A woman who had a difficult childhood finds a place for herself as a nurse, nearly loses herself in the effort to protect that hard-won ground, and then through key encounters and experiences is able to recover herself once again.
Yayoi was found abandoned shortly after being born, and grew up in an orphanage. It was at the orphanage that she was given her name. Since it is the old name for March in Japan, everybody assumes that’s her birth month. But in fact it only means the month in which she was abandoned.
After leaving the orphanage, Yayoi becomes a licensed practical nurse?a certification she is able to earn while on the job. The doctors at the hospital where she works are arrogant and overbearing, with little respect for the nurses or sympathy for their patients. But Yayoi expresses no objections because she has finally found a sense of belonging.
Yayoi had been taken up for adoption when she was small, but her fear of being abandoned again had led her to repeatedly test her new parents’ love for her by doing bad things, and in the end they had returned her to the orphanage. One consequence was that she missed a solid block of school right at the time multiplication was being taught, so she never learned her times tables. She also took away from the experience an understanding that she must always be a “good girl” if she doesn’t want to lose what she has, so she now instinctively “goes along to get along,” no matter how outrageously others may behave.
The hospital gets a highly capable new head nurse. She immediately recognizes the unhealthy dynamics and starts a campaign to improve them, expressing her opinions without reserve even to the doctors.
One day, a patient dies from complications following surgery. The head nurse realizes that the surgeon is at fault and tells Yayoi, who also assisted in the surgery. But when the time comes to explain the outcome to the patient’s family members, Yayoi does as the surgeon asks and helps to make sure the head nurse is not present.
Around the same time, an elderly man Yayoi encountered on her way to work one day is admitted to the hospital. He had been out taking a walk when he heard shouting and the wails of a child coming from an apartment house he passed. Worried that the child was being abused, he had stopped Yayoi to ask if she was from the neighborhood and might know something about it.
As he is being cared for by Yayoi in the hospital, the old man realizes that she is unable to do multiplication. One day when she is at his bedside, he quietly hands her a times table and says, “It couldn’t have been easy, becoming a nurse when you never even learned to do multiplication.”
Yayoi is assisting in surgery again when the doctor makes another mistake. This time the patient survives, thanks to the head nurse’s quick thinking, but the fact that she took action without the doctor’s permission becomes an issue, and she is forced to leave the hospital.
When it is the old man’s turn for surgery, the doctor fails to order a transfusion even after it becomes clear that the patient is losing too much blood, so Yayoi takes action on her own, praying that it will save the old man’s life. March might have been the month in which she was abandoned, she tells herself, but it was also the month when someone rescued her, and the only reason she is standing there now is because that person had prayed for her to make it then, just as she is praying for this old man now . . .
The work was short-listed for the 2014 Yamamoto Shugoro Prize.