The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami (Part 3)

Family Affair. I didn’t like my kid sister’s finance. My sister sensed that way too. My sister were chatting now. The spaghetti we had was awful. She said I was narrow minded and was a very negative person. According to her, I hurt others along the way. I explained to her that it was my life. She wanted me to look at the good side of others. I didn’t have a steady girlfriend. She was also being harsh on me, I felt. We used to be very open with one another. I asked a girl out to a bar in the afternoon and we had some drinks. It was Sunday and I couldn’t my sister later on. I lived with my sister now. Once, she was in the living room and cried for 2 hours and I comforted her. Later on, she dated a computer engineer and she paid more attention to her appearance. The moment I saw the guy, I knew I hated him. They were sort of getting to get married. My mum had a lot of questions on the guy. His parents were okay people. Later that day, my sister, the guy and I went for coffee. The engineer was Noboru Watanabe. She left me a note, wanting me to go for dinner with them. I had something on, but she adamant that I go with them. My sister was starting to nag more and more. She helped to do the laundry. I had to help her buy groceries that day. We were hosting Noboru for dinner at our place. He didn’t drink alcohol. When he was in our place, he helped to fix the sound system as it was spoilt. Noburu left the house to buy a soldering iron. I worked with an appliance manufacturer, although I was not keen on electrical devices. According to my sister, I just liked to have fun. I defended myself by saying I could think whatever I wished, since nobody got hurt. She was angry that all I thought about was myself. Noburu thought I would want to get married after he married my sister. I left and headed to a bar after dinner. I met a girl at the bar and we chatted. I accompanied her to her apartment and we had sex. I was piss drunk and later puked out my dinner. My appearance in the mirror looked like an old man and I was shocked. My sister and I chatted and she wondered whether she went overboard in her criticism of me. She was worried about her future.

You have to make an effort to always look at the good sides, always think about the good things. Then you’ve got nothing to be afraid of. If something bad comes up, you do more thinking at that point. If things don’t work out, that’s when you think again. – Haruki Murakami

A Window. It was finally springtime. Your letter was a pleasure to read. It was on hamburger steak. In fact, I ordered it the next day. I look forward to your next letter. It was my part time job. I got money writing for a company called ‘The Pen Society’. We were assigned to Pen Masters of the opposite sex. There were many people under me. Many of the people at the Society were lonely. I received many letters and learnt a lot. Once, a member invited me to Hamburger Steak at her place. Although it was not allowed, I signed up. The hamburger was simply perfect. She mentioned that she didn’t write. I mentioned that she had talent and shouldn’t give up. She was married. She had difficulty conveying messages to her husband. However, she loved writing to letters as she felt people could relate to her. She praised me for my writing. Should I have slept with her? 10 years have passed now and I forgot where she stayed

Even now, I have no idea. There are lots of things we never understand, no matter how many years we put on, no matter how much experience we accumulate. – Haruki Murakami

TV People. It was Sunday evening. TV people showed up. I don’t like Sundays much. I often get a headache. It is usually extremely painful. The TV people are very small and unnatural. My wife was out that day. On Sundays, I don’t get much done. I was on the sofa the whole day. It was indeed an unproductive Sunday. People in the TV seemed really small. The TV people helped to connect the TV. They had to move some of my stuff to place the TV on the table. They messed up some of my wife’s things. The screen was blank but the TV people didn’t seem to care as they had completely their jobs. The TV people do not speak at all and are completely efficient. It was a professional’s job. They all wore dark-blue jackets. They seemed very robotic. After testing, they left without even looking at me. I didn’t do anything except to observe them. My wife noticed it when she came home by didn’t react to it at all. It was strange for her not to react as she usually cared about arrangement of things. Even though I switched on the TV, my wife was oblivious to it. I had difficulty sleeping as I kept thinking of the TV people. I worked in the advertising department of an electrical appliance manufacturer. I climbed the stairs to my office and thought I saw one of the TV guys. However, he ignored me again. I found it hard to concentrate at work. My section chief was someone who I didn’t like. He praised me for a comment which I made during the meeting, which I didn’t remember even making. Another day, I saw the TV People again. Nobody reacted to the TV people. When I mentioned about it to a guy I knew at work, he disregarded and ignored my comment. Later that night, I switched on the tv, but it would not even start now and show the white noise. I kept reading and reading the newspapers after work as there was nothing to do. I had a dream where everyone was turned into stone except for the TV guys. Then, I imagined the TV guy walking from inside the screen to the outside environment. He said ‘We’re making an airplane’. It looked like an orange juicer instead. The two TV people were working on fixing the airplane. They later said ‘Shame about your wife. It’s gone too far: She’s out there’. I didn’t understand the context. The TV people were saying my wife was gone. The two TV people continued building the airplane. Now, the ‘orange juicer’ started taking shape of the airplane. The TV guy said the plane needed a coat of paint. My palms seemed to shrink. He said the phone will ring in 5 minutes as I eagerly anticipated my wife. I realized I couldn’t even speak now.

The Last Lawn of the Afternoon. I moved laws when I was 18, 15 years ago. A lot has changed. I loved looking at junior-high-school kids. Back in the day, I was mowing lawns. Memory seemed like a fiction to me. I had a girlfriend then. A few months later, she wrote to me and wanted to break off our relationship because she found someone else. I mowed lawns for people to earn cash. I didn’t know how to spend the money I earned. I decided to get a Sony transistor radio in the end. One day, I decided to quit lawn mowing. The boss mentioned I did great work. I actually enjoy mowing lawns. There was once when I slept with a housewife. As he was short of staff, I agreed to mow for 1 more week. My last job was near the Yomiuri Land Amusement Park. The weather was perfect. A lady was in the house and she looked large and also bothered. She showed me the lawn and I said I could do it in 4 hours. The sun was overheat and I was sweating profusely. She offered to make a sandwich for me and I agreed and thanked her. After lunch, I returned to the lawn to mow. When I was done, she mentioned that she liked me. She offered me a beer and I accepted it. She praised me for my good work. Her husband had passed on. She asked me about my school. I told her I couldn’t mow next month because I had to concentrate on my studies. She brought me into her house as she had something to show me. She unlocked a door and I entered it. There was plenty of dust. It was a bedroom. It seemed rather plain to me but fairly neat. She offered me a vodka tonic. She said I had a healthy body and won’t get drunk. She wanted me to look at her wardrobe, which I did. They were full of female clothes. In the drawers were clothes as well. I wondered why she was making me do all these. She wanted me to guess about the girl from her clothes. I said that I thought she had good grades etc. Now, she let me leave. She gave me a ten-thousand-yen note which I accepted. I left and went for a drive-in to order food. I was worn out and needed some sleep. All I wanted to do was mow a good lawn. As I drove, I thought of people with different homes, having different yards and living different lives.

The Silence. I was talking to Ozawa and asked whether he had punched a guy in an argument before. We were traveling together. He represented his school in boxing matches. He was 31. I did business with him. He was a really quiet sort of guy. In 8th grade, before he learnt boxing, he did hit someone. His uncle ran a boxing gym, so he joined. Boxing was a solitary pursuit. He liked it because he could get to the bottom of the depth. He hit a classmate called Aoki. Something about him pissed Ozawa off. Aoki was the star at school and extremely popular. Once, I scored better grades than Aoki and everyone was shocked. He spread a rumour that I cheated and I confronted him. This was when I punched him and he fell. I didn’t apologize to him although I felt sad inside. From then on, Aoki ignored me forever. We tried our best to ignore one another. One of my classmates, Matsumoto, committed suicide. That shocked everyone. Everyone was supposed to mourn his death. At that time, I didn’t know why he killed himself. Once, I was summoned into class and the headmaster asked if I ever hit Matsumoto before. It turns out that someone was hitting him. Somehow I guessed Aoki was behind it. The headmaster was convinced I hit him. Everyone thought it was me. Even the teachers tried to avoid me. Every day was lived in silence. 2 weeks later, I lost my appetite. I told my parents I was just tired. I imagined punching Aoki till he turned into a pulp. Later, I bumped into Aoki again and we glared at each other. I thought of how pitiful his life was and didn’t feel like punching him. I didn’t care about him at all. It was a stare-down and I could tell he wavered. Later, I knew I was home free. I held out for another 5 months of silence. However, I didn’t believe in people. That incident still affects me till today. I can’t believe how people think highly of Aoki, who doesn’t have an idea in the world. He was a monster and hurt others, without taking responsibility for his actions. Ozawa and I agreed to go for a beer to chill.

There’s all different kinds of loneliness. There’s the tragic loneliness that tears at your nerves with pain. And then there’s the loneliness that isn’t like that at all – though in order to reach that point, you’ve got to pare your body down. If you make the effort, you get back what you put in. – Haruki Murakami

People who go through a heavy experience like that are changed men, like it or not. They change for the better and they change for the worse. On the good side, they become unshakable. Next to that half year, the rest of the suffering I’ve experienced doesn’t even count. I can put up with almost anything. – Haruki Murakami

The Elephant Vanishes. An elephant disappeared from the town’s elephant house. I read about it in the newspapers. The house looked very empty. It happened on May 18. The zookeeper was missing too. There was nothing unusual about the elephant and zookeeper before it happened. It was a very old elephant. I was interested in this matter and kept articles on the elephants since it entered the zoo. People wondered why the town should be made to take ownership of it and paying for care and feeding costs. There was much debate about who should provide land and take care of the elephant. It was a homeless elephant at the start. The town held events for the elephant and gave it bananas. There was a steel cuff attached to it, which he could have broken free. The elephant’s keeper was in his early 60s. The keeper and the elephant had an outstanding relationship for over 10 years. They seemed to work via telepathy. Even the reporter was surprised at its disappearance. The keys to the cuff were intact and were not moved. Also, there was high fencing and there was no way it could have escaped. There were also no elephant marks nearby. The police were planning a thorough search of the area. The zookeeper was Noboru Watanabe. Many authorities were combing the woods. However, they failed to find it. I couldn’t find a clue either. After a few months, there were less articles on it. I met her at a company event. I told her the importance of unity in household appliances. I described our world as being very pragmatic. We had things in common and started to chat. She was 26 and I was 31. She was really an attractive woman. We ordered cocktails at the hotel lounge. Later, I told her about the elephant. My answers seemed tentative and she sensed something was not right. I told her I was probably the last one to see the elephant before it disappeared. I saw the elephant house from a cliff. I saw that the keeper and the elephant had strong feelings for one another. I admitted that I like elephants and found them exciting creatures. That day, I didn’t spot anything unusual. However, their size of the bodies seemed to change. It was like the elephant got smaller or the keeper got bigger. The balance between them changed. That was the visual image conjured in my mind. I regretted telling her about the elephant as she had many questions for me. That was the last time we met. Everything didn’t seem to matter to me much. People seemed to have forgotten about the elephant now. It won’t be coming back.

I would being to think I wanted to do something, but then I would become incapable of distinguishing between the probable results of doing it and of not doing it. I often get the feeling that things around me have lost their proper balance. – Haruki Murakami

theelephantvanishes

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