Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami (Part 1)

I find great joy in writing short stories. His first fiction book was published in 1979. I alternate between novels and short stories. Some of the earliest short stories were written in 1981. It takes about 1 week to complete one, before editing. You can create a story from a small idea. Not every story will be a success and you need to understand that. Some readers prefer short stories to my novels. Some of my best novels are ‘The wind-up bird chronicle; south of the border; west of the sun; sputnik sweetheart; Kafka on the shore’. Almost everything I write can seem strange and queer. Some of the short stories have been incorporated into novels. Both short stories and novels interact inside me in an organic way.

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. I was talking to my cousin about my watch. His hearing was affected after a baseball incident when young. Not all expensive watches were accurate, he exclaimed. He didn’t think it was tough to get around without a watch. We were going to the hospital. I was 25, he was 14. The bus finally arrived and it was brand new. My cousin didn’t meet up with his friends from school. There were several old people in the bus, they appeared to be mountain climbers. My cousin was going to see the ear doctor. I left my job and broke up with my girlfriend and my grandma died recently. Now, I was starting to be reclusive. My aunt requested that I send him to the hospital. It was 5 years since I last saw my cousin. We soaked in the beautiful scenery from the bus. I visited the café while he received treatment. Some of the scenes looked oddly familiar. I remember accompanying a friend’s girlfriend in hospital years ago. I tried to recall those times. I recalled that the both of us had a good time. She drew something on a napkin. She drew a lady sleeping in a house surrounded by blind willows, which were trees. The trees have pollen and tiny flies covered with pollen crawled into her ear so she could sleep. The flies would later gobble up her flesh. A young man wanted to rescue her. It sounded like a sad story, being eaten up by flies. My cousin was done and he carried a bag of medicine. We ate in the café. My cousin was apprehensive that the tests would work. Not being able to hear didn’t bother him much. What can be seen by anybody isn’t all that important. I examined his ear. I imagined flies entering my friend’s ear and laying eggs inside, but you wouldn’t be able to hear them.

If you were able to spot some Indians, that means there aren’t any there. – John Ford movie

Birthday Girl. She works as a waitress in a restaurant. Her stand-in was sick and so she had to work. She had quarreled with her boyfriend a few days before and was feeling upset. The restaurant had a good clientele. They worked 3 day weeks. There was only a cashier and a floor manager. The manager always made it a point to dress well. The owner never showed up in the restaurant. The manager had to deliver food to him. It was like clockwork. No one else had seen how the owner looked like. One day, unexpectedly, the manager fell ill. She had to deliver dinner to room 604. A skinny old man appeared at the door. She entered her apartment. He wanted to speak to her for 5 minutes and asked for her age. He wished her happy birthday. He poured her a glass of red wine and they toasted. Now, he wanted to bring her a present. He said he would make her wish come true, whatever it was. She made her wish. However, the old man thought it was not ordinary, unlike a wish to say be prettier and smarter. He concentrated and mentioned that her wish had been granted. Later, she returned to the room to clear the plate, but his door wasn’t open. She recollected that she quit work and never saw the owner again. Everything, to her, seemed like an illusion. I wanted to know what she wished for. It was a wish that takes time to fulfill and she didn’t really regret her choice. She mentioned that she was married with kids and led a seemingly happy life. She asked me what I would wish for, I said nothing at all. To her, that was also a wish. Be careful what you wish for.

Happy birthday. May you live a rich and fruitful life, and may there be nothing to cast dark shadows on it. – The Restaurant Owner

No matter what they wish for, no matter how far they go, people can never be anything but themselves. – The Birthday Girl

New York Mining Disaster. My friend likes to visit the zoo when there’s a typhoon. He likes to survey the animals. Some of them will behave differently from others. The gorillas do not seem to be disturbed. He works in an export company, managing investments and he changes girlfriends every 6 months. Once, he saw a cat in the zoo. He was surprised as it was a run of the mill type animals. I borrowed a suit from him as I needed to attend a funeral. It was the year of funerals for me. I was only 28. One day, there was a guy who slit his wrists in a bathtub and died. He didn’t leave a farewell note. It was sad to commit suicide at only 28. A lot of them died not by committing suicide. It was unexpected. It was like a curse and I already attended 5 funerals this year. My friend likes to clean things when he gets depressed. After that, he will usually feel better. He visited the zoo in the night once and he felt the animals behaved in a strange manner. He liked watching TV because he could switch it off without anyone complaining. Your mind works in mysterious ways. He mentioned there was a lot of ways of dying, some of which your body will not stink. We drank whiskey and champagne. I was at a New Year’s Eve party once. A lady came up and said that I looked familiar. I was pleasantly surprised. She mentioned that she killed him 5 years ago. The miners were trapped and were told not to breathe too hard and consume excessively oxygen. Outside, people were trying to rescue them.

But that’s what death is. A rabbit is a rabbit whether it springs out of a hat or a wheat field. – Narrator

Airplane: Or, How he talked to himself as if reciting poetry. He liked to talk to himself. She was talking to him. He was 20 and she was 27 and she had a kid. Her husband had a job which required him to travel frequently. He liked listening to opera. There was an impressive stereo set. She thought she seemed happy in life. However, she was sleeping with him. ‘If you’re so happy, why the hell are you sleeping with me?’ he thought. She started crying and didn’t stop. After that, they would make love to one another. They had little in common to talk about. He thought that he was living life according to his values, but once in he slept with her, he felt his life was in chaos. They had a very funny relationship. He wasn’t in love with her. One day, their doorbell rang but she ignored it. He had a habit of talking to himself. She got scolded by her grandma when she was young and even now, she didn’t dare talk to herself. He often talked about airplanes when he talked to himself. However, he couldn’t recall what he said to himself. He couldn’t believe he was talking about airplanes as he had no recollection of it. He thought that it was waiting for someone deep in the forest. He touched her hair and it was also the last time she ever cried.

I sometimes think that people’s hearts are like deep wells. Nobody knows what’s at the bottom. All you can do is imagine by what comes floating to the surface every once in a while. – She

The Mirror. There is a force that allows the life to cross over to the supernatural side. However, most people only can see one side of it. Some people don’t fall into either category. I have never seen a true ghost. Now, I will share my true story. I did manual labour jobs at the start. Later, I was a night watchman and was alone in the dark for long periods of time. I had to do prowling in the school late at night. There was checklist which I needed to cover. One day, at 3am, I felt something was amiss and the gate to the pool was banging differently. Everything seemed ok so far. I thought I saw something. It turns out that it was just my reflection in a full length mirror. The reflection seemed to resemble me, but it wasn’t truly me. I felt that the creature hated me. Then the reflection moved and I found myself doing the same thing. I smashed the mirror later. The fact is that there wasn’t any true mirror in my story. I simply saw myself the night before. The most frightening in this world is yourself. Now, I don’t keep a mirror at home.

This thought always springs to mind: that the most frightening thing in the world is our own self. What do you think?’

A folklore for my generation: A pre-history of late-stage capitalism. I was born during the student movement. The 60s were a special period for me. It is hard to pinpoint as to what exactly was so special. Everything seemed more vivid and colourful. Now, we have too many options and things are more complicated. Cause and effect were very important sometimes. Virginity was a bigger deal back then. Some still believe in sex after marriage. There was a guy named Kobe. He was an all rounded leader. He was always by the book and very popular among the ladies. In every school, there would be someone like him. We didn’t click very well. His girlfriend was absolutely gorgeous. They seemed to be having a great time together. Back then, most of us were only interested in sex. When you tell a story, it is important to get the tone correct. We ran across each other in Italy. We sat down together for red wine. He owned a furniture company. He seemed to be doing well in life. We chatted about Italy and he told me his tale. He felt that he was too rule abiding that he didn’t know how to have a good time. He didn’t know what he wanted in life even though he did well in school and everything. He studied law in the end. Yoshiko was his girlfriend in high school. Their parents did not have good relationships. Deep down, they were lonely and edgy. Studying was easy for them. She didn’t want to deep sex until marriage, which he disagreed. To me, a girl’s virginity was not such a big deal. Their relationship did not work out. She wanted to marry an older guy and get used to the outside world. Their love hasn’t been tested yet. He was utterly disappointed. They went to different universities. The problem was that their relationship wasn’t growing or evolving to the next level. It was stagnating and he felt it too. She rejected his idea for sex yet again. She started crying and lamented on having to face the real world in a few years’ time. She agreed to sleep with him after she married someone else. It was extremely weird to say something like that. Later, I loved another girl. For a long time, I didn’t see Yoshiko. Later, I heard she got married. She told me to have confidence in myself when I was experiencing trouble in my business. She was living in Tokyo. She invited me to her place to have sex. He had his doubts, but eventually agreed to see her. I held her but we didn’t have sex. It was no longer possible for us to be truly happy again. This would be our final farewell. That night, I went out with a prostitute and paid for sex for the first time in my life.

The older you get, the more boring traveling alone becomes. It’s different when you’re younger – whether you’re alone or not, traveling can be a blast. But as you age, the fun factor declines. – Haruki Murakami

Ever since we were little, people had been pushing us, expecting us to succeed. And we met their expectations, because we were bright enough to. But your maturity level can’t keep pace, and one day you find there’s no going back. – Kobe

“And when it was all over, the king and his retainers burst out laughing”. It seems to me that very sad things always contain an element of the comical. – Kobe

Hunting Knife. Two rafts were out at sea. The waters were transparent. Everything was gorgeous. My wife and I were staying in the cottages. There was an American military base nearby. There was an American woman and her son staying beside me. Her son on a wheelchair. They were very quiet. We didn’t try talking to them. They seemed to be watching me. Her silver thermos seemed like a knife in sunlight. I went swimming and I decided to get on the raft. There was an overweight woman on it too. Her lady and her son didn’t appear that day. I was on holiday for 9 days already. Her ex used to be the Navy. She used to a stewardess. I told her I needed to leave and she waved at me. I wondered whether the lady and her son were still beside us. It was our last night at the hotel. I saw the man on the wheelchair alone. He admit that he couldn’t sleep. We started chatting. Her mother wasn’t feeling well. Apparently, she had a nervous disorder. She had a strange condition. His sister’s husband owned the hotel, so he could stay for free. It was like a division of labour. He felt his dead legs meant something to his family. His job was to create nothingness, to fill the void. He wanted me to look at a knife he bought, even though I didn’t know much about them. It felt like a living creature and it fit my palm perfectly. He wanted me to cut something with it. I cut some Styrofoam with it. I continued slashing at things at his request.

There are all kinds of nervous disorders. Even if they have the same cause, there are a million different symptoms. It’s like an earthquake – the underlying energy is the same, but, depending on where it happens, the results are different. – Haruki Murakami

The rich people in my family decide everything for us. Tell us to stay a month here, a month there. We’re like the rain, my mother and I. We rain here, and the next thing you know we’re raining somewhere else.  – The man on the wheelchair

A family’s a strange thing. A family has to exist as its own premise, or else the system won’t function. In that sense, my useless legs are a kind of a banner that my family rallies around. My dead legs are the pivot around which things revolve. – Haruki Murakami

Sometimes I have this dream. There’s a sharp knife stabbed into the soft part of my head, where the memories lie. It’s stuck deep down inside. It doesn’t hurt or weigh me down….I want someone to pull the knife out, but no one knows it’s stuck inside my head…I can’t reach my hands inside my head to yank it out. I can stab myself, but I can’t reach the knife to pull it out. – The man on the wheelchair

A perfect Day for Kangaroos. There were 4 kangaroos, one male, two female and a newborn. I was with my girlfriend. We wanted to see the kangaroo. Finally we managed to visit after much re-scheduling. My girlfriend was excited about kangaroos. She was disappointed it wasn’t a baby anymore. It was too big to enter her mother’s pouch. We wondered which of the two females was her mother. The mother hides her in the pouch so she can run with it if it got in trouble. We all thought it would be good to hide in a pouch, like a baby kangaroo. Now, the baby kangaroo hopped into the pouch. It was a wonderful sight.

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