Chapter 19: Her Ginkgo, My Sakura
Fan fiction inspired by Pokemon
Rating: Young Adult
I didn’t attend Erika’s wedding that day. I was not part of the wedding party, so it wasn’t too much of a big deal. I rushed to the hospital that day instead. Something had happened to Mei Jia.
Mei had been traveling throughout the Kanto region to train her pokémon ever since she was eleven years old and passed the senior member exam. When she was fifteen, she received the eight Kanto badges and was eligible for the Pokémon League tournament. She participated at least twice on her own, but never got very far. At age seventeen, she decided to return to Celadon City and enroll in a cram school, like I did, to find work. She also attended the gym’s poetry class with me. Things went smoothly for Mei until the day before Erika’s wedding.
That day, Mei contracted a serious illness. She fell into a coma while she was at home. Amy’s parents rushed her to the local hospital to get her treated right away.
In those days I was busy finishing up my undergraduate work, earning money at the cafe, and working in the university’s Special Investigations Department as an intern. I was also in the process of enrolling in a doctoral program. Needless to say, Mei’s accident was a setback to whatever plans I had then. I would have liked to go to Erika’s wedding, but I couldn’t let Mei wake up alone with no one else around. I volunteered myself to see her, letting Amy’s family have a break from taking care of her.
I arrived at the hospital that afternoon. Mei was still unconscious as she laid in her bed with IVs and medical sensors attached to her body. Vileplume also came along, but I let her stand outside. She was scared of seeing Mei in this state. I sat down beside her quietly, unable to make any physical contact with her. The doctors and nurses told me that any contact could affect her condition, so I obeyed. I felt like I was doing the right thing by being present for her, and yet I felt helpless because there was nothing I could do.
Mei woke up early the next morning, as it was still dark. The wedding was already over and Amy’s parents joined me later that night. Mei was very disoriented and at first, she didn’t recognize us, but she was relieved and happy to see we were all there for her.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Mei stayed in the hospital in order to recover or have assistance if she ever had a relapse. I visited her at least twice a week whenever I had a break from my busy schedule.
“How are you feeling today, Mei?” I asked.
Mei smiled and nodded as I held her hand to comfort her.
“I’m glad it’s sunny today,” she said. “When the sun shines like this, I forget that I’m even sick.”
I smiled when she said that. I hoped she would recover soon so that she could return home and continue with her normal activities.
“Are there any new assignments from the poetry class, Shu-chan?” she asked.
“Not much,” I said. “Just one of those describe yourself things. This time, the senior instructors wanted us to define ourselves as a plant and explain why.”
“That sounds silly,” she laughed. “I don’t think I can think of myself as a plant at all.”
Her laughter was comforting to me, as it always had been.
“Neither can I,” I agreed.
“Tell you what, Shu-chan,” she said. “If I were a plant, which one do you think I would be and why?”
The question perplexed me. I couldn’t think of what plant I would be, let alone what someone else might be. I pondered about it.
“I guess,” I stuttered, “you would be a sakura, Mei.”
Mei looked at me in confusion.
“A sakura? Why would I be one of those? I don’t even like the color pink!”
“No reason,” I said embarrassingly. “It was the first thing that came to mind, I guess.”
I tried to change the subject as I thought about it some more.
“Okay then, Mei, what plant do you think I would be?” I asked.
“That’s easy,” grinned Mei. “You would be a ginkgo!”
“A ginkgo? What’s that?”
“It’s a tree that used to grow all over the place where my real parents used to live. You remember that pendant I gave you for the senior member exam?”
“You mean that green fan-shaped thing? The necklace part broke because I’ve grown a lot since that time and couldn’t wear it, but I still have it.”
“That pendant is in the shape of a ginkgo leaf!”
Mei sat up in bed as she continued to describe to me this amazing tree. My tree.
“The ginkgo is a very unique tree. According to scientists, it is the only tree within its phylum. That means it doesn’t have any cousins or even distant relative plants that even come close to what it is!”
“That sounds depressing,” I said.
“Not really, I think it’s a wonderful trait. For thousands of years, the ginkgo never had to evolve or adapt to its environment in order to survive. That’s why it doesn’t have any relatives in the plant kingdom. For a tree that’s so beautiful, its resilience transcends across the ages and continues to thrive all over the world now.”
“So you think I’m like this ginkgo tree, Mei? That’s cool.”
“No way, Shu-chan! The only trait you share with the ginkgo is that its seeds smell like manure! That’s for comparing me to a sakura!”
I felt a pain in my heart as she said that. Then she laughed.
“I’m kidding! Lighten up!”
Mei folded her arms onto her lap as she relaxed in her bed.
“But you really are like a ginkgo, Shu-chan. Like the ginkgo, you can thrive just about anywhere, and your spirit can never be swayed so easily. You really are resilient. That’s what I like about you.”
What she likes about me. Her words resonated inside my head repeatedly. I’ve had compliments from the girls before, but they never felt so strong or moving to me as hers did.
“You know, Mei, I think I just figured out why you remind me of a sakura,” I said.
“Really?” she said, getting excited. “Tell me!”
“Well, as you know, the sakura looks like an ordinary tree for most of the year,” I said. “It doesn’t stand out at all.”
Mei pouted for a second, misunderstanding me.
“But in springtime, when the sun finally peeks out for most of the day after a long, cold winter, the sakura’s flowers bloom so beautifully that I could never take my eyes off of it. Of course, the flowers are so delicate that it only stays like that for about a month and then the tree looks barren and ordinary again. Even so, I anticipate every year at the same time when I can gaze upon the beauty of the sakura. That’s what you remind me of, Mei. A fragile, yet captivating beauty.”
Mei gave me a mild, tender smile.
“That sounds wonderful! I never thought you could be so articulate!”
“Well, I did go through four years of college now,” I bragged.
“You know, there’s a grove in Viridian City where I used to live that’s owned by one of Erika’s uncles. It’s on private property, but I used to go there all the time when I felt sad or needed to get away from my parents. There are so many ginkgo trees there, alongside so many sakura trees as well. And when spring comes, the winds look so beautiful. Maybe when I get better, we can go there during the spring time and watch the sakura flowers bloom?”
“That sounds like a fine plan,” I said.
With that, I hugged Mei in her bed and left for the day.
It was at that moment, I realized that like the sakura, how beautiful Mei had become; and how much I had loved that about her. It was the first time I ever fell in love with a girl. I wanted to cherish that moment for the rest of my life.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A sakura’s beauty comes for only a brief moment every year, and fades away in an instant until the next spring. And just as quickly as I saw it, Mei’s beauty faded away in an instant.
I had just graduated with a bachelor’s degree at the University of Pokémon Studies in Saffron City, and was already planning to stay there as a doctoral candidate in the following semester. After the graduating ceremony, I had found out that Mei had a severe relapse of her illness. The doctors tried to do what they could to save her, but it was too late.
Mei Jia died a few days later. I never got to tell her how I felt.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As the sun started to rise this morning, I left Brian alone at my apartment and went for a walk. I was on my way to Amy’s family house, the place where Mei once lived. And the place where her ashes had been kept.
When I reached my destination, Amy’s parents greeted me warmly and welcomed me into their home. I politely took my shoes off and sat before a small shrine in the living room.
A single urn sat in the center, surrounded by small decorations and trinkets of things that Mei liked, or the things her favorite pokémon liked. A photograph of a teenage Mei smiled back lightly at those who prayed for her. Dried ginkgo leaves had been scattered about as well.
I burned some incense for her as I prayed for Mei on this ordinary day.
Mei, a complicated matter has come up for me. I don’t know what to do about a figment of my past, and how it has affected a trainer and his pokémon. It is times like these when I feel like you would have the right things to say to me. I can’t tell what it is that I should do for him.
But rest assured, Mei, my heart is in the right place, and I will not be swayed so easily. You are always my Sakura. And I am your Ginkgo.