My wife, Miwako, started fishing in the river where our son had drowned. Every Sunday for the past five years, she would pack her lunch and leave mine Saran wrapped on the table, as she left for almost the full day. She always made his favorite cod roe rice balls and egg rolls and sausages. It was the same lunch that she used to pack for him on field trips, when she had packed his box with colorful bites of food, separating each piece carefully with plastic green dividers cut out to look like grass.
I followed her once to the river. I watched her eating her lunch and cautiously throwing a rice ball into the water like a lucky coin into a fountain. His body was no longer there, but she sat by the water and peered in. When I asked her why she continued to go, all she would say was I’m getting to know my son better.
The truth was that I should have been the one to get to know him better. These silent years that have followed have taught me that. I had worked long hours to stay away from my family. Our only son, Kosuke, had been epileptic. He had a small gash on the bridge of his nose from the time he had fallen over on the street when he was eight during a sudden seizure that looked as if invisible hands were grabbing his sides and shaking him senseless. I looked down and saw him writhing, the left side of his mouth stretched impossibly wide, gaping while his tongue flailed uselessly within it. It was during these moments when I looked away that Miwako would rush to him and soothe him, whispering and waiting for the worst to be over, and I would try to stand there and face what I had created. I had asked him, more than once, to try to keep his seizures private. For his own safety and for the sake of others, if he could keep his fits indoors it would benefit all of us. I felt that our neighbors looked at us with pity in their eyes—their only son, in that condition. I had wanted a son who would eventually take over my practice— and this boy on the ground, dribbling and eyes agape, gripped [End Page 16] me in a way that I could not tolerate. So it was Miwako who listened to him as he strummed notes on an old guitar that a neighbor had given to him, it was Miwako who packed those lunches for him, and it was also Miwako who had encouraged him to pick up fishing.
My father, Kosuke’s grandfather, had been an avid fisherman famous for the legendary fish he had caught during his heyday. There were grainy pictures of him that Miwako had shown Kosuke when he was fourteen, a year before he died. The river where he would go to fish was an hour drive away. Miwako’s brother, Kosuke’s uncle Shojiro, would drive Kosuke there on Sundays and they would fish together. Kosuke started going every Sunday because he said it cleared his head. His medication had been working effectively and he hadn’t had issues for years, so those few times that Shojiro was busy and couldn’t take him, we let him catch a bus with a friend instead.
That Sunday, Shojiro had made golf plans, and Kosuke told us he would be going with his friend Akira to the river. We never questioned him. When he hadn’t returned by dinnertime, Miwako called Akira’s house to find out that Akira had canceled due to band practice. Kosuke had gone alone. The search party that found his body floating in the river said it had been carried along on the current far past his usual fishing spot, that it was snagged on some rocks and his face had been full, his skin bloated like a slippery balloon. When I identified his body for the authorities, I made sure that Miwako stayed behind.
Miwako had invited me a few times to go fishing with her, but I...