“Ren-chan, this is our new home,” said Reiko Kato.
A small boy of 6 years was fiercely hugging his small rabbit plushie and looking about the entranceway of the apartment. To him, the place seemed pretty big.
“Welcome,” said an approaching man. His voice was gentle and warm. He came and gave Reiko a peck on the cheek and looked down at Ren.
“Mama, who’s this?” the boy asked.
“This is Touma,” she replied.
The man kneeled and looked the boy in the eyes. “I’m your mom’s boyfriend,” he said.
Touma, Eito, Hiroto, Itsuki, Benjiro, and so many others I have forgotten; all boyfriends-of-the-week. At first, the above scene played out a myriad of times as we moved in and out of different places. Then mom wised up and found a job and a stable place for us to live so I didn’t have to change schools, so often.
She still went through men like water. At the time, I didn’t understand what she was looking for. Many years later, my aunt gave me a box of personal affects left to her by my mother. I was incensed that it had been kept from me for so long. In it, I found a diary. Mom had started writing it to deal with the sudden and tragic death of my father, having died in an industrial accident. She also journaled every man she ever dated, and quite a few bits about me that I was too young to remember.
So, what was my mother frantically looking for? My father—or as close as a replacement as she could find. Sadly, she never found him, and her lifestyle earned her an illness that took her away from me. I pray that as a spirit, she was able to find my father and join him once again. I hope that one day I can join them too.
—Excerpt of an interview with Ren Kato, playwright of “The Diary of Reiko Kato.”
Kato was first to the usual table for dinner. He had been trying to figure out what to say to Mitsuoka and Ikeda for the past half hour and still came up with nothing. He thought about asking Takahashi, but he knew the answer would be: No.
Murata sat down and said hello with a smile.
“Hi,” Kato replied.
“What’s wrong?” Murata asked.
Kato rolled his eyes. “Why does there have to be something wrong?”
Murata laughed. “This is you we’re talking about. What did you do now?”
Kato snorted. “It’s not about me this time.”
Kato looked over to the line to see if the two ukes were in it, which they were not. “I got word that the semes are going to try to make another move on Matsuoka-san and Ikeda-san.”
“Oh, no,” Murata said with a frown.
“Yeah, but I’m not sure how to tell them. I want to help them out, but I don’t know how.”
“Well, warning them will help,” Murata said.
Kato looked to Murata and then back to the line, waiting.
“You still gonna be there tonight for cards?”
Kato looked back at Murata. “Yes, yes, I said I’d be there, didn’t I?”
“Good. More fun that way.”
Kato smiled. “I wish Takahashi-san would be there though.” He again looked at the line.
“What are you doing?” Murata asked.
“Watching out for the two ukes,” replied Kato. The last 4 boys came through the door and Takahashi was bringing up the rear as usual. But, the two ukes didn’t show up. Kato began to worry. Did something already happen? Damn that Handa. He warned me too late.
After the prayer, the boys started eating. Tonight, was pizza, and Kato loved the stuff. Kato noticed something was off about Murata. He wasn’t sure what it was though.
“You okay?,” Kato asked.
Murata glanced at Kato then gave a little sigh. “I’m homesick.”
“Oh,” Kato said between bites.
“Yeah, and my little sister’s birthday is Friday. Everyone will be there but me. I can’t go home until Christmas.” Murata picked up another slice of pizza and began nibbling. “Seems so far away.”
Kato reached out and squeezed Murata’s shoulder in support. “At least you have a home to be sick about, my friend.”
Murata smiled and nodded. “Funny, I never really got along with my sister. I always picked on her when we were growing up. One time, I got her so mad she chased me around the house with a kitchen knife.” Murata laughed softly.
“So, the truth comes out,” said Kato with a grin.
Murata shrugged with a smile. “I used to raid the cookie jar at night and when mom would ask about it, I would blame my sister, who would get in trouble for it.”
“Sounds like you deserved to get stabbed,” Kato said with a laugh.
Murata grinned. “Yeah, it would have served me right.”
Kato listened to a few other stories Murata told, and he laughed, but underneath it all was a layer of shared sadness. He was homesick too; not for his aunt’s home, which he never really belonged to, but his mom. Even though they moved around a lot, his mother always tried her best to make it a “home.”