The doctor, whom I didn't realize had called, was there in the sick room. In hope of bringing comfort to his patient, he was preparing another enema. The nurse was asleep in another room, resting from the previous night's watch. My brother, unaccustomed to such tasks, was on his feet and flustered. As soon as I appeared, he instructed me to help and returned to his seat. Acting in his place, I positioned an oiled paper underneath Father's buttocks.
Father's condition eased a bit. The doctor stayed for half an hour to confirm the efficacy of the enema, then took his leave with a promise to call again soon. On his way out, he made a point to say that we should not hesitate to summon him if the situation demanded.
I withdrew from the sickroom, where a turn for the worse seemed iminent, and went back to Sensei's letter. Try as I might, though, I couldn't calm my nerves. As I sat at my desk, I imagined my brother would call at any moment. I feared that his next call would be the last, and the thought set my hands to trembling. I paged mechanically through Sensei's letter. I regarded the characters, each neatly penned within its box on the page. However, I lacked the faculty to draw out any meaning. Even skimming proved too great a challenge. I flipped my way to the final page and prepared to refold the pile for safekeeping back on my desk. In that moment, one line near the end caught my eye.
"By the time this letter reaches you, I'll be gone from this world. I'll be already deceased."
I was shocked. My breast, so agitated and restless as it was, seemed to freeze in an instant. I flipped through the pages in reverse order, grabbing a line from each as I went. Eager to learn what I needed to know, I stabbed at the dancing text with my eyes. In that moment, the only question was Sensei's well-being. His past, and all the unknowns he'd promised to reveal, were no longer of consequence. As I reversed through its pages, the lengthy letter was loathe to reveal an answer. I tossed it down in frustration.