The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami (Part 2)

The Wind-Up Bird and Tuesday’s Women. I was cooking spaghetti when a woman calls. I answered the phone and have no idea who she is. She just wanted 10 minutes of my time. She seemed to know that I was unemployed. That was very creepy indeed. She mentioned about coming to an understanding, which I didn’t understand at all. I tried not to think much of the call. I started ironing my clothes. Later, my wife called. She mentioned about a job I might be interested in. It was an magazine company. I wasn’t too keen on the offer, to be honest. She mentioned that her salary went up and I could consider just doing housework at home. Our cat disappeared for 4 days already. Later, I heard a bird screeching. It was the ‘wind-up bird’. I thought disappearing cats were normal and I didn’t have to go find it. I left my job at the law firm for no particular reason. I didn’t have any clear goals after I left. My wife worked at a design school, doing office work. I ran errands over lunch. The same woman called again. She mentioned that she heard about me. She had a thing for me a long time ago in the past. She was keen on phone sex. I hung up the phone immediately after 5 minutes 23 seconds had passed. I tried looking for the cat and calling her name. I walked past both old and new houses. The old ones didn’t seem to be occupied. There was a little girl whom I bumped into. She wanted a cigarette. I explained that I was looking for my cat, Noboru Watanabe. She mentioned that she might have seen the cat somewhere. I agreed to stay with her in someone’s backyard to try to spot the cat. We started smoking cigarettes together. Apparently, there were many cats in this area. Now, the girl changed into her bikini. She was 16 and was taking a break from school. She asked me whether I would like a girl with 6 fingers and also whether I would like a girl with 4 breasts. I was sweating profusely in the sun. She began talking to me, something about Death. Suddenly, I woke up and found myself alone. The little girl was gone. After 10 minutes, there was still no sign of the cat or the girl. I felt a softball of death swelling inside me. My wife mentioned that the cat was dead. She blamed me for killing our cat. Suddenly, she burst into tears. Did the wind-up bird wind your spring, Noboru Watanabe? The phone rang but neither me nor my wife wanted to get it. I just let the phone ring.

The Second Bakery Attack. I told my wife about the bakery attack. Sometimes, things just happen and we don’t get to choose. So happened, I revealed the news to her. We were struck by hunger pangs late in the night. Our fridge lacked food. What could have caused the violent hunger pangs? We wanted to visit a restaurant along the highway. It was a special kind of hunger. My wife didn’t want me to go. We opened the beer and started drinking instead. I was never this hungry in my own life, I exclaimed. I imagined myself in a boat, where there was an underwater volcano erupting. Once, I attacked a small bakery. This was the point in which I got very hungry. My friend and I attacked the bakery for food. My wife wanted to find out more about the bakery attack. We made a deal with the baker, where he would allow my friend and I to take his bread after listening to his classical music. We took some of his bread. After this episode, things seemed to change. I lost touch with my friend too. I wonder whether it was a good choice to eat bread from a bakery. I felt guilty about what I did. The feeling of starvation was back, it was like a curse. She told me to break the curse by attacking another bakery. We drove off late in the night. We seemed to be unable to find one. We would attack MacDonald’s, the closest thing to a bakery we could find. My wife was adamant that we would do it. We had our masks on and I held a shotgun. There were a total of three workers. The manager wanted to give us his money. My wife wanted 30 Big Macs for takeaway. The three staff started preparing our order. My wife counted the burgers. Our objective was just to steal bread, we explained. We tied the 3 of them to a post. Later on, we drove somewhere else to eat the burgers. I ate 6 big macs while she ate 4. Our hunger disappeared. She said that what we did was necessary. The underwater sea volcano was gone. The water was clear and calm now.

The Kangaroo Communique. There were 4 kangaroos in the zoo. One was an infant and there was a male and 2 female adults. I sent you a letter because of kangaroos. 36 steps led me from the kangaroo to you. Everything seemed coincidental. I worked at a product-control section in a department store. We have to respond to customer complaints. Type A were reasonable complaints; B was borderline cases and C was customer negligence. I tried my best to write to you, but my mind often went blank for no reason. What kind of person can blame a kangaroo? I was writing to a customer’s complaint. The letter would be called ‘The Kangaroo Communique’. I recorded the letter. I started babbling nonsense now. I feel like I have become the Egyptian sandman, where everything I touch turns to sand. Although I don’t know anything about you, I want to keep it that way. Your letter is all I need. Your letter is of the only that moved me. I am enthralled by the punctuation etc. After I read your letter, I thought of sleeping with you. There was once when I wanted to press the emergency brake button on the subway. I have a girlfriend. Why am I writing to you? Because my sights are set on the Nobility of Imperfection that was triggered by your letter and the 4 kangaroos. I was strongly dissatisfied with myself. I wish to be in 2 places at once. My dream was to lead a general existence and yet be a distinct, separate existence. I was dissatisfied with the tape after I reviewed. But since I decided to send it, I have to live with the imperfections of my choice. It was your letter which caused this cycle of imperfection after all.

On Seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April Morning. The moment I see her, I know she’s perfect for me. My heart starts pounding. It was difficult to explain why I found her to be perfect. She was not a preconceived type. She was no great beauty. How could I have approached her? It turns out that I just walked past her. Maybe I didn’t need any pickup lines. I didn’t dare to speak to her. I thought a story where both a boy and girl believed they were 100% right for each other. Via a miracle, they actually met via coincidence. What a wonderful thing, to be able to find your 100% other. Was it so easy for one’s dreams to come true? They challenged one another that if they were 100% meant for each other, they should split and somehow they would find one another again. However, they never saw each other again. Time passed and now the guy is 32 years old. The glow of their memories were so weak even though they passed one another on the streets again.

Sleep. This is my 17th day without sleep. I didn’t see a doctor about it. The harder I tried to sleep, the more I failed. I could lie in bed, but I didn’t sleep. My body was on the verge of sleep, but I couldn’t sleep. As a result, I was drowsy during the day. Wakefulness seemed like a shadow of myself. No one noticed that I lacked so much sleep. I was going through life asleep, like in a hallucination. Then suddenly, one day, I could just sleep for 27 hours straight. After that, I was normal again. I have no idea why my insomnia was cured. I didn’t tell anyone of my issue with sleeping. My husband was a dentist. He was a little strange looking. I tried to recall his facial features, but couldn’t. However, he was very likeable among my friends. I also have a young son. I drive a used Honda Civic. My husband eats lunch at home. Back then, we were a happier couple. Usually, in the afternoons, I would get some exercise done. I know that I have to put in effort to lose weight and stay slim. I was a housewife who prepares meals for the family. My son has the most interesting life in the family. My husband loved Mozart and Haydn. This was how day by day passed and it was mundane. I remembered having a repulsive dream on the first night I failed to sleep. There was an old man in a black shirt in my dreams. It was not a dream, it was reality. I tried to scream but couldn’t. All I could do was look at him. He seemed to be holding and pouring water from a pitcher over my feet. When I opened my eyes, the old man was gone and my body was drenched in sweat. I woke up and sipped on some brandy. Everything was like in a trance. My body was still trembling. Who was that old man in black and why was he pouring water on my feet? I figured that maybe I was just tired. Then, I tried reading Anna Karenina before I tried to sleep again. However, I found it difficult to concentrate. In my younger days, I used to love reading, but I can’t remember the last time I completed a book. I read till 3 but wasn’t feeling sleepy. In the morning, I prepared breakfast for them. I tried reading the book again, but couldn’t recall what I read. I feel that my life as an adult was very different. I didn’t do most of the stuff I previously liked. I had a strong chocolate craving and decided to eat a chocolate bar. It was lunch time and my husband was back. He wanted to get a new dental machine for his clinic. I didn’t want to have sex and wanted to continue with the book. I tried to lie down to sleep, but I wasn’t feeling sleepy. My mind was clear. It was a typical day for me. My husband could sleep perfectly well and I was very jealous of that fact. Despite insomnia, I went about with life’s chores and went through the motions. My body was at work, but my mind was with books. There was a very distinct disconnection, but no one seemed to realize. I was worried by my condition. Strangely, my health wasn’t suffering. My body still seemed to be glowing. I didn’t want to go to hospital to get checks done. Humans are not able to escape from some fixed idiosyncratic tendencies, like physical movements or thoughts. Sleep counteracts these tendencies. Sleeping helped repair the damage of my tendencies. Life was just a pointless repetition. Then, suddenly, I didn’t want sleep to repair my body. I didn’t want to hand my mind to anyone else. Now, a lack of sleep meant I had more time for myself. At least, my life was not being consumed by anything. I read Anna Karenina 3 times and gained new insight from it. I felt like I gained a lot emotionally from reading. I observed my husband sleeping and thought that looked ugly when asleep. Now, I went to observe my son sleeping. Something about his face also annoyed me. I realized that was because he looked exactly like my husband. My husband was flawless, which maybe is something I didn’t quite like. I drank brandy and read again. It was day 17 of no sleep. I thought that I was going to die. ‘And if I died now, what would my life have amounted to?’ To me, death was simply an extension of sleep. No one knew what death would be like. I drove outside at 3 in the morning. I drove to the harbor. Then, while there, I recalled having sex with my boyfriend in college in the car. Such memories are fading fast. This is how people change. 2 men were outside and they were shaking my car and shouting at me. I started crying in the car. The men continued rocking the car back and forth. They’re going to turn it over.

I’m thirty. When you reach thirty, you realize it’s not the end of the world. I’m not especially happy about getting older, but it does make some things easier. It’s a question of attitude.  – Haruki Murakami

After I gave up sleeping, it occurred to me what a simple thing reality is, how easy it is to make it work. It’s just reality. Just housework. Just a home. Like running a simple machine. One you learn to run it, it’s just a matter of repetition. – Haruki Murakami

No one knows what death is. Who has ever truly seen it? No one. Except the ones who are dead. No one living knows what death is like. They can only guess. And the best guess is still a guess. Maybe death is a kind of rest, but reasoning can’t tell us that…Death can be anything at all. – Haruki Murakami



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