Kamikazes (for Tina) by Nicolas Poynter

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airplane wing in pink clouds

I am never really anywhere when I dream. I’m always traveling, often in my old pickup, which I have not seen since I left the States, often on the bus to Cusco for some reason, dizzy from the hairpin turns. But mostly I don’t know where I’m going in my dreams. I’m just moving, walking or hurtling through the nothingness of space. Sometimes I’m a kamikaze pilot flying alone at the end of the world.

My sister killed herself not too long ago. I hadn’t talked to her in fifteen years or really even thought about her for two or three, but then a man crossed my path and shouted her name in my ear, calling to a dog running ahead of him, which I thought was appropriate because my sister had always loved dogs. Then I heard her name on the television, and then several of my Chinese students, who use English names to make it easier on their teachers—King Wan, Betty Fang and so on—chose my dead sister’s name. I hadn’t heard that name in such a very long time, but now it’s everywhere.

Nobody will tell me how she did it, except to say that she was in a hotel room in San Diego. So I don’t know if she shot herself in the head or took pills or whatever. I don’t know if it was someplace nice like a Marriott or a cheap motel on the interstate where you have to bring your own shampoo. I only want to know because I think it somehow might help me get into that room with her.

I hate to think about a person suffering the way my sister must have suffered on her last day. But I can’t help myself. I can’t help but think about her there alone at the end of the world.  Was she sobbing or stoic and full of resolve? I wonder if she thought about calling me. I wonder who she did call and what she said.  Did she beg for mercy or forgiveness or money? I wonder if she went back to San Diego to kill herself because that was where she had been happy. I wonder if she took one last walk along the beach before she did it,  the way kamikaze pilots take shots of sake before flying away. I hope so.

The truth is I was never really close to my sister. She was eight years older than me and gone from the house before I started middle school. All I really remember is that she was mean to me. Once she told me I was ugly. Once she told me not to walk next to her because she didn’t want anyone to know I was her brother. Once she asked me to live with her in Virginia and I had thought she was going to save me, but then after a few days she told me that I had to go back home to Oklahoma, even though she must have known that that could have been the end of me. Maybe that’s why she didn’t call me from the hotel room at the end of the world.  Maybe she thought I wouldn’t care like she didn’t care in Virginia, but I would have.

We would not talk again until I was nineteen and passing through San Diego on my way to Pearl Harbor and Navy Dive School, as optimistic as is possible for a high-school dropout to be. I remember all the televisions we passed were playing the Red Sox and the Mets in the World Series, so it was October. She wasn’t ashamed of me like she had been in Virginia. She walked with me on the beach in plain view of everyone and when it got dark, we passed a bottle back and forth, talking late into the night even though it was very cold. I can’t remember what we said but I remember it was like we were good friends, perhaps even a pair of kamikazes toasting and saying goodbye.

Anyway, I know it’s silly to think about being close to my sister now, but that’s what I want. The idea follows me around like a ghost. I streak towards the horizon in a dream, nothing but the cold Pacific below me, just like October of 1986. The tropical scent of that one moment in time lingers in the cockpit of my Japanese zero, reminding me that paradise does indeed exist.

Meet the Contributor

nicolas poynter holding up book in libraryNicolas is a graduate of the Red Earth MFA Program at Oklahoma City University. He has had his stories published in more than thirty magazines and they are collected here. His story “Loma Prieta Blues” won the 2013 Vuong Prize. He now teaches physics at an all-girls school in Lima, Peru.

Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Analogueblues

  4 comments for “Kamikazes (for Tina) by Nicolas Poynter

  1. Oh I had no idea. We were beat of friends in grade school and I spent many nights with her . I am sorry she struggled. Thank you for this .

  2. It is beautiful writing. I have two people I cared about who killed themselves and you do wonder what that last day was like and you are left wondering for a long long time about everything and more.

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