I'm in Nagasaki today.
They burn their trash
My neighbor is the first to explain this to me, and in Japanese he says, "combustibles go here," pointing to an obnoxious bright red trash bin. It just pops out: "Everything's combustible at a hot enough temperature," I tell him, and he shakes his head. He doesn't understand English.
So, they burn the trash. The smoke rises in thick columns and hangs in the air like jazz
notes, dissipating in the early evening and leaving in its wake an acrid smell of melting plastic
and burning paper
. I suspect that if you live here long enough, if you're accustomed to this phenomenon, it becomes as inevitable as train whistles and earthquakes
: something you simply stop noticing. Anything to have it gone, I suppose. Torch it
and move on.
Today is August 9th, and it's the first time in my life that I'm acutely aware of the fact that this is the anniversary of Nagasaki's atomic bombing
. I'm not proud of this, but I readily admit it. I have never cared as much as I should. This is true in regards to this and much more.
As has been pointed out before
, Robert Lewis co-piloted the Enola Gay
, the plane that dropped Little Boy
, and as he stared from the cockpit at the blooming mushroom cloud that signaled that city's destruction, he claimed to have tasted
. It tasted like lead
, he later said, and he immediately inscribed the following words in his diary: My God, what have we done?
Humanity, I am sad to report, is not quick in learning the consequences of its actions; three days'
time was hardly enough for us to reflect on the pure scale of the violence we had unleashed with the dropping of a single bomb. Nagasaki was incinerated in turn.
The problem is that nothing ever truly burns, of course. Einstein
knew this. Energy is conserved. This rather basic principle, so grand in its simplicity, is a large part of the reason the bomb actually worked, after all.
On my way home from the grocery store today, I could almost taste it myself. I almost convinced myself I could hear the humming of B-52
engines in the sound of waves crashing against rocks. The water is higher today than it was yesterday, and yesterday was higher than the day before. I swear to God, one day it's going to overtake this town. We keep it up, and it's going to tear this place apart.