210 was a normal year, and like all the other children born that year in the town of Kamisu 66, I was a very normal child.
But to my mother, I wasn’t. She was nearing the end of her thirties and was convinced that she would never bear children. In our time, having a child in your thirties is considered really late pregnancy.
Furthermore, my mother, Mizuho Watanabe, held the important office of librarian. Her decisions not only influenced the future of our town, but in certain cases could also result in the deaths of others. Having to endure that kind of pressure every day, in addition to being careful about her pregnancy isn’t the kind of hardship people usually have to deal with.
During that period, my father, Takashi Sugiura, was the mayor of the town. That in itself was a busy job. But around the time I was born, the job of a librarian came with an incomparably greater responsibility than that of a mayor. Of course it’s still like that now, but it was probably even more pronounced back then.
My mother was in the middle of a meeting about the classification of a newly discovered collection of books when she went into labor. This was over a week before the expected due date, but since her water broke without warning, she was immediately transported to the maternity hospital near the outskirts of town. The sound of my first cry was heard not ten minutes after. Unfortunately, my umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck. My face was purple and I was unable to cry properly. The birthing assistant, who was new at the job, nearly collapsed in panic at this. Luckily, the cord was easily cut and I finally breathed in the air of this world and let out a healthy cry.
Two weeks later, in the same maternity hospital, Maria Akizuki, who would later become my friend, was born. On top of being a premature breech birth, she was, like me, born with her umbilical cord around her neck. Though her condition was much more serious than mine; she was almost dead when she was delivered.
The birthing assistant, armed with the experience from my birth, apparently handled this very calmly. If there had been but a tiny slip and the cord was cut just a bit later, there’s no doubt Maria would have died.
When I first heard this story, I was elated that I had somehow indirectly saved my friend’s life. But now, every time I remember this, I’m hit with a wave of complicated thoughts. Because if she had never been born, there would never have been such a huge loss of human lives…
Let’s return to the story. I spent my happy childhood surrounded by the lush nature of my hometown.