The Red String

Image credit:
https://www.yoshikatsufujii.com/red-string?lightbox=dataItem-iuj9uu9z
Her mother’s tale of the red string 
foretold that Miko and Makoto
would be together,
tied little finger to little finger
by a taut invisible blood line.
What she didn’t tell her
was that the line would fray,
break, need to be
retied over and over.

In their wedding photos
Makoto would stand stiff,
sincere in his white suit,
chrysanthemum in lapel,
hands by his sides,
close to her but
never really touching.
Miko in her red-white kimono
was almost a shrine
with butterfly ribbons,
a sigh more than a smile
adorning her face.

She imagined years
of ritual devotion
turning the gown gray,
the white high heels into
black sensible pumps.
Her gaze would eventually
never match Makoto,
it would rest on her feet,
turn inward until
she saw only herself
alone on the shore.

Makoto would spend
long hours in his cubicle,
drawing house after house
for others to live and work in.
At home the drawings would
fall into an exhausted heap
on the living room sofa
forming a charcoal pillow
for his weary head.

Miko would put away
the uneaten food,
separating half
into a bento box for
Makoto’s next day’s lunch,
the other half reserved cold
for her own silent noon meals.
She would dry her hands
on the old never worn
yellow girl’s onesie cleverly
repurposed to a dish rag.

Her mind drifted back to the time
they visited the Snow Monkeys of
Jigokudani bathing in their hot spring.
She would watch a mother macaque
and infant slipping their fingers
in and out of each other forming
rose strings in the slow rippling splash
until the last echo almost touched her womb.
She listlessly gazed at her feet as she
listened to Makato denounce
the silly animal antics she delighted in,
how he snarled out without regret
“Akachan wa noroidesu”
(Babies are a curse.)
Nevertheless he gladly purchased
the commemorative photo of them,
taken at the park’s entrance,
of them posing stiffly because
it echoed their wedding one.

On the bullet train back to Tokyo
she felt sick and rushed to the toilet.
There, Miko knew the yellow secret
bought at Akachan Honpo the
day before and hiding in her purse
would become a dish rag.
In the hygienic blue flushing water.
her hope turned to grief
and her grief became a silent wail
that emptied out, a crimson string.

Seated in her assigned chair
she glared at Makoto
staring out the train window
searching the darkening horizon.
He never turned his face to her.
He didn’t even know she was next to him.
Miko stared at the walls, stifling a sigh.

Inside her the red string
shriveled, then broke.
Her sky rearranged
to a desert. Her precious
water evaporated.

She awoke to Makoto,
saying not a word,
entering and shuffling
to the sofa.

The gas stove hissed.
The yellow dish rag
laid close to the flame.
Another uneaten meal
existed unwanted on
the dining room table.

Miko, this one time,
never bothered to
awaken Makoto.
She walked to the
balcony searching
hard for but neither
finding sky nor horizon—
only houses,
some which Makoto drew,
surrounded her.
She put little finger
to little finger together
then pulled them apart.
Looking down,
Miko knew she
was destined to fall.


Miko is not only a girl’s name but a young female Shinto priestess.  Miko are tasked with performing kagura (sacred dances for entertaining and satisfying the Shinto deities) and other ritual dances during special occasions and aid the priests of the shrine in their functions.

Makoto is a male name that derives from the kanji pictograms for sincerity and truth.

Akachan Honpo is a popular Japanese infant clothing store.

The Red String Read by Jonathan Moya