December 1, 2008

Haibun "Worldman"

This is a haibun I wrote some time ago in memory of my high school class mate. The above photo is the cover of a longer version of the haibun written in Japanese.

Here is the short version:


At an obscure corner of my large bookshelf, I find my high school yearbook. It's been almost 40 years since I graduated from McKinley High School in Honolulu, the class of 1968.

Flipping through the pages, looking at smiling faces of boys and girds, and reading brief well-wishing messages written by my school friends, I become interested in finding out how they are doing now. I have long lost contact with them so I begin to do web-searching.

I do not bother with girls, for they probably no longer go by the maiden names, and besides I knew so few, having been a shy boy then, so I pick only boys names like Richard Nagatomo, Russell Higa, Edmond Ching, Dickson Lau, William Torabio, Leo Keone, Leslie Kuebitz, Dexter Puluti, Jerry Fitzgerald, Howard Palmerton. None hits.
Well, to be exact, there are some hits, like Howard Palmerton, but the search result is something about Dr. Howard Palmerton, and that Palmerton, who ridiculed me for not knowing the local slang for masturbation, whom I helped gotten through his pre-algebra class, and who had trouble disassembling and reassembling the ROTC rifle, could never have made a doctor. No, this is a different guy.

Howard was the kind of guys I hanged around. I was, then, like just off the boat (I actually took a ship to come to Hawaii from Yokohama, a seven days ocean trip), going through miserable high school life: I was struggling with English, was under constant puzzlements about school life in America. Howard and the likes made fun of me but were also helpful in my getting used to the foreign environment.

Back on the yearbook, I come to the page about the student council. Yes, I know one more guy, the president of McKinley Student Council. His name is Worldman Kimm, and we were in the same physics class in our senior year. We did some experiments together and at times, he asked for my help in clarifying some concepts. He was the president, a member of National Honor Society, and only senior moving on to the Harvard University. Can you imagine a prospective Harvard guy asking for help from a nobody, a miserable off-the-boat student from rural Japan? I was honored and flattered. I liked him and we began to chat time to time.

A person like him must be very successful in some respectable field, with all his leadership and education, I reckon. Expecting something exciting to turn out, I do the web-search under his name. There must be many hits, line after line of related links to Worldman.

To my surprise, however, Google provides only one link. Something about Harvard Radcliff Class of 1972 Reuni.... How come only this?
I click the link. A single webpage appears. On the left side are menu bars, and on the right is a chart of names. What is this?
It says, "In Memoriam". Memoriam, that's impossible! But I cannot find his name in any other part of the page so I go down the list of names until I come to "Mr. Worldman Young Ha Kimm" and next to the name is Death Date "04/27/78" What! He is dead already!
And he died so young, at 27 or 28. Six years after graduation with bright future ahead, and the chart tells that his life already ended.

This finding shocks me. My expectation was to see wonderful findings, to see his name listed like, Dr. Worldman Kimm gives a lecture....or CEO Worldman Kimm announces the merger of....or Chairman Worldman Kimm presides over the anuual convention held at....CNN Special world report by Worldman Kim...I was expecting to see something befitting his name, Worldman. A person with such a name must have made some dent in the society. Instead, in the internet world, he has only one line "Worldman Young Ha Kimm / Death Date 04/27/78".

Too many years have passed already and there is no way for me to find out what happened to him. Or, maybe I do not want to know what happened and how he died. We all die some time in one way or another. My knowing will make no difference for a man died thirty years ago. And I cannot say I was so close to him as to miss him now. What bugs me is the old, old question as to why a promising guy like Worldman had to die so young. After a while I come to settle on an only comfortable answer, that he has reborn and is leading a new life somewhere.

I look at the yearbook again. On his photograph, Worldman wrote:

Good luck and best wishes to a great physicist and person

I did not turn out to be a great physicist, but at least I am trying to be a good person, good to my wife, children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends. I am positive Worldman would have been the same, too.

Even though there is only one mention of him on web, this haibun page, when Google search engine picks it up, becomes his second link, the second Worldman in the World Wide Web. That is the best I can do for him. And for me, I have his photograph with his hand-written well-wish message on it. That is good enough for me.

Sunflowers wither
leaving seeds
embedded with dreams

Wetting my color-faded
aloha shirts,
April waves


John McDonald said...

a delightful and touching memorial to a friend from a true friend

Marshall said...

What a beautiful tribute, especially about someone who was very close to my own heart.


Tikkis said...