Well, Here's The Saddest Story You'll Read All Day

Onagawa, Japan, in March 2011. Image via AP
Onagawa, Japan, in March 2011. Image via AP

There’s a lot to learn about loss, grief and closure—maybe a myth—in “The Lost Ones,” Jennifer Percy’s cover story for the latest New York Times Magazine. Its two main subjects, Yuko Takamatsu and Masaaki Narita, have spent the last couple of years diving in the waters of Onagawa, Japan, searching for the bodies of their wife and daughter, respectively, who were swept away in the 2011 tsunami.


Could you do this? At first, perhaps, but could you devote so many years of your life to such a grim and heartbreaking task, each time swimming into the vast grave that took your loved one? These two men are unwavering in their focus and love; they’re just looking for corpses and know it, seeking a reasonable sort of end. The way Percy plainly and painstakingly sets out their journey is beautiful, and it kills you. She writes respectfully towards her subjects, preserving their dignity and sorrow in the details of her minimalist prose, but also sets up the wider picture by talking to Tetsuya Takagi, a forensic pathologist, about the logistics of finding the bodies and in what condition.

A few years ago, a tsunami victim washed up on the shore of Ibaraki as a skeleton with clothes on and bits of tissue on its chest. Clothes float and take longer to decompose than flesh, and so sometimes bones return in the shape of a body, held together by coats, pants, gloves and sneakers.

Fuck. If you wanted to consider your fleeting corporeality today, this is it. But it’s also a lot about what it means to be alive, or still alive, like Narita’s wife packing lunch for her lost daughter every weekend and letting it drift out onto the sea. The type of detail that will wrench your heart out in abundance:

Along the water, on the way back to the car, about halfway to the parking lot, Takamatsu stopped and closed his eyes.

“Listen,” he said.

Something like a heartbeat came from the ocean.

Takamatsu took a few steps toward some construction workers near a docked boat. The sound emanated from a long burgundy tube that descended into the water. Takamatsu said the tube must be connected to the fishbowl helmet of a diver.

“So what is it?” I said.

“It’s the sound of breathing,” he said.

Percy doesn’t editorialize all that much—she doesn’t need to, the story’s enough, and the way it ends will have you questioning if you feel devastated or lucky, probably both. Read it all here.


Chalupa Batwoman

I read things like this and it makes me ponder the whole concept of love. Like it is a complete mystery to me that we spend our lives seeking out these attachments clinging to the hope that they aren’t ripped away from us in a senseless tragedy. I love Chalupa Batman so much and I get into these sad cycles sometimes where I think about what my life would be like if he died and I am incapacitated at the thought. I think about the baby we are planning and if something were to happen to it and it is agony. My dad died almost 6 years ago exactly and the void I feel is still as gaping and raw as it was the day it happened. I don’t even really know what I’m trying to say, but fuck if stories like these don’t make me recognize the humanity of everyone around me.