The Barley Fields

On the night my family arrived in Tokyo from New York we were driven into the city from Haneda Airport. It had been a long flight, with a transit in Honolulu for refueling, and we were all tired and a bit dazed. A representative from my father’s company met us at the arrivals area and escorted us out to the street, where he had his car waiting for us. The air was heavy with humidity and insects whirled around the street lights over the taxi stand. The air smelled of burning oil and something else, something sweetly organic that a newcomer like me couldn’t identify. And all the while a numb sense of dislocation surged up in my belly, like having my sense of balance ripped out from inside me, a sense of being physically there, but my soul lingering in another time far away. When I think back on that moment, it is curious that I can remember the details of arriving in Tokyo, but can’t recall a single image of the moment we left New York…


Last night the movie “Malena”, by Italian director Guiseppe Tornatore, was shown on TV and I watched it a second time. It had lost none of its powerful effect, and the climactic scene, when Malena is beaten and her hair shorn in public, left me chilled and deeply sad. Who hasn’t witnessed similar events of cruelty?

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