Trevor was surprised to see the helpful Hiroshima University professor walking out of the public restroom of the bus station.
“You,” the professor said without a hint of animosity. He was simply surprised and had forgotten his formalities.
“Professor Takashima, what are you doing here?”
“I was taking a walk. I had to use the toilet,” he laughed.
Hiroshima was not a small city and Trevor was also a little shocked. He wondered for a moment if the professor was stalking him but pushed the thought from his mind. Given a few moments, he remembered himself and bowed his head. “Thank you for helping me out the other day.”
“Iie. Kochira koso. You know, I am a teacher of mathematics. This is a very low statistical probability that we meet again.”
Trevor thought of his parents, about how they would have said that it was “fate” or that “everything happens for a reason.” Those words didn’t have any meaning for Trevor anymore—they were just empty mantras; unanswerable koans—but after the professor had helped him off the street and into a hostel, and their meeting again, he was tempted to think there was something as trivial as “fate.” Still, Trevor liked the professor’s answer better.
“I was able to get to a bank and cash my traveler’s checks. Here’s the money I owe you for the hostel.” Trevor handed the money with one hand. Takashima-sensei took the money with both hands and bowed. Trevor scratched his head, unsure what to say or do next. He figured he would have left the money with the university, but being able to pay the professor back in person and knowing he had received the money made Trevor feel the greatest sense of relief.
“How long until you meet your friend?” Professor Takashima broke the silence.
“Oh,” I shuffled in my pocket for my ticket. “About an hour.” I showed it to him, since he could read it better.
“Aa. Soo. Soo. Well, I can show you the peace park quickly.”
“That would be great. Thank you.”
Professor Takashima breathed a quick “ikimashoo” before they left. He told Trevor that they would only be able to see the Bomb Dome before he had to catch his bus. Trevor said that was fine. It was more than enough and Trevor did not want to feel that he owed this beneficent instructor any more than he already did.
The professor led Trevor to the Bomb Dome, an eaten-out shell of a building, supported by a collection of braces. The professor looked aloof and a little unimpressed. He had probably seen it too many times to care. He asked Trevor if he had a camera. Trevor dug into his bulging pockets and handed the device to the professor. “Big smile!” the professor shouted and Trevor had never felt so awkward as he was standing in front of a building that represented how his people had murdered thousands of the professor’s people while smiling like an idiot.
The professor stopped before a bridge and pointed. “This is where the bomb exploded.” He pointed up. “500 meters up there.” Trevor was amazed. He was prepared to see a crater or something, maybe a part of the landscape changed. Everything looked greener, actually, when he pointed it out. He was amazed, not because a bomb had exploded here, but he knew that every citizen of this city has this spot, 500 meters in the sky, burned into their collective imagination. “This park,” he explained, “is a monument to the rebirth of life.” Trevor scratched his beard, lost for words.
Thinking of the bomb, he thought of saying it was “fate” or that “everything happens for a reason.” In this situation, with so many lives lost, the words sounded so cold. He thought about the statistical probability of the bombs dropping over not dropping. He imagined a world in which the bombs were not dropped. The mere possibility of that scenario made him feel warm.
“Thank you for showing me this.”