by Tari Gwaemir
Touya writes a letter on Valentine's day that he never sends.

To Shindou--

Do you remember that time when we played into the night in my father's go salon? You were in a pensive mood and played a complex, winding game, its strategy as intricate and many-layered as an old embroidered kimono, the ones you see enshrined in dusty museums. I picked out a careful path within the treacherous territory with its deceptive boundaries, and in yosei I thought I had walked it to its end: to you, or rather, that part of you that remains beyond my understanding, even so, even now. But one last hand, and I knew that it must be true when they say that learning another person is like losing yourself in labyrinths: the goal is not to escape the maze but to let yourself be drawn deeper into its dead ends and endless circles.

That night--how late was it when we finished? I only know that it was dark outside--the salon was quiet as we put away the goban and goke. The soft fluorescent light seemed to hum loudly in my ears as we tiptoed past Ichikawa-san, whose mouth drooped open as she dozed in her seat, but otherwise, the place was silent. We walked down the narrow flights of stairs, past the dentist's office, past the pet store, and finally past the restaurant on the first floor. The sudden din of voices raised in conversation and the wave of raucous laughter, of clinking glasses, of silverware, of chairs sliding against the floor enveloped us as we walked to the door. We did not talk for we would not have heard each other over the noise.

You opened the door, looking behind to see if I would follow, and walked outside into flurries of snow. The door shut behind us, and with it ceased the noise. You and I stood on the empty street, and toward us blew a cloud of fat white flakes, suspended by the wind, although the air felt so very still between us. Without speaking, we watched them float lazily, leisurely toward us, settling on our coats and gloves, on my hat and your uncovered head. For two seconds I did not breathe and then exhaled softly in a puff, and you smiled at that, your eyes oddly solemn. We walked through that quiet, floating snow, brimming with unspoken conversations, and when we parted at the station, I imagined taking your hand in mine and standing there forever, while the snow settled on our shoulders.

But then, how would we play go again? How would I ever walk again with you on a cold February night, thinking of hands? Instead, I said goodbye, as a solitary car drove past, and we turned to go our separate paths.

Sometimes I wonder if whether one could write letters in hands of go: shinogi in the upper left territory, hane to your tsuke, keima from the center right hoshi, a response with classical joseki, a bold hand at tengen. But these hands, in isolation, are meaningless without the framework of a game; so too, I fear, are words without the framework of half-coherent thoughts. How does one read what another has written and understand without knowing the writer? Am I as unsolvable and irresolvable to you as you are to me?

I lay my words on the lines of the goban in black and white, and so open and bold is each and every sentence that I grow afraid at times that you will read it aloud to the watching audience. But I also hope that you will remember it and whisper it again to yourself, when you replay each game at home--do you replay each one of our games like I do? That night, I had a thought that I could not comprehend, even now, only play out in stones on the goban, and even now, I am trying to articulate that moment, in hopes of pinning it down into words. Where is the meaning of a game finished in forgotten hours, of a walk in silence through curtains of hanging snow? Do you know how to find it, Shindou?

2005年 2月 14日


Hikaru no Go belongs to Obata Takeshi and Hotta Yumi.

Written for Valentine's Day.