An eagerly awaited letter and an unexpected visitor.
|I was in the kitchen making coffee when the letter finally arrived. I heard the violent clash of the letterbox, a signal for the morning post. From outside a grey light trickled in through somber clouds. I resisted the urge to go and look immediately and waited until the coffee was freshly brewed and I had poured myself a cup. I couldn’t stop my heart beating in anticipation, just as it did every morning at this time. It had been a month now and waiting had become a piece of my life. I wonder whether part of me wanted this to continue indefinitely. Waiting has purpose, when the wait was over I knew everything would change. Maybe I wasn't ready for that. |
I walked through the small corridor that joined the kitchen to the living room and entrance. I avoided my reflection in the hallway mirror. Seeing an unshaven specter of myself in my frayed dressing gown was not something that was going to lift my spirits. The post had landed in a chaotic jumble. I crouched down and carefully sifted through. I pushed away pizza delivery leaflets, bills and various junk mail to find, quietly sitting at the bottom, a small white envelope that had my name and address carefully printed in small blocked letters.
I knew instantly that this was the one. I carried it into the living room, placed my untouched coffee on a side table and sat down on the sofa to consider my next move. The room was dingy and cold. I could see the faint outlines of my breath float in the air before me. Clearly I must open it. I had spent too long defining my very existence around what was inside. I examined the envelope. There was no way it contained more than one sheet of paper inside. The post mark showed it was posted yesterday, first class. Other than this, nothing about it gave any clue as to its contents. It was unassuming in every possible way.
I sipped my coffee and picked up the silver letter opener my grandfather had left for me after his death. It felt heavy in comparison to the envelope. Slowly I opened the letter and gently took out the sheet of paper from inside. I unfolded the paper and smoothed it on my knee. The author had used a red fountain pen and had clearly spent a great deal of time forming each word with care. The contents of the letter were brief and I was able to absorb the meaning straight away. It shouldn't have been unexpected but seeing it in writing brought on a sharp twinge in my heart. I resisted the urge to cry but my throat dried up making swallowing difficult. I had to breathe deeply several times to pass over the feeling of nausea that had swept over my body.
I read the short letter several times until my brain had absorbed the words. Slowly I moved from the state of uncertainty just a short time ago to accepting a new reality that, as much as I wanted to struggle against, I could not deny. I then folded the letter, placed it back in the envelope and did not move for a very long time while I came to terms with the consequences of what I had just read.
It was hard to tell how just how long I was sitting there. I may never have left but the hard sound of the door bell forced me back into the present. I have a two tone doorbell, the type you press in for one sound and let go for another. Whoever had pressed it held it in for what felt like an eternity before releasing it abruptly. Like holding my head under water, consumed by silence then tearing me out again.
The brutality of the noise echoing around me, I stood up and walked to the front door. I peered through the spy hole and saw that at some point it had started raining heavily. An opened umbrella completely covered the face of the visitor.
"Who is it?" I barely recognised my voice. It sounded coarse and heavy.
The umbrella twitched slightly and a splash of water distorted the glass so all I could see was a blur.
"Mr. Akazawa?" A male voice enquired. It was polite, neutral, factual. The door was not thick and I could hear his voice clearly amidst the pitter patter of the rain.
"Who is it?" I repeated. I glanced at the unopened bills still lying below me. It wouldn't be long before overdue reminders became unwelcomed visits. This did not feel like a debt collector though. Debt collectors do not carry umbrellas.
"Mr. Akazawa my name is Takeshi Urawa. I understand that you received a letter today. A very important letter, I am led to believe. In fact I might go so far as to say life-changing."
I was silent. I didn't know what to say. There was only one person in the world who knew about the letter, and that was the person who posted it. The man outside certainly was not her.
"Mr. Akazawa," the umbrella man continued, "I understand this must come as a shock to you. I would be most grateful if you could let me inside, if only to warm myself a little. We have much to talk about and I think you will find what I have to say most interesting."
I knew there were many reasons why I shouldn't let the visitor inside. I looked down at the letter held in my left hand. Perhaps the most sensible thing was to walk away from the door, burn the letter and figure out what to do next. However, something about the stranger's speech compelled me to hesitate.
I firmly tied the dressing gown around my waist and massaged my face with my hands. With a deep breath, I unlatched the chain, turned the lock and opened the door.
Mr. Urawa stepped in, folded the umbrella and pushed the door closed behind him in one swift movement. He was wearing a long black trench coat, the water dripping onto floor. I helped him out of his coat and he slid his shoes off politely and stepped forward onto the laminate floor. I hung his coat and umbrella up and then stood back to take stock of this unexpected visitor.
We were a similar height but he was clearly older than me, although I would be hard pushed to guess his age. He was the type of man who became middle-aged in his thirties and would probably look the same for the next forty years. He wore wire rimmed spectacles and his hair was neatly cut in two greying tufts bordering a bald crown. His face was distinctly ordinary. I wondered if I put a mirror on his nose whether the symmetrical reflection would be identical to what I saw now. He wore a grey suit and a black tie, his white shirt looked freshly pressed. He gave off the air of respectability but not someone who was interested in an ostentatious display of wealth.
His brow was slightly furrowed in an expression of apology. He held his hand out, a plain wedding band on his finger. I glanced down and uncertainly accepted his hand shake. His hand was wet and his grip neither firm nor loose.
"Please come in", I mumbled, remembering my manners. I led him into the kitchen and offered some coffee, which he accepted. I poured two fresh cups, his black, mine with a dash of milk, and we sat down together at the kitchen table. I laid the letter down in front of me, still in its envelope, he glanced at but showed no reaction.
Mr. Urawa took a sip of coffee and then began to speak. "Mr. Akazawa, thank you for inviting me in." His voice was unwaveringly polite yet not completely natural, like he was reading a script. "That was a big step for you, I understand that. The place you are in right now, well my employers thought things had moved beyond the point where our interventions could help you. I am pleased to see that isn't the case. In fact, I persuaded them that it was not too late, which is why I was allowed to come here today. I don’t expect all of this to make much sense but I hope that I can some light on the strange occurrences that have been happening to you recently. You should also know that there is something you must do very soon. Something that is incredibly important. You may not fully understand the urgency of this matter but I hope you will come to trust me enough that you will agree to the task I have for you."
Mr. Urawa paused while he took another sip of coffee. He then asked to use the bathroom and I directed him down the corridor. Outside the clouds had got thicker and the rain was coming down fiercely. It was barely mid-day but light had dimmed so much that the kitchen had been thrust into murky shadows. I stood up and put the light on, dramatically brightening the room. I switched on the old paraffin heater and it chugged to life and began to heat the room. I felt like I had postponed the arrival of something ominous, if only for a short time. I understood very little of what Mr. Urawa said. I understood the words and they had been processed and comprehended in my brain, but I was struggling to associate meaning to his sentences.
Mr. Urawa returned a short time later and sat back down. Illuminated in the bright light he seemed more real, more unable to be dismissed as an hallucination of my tired mind. He continued.
"I would like to tell you a story Mr. Akazawa. It is a true story, by which I mean I will narrate a personal experience. It is important I tell this to you and I will do my best to recount it as accurately as possible."