: The Visitor :

an excerpt by Asako Serizawa


He came around noon, this man, this soldier, who called himself Murayama. At first I thought he had come, like so many of them, to beg for food, or inquire after the whereabouts of someone I may or may not have heard of, but this soldier, this Murayama, had come clutching a piece of paper, claiming to have known our son, Yasushi.

I did not not trust him, my eyes wandering from the scrap of paper he had apparently followed here to the gaunt, downcast face fidgeting one step back from the entryway, a deferential gesture rarely seen these days. Clutching his satchel, he spoke politely, and as curious as I was about the paper, I did not ask to see it, his presence like a beaten dog’s, weary and shamefaced, his whole shrunken person so darkened by what I assumed was the tropical sun that he appeared like a photograph negative backlit against the bright, busy street. He never once attempted to peer around me as I listened through the wooden gate, opened just wider than a crack, despite my husband’s parting caution, and a few moments later I found myself leading him into the front room, excusing myself to rummage for some tea leaves and a small bowl of millet noodles, which was more than I could offer.