CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Enigmatic ‘O-bah-keh’ Continues to Baffle

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By W.T. WIMPY HIROTO

Bulletin. Breaking news. Get David Ono on the line (I’ll bet he was never a “Davey”). Frank  Buckley will do (was he ever “Frankie?”). Tricia Toyota or Joanne Ishimine would be great. Forget about Connie Chung.  On third thought, an old-fashioned town crier will do.]

So here I am, a sad sack in swaddling clothes, crying in my Sapporo, facing the saddest of plights:  Preparing an announcement about the departure of our beloved “O-bah-keh-sama.”

No matter the excuses and delays, it had become obvious the elusive and unseen phantasmagoria was in the process of leaving. I just couldn’t get myself to accept the obvious and inevitable. For whatever reason, “O” had reduced visitations to a mere half dozen in March. This on top of just seven “tap tap tap” episodes in February. A trend was being set.

Hoping against hope the lulls were but temporary absences, I nonetheless began to consider the inevitable, writing a sad farewell. By late April, only a single knocking episode had interrupted my early morning reverie. Since the 11th of the month, nothing, nada, zip. A telling sign of my agitation and anxiety were dreams about “O.” Think about that for a minute. Dreaming about an epiphany; re-configuring a specter; conjuring up the ghost of a ghost. Now that’s what I call marginal loony tunes.

Meanwhile, I had accepted an invitation to give a talk on the Mystery of Boyle Avenue to Keiro Retirement Home residents. Should I prepare a swan song? How does one bury a wraith?

I returned to the beginning of the “O-bah-keh” story to refresh my memory of how the strange adventure began. The first hint of something out of the ordinary happened just a couple of months after moving to KRH, August 2011. The initial trio of taps happened in October but was soon forgotten, chalked up as a quirk of new surroundings. In January of ’12, the knocks made a second visit. There was no mistaking the sound of knuckle on metal door. Who would be knocking on my door at such an ungodly hour? It was certainly unsettling but not frightening.

A tsunami-like deluge of door knocks began in March. Sometimes as many as three distinct and unmistakable “tap tap tap” sequences in the early hours, interspersed with single rings of the telephone. CR2S readers are by now all too familiar with the 2012 continuum: Twenty, thirty monthly visitations became the norm. Human hands were logical culprits at first but no one/nothing was ever caught on camera in the hallway, verified by reviewing security tapes. Eventually, by way of elimination and deduction, it became apparent we weren’t dealing with anything human.

As the intrigue continued, there were also inexplicable “incidents” that strained belief: A fallen lamp, a refrigerator freezing over, a malfunctioning television set (twice), a clogged kitchen sink. Readers followed CR2S columns with growing interest, offering suggestions, possible explanations, asking pertinent questions. The “O” story captivated and confused. I even made investigative excursions into umare kawari (reincarnation) and unmei (fate). The enigma became an extension of my worldly life, though never, at any time, fearful or alarming, but always captivating.

Gradually, starting in December, the visits began to taper off: No longer daily, less than four, five times a week. Soon there were lengthier lapses. That’s when I began to think about the unthinkable. Like any “winning” streak, would it end? And when?

Well, people, let us all rest in peace rather than utter a solemn R.I.P.

This past Friday, April 26, a totally unexpected but most welcome “tap tap tap” resounded, the first time in twenty-four days! Even in elation, I parried with reality: Did I really hear something or was my sleepy imagination in a teasing mood? Dutifully, with a wide smile, I jotted down the time, 1:32 a.m., like someone who had just struck out – in bowling. She had returned, I was sure.

As if anticipating disbelief, “O” tapped out a second Gen. MacArthur-like “I have returned” sequence, a half hour later, probably figuring I would still be awake from the initial surprise. And then, like sprinkling nuts on top of a banana split, a familiar telephone ring concluded the welcome-home messages at 4:04. How do you describe a contented oldster sleeping like a baby?

I don’t have a playful explanation nor an erudite one. All I know for sure is good ole “O” returned and I couldn’t be happier. What happens now, I have no idea. I’m still in a quandary trying to figure out what this year-old adventure means. I guess we’re right back where we started from: Me confused but content; you equally perplexed but (hopefully) entertained. [I know there are readers who are completely bored with the “O” adventures; while others remain dubious. Bless you, all.]

The proposed obituary is being mothballed, but I remain wedded to this beguiling ordeal, bewitched, bothered, bewildered and obviously besotted.

And yet I can’t shake a troubling thought: Was Friday a reunion or the harbinger of a final farewell?

W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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