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Rokko’s Red String


The first time the Englishman climbed Mt. Rokko, he was in a foul mood. The day had been hot– unbearably so– and now people he didn’t even know and wasn’t sure he liked were forcing him, via social pressure, to climb a mountain. He hadn’t spoken to anyone on the way up, partly to save his breath but also to tacitly show his disdain for all around him.

That disdain evaporated once at the top. It lifted out of him and dissipated into the sky like a noxious gas. The view was beyond stunning. Beyond awe-inspiring. Beyond beautiful, magical, breath-taking, stupefying, sublime and paradisiacal.

It was perfect.

He tried to etch it onto the back of his eyelids, so that he might see it when he closed his eyes. He wanted to drink it in, to allow it to suffuse his body. He had to settle for just looking. He was only human, after all.

To no one at all, and not entirely sure why, he said “If I ever ask someone to marry me, it will be up here.”

At that moment, a red string tied itself around his little finger. He didn’t notice– he couldn’t take his eyes off the view.

Eventually, his friends dragged him away from the sight and took him home. But he never forgot.


The red string remained and he ignored it (well, he was English). He went to work and sometimes the string would pull taught and he’d find himself drawn to follow the string to its origin, wherever that might be, but he ignored it.

One week, he had a Monday off and he decided, on a whim, to fly to a city he’d never visited before, had no connection with. As he journeyed there, the string grew slacker and slacker, started to spool around his feet and trip him up when he went to the lavatory. It was losing tension. He was getting closer.

He landed and the string led him to a bar. He ordered a drink and took a seat, carting around a mountain of scarlet string. Suddenly, there was a commotion at the door– someone had fallen. The Englishman got up to help and found the man had tripped over the string. The Englishman was mortified (well, he was English) until he found that they shared the string– it was tied to both of them.

They discussed it long into the night, drink after drink, joke after joke, neither noticing that the string had grown shorter. It didn’t need to stretch anymore; they were together.


Several years later, a new string appeared, and the Englishman knew it was time. He’d been considering it, of course, but this made his mind up for him. This string was different– it was longer (they’d left Japan years ago), it was less vivid (a sort of pinkish violet) and his paramour couldn’t really see it (maybe if he was considering the future; if he really thought about it). But, most tellingly, this string lead back to Mt. Rokko.

And it was tied around their ring fingers.


Rory Kelly

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