Do you remember your last phone call with a person whom you loved you most? What did you talk about? Was it about both of you telling each other how much you loved each other? During the cold war period, there was an American base in Nebraska, whose commander was very sure they are going to be destroyed by Soviet’s nuclear missiles. He allowed his team to have one last phone call to their family. But they were not allowed to tell why they were calling. Can you imagine what the conversations were all about? It was about scraped knees of the kids and the Christmas preparations.
I recently came across a podcast which moved me to tears. Let me assure you, I don’t cry easily. I have tried to cry so many times, but it just wouldn’t come out. I had started to believe that, I have become immune to that sensation and it was good to not to cry. Not in the dark or not in front of anyone else. But this podcast touched me in a way that my eyes turned to a tap and tears just wouldn’t stop. And for a long time, before a tear drop trickled down to my ear, I didn’t realize that I was actually crying.
So there is a place called Otsuchi in Japan. It had been there for more than 100 years and was fairly populated. The farmers and the fishermen went on with their jobs and didn’t talk much. They are not known to talk much or express what they feel. And suddenly, on March 2011, a giant tsunami coupled with earthquake flattened the whole town in less than thirty minutes. Nobody had the time to say goodbye.
After everything was over, an old man set up an old style phone booth with a rotary phone in it which connected to no phone lines and asked people to use the phone to speak to people who had gone to the other side. It was called Kaze no Denwa Box. It meant “phone of the wind”. Over the last five years, more than ten thousand people had visited the phone booth and talked to the ones who had gone missing or died. A TV company which wanted to cash in on the tsunami remembrance put a recorder to the phone booth.
Old ladies who had lost their husband come there to give daily updates of what they do. And few of them don’t even talk a word but just sigh trying to hold their tears. There were teenage boys who didn’t understand what happened to their father came to terms with loss in the phone booth. I expected them all to tell one thing. But they didn’t.
Nobody said ‘I love you’over the phone. The most romantic one was a farmer who sounded sincere. He said “I hope you had eaten something. It is getting cold over here. Is it same with where you are? Try and wrap yourself with something warm. I will build our house in the same plot. It is a promise. There is nothing more to add, except that I feel very lonely without you”
It had everything in it. The emotion, the care, the promise, and declaration. Most of the times such words speak more than “I love you”. But pity that people don’t notice the subtleties of daily life. They want a constant declaration of love. Sometimes holding hand and being there for one another and motivating each other goes a long way. But at the end of the day, we are haunted by the things we didn’t dare say.
I was thinking about what I would have talked. I don’t know. When one of my relationships was dying, I was trying hard to resurrect it. Put it back in place. I wanted to tell a lot. I wanted to have a dialogue in private. But it was refused by the person to whom I had refused nothing. Maybe this podcast came to me at the right time. The winds may carry the words to the dear one.
What would you talk and with whom would you talk if you went to that phone booth?
Let me know. Let’s grieve together.