Talking It Out

By Shiharu Yamashita

My grandma lies on her small, low bed with polka-dot sheets, her hands crossed on her stomach. She is listening to the Japanese voice of the news on the TV.

“It’s time for eye drops,” she says, trying to get up. But I tell her that I’ll do it. I only come back to Shingu every other summer, so this is the only time I can actually do something for her.

I get three of her five eye drops from the shelf that she has to put in three times a day. She always had bad eyesight since she was born, but, as an 81-year-old having had several failed surgeries, even my face in front of hers is just a blur of colors.

I sit on her bed and push the small eye drop bottle until three drops fill up each eye, repeating the step thrice. Once in a while, my grandma says, “one more” as if a single drop is crucial to keep from going completely blind. I finish off by giving her a tissue to wipe her face.

I crawl under the blanket next to her—jetlagged and wanting to nap—and hold her arm. Her body is warm, and her floral shirt is soft. 

“You missed me, huh?” she laughs.

“Of course,” I say. “You’re my favorite, Ba-chan.”

“The Yamashita grandparents didn’t treat you very well, right?” 

She’s talking about my dad’s parents. It’s true, I had not been very close with them, and they are also the ones who refused to agree to let us emigrate to the states — even when my parents cried, begging. But they both recently passed away, so I couldn’t help but feel some emptiness, especially considering my dad’s reaction.

“Isn’t it crazy, the timing of it all?” I say. Grandpa died exactly a month after Grandma did – around the same time of day, too. And a week ago, Ba-chan’s sister’s husband also passed away – the day after we tried to visit, but the hospital was closed.

“And the fact that I didn’t cry for any of them,” I whisper. It’s difficult for me to cry when someone dies. When my role model took her own life, or even when my dog Hide died, I could not cry right away. Even after hearing the news about Grandpa and Grandma, I guess it just never felt real.

“Will you cry when I die?” Ba-chan says and giggles. Suddenly, my heart races, and my cheeks heat up.

“What?” I say. I try to laugh it off, but it’s too late. I can’t stop my eyes from getting watery, my chest trembling. I cannot breathe.

“Of course,” I tell her. “What do you mean? Just thinking about it makes me—” I can’t finish the sentence. This is very unlike me. I wonder if Ba-chan knows that I’m crying. I hope not. Why am I taking a joke so seriously?

Ba-chan laughs again, but she seems startled. Darn, I think. The only things she can see are always the things I don’t want her to. She didn’t think I would react this way, and neither did I. But she seems a little happy, too. I hold her arm even tighter now.

“Never say that again,” I tell her.

Shiharu is a third-year student studying psychology and music industry. In her free time, she likes to sing, go on road trips, and eat good food.