Today I have an extract for you for my stop on the blog tour organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.
About the Book
Jane Takako Wolfsheim learns she can alter time and space after meeting a charismatic stranger named Jorge Luis Borges.
Inextricably she falls for Borges. Soon, however Borges’ lies and emotional abuse, and nightmares about a demonic figure, “the man in black,” nearly drive Jane mad. After her parents are murdered, Jane flees with Borges. Both the ghost of haiku master, Basho, and the Daibutsu of Kamakura, a statue of Buddha that appears in her dreams, offer her cryptic advice. Unable to trust anyone, Jane must find the strength to save herself, her unborn child, and possibly the future of humanity.
Context: Jane has returned to Minneapolis, her hometown, from Costa Rica. Borges has convinced Jane that they never went to Japan despite her memories of visiting Kamakura to see the Daibutsu, a statue of the Buddha. Instead, he claimed she suffered amnesia to repress the trauma she experienced when both her parents died suddenly, deaths she cannot recall. She goes to her parents’ gravesite where a strange elderly Japanese man awaits her.
* * *
The next morning, after spending the night at Borges’ loft, I drove to my parents’ last resting place for the first time, at least as far as I could recall.Spring was early that year. The dogwood, cherry, plum, apple and pear trees that lined both sides of the roadway were in full bloom. The air rushing into my car through the open window, thick with their blossoms’ competing scents, was intoxicating.Under other circumstances, I would have welcomed them, but not on that day. Their colors and fragrances felt oppressive, a cruel mockery of my melancholy.Halfway there, I almost turned around, but didn’t.At breakfast, I told Borges that before anything else, I must go to them.When he asked to accompany me, I declined. How would it look if I returned after saying I needed to mourn them by myself?
I drove down the narrow asphalt lane through the cemetery grounds until I reached a red-topped post marked with the number 33.I parked and got out.The rest of the way required a quarter mile or more of walking, according to the gatekeeper.The mid-morning sun was warmer than expected.Beads of sweat broke out on my forehead as I strode past row upon row of tombstones. Unbuttoning my light sweater, I tied it around my waist, leaving shoulders and arms bare.My black spaghetti strap tank top soaked up the sun.Distracted by the wet patch dampening the seat of my yoga pants, I almost missed my parents. They were near a tall oak whose old branches reached over their graves as if to comfort them.
Their plot, larger than most, surrounded by an ornate wrought-iron fence about three feet high, had a gate I opened to visit them. A wide, striated gray and white marble stone rose from the ground to my left.Its polished surface contained my father’s name and the dates of his birth and death, nothing more.So like him, just the facts, with no superfluous platitudes.He used to say that living life to the fullest was the only legacy anyone needed.
A few feet to the right, in stark contrast to my father’s stone, I saw an embedded granite plaque, marking the spot where my mother rested.No name was etched on its surface, only the kanji for “chrysanthemum,” her favorite flower. A symbol of Japan’s Emperor, the chrysanthemum also represents lamentation for one’s beloved dead.My eyes formed tears as I ran my fingers over the engraving.How apropos and how like her. Even in death, she lay in my father’s shadow, the dutiful Japanese wife.Did she choose this marker before or after he died? I had no recollection of burying either of them. What an awful daughter I was not to remember. My tears fell on my mother’s stone, landing without a sound. In silence, I rubbed them into the crevices of the kanji with my fingers until they evaporated with the morning breeze.
“A daughter’s tears fall, a gentle rain embracing the chrysanthemums.”
Startled, I turned and looked for the voice that intruded upon my sorrow.Behind me, hunched over, with one hand holding a rough walking stick, was a grizzled, elderly Japanese man, a monk perhaps, dressed in a shabby green cotton robe, which fell to just below his knees.Baggy pants, also cotton, covered his legs, but left his ankles bare.On his feet, a pair of simple Zori sandals made of straw.On his head, a soft cloth cap, its design not unlike a fez, covered all but a few strands of salt and pepper hair that peeked out around his ears.
“Sumimasen deshita,” he said, bowing his head. “Forgive my impudence.It’s just that whenever I feel a hokku forming, I must allow it to be born.”
“A short verse form.You are American, yes?”His question seemed rhetorical, but I nodded anyway. “Here it is known by another name: haiku.”
“A poet?From Japan?” A stupid question, but I couldn’t stop myself.
“Hmmm. Poet.”Silent for a moment, he stared past me into the unfathomable distance,as if rolling the word around his tongue, savoring its flavor. “Yes, that name will suffice.”
“Who are you?” He evoked no fear in me, but as a stranger accosting me at my parents’ graves, at the least, he should introduce himself.
“I am a traveler, like you.” A smile exposed deep creases in his face and around his eyes.“My family name is Matsuo, and my birth name is Munefusa.But the name I chose for myself is Bashō.It means banana tree.”