A Portrait of a Pilot Friend

By James

to sing the same song throughout your whole life

is important but difficult

every time when that season comes

I can but sing the same song like a bird

————————————————-Eriko Kishida

Having stepped finally into my fifties, I constantly bewail having accomplished little except wrinkles as booming as withered leaves in the fall. But my only solace, if there is any, would be my honour to know a close friend whom I always admire and revere. Had I not been transferred to another junior high school in the beginning of my second year, I would not have been able to glimpse at the most radiant and the proudest smile I have ever seen in my life. If each of us in the class is likened to one single planet, then Tom, whose teeth, always polished and tidy, glittered whenever anyone asked about his dream, resembles the sun – the centre of the solar system – who generously gives luminosity in the class.

‘Good luck’, or often ‘Good-do la-ku’ – also the famous line of a Japanese actor in a celebrated drama which narrates life and happenings of a pilot – became his pet phrase and he raised his right thumb up whenever he pronounced it. All of his classmates, including me, could never envisage the seed of his dream could have buried so profoundly into his soil of heart. He was brilliant in terms of academic performance too. Once scored the highest in the subject of history, he was indeed an aficionado of astronomy.

As if history, astronomy and the profession as a captain are each jigsaw belonging to different puzzles, or because I was perhaps still a new born calf who had never gained enough worldly wisdom back then, I could never foresee his achievement. I am neither a fortune teller nor a sage; I once imagined what he would be in the future. A more-than-six-feet-tall giant, I thought, might be fit for being a professional basketball player, and the fact is, he DID excel in tossing the ball right through the hoop. One time when he invited me to play with him at a basketball court nearby his house, his talent had impressed me. The moment when he was about to throw the weighty orange, I peeked, how concentrated he was indeed despite his single-edged eyelids which sometimes may delude others into believing that his eyes were shut. To me, he is an archetype of a sort of high achievers; when high school life was over, he went on studying in one prestigious university in the home town, majoring in business administration. But the ferocity of reality has never stopped his pursuit of dream. It came to me as a surprise when I received one day his whatsapp message which read:

“Hey Aaron, can you do me a favour?”

“Sure. If there is anything I can help.”

“Am about to submit a bio to few flight companies. Can you help me with proofreading my English?”

My fingers trembled and were shortly unable to reply, my hands sweaty. Our old school days were abruptly recalled. He was, I soon realized, no longer just a giant to me, but became an imposing light tower insurmountable. Despite my finite capacity, I put as many efforts as I could to make it more perfect.

I have not the slightest idea whether he accepted my proofreading or he rewrote the bio afterwards, but for sure, to be a witness to his resolute struggles, and to hear three months later that he finally got an offer had given me immensurable pleasure. I am certain that he must have been in his seventh heaven, too, for his fervent speech on his one-and-a-half-year experience as an apprentice captain later in a class gathering – also the last time I have seen him – was really impressive.

Yesterday I received again his message in which he wrote he eventually was granted to fly long flights to Los Angeles, and he thought of me, the only one of his local friends who got settled overseas. But too ashamed I was when he asked what I am doing at the moment! Well, I always float here and there in the ocean – working sequentially as a freelance translator, a Chinese teacher, a clerk in a company and now jobless – while looking up by chance a Boeing 787 traversing the sky and wondering whether Captain Tom is having control of it.

[Poem translated from Japanese to English by James; feature image taken on 15th November, 2015 at Enoshima by James]



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