If there's any kind of normal anymore,
then it's you -- just you,
standing with a dish rag long after everyone else (your father)
has gone to bed, some point between 7:30 and 9:00 at night.
Things are better now,
(things are worse now)
your mother has been out of country for a week
(or 6 months and 5 days, excluding the handful of week long visits)
and you and your father are ready to leave, now,
crossed the last few items off your bucket list
(everything is the same as it was 6 months ago:
your mother is not sleeping,
your father is not sleeping,
you are both your parent's favorite confidant
for complaints against the other,
sole companion when drunk,
your mother hates her job (still),
your father is drowning in the wake
of your mother's misery (still),
and you are still (trying) failing
to hold the pieces together -
yours and theirs.)
It's March/April, so there are cherry blossoms (Sakura),
and your father says, they're beautiful
and your mother (from the video screen of your father's phone) says,
that's a lot of white (they're pink)
and you think, I guess this is the last time I will ever see this.
Your mother's been miserable for the past two and a half years, so you and your father were only half right when you figured giving her your blessing to get out of this
(god forsaken -- to your father)
(sexist, and karoshi-inducing -- to your mother)
(home, yet unaccepting and soul-crushing -- to you) country would help.
(And it did, but not enough and not for long.)
Your mother's world is work, new country, new culture, new language, new apartment, and talking to the two of you. (It's also sans furniture for the first three months, newly insulated heating, and living off takeout and on a futon.)
Your father's world is work, the English side of packing up and moving, you, figuring out his replacement, meeting friends for bike rides or dinner and drinks to say goodbye, and talking to your mother. (It's also figuring out how you'll all survive if this doesn't work out, making arrangements for everything his wife forgot in her hurry to leave, ensuring he and you make it until June.)
Your world is school, your father, the Japanese side of packing up and moving, your friends, stepping down and teaching others to replace you, and doing your part to keep your mother sane. (It's also hiding your own decent into misery, making friends just in time to lose them, and looking up the extra Japanese jargon that your father forgets he'll need.)
Your father has been wary of this country since the day he moved here - 14 days, 2 months, and 17 days ago; has hated it since the day after the final date of your expected stay, 12 years, 11 months, and 2 days past. The summer you are twelve it comes to a culmination, and your parents inhibit separate apartments for the next half-decade.
The conversation you overhear four years after the fact (a summer night when your bedroom window has been left open, near midnight, your parents talking on the balcony it connects to) goes like this:
You said you hated me. (Your mother.) You told me it was my fault we were stuck here.
I have never hated you. (Your father.)
You said I ruined your life. (Your mother, again. Voice raw, broken.)
You didn't ruin my life, (Your father. Voice tired, like this is a recurring discussion.) you... (You can imagine your mother crying, your father wrapping his arms around her shoulders. The candle on the patio table flickering with surrounding city light, reflecting your mother's tears, the hint of silver in your father's ring.) I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I never should have said it, but you already know that. You didn't ruin my life.
(Silence. Then your mother, again.) You said you hated me.
The conversation lasts well past 2:00 in the morning,
your parents none the wiser to your reluctant presence.
(It's not a conversation you ever wanted to hear.)
After the go-ahead for the move comes in very late August, everything ignites, speeds up to a ridiculous pace. You and your father box up the majority of your mother's apartment, and then it falls to the two of you to get rid of everything left when she leaves after another month. (It's that same month that she traverses three countries in two weeks, gets stuck in the midst of a hurricane warning- drives 10 hours across state borders to escape it, and spends her first week living in Germany forgetting most everything.)
Deciding to move and finding a school comes in October and November. You and your father miss a day of school to fly to Amsterdam and back, realize certain things are unfeasible, look at more schools, and begin to send letters. You miss a whole week by yourself in Germany, causing your mother to sleep, for once, and then catching only 2 hours yourself for a week straight (added onto panic attacks and dizzy spells) once you get back to Japan. (It’s mid-October when a school in Frankfurt indirectly says they’ll accept you, your father hands in his resignation the following week, then turns to you and asks are you sure you want to move your senior year? - and you think bit late to be asking now.)
Your mother calls everyday, and you make yourself present for it once or twice every week. (It’s mid-November before you realize that your father may miss her desperately, but you don’t. At all.) Sunday becomes packing day, and you and your father slowly pile up boxes while avoiding paperwork, accumulating trash runs to the apartment complex across the street. By March, there is a plan for getting rid of furniture in place, and most save bare essentials are packed.
I counted. Your mother starts, first to speak once the connection goes through. 80 days. So you have 80 days to go around the world and come see me.
Well, nowadays, it only takes 2 days to travel across, you quip, as your father pulls out his calendar.
Looks like you won’t have to wait that long he says, pointing at your mother’s proposed date of contact - 6/13 - in contrast to his last day of work, a week behind your final day of school, your daughter might even make it at 70, he adds (and you silently say goodbye to spending any of the summer with your friends.)
Well, your deadline is 80. (She’s not sure she’ll make it if it’s any longer.) I miss you.
Miss you too.
Love you too.
Come evening, you will still be the last one standing, alone except for the cold water running across your fingers and the plates that will be labeled rubbish within 2 months, the wind if it decides to howl, the motor of a car if one chooses to pass your deserted street, your father if (when) he begins to shift and turn and give up on sleep. And this you can still say, is normalcy.