- Love Suicides in Tsunami Country
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Friday, March 11, 2011, at 3 a.m. in New York City, I awoke to a strange beeping sound. My husband was cursing in the living room of our Union Square apartment. Hap had started to take my laptop apart to clean the dust out the night before—it had been overheating— and I had gone to sleep while he was still hard at work. I got up and went to his side.
“Is my computer dead?”
“I’m so sorry, but don’t worry, I’m going to save everything first thing in the morning,” he said, leading me back to bed. But I could not go back to sleep. I turned on my iPod to listen [End Page 123] to NPR: “At 2:45 p.m. local time, the biggest earthquake in Japan’s history struck eighty miles off the nation’s northeast coast.” Hap was already fast asleep. I got up and fumbled at his Mac to stream BBC News. Burning oil refinery. Windows and walls falling down in Tokyo. My parents live in Kanagawa, about thirty miles south of Tokyo. I tried unsuccessfully to install Skype on Hap’s computer. In the past, I had used a website that generated fake local phone numbers from foreign countries for cheaper rates. I tried this again, but could not get through. I tried to make an international call on my cell, but got a message saying my package did not include the service. My sister, who has a job close to the Port of Yokohama, must have still been at work. I sent an e-mail to her office address, even though I suspected that it would not reach her. According to a BBC graphic, the Bay of Yokohama was far from the radius of the earthquake’s harm. I fell asleep on the sofa with news of the tsunami continuously streaming. The next I knew, the sun was up and Hap was looking at the images of the earthquake. I fell back asleep as if I was suffering from jet lag. When I woke up again, he was sitting in front of a brand new PC laptop, transferring everything that was on my old hard drive to the new one. I was still groggy, as if I had flown back home from a faraway place to this sofa across several time zones. “How nice that you got me a new laptop.” My words sounded odd, out of place. Hap appeared to exist behind a paper screen, moving in slow motion. There was a message on my BlackBerry from the web company I used, announcing that all calls to Japan were free. I gave it another try, and this time, my father answered.
I have contemplated death with an unusual degree of commitment for the past ten years. As I live busily, somewhere in my brain, the thought of inevitable death is roaming. In my charmed life—like a nicer version of Grand Central Station, where smart and interesting people arrive in waves—I have one eye on departing trains always, terrified that someone will be carried away forever before I can say good-bye. I live with a constant fear of death—anyone’s death, my own, and, most profoundly, my husband’s.
When Hap and I met, he was crazy about me, but I thought I could live with or without him. “He’s lovely, but too old for me,” I told my girlfriend Jake-ann. To my surprise, my hip playwright friend who writes hip dialogue said, “Men in their fifties, they’re sexy. Don’t rule him out. See how it goes.”
I didn’t decide right away what to do about his amorous pursuit. While I was thinking, 9 /11 happened, and I forgot about him. My play Woman Killer had opened downtown in SoHo on September 6, 2001. The company had a cast party on September 9, and we thought we were headed into a promising run. On September 11, I watched the twin towers fall on TV from upstate New York where I...