last fall i stole my friend down by the tama river. we sang. we danced. we skipped dead fish like rocks and watched them get swallowed by the undertow. we got sick off of bad chinese food and went skinny-dipping and then a week later she drowned herself.
her uncle was a yakuza, i think, but he really just wanted to be al pacino or something. anyway, she loved him a lot. maybe that’s why she went down the way she went down; cement shoes. not real cement, but it was the same idea. she had two cloth bags with yellow-painted cinderblocks inside, and they were tied to her ankles like the prisoners’ chains from o brother where art thou.
in my mind’s eye i can see her, limping dreadfully close to the edge of the current, her left hand gripping at her breasts through a loose t-shirt. kneeling by the wastelands, elbows in the gravel, crawling forward out into the water. angry like a dermis under wool, all teeth and salt and sand. sleepy, submissive, sublimated.
and then just sinking. just like that.
i’d gotten a text from her asking me to meet her down by the river again. she said i was the only one she could trust. she said she was crossing over the sanzu. i thought to myself she’s not even buddhist, and then i clutched at my phone and ran. i don’t remember getting on and off the train, or texting her back are you drunk? and stay where you are.
the water wasn’t deep. it was only about ten feet or so. there were three heavy lines in the dirt from where she’d dragged her feet and head—there must have been an easier way for her to die. less meaningful, more mangled. i wish she hadn’t put herself through the trouble. i wish i wish i wish a lot of things.
i followed the lines down into the river. i called out her name. i ducked downward—the water was fucking freezing. but i felt something, soft like an underbelly beneath my foot, and it crawled its whole self all up into my gut like a hookworm. i jerked northward, the sting of water in my throat and in my eyes. i floated on the surface there, coughing and hacking, and then drilled my body right back under.
the rest of me was up there on the waterline though. still floating.
her body was heavy, and her right foot was tangled in thick riverweeds. i couldn’t pull her out, i could barely even see, but by this point i knew it was her. i knew. who else could it be? i panicked, crawled back to shore, threw up a couple of times, and called 119. while i waited, i kept on thinking to myself she’s still under, she’s still under. i sat out on the rocks by the river, my clothes soaking wet, and i think i could’ve fallen asleep there, far below the center of the sun, if the sirens hadn’t knuckled down and corkscrewed me out of it.
it wasn’t difficult for them to get her out. it made me feel kind of jealous, honestly—they called my parents, tried to send me home, but i’d wanted to see the body. her limbs were small, knotted, and very very quiet. her eye sockets hunched forward and shut, her mouth a plane of land. it’s all so vivid a memory, and yet i can really only recall two things with great certainty:
when they found her, she was sleeping with the fishes.
when they found her, her hair was in her eyes.