...her hair falls to her waist... she turns to me; please remove your robe. I do. From a cedar bucket she takes a copper dipper, fills it from the large cedar tub and pours steaming water over my shoulders. Standing face to face, Keiko hands me the dipper, glancing at the tub of steaming water. I dip it full...pour it slowly over her shoulders, water running down her glistening body. Her eyes do not leave mine as she reaches into the bucket, a natural sea sponge in her hand,
Please...warm water in the bucket. I dip the bucket into the steaming water. She dips the sponge into the bucket...begins to scrub my body with one hand, the copper dipper in her other. Scrub - rinse; scrub-rinse; scrub-rinse...water flowing from my body into the trough. Please sit...she lifts my foot...scrub-rinse.
... standing before me....hands me the sponge and dipper...your turn...
30 minutes ago, only my imagination had seen the body of a naked woman. Now, I am slowly sponging Keiko..her shoulders, her arms, her breasts, her hips, her thighs. She turns her back to me...it too gets scrubbed - rinsed...her buttocks. I have no idea what the perfect female body is supposed to be...it must be something quite close to the one beneath my hands.
Keiko takes my sponge and dipper, returning them to the bucket...takes my hand...steps us across the trough...stretches my arm toward two steps; I step up...the large cedar tub before me, and swing my leg over the side, finding a ledge inside. I stand on the ledge...Keiko sqeezes my hand... floats up the steps, steps into the tub and into my arms.
Now, she whispers, we enjoy our bath. We slide as one into the hot water.
Stars fill the clear night sky as we walk hand in hand up the gravel path to her cottage door. Keiko pushes the door open...leads me inside. My father's sister has prepared a meal...bowing... her Aunt returning her bow, gesturing to a small square lacquered table standing only a foot above the mat-covered wood floor...three pillows.
Please sit,,,Keiko tugs my arm down as she lowers herself onto a pillow. I awkardly sit, nearly falling backward. Keiko wears a kimono many shades of violet and blue which was waiting on the peg when we returned from our bath. I am back in my Class A, less tie and jacket.. Auntie still wearing her coloful kimono.
A delicate thin bowl decorated with tiny flying birds sits on the table above each cushion; chopsticks on an embrodered napkin. Small paper thin cups...the same tiny birds flying around their sides. sit in front of each bowl. A larger bowl, also decorated, filled with steaming rice is in the center of the table...a neighboring bowl with bits of meat floating in dark sauce...a third with small pieces of fish resting on a bed of leaves. A teapot, handle wrapped in thin bamboo, sits near Auntie's bowl.
Keiko, chopsticks in hand, lifts my bowl in the palm of her other hand...deftly fills it with rice...with pieces of dripping meat...with pieces of fish; replacing it in front of me. She does the same for her Aunt...then her own bowl.
Auntie lifts the teapot, reaches across the table, filling my cup... Keiko's...then her own.
Please...Keiko places my hand above the chopsticks. I pick them up, not knowing what to do with them. Keiko turns my hand, palm up; placing the chopsticks in their proper places;...holding the back of my hand in the palm of her hand, she closes my thumb over the sticks...this one is held tightly...it does not move; ...this one moves, grasping your food. Slowly she repeats the placement and movement of the sticks in her own hand...clicks them together...click - click - click - and picks up a piece of meat. I try...and try...and try...
Auntie smiles, slowly, silently picking at her bowl, popping morsels into her mouth...chews and swallows. I fumble my way through...two beautiful women smiling as I struggle.
Auntie surprises me in halting English...you are most welcome Mr. (......)
Bruce...I blurt out...I'm so sorry...my name is Bruce. I live in Seattle.
Auntie smiles at me. My Brother's daughter likes you very much, Bruce.
I glance at Keiko...her eyes lowered to her lap...I reach for her hand, smiling back at Auntie; me, too !
Keiko explains: I was visiting Auntie when the bomb fell on Hiroshima. Father was a surgeon at the hospital; both my father and mother died. Auntie is now my Mother. I was 12 when the bomb fell... now 19...........
* * * * *
What Keiko did not know as we three sat together that first fascinating evening, was that Kokura, being Japan's major weapons manufacturing center during World War II, was the primary target for BOCKS CAR, the second B-29 to drop an atom bomb on Japan in 1945...overcast skys covered Kokura as BOCKS CAR approached, causing the plane to divert to it's secondary target, Nagasaki.
But for a cloud...Keiko would not be...
Before leaving Asia, I travelled alone by bus to Nagasaki, spending two memorable nights....but I'm getting ahead of myself...