Okinawa

by Cassandre Smith
(Ohio)

Miya Condo – Okinawa, Japan sets the scene
Adolescent dwelling erected in exotic surroundings
Four years of high school treasured in this foreign land
An off-base walk to an on-base school
Perks of retired military officers are substantial
Unforgettable, sketched into my mind – the walk

JanSport, simple, unadorned, backpack bouncing in rhythm, metronome, with each step
Laden with a school girl's life
The road before me curves and twists through a neighborhood smelling of morning's rice
Decrepit houses, holding on to the declining earth, soaking up the island humidity, soggy existence
Air faintly feels like a Hawaiian morning; perhaps it is the lapping waves nearby or the blooms
Opening to welcome daylight - breeze stirs up the sea, salt sticking to my lips

Halfway to my destination
Eagerly arrive at a coffee vending machine – dirty, urinated upon, yet still tempting
110 yen placed in the machine purchases my favorite chilled coffee beverage
I will enjoy this taste of heaven first period
Creamy, bitter taste still lingers upon my tongue a decade later, ah...memories
Approaching the corner to cross - danger

Must pass the Pachinko parlor
Is that man dead? No, just passed out from too much drink
Blocking my way to the intersection, a common annoyance
Do the families know where their husband/father/son is and why he didn't return home?
Gingerly step around the sleeping, making my way across the street
Erratic Japanese drivers come within mere inches of my body as I cross on a green light

Nearing the gate, guard at the ready
A gun slung over his shoulder, hardly makes him look menacing; he is just a baby, barely 19
I show my ID, I can see my high school cresting over a hill, my beacon
Drenched with sweat, not glistening but rather saturated to the fullest extent
The humid air will not evaporate the wetness; looking forward to my refreshing drink
First period English – I am ready

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