What lies under the water. Excerpt from the book “Ganbare! Workshops of Dying”

On March 11, a Friday, spring was already in the air. The sunshine was getting more and more intense, even young shoots were appearing. Everybody was looking forward to the upcoming weekend. Yasuo Takamatsu drove his wife, Yuko, to work. Yasuo had a lot of free time lately. He had just retired, after having served in the self-defense forces all his life. Transferred between various bases – Okinawa, Miyagi, Aomori. His wife and children travelled with him. They had been together for twenty two years.

They met through a nakōdo – a matchmaker. Although it’s nothing out of the ordinary in Japan, Yasuo hesitates when he speaks about it. Did he already know during the first meeting that they would be married? The thought had crossed his mind. Half a year later, they were posing for their wedding pictures, dressed as a European couple from the turn of the twentieth century. She was wearing a wide, full-length dress with puff sleeves and a ribbon at the back, and a hat, from which her veil flowed. A green and white bouquet in her hand. He was in a dark gray suit, with white gloves in hand, and wearing a bow tie and vest. They are standing on a Persian rug, with baskets of roses in the background, a vine-covered column and a painted window that lets in plenty of painted light. Serious, upright, shy.

“Our life really wasn’t anything special,” Yasuo claims. Having breakfast together and watching TV together at night. Shopping over the weekend or taking trips to hot springs. There was nothing extraordinary about their life. That’s how they wanted it. And that’s what he misses the most.

He dropped his wife off in front of the building of Shichijū Shichi Bank in Onagawa, where she worked part-time.

“What do you want for dinner?” she asked. Yasuo made a face. “Just don’t say that you don’t care!” she added. Yuko knew that face all too well. But Yasuo liked it when she was the one to decide. He weaseled out of giving an answer, waved goodbye and drove off toward home.

The ground shook at 2:46 p.m.


“What Lies Under the Water?” is an excerpt from “Ganbare! Workshops of Dying”, translated from Polish by Mark Ordon (forthcoming 2021, Open Letter Books). 

The full excerpt (published with permission of Open Letter Books) was published by Przekrój Magazine and can be read here.