Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Guest Writer: J.O. Vaughn


物の哀れ. It’s written with a silver sharpie pen on top of Bethany’s latest sketchbook journal. I don’t know what it means but I have to admire the patience it must have taken for her to write out the characters, this means something important for her. I only hope she remembers when she looks at it again. Bethany is resting on the chaise in the living room but all her research materials are scattered around the floor. She’s had another tantrum and by the looks of things it was serious. Inside the 物の哀れ notebook is a small sketch in the bottom right corner, a tree losing its blossoms, they’re being carried away by some majestic current and I can’t be sure but something tells me the drawing is incomplete; there is something missing that should be between the roots.
Picking up another notebook – the one I’d seen her carrying over the last few days – I can see just how difficult things have been: what use to be delicate calligraphy now looks like something a third grader would scribble on a good day. A lot of the words and sentences – most are incoherent and misspelled – have been scratched through, some so harshly it has torn the page, and where her ink pen had been left to bookmark her last page the last thing she’d done was draw several pictures: what looks like a hospital bed, mail with dollar signs on them, and a frowning face, the art doesn’t begin to measure the quality in the sketchbook but this wasn’t meant to be a work of art and when I look back at the sentences I know what it means now.
Having finished my duty, a sense of pride for having been able to do it without waking her, I move to gaze at my queen. She looks flushed, a soft rose color in her cheeks which, under normal circumstances, would have been flattering with her soft brown complexion, except I can see where the tears ran down her face. Her glasses were on her laptop and so tracing her steps she must have quit trying to hand-write her ideas and after it got too difficult to even type them, perhaps the brightness of the screen was just too much, she tossed it all aside and decided to cry herself to sleep. It has been a very rough night for her.
I’m drowning in memories of the last few weeks – she is beginning to lose comprehension not only of words but more simple things like when the water is scolding hot against her skin; she says she feels cold and can’t get warm. Her decline accelerates but she never shows me this side, she always manages to give a smile whenever I’m around but she hasn’t noticed she doesn’t sing anymore so I know just how truly depressed she feels. Thinking of this morning when she sent me off to work with a kiss and a smile, embracing it for a second, I don’t notice she’s been awake, perhaps for some time, and staring at me until she rests her hand on my knee, “I’m not going back to the doctors.”
She voice is passive but determined and knowing her the way I do and seeing her recent work I understand she rather die than leave me bankrupt as well as alone. If she weren’t looking at me with her empathic brown eyes, that transcended look of hers, I would have allowed myself to rage but there’s nothing I can do, “I was going to make myself some coffee. Cranberry juice?”
She shakes her head, “Mono no aware,” she says barely audible as she sits up and points at her sketchbook which is sitting on top of the rest of her reference materials.
I’m not sure if she is speaking coherently or if this is another episode of hers, “What,” I ask nervously.
“On the sketchbook, that’s what it says, ‘Mono no aware’.”
“Which means?”
“Wiki says it means ‘the pathos of things’. It’s Japanese. I had to look up a lot to understand that I already understood it. It’s what I’ve been feeling lately. More and more lately,” she gestures for me to give her the book.
I can’t begin to fathom what she’s talking about, she has always had the upper hand when it came to anything academic, I’ll have to look it up later after she’s fallen asleep. I don’t want to seem ignorant – lately she hasn’t had the patience to put up with it – I just don’t want her to stop talking, “Where did it come from?”
“A friend. Sebastian. We were talking and I told him about a dream I had. It’s a dream I’ve always had when I was a child but it’s back and been haunting me lately. I dream about sakura. Laying in a bed of sakura, cherry blossoms. The petals swarming around me, burying me, but it’s so peaceful. I don’t ever want to leave it and I get mad when I have to wake up. Sebastian says sakura is associated with death. I looked it up for myself and that’s when I saw it: Mono no aware.”
Her eyes are losing focus, and she’s lost grip of the notebook, I can’t let this happen before she tells me everything. In the morning she will have forgotten it all and right now she looks so content, she needs to remember about the sakura, “And?”
“And what?”
“Mono no aware.”
It’s too late, I know before she even asks, “What’s that?”
I can’t bring myself to tell her it’s happened again, “Nothing,” I stand, bringing her along with me, and carrying her to our bed I just let her have peace, “Just something I heard about, thought you’d be interested being the family genius and everything; something to do with sakura. You can look it up in the morning.”
She murmurs as she presses closer to me, “I want to – sakura,” and she’s gone.

© J.O. Vaughn 2011

J. O. Vaughn lives in Winston-Salem, NC where she spends most of her time researching having a passion for knowledge which she uses for her writing. Feel free to check out her website Inkslingers Anon. She appreciates constructive criticism.


  1. Very well-paced, painfully vivid and poetic description of decline and death and the accompanying helplessness of the observer.

  2. Thanks. I wasn't sure about the ending. It seemed to be left wanting but I'm glad you liked it.


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