I always thought I was scared of dying. But I’m not. Perhaps my reaction is simply delayed, but somehow I don’t think so. What terrifies you is not to know where the danger is coming from. But once you’ve actually honed in on the bastard, there is no fear, only determination. I’m Action Man in a shoot out.
When I was 19 I was on a boat going from Shimonoseki in southern Japan to Pusan in Korea. Half way across the Korean straights a typhoon caught up with us. The old ferry was rocking and creaking; it started leaking from the roof; a man fell overboard and was never hear from again. Of course we all thought our last moment had come. I always hate rocky boat trips, but this one was different. I was strangely calm and determined.
There were a few foreigners on the boat. At first we hadn’t said a word to each other — each one alone with our Oriental experiences. But now we all gathered in the hull of the ship and started telling the stories of our lives. I had a box of bananas with me that I intended to sell on the black market in Korea — that was a common way to make money for foreign travelers back then — and I started sharing the bananas around. We told our stories, ate our bananas, got sea sick and threw up. Very much out of character, I was the one keeping everybody else in a reasonably positive mood.
Eventually the boat turned around. The weather improved right away and before long we were back in Japan. Us foreigners went into our separate experiences again and when leaving the boat we hardly even said goodbye to each other. Good to know, I thought at the time, good to know this is how I react if it’s really, really serious.