“You are forbidden to use your left hand. Is that clear?”
His father’s voice echoed in his head as Hajime knelt down by the table. The Yamaguchi family had kindly invited some lucrative neighbours to eat dinner with them that night, and that meant the whole family had to be there, Hajime included. All day the little boy had been nervous about how the meal would go. As a man who had worked his way to a rather notable status, Hajime’s father was determined that his family made a good impression. Which is why this rule would be impressed upon Hajime for as long as he lived with his family: Do not use your left hand in front of guests.
“It is dishonorable.”
Everyone began to eat. Hajime hesitated, staring at the chopsticks laying on their rest, arranged on the right side of his dishes. A small breath, and the child reached for them, shifting them around awkwardly in his hand until he was certain they were resting properly in his grip. The rice would be easy, wouldn’t it? The boy plucked shakily at grains of sticky-white, the chopsticks quivering in his weak right hand.
Just as he was about to lift the small morsel to his mouth, the rice slipped from between the two sticks, falling right back into the bowl. Heat bloomed in his cheeks, tears of frustration burning against the backs of his eyes. With a tremulous breath, he set the chopsticks back down, fighting to keep his composure. He could feel their guests staring at him, wondering what was wrong with him. A whispered comment, questioning over whether he had learned how to properly use the essential implement. His father’s stern, icy stare shifted towards him.
I cannot do it, he thought ashamedly.
“Anou, sumimasen. I feel unwell. May I go lay down?” Hajime lied, placing his hand over his stomach as if it was paining him.
His dad looked at him for a moment before nodding.
Safe in his room at last, Hajime curled up on his futon, brushing away the tears that stubbornly rolled down his cheeks. Hatred of his left hand welled up within. Why was his right so weak? Why couldn’t he be like everyone else?
After a long moment alone in his room, the shoji quietly whispered open. “Hajime,” his mother’s voice, soft. She knelt down beside the sniffling child and began to comb his hair. The soothing feeling eased away his shame, stoppering his tears.“You’ll learn to do things properly,” she continued. “I’ll help you correct this.”
But he had been born this way. Why did it need to be corrected?