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Fiction Inspirational Sad

The Japanese have a word they use for the empty silence or space between words or activities or even structures. They call it the “ma” and I have only ever found it in one place. It's a place she told me about just before she passed away. A tiny little house by the sea where she once lived with her handsome young soldier-man. She described it in such detail that I feel like I know every inch of it by heart. It's a place I go to in my mind when I want to escape the voices in my head and the external noises of the world that threaten my peace. It is where I go to embrace the silent solitude. When I sit in this place, where she once sat, and I listen to the silence — the vital “ma” — life comes alive and has new meaning. It reveals its beauty. When I am there all the cares of the world just seem to melt away. It is where she found her peace and where I now go to find mine. 

                    “MA”

    I watch as she sits there. In the creaky old rocking chair, slowly rocking back and forth. She stares wistfully out the open window, dreaming of days gone by. The early morning air is crisp and dewy. She pulls the blanket tightly around her shoulders as she sips on the cup of hot tea that I poured for her. The sun's rays peek, ever so slightly through the curtains, illuminating the wrinkles the passage of time has left. Each one tells its own story. Once, she was a lover, wife, mother, grandmother, friend, teacher, cook, cleaner, and provider. Now she is just an old woman listening to the sound of the traffic, the hustle, and bustle of people rushing off to work. The noise fills the room. She sits there waiting for the "ma" to come. "It's what my Japanese ancestors call the brief pause or empty silence between words and activities," she says. She waits patiently, but the noise continues to fill the room. I pull the window shut. She motions for me to come and sit with her. 

“There’s a tiny little house down by the sea,” she says, her face lighting up, her whole countenance changing, as she describes it. “You would absolutely love it there," she continues. “It may be small,” but it exudes such warmth, such character and charm. Its sandy color palette with subtle touches of blue is so perfectly reminiscent of the sea. It’s a place I retreat to when the constant chaos and the noises of life become too much for me. It's so still. So peaceful. Full of nothing but sweet, sweet, silence. Some people see silence as an unwanted guest. I welcome it as a friend." I start to speak but she puts a finger to her lips. “Shhh,” she says. "Close your eyes and come with me. Listen carefully. Can you hear that?" She squeezes my hand tightly. "It’s the 'ma.'"She pauses and takes a deep meditative breath before continuing. "If you look out the window," she says, " you can see the beach. Crisp, clean golden sand stretching for a kilometer or more. Once it was once crowded with children building sandcastles, playing frisbee and ball games, or splashing about in the breaking waves of the ocean. Surfers would take to their boards and surf in the stronger current while others would lay on the beach soaking up the sun. Now even it is still and quiet. There’s a young girl, sitting alone, barefoot, on the shoreline, looking dreamily out to sea. She is sitting there waiting for her handsome young sailorman to come and take her away. I was once that girl. I waited and waited for him to come back and be with me again. But he never showed. Life went on and I remarried. But I never forgot him." I nod. “Tell me more about the house,” I say, as the nurse comes in to check her vitals. I can tell by the look on her face as she leaves that it won’t be long.

“It’s really just four rooms, she says. The first room is the living room. There’s a white sofa, a black armchair, and a coffee table. There are a lot of paintings. I used to love to paint. There is a bathroom of course, with a shower and a toilet. a fully equipped kitchen, with a fridge, and a door to the garden. It’s a beautiful garden full of trees with plenty of fruit. There’s also a study room with a desk where I would sit and write letters to him. In my bedroom, there is a wardrobe, a bed, of course, a bedside table with pictures of me and him and there is a balcony with a view of the sea. We would make love there to the sound of the waves crashing. Before my lover was called off to war. Oh how I missed him. We wrote back and forth for months but then the letters suddenly stopped coming. Her eyes filled with tears as she pointed to the nightstand There was one last letter. But I could never bring myself to read it. Will you read it to me now? It's time." I nodded opening the drawer. I see a faded old envelope. I open it and begin to read the letter inside.

   Dear Hairi. I don’t know why I am writing this. I really hope that this letter never gets to you, because, if it does that means I am gone forever. How fitting that your name means ocean village. It is where we first met and where we built our tiny little house. A house that became a home. A home we dreamed of filling with children. Just because I have passed away does not mean I am not with you. I’ll always be there looking over you, keeping you safe. let the recollection of our time together console you that the happiest days of my life have been from your love and affection and that I die loving only you, and with a fervent hope that our souls may be reunited hereafter and part no more. So whenever you feel lonely just close your eyes and I’ll be there right by your side. In the silent moments. I really did love you with all I had. You were everything to me. All my love. Forever and always yours. Karuto.

The room grows quiet. I can feel the "ma" she spoke of. I continue to sit with her as tears fall slowly down her cheeks. Her rocking chair creaks with each subtle movement and eventually, the creaking diminishes to a faint sound and finally no sound at all. She has left the world in peace.


November 09, 2021 01:10

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8 comments

Marie Martello
22:30 Nov 19, 2021

This story was so bitter sweet. I loved your imagery and the flow. I know it was sad but in a way it calmed me. I know I was suppose to give some critiquing feedback but it’s hard to find! Overall I really enjoyed the pace, all I could say is there were some grammatical things. It didn’t distract me from your beautiful story, though. Well done!

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Julia Townson
03:14 Nov 21, 2021

Thank you Marie. You flatter me :) I only have four stories on here. Just recently, within the past year, took up writing. I just read and commented on your story. Kudos!!!!

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Swan Anderson
02:33 Nov 19, 2021

Your story is so tender and vivid, I had tears in my eyes by the end. You really took me to that special place with the beautiful cottage by the ocean and the enduring love between the couple - right to the "ma." Well done! I look forward to reading more of your stories!

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Julia Townson
08:11 Nov 19, 2021

Thank you so much!!! You really made my day :) I followed you and am looking forward to reading some of your work too!!! TGBTG (To God be the Glory)

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15:45 Nov 17, 2021

Such a beautiful thing to write about, an elderly person nearing the end of life reflecting on her happier moments when she was young. I suspect we will all do this someday. Thank you for sharing.

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Julia Townson
18:04 Nov 17, 2021

Thank you so much for the positive feedback Christopher. :)

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Marian Hansen
17:28 Nov 11, 2021

Fantastic imagery—I felt like I was right there in the story. Keep up the amazing work!

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Julia Townson
17:50 Nov 11, 2021

Thank you so much Maz. I really appreciate that :) TGBTG (To God be the Glory)

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