I do not own Naruto.
Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear'd with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lover's eyes.
My father won't be here much longer. The days fall away from him like campfire ash in the wind. Sometimes he is with us, blind eye open wide as if trying to grasp at the light it cannot find. His warrior's hands tremble now, the steady protector in him having fled from aged limbs. Hands that once murdered and protected with the will of fire are all bent angles and sore joints. When he can gather it, his voice now wavers too; my daughter says he sounds like the breeze. She is a good girl, she takes a lot after me. And I of course take a lot after another woman: the woman my father sighs for in his reluctant old age.
I do not know her, my mother, in the way that a daughter should. But when I look into a mirror, or when I see myself reflected in my father's eye, I always have a distinct feeling she is there, lingering under the surface of my awareness like the speckled koi under the jeweled water of father's old garden pond. In the hot summer evenings of my girlhood father would settle onto the terraced porch with his old leather journal and play sentry while I navigated across the springy emerald grass to feed the fish scraps of bread hoarded in my pockets from dinner and lunch. "Be careful," his rich, strong voice would rise through the humid air, beckoning my small child feet back from the edge of the water where the koi stirred about like whirlpools, competing for the bread crumbs I tossed in. That such passive, lovely creatures could have such strong wills always fascinated me.
When I ran out of food and the koi returned to their gentle existence under the reflection of sky, I would wander back onto the terrace, my bare feet leaving stamps of dewy prints in my wake. Father, such a reticent man, would stay bowed over his writing, his journal balanced on his thigh and the pen decorating the page in a steadily increasing pattern of inky lace. Sometimes he would unseeingly extend a hand in my direction, giving me permission to sit by his side, or when I was lucky, to perch in his lap like a little sparrow on the statue of a warrior. I would watch the pen move over the paper with inattentive drowsiness, lulled by the security of his warmth, my hands rising up to lace and tug in his silver hair, to keep myself anchored to my semi-wakeful consciousness. If I asked what he was writing about, more to feel the way his voice rumbled out through his chest and into my back than because I really cared as I should have, the answer was always the same. "Your mother."
I know so little about her, but the facts seem unimportant. The way he covets her still is proof enough of the woman she was. To hold so closely someone that is no longer there must have been terrible for him. And yet he suffered it so well, so quietly and gently.
Father once caught a butterfly who, drunk with spring, had strayed into our kitchen while he was chopping vegetables for dinner and settled onto a leaf of purple cabbage. Its yellowy wings heavy with pollen had glowed against the dark background in the half-evening light. So startled was I by the sudden presence of the fairy in our kitchen, that my breath had shuddered out of my lips and the carrot I was holding had fallen from my hands. Father had looked at me then with the lovingly amused expression he wore whenever I spoke with him in my babyish serious way, his eye arching closed and a soft chuckle rising through his mask. Long slender fingers abandoned the radishes and deftly scooped up the little intruder into pale cupped palms. He turned away briefly, towards the open window that was the butterfly's portal into our home, but had stopped and looked at me curiously over a large sturdy shoulder. My wide-eyed captivation must have persuaded him to delay for he turned and gracefully kneeled down before me, like a prince bowing to a princess, his head still rising high above my crown of pink hair. His eyes swept across my face, tracing the fleeting expression of wonder on my lips and cheeks and eyelashes, as his palms opened up, revealing the living flower protected inside. He had held the fragile creature for me in his gentle hands as its wings shimmied and changed in the shifting evening light, folding and unfolding itself so beautifully before us.
I believe he held the memories of my mother in the same way.
I can hear his soft breaths behind me. He has come less often over the past week. Though I know it is close, the end of the world he has always been, I cannot make myself bear witness to it so I sit facing the window and not his bed. Childhood is not free, for as adults we have to repay our parent's tenderness three-fold. We must help them leave us, we must allow them to go. To assuage the difficulty of the present, we assume the burdens of the past for them, all while knowing they will not be there to help us bear the weight in the future. That explains the heaviness that has settled in my chest, like I have swallowed a pebble or an apple core and will now always feel this ache even when it has passed away from me.
Two days ago he came back to me, though only briefly. His hands struggling about, his lips whispering two simple words without fault until I had fetched the object of his desire. "My journal."
I had held his hand and pressed it onto the smooth worn spine, but he had refused to grasp it, shortly after retreating back into his shadowy dream world. No more words would be heard from my father that night, but his intent was clear. He wanted me to have it. Father wanted me to read of him and mother.
I hold the journal in my lap now, my fingertips dancing over the smooth leather hesitantly. I have only opened the journal once. This morning I pulled the cover back to look nervously inside and found a poem written in my father's strong steady script across the inside cover.
Fourteen lines of words I do not want to grasp the meaning of… a sonnet. I could not go on after reading the borrowed verse.
All around our home the trees, standing like columns of cold marble, languish for want of sun. The middle of winter seems too appropriate a time to die, but Father is determined to go now. He is brittle and frail while inside this journal my mother is held in permanent spring, a most apt season given her name. I do not know if I can handle it, the harsh dichotomy. Watching my father die while discovering my mother alive for the first time in my memory is a comic tragedy.
Father always did have a cruel sense of humor.
Why does he want me to read this now? Why not after he is gone?
I think it is because he cannot leave until he has ensured her immortality. I think he wants to make sure I carry her forward into the future. But Father probably does not realize that I will be carrying him too, like a fragile butterfly cupped in the palms of my smaller hands, for as much as this journal is about my mother, it is about him also.
Can love truly be bound in a book? I do not know, but I hope so.
I open to the fist page and begin to read.
A/N: Thirteen more chapter to go. Inspired by the narrative style of Nadeem Aslam. THe sonnet at the beginning is 55. Reviewers are adored.