Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami (Part 2)

Dabchick. I was at the bottom of the stairway. It was just a corridor. The hallway was completely silent. I kept walking but realized I was in a T shaped intersection. I received a map and followed it, but there was no door. I was lost. My life was poor and I hated it and wanted a decent job. Finally I found a door. No one responded to my knock. A man appeared after he had a bath. I would be starting work here. There was a password which I didn’t know and he wouldn’t let me in. He didn’t seem to trust me. I asked for a hint and he said the password has something to do with water and can fit in your hand, but you can’t eat it. I had three tries. There were 8 letters. I mentioned dabchick. It was a waterbird but he mentioned that it was possible to eat it. He mentioned that it was the wrong word. I told him there was no such 8 letter word that met his criteria. He wanted me to show him dogs that would not eat dabchicks. I convinced that the bird was horrible in taste. I realized I tricked him as I haven’t seen dabchicks before. The dabchick was sick of life and wanted to kill himself. He was the boss of the company. He mentioned that I was 15 minutes late.

Man-Eating Cats. A 70 year old woman had been eaten by cats. Her body was discovered only a week later. I told this story to Izumi. She loved my voice and when I read aloud to her. She wanted to know what happened to the cats but the article didn’t say. Izumi liked to smoke. I wanted to turn the cats to vegetarians. She told me a story about being shipwrecked on an island with a cat. Would you want to share your food with the cat? Or would you eat it? We were staying on a Greek island. I had a wife and a 4 year old son. My work was ok, although I didn’t enjoy it. I met Izumi at work and she clicked right away. We had a lot in common. We were both married. Time flew by when we met. We also made love with one another. We were convinced that we could have this relationship and not get into trouble. Izumi’s husband found out about our affair. My wife demanded an explanation and was deeply upset. She moved out of my house with my son. I explained that it was a special relationship but she didn’t buy it. Izumi’s husband left her too. She wanted to go to Greece and I agreed to go. I resigned from work as we were planning a long trip. The island was boring and we didn’t have friends. She studied Greek. We kept walking around. I started to paint in my free time. She didn’t want to go back to Japan again. When I was young, a cat disappeared from me in a weird way. Cats often get over-excited over something and disappear in weird ways. I missed my child at times. Everything seemed a distant memory. Suddenly, I couldn’t find Izumi. I was desperate and tried to look for her. When I walked outside, I heard music. Suddenly, I felt myself disappearing, like stepping in quicksand. I was desperately worried and felt like a puppet. I dreamed of her voice. Dark thoughts flashed in my head. The music stopped playing. The moonlight had made Izumi and cats disappear. How could I go on living without her? I pictured the cats devouring the real me.

Newspapers are all the same, no matter where you go. They never tell you want you really want to know. – Izumi

Then, suddenly, I pictured those cats, starving to death in a locked apartment. I – the real me – was dead, and they were alive, eating my flesh, biting into my heart, sucking my blood, devouring my penis….The tips of their rough tongues licked the soft folds of my mind. And with each lick my consciousness flickered like a flame and faded away. – Narrator

Nausea 1979. He vomited from June 4, 1979 to July 14, 1979. He was a young illustrator. We both liked jazz and he liked to sleep with friends’ girlfriends and wives. This turned him on. It was just sex to him. He didn’t want to expose what he did. He claims women look forward to sleeping with him. He claims women want someone to be interested in them. One day, he told me that he just threw up 40 days straight, without any reason. On June 3rd, he drank and slept with a friend’s partner. He seemed okay after that. Although he vomited, he still felt okay after that. He laid off alcohol for a while. Someone called him every day and it seemed to coincide with his period of vomiting. Every day, the guy will say my friends’ name and then hang up. Everything he ate, he ended up throwing up. The doctors could find out what was wrong with him. After a while, he took off from work and changed his habits. It seemed to be getting better, but that night, he vomited again. He usually puked only after the call. Now, he thought that he was imagining picking up the phone and imagining hearing his voice over the phone. He felt that he had schizophrenia. The police were not concerned with prank calls too. Even when he visited my friend’s house, he received the same call too. Then, he recollected that for most of the day, he was alone. He decided to fight back to change his life. He didn’t want to install an answering machine as it would feel like running away from the problem. He decided to drink again, since he knew that he would throw up anyway after that. Interestingly, he also got new clothes to fit his new body, since he lost more weight. On July 14, things just stopped all of a sudden. During the last call, he said my friend’s name and asked ‘Do you know who I am?’, before hanging up. However, my friend didn’t find that voice familiar. Could his feelings of guilt taken the form of nausea? I encouraged him to learn from the experience, in case it might happen again.

The 7th Man. A huge wave nearly swept him away when he was 10 years ago. There was a group of people telling a story each. The wave was the most powerful ever. No one knew much about this man. He had a friend called K and his father was a doctor. He was very close to his friend K, who was very frail. He took good care of him. However, K was great at painting and drawing seascapes. Back then, before the typhoon, everyone started preparing for it. We were advised not to leave the house. The wind was uprooting things. Suddenly, everything felt silent and I realized I was in the eye of the storm. I wanted to explore outside and dad allowed. I walked to the beach and everything was destroyed. K followed me too. The waves seemed hushed at that moment. The waves started receding, nothing like I have seen before. Something seemed ominous. I sensed trouble and fled. However, K didn’t hear me. K missed the earth-shaking sound as well before the wave. However, he heard my shouting too late. The wave was at 3 story tall and the wave swallowed him. K and his dog disappeared. Thankfully, I hid behind the brickwall even after numerous strong waves hit the shore. I seemed to see K appear in the crest of the next wave, which lost power miraculously when it hit the shore. It was no illusion. K was smiling at me and his arm was outstretched, wanting to grab me. The next moment, I found myself in hospital and my dad said I was asleep for 3 days. No one found K or the dog again. K’s parents never blamed me. I was pained with guilt knowing that I could have saved him. I was in a state of emotional shock and didn’t go to school for weeks. I had another dream where I am swimming and someone grabbed my ankle and K’s face appeared. I wanted to move to another town and my parents granted me that wish. After leaving town, things were better. Sometimes, I still get nightmares. I have a phobia of water now. Last spring, I visited the same beach again. I also re-examined his pictures on landscapes. Everything was coming back to me with intensity. I started studying his paintings. I realized that he might not have hated me, but wanted me to join him in another world. My old town was now an industrial city. Everything seemed different now. The beach seemed the same and was peaceful. Probably no one could remember the tragic typhoon 40 years ago. Now, the deep darkness in me vanished. I achieved a form of salvation which I am very grateful for.

Fear comes to us in many different forms, at different times, and overwhelms us. But the most frightening thing we can do at such times is to turn our backs on it, to close our eyes. For then we take the most precious thing inside us and surrender it to something else. In my case, that something was the wave. – The 7th man

A ‘Poor Aunty’ Story. It was a Sunday. The sunlight was brilliant. My companion and I stared at 2 bronze unicorns. Summer was here. A poor aunt entered my heart and left me feeling empty after that. I wanted to write about the poor aunt. She didn’t think anyone would read it. She had a poor aunt, but didn’t want to write about her. It was hard for her to form words to describe the aunt. She doubted whether I could write about a poor aunt as I didn’t have a real poor aunt. However, it is likely that you might have come across a poor aunt in your life. The poor aunt’s name fades before she dies, because she is no outstanding woman. Some people’s names fade only after they have died. What happens to the forgotten people? I tried to recall the poor aunt I had. I had one on my back suddenly. She was about to change form based on how each observer perceived her. It took the form of a dog, or an old elementary school teacher etc. Friends were starting to ignore me. Reporters kept taking photos of me and the aunt and this left me exhausted. One of them interviewed me and I explained that it was not a chore at all. I explained that people’s reaction to words will be different. My response to poor aunt was an independent existence. The poor aunt had no meaning, no form. However, I couldn’t get it out. I could turn a word into a conceptual sign. If you keep repeating a word, it will appear at the back of you. Soon, the hype I enjoyed died as no one was interested in poor aunts. I wondered who became a poor aunt. There are usually explanations for things. However, for the poor aunt, there wasn’t any explanation why she was there. She didn’t see anything on my back. The core of the poor aunt is perfection. In late autumn, the poor aunt finally left my back. When I was in a train once, I saw a young boy pulling and pawing on her sisters’ hat. But the boy kept playing with it. The mother didn’t do anything to stop him as she felt that the boy would be bored eventually. Later, the girl slapped him on the cheek. The boy started crying and the mother hit the girl. The mother said to the girl ‘You don’t belong to me anymore’. She had to leave. I wanted to comfort the girl, but I didn’t. After I left the train, the poor aunt vanished. I felt lost. I called my companion to make sure she was okay. I wondered where did the poor aunt go? In future, if there was a world of poor aunts, would they welcome me? If I ever lived till them, I would certainly write well of them.

Once something has come into being, it continues to exist independent of my will. It’s like a memory. You know how a memory can be – especially a memory you wish you could forget but you can’t. It’s just like that.’ Haruki Murakami

She exists. That’s all. You have to recognize that fact and accept it. Reasons, causes: these just don’t matter. The poor aunt is there. She exists. And that’s what a poor aunt is.’ Haruki Murakami

The Year of Spaghetti. 1971 was the year of spaghetti. I learned how to cook and went shopping. I always felt spaghetti was meant to be enjoyed alone. Every day, I ate it. Every day, a different stranger visited me. However, they hovered at my door, and disappeared soon after. Cooking was like an act of revenge. One day, I heard the phone ring. It was the ex-girlfriend of a friend of mine. She was looking for my friend. I said that I didn’t know. I lied to her and said that I was cooking spaghetti. Now, I imagined myself cooking it. She was pissed at me for wanting to end the call and declared that she was in trouble. I felt guilty for not telling her where her ex was. However, yet, I knew that by cooking spaghetti, I wanted to be lonely and all by myself. The spaghetti represented loneliness.

Tony Takitani. His father was Shozaburo Takitani and was a jazz trombonist. He went to China to perform and had no qualms about leaving Japan. He loved Shanghai. He was successful in the trombone and had women around him. Often, he slept with different women too. However, one day, the Chinese army locked him up. However, he didn’t fear death and thought that he could not change his fate. Thankfully, he was released at the end. Now, his brother disappeared and his parents died. However, he did not feel sad or miserable and expected it. In his free time, he jammed with his friends. In 1947, he got married. 3 days after his wife gave birth, she died. It upset Shozaburo for a while. His army friend named his son Tony for him. Eventually, the name got stuck. Tony wasn’t treated well by his friends, who thought he was American. He was also comfortable being alone. Tony was excellent in drawing and won prizes. Naturally, he became an illustrator. He made good money because of his talents. Tony, at that time, didn’t consider marriage. As he had a pleasant character, many liked Tony for who he was. One day, he fell in love with a 22 year old girl. She wore her clothing with a natural grace that was akin to a bird. She admitted that most of her income when towards clothes. Tony became sad when the girl wasn’t ready to commit to him. However, later, they got married. One day, Tony went to watch his father play jazz. Strangely, he felt that the music his dad played was different from the past. Tony’s wife had the tendency to buy too many clothes. Tony was upset and spoke to her about this. His wife admitted that she was addicted to buying dresses. One day, she got involved in an accident and passed away

. Tony had to get rid of the clothes. He advertised for an admin assistant to work for him, but on condition that she had to wear a different of his wife’s dresses every day. He wanted to get used to the idea that his wife was gone. She was mesmerized by the sheer collection of outfits. Soon, she starting crying as she had never seen so many beautiful dresses in her life. Tony stared at the clothes and they seem meaningless to him not that his wife was not wearing them. Deep down, he hated the dresses and he felt lonely again .Now, he wanted to give some of the dresses to the assistant, whose services he didn’t require now. In the end, Tony got a dealer to take away all his late wife’s dresses. Once in a while, he would stare at the empty room and realize his memory of his wife was fading fast. Two years later, Shozaburo died of cancer and left behind many jazz records. Similarly, he got a dealer to clear them. Tony Takitani was truly alone now.

The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes. Sharpie Cakes was having a competition, where users could design a cake. They were sweet in texture and didn’t taste good. When I said the cakes were not good, many people around me criticized me. A girl I spoke to mentioned about Sharpie crows. The president of the company gave a boring speech. There was prize money for the winner of the Sharpie Cake contest. I decided to participate. The Sharpie Crows would decide whether the cake was nice. The managing director was surprised that I didn’t know about the Crows. They are special birds who ate nothing but Sharpie Crows. However, they had no eyes and their bodies were swollen. They were horrible creatures and they screamed ‘Sharpies’. Some of the crows pecked at one another to eat the Cakes. The crows realized that my cakes were not true Sharpies and started squawking. Some of the birds liked my cakes. There was blood everywhere. I left the building and I was glad I didn’t win the prize.

The Ice Man. My husband is an Ice Man. From afar, you could tell he was one. I decided to approach him even though he was reading. He was definitely a man of a few words. He was a very shy guy who liked to ask me questions but he didn’t talk about himself at all. Soon, he knew a lot about me while I knew nothing of him. However, he couldn’t see the future. I was desperate and curious to know more about him. He was like an iceberg floating in the darkness. I loved him for who he is now, apart from any past or future. My family opposed the marriage and no one celebrated our wedding. The Ice Man works at a refrigerated meat warehouse. Deep down, many people didn’t accept him and his weird character. We failed to have a baby. I was the black sheep of the family. One day, I wanted to go see the world. Although he didn’t like to travel, he reluctantly agreed. I suggested the South Pole as I thought I could see the aurora and penguins. The ice man was becoming more ice-like. Sometimes, the ice man would not want to eat as well. Suddenly, I was afraid of going to the South Pole. I should have nothing to fear as dreams come from the past, not from the future. The South Pole turned out to be an extremely lonely place, with no penguins and auroras. There was nothing except ice and frozen wasteland. My husband started talking to the locals and seemed to enjoy it, which I absolutely hated. The Ice Man seemed to be the same person as the guy in the lobby when I first met him. Seemingly, I felt we were drifting apart.

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