of Yut-Lung. In all seriousness, he came through for me. He had no obligation to, but he came through anyway.

I hope you're okay. Shit, you're almost 54. I've lost (gained?) ten years. I'm still 42. (Just turned 42 in terms of technical days alive, but I think I'll just turn 42 again in August.) I always told you you were an old fart.

You probably want to know what it's like being dead. It's nothing. No memory. Like being out on the operating table and not the floating-above way. I'm okay. Blanca did right by me. I'll write soon and send an address to write back. Write with a lot of circumspection, okay? I'm on the lam; so is Blanca. Just follow my lead.

Enclosed is a P.O. Box I set up for you under the name Eiri Tanaka. Do not check it yourself. Once a month, get someone you trust but are not super close to to check it: ex. an old friend of your parents'. They won't be in danger; the only danger is I might get caught if we're careless. Type all letters. Say nothing that identifies you. Use code or fake names for everyone. Right now, letters are more secure than internet contact; maybe in the future, that will change.

I love you. I'm sorry I died on you again.

Ash (Don Smith)

***

April 3, 2020

Dear E,

It's been a long time. How have things been going? Did you and S get back together?

Sergei and I are staying at his wife's friend's niece's farm (long story). It's the first time I've ever lived on a farm; it's kind of peaceful. We often go into town to do consulting, though, so I don't get too isolated. I like working for NGOs; it's the first time in my life I feel like I'm out interacting in the world for good: not just doing damage control, not just reading things and writing people, but really out there creating change. I didn't think Sergei had it in him to do that kind of work, but I guess even tropical paradises get old.

It's strange to be out and about again. That statement is so obvious it's useless, but I don't where to begin. The sky is so big. Did you ever see that Star Trek episode where the guy climbed a mountain and "touched the sky," i.e. he figured out they were living in a hollow, fake planet? I feel like that: not that the sky is fake or I could touch it, but that it's somehow different from everything I believed before.

The sky's so big. The sun's so hot. The moon is... The moon is. I'd forgotten these things existed. Trees. Sometimes I get agoraphobia. Sometimes (a lot) I wake up and have no clue where I am: the bed smells wrong; the wall is wood; it doesn't make any sense. There are chickens. Sometimes I just want to watch them for hours, these big, feathery creatures like modern-day dinosaurs, cooing and scratching around.

And you?

love,
Don

P.S. My Russian is crap. I can't tell you how annoying it is to always have Sergei be able to say everything better than I ever will. But I guess you know...

***

April 30, 2020

Dear Don,

It's so good to hear from you again. Those words don't say it, but what else can I say? At first I told myself it wasn't you. But no one could fake this, and if so, why?

Yes, S and I got back together about two years after his divorce. I moved back to Japan then, so we could be close to his daughter. She lives with us during school holidays. I still do photography and fundraising, and also I coach track and field at local high school. S is still a sociology professor. This all sounds unimportant. It is not unimportant; it's life. But how can I say it? How can I explain ten years?

I'm glad you can see trees and chickens and moon and so on. This is what I always wanted for you. This is my dream come true. This is like God answered my personal prayer. It's miraculous. It's more than everything I could wish. So why aren't I more happy? I guess I can't believe yet. I think I must be dreaming.

It feels like someone comes to my house one day and says my whole family is dead, my friends gone, my money lost and kicks me into the streets and I live there alone begging for a decade, and then this person returns and says, "Hey, it was all a joke. Go home now. A surprise party is waiting." I go home, but I don't believe it. BTW, this "person" is not you. Only the loss and regain is you. I don't feel it yet.

What was it like for you? Not "nothing." I mean after you woke? How did you do?

I love you,
E

***

May 10, 2020

Dear E,

I get that it takes a while for everything to sink in. I'm glad you and S got back together. Man, you two have been together a long time. Guess that means you're good for each other. In all the years we wrote, you almost always sounded happy with him. The only exceptions were when he got married and when he got divorced. I'm glad the family accepts you and lets you be close to his daughter. She's a lucky kid. She must be in high school by now.

You asked what it was like. When I first woke up, I was pretty damn sure someone had dosed me with... you know, like SW. I believed that for a long time, long being relative. It was about four days till Sergei found me. About another week before I started to believe what he was telling me. In the beginning, I was in despair; I don't know how else to put it. I would have killed myself if I'd had a gun. I'm a coward with a knife. Then, gradually it got better.

The weather's nice here. Global warming nice, but nice. The trees are all leafing golden. Robert Frost wrote a poem about that. The green grass is everywhere, except the pastures, where it's mud. I'm looking out over the pasture now. You know, sheep are cute (not like that). I'm on Mars. You wouldn't recognize Sergei if you saw him sitting in the sun with his ice tea. When did he get to be in his 60s?

How was it for you? Were you okay?

Love you too,
Don

***

June 30, 2020

Dear D,

S's daughter will be in high school next year. The other day, we watched Akira (the anime), and she told S his teenage pictures look like Tetsuo: you know, the crazy one. S says he didn't have as much forehead. She has sense of humor like S too.

S's situation is difficult--with you coming back. He's glad you're okay. But he wonders if this changes things for me and him. Or maybe I'm the one who wonders. Obviously, I'll still live with him, but will it hurt him because my heart divides itself?

You asked how it was for me. For a long time, I was very angry. Not about what happened in '10, about '86. At that time, I was just relieved you survived. In '10, it was like all that caught up with you. It's a miracle you didn't die back then. You didn't even call 911; you went to the fucking library. You have always had a half death wish. It was like you did it to yourself, even though you didn't. I was so angry. And then, I got over it. Now I am angry again. "I would have killed myself if I had a gun."

I know this doesn't make sense. I was angry because you were gone. Now, you're back and I'm angry. It's not fair, but you asked.

Don't pay attention to my anger. Whatever I say, please don't go away again.
E.

***

July 15, 2020

Dear E,

Yep, I asked. It was always obvious I'd be trouble for you, from the first time you walked into my place. I tried to shield you. I did keep trying to send you back to Japan, remember? But by then it was too late. I'm sorry. I shouldn't snipe because you answered the question I asked. I'm sorry I put you through this. Please keep on sticking with me, okay?

About S, you can write to me and still be with him. You did it before. Your heart's big enough for both of us. If I showed up on your doorstep it might be different, but it's not likely I'll be leaving Russia any time soon.

I feel like I'm picking up some family of my own here. I hit it off with Yelena, who owns the farm: she's all wide, no-nonsense face and tweed when she's not in the stables. She's 40, divorced, and has a son, Pyotr, who Sergei's putting through college. He's studying sustainable farming. Gawky kid, like the comic relief in a drama from the '50s.

Yesterday, I spent two hours baking in the sun, lying in the grass.

Love you,
D

***

July 30, 2020

Dear D,

Yes, I will stick by you, of course. I can get angry, but I can't imagine letting go again. Letting go was very hard. Sometimes, I would look at the picture I took of you by window at dawn. You were so present in that picture, so full of thoughts, frozen from that instant of life. It would amaze me you were existing, then not existing anymore. I could not understand it. I can't understand it now: this current situation.

I am glad you met new people. I think it has been a long time since you saw women or children. It must feel like part of mankind suddenly exists again. I'm also glad you see sun.

Can I ask, does what happened to you upset your atheism? You said maybe it's God.

love you,
E.

***

August 18, 2020

Dear E,

I'm not an atheist; I'm a scientist (in mindset). And the thing about scientists (nobody gets this) is that we're nakedly open to wonder. Science is full of things no one would ever have imagined. Who'd have thought space is curved or that time could slow down and speed up? When I got on your case for saying Kira was magic, that's because it was bad science. "Magic" is antithetical to science: by definition, it rejects rational analysis. I have no damn clue what happened to me. And I don't think science will figure it out in my lifetime. But I'm actually okay with that.

The hard part is being a decade adrift, not belonging to my own generation. The hard part is hearing you talk about looking at my old photo.

You may not remember, but when we were last corresponding, you wrote about an 18th-century author, Akinari. I've been reading some of his stuff. It's like an autumn mist. Did you read the story about these two guys who fall in love, but one of them is a samurai and has to go off and avenge some people? He vows to return in a year, but he ends up flubbing his revenge and getting put in prison. When he realizes he won't make it back, he kills himself so his spirit can return and keep his vow. But, of course, he can't stay.

love,
D

***

August 30, 2020

Dear D,

That story is called "Chrysanthemum Vow," which is an old symbol of homosexual love. It is a sad story: spirits can only have a few minutes to talk; unlike some, they cannot write letters to each other. Well, in Akinari's, they probably can, but it's difficult, much spiritual energy (^ ^)

You will think I'm "magical," but what happened to you makes me think of God somehow. As you say, the strangeness of the universe is wonderful. "I am thought and absence of thought," says Vishnu. "I have already defeated all these warriors."

You said in a past letter that you think you will be in Russia a long time. Do you think there is any chance you could leave? Maybe that friend who helps with P. O. boxes can help expedite the passport process? Maybe you could visit Japan sometime? Or do you want to stay with Sergei?

My track students lost the championship game, but I'm proud they got to the championship. This seems like it's not very important. I'm still not sure what to say. Is there something you'd like to hear about?

S would like to say something. I enclose his letter.

love you,
E

***

Dear Don,

I just wanted to say I'm glad you're ok, and if you ever want to come visit us, it would be terrific to see you. E thinks it would be awkward, but it would be fine.

We've come a long way, huh? I look at my kid sometimes, and I think about how you and I were living when we were her age, and it scares the fuck out of me. I can't imagine her having to live that life. I can't imagine any kid doing it. How did we do it? How come we survived?

Keep surviving, okay?

S

***

September 12, 2020

Dear S,

Thanks for your letter. It was good to hear from you. Thanks for the invitation, but I can't make it to Japan right now.

I'm glad the old gang days seem unreal to you. I'm glad you can't imagine your daughter in that world. I can't quite say it's unreal for me, but that awareness of how goddamn young we were? Oh yeah. We were babies. It was unbelievably cruel.

Glad to hear you're still professoring. You'll teach 'em!

D

***

September 12, 2020

Dear E,

"I see relentless variation. I scramble in the dust of the failing nation." That song always made me think of the Bhagavad Gita. But there's always a nation failing, and scrambling...

It gets me when you ask me to come visit you. I wish I could, and I'm glad I can't. I'm not part of your world. Sorry if I sound a bit down: shitty day at work.

You asked if I felt obligated to stay with Sergei--or I think that's what you were asking. I hate Sergei. That is to say, I owe him a lot: not just my current room and board, but a hell of a lot of favors back when, down the training he gave me as a kid. Except that wasn't a favor; it was a job he was hired to do and, man, was he a model employee. I can't count the number of times he told me I was lucky to be that bastard's heir. He told me I should accept it as my best destiny. He told me I should stay.

That's exactly what my old man told me. Just suck it up and put out: it's all good as long as you get the money. And I don't care if he was between a rock and hard place (Sergei); I don't care if he was worried I'd get killed if I ran. You don't say that to a kid. You don't say, "Oh, just let the fat bastards rape you, kid; it's the best meal ticket you'll ever score."

I can't forgive him. I don't consider that a virtue. I know he cares about me in his way. I know he's risked a lot for me. I still can't look into that big, square, smug face without some part of me wanting to carve it right off. I want him to fucking apologize, but he won't because he thinks he was right. That's the thing about Sergei; he always thinks he's right.

You asked what I want to hear about. I want to hear if you're happy? I can't tell.

love,
D

P.S. Never ever use an emoticon again.

***

September 30, 2020

Dear D,

I can't believe I forgot your birthday! Belated ハッピバー (^o^)! Congratulations on having 42nd birthday again! These are not mean feet. On the contrary, I hope feet are very nice. This is my wish for you.

To be more serious, I understand that you can hate Sergei. I am horrified he said such things. I also agree forgiveness is better: it is better for him and you. I hope, for your sake, you can obtain forgiveness someday. Have you asked him if he thinks he is right? Maybe his face just doesn't show it. If you feel such hate, I think you should not live near him.

You ask if I'm happy. It's a funny thing: I was happy, or when I look back, I think I was. My life started to balance. I like my work; I like living with S and his daughter. I visit my sister and nephew.

From your return, balance is gone. I'm often not happy, but please understand that your return is the best thing I can imagine for me. It's right for me in a way... I have no words. It is the best thing, but it's not happy. I think this is like life. Life is full of pain from the time we are born till the time we die. There is some pain almost every day: physical or mental, worry, stress, illness, scary challenge. But how many people say they wish to be dead? How many wish they were not born? You are my rebirth into a more alive life, and it is pain every day.

Do not leave again. I love you,
E

P.S. Are you safe at work? Is it okay?

***

October 8, 2020

Dear E,

Work's pretty good. A pain sometimes, like work always is. But if I can say one thing for Sergei and I me, it's that we're cagey. We make good decisions; they rarely come back to bite us--especially since he's such an old coot now. If he can't be back in his lawn chair by 5 p.m., he's pretty much not going to bother.

It's okay with Sergei. I was writing in a dark moment. I like his company most of the time. Most of the time, I just don't think about the other stuff. And I guess I do feel some sort of obligation to help him out: because he rescued me, but even more because he needs me. He really isn't the guy you remember. He's still sharp as a tack, but he's 66 and kind of heavy. He's not in the best shape for work that can still turn physical. (Remember Kirk having his epic, final action scene before dying in ST: Generations? It's like that.)

Yelena says she can't read Sergei, and that freaks her out because she considers herself a good judge of people. She claims she knew her husband would cheat on her well before he started to. She says got a bead on me, though she (wisely) won't elaborate. Personally, I'm bemused that she finds Sergei hard to figure out. I've always found him easy.

Thanks for all your honesty about where you're coming from. You have a gift for communicating things in the perfect way. You speak English better than I do. Not in terms of grammar: I can't believe you've been speaking English for 40 years or something and still haven't figured out articles. But the current of your expression is perfect. Don't worry you said anything that hurt me. You didn't. Don't worry that I'll go away to avoid hurting you. I won't.

Love you,
Me

***

October 30, 2020

Dear Me (俺),

My last letter was mistaken. I mean, it was only from one angle. I remember a friend once told me people at work say about me, "He is always sad about something." I was sad because you were dead. I don't know why I said I became happy.

You sound better in your last letter, like things are okay. Things are okay here too. The big issue in our house is S's daughter is in a fight with her boyfriend. She says she thought she really liked him, but then she stopped, but he still likes her, and it is very complicated. S let her cut her visit short last weekend so that she could go back to Sendai to talk to her boyfriend.

It's funny that this is such a big drama. When I remember our days in NY (okay, we were a little older--well, not S), we never had such a problem. We occupied our worry with fears of death and conspiracy, etc. We had no time for dating trouble. But this is the mystery of the human heart. Its needs expand to fill its volume. When we fought for our lives, we just thought about that. When you don't have to do that, you think about finding happiness. Happiness is overrated. I said this to S's daughter, but it did not help her stop crying. She is too young a person to understand.

I think it also doesn't help that her mother recently started to date a new man. S's daughter is a little uncertain about him, though he seems nice. Mostly, I think she is jealous that her mother found a nice man and her own love life is not working out.

I asked S what it means that Yelena has a "bead on you." He said it means a deep focus and understanding. It sounds like she likes you.

love you,
Also Me (私)

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: We've Got Mail
Sent: 13.11.2020, 11:11 p.m.

Dear Eiji,

I've got us a secure mail address. It's not 100%, but it's redirected and pseuded enough that I'm happy with it. You probably guessed that the P.O. box alias was a pretty flimsy attempt disguising our correspondence if anyone had been seriously looking for me. Blanca and I staged my death back in July, which made me a lot more secure. The aliases were really just to give you plausible deniability if anyone got ahold of the letters.

So now we can actually email. Hard to believe it took us till 2020 discover the internet! (For security, though, don't send big files, okay?)

Below is a bit of my handwriting, so you know it's really me.

I hope Ming's doing better. She's at that age where she's way too young to be worried about whether things will work out with her boyfriend, yet probably the age where she'll worry most. I hope Akira's doing well with her guy too. I'm ten years behind there: all I know is you were worried about her when she and Sing got divorced. Hope they're on friendly terms now? Yelena and her ex are only on speaking terms for Pyotr; there's something very Russian about that. Not grudges, but rigidity, pride (in both the good and bad sense).

love you,
Ash

P.S. I'm glad Sing's finally giving you some help with your articles.

[Handwritten]
"A man can be destroyed but not defeated." - E.H.

Chapter Text

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Flying helicopters
Sent: 23.08.2025, 4:03 a.m.

Hi Ash,

Just got to hotel in Berlin. They say don't sleep to avoid jet lag, but I say screw that. I am old man. I need sleep. I will nap after this mail. It is very muggy outside.

I saw dream on the plane that natural disasters were following me. Sorry. v. sleepy. More soon.

E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Flying helicopters
Sent: 24.08.2025, 1:14 a.m.

Hey Eiji,

Yeah, I never bought that jet lag thing. Let me know how the MSF thing goes. Don't sleep through it.

Blanca and I had a talk tonight. He's going back to Jamaica. He should. He's too old to do jack here. He's never even argued that since we brought him home. He's still an ace sniper, but if he ever has make a to run for it--well, this time was close enough. Plus, I don't like one bit the way his memory's going. By regular senior citizen standards, he's doing great, but for our work? It'll be a relief to have him gone, for him and me both.

Seriously, I don't wish him any harm. Happy retirement and so on. He deserves it the way people in Hamlet deserve not to be whipped. But by the same token, don't we all?

A

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Flying helicopters
Sent: 26.08.2025, 11:37 p.m.

Dear Ash,

Glad to hear Blanca will get to retire to a place he likes. I think he does deserve it. What I mean is: why not? He has done good; he has done bad. He is old; he has tried. Like you say, he is like all of us. Why shouldn't he go to an island and bask in sun?

The first day here went well. My Bangladesh footage and Dr. Hauser's commentary got good responses. Maybe we will raise about €20 mil. I had a nice dinner with an eco-attorney: very sexy young lady, not a day over 50 (^-^)

My mind is at home though. I'm nervous about Ming and Michelle as couple. Long-distance relationships are always hard. And Michelle is too old for her, and Ming is doing her pretend-to-be-happy thing.

E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Flying helicopters
Sent: 28.08.2025, 10:15 a.m.

Hey Eiji,

€20 mil -- not too shabby--depending on who gets to allocate it. In any case, you done good. You may now retire to Jamaica.

I agree Michelle's too old for Ming, but if she's gotta learn the hard way, she's gotta. Broken hearts make better people. I'm surprised Michelle's going for it though; she ought to know better. If Shorter were around, he'd sit her down and say, "Now, listen here, niece o' mine, you're a good kid, but you're 31." And he'd clap her on the shoulder and say, "So cut out the hitting on 19 yr olds. Atta girl." And it would be so.

So stuff happened over here. We stuck Blanca on a plane today, and then Yelena and I had sex.

Not in a celebratory way. It was a concatenation of circumstances: realizing we had the main house to ourselves now, her still feeling raw about Pyotr and the B from H. It was the definition of awkward. Do you remember once you told me when you had sex with this girl, and you were so nervous you couldn't tell if it was good or not? It was like that, except it wasn't really about nerves. It was more like I wanted to and didn't, and it all zeroed out into mathematically precise ambivalence.

I hate sex, Eiji. I've never done it in my life without feeling disgusted by the whole situation. But I get lonely sometimes; sometimes my body gets lonely, and I just want to be normal and have someone.

I don't know where this is going to go with her. I'm not in love with her, and she's not with me. Which is a huge relief yet... it's a lot of pressure us being alone up here. She was talking about asking her friend, Oksana, to come stay (I think I mentioned her before: Natasha's bff's daughter). Good idea. And I should probably move out.

Blanca sure cut a figure at the plane. He had this white hat. He looked like Humphrey Bogart.

A

 

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Flying helicopters
Sent: 28.08.2025, 10:25 a.m.

Thinking of M and M as a couple. Eiji, I killed both their uncles.

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Flying helicopters
Sent: 29.08.2025, 5:41 p.m.

Ash, broken hearts do not always make better people.

We raised €28 million, and now I'm waiting at airport. (8th hour waiting, on account of Hurricane Shilpi.)

May I ask, did you have consensual sex before? I think if not, or even if relatively few times, it is inevitable you feel ambivalent. It doesn't mean this won't change, but good needs to build over bad. You always get on well with Yelena. Maybe she's good for you? Are you sure she isn't in love with you? I say this because it's always complicated, such relationships.

I'm glad Blanca got safely to his plane. (At first I typed "planet.")

love you,
Eiji

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Flying helicopters
Sent: 29.08.2025, 5:46 p.m.

Ash, you killed Lao in self-defense, and you killed Shorter because he was better off dead. Both things were good decisions. Good decisions between horrible choices.

E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Flying helicopters
Sent: 30.08.2025, 10:32 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

> Ash, broken hearts do not always make better people.

But I don't think people without broken hearts can be good. Nice. But not good. Like that song from Into the Woods. I've met people like that: the world slips off their surface.

Yeah, it was my first time. Forty-seven years old. Yet for some reason, I go around telling everybody I lost my virginity when I was 7.

Yelena is not in love with me; she's says I'm a "grove in the snowstorm." But she's vulnerable. She's lonely and still a little bitter about her husband cutting out. And she's bitter about Pyotr cutting out to marry Yula. And she's going to miss Blanca. I never really appreciated how much his smug-smiling-ice-tea-sipping-lawn-chairing-pretending-to-be-somebody-out-of-a-novel-by-Fitzgeralding presence stabilized the household. Everything's off-kilter now, so yeah, we'd better be careful.

> Both things were good decisions.

What makes me cringe is that I cussed him out--Lao, when he was dying, when I'd killed him. The last words he heard were me calling him an asshole or something. I don't remember what exactly. (I know I don't have to say this, but don't tell that to Sing.)

€28 million is a good day's work. I wonder if I'll ever do a day like that.

A

P.S. Planet Blanca. God help us all.

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Flying helicopters
Sent: 31.08.2025, 2:18 p.m.

> What makes me cringe is that I cussed him out...

That's a heavy thing to live with. I'm sorry. I can say, "It's not so awful. You were stabbed and shocked, so you cussed him out." I can say that, but you still live with it. I'm glad you told me.

***
***
***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Please update me
Sent: 15.05.2026, 7:24 p.m.

Hi Ash,

Are you ok? You didn't mail for the past three days. Please update me?

E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Please update me
Sent: 17.05.2026, 1:07 a.m.

Hey Eiji,

Yeah, I'm fine. Sorry for the silence. I got hacked (in a minor way) and then tailed. Long story short, I've spent the past few days dealing with that and not being able to go home and trying to get in touch with Yelena, so I could give her a cover story if she, P, etc. get pulled in for questioning. Hopefully, no one's tracked her. Caution says I should get them out of the country, but the other half says that's a panicky way to rip them out of their whole lives when they're probably not in danger. Anyway, dealing with it. Mail may be a little intermittent, but I'm okay.

A

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. please update me
Sent: 18.05.2026, 8:40 a.m.

Hi Ash,

I'm glad you're ok. Hope Yelena and Pyotr are too. 頑張って。

Things are calm over here. Ming cut her hair very short: she looks like Akira when she was a little girl. Ibe-san came for dinner a couple of days ago and said so too. Here's a picture I took of both.

Take care,
E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. please update me
Sent: 20.05.2026, 3:13 a.m.

With my friend, Vadim, in a shack. Retrenching. It doesn't matter what country I'm living in, Eiji: I always end up back here. Should have gone to Jamaica with Blanca. At least I'd be warm.

The other night I tried to count how many people I've killed since I got out of prison. It hasn't been that many. Only 5: averages out to less than one a year. And I actually think of that as "not many." I have a feeling the count's going to rise soon though.

A

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. please update me
Sent: 20.05.2026, 10:16 a.m.

Hi Ash,

Yes, maybe you should go to Jamaica with Blanca.

This morning, I agreed to do some fundraising for the algae project. Did I tell you about it? The one my friend Issei's friend works on? It's difficult to take exciting picture though! Also last night, Sing hurt shoulder again doing boxing. That is our news.

E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. please update me
Sent: 22.05.2026, 12:47 a.m.

Shame about the algae pictures. Is anything I'm saying even registering at all?

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. please update me
Sent: 22.05.2026, 7:03 a.m.

Ash, ever since I know you, you say you are trapped horrible fate of violence. You never accept another possibility. You don't even try. You say you're trapped because you're criminal and can't live in law-abiding world. Well, Sing was criminal too, and it is funny but he succeeds. Why is that, huh? You are most defeatist person I ever met. And you expect me to be so sorry for you? I am your friend, but I am too old for this shit. If you were my grandchild I would be (more) patient, but you are 47. Act like a grown up.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. please update me
Sent: 24.05.2026, 10:52 p.m.

Eiji,

It's hard to know how to respond. You're wrong that I have some sort of easy out. I'm not Sing. He never got convicted. We both know that. I'm not going to argue about it.

I do get that you're tired of hearing me whine. Okay, I can whine less. But do you really not want to know what's going on in my life? I also get that you worry about me--though you pointedly left that out--but I can't just make myself be safe. I'm sorry.

I am sorry. But this is what I am. What part are you willing to see? What part would you really prefer not to see?

A

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. please update me
Sent: 25.05.2026, 7:12 a.m.

Ash,

I never said you have easy out. But you do have out. If Blanca can go to Jamaica, so can you. He is also a criminal; he gets fake ID. He likes you: he would give you money in order to join him. There is no reason this doesn't work. So don't tell me you are stuck with "your life." This is more of the same. This is excuses, like a drug addict that says treatment doesn't help, so he won't try.

E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. please update me
Sent: 27.05.2026, 9:15 p.m.

My God, you choose your comparisons carefully. I never knew you could hit so far below the belt. Never mind.

You're right. Nothing is making it physically impossible for me to retire to Jamaica and live very quietly under an assumed identity doing fuck all with the rest of my life. It's not as easy or danger-free as you make it sound by a long shot, but it's not undoable.

And I'm not going to do it. Because for all the shit, for all the danger, for all the shooting, even for all that I put Yelena in some danger, even despite all of it, I'm doing something good here. Maybe not the way you are, by raising money and publicizing worthy causes, but maybe something even you can't do. If I apply the right force--a threat here, a little strategic blackmail there--I can curb, I have curbed, the excesses of a lot of people. I've stopped dissenters going to prison. I've stopped farmers' losing their homes. I've stopped a couple of very bad men getting into power.

So, yeah, maybe I could retire to Jamaica, but the minute I raised my head, I'd be the same criminal in the same danger. And I'm not ready to curl into a ball like a frightened baby bunny just yet. I'm sorry if you can't deal with that.

A

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. please update me
Sent: 28.05.2026, 7:18 a.m.

Ash, I have been "dealing with that" since I was 19. I dealed with it all the time we lived in NY. I dealed with it all the time since you came back: 6 years. I even dealed with what is the worst possible consequence for me: you being killed. Over and over. Two false alarms, then the real thing. I dealed with you being dead for 10 years. You have no idea what my life was like. Don't patronize me.

Look, I am angry. But I am also glad that if you have to live with danger and crime, you are doing good, like you always did. This is one of the biggest things I love about you. It also never changes. I am so glad that's so. But I worry you think good social change is built from crime, even maybe by killing people. Who are you, Kira?

E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. please update me
Sent: 28.05.2026, 9:48 p.m.

Dealt :)

And yet more below the belt. The fact is, Eiji, no, not all necessary social change can be accomplished within the law. Law, at best, approximates justice, saith Plato. I'm not justice, and overall, I may be a lot worse than law, but I'm doing things that won't get done otherwise. I'm not going to stop, but I will whine about it less. That's the best I can offer.

I really am grateful, more than I can say, that you've stuck by me all these years. I can't imagine how much being caught up in my bullshit has hurt you.

A

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. please update me
Sent: 29.05.2026, 7:20 a.m.

Hi Ash,

"In the glories of the 80s, you said, 'I'm not afraid to die.'
I said, 'I don't find that remotely funny, even on this space cake high.'"

I will always stick by you, especially now that you are contaminated by emoticon. I love you.

E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. please update me
Sent: 29.05.2026, 10:16 p.m.

"She said, 'My husband ran off with my shaman, but they love me as I am.'"

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. please update me
Sent: 30.05.2026, 7:23 a.m.

Sing is your shaman? What are you saying?? (^-^)

love,
Eiji

P.S. You ok?

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. please update me
Sent: 31.05.2026, 10:48 p.m.

Yep, we're okay. Vadim and I moved again; I think we're secure for now. More soon.

love,
Ash

Chapter Text

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. American Maid
Sent: 08.03.2031, 8:20 p.m.

Hi Ash,

Just finished first day at the Tokyo conference. I had dinner with a lady who is a professor of gender studies Dongduk U, and I told her my daughter is a graduate student in gender studies at Aichi Shu, and we talked about it, and she said Ming should apply for a fellowship for a year at DU because her studies look perfectly for the work on family structures they are doing there! When I called Ming, she was very excited. This could be a great qualification for her.

Excitedly,
E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. American Maid
Sent: 09.03.2031, 11:57 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

Good luck to Ming! Sounds like a great opportunity. I'm not surprised she's studying family structures, given her own. Let me know how it goes. Hope the rest of the conference goes well.

Long day here, so I'm going to curl up with The Old Man and the Sea, well, the old man anyway. Curling up with the sea can be a drowning hazard. Yes, I really am that tired.

A

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Damn Anti-Immigrant &&@*$
Sent: 14.03.2031, 6:19 p.m.

Hi Ash,

Are you still in Sevastopol? I hope the weather is still nice. You should take as long on a vacation as you can because you never know when a rug will be pulled out.

Speaking of which, we have an issue here. You know about anti-immigrant reforms I told you about and that Sing had to have an extensive background check? Well, we thought it was ok because nothing happened in two months, but now they say they found criminal record--of course. So today, he gets notice that he will be deported. It's a "zero tolerance" thing. I am so angry. We will fight in court, but meanwhile he loses his job.

It is ridiculous. Japan says we need more people but only Japanese people. Forget all the starving people in overpopulated world. No, they cannot come here.

love,
E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Damn Anti-Immigrant &&@*$
Sent: 15.03.2031, 10:48 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

Yeah, it is ridiculous. But if anyone can fight it, you can. If anyone deserves to stay in Japan, it's Sing: he's got a kid there, a half-Japanese kid. He's been a widely published professor for 30 years. So you go be righteous-Eiji and don't let them push him around.

Meanwhile, will he be back in NY?

I took one more day in Sevastopol. So nice to see the sun again. Got mail from Vadim and Boris. They may be back from Kazakhstan soon. I'm surprised how much I'm looking forward to that.

Keep me posted on Sing.

love,
A

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Damn Anti-Immigrant &&@*$
Sent: 16.03.2031, 11:12 p.m.

Hi Ash,

Glad you're getting a break and V and B will be back.

Sing and I will go to the US for now so he will not get threats. It is because he is Chinese, you know. Very anti-Chinese feeling right now. Ming is so angry; she will speak at big protest on campus. I will speak, too, then follow Sing to America.

I wish I wouldn't leave my father still in hospital, but once Sing is settled, I will come back to check on him. My mother and sister are there meanwhile. Timing is really bad.

Mail may be sporadic. Take care. I will keep you posted.

love,
E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Damn Anti-Immigrant &&@*$
Sent: 17.03.2031, 2:19 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

Is your dad still stable? He's 94, right? I hope this thing with Sing isn't a shock to his system. Don't worry about keeping up with mail. Just let me know what's up when you can.

Is Sing still in touch with YL? Don't know how YL could help, but he's got all sorts of improbable connections. I can contact him if you'd like.

love,
A

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Back in NY
Sent: 22.03.2031, 11:34 p.m.

Hi Ash,

Thanks for kind wishes. Sing is still in touch with YL, and this is part of the problem. Sing's record shows mafia contact. No contact on his official record is from since 1986, but if they keep checking his background, they may find that connection is still there. YL is not an asset now.

I am worried they'll search my background too. I was also arrested in the '80s. This won't be good for Sing, maybe bad for my career too, though that is not very important.

Are Vadim and Boris back?

love,
E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Back in NY
Sent: 24.03.2031, 11:46 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

So can I take it your dad's okay? I hate to think of your record being dragged out. Hate to think of you having a record at all; it's only because you dared to be friends with JDs like us. I take your point about YL.

V&B should be back next week. We're starting a new project--not an especially dangerous one. Some hackery (B) and a lot of research (V). (Me, a bit of both.)

How are you holding up?

love,
A

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Back in NY
Sent: 28.03.2031, 7:10 p.m.

Hi Ash,

Yeah, my dad's ok, sorry I forgot to mention. He is not too sure what's going on. My mother tells him I went to America for extended assignment.

Well, yesterday Sing and I got married. It was not such a romantic wedding like every girl dreams of. It is under American law, but we want to use this to argue spousal privilege so that I don't testify about the many, many things I know that Sing did as teenager. Nadia was witness. She said to send best wishes to you.

I'm glad your new project is not dangerous. Be careful anyway.

love,
E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Back in NY
Sent: 30.03.2031, 3:09 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

Congratulations to you and Sing. I wish it were under better circumstances. That was a smart move: not only from the perspective of spousal privilege but also for solidifying Sing's claim to Japanese citizenship.

Give my regards to Nadia too.

Let me know how things go in court. Fingers crossed.

A

***
***
***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Living on a hillside
Sent: 17.01.2032, 8:56 p.m.

Hi Ash,

Well, we finally have most stuff moved into the apartment. It's the smallest place Sing and I ever lived together; I think we'll get on each other's nerves. But once we are settled, I will probably travel part of the year. Then, I will be gone so much, I will be happy to be back with Sing.

It's a puzzle: we came to Hawaii to be closer to Japan but also we are on an island and, therefore, close to nothing. If we can't afford air travel--and we really can't--I will probably make one trip per year for work: a long time on ship. As for the rest, I'll telecon. Maybe we will go to Japan once per year, or every other year and in other years, family members will come visit us.

The hardest part is being far from Ming. She and Sing had a phone fight the other day about whether to keep on with legal battles. When she was little, he would often scold her in Mandarin, I think because his mother did. So from then, they often fight in Mandarin. My Mandarin sucks, so I can't understand too well, but it's kind of amusing. It's a good language for sounding angry.

I am still steamed that Sing can barely find work. As an adjunct for Manoa, he makes about 1/4 what he did at Akita. We don't really need money. We are better off than 95% of people in the world, but it's the first time in many years we pinch pennies, and it makes me realize how much of the world works so hard and has so little security. Also I'm not used to being the main bread winner. I never really thought about money from my work until now.

Still, there's an upside. Waikiki is very pretty, though hot for me. We live on a hill with many ferns and there is a kind of red orchid I am trying to get good pictures of. It's also a good place to be a Japanese. I don't feel like a racial minority, and I will not get out of practice in Japanese.

I feel like this is a long mail, mostly complaining. How are you? Are you safe?

love,
Eiji

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Living on a hillside
Sent: 17.01.2032, 10:13 p.m.

I don't know what to do about these niboshi (little dried fishies). Sing got them for miso, but we only used them twice. Why did we bring them all the way to Waikiki so they just sit on a shelf? I don't like how I can feel their eyes when I eat them. It's kind of disgusting.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Living on a hillside
Sent: 19.01.2032, 11:22 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

Glad you're getting settled. If money would help, I could send you something, if you don't mind it being a little shady--maybe best that Sing stays away from that though, huh?

I'm doing fine, still working on the ecoterrorism stuff. Funny how I seem to be on both sides of that in Kiev. 'Cause a lot of the ETs are crazy. At the same time, when you look at the way ecological mismanagement is destroying the basic fabric of the region: for people, ecosystems, endangered species, you-name-it, you can't help but be on their side a little. A couple months ago, I went to Chernobyl. It's like they all say: it's really beautiful, almost alien, like a paradise for plants that's poison for people.

Boris got me into a show called Varvara. (I'm linking to the subbed version.) I really recommend it. It's about the KGB, and it's got this mix of surprisingly free-wheeling social criticism and wit that reminds me of MASH. Like MASH, it's got the social crit. couched in the past, but it works.

A

P.S. Did Eiji Okumura just say Japanese cuisine was disgusting? Let us observe a moment of silence.

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Living on a hillside
Sent: 21.01.2032, 7:43 p.m.

Hi Ash,

Thanks for Varvara. We watched the first episode; it is pretty good. I like the sham marriage of Vanya and Svetlana. You also inspired me to watch MASH again. I had not seen an episode for decades. I wish I could speak English as accentlessly as those Korean people.

Last month, we started to watch a show called that I become very fond of. It is a little surreal, but I think the reveal will be that it's set in a space ship that is a zoo. In this ship are humans and many other animals and also aliens. The humans live in a region with other apes. Everyone is naked, but not in a porn way. On the contrary, they actually cast some people who do not look like idols (and some who do, of course). And no one shaves any hair, except men have clipped beards. I wonder how they got actors to agree to not shave, or if it's makeup. I think a message is that everyone is not so different: races, sexes, ages, species: when we do not hide under clothes and houses, etc., we are so alike. That is why it's called, "Everyone," ne?

Yes, I do feel kind of settled. Right now, I feel like putting feet up on the deck and not moving for a long time.

love,
Eiji

P.S. Thanks for the offer to help with expenses. Not needed, but thanks.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Living on a hillside
Sent: 25.01.2032, 1:03 a.m.

Hey Eiji,

Mina kicks ass; thanks for the rec. The characters are dumbasses (I guess they're meant to be all docile), but the setting makes up for it. It is surreal. It's like it's a dream you once had but can't remember, and it means something your mind doesn't know. I think this is where God comes from.

Boris likes Vanya and Svetlana's marriage too. He says it makes him think of his marriage.

Had lunch with Yelena yesterday. It was surprisingly friendly, given how I nearly got her assassinated by mercenaries. Blanca sent her the cash to visit him in Jamaica: her and Pyotr and Yula and the grandkids. I hope Blanca knows what he's in for.

A

Chapter Text

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. that Kira book
Sent: 04.02.2036, 4:24 p.m.

Hi Ash,

I got the name of that book Sing was talking about: Polymerizing Kira. It sounds like your kind of thing.

So I have some news: Ming plans to have a baby. She plans to use artificial insemination. We have mixed feeling about this. On the one hand, she has the right to do what makes her happy. She would be a good mother. Japan needs more young people (but of course, only if they are native Japanese people ::grmbl::). otoh, it is hard to be a single working mother, especially when career is an important consideration. It was hard enough to raise Ming with two households. And she will have no closeby father figure. Even most of her friends are women. On the personal level, I think Sing also worries about being far from his grandchild. It's hard to be so far away.

What do you think?

love,
E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. that Kira book
Sent: 06.02.2036, 8:20 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

I am eminently unqualified to have any opinion on Ming's reproductive choices. All I can say is one good parent is worth ten bad ones, and Ming will be a good parent.

I started reading "Polymerizing Kira." Say it with me now: "Polymerizing. Kira." Like an amino acid chain.

Seriously, the gag-inducing infatuation with biological metaphor aside, the book's not bad. It has a pretty decent chapter on the rise of Kirite fundamentalism in Russia. I wish I could say it's not that extreme, but it is. The analogy to Soviet atheism breaks down though: that was state enforced; this is sometimes endorsed by the state, but it's the state riding on the groundswell.

BTW, I recently started hiking with this group who call themselves, loosely translated, the Geezers. There's 4 of us between the ages of 55-76, desperately trying to stave off the inevitable. But we're taking in some pretty countryside in the process. No one from work, strictly up and up. We did 6 km through a pine forest yesterday--brought snow shoes, but only needed them above treeline. Crazy.

love,
A

P.S. Happy 70th birthday, Eiji. You haven't said a word about it. Why are you being so coy?

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. that Kira book
Sent: 07.02.2036, 2:41 p.m.

> Happy 70th birthday, Eiji.

Thanks, Ash. I'm not being coy. I didn't talk about it because it didn't happen yet. We didn't do anything too fancy. We went out for Thai with Brian and Ashley. It was nice. No snow shoes on Waikiki.

You mentioned the Geezers before. Hm, who is getting old?

love,
Eiji

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. that Kira book
Sent: 09.02.2036, 11:51 p.m.

You know, your name sounds remarkably like "aged."

Christ, did I mention them before? I need to eat more Weetabix.

A

***
***
***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: So what am I?
Sent: 06.07.2036, 12:51 a.m.

Hey Eiji,

That's a cool project with the postcards. 5th grade sounds like a good fit for that kind of collaging. I liked the one with the orchid done up as a butterfly; that's a talented kid.

So can I run something by you? Boris wants to have a relationship with me. I don't know what to tell him. I can't say I'm unattracted. But I just don't know if I can go there. And I feel bad because B tells me he's had a thing for me for years (which I knew), but he didn't say anything because he knew I didn't feel the same way. But I like him a lot; he's good people. I'm comfortable with him. Would sex ruin it all?

Eiji, I get tired of people wanting me. I'm not talking about abuse; I mean just wanting me. Did you know Shorter wanted me? No, of course, you didn't, because he didn't let it be a thing. He really only let it show a bit when we first met in juvie. He never hit on me or anything; he was too good of a guy for that. But I could tell from way he blathered on about my looks. I still get it a fair amount. If I'm out on the town, people try to pick me up. I'm almost 58 for Chrisakes, and it's not like I've aged like Cher.

I don't know what to do about Boris. Honestly, I kind of want to try it. I'm not very interested in the sex, but I think--maybe--I could do it to be close to him. (I sound like a woman, don't I?) I'd like to be close to someone again, and sex is one thing that signals that it's okay: to be close, physically and emotionally.

And really, I'm pretty much gay... maybe... I don't know. I've been attracted to women, but never really strongly and always based on liking the person first, never just on physical sex appeal. But maybe that's because of my background. I can't help but somewhat associate fucking someone with rape, so maybe I just don't feel more for women because I have a lifetime's experience of clamping down on that.

I don't want to fuck men either, but maybe that's for the same reason. I've always felt closer to men. But maybe that's because in the circles I run in, they're people I get to know. But it's not just mental. Usually, if I want to be physically close to someone, it's a man. But is that gay if it's not really about sex? Maybe I'm bi? Mildly bi both ways?

He's a nice guy, and I think I could let him do me if he'd just hold me afterwards.

A

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. So what am I?
Sent: 07.07.2036, 10:16 p.m.

Ash,

You know this but I will say it anyway, because you are putting too much thought on it. Gay, straight, bi, etc. -- these are labels constructed to describe certain kinds of behavioral and cultural situations. They are not reality. So they do not fit you. Let me speak as a person that never thought himself as "gay" growing up but am in a "gay" partnership for decades: they don't fit me either. Sing either.

I think the more flexible our world becomes about such kinds of relationships, the less we need these labels, until some time we will not need them anymore, like we don't need "spinster" or "sodomite." Then, they will go away. They are not real. I echo Ming here. She works on such issues. She also doesn't fit. (Akira too.)

As for Boris, it sounds like you want to be in a relationship with him, so maybe it would be good for you. I know this about you (or when you were young): you like to be touched, but you need to be very comfortable to like it, and you are usually only comfortable if you are sure there is no sexuality involved. This is probably not as true now as it was then, but maybe it's still mostly true. Maybe you can experience that with Boris after sex when you don't have to question if sex is about to happen. Anyway, that seems to be what you were saying.

I can only add that if you choose a relationship, make sure Boris knows all this about you. Otherwise it is not fair to him or you.

love,
Eiji

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. So what am I?
Sent: 09.07.2036, 10:18 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

When I was working Club Cod, when I was about thirteen or something, once in a while--not often, but occasionally--I'd get turned on by what they did to me. It's hard for me to write that. Of all the crap I've been guilty of, it's one of the things I'm most ashamed of. I know it didn't mean I wanted it, but you can imagine the kind of shit that invariably got laid on me when it happened.

All these years later, I'm still really fucking confused about how I'm supposed to feel in sexual situations. I mean, I know how I'm supposed to feel, but I can't wrap my head around it. I can't even explain it.

Imagine me taking a swing at it in Russian.

Thanks for all you said. It made me feel better. You're right. I liked it when you hugged me. I really did.

love,
Ash

P.S. If I'd been born a Japanese girl, I'd be the heroine of Bitter Virgin. Do you know that manga?

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. So what am I?
Sent: 10.07.2036, 10:16 p.m.

No, Ash, I can't imagine what they laid on you. Even if I think I can, I know I really can't.

You said once to me you wanted to be normal. I can only say that for everything you have experienced, your response is absolutely normal. How could anyone feel differently?

I haven't read Bitter Virgin, but I wikied it, and I agree with you.

I liked hugging you too. Good luck with your talking with Boris.

love you,
Eiji

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. So what am I?
Sent: 13.07.2036, 11:42 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

Could I ask you something about your sex life, which is absolutely none of my business?

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. So what am I?
Sent: 14.07.2036, 7:02 a.m.

Sure. I'm happy to answer whatever doesn't seem tmi about Sing or other partners' privacy.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. So what am I?
Sent: 14.07.2036, 3:29 p.m.

I was just wondering, how do you do it? I don't mean in gory detail; I just mean in... (desperately seeking a way to say this that doesn't involve "broad strokes")... in general categories.

39

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. So what am I?
Sent: 14.07.2036, 9:16 p.m.

Well, it has changed with time. When we were first together, we mostly did hand jobs. We were kind of hesitant because we didn't feel gay and didn't have experience, etc. After we got much more comfortable--I mean years later--we did penetration. Never very often. It is a lot of work; I guess you know. We only tried oral a little. Sing is ok with it, but I am not too fond. I like to hug my partner. Now, we are old, tired by 9 pm, and I have a bad hip. We don't do it so much, but mostly hand jobs again. Is that what you wanted to know?

ユウア 上 L 来

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. So what am I?
Sent: 15.07.2036, 2:07 p.m.

> ユウア 上 L 来

What the fuck? It took me, like, 10 minutes to figure out you were saying, "you're welcome."

Yeah, that's pretty much what I wanted to know. Thanks. I don't even know why I wanted to know it. It's not like it helps me with B. I guess I wanted to know how much we're coming from the same place.

I did have a talk with B. He's too young for me, Eiji; he's only 46. Anyway. Wow, this is complex. Why was it so much easier with Yelena? Presumably because all my bad memories are with men? Or maybe just because we weren't as close. With B--I really do like him. I love him.

Thank you, Eiji. This time I'll write out properly: ありがとう.

Ash

Does your hip bug you much?

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. So what am I?
Sent: 16.07.2036, 10:03 a.m.

どういたしまして

If you love him, you should be with him. If he loves you, you'll find a way to be okay. I'm rooting for you.

Eiji

Hip only bugs me when I have sex. (kidding--sorta)

***
***
***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: 日本に帰ったばかりだ
Sent: 12.11.2036, 2:20 a.m.

Ash,

Sorry for delay in writing. I'm a zombie. We were so long on that ship now I feel like walking on water when on land. (I'm glad we'll have a month here before back on a ship.) It has been a very long day, but we did finally get to Nagoya and see the baby. He is very cute and very tiny. I feel bad I don't know what else to say. All little babies are kind of alike (to me).

Sing is being really blown away. This is why I'm up so late; he can't sleep. He's doing exercycle in living room now (we're at Ming's) to tire himself out. Also Ming is up right now feeding the baby. I wonder a little bit if maybe he is so excited because he now has a male heir to pass on the family name. He would say it is not important, but his mother raised him very conscious of that.

Ming named the baby 翡翠 (ひすい). I am not so sure about how it sounds: "Sing Hisui" or, as Japanese say, "Shin Hisui": that is easier to say. English: Hisui Sing. I guess that is also a little easier to say. Mandarin: Sing Fei-Cui. I think I like that best. I'm glad they increased allowable kanji for names; this is maybe the only good thing from the nationalist regime: care to bring more awareness of the richness of old Japanese language.

Ok, I'm going to sleep now before I keel over onto keyboard and forehead types unintentional profanity.

E.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. 日本に帰ったばかりだ
Sent: 12.11.2036, 11:18 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

翡翠: Seriously? 'Cause that's a rough name to stick a kid with. That said, "Sing Ming" is not exactly the most fortunate of names. (I've been waiting decades to say that.)

So, um, I feel dumb asking this, but did she name him after me at all? I don't know why the heck she would, but...

A

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. 日本に帰ったばかりだ
Sent: 13.11.2036, 4:09 p.m.

Hi Ash,

It's not so bad. It's trendy in Japan today to name kids after objects or types of things. Normal names (like "Eiji") are not in vogue (._.)

Sing Ming is a pretty name!

Yes, of course, Hisui is named after you. Why not? Ming heard about you all her life from Sing and me. Besides, I always told you Jade is a good name, right? It's a nice name. Also 翠 can be read as "Akira," so it's after her mother too.

I held Hisui for a while today and realized that only one other time I held a baby so small: my nephew. It was a bit scary but also wonderful. It's amazing how life continues. I am a grandfather, Ash! The other day--a couple months ago--I was on the phone to my great-niece, and I heard myself call myself, "washi." I never say this, but suddenly I was using old-man speak. I felt like an old daimyo in a samurai epic. But I don't feel old. Well, sometimes. I wonder if I'll be alive when Hisui will grow up.

How are things with Boris?

love,
Eiji

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. 日本に帰ったばかりだ
Sent: 15.11.2036, 12:01 a.m.

Hey Eiji,

I'm... flattered. Slightly taken aback. It feels a little ill-omened to give a kid my name. Glad it fits with Akira's name though. I remember you mentioning once that Akira and I had similar names, but as I recall you meant "Aslan," not "Jade." Funny, I haven't written those names in years. They don't feel like my names. (Honestly, it kind of sucks to be named after a giant lion who will smite you for your sins. Sure, Griff told me that wasn't it, but we know the truth.)

Things with Boris are good. For the past couple of weeks, he's been visiting his cousin in Petersburg, so our relationship--work and rec--has been completely avatared. He got back three days ago, though, and we went for a walk in the woods in the moonlight. It was like stepping into another century. We stopped for a while in a clearing with a dusting of snow, and all I could think was "My little horse must think it queer to stop without a farmhouse near." I felt like we were united by the stillness of everything around us.

There's an old Alanis Morissette song (sorry, full of references tonight) that says something about wanting a way to get my hands on tight. Should look it up, but feeling lazy. That song always made me think of me. I feel like my grip on him is tighter these days, like we're real.

I don't like his smell though. I don't mean that in an insulting way, like he's unhygienic. He smells like a perfectly normal guy. But that's just it. Smells are so evocative, you know?

When I was a kid, in the summer, Griff and I used to sleep outside in the back yard, and we'd put on Off to keep the mosquitoes off. To this day, when I smell Off (not that I have in years), I feel like a kid in the back yard on a summer night with my brother. It makes me feel good--and young. Ageless--no, timeless, like it's 1972.

When I smell B, it always conjures up being in bed, and I get this "brother, here we go again" feeling. I find myself wanting to check my watch to see when it will be over.

love,
Ash J. L. "Jail" Callenreese

BTW, speaking of watches, Boris doesn't have one; he has an implant. It's the first time I've known someone really well who does. It's kind of creepy, like being in a novel by William Gibson. I'll be like, "What time is it?" And he'll be like, "It's 8:23," just staring into space.

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. 日本に帰ったばかりだ
Sent: 16.11.2036, 7:47 p.m.

Hi Jail,

I like your Off story. I also think 1972 was a good year. When homework was done, I would watch Casshan. (No, that was '73; I don't know what happened in '72.)

You are right that smells are very evocative, and this makes me a little bit worried about what you say about Boris. Maybe it could become a bad association in a long-term way if it is uncomfortable now. I can't give advice on your situation, but it seems like something to talk about with him. I think you have a real chance to be happy with him; you sound happy.

love,
奥村 "Long Vaulting Pole" 英二

Chapter Text

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Max
Sent: 02.07.2038, 11:15 a.m.

Hey Eiji,

Did you hear that Max passed away? Pneumonia so I hear, "the old folks' friend." I hope he went peacefully. It seems like peaceful deaths are so rare, unless you're a pet. Then, they're pretty common.

When Kira got me, it hurt like hell. I mean, I don't remember what it felt like, but I remember how I felt about what it felt like; it was shocking but too fast to be really scary. Coming back was much scarier.

Max was a truly moral person. He was one of the few who absolutely put his money were his mouth was, even if it meant risking his life, career, everything. He was the last person I know of besides me who remembered Griff.

He remembered Vietnam, and there aren't many of them left either. Remember how the Jehovah's Witnesses used to say that the world would end before the last person who remembered WWI died (or something like that)? I feel like that about Vietnam, like when no one remembers, the fabric of our world will change. It doesn't make sense; I can't explain it.

Let me know how Ibe-san's taking it.

love,
Ash

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Max
Sent: 02.07.2038, 2:56 p.m.

Hi Ash,

I hadn't heard, but then I checked my messages and saw I had a couple of messages. I'm also sad he's gone. I called Ibe-san. He's ok. He's sad, of course, but it wasn't unexpected and they haven't seen each other very often for many years.

I don't know what to say when old people die, except I don't find it so sad. When my father died, it was not so sad. And I loved him so much, but it was his time to go. But there is no polite language for this.

It sounds like it's hard for you, maybe partly because it's symbolic? (I don't say so to belittle your feelings for Max as a person.)

How did you find out about it so fast?

love,
Eiji

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Max
Sent: 02.07.2038, 8:52 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

I heard it from Jessica. I've had a secure line with her for quite a few years for work. She was a great info. source in the day. You said it's not so sad. Honestly, I get that vibe from her too: it was expected; it's life. Then again, this is Jessica we're talking about. She doesn't show scads of emotion unless she's scolding you.

I'm really tired, Eiji. Not depressed tired, just tired tired. I feel like I've been up for 24 hours. Gonna go to bed.

love,
Ash

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Meanwhile...
Sent: 02.07.2038, 9:10 p.m.

By the way, I think I told you my team's been doing research on the electrical disaster in Colorado. No clue how it happened. But probably linked to Kira. That's some weird shit. And probably killed Max sooner. He and Michael were on vacation in Frisco this past November when that all went down: no meds for a couple of weeks. Well, it would have come sooner or later.

***
***
***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Jiggity Jigg
Sent: 27.04.2040, 10:02 p.m.

Hi Ash,

Is my subject heading funny? I think you told me Griff used to say, "Home again, home again, jiggity jigg," when you got back from a store or something. So Sing and I are home again in Izumo, arrived about 12 hrs ago. Sing is being snippy about it. He says if was just him, Japan could kiss his ass after the way he was treated. But with Ming and Hisui here and also my family, it's better to be back.

Me, I am mostly just glad that the new regime repealed the Immigration Transparency law. The world is crazy enough without more craziness. I'll miss Waikiki, though, and especially Ashley and our botanical walks.

love,
E

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Jiggity Jigg
Sent: 28.04.2040, 11:36 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

Yeah, Griff did used to say that! Man, that takes me back.

Glad you guys got back safe and sound. You're not settling in Izumo, are you?

love,
Ash

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Jiggity Jigg
Sent: 29.04.2040, 10:48 a.m.

Hey Ash,

We're settling in Akita again since Ming is teaching there now. Yeah, Izumo would be too far from Ming and Hisui; we are just here for transition and to see my sister, etc.

E

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Jiggity Jigg
Sent: 03.05.2040, 6:14 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

I guess Akita will be pretty cold after Waikiki, but it should feel like coming home.

Sorry for a late reply. I've been kind of wiped out. I just got diagnosed with... wait for it... vitamin B-12 deficiency (also D, like everyone). Sounds awfully unexciting, but I figure, in medical terms, that's a good thing. Actually, unexciting is good in general.

I've been reading up on the "multiplication and unification of L's and Kiras." First it was biology metaphors and now it's math. The theory has produced some interesting articles though on the construction of a unitary mythos based on an institution maintained by multiple individuals, which, in turn, is hypothesized to be based on an originary individual (which I happen to believe, by the way). Sasha and I have been debating about it. He's got a sharp mind for this kind of meme theory.

A

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Jiggity Jigg
Sent: 05.05.2040, 3:22 p.m.

Hi Ash,

You don't sound wiped out. I find your language a little hard to follow, but I think you mean, there was one Kira (or L), then the role was given to others, then society assumes those others are really all the same one?

Remind me who Sasha is?

If you have B-12 deficiency enough for such fatigue, I worry you don't eat enough?

love,
Eiji

P.S. Started rewatching Varvara S3. I forgot how good the Svetlana arc is.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Jiggity Jigg
Sent: 07.05.2040, 10:16 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

Yeah, probably wasn't eating enough, but anyway, I'm under doctor's orders now, so don't worry about it.

Sasha is Vadim's son. I think I mentioned a while ago that he'd started working with us? He's got a Ph.D. in political science from the U of Nevada, which makes him far the most erudite of us. It also makes me want to visit Mono Lake. I'm sending some of his photos of it.

A

P.S. Are you kidding me? S3 is when V jumped the shark (and I do mean V, the character). The Svetlana arc was the high point though: decent look at career v. family in the '70s USSR.

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Quick Update
Sent: 10.05.2040, 2:01 p.m.

Hey Ash,

It's Sing. I just wanted to let you know that Eiji is ok, but he's in the hospital right now. He took a fall day before yesterday (kind of theme for the poor guy, huh?). We were out hiking, and he slipped on a rock. He slipped a disc and also broke his hip. He'd been planning a hip replacement for this summer, so we've just pushed that up. He's having surgery tomorrow.

He'll be fine, but he's pretty zonked out on meds right now, and I know you guys write every few days or so, so I didn't want you to worry if you didn't hear from him.

He'll probably write you from the hospital in a couple of days. Don't worry, ok?

--Sing

***

To: Sing Soo-Ling
From: James Crane
Subject: Re. Quick Update
Sent: 10.05.2040, 5:43 p.m.

Hey Sing,

It's Ash. Thanks for letting me know about Eiji. Don't worry about this address; it's just one of my aliases that I'm using for added security since I only found your real mail. Reply from Eiji's to the usual recipient, okay?

Honestly, it got to me to hear about Eiji. I get that he'll be okay; you expressed it in terms as reassuring as humanly possible, and I figure you're not lying. It just made me realize how old he is. Even though he sends me pictures of you guys now and then, it's hard for me to really conceptualize that he's 74 now. Maybe it's because, thanks to the Kira weirdness, I ended up so much younger.

I just... I'm worried suddenly that he's not going to be around forever, you know?

I'm glad he's okay. Heck, he's Japanese; he'll make it to at least 110, right?

Ash

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Quick Update
Sent: 11.05.2040, 8:07 p.m.

Hey Ash,

Your added security's not very secure; all someone has to do is look in my inbox.

I hear you. Yeah, Eiji's going to be around for a long time to come. He'll probably outlive me. I'm doing ok, but I've got higher cholesterol and high blood pressure. Aside from slightly brittle bones, he's fit as a fiddle. But I get what you mean.

You should visit. I know there'd be some risk, but at this point, we both know that's not the reason.

--Sing

***

To: Sing Soo-Ling
From: James Crane
Subject: Re. Quick Update
Sent: 13.05.2040, 11:18 p.m.

Hey Sing,

No one's going to look in your inbox. I'm anonymizing the outgoing is all. But you're right; it's flimsy. All this correspondence is really low risk, or I wouldn't be writing you at Sing SL, but better a little safe, huh?

I think whether or not I should visit is a very open question.

Ash

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: I Fa' Down
Sent: 14.05.2040, 10:13 a.m.

Hi Ash,

I'm glad Sing wrote you so you weren't worry about me. I'm still at hospital, very loopy. Pain medicine is great! When Hisui runs around my room, it is kind of psychedelic. Sing says he talks to you about visiting?

love,
Eiji

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. I Fa' Down
Sent: 14.05.2040, 8:27 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

Man, you do sound loopy. I'm glad you're okay. It must have brought back scary memories. Sing and I talked a tiny bit about me visiting. The trickiness of getting fake papers aside (it's doable), I shouldn't. It would disrupt your life, and it would disrupt mine. I kind of hate myself for giving you "brutal honesty" when you're loopy and recovering from hip and back (?) surgery. But I got to nip this in the bud. Maybe sometime, but I can't now. I love you. I love you so much. That's why.

A

P.S. If I came, I wouldn't want to go.

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. I Fa' Down
Sent: 16.05.2040, 11:54 a.m.

Hi Ash,

It's ok. I hope one day you won't feel that way. But you feel the way you feel. I love you too.

E.

Chapter Text

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Fed Up w/It
Sent: 11.03.2041, 12:42 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

So B walked out on me. It's over. Moreover, he says I'm the one who really didn't want a relationship. Me. Just because I didn't get off to his satisfaction during sex. Therefore, we must obviously revert to being "just friends," whatever the hell that means.

I was willing to sleep with him. I even enjoyed it sometimes. I told him so, even though he never believed me. What the hell did he want?

This really annoys me.

Not B walking out, which infuriates me; I mean this incessant bludgeoning of our society on the idea that you can't want someone as a partner unless you want them for hot sex. I am so tired of it all. Sometimes, I just want to put a gun to my head and pull the trigger just so I won't have to hear anymore of this shit.

He's going to Petersburg for a while. We'll still work together remotely but... jeez.

Ash

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Fed Up w/It
Sent: 12.03.2041, 8:16 a.m.

Ash, don't joke to me about killing yourself. It bothers me. Please don't.

I'm so sorry about B. It sounds like he doesn't understand this part of you, which surprises me because you have been together for years, and I think he knows you pretty well, right?

I don't know Boris, so I can't comment on what he is thinking about, but it sounds like this comes from his own issue too? Maybe you can still work through it?

I feel angry for you, not at Boris, but at your situation. You deserve someone who understands you. How can someone be blessed by being close to you and not study you enough to understand?

love,
Eiji

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Fed Up w/It
Sent: 12.03.2041, 3:37 p.m.

Thanks, Eiji. Well, striving to look at it from B's POV, I guess a lot of it goes back to his marriage/being gay. He always felt his marriage was fake because he wasn't attracted to his wife, and she felt the same way. Given that and fact that society spends every waking picosecond trumpeting the idea that while sex might not be love, love is most definitely sex, it's not surprising he feels this way. Put that way, I can see how me being kind of lukewarm isn't enough for him. So I guess I just couldn't give him what he needs. Damn. That's even sadder.

Sorry about the suicide riff. It was just harmless ideation. Funny thing about coming back from the dead is you really don't want to die again.

love,
Ash

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Fed Up w/It
Sent: 13.03.2041, 9:08 a.m.

Ash, you should come and visit us. Come and be with your friends, who would never imagine that you are not enough. That idea is laughable.

You said once if you came you wouldn't want to leave. So don't leave.

love,
Eiji

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Fed Up w/It
Sent: 14.03.2041, 11:12 p.m.

> Ash, you should come and visit us.

Yeah, you're probably right. But I can't right now with the political situation the way it is here. I'm not making excuses. I'm sure you've seen it in the news. Security at the borders (and everywhere) is tightening up, pending the election in April.

Blanca actually wrote me about it. First time I've heard from him in donkey's years. He wanted to know if my aliases were secure. He sounded more straightforward than the usual Blanca. Maybe that's what age has done to him.

Boris arrived in PB today. I'm glad he's safe.

love,
Ash

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Fed Up w/It
Sent: 14.03.2041, 11:14 p.m.

I was just looking at your pseud. Why did I name you "Airy"? Because I didn't want you to be "Aged"? Are you a spirit of the air? Like a fairy--rhymes with airy? A fairy in the middle of the rice field ;-)

"And by the moon, the reaper, weary, piling sheaves in uplands airy, listening whispers 'tis the fairy..."

Or is that me?

***
***
***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Well, that's done it.
Sent: 07.04.2041, 11:46 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

Well, the jig's up. The "election" results just came in and with these neo-Kirites, we'll be looking at heavily tightened security for a while. Vadim and I are going to move; I'll probably be out of contact for a while. But it'll be okay. Nothing compared to what we faced down in NY. Just old-fashioned, Soviet-style having to hide your ass to cover any "irregularities."

Just heard from B. He's going to lay low for a few days, then move too. We're okay; we've drilled our cell pretty well to be ready for this.

A

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Don Smith
Subject: Re. Well, that's done it.
Sent: 07.04.2041, 11:55 p.m.

I'll write you next from "Jennifer Short." And to be on the safe side, we'd better start coding.

***

To: Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Well, that's done it.
Sent: 08.04.2041, 7:45 a.m.

Hi Ash,

You know, whenever you tell me, "It's okay, it's okay..." (>_>)

Be safe. Write when you can.

love,
Eiji

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Jennifer Short
Subject: Re. Well, that's done it.
Sent: 13.04.2041, 1:23 p.m.

Hey E

Okay, settled at our new temporary HQ. Not much I can write about. All we've doing is logistical stuff is I can't talk about. Tired--but getting my B-12. How are you?

love,
J

***

To: Jennifer Short
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Well, that's done it.
Sent: 14.04.2041, 3:42 p.m.

Hi J,

Thank God I heard from you. I know you're careful and out of touch for a few days, but I worried too. We're ok, following the news about Russia. Western media is calling it martial law. Eastern media hesitates, but China calls the Kirite regime "a partner we step toward quietly." YL tells Sing he has lost some contacts in Russia and Ukraine, but I guess that's not a surprise if they are moving, like you. Write when you can.

love,
E

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Jennifer Short
Subject: Re. Well, that's done it.
Sent: 20.04.2041, 2:10 a.m.

They hauled in B's wife. Jesus. We're going to see what we can do.

A

***

To: Jennifer Short
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Well, that's done it.
Sent: 20.04.2041, 7:56 a.m.

J,

My thoughts are with you. I hope you can help B's wife and also do so in a pretty safe way. If I can help--what I really mean is, if YL can help--let me know.

love,
E

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Jennifer Short
Subject: Re. Well, that's done it.
Sent: 20.04.2041, 11:58 p.m.

E, I'm in touch with YL. You don't need to liaise. But thanks. I know you feel helpelss. Just keep doing your fundraising, and all that you do. We'll each cultivate our garden, though I don't know why Voltaire is especially relevant.... Gotta go.

***

To: Jennifer Short
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Well, that's done it.
Sent: 21.04.2041, 7:56 a.m.

I think Voltaire is relevant because he believed in free thought. But you show me I don't remember anything about what he said. We would have to create God. So did we create Kira? Did Kira create himself to be God and now Kirites rise like an Inquisition?

Sorry, my babble is not helpful, but I want to respond and tell you I am here.

love you,
E

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Jennifer Short
Subject: Re. Well, that's done it.
Sent: 24.04.2041, 7:34 p.m.

Fuck. they nailed B. Wife still in custody but they'll probably let her go with b dead.

***

To: Jennifer Short
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Well, that's done it.
Sent: 25.04.2041, 7:51 a.m.

I am so sorry. I cry for you.

***

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Jennifer Short
Subject: Mad World
Sent: 28.04.2041, 8:31 p.m.

"And I find it kind of funny. I find it kind of sad..." Sorry, you asked me not to and I'm doing it again. No, I'm not going to kill myself; too many other people out there trying to to give them the satisfaction.

Moving again. May have some delay

To: Eiri Tanaka
From: Jennifer Short
Subject: Mad World, Take 2
Sent: 28.04.2041, 8:33 p.m.

Sorry about all that. I know it scares you. We're not in that much danger; I'm just venting cause depressed about B. You know.

***

To: Jennifer Short
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Mad World, Take 2
Sent: 29.04.2041, 8:01 a.m.

I understand you're venting because you're grieving. I will wait to hear from you.

love,
E

***

To: Jennifer Short
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Mad World, Take 2
Sent: 05.05.2041, 7:10 a.m.

Can you send me mail if you get this? I know you are busy moving but let me know you're okay?

love,
E

***

To: Jennifer Short, Don Smith
From: Eiri Tanaka
Subject: Re. Mad World, Take 2
Sent: 08.05.2041, 6:36 a.m.

Did you get my last mail? I guess maybe you are offline somewhere. Mail as soon as you get this please.

E

***

May 8, 2041

Dear Don,

I don't know if this address is still current, but I thought I would check. Long time, no hear. Drop me a line if you get this, okay?

E. T. (phone home)

***

To: Silver Dragon
From: Sing Soo-Ling
Subject: Ash
Sent: 09.05.2041, 10:03 a.m.

LYL,

Eiji's not able to get ahold of Ash. I'm sure you've been following the upheaval in Russia. He and his fellow hackers and whatnot were on the run following the election. They tried to spring a woman from custody between April 20-24. Failed. Ran. Her estranged husband was killed. That's all Eiji knows. Oh, and Ash said he'd be incommunicado for a while, but Eiji hasn't heard anything since 4/28.

I know how much you love sticking your neck out for Ash, but can you let us know if your intel has anything? Thanks.

btw, did you change your number on me again, or can't you at least get Xun to pick up a call?

--SSL

***

To: Sing Soo-Ling
From: Silver Dragon
Subject: Re. Ash
Sent: 9.05.2041, 6:45 p.m.

Hello Sing:

I'm well. Thank you for asking.

The number did get changed, yes, though I assure you it was a security measure rather than a personal affront. I will have Xun contact you from the new one tomorrow afternoon.

As for Ash, I'm checking. Preserve yourself in patience: my network is thin west of Kyrgyzstan, so don't mail me every day for an update. I'd find it irksome.

LYL

***

To: Silver Dragon
From: Sing Soo-Ling
Subject: Re. Ash
Sent: 09.05.2041, 8:06 p.m.

LYL,

Thanks. You're a mensch, you know that?

--SSL

***

To: Sing Soo-Ling
From: Silver Dragon
Subject: Re. Ash
Sent: 14.05.2041, 6:45 p.m.

Hello Sing:

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Mensch.

There is a decent probability that Ash was apprehended by a mercenary cell called the Cold Sun, also abbreviated XC or KS, on April 27th. If that's the case, there is a decent probability he is alive, as their hallmark is selling information. Of course, given how difficult Ash can be to contain alive, there is a decent probability he is not.

There is also a distinct possibility that he did not fall into the hands of the XC. My information is based on several educated guesses about the identity of the group who apprehended him.

Unless he resurfaces, in which case I have no doubt he will contact Eiji with far more celerity than my contacts will update me, it is unlikely I'll have further information.

I am enclosing a brief document on the history and characteristics of the XC to forestall Eiji's predictable flood of queries.

LYL

***

To: Silver Dragon
From: Sing Soo-Ling
Subject: Re. Ash
Sent: 15.05.2041, 8:52 a.m.

Thanks, YL. I knew you'd come through. Hope you're still continuing well.

--SL

***
***
***

To: Eiji Okumura
From: Vladimir Ilych Ziv
Subject: Your Friend
Sent: 28.06.2041, 9:22 p.m.

Hey Eiji

It's me but a friend is typing this out for me. No computer acces in here. I'm in prison but Im ok. I'll update you when I can will be rarly. They treat us ok. I'll write from this adres when I can maybe very seldam. To varify it's me you once sent me pumpkin and I flushed it. Pumpkins have scare me since I was 5. Love you.

***
***
***

To: Eiji Okumura
From: Vladimir Ilych Ziv
Subject: Your Friend
Sent: 17.05.2042, 10:53 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

It's me. My friend typing. Still in prison, still ok. It's not so taugh at here. There motivated by mony not ideology, which is good for us. I have made some friends like this guy. Say hello, dude:

Очень приятно, Эиджи.

Wish you could write me back but don't reply for my friends safty. Love you.

***
***
***

To: Eiji Okumura
From: Mikhail Kenin
Subject: From Vladimir Ilych
Sent: 31.03.2044, 10:53 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

I should stop writing you. You probably thought I was dead and it's not help you to keep wondering if you'll heer from me every few years. This is a new address because a new friend is helpful. Things are same here. I will write again when I get out. I will get out. I'll try my best.

Chapter Text

To: Eiji Okumura
From: David Steel
Subject: From Vladimir Ilych
Sent: 29.08.2047, 9:04 a.m.

Hey Eiji,

I am, in fact, still alive and hoping you're the same. Please mail me back to let me know you received this. So you know it's me: once in NY you served me this weird, dry Japanese fish, and I apparently ate it wrong because you stared at me with this horrified look on your face. But then, the fish was pretty horrifying in itself. Giant niboshi!

A

***

To: David Steel
From: Eiji Okumura
Subject: Re. From Vladimir Ilych
Sent: 31.08.2047, 8:33 a.m.

Ash, I did receive this. Please tell me what's happening with you. I'm ok.

E.

***

To: Eiji Okumura
From: David Steel
Subject: Re. From Vladimir Ilych
Sent: 31.08.2047, 11:13 a.m.

Thank God. Thank God you're okay. Logically, I knew you probably would be. You're only 81; that's young in Japanese terms, but with every year that went by I kept wondering if I was going to be in prison for the rest of your natural life. I kept wondering if I'd finally escape to find my only real reason for escaping was gone.

I did escape, just about two weeks ago. I'm currently in a hotel, shouldn't tell you where but not in Russian/Ukraine. Finally got out of that orbit. I'm holed up with a couple friends on TB meds. We should all be okay, but right now, there's a lot of coughing and general feeling like shit. TB aside, we're all pretty exhausted. We weren't exactly in the best physical shape in prison, and we've had a couple weeks of constant on-the-run. It's actually amazingly nice to just spend the day in a real bed in a room with heat with the curtains drawn. Sleep is the best invention ever. Those doctors who come up with A-sleep meds should be first against the wall, I swear.

Good news (besides escape) is that one of my friends here is a pretty big deal in international covert politics. He's got some contacts who may be able to wrangle me an official pardon. Your plan of 60-odd years ago comes to fruition. Nothing's firm yet, but if that goes through, I'll come see you if you still want me to.

How have you been?

love,
Ash

***

To: David Steel
From: Eiji Okumura
Subject: Re. From Vladimir Ilych
Sent: 31.08.2047, 12:45 p.m.

Ash, of course I want you to visit. Or I will visit you--anywhere I can afford to go to. This is unreal. It sounds like you got so lucky; I'm sure you're not telling me the bad parts, but I hope all the good parts are true. I want to think of you truly free. I am suddenly ashamed I gave up on that. I should have worked for posthumous pardon in the US.

What can I say about us here? Can you believe Fei-Cui is almost 11? He and Ming live just down the road from us, so I see him all the time. He is a very active boy. He does gymnastics like Ming did as a kid.

Ming is still at Akita doing relational studies. Last April ('46), she published a critical documentary called, in English version, "Continua and Commonality," which is a vague title for saying that some aspects of interpersonal relationship are on a continuum: like how much time to spend together might range from almost none to almost always. But in all close relationships are common denominators, like a degree of predictability, even if what a person "predicts" is that other person is pretty unpredictable. She won McBride Award for it; you should see it, maybe while you are shut in your hotel, getting well?

Sing is completely retired now, well, from teaching. He does volunteer tutoring and investment. I am mostly retired but still do about three fundraisers a year, and I tutor English. I have more time for photography, which is nice. Often, Sing and I take trips to parks for the scenery.

Sing says hi. Actually, he says he is happy you are alive and well and to tell you you keep going like the Engerizer Bunny. He is impressed.

I want to hear about what happened to you, but I don't know how much you can say without security problem. How long will you need to recover from TB?

love,
Eiji

I really told myself you were dead. Even though I knew you might not be, I had to tell myself not to wait forever. It's like a child being kidnapped.

***

To: Eiji Okumura
From: David Steel
Subject: Re. From Vladimir Ilych
Sent: 31.08.2047, 2:48 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

You were right to tell yourself I was dead. That was absolutely reasonable.

The kid goes by Fei-Cui now? That's an improvement. I'll watch Ming's critdoc this evening. Sounds interesting. You all sound like you're doing well. I'm glad. I'm relieved.

Thank Sing for me. They once did a commercial of the Energizer Bunny dressed as Darth Vader. Now, I'm picturing myself as Darth Vader Bunny. So thank Sing for that.

I was being held in an ad-hoc prison--converted school--by a mercenary group called Холодное Солнце (Cold Sun). I don't think it will hurt for you to know their name; they only operate in Russia. They're actually not a "bad" organization as mercenary interrogation troops go. They have a pretty stable command structure: fairly strict but not so draconian it implodes. They treat their prisoners relatively well. They don't hate us, you see. They just want to sell our intel, or once they've got our intel, possibly sell us, or recruit us, etc. As prisons go, it was better than the US in terms of being less isolating. Worse in terms of food, heat, and medicine.

Now don't get me wrong: I'm capable of being quite pissed off at the thought that I spent six years of my life there, but compared to what could have happened to me, it could have been much worse.

If I look back over the course of my life, I could have spent it as a puppet for Golzine's empire, even after he was dead. Eiji, that would have been worse. I could have been YL, and as much as he's accomplished some impressive things and come through for me on many occasions, that would also have been worse.

And right now, of course, I'm just feeling good by contrast. There's no heaven without hell, they say. My friends here are good guys to be stuck with in a situation. The guy with connections I mentioned is a pretty solid professional with an old British TV fetish. The other guy's this little Jewish guy. I feel bad describing him like that, but it really is how we all thought of him in prison. (I was "the American," which I kind of enjoyed). He's a bit hard to explain: a passionate soul who's been squished. I make him sound like a Romantic poet, which he's not.

The two of them are occasional fuck buddies (not with me in the room). I should say they're prison fuck buddies, which means they're on the cusp of coming to grips with the fact that their relationship is over. I feel sorry for them. I'm glad it's not me. (Kind of the opposite of B and me: love based on loneliness and sex, but equally impracticable out in the world.)

I'm so glad I reached you. I can't tell how much this means to me, just mailing you today. But I guess you know. I'm going to get some sleep now. Meds and all. I'll watch Ming's doc and talk to you soon.

love,
Ash

***

To: David Steel
From: Eiji Okumura
Subject: Re. From Vladimir Ilych
Sent: 31.08.2047, 3:16 p.m.

Ash,

Oh, right: Hisui decided he hated that name when he was 8. So now in Japanese we call him Hei Shue, more like Mandarin. Sing also likes to call him by a Chinese name; he is very proud of his grandson (^^)

It means so much for me to hear from you too. I am just home all day with my reader, staring at your messages. At first, Sing asked very practical questions about if it was really you, but there's no question.

You sound good. As you say, heaven comes out of hell. Maybe that's why, but you sound restful. I hope your pardon comes soon. Let me know if I can do anything, send messages to the White House and so forth.

Get rest, but please write me tomorrow at the latest.

I love you. I have always loved you, since I met you 62 years ago. This is hard for me to write. In all honesty, part of me wanted you to be dead so that I would not have to deal with it when you come back and then die and come back and go away again. Every time, it kills part of me. It makes part of me be numb, like branches die one by one on an old tree that has many frosts. Part of me has trouble writing this and not yelling at you for going away again, for coming back to go away again, like my heart believes you will. But I won't pay attention to that part. It is not my better part. My better part is with you always.

Eiji

***

To: Eiji Okumura
From: David Steel
Subject: Re. From Vladimir Ilych
Sent: 31.08.2047, 7:20 p.m.

Damn, Eiji. Damn. Everything you say is so damn understandable. How could you feel any other way? I hate that I've done this to you. I can't undo it. Our lives are almost spent up. It's too late to resurrect our dead branches. We're dead where we're dead, and we keep living while we have some roots and leaves still flowing.

I won't go away while there's power in me to stay. Because your better part doesn't want me to.

For what it's worth, I can't echo your sentiments. You've always kept me alive. In pain a lot of the time, but less pain than I'd have without you. There have been times you were the only thing that made my life worth living.

love,
Ash

***

To: David Steel
From: Eiji Okumura
Subject: Re. From Vladimir Ilych
Sent: 31.08.2047, 9:38 p.m.

Ash, I don't mean it to make you feel bad. I'm so glad you're alive and ok. I can't feel how glad I am yet. Mostly, I feel a little panic. But I know I am glad. I'll talk to you tomorrow.

love,
Eiji

***

To: Eiji Okumura
From: David Steel
Subject: Re. From Vladimir Ilych
Sent: 01.09.2047, 9:03 a.m.

Hey Eiji,

Watched Ming's doc this morning. Boy, Ming's experience has really been shaped by some some non-traditional parents, hasn't it? I liked it, and I agree with her general thesis that the diversification of acceptable types of primary relationships is ultimately based on a combination of worldwide democratization/individualism going back to the Enlightenment and the collapse of distinct gender roles predicated mainly on the advent of reliable birth control.

But this diversification (as conservatives are fond of pointing out) leads to social disintegration as people become disconnected from their traditional "place" in society (cf. postmodern alienation). A new "stability" is required to reintegrate society into a functioning system of supportive relationships based on interpersonal fit more than socioeconomic role. And this "stability" is ultimately predictability in the relationship. As from the dawn of history, relationships need ground rules. It's just that increasingly today the rules are not preordained by culture but rather determined by pair/group.

The sticking point--and I don't think Ming acknowledges how sticky it is--is that this involves a lot of reinventing the wheel. Primary relationships are multidimensional, including facets as diverse as friendship, fun, finances, sex, child rearing, geographical location/career choices, religion, extended responsibilities to each other's families, etc., etc. Developing new, mutually agreed on and mutually comprehended and feasible ground rules for each individual relationship from ground zero is nigh impossible. But relying on a pre-established set of old ground rules (ex. We will get married, live together, have sex, produce children, file joint taxes, and share all monies) is increasingly strangling to those people who perceive a disconnect between their desires and some aspects of that social contract.

So what's the solution? I think Ming is fundamentally right that the solution of "stability" points to a new set of culturally agreed-on ground rules but one that is more flexible. Take sex as an easy example: old ground rules: have sex with your spouse to produce children; the rest is sin. New ground rules: have sex with any non-close-relative adult as long as it's consensual, "safe," and sensitive to how it will impact your (and other interested parties') relationships. Now, the new set of rules is pretty damn prescriptive, even proscriptive ("stable"). If you don't follow it, you're doing something broadly understood to be "wrong," but it's also infinitely more flexible than the old rules.

But how do we extrapolate that reasoning to the multidimensionality of whole relationships? I don't think Ming has an answer to that yet. And neither do I.

(Wow, this is not the message I intended to send you one day after contacting you for the first time in years. Then again, it has everything to do with us, doesn't it?)

love,
Ash

***

To: David Steel
From: Eiji Okumura
Subject: Re. From Vladimir Ilych
Sent: 01.09.2047, 10:46 a.m.

Hi Ash,

Wow, you have thought about Ming's thesis a lot more than I have. I am mostly just proud because she is very smart. But I think you are right about the difficulties.

I think you are right that Ming doesn't have an answer, and I see this in her personal life. I don't think she has ever had a satisfying primary relationship. She tried being straight and being gay and ace and all sorts of things that don't have a handy word. She mostly has "just friends," but there is a "just," right? Akira is the same way, I think. I don't think she was ever happy with someone long term (except maybe Sing, which makes me feel guilty that he left her).

For Akira, this is somewhat tied to gender. She is not comfortable as "woman" or "not woman," and most people are not comfortable without the label "woman" or "not woman," so from the start, most cannot understand her or want to be with her (or she with them). For Ming, this is less about gender. She is pretty comfortable as woman, I think. But she is not comfortable with traditional expectations of a partner, even a lesbian partner.

I know the same has been true with you. Do you want to talk about it? Are you feeling better today with TB meds?

love,
Eiji

***

To: Eiji Okumura
From: David Steel
Subject: Re. From Vladimir Ilych
Sent: 01.09.2047, 1:17 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

I can't deny it: I've never been comfortable with the traditional expectations of my lesbian partner.

I'm feeling about the same, which is good, slowly on the mend. I'm so hungry! Not in the sense of going hungry. Aleksei (the guy with connections) managed to call in massive money. I mean this is the first time in I don't know how long I've actually felt hungry. Must be a sign of the meds working--and finally being under less stress.

I feel sorry for Ming and Akira--well, I feel with Ming and Akira. You're right; I've been there. Lev (the enigmatic Jewish guy) has been there too. He's got (did have) a big circle of close friends in Russia, including a sort-of gf. I get the feeling a lot of his relationships have been kind of undefinable. His problem now, though, is that he can't go back to Russia (he's wanted), so he's cut off from his whole circle and his family, and he's a guy who really needs both. He exists in relationality.

It's like... I don't know if you know Wagner's Ring (the operas), but he has a leitmotif for different things: the curse, the Rhine, Siegfried, Valhalla, etc. But he doesn't have a leitmotif for Brünnhilde, even though she's, like, one of the top two or three main characters. There's no "Brünnhilde" theme; there's only Brünnhilde in connection to others: B as a Valkyrie, B as Wotan's daughter, B as Siegfried's love interest, etc. Lev is like that. He's like a spider web: he's not there unless he's hooked up to something. Right now, he's hooked up to Aleksei, and I feel really bad for him that he's about to be cut loose.

Aleksei is (was) married, and one of his big projects right now is finding where his husband is holed up. We're not 100% sure husband is alive, but he probably is. He's the one Aleksei sent a message to for the money--so it either came from him or the message got circuitously diverted to a friend. Probably came from him. 'Course things like this (prison) kill marriages, so A may be cut loose too--but even if he was, he wouldn't stay with Lev. That's just not how it's going down.

It's a mess, Eiji, as Ming observes.

love,
Ash

***

To: David Steel
From: Eiji Okumura
Subject: Re. From Vladimir Ilych
Sent: 02.09.2047, 8:16 a.m.

Hi Ash,

I wish your friends well. Everyone who has been in prison and maybe thought of dead for years has a long road back.

I am very warmed and very comforted that you have a good appetite. This is the best sign I know that you will be ok, in body and mind.

Please tell me more about--all of it, any of it.

love,
Eiji

***
***
***

To: Eiji Okumura
From: David Steel
Subject: Things afoot
Sent: 26.10.2047, 12:35 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

My pardon is in progress! God, it's nice to have friends in high places... semi-legal high places. Aleksei and his contacts are talking about whether there's a place for me in their organization(s). If they take me on, it would be my first job ever that has been legal! Except writing in prison. First job free and legal. So you can imagine the stunning performance I gave to Aleksei's ex-boss (the pardon-finagaling guy) in my, for want of a better word, interview. I put on my broadcast accent and used long sentences and everything.

We also got confirmation today on the locale of A's husband, which happens to be Japan. So we're headed there next.

I can come visit you?

love,
Ash

***

To: David Steel
From: Eiji Okumura
Subject: Re. Things afoot
Sent: 27.10.2047, 9:18 a.m.

Hi Ash,

My God, I can't believe you're coming to Japan just like that. Are you coming by ship? Do you know when you will arrive? Of course, you will visit us. Can you come to Akita? Would you like us to meet you somewhere? I can show you Izumo, like I said so many years ago (^^) ?? Just tell us when/where, and we will do it.

Also congratulations on your job! Well, I guess you don't have it yet, but how can they not hire you? You are brilliant and have many credentials.

love,
Eiji

***

To: Eiji Okumura
From: David Steel
Subject: Re. Things afoot
Sent: 27.10.2047, 8:12 p.m.

Eiji, would it be okay if I met with you and not Sing? I mean, at least for starters? I don't mean to dis Sing, but I would like a chance to catch up with just you if that's okay.

A

***

To: David Steel
From: Eiji Okumura
Subject: Re. Things afoot
Sent: 28.10.2047, 9:48 a.m.

Hi Ash,

Yeah, that is ok, though Sing really wants to see you. He's missed you all these years. But whatever you want is ok. Maybe we can meet first and see him later? Where would you like to meet?

love,
Eiji

***

To: Eiji Okumura
From: David Steel
Subject: Re. Things afoot
Sent: 28.10.2047, 9:01 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

Once in Japan (we're flying), I can get just about anywhere, so you're the best judge of the place. Somewhere quiet where we can just hang out? Hotel? Cabin? I can pay for any accommodation like that for a few days at least. City or country--one of those anonymous spaces?

love,
Ash

***

To: David Steel
From: Eiji Okumura
Subject: Re. Things afoot
Sent: 29.10.2047, 8:28 a.m.

Hi Ash,

How about Sendai? I know a good hotel there. We stayed sometimes visiting Akira. Do you know when?

love,
Eiji

***

To: Eiji Okumura
From: David Steel
Subject: Re. Things afoot
Sent: 30.10.2047, 7:49 p.m.

Hey Eiji,

Sendai is fine. I will know when very soon. No word on the job yet. Well, word is they'll probably find something for me, but it might be intermittent. We'll see; I'll make myself indispensable somewhere or other :)

So before we meet, I need to mention something. It's not so bad, but I don't want you to be surprised when we get together. When I got caught by the XC, they cut off my index fingers. They figured I was too good with a gun, so it was actually kind of a compliment. It's funny; for a long time, I just kept thinking, "Arthur." It almost made me a believer in karma.

Anyway, it's really not a big deal; it doesn't interfere with my daily life or anything, but just so you know.

love,
Ash

***

To: David Steel
From: Eiji Okumura
Subject: Re. Things afoot
Sent: 31.10.2047, 9:04 a.m.

Hi Ash,

Ever since I've known you, you have not told me things that go wrong in your life. You say, "I'm going out for a while. See you later," and you are going out to sacrifice your life or something. Now, we were talking and talking, and you didn't mention this "detail." It gives me a big sense of déjà vu. I always wonder what else you aren't telling me. In NY, I looked at your face, and I knew. I wonder if I still will.

love you,
Eiji

I enclose picture of your favorite seasonal vegetable.

***

To: Eiji Okumura
From: David Steel
Subject: Re. Things afoot
Sent: 31.10.2047, 8:07 p.m.

That's not fair, Eiji. Ever since I've known you, I've told you my deepest, darkest secrets. You know how many people before you I told about my little league coach? My dad. You know how many since? Boris. (And told him because you told me to.)

True, I don't tell you everything. If we were never going to meet up in person, would it do you any good at all to know about my fingers? Would it? Maybe sometimes I make the wrong call about what to tell you, but cut me some slack. I'm human.

I'm human, and I have a pumpkin phobia. See, I told you that, and look how that turned out. :)

love,
Ash

***

To: David Steel
From: Eiji Okumura
Subject: Re. Things afoot
Sent: 01.11.2047, 8:51 a.m.

Hi Ash,

I can't tell if you're really angry or just frustrated, but either way, I'm sorry. I overreacted. To answer your question, yes, it would do me good because I love you, and when you love someone, you share a life. You should anyway.

love,
Eiji

***

To: Eiji Okumura
From: David Steel
Subject: Re. Things afoot
Sent: 01.11.2047, 7:54 p.m.

Yes, we should have. I'll be in Sendai on November 16th. Just send me the name of the hotel.

love,
Ash