Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami (Part 3)

Crabs. They entered a restaurant selling crabs. The young man was on a date and was willing to try a new restaurant. She was willing to try too. She initially thought that it wasn’t clean. Being adventurous, they tried crabs in the restaurant. They were really happy with the food. To him, eating was very important and it really mattered whether one ate at an expensive or cheap restaurant. For the next few days, they continued eating crab. Everything felt great. Suddenly, the man started puking out white crabmeat. It was all the crab in his tummy. The lump was also moving silently. Upon closer inspection, he realized that they were worms. It was very creepy indeed. After puking, he felt extremely tired. The young lady seemed fine. However, the young man didn’t want to tell her about the puking episodes. He didn’t real the need to tell her. The young lady continued sleeping. His palms were trembling. He didn’t have any direction in life. One thing was for sure: He was never going to eat crab again.

Firefly. I was new to Tokyo when I was 18 and I stayed in a dorm then. It was a cheap dorm. There were simple facilities in the building. The dorm was run by a mysterious foundation and a right-wing fanatic. Some thought this made the dorm dodgy. There was a flag raising ceremony every morning. An old man and an assistant would raise the flag every morning. It was the same routine every day. I wondered why the flag was needed to be kept in the evening? The furniture were Spartan. Everything was also kind of messy and unkempt. My room was really clean and my roommate loved to clean the room. He loved maps and was a Geography major. I studied drama, although I also liked other fields. He was an early bird, while I was mostly a night owl. I was irritated as when he exercised in the room, it would disturb me. He was pissed at me as I suggested that he stop jumping about and exercising in the room. I was talking to a girl. It was summer and people were out and about. She didn’t know whether dorm life would suit her. Sometimes, she wished that she could stay in one. I was on a date. We didn’t really have a lot in common when conversing. She was fit and liked hiking. I wanted to send her home, but she rejected me. I was glad that she wanted to see me again. She seemed to have trouble expressing what her mind wanted to say. As a result, she felt frustrated. I was introduced to my friend’s girlfriend. My friend was a great host. After my friend died, I just saw her once again. Things were awkward. He didn’t leave a death note or any clue behind. I tried to forget about his death every time I visited Tokyo. The air seemed to form the words ‘Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.’ I thought death existed in a separate realm. Now, I started to feel that death was already inside me. I saw her once or twice more. We would go for walks together. I loved to read but was reclusive at school. I also struggled to explain my feelings to her. I gave her a CD as a Christmas present. Once, my roommate was ill and I had to take care of him. She was 20 now and I bought her a cake. She mentioned that it felt idiotic to be 20. She started talking for 4 hours and I had to interrupt her. Suddenly, she just stopped halfway and nothing came out from her mouth. Later, she started weeping and I felt guilty. She continued crying. That night, we slept together. I left in the morning. A week passed and she still didn’t call. I wrote her a long letter. She replied me in July. She took a leave of absence from college. She would stay in the sanatorium in the mountains. She was glad that I was her friend and she hoped that I would be able to meet her again. I was gripped with sadness. Life seemed meaningless now. One day, my roommate gave me a firefly in a jar. Apparently, he found it in the courtyard. He suggested that I give it to a girl and I thought it was a good idea. I went to the roof with the jar. I stared at the moon. The firefly didn’t give off a bright light, unlike others. It might be dying, I thought. Or was it normally so dim? I released the firefly, but it was more dead than alive. We both sat there without moving. I waited forever. After a long while, it took off and spread its wings and flew away. Traces of its light remained with me.

Again and again I stretched my hand out toward that darkness. But my fingers felt nothing. That tiny glow was always just out of reach. – Haruki Murakami

Chance Traveler. Some events have affected my life. However, most people do not think much of it. I was in Cambridge in 1994 in a jazz bar. The jazz pianist, Tommy Flanagan, was a let-down. I wished that he would play 2 of my favorite pieces. By sheer coincidence, he played the 2 pieces. Both of them were amazing as well. Once, I bought a jazz CD named ten to four. It also happened that a man asked for the time and it also happened to be ten to four. Both of these incidents weren’t very special. This is a story which a friend related to me. My friend was a piano tuner who was gay and had a boyfriend. He didn’t hide the fact that he was gay. He believed in staying true to himself. He wasn’t all that interested in girls. He had sex with a girl when young. To him, sex was a burden. His friends thought being gay was strange. His current partner was with him for nearly 10 years. He loved visiting a café to read on Tuesday mornings. One day, he was reading Charles Dickens’s Bleak House. A woman beside him asked a question. She happened to be reading Bleak House as well, what a coincidence. She was a little overweight. She was married, had 2 kids and joined a local book club. Later, they had lunch together. They thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The next week, the both of them met in the bookstore and had lunch again. Later, she held his hand. Now, he admitted he was gay. Later, she started crying profusely after learning this fact. She admitted that he made her feel exciting and she haven’t felt that way for a long time. She admitted that she had to go for a breast cancer examination and was feeling stressed. He gave her some advice. She was happy that she had met him. She didn’t seem to like her husband. He tried to call his sister. She answered and sounded fierce. Apparently, she had been weeping. She seemed upset. It was 10 years since they last saw each other. They talked about life. He admitted that it was disappointing not to be a concert pianist at the start, but now, he realized that he was better as a piano tuner. He admitted to his sister he was gay. His sister was having a breast cancer operation tomorrow, which was remarkable in a similar state to the woman he met at the café earlier. She felt bad that he contacted her in this sad state. They both hugged each other. His sister was doing okay and well after the operation. My friend was glad he would be reunited with his sister. However, it took something before it sparked that trigger. Chance is a common thing after all. He had no idea what happened to the woman he met at the café. I wished that someone up there would be watching over her.

If you have to choose between something that has form and something that doesn’t, go for the one without form. That’s my rule. – Haruki Murakami

But if we’re really hoping something may come true, it may become visible, like a message rising to the surface. Then we’re able to make it out clearly, decipher what it means. And seeing it before us we’re surprised and wonder at how strange things like this can happen. – Haruki Murakami

Hanalei Bay. Sachi lost her son to a shark attack while he was surfing in Hanalei Bay. The cause of death was drowning after he panicked from the bite. She was shocked and booked a flight to Hawaii. She met up with the Japanese consulate. They brought her to the morgue, where she identified the body as her son’s. She authorized the cremation of his body. He was her only son. The Officer said that nature can be cruel, wild and deadly. Nature doesn’t take sides. Later, she visited the hotel her son stayed in and observed some surfers. She knew that time would heal the wounds. She spotted two men surfing who happened to know Takashi, her son. They admitted that he was a cool dude. Now, Sachi continued to stay in Hanalei Bay and watch the beach. She visited it every year to mark her son’s death, for 10 years. Some of the residents recognized her. She bumped into 2 Japanese hitchhikers on the way to Hanalei and gave them a lift. She also helped them with logistics and settling in. They were surfers. They were definitely grateful for her hospitality. Sachi was an outstanding pianist at the bar and could play by ear. She started off playing in a bar in US. It was decent cash. Her son couldn’t study and was virtually a school dropout. One day, she was kicked out of US for working illegally. She married a jazz guitarist, who later died from drug overdose. After that, she opened a jazz bar and started playing music. Once in a while, she would play in Hanalei too. She didn’t really like her son. There was a rude American who wanted Sachi to play, but she refused. The two hitchhikers mentioned that they spotted a one-legged Japanese surfer recently. It reminded Sachi of her late son. However, despite her efforts, Sachi didn’t manage to spot the one-legged surfer. She thought that things were unfair, but realized that was how life is anyway. Later on, back in Japan, she bumped into one of the surfers. She gave him advice on dating. In her free time, her mind drifts to the scenery on Hanalei Bay. That’s all there is to occupy her.

There are only 3 ways to get along with a girl: one, shut up and listen to what she has to say; two, tell her you like what she’s wearing; and three, treat her to really good food. Easy, huh? If you do all that and still don’t get the results you want, better give up. – Haruki Murakami

Where I’m likely to Find it. Her husband’s father was run over by a car 3 years ago and died. I was talking to the woman. Apparently, he was drunk. I was interviewing her. She was 35 and her husband’s father died at 68. He was a Buddhist priest. Her husband was a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch. Her husband was 41. Her mother-in-law started having panic attacks after her husband’s death. I took notes during the conversation. There was an incident which led her to suspect that her husband disappeared. She called the police but they couldn’t be bothered to investigate. Her husband never used the lift, but always the stairs. I agreed to visit the building where her husband disappeared. I agreed to take the case without any fees. I was just a guy who looked for disappearing people in my free time. I declined her money. Her mother-in-law continued experiencing panic episodes. I walked from the 24th to the 26th floor back and forth. However, there was no clue. I imagined myself eating pancakes and started to drool. I continued walking the stairs for many days later. Despite my efforts, there was no clue. Once, I entered a man running up the stairs and I chatted with him. He knew her husband and they chatted before. Another day, I spoke to an elderly man who was coming down the stairs. He was smoking who said benefitted his health and he also knew the husband. He mentioned that humans didn’t need words, it was words that needed us. It was like a Zen koan. The next day, I saw a little girl on the sofa on the stairs who was singing. We started talking about doughnuts. I mentioned that I was looking for a door in the staircase. She mentioned that she would help me find it, if possible. One day, the woman found her husband. He mysteriously found himself in Sendai. However, he seemed okay. She was glad that she managed to find her husband. I took notes again from our conversation. I dreamt of smoking like the old man and of the people I met at the staircase. I was still searching for something, but I was not sure what it was.

We’re usually thinking all the time, aren’t we? Not that we live in order to think, but the opposite isn’t true, wither – that we think in order to live. I believe, contrary to Descartes, that we sometimes think in order not to be. – Haruki Murakami

The Kidney-Shaped Stone that Moves Every Day. Junpei and his dad were chatting. They were not extremely close. He mentioned that in a lifetime, only 3 women can create impact on a guy. Junpei was young and didn’t understand. He had plenty of questions in is head, which he didn’t dare to ask. Junpei felt that he used 1 woman already, and therefore was cautious of meeting others. As a result, he tried to find fault with women he knew and was convinced that they were not right for him. Hence, he didn’t have good relationships with women. When he was 31, he met a girl at a bar. Junpei was a writer back then. She mentioned that he had a cool aura about him. Her name was Kirie. She seemed like an independent and lively woman. She mentioned that it took time for a writer to hone his skills. Junpei guessed that she worked outdoors, but she was teasing him and didn’t reveal what she did. However, she liked what she did. That night, they had sex and she left her number behind. Both of them had great dates. She praised his writing for being balanced. Junpei preferred writing short stories to novels. She disappointed him when she said she didn’t want to have a serious relationship with him. She said she needed to concentrate on her profession. He shared that the story he was writing was about a lady who was interning in a hospital but was having an affair with a surgeon in the same hospital, who was married. The lady happened to travel alone. She saw a stone that looked just like a kidney. She brought it to the hospital and used it as a paperweight. Every morning, the stone would change position. There was certainly no reason for someone to change its position in the night. There wasn’t any reason for the stone to move at night. She was curious about what would happen to the kidney shaped stone. The lady realized she could communicate with the stone. She grew used to the stone after a while. However, she began to be obsessed by the stone. The stone was controlling her life. She broke up with the surgeon and threw the stone in the sea. However, it miraculously appeared on her desk the next day. Somehow, Junpei also couldn’t reack Kirie. He felt a major void in his life. One day, he heard Kirie’s voice over the radio. She washed the windows of tall buildings and wasn’t afraid of heights. Now, she was a stuntwoman who walks from buildings to buildings. She liked doing stunts as she had to succumb yourself to the wind. The wind understands her. They are in their own warm void. Junpei decided whether it Strike 2 out of 3 women who would impact his life. Even though she never contacted him again, Junpei knew she had a lasting impact in him. The kidney shaped stone disappeared and it won’t be coming back.

That’s important. Your work should be an act of love, not a marriage of convenience. – Junpei

You know everything in the world has its reasons for doing what it does. For example, the wind. We just don’t notice as we go about our lives. But then, at some point, we are made to notice. The wind envelopes you with a certain purpose in mind, and it rocks you. The wind knows everything that’s inside you…They all know us very well. It only occurs to us at certain times. And all we can do is go with those things and keep them and survive and deepen. – Haruki Murakami

Numbers aren’t the important thing. The countdown has no meaning. Now Junpei knew: What matters is deciding in your heart to accept another person completely. And it always has to be the first time and the last. – Haruki Murakami

A Shinagawa Monkey. She had trouble remembering her name. This only happened when she was in a hurry. She could remember names of her clients and everything else, except her name. This happened for a year. She was Mizuki Ando and her maiden name was Ozawa. She married Takashi Ando 3 years ago. However, she could refer to her purse for her name. She felt like a life without a name wasn’t that great. She didn’t tell her husband about this problem. They both a condo in a building in Shinagawa. She worked in Honda dealership. Her job was okay. Mizuki was good at conversing with clients. She wasn’t very ambitious and didn’t want to transfer to the sales department. She went by her maiden name at work. Oddly, she felt she was suffering from Alzheimer’s. Now, she checked into a hospital to check on her condition. The doctors dismissed her case. Later on, she visited a counseling center. Her counsellor was Tetsuko Sakaki, a friendly lady. She was her first client. Mizuki was concerned that she had a disease. She came from an ordinary family. Marriage life was okay for her and she got along fairly well with her husband. To her, her life seemed rather boring. The counselling session ended and there would be another one next week. Mizuki used to stay in a single room in high school. One day, a girl named Yuko came to visit her room. Yuko was standing there. Yuko asked Mizuki whether she had ever been jealous. Yuko was rich and doing well in life but admitted she often felt jealous. Jealously was something growing inside her for no particular reason. It’s not easy to live around with it. Mizuki never felt jealous of anyone. Yuko had to visit her relative’s wake and wanted Mizuki to keep her name tag while she was away. It turned out that Yuko lied and eventually her body was found. Yuko slit her own wrists and died. Was jealousy the cause of the suicide? Mizuki just quiet about the own episode. Even today, she still kept Yuko’s name tag. The counsellor explained that it was normal to feel jealous sometimes. Serious jealousy is like a cancer in your heart. Suddenly, Mizuki couldn’t find Yuko’s name tag. After many counselling sessions, Mizuki’s condition stabilized. The next week, the counsellor presented Mizuki with both hers and Yuko’s name tag. She managed to recover them. This was the reason why Mizuki kept forgetting her name. A monkey was the thief and he seemed too big to be a monkey. Somehow, Yuko seemed to know of this monkey. He could talk and the monkey apologized. The monkey admitted he had a sickness and liked to take other people’s names. It admitted that it loved Yuko and decided to steal the tag. Once again, the monkey apologized for his actions. Her husband scoured the sewers and found the monkey hiding there. The monkey thought that some good came from its actions and pleaded for a lighter sentence. However, when he steals something, both the good and bad things will go. Mizuki wanted to know from the monkey what her bad points were. However, the monkey was initially unwilling to share. Her mum and her older sister didn’t love Mizuki and she didn’t get much love when younger. The monkey admitted that because of this, Mizuki has never been able to love deeply and unconditionally and that she didn’t understand her husband well enough. Mizuki admitted that the monkey’s words were true. Mizuki knew that she had to live with her name. The monkey would be released in the mountains and would not be allowed to return to Tokyo. Mizuki was happy that normal life resumed. Now, she had her own name, a name that was hers alone.

In stealing people’s names, I’m also able to remove some of the negative elements that stick to those names. If I had succeeded in stealing her name, I might have taken away some of the darkness that was hidden inside her. – The Monkey


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