I was in school to become a therapist before my mom died. You have to do a lot of self-analysis. In one course, we wrote papers about ourselves every week. My professor wrote a note on one of mine, almost at the end of the semester, that said, “Abused children can’t.” I think I stopped breathing when I read it.

A while later, I said to my mom, gently, carefully, in the car, “Did you hit us a lot when we were little?” I don’t know what I thought the answer would be. Maybe, “sometimes,” maybe, “once in a while,” maybe, “oh, when you were bad.”

She said, “Yes.”

Long pause.

I wanted to know more and I didn’t want to know more. I asked, “For what kinds of things?”

She said, “Anything. Everything.” She was staring straight ahead, not looking at me, and I could tell how painful it was to her. So I didn’t ask any more. Within the month she’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and five weeks later, she was dead.

Akira didn’t come out of nowhere.