October 26, 2010


I last saw Annie when I was in high school. I do not remember when, exactly, but she would have been 7 or 8. Annie is my cousin Marti’s daughter, and, coincidentally, we share the same birthday (and Marti’s is the day after, if I remember correctly; these family coincidences made a vaguely strong impression on me when I was young, and although I rarely saw Marti and her kids, I was aware of them for this reason).

Little Annie had spunk. She was small, energetic, a little shy but very affectionate. I did not have much patience for kids when I was in high school, but after a couple of days of hanging out with Annie I had come to the conclusion that she was alright.

I do not remember how long she stayed, though it can’t have been more than a week. I do not remember much about her visit, why she and her mother were there, or what we did together in that time. But I do remember her energy, her unruly red hair, and my conclusion that this kid was alright.

It was the rare visit from Marti which reminded me of Annie’s existence, but I had otherwise not heard or seen anything of her since then.

About a week after I landed in Japan, I received this email:
Hey Ian! It's Annie :) I just wanted to say that I was told you were in Japan and you know.. I totally love Japan hehehe.

How have you been?

We're good here lol. I'll have to send some pics to you 'cause we all look really different.

How's Japan so far?

Well I'll talk to you later!!

The voice is naïve and affectionate, the same as the girl I can barely remember from so many years before. I was amused by the email, and responded with a question I knew the answer to: And what is it about Japan which interests you? Comics, she says. Manga and anime.

Of course. She would be the type. I do not know much about manga, but at about the time I decided to try for Japan, I picked up a minor interest in anime (having hated what little I had been exposed to before then). I have learned a lot about anime and anime/manga culture in these past few months and am beginning to understand its place in a broader Japanese social context. And, having watched my share of anime, I understand the creative influence it exercises on a young soul.

She, I thought, would surely enjoy Japan, more so than me. In those first few weeks, I was overwhelmed by so much that was new; had I been a Japan nerd, or had I been with a friend, I imagine all the stimulation would have been exciting rather than exhausting, and I would have been happy rather than bewildered. I wondered what Annie would feel in my place. I asked her: What should I do while in Tokyo? Shopping! she said. Oh! and see the Hachiko statue.

For those who do not know the Hachiko story:
In 1924, Hidesaburō Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo took in Hachikō as a pet. During his owner's life Hachikō greeted him at the end of the day at the nearby Shibuya Station. The pair continued their daily routine until May 1925, when Professor Ueno did not return. The professor had suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage and died, never returning to the train station where his friend was waiting. Every day for the next nine years Hachikō waited at Shibuya station.
This sentimental story is popular in Japan, especially among children. A statue of Hachiko sits just outside of Shibuya Station, forever waiting for its master.

I visited Hachiko. I did not think back to Hachiko’s story, however, but to Annie. How characteristic of this naïve, affectionate girl! She is a Hachiko herself, and she will undoubtedly stand where I am standing at some point in her life.

On October 18, 2010, Annie was shot and killed by her (ex) boyfriend Gabriel Dye, who then turned the gun on himself. She was shot in the back of her head--she had been trying to run away. She was 16. You can read an article about it here.

My mother sent me an email telling me what had happened. She added an extra “I love you,” imagining, I’m sure, her oldest son meeting the same fate on the other side of the world. After hearing about Annie’s death, stunned and emotional, I sent Annie a final email. No one shall ever read what I wrote.

Today is her funeral. You can read her obituary here.

Goodbye, Annie. I was glad to have your company here in Japan.

1 comment:

olof said...

Good to see you writing again Mango. Havent been here in a while since I figured you put it on the shelf after 2 or so empty weeks so I forgot about it. It's interesting to read about your Japan experience. Anyway, hope you're doing good.