Street lights illuminate the grin on Florian’s bearded face as he takes a gulp from his Asahi beer, one hand on a bicycle that comes close to teetering over into Edward, the lanky Englishman. We’re finishing up our 5th can from our 5th 7-11, the ubiquitous convenience stores serving as a helpful way point for our wanderings. The night is near silent as we wean our way through thoroughfares and alleyways, apparitions materializing underneath street lamps and vanishing a second later. For Hiroshima it’s a Wednesday night. For us travellers what day it is hardly mattered. Before I can suggest another 7-11 pit-stop Edward takes a sudden turn into a side street restaurant.
We’ve been touring the city for 2 hours on a steady diet of adrenaline, laughs and beer. Food is a better idea at this point.
This was a far cry from my afternoon spent touring the war memorial and the lush green walkways of a city that has had to rebuild from scratch into the archetypal metropolis that now stands in its place. Its perfectly designed streets and bridges makes its previous incarnation all the more apparent to the imaginative mind. Instead of gleaming skyscrapers reflecting the midday sun, I see the charred rubble of wooden and clay houses that lay smoking below a horizon tinged a crimson red against dark gray clouds. Logically I knew it would be this way. Emotionally it was something else.
Even in retrospect I knew I had made the right decision to come.
The prospect of experiencing joy in Hiroshima had seemed an impossibility just a few hours earlier. Yet now, my self induced depression had been completely flipped on its head with the massive swing making the high all the more enjoyable. Bicycle beers weren’t making me and my new friends forget the pain burned into the streets of Hiroshima. This was something different as we cruised through the alleyways and shared companionable silence broken only by the constant hum of our tires on asphalt and the occasional swear and accompanying laughs from narrowly avoided collisions. We were children enjoying two wheeled flight through a jungle of concrete, street lights and restaurant signs, our adult minds appreciating the resolve of a people that could create beauty out of the ashes of nothingness. In our own way we were giving back to Hiroshima, our merriment traded for the soothing touch of the city.
Cycling through those streets was therapy I hadn’t realized I needed. I couldn’t accurately put the my tempest of thoughts into imperfect words. But what I could do was move my feet forward one rotation at a time, the thoughts embraced, permitted to flow and given form in a ride of elation and sorrow.
This post is from an experience in June 2014, prior to me starting Worldly Warrior