Kuyashii- Fueled By My Own Doubt

Updated: Jan 3, 2019

I've found myself digging through my grandmother's trash again.

Today I'm holed up in a cafe downtown peeling apart an envelope of Yoshiko's letters. I've shoved it into the back of an old red school book labeled "records." A plethora of blue numbers are scrawled sideways across the envelope. It looks like my mother's handwriting, though clearly not. "Yoshiko Ridgway + Family," followed by an address that is also scratched across the envelope, though more intentional than the numbers.

Its paper is yellowing and edges are browning but the American flag pressed into the stamp still pushes brilliantly forward past the black stamp. Another furry stamp from the Honolulu post office, dating the envelope December 7th 1987. It's an envelope from an unfamiliar name.

There are a folded scraps of paper stashed inside, covered in Japanese characters. Some are simpler, more recognizable. So I've been sitting here for the past two hours diving into my notes containing Japanese characters. I'd hoped I'd be able to crack apart a few lines, a few strands of thought. Maybe even understand whose hands these letters were from. But the closest I came was understanding the word "kuyashii"- translating into a familiar sensation. The sensation of when one is talked down to, or is told they can't do something, they have a burning desire to prove someone wrong.

If this didn't peak my interest in these letters I have no idea what would've. I managed to translate those specific characters in the first ten minutes of my investigation. And for the next hour and fifty minutes? Bits and pieces fell in line- each question mark next to a new scribbled illegible symbol caused my head to pound a little harder.

Now that I'm revisiting my notes I've realized I wasn't entirely truthful- I'd cracked three different terms.

"desu" translates to "to be" or "is"

"kachi" translates to "value," "worth," or "victory"

"kuyashii" translates to the sensation of being fueled by doubt

It's important for me to remember that I more than likely misinterpreted these characters and ultimately butchered these translations.

Last night when Randall and I got back to my parents' house from our short beach trip, I dug through stacks of notebooks and tore apart my own readings. I was investigating my specific articulations and choices of sound. So within the lyrical aspect of it, I shouldn't be surprised that I came across this envelope of foreign articulations. Randall started to write on his phone as I read through everything I could find. Bits of journals, copied pieces of text I'd identified with, scraps of receipt tape.

Most of my journals that I found exaggerated accounts of reality. Though moderately accurate in capturing my feelings about reality, they still maintained clearly stained perceptions. Though the one notebook I was desperate to find, my Creative Non-fiction notebook containing my notes from my class as well as more clinical analyses of text, was missing. I found literally every other sketchbook and notebook I've ever scribbled in but was unable to pinpoint the little green one. When I finally stumbled into it in my dad's office I found the face of the notebook labeled "Poetry and Prose," clinging to the spine for dear life, slipping around the stack of pages as I lifted it from its bed of crumpled papers beneath it.

The last thing I wrote in the notebook was under a line of words reading "Found Under 'Notes"

"Most names have been changed."

I've been thinking a lot about strange recounts of reality and our struggle to interpret it. Different symbols in different languages- attempts to capture feelings and thoughts and perceptions. "Most names have been changed." Different ways of intentionally altering reality.

I have another note somewhere in this green notebook about a memoirist's artistic liberty to allow the reader to perceive a specific event in an inaccurate way. They may change names, the order of events, or even the event itself to lead the reader to a specific conclusion or assumption. Or arguably more importantly, to mask a truth.

At some point in grade school our teacher taught us about reading between the lines. I remember she instructed us to hold up our hands and look at our fingers. "These are the words on a page. The words that an author puts in front of you. The spaces between them are what's implied."

At this point I'm wondering what I've left between the lines here. Have you been able to see my struggle to think clearly today? My melancholy demeanor and fight to connect the dots? I feel like Hansel turning around to follow his breadcrumb trail back home and finding it missing. Where are the crows that ate my crumbs? The metaphorical crows that are hindering me from finding my way back home.

Maybe it's the rain today. Maybe it's because I sat on a bed staring out the window at it for too long. Maybe it's because I was desperately trying to crack a code that I wasn't well enough equipped for. Maybe it's the anticipation of seeing another part of my grandmother and discovering instead an inability to do so. Maybe it's the empty farm table I'm sitting alone at. I wish I could throw stones at these birds and continue to be as chipper as I was yesterday. But today I'm feeling the weight of inadequacy. I'm only seeing the spaces between the lines, leaving room for further misinterpretation.

It feels a little fitting to end 2018 this way- inexplicably sad and lonely. Not that all of this year has been this way, especially as of late, but that a more difficult today will give way to an easier tomorrow. I hesitate to say that these are things that I need to feel, afraid it'll seem like I've fallen into the jaded artist trope. I don't need sadness or pain or whatever to create. In fact depression oftentimes hinders artists. My thoughts aren't connecting and as hard as I try to create or do something worthwhile I find my head empty and heavy. But I do think these days are necessary because they live and die the same as any other day and they remind me how fleeting everything is. Because of the way that my brain works I feel like I won't be able to appreciate better, more thoughtful days without these thoughtless and empty ones.


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