The Japanese guy is looming in front of the Russian guy in our group. But the Russian doesn’t stand; he just sits on the ground, with his back to the wall, looking at the ceiling.

The Japanese guy is so angry he is shaking. His face is in a scowl, his abdominal muscles are so tense it’s like a hole has been dug out of his belly. The knuckles of his clenched fists look like pieces of gravel have been glued on to them. Veins have popped out all over his body.

“Better we put off this story of my hunger until tomorrow, because I can see it has gotten you angry. Don’t you think so?” says the Russian guy.

The Russian guy’s cool demeanour, when the Japanese guy is so incensed and ready to fight, tickles a funny bone in all of us. We all laugh until tears roll down our faces. It’s the first time we have laughed since we got here.

Even the Japanese guy eventually bursts out in laughter. He looks at the Russian guy, shakes his head and goes back to sit on his side of the room.

“Hey, what is your name Russian?” he then asks, between giggles.

The Russian guy is still looking up at the ceiling. He remains quiet for a while, until we are all quiet. We are all looking at him, waiting for his reply.

“My name is Anton,” he replies. “But the day I get out of here I will change my name.”

No-one says a word. Everyone seems deep in thought. There is something endearing about Anton. He is resilient of spirit, and calm.

“When I have changed my name, I will write a novel,” Anton continues.

“What will the novel be about?” says the Japanese guy.

Anton stays quiet and still; it seems like he hasn’t heard the question.

“Did you hear me? I said, what will your novel be about? Will it be about your time here in Hiroshima?”

“No, I’ll write about Anton. But at that time, I’ll no longer be Anton.”

A sadness falls over Anton. A deep sorrow laces over his words. I suspect he keeps staring at the ceiling because he is holding back tears. A karateka never cries. A karateka is a soldier.

“Do you really think you’ll escape from this place, Anton?” asks the Japanese guy.

“If I’m really determined to write this book, I have to help Anton escape from this place. I want a happy ending to my novel. I want Anton to escape from here and prosper. He must have a family, like everyone else.”

Is Anton an orphan, I ask myself.

“People always say I never shut up. They say I must have a fire in my chest, so I speak to cool that fire.”

“They are telling the truth, Anton. You never shut up!” says the Japanese guy.

We all giggle.

“Well, if I were to remain quiet for the whole day, you’d see me drop to the floor and die.”

“My name is Hinshi,” says the Japanese guy. “Did you have a tough upbringing?”

“How I grew up is like the body aches I’m feeling right now. It won’t kill me and it hardly matters to me. My pain is pain of the soul. When I speak, that pain goes away for a while. So, I speak all the time.”

“You sound like someone who grew up in an orphanage in Tokyo … like all of us here. I’m sure we were sold to Anana by the orphanage.”

It is quiet for a long time. We just look at each other and connect in the sadness that floats between the two groups.


Tell us: How do you like this twist in the plot? What might happen next?