is that superman
A professor talks about the issue of racism in Japan
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This happened when I was in middle school. It isn’t particularly scary, but it still confuses me when I think about it now.
During the second trimester of my second year in middle school, I was sent to the emergency room with acute appendicitis. It was right before finals, so I remember things quite clearly due to my worrying about passing my classes. That morning I woke up with a very strong pain in my abdomen, and an ambulance was sent right away to pick me up. An operation was soon scheduled.
It was determined that it was safe to wait until the following day to perform the surgery, and I spent that evening in bed.
The room I was in was fairly large and had room for six patients, but the only other person there besides myself was the man in the bed next to mine. After my mom finished working for the day, she brought me some of my things to help me pass the time while I was in the hospital. While we were talking, a lady who looked to be in her 60’s came into the room. She seemed to be visiting my neighbor.
“He’ll be in here for about a week,” my mom said and patted my leg. “I hope he doesn’t bother you too much.”
“Hahah, he’ll be fine,” the woman said with a smile, “and I’m sure he’ll be better before you know it. Kids can take just about anything you throw at them!”
She seemed like a nice lady. She went behind the curtain of my neighbor’s bed and stayed for about an hour before leaving. Visiting hours were ending, so my mom left a few minutes later.
That night I had trouble sleeping. I was anxious about my surgery the next day and couldn’t stop thinking about it. My roommate must have noticed that I was awake because he started talking to me.
“It’s been a while since anyone else has stayed in this room. I don’t even remember how many months I’ve been in here by myself. It gets boring after a while. Why are you here?” I couldn’t be certain, but I got the impression he must have been the husband of the visitor who came in earlier. His voice sounded just as kind as hers.
“Appendicitis,” I answered. “My stomach started to hurt really bad this morning… It sucks because finals are this week.” I talked a lot about myself, from my club activities to my personal life. I felt lonely without my family being there, and the man really helped calm me down. He laughed at the right times and was a good listener.
“Being young is a blessing,” he said with a smile. “I was happy to hear that you didn’t have a terminal illness.”
I wasn’t sure if it was rude to ask, but I was curious as to why the old man was there. Nervously, I brought it up.
“Oh, everything’s wrong with me, hahah! It isn’t any one thing. I’m coming to the end of my life is all. Oh, don’t look sad. I’ve had a great life. I doubt I’ll be discharged from here again, but I’m happy.” He also told me that he had problems with some of his organs and had trouble talking for long periods of time.
“You’re wrong!” I said a little too strongly. For some reason, I really took a liking to him and didn’t want to think of him dying. “I’ll probably get out of here first, but I’ll come and visit you, and some day you’ll be allowed to go, too!” I was only a little sick, but it made me feel bad knowing how long he must have been there. I wanted to make him feel better. The man smiled and thanked me.
The next day, I had my surgery. I was under general anesthesia, so I ended up sleeping for about half of the day even after the procedure was finished. When I woke up, it was already evening and my parents were both sitting by my bedside. I was told that I was to stay in the hospital for a week, and if all went well I would be released then.
I was happy to hear that, but I was more curious about the bed next to mine. The older man had been there earlier that day, but now his bed was empty. I assumed that he had been transferred to another room and told myself that I would stop by once I was released.
My recovery went better than expected, and I was released on the fifth day. As I was preparing my things to leave, the older man’s wife came by. I perked up and was going to ask about him, but then I noticed the tears in her eyes and the tremors running through her body. My heart sank.
“He wrote you a letter,” she said, her voice shaking. “I’m sorry I didn’t give it to you earlier.”
I took the letter into my hand and swallowed hard before reading it.
Thank you for keeping me company on my last night. Please take good care of yourself.
The letter was short, and the writing was messy and looked strained. I swallowed again, trying to hold back my tears as I asked what happened. The man’s condition apparently took a turn for the worst while I was in surgery. The doctors did their best to save him, but he passed away.
“I was so happy to talk to him that night,” I said as the tears started to fall down my face. “I was scared and lonely, and he was so nice to me!”
The woman listened to what I had to say, and her expression changed to something resembling surprise. She spoke again, explaining more of her husband’s condition. Apparently he had a tumor removed from his throat, but the surgery didn’t go as well as planned. His vocal cords had been severely damaged in the process, and he could barely even make any vocalizations, much less talk. She felt that he knew the letter he wrote me would be his last and he somehow knew he would pass on the next day.
Sometimes I will think about talking with the old man, and I wonder how we could have talked for such a long time if his vocal cords didn’t work properly. I still find it strange, but I hope to never forget his kind voice.