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Child of Darkness
Child of Darkness
Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies, Number 18 Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan

Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies, Number 18 Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan

Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies, Number 18 Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan

''t36

FU:J

Child of Darkness

Yoko and Other Stories by Furui Yoshikichi

Translated with an Introduction and Critical Commentaries by Donna George Storey

Ann Arbor, Michigan

1997

Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan

© 1997 The Regents of the University of Michigan

All rights reserved

Yoko Copyright © 1970 by Yoshikichi Furui "Aihara" Copyright© 1976 by Yoshikichi Furui "Ningyo" Copyright© 1976 by Yoshikichi Furui

Published by the Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan, 108 Lane Hall, 204 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1290

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Division

Furui, Yoshikichi, 1937- Child of darkness : Yoko and other stories I by Furui Yoshikichi ; translated with an

introduction and critical commentaries by Donna George Storey.

viii, 204 p.

em.- (Michigan monograph series in Japanese studies; no. 18)

Contents: Yoko- Aihara (Plain of sorrows) - Ningyo (Doll). ISBN 0-939512-78-5 (cloth: alk. paper).- ISBN 0-939512-79-3 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Furui, Yoshikichi, 1937- -Translations into English. 2. Furui, Yoshikichi, 1937-

-Criticism and interpretation. I. Storey, Donna

IT. Title. ill. Series.

PL850.R74A26

1997

895.6'35--dc21

97-10204

 
OP

OP

Jacket and cover illustration: Michele Oka Doner (American), Descending Torsos (detail), 1975. Collection of Elizabeth M. Katz. Photo: Dirk Bakker.

Jacket and cover design: Elisabeth Paymal

This publication meets the ANSI/NISO Standards for Permanence of Paper for Publications and Documents in Libraries and Archives (239.48-1992).

Printed in the United States of America

© 1997 The Regents of the University of Michigan All rights reserved Yoko Copyright © 1970

CONTENTS

Preface

vii

Introduction

1

TRANSLATIONS

Yoko

The Plain of Sorrows The Doll

CRITICAL COMMENTARIES

Yoko: The Self in Process "The Plain of Sorrows": The Lmdscape of Death "The Doll": The Power of the Pcist

.··

11

99

119

137

177

191

PREFACE I was first introduced to the work of Furui Yoshikichi through Howard :Hibbett's translation of

PREFACE

I was first introduced to the work of Furui Yoshikichi through Howard :Hibbett's translation of "Wedlock" in his anthology, Contemporary Japa- nese Literature. To date, this has been Furui's only story widely available in English. This excellent translation captured the richness and subtlety of Furui' s literary world and inspired me to spend a good part of the last ten years reading, translating, and analyzing Furui's works. During that time numerous people have given me assistance, but I owe my greatest thanks to my dissertation advisor, Makoto Ueda, for his invaluable guid- ance throughout all of my years at Stanford University and beyond. He was extremely generous with his advice and encouragement at every stage of this project. Susan Matisoff and Thomas Hare provided many insight- ful recommendations on the critical commentaries. I am also indebted to Harumi Befu for his help in exploring the anthropological background of images of madness in Japanese literature. Special thanks are due to Yoko Yoshikawa for her kind assistance in working out confusing pas- sages in "The Doll." James Hynes's suggestions for polishing the rough spots of my translation greatly improved the manuscript. The editor of this series, Bruce Willoughby, was tireless in his support of this project, and he deserves many thanks for helping make this book a reality. I would also like to acknowledge the support of Monica George, Elaine Shaw, and Andrea Shaw. Finally, I owe my deepest gratitude to my husband, James, who cheerfully served as my chief editor and technical consult- ant. His encouragement and wise counsel enabled me to see this project through to completion, and it is to him that I dedicate this book.

INTRODUCTION Yoshikichi and the "Introverted Generation" Furui Yoshikichi is generally regarded as the most representative writer

INTRODUCTION

Yoshikichi and the "Introverted Generation"

Furui Yoshikichi is generally regarded as the most representative writer of the "introverted generation" (naiko no sedai), a group of Japanese nov- ~lists who made their debut in the early 1970s. The label is particularly for Furui's work, because it does indeed focus inward, delving the complacent facade of the lives of ordinary city-dwellers to the dark, irrational forces within, impulses that link them to traditional agrarian past. Likewise, beneath the artistry of Furui's prose, likened by some critics to an oil painting with its dense texture, lies an implicit critique of contemporary Japanese society and the role of the individual within it. This critique is no less political for its subtlety. His stories portray in microcosm the crises of identity and change con- fronting all of Japanese society during the decades of rapid economic . growth and affluence. Furui was born in 1937 in Tokyo. He received a bachelor's de- gree in German literature from Tokyo University in 1960, and stayed on to complete a master's degree in 1962 with a thesis on Hermann Brach. He then taught German literature at Kanazawa University for three years before taking a job at Rikkyo University in Tokyo in 1965. During his years as an academic, he published several translations of the novels of the Austrian writers Hermann Broch and Robert Musil, as well as sev- eral scholarly articles on Musil, Broch, Navalis, and Nietzsche. Furui him- self admits the influence of his study of German literature on his own works/ particularly in his richly textured style and in his concern with the fragmentation of the self in modern society. In 1966, Furui joined the .literary coterie known as The Plain Sketch Club (Hakubyo no Kai) and published his first story, "On Thursday" (Mokuyobi ni), in the coterie's magazine Hakubyo in 1968. As the number of his stories in major literary

INTRODUCTION Yoshikichi and the "Introverted Generation" Furui Yoshikichi is generally regarded as the most representative writer

1. Furui Yoshikichi and Ian Levy, "Taidan," Honyaku no sekai 10 (June 1985): 39.

INTRODUCTION

2

magazines increased, Furui decided to resign from his teaching post to devote himself full time to writing. 2 In 1971 Furui's novella Yoko (Yoko, 1970), the title story of this collection, was awarded the sixty-fourth Akutagawa Prize, an honor con- ferred upon new writers of great promise as an official welcome into the ranks of the literary establishment. The novella's main competition for the prize was another Furui story, "Wedlock" (Tsumagomi, 1970; trans., 1979), one of the few Furui works available in English translation. Ac- cording to Kawabata Yasunari, the senior member of the award commit- tee, the choice of author was unusually easy; the members were almost evenly split, however, on which of his two nominated stories to desig- nate as the winner. Yoko, favored by Kawabata himself, won by a single vote. This skillful portrayal of a mentally disturbed young woman was generally acknowledged to mark a new stage in Furui's maturation as a writer. 3

Akiyama Shun, a literary critic and contemporary of Furui, chooses in retrospect the year 1970 (not coincidentally the year of Yoko's publication) as the beginning of a new kind of literature that seriously questioned those assumptions and perceptions that constitute the "real- ity" of everyday life. 4 The authors who practiced this new kind of litera- ture, the naiko no sedai include, besides Furui Yoshikichi, Got6 Meisei, Ogawa Kunio, Kuroi Senji, Abe Akira, and Kashiwabara Hy6z6. The lit- erary critic Odagiri Hideo originally coined the term in his essay, "Manshu no jiken kara yonjunen no bungaku no mondai" (Issues in literature forty years after the Manchurian incident) (Tokyo shinbun, March 23-24, 1971). Odagiri expressed dismay that these young writers were turning away from the overt social and political commentary of the works of the previ- ous postwar decades and instead focusing on the apparently unremark- able dramas of everyday life. He lamented their preference for self-ab- sorption and a frivolous nihilism over a treatment of social reality. 5 His label caught on, primarily because of a penchant for categorization in Japanese literary circles. While other critics, such as Ohkubo Norio, rightly

  • 2. Several sources provided similar accounts of the particulars of Furui's life: Iwamoto

Yoshio, "Yoshikichi Furui: Exemplar of the 'Introverted Generation,"' World Litera-

ture Today 62.3 (Summer 1988): 386; Kamiya Tadataka, "Furui Yoshikichi,"

Kokubungaku: Kaishaku to kansh/5 38, suppl. (June 1973): 280; and Kawamura Jiro, "Furui

Yoshikichi," in Odagiri Susumu, ed., Nihon bungaku daijiten, vol. 3 (Tokyo: Kodansha,

1977).

  • 3. Kamiya Tadataka, "Yoko," Kokubungaku: Kaishaku to kanshii 42, suppl. (January 1977):

154. Also see individual comments by the committee members in Akutagawasho zenshil,

vol. 8 (Tokyo: Bungei Shunjii, 1982), 544-52.

  • 4. Akiyama Shun, "Nichijoteki genjitsu to bungaku no hatten, 1961-1977," in Matsubara

Shin'ichi et al., eds., Sengo Nihon bungakushi-nenpyo (Gendai no bungaku bekkan) (To-

kyo: Kodansha, 1978), 374-76.

  • 5. Ibid., 376.

INTRODUCTION • 2 magazines increased, Furui decided to resign from his teaching post to devote himself

Introduction

3

the term naiki5 no sedai as nothing more than a convenient cat-

of writers who have little in common, 6 most agree that

'·'I.LFJ.«'-'Lf.~or a group

:,Furui Yoshikichi's work above all embodies qualities that may be de-

This does not necessarily preclude broader_ s.~-

,,;~cribed as "introverted." 7

  • 0 b:ial significance, however. Karatani Kojin has taken exceptio~ to Odagi~I _s :rt;dticism from a different angle, arguing that all manifestatwns 0 ctal protest in Japan are based on the same instability and gna"':,mg ~~~­ i~atisfaction within contemporary life as that portrayed by the apohh-

~ poh~I­

  • 0 cal" introverts. 8 Akiyama's

outline of the chief characteristics of t~e '_"'nters of

.• the "introverted generation" provides a very accurate descnph~n of Fu- ~rui's work. First is the mistrust of the intellectual approach to soc1al prob- : lems, including the self-conscious use of "intellectual'; language. These writers prefer to capture ordinary lives in ordinary language, or ~t least ~"language that is not burdened with overt political reference. This does , not necessarily mean that the work is accessible, however, fo~ one oft- cited drawback of this type of literature is its difficulty (nankat). Se~ond is the search for the extraordinary, the "unreal" (higenjitsu), and the Irra- tional that lurk beneath the surface of ordinary life. Third is the focus on ;characters who dwell in the city, cut off from the traditional family struc-

tures associated with rurallife. 9 As we shall see, all of these features are evident in the three works translated in this collection. Chosen from the first decade of his published works, these stories provide an introd~c­

tion

to Furui's literary cosmos that explores the intersectio~ of_ r~ahty

and fantasy, tradition and modernity, and the collective and the m~Ividual. Since the publication of Yoko, Furui has continued to publish nov-

els, stories, and essays of increa~ing complexity

and dep~h, a~d has re~pe~

his share of Japan's literary pnzes. The two short stones,

The P~am

0

Sorrows" (Aihara, 1976) and "The Doll" (Ningyo, 1976),1° show ev1denc_e ·of this maturation of Furui's literary craft, both in theme and style. Typi- cal of works from this later period of his career, both show a greater em-

phasis on coming to terms with aging and death, thus shifting. the focus from the crises of young adulthood to those of approaching middle age. Yet, as he did in his early novella Yoko, Furui continues to explore a range of human experiences on the borderline, not only the boundary between

  • 6. Nakaishi Takashi, "Yoko-Furui Yoshikichi," Kokubungaku: Kaishaku to kanshO 38 (May

1973): 82.

  • 7. Iwamoto, "Yoshikichi Furui,"

385.

.

_

  • 8. Ohkubo Norio, "Shosetsu no 1970 nendai," Kokubungaku: Kaishaku to kyozaz no kenkyu

17, suppl. (June 1972): 66.

  • 9. Akiyama, "Nichijoteki genjitsu," 376-77.

, A'h

,

10. Both stories can be found in Furui Yoshikichi, Aihara (Bungei shunjii, 1977).

was first published in the October 1976 issue of Bunga

kk

·

az,

"N'

1

ara

mgyo -"in the Novem-

ber 1976 issue of Taiyo.

INTRODUCTION

4

sanity and madness, but also between life and death. Other major works include the novel Hijiri (The Sage, 1976), which further explores the am- biguous realm where the Japanese past and present collide. An injured mountain climber temporarily takes on the role of the holy man who disposes of the dead in a remote village, and finds himself drawn into rituals of defilement and purification that harken back to Japan's most ancient myths. In the companion novel Sumika (The Dwelling, 1977), the mountain climber returns to the city with the woman he married from the village, only to discover that this new environment leads his wife to madness. Furui's later stories have a flexible, flowing structure reminis- cent of the traditional Japanese essay, a tendency that is further devel- oped in his more recent collections. In Yoru wa ima (Now Is Night,1987) temporality is fluid, and the line between fiction and personal essay is blurred as Furui explores his perennial subjects of the nature of conscious- ness and the flux of identity. Kari ojo denshibun (A Tentative Attempt at a Tale of Salvation, 1989) juxtaposes elaborate versions of stories from the Heian period, of the death and rebirth of Buddhist monks in paradise, with vignettes of modern experience that reveal the irrationality and humor lurking quietly in everyday life. He continues to explore the ways in which the literature and culture of premodern Japan inform the con- temporary world. Furui has now taken his place as one of the established members of the bundan and serves on the committee that awards the Akutagawa Prize to the current generation of talented young writers.

Furui' s Literary

World: The View from the Margins

As the term "introverted generation" suggests, a common thread runs through all of Furui's work, and these three stories in particular: a con- cern with the inner workings of the human mind, the very mechanics of perception, cognition, and memory through which we create our subjec- tive reality. Typically, the mental processes of Furui's characters are some- how distorted by fatigue or illness, calling attention to the smooth and otherwise invisible means by which the ordinary person derives her iden- tity and makes sense of the world. The female protagonist in Yi5ko of course suffers from a mental illness, but her boyfriend is not exactly in a normal state of mind himself, which may account in part for his attraction to her. The dying man in "The Plain of Sorrows" takes his mistress along on his one-week vacation from the "sane" behavior of an upstanding husband and father, which allows him to attain a final peace. The career woman in "The Doll" finds that her attempt to establish her independence from her family results in a loss of her own sense of identity. In fact, at the heart of each story lies a period of madness for its main characters.

 

Introduction

5

The "mad" characters are never so irrational as to lose a certain awareness of their position of difference. In this way, Furui

employ his characters in subtle social critique. The figure of the mad-

or madwoman has traditionally been relegated

to the margins of

. •. • :.•
.
•.
• :.•

~apanese society; he or she has been ostracized, hidden away, or ignored. 11 Although attitudes have been slowly changing in recent years, even to- day mental illness is a secret to be guarded from the outside world. Nonetheless, what makes the mad character such an economical ijtlage in literature is the complex relationship he or she maintains with ~odety as both outsider and essential symbol. Relegated to the periph- ~ry, the mad character gains a fuller perspective on the center and serves • :as an instructive mirror rather than a passive one by bringing the contra- ~. dictions of the system into clear focus. 12 Many Japanese writers have also . ~mployed the voice of the mad (or at least neurotic) outsider to expose

· the hypocrisies of sane society, including Natsume Soseki, Yokomitsu Riichi, Tanizaki Jun'ichir6, and Akutagawa Ryunosuke, whose Kappa (1927), is perhaps the best example of the use of the madman's delusions as social criticism. Indeed, in literature the mad are sometimes philoso- phers in disguise. 13 Thus, madness can be a form of "superior sanity" because it signifies the ability to perceive and reject the general illness inherent in "normal" life. 14 By creating a character who transgresses the limits of socially acceptable behavior, Furui broadens the range of possi- bility for what the character can do and think and say, and at the same time endows that person with a different, and potentially subversive, perspective on what constitutes the socially acceptable. Furui always expresses his characters' perspectives in spatial terms by means of his contrasts between the city and the countryside, particularly the mountains, and his focus on newly built housing devel- opments that encroach upon nature. As such, these settings conform to anthropologist Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney's schema of Japanese society, which is based on the Shinto dichotomy of purity and impurity. The con- crete manifestations of the pure and impure are expressed in the spatial idioms of inside and outside, above and below. However, there are two

types of" outside": the clear-cut region of untamed nature

or foreign lands,

for example, and the area on the margins of what is pure or "inside." The outside beyond the margins may be threatening or neutral, but the sym-

  • 11. Emiko Ohnuki;Tierney, Illness and Culture in Contemporary Japan (Cambridge: Cam-

bridge University Press, 1984), 60.

  • 12. Roy Porter, A Social History of Madness: The World Through the Eyes of the Insane (New

York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987), 3.

  • 13. Shoshana Felman, Writing and Madness (Literature/Philosophy/Psychoanalysis), trans. Mar-

tha Noel Evans and Shoshana Felman (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), 37.

  • 14. Barbara Hill Rigney, Madness and Sexual Politics in the Feminist Novel: Studies in Bronte,

Woolf, Lessing and Atwood (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978), 8-9.

INTRODUCTION

6

bols of this outer margin are germs, illness, and death. The realm of the

in-between, in particular, forms the

locus of impurity. 15 Thus, although

we first encounter the mad Yoko crouching in a ravine deep in the moun- tains, it is only in the city that her behavior becomes problematic. More interesting, perhaps, is Furui's creation of a marginal space of madness within the city in a garbage-strewn empty lot in "The Plain of Sorrows" or on a deserted train car in "The Doll." We will find in all three stories in this collection the fundamental features of Furui's work. His characters are ordinary people, but their inner dramas take them across the border society constructs around the ordinary, into the realm of the irrational and the unconscious, a realm where the extinction of reason is linked to the final extinction of death. Paradoxically, Furui captures the amorphous mental state in a concrete setting, exploiting the symbolic power of natural and man-made envi- ronments. In each story we also see patterns of repetition such as fits,

sleepwalking, and urgent obsessions that suggest a link to an ancient,
I

· instinctual past. Furui addresses the issue of individual identity in each story by destabilizing the concept of a fixed identity. Even age and gen- der seem mutable characteristics. At points of crisis men take on female qualities and young women alternate between girlishness and voluptuous maturity. Finally, in spite of Odagiri Hideo's accusation of apolitical in- troversion, all of Furui's stories implicitly comment on the costs of mod- ernization to the individual in contemporary Japanese society. Each story highlights these themes from a different angle, through a variety of nar- rative approaches and a range of personal crises. Taken together, how- ever, the stories provide a well-rounded picture of Furui's complex vision. Yoko is the story of the relationship between the protagonist, known simply as "he," and a young woman who lends her name to the title of the novella. Although Yoko is a common name for girls in Japan, the unusual Chinese characters Furui chooses to represent his heroine's name are portentous: this "Yoko" translates as "child of darkness" or "child of indistinctness," imbuing the character with an aura of gloom and melancholy for the Japanese reader. Indeed, the reader soon discov- ers that Yoko's actions and experiences are in keeping with her remark- able appellation. The couple first meets deep in the mountains when the young man happens upon Yoko crouching on a rock in a deep ravine, paralyzed by her acute sensitivity to the fragile equilibrium of the rocks towering above her. Each action, reaction, and misperception is pains- takingly portrayed, and this scene soon takes on a symbolic resonance for the dynamics of their relationship as the couple seems drawn back to the story of their strange encounter again and again. A ravine deep in

15. Ohnuki-Tierney, Illness and Culture, 46-48.

INTRODUCTION • 6 bols of this outer margin are germs, illness, and death. The realm of

Introduction

7

:.the mountains of the physical interior of Japan becomes an expression of psychic interior of Yoko herself, whose psychological disorder de- fines the eerie landscape. Back in the city, both the young man and the reader find it hard to. determine what exactly is wrong with Yoko. Her illness seems to defy a definite medical diagnosis, but instead combines the symptoms of schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive neurosis, and manic-depression, leading the reader to look beyond medical labels to the broader signifi- cance of Yoko's disordered interaction with her society. Her "attacks" alternate between a hypersensitive reflection of her environment, be it the bustle of downtown Tokyo or the exuberance of a park in spring, and a complete withdrawal into self-absorption, as if she is again crouching paralyzed in the deep ravine of her illness. This shift between too little sense of self and too much suggests the balance any individual must ne- gotiate between external demands and internal desires. Yoko's extraor- dinariness may lie in the fact that she is aware of this tension and recog- nizes, in her words, that she is always trembling on the borderline, just like a thin membrane. Yoko's symptoms also often manifest themselves through her body, which sometimes appears thin and gawky, like a young girl's, and sometimes takes on the full, voluptuous quality of a mature woman. Here Furui situates his heroine on yet another borderline between childhood and adulthood. Part of Yoko's hesitation to undergo a "cure" involves her resistance to the mature woman's role as the proper housewife and mother, a fate to which her older sister has already succumbed. Furui's novella is, in fact, a story of a young woman's coming of age, a time of great change when the distinctions between male and female lovers, child and adult, the madness of the inner self and the sanity of proper social expectations, are brought into sharpest focus. "The Plain of Sorrows" explores another kind of borderline of human experience, that between life and death. This confrontation with death becomes a common theme in Furui's later works. Cancer, the dis- ease of middle age, often serves as a catalyst for this profound spiritual crisis of adulthood. In "The Plain of Sorrows," the narrator's best friend is diagnosed with lung cancer. Although such news is usually kept from the terminally ill in Japan, the dying man apparently guesses his fate and sets about trying to repay a spiritual debt to his dead sister by help- ing another troubled young woman find a reason to go on living. Like Yoko's ravine, the "plain of sorrows" of the title is a psychological as well as physical landscape, representing the portal through which a dy- ing man passes into the land of the dead. Furui incorporates Buddhist elements into his story: the dying man suddenly begins to chant Bud- dhist folksongs of salvation from the late Heian period collection Ryojin

INTRODUCTION

8

hishi5 (Songs to Make the Dust Dance on the Beams, ca. 1169); Lord Amida's paradise of salvation lies to the west, bathed in a purple glow, much like the horizon of the grassy plain the man is drawn to every night in his trance. However, juxtaposed with these mythic and spiritual ele- ments is the reality of urban Japan. The actual plain of sorrows that leads to the afterlife is nothing more than a rubbish-strewn abandoned lot in the middle of a new housing development on the outskirts of Tokyo. Present throughout the story is an undercurrent of tension between Japan's traditional past and the alienated existence of the city-dweller living far from his or her ancestral home. "The Doll" provides yet another view of a crisis in modern life through a woman's confrontation with madness and death. The protago- nist is a single woman in her early thirties, a time considered unlucky for women in traditional lore, and an age when a woman is no longer young by Japanese standards. When the woman decides to make a final break from her family in the country by establishing her own family register in Tokyo, her symbolic act of independence brings about a loss of mental stability as well. Alone in the big city with only casual affairs and friend- ships to sustain her, the woman turns to a large antique doll, a gift from her uncle, for emotional support. Typical of a Furui symbol, the doll is both a legacy and a burden as well as a focus for the woman's anxieties about her identity as an individual and a female. In her final breakdown, the woman finds herself drawn back into her personal past in a conclu- sion that is both ghostly and humorous. On one level, Furui's stories deal with nothing more than the or- dinary human dramas of growing up and growing old, but by probing farther into the recesses of the mind and memory, he touches upon the deepest mysteries of human existence. And, as if to balance the somber themes of madness and death, he also shows a great sensitivity to the dark humor inherent in everyday life. Although his stories are set in Ja- pan, the experiences of his characters as they try to make sense of their fragmented, fast-paced, and routine existence are familiar dilemmas to readers from any industrialized nation.

TRANSLATIONS

YOKO

Part One

Yoko was sitting alone at the bottom of a deep ravine. It was almost the middle of October, and before long the first snow would fall on the mountain peaks. It was about one in the afternoon when he noticed the dark clouds gathering in the western sky from his vantage point at the summit of K Mountain. He hurried down the mountain as if something were driving him onward and climbed down into the ravine from the ridge. At first the path headed straight toward 0 Valley, then it continued alongside the valley, gradually descending through thickets of dark, gloomy brush- wood. After about an hour and a half he finally reached the bottom of the ravine. He was not far from the junction of N Valley, and the place resounded with the heavy thunder of falling water. , When he looked up from the bottom of the ravine, the sky was already shrouded in low clouds. The slopes pressing in on either side were covered with a luxuriant growth of briars and shrubs. Their black, thorny branches seemed poised to smother the embers of crimson foli- age still glowing here and there among the withering leaves in the dim, enclosed ravine. In the dry riverbed, rocky debris lay in heaps along the watercourse in hushed silence, giving off a sort of pale, grayish light, which seeped into the bottom layer of the oppressive darkness. Yoko sat crouched over on a flat rock illuminated by that gray light, gazing di- rectly in front of her at a low cairn of stones, which some passing hiker had apparently built for his amusement. He should have noticed Yoko much sooner as he made his way slowly along a riverbed filled with nothing but rocks. In fact, since he had not seen another human being for nearly five hours, the figure of a woman sitting alone on a rock should have caught his attention immedi- ately, from quite a long distance away. Of course, he was rather tired from the last descent of his three-day solo expedition. As he walked

T R A N

S L A T I

0

N

S

12

through the deep ravine, weighed down with exhaustion, there were times when the surrounding rocks began to assume the shapes of various hu- man figures, sealed up in stone. And as his fatigue increased, those fig- ures began to emerge, warm and alive, from the broken spell of the rocks:

a man prostrate on the ground, a woman in agony embracing her child, an old matriarch seated in a formal posture. When he saw Yoko as well, he had continued on his way, thinking that the same sort of hazy vision was floating before him. Was Yoko's figure lost among his hallucinations? Was her body so lacking in vitality and spirit? That wasn't the only reason. When he first caught sight of the woman, he felt a slight confusion in the brief time it took to stop in his tracks. In fact, the young man, who was a little over twenty and not yet fully mature, was often caught up in moments of confusion, even when he was not standing at the bottom of a ravine. He fixed his eyes on the figure of the woman. Then he continued walking, murmuring to him- self, "So, there's a woman in a place like this." In the next instant, he was distracted by the somehow ominous sound of the waterfall rumbling down from the steep slope of N Valley to his left. Accidents sometimes happened in this valley. There were many cases of hikers who got lost on their way along the ridge leading from N Summit to this valley. He personally knew of five people who had gotten lost in this place and had fallen from the slope. After slipping from the waterfall, one of them had roamed around senselessly for two days be- fore finding his way down to the place where the two valleys met; he was finally rescued by a passing party of mountain climbers who found him stumbling through 0 Valley. Although he had hardly any external wounds on his face, it was said that his looks had changed so much that his older brother, who hurried to his side the following day, hadn't rec- ognized him. Such thoughts were running through the young man's mind as he stopped and strained his eyes. The woman's pale profile-and that alone-leapt into his field of vision from the far bank of the gently slop- ing riverbed, about twenty meters away. It came rushing toward him as if it were not a human face, and yet he was transfixed by a certain uncanny quality about it, of the kind a human face alone possesses. The instant he stopped moving, however, the face suddenly ceased to give him any impression at all, and with the countenance still before him, he was troubled by this absence of impres- sion, which he had never before experienced when looking at another human face. He was slowly overcome by a feeling of panic. A human face would have some kind of expression all the time, even when no one was there to see it, rather like the odor that naturally

y

if

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emanates from one's body. Yet, this face was floating transparently in the light of the ravine, as if even its innate expression had been washed away completely. However, the features did not seem to be swelling up, as one often saw on the faces of exhausted women deep in the mountains. Eyes, nose, lips, and narrow jaw-each feature stood out distinctly, each pre- served its own character so distinctly it was somehow pathetic. The woman was gazing at a cairn, which was standing in his general direc- tion, a short distance away. There was no doubt that she was gazing at it, but he found no perceptive faculty in those eyes. Because of that blank look, the whole face lacked a unified expression, and the longer she gazed at the cairn before her, the more her expression seemed to fade, sucked up by the steadfast existence of the pile of stones. He had never seen her before, and yet he felt compelled to sift through his memory, as if to draw forth the image of a faint expression, which was fading farther and far- ther away. If he eased up just a little in his efforts, that face went beyond the expressionless; it began to manifest the vacant rigidity of an inani- mate object. Each time this happened, he felt a strong urge to prove to him- self that the thing before him was a human being. His body was poised to flee but his eyes remained fixed on the woman's profile, and unwit- tingly he began to probe his own childhood memories. A moment later he murmured, "Ah, yes, that's the face of a child who's just been crying, and she's curled up in the corner of the yard, gazing at pebbles." With this conclusion, he finally relaxed his gaze and looked up and down the entire body of the woman. The body was somehow more expressive. The figure was still girl- ish. With her knapsack still strapped to her back, the woman had set her narrow hips on the stone as if she were in pain. Her upper body, wrapped in a flesh-colored parka, was tilted forward. Both arms were folded across her chest, and her thin elbows were pinned stiffly on either side of her concave abdomen. As his gazed shifted down, he noticed that she was tenderly stroking her crisscrossed arms from shoulder to forearm with the palms of her hands. Her legs in black slacks were pressed together firmly at the thighs, but, from the knees down, both calves opened loosely outward as if they didn't quite know what to do. The tips of her caravan shoes were purposefully digging their way into the gravel. Somehow the face did not seem to fit the defensive attitude of the body, but was stretched forward from her stiff posture as if it were surrendering itself to something. Nevertheless, when he finished surveying her body and looked back at her face, her expression was not as vacant as when he had first seen it. Her brow was faintly furrowed and her lips were parted. The woman had fixed her eyes upon the pile of rocks in front of her as if

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she were patiently enduring some kind of internal pain. He realized at last that here was a sick person to be looked after, and, recovering the self-confident bearing of a young mountain climber, he stepped toward her. A pebble glanced off his hiking boot and rolled five or six meters toward her until it lost its momentum and stopped. The woman turned her face slightly and fixed her vacant stare toward an area a little to the left of where he was standing. Once again she looked as if she could see nothing. Then, perhaps because her brief glimpse of him lingered in the corner of her eye, she looked straight up at him, but rather than actually gazing at him, she poured her dull look into his chest. He suddenly real- ized that, without being aware of it, his feet had been moving farther and farther to the right to maintain his distance from the woman. Her arms still folded across her chest, she gradually began to twist her upper body to follow him with her eyes as he was about to disappear behind her. Yet her gaze never connected with his body: it was too slow to follow his movements, fell short of the place where he was standing, or reached too far over his head. He continued to step to the right, but he was not trying to avoid her completely; rather, he drew a wide arc with the woman as the pivot. In this way, he was able to climb down to a place at roughly the same level as she was without significantly reducing the distance between them. He proceeded to trace a circle around her, his eyes riveted to the woman twisting her body painfully toward him. At that moment he suddenly thought of his own figure moving like a shadow in the dim periphery of the woman's field of vision. Or rather, he felt as if he had actually seen himself before his very eyes. Eluding the woman's gaze, he was gradually sinking and drowning with each step he took into the gray, jagged wilderness of rocky debris. From a vague feeling of pity he returned her gaze. But he could not seem to fix his gaze upon her either, and his vision of her faded. Although she was clearly visible to the eye, her presence did not strike him as strongly as the rocks around her. He had already decided to turn his back on her and walkaway. Then he stopped, stricken by the horrifying premonition that the rocks all around them were about to manifest their true nature and crash down into the dry riverbed all at once. Just as the sound of his footsteps stopped, he felt as if he had abruptly awakened from a dream to find himself standing forlorn in a wasteland of stone. The next moment he felt the strain of standing erect, and, at the same time, he became keenly aware of her gaze enveloping his body. He looked at her again. She was still holding herself tightly, twisting her hips in her effort to look toward him. She was like some magically pliant creature on the top of the flat rock, floating in a rough current of rocky debris. Tilting her head, she gazed with great concentration into his eyes. He gazed back into those

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eyes. Gaze and gaze were joined together as one. Drawn by that force, he began to walk straight toward her.

**********

Later, when they didn't know what else to do, the two of them 0ften thought back over these events. Over and over again, they helped each other describe their strange meeting in bits and pieces. Yoko told him that from early on she had heard the sound of his hiking boots as he descended into the ravine. She was able to hear it quite clearly for a long time, her attention drawn to it, but she was com- pletely unable to grasp its significance. She explained that it was as if, immersed in a shallow sleep, she had heard someone knocking repeat- edly at the front door, but-how could she describe it?-she was some- how unable to translate it into a coherent thought. It was as if she were twisting her body in irritation on the bed, and then her mind went blank, she said. That's what it was like .... The footsteps drew near and stopped, and it was then for the first time that she was startled. She sensed out of the corner of her eye that someone was standing above her, looking steadily down at her pro- file. She knew there was someone there, but she couldn't tell where he was standing in the gray wilderness, and so she didn't know where to turn her head. "You should have tried turning your head in different directions so you could see all around you," he said to Yoko at one point. "If it had been so easy, I wouldn't have been sitting in a place like that," she laughed. According to her story, Yoko said she felt that if she had casually looked up and no one had been there, if no one were standing in the foreground holding the gray torrent in check for her, then the rocky de- bris would have come tumbling down upon her in a great avalanche and she would have been lost. Since it was before eleven o' dock when Yoko began to climb down from the top of K Mountain, and she barely stopped at all along the way, she reckoned she had been sitting on top of the rock for approximately three hours. She had followed the same path that he had taken and had descended into the ravine through the dark, gloomy brushwood. When she stood at the riverbed, she said that she was keenly aware of the pres- sure bearing down on the ravine. Straining under the weight of the moun- tains that seemed about to slide down from both sides, the earth of the riverbed met her footsteps with a resilience substantially different from that of a mountain ridge or level ground. Every rock, buoyed up by the force confined in the soil, lay unsteadily, as if floating. The force was not

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confined to the earth; it also flowed over into space as well. The moment she carne down and stood in the ravine, she felt that same pressure on her eardrums as she did when diving head first into a pool. Perhaps that was why the thunder of water echoing from the nearby valley, although loud, was not particularly oppressive. It was as if she were separated from it by a thin, stretched membrane. Yoko became aware that she was walking with her back hunched. Yet she was not particularly tired. She continued on for a while in that odd position until she came to that flat rock. She first sat down upon it with the intention of getting her water bottle from her knapsack. Just as she sat down, immersing her body in the gray expanse of rock, Yoko felt the surrounding pressure gradually gathering around her and she instinctively cowered. Actually, it was not that the weight was pressing down upon her, but rather that the rocks on the periphery, with her as their pivot, had become completely still. Here and there in the ravine were places where the weight of the mountains established an equilibrium, and she sensed in an instant that she had unwittingly sat down at one of those points. She was filled with a vague fear that she, a vulnerable living body, was sitting in such a dangerous place. Then she felt a new fear, that she was so afraid that she had left herself, trembling like a helpless, frightened child, among these heavy rocks. For a while she could not lift her head. When she finally raised her head and looked around, the state of her surroundings had changed. All at once, the rocks in the dry riverbed seemed to be drifting. Each rock was stationary as before, but the very fact that they were motionless strengthened the impression that they were drifting. Sometimes, when she was gliding straight down a mountain on skis, the surrounding landscape, which had been rushing swiftly past on either side, would suddenly stand still, and all at once the sensation of speed would feel different. Her whole body would tense up. The force of the tips of her skis on the quiet surface of the snow, the frenzy of the piercing wind in her ears-the same feeling of the urgency was lurking silently within each and every one of the rocks lying around her. Helplessly, Yoko narrowed her field of vision to the small area of space directly in front of her and gazed diligently at each rock within it, trying to arrest the floating feeling. This did indeed stop the flow, but instead each rock-there was a faraway look in her eyes as she wondered aloud how to continue, then impatiently began her explanation again in stiff, awkward words-the vertical thrust of each rock had become strong and intense while the horizontal thrust was very weak and ineffective. With the exception of the rock she was sitting on, every rock was ear- nestly, obstinately intent upon the vertical. If something had tried to settle on top of them, the rocks would have raised up their corners and shaken

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it off. From the large rock to the small pebble, they all jostled against ·. each other as if they were about to fall at any moment. But each stood in the way of the other, and finally the motion stopped. Their flow arrested and weighed down, the rocks looked grim. How could this jostling throng support her body? If she stood up, she would have no choice but to run away as fast as she could. But she knew that if she tried, her body would immediately be paralyzed with fear. Bewildered, Yoko continued to sit on the rock. Soon she felt dis- tant and detached. It seemed as if quite a long time had passed before she began to think things over again. However, while she was thinking about this and that, she no longer seemed to be able to grasp her sense of herself. Her thoughts drifted in fragments along the jostling throng of gray and murmured languidly here and there. She herself was scattered here and there in as many fragments, and then she was nowhere. Thoughts floated for just an instant in space and were immediately washed away into the drifting rocks. Then, a moment later, they glided in from a dif- ferent place and began to murmur in complacent, childlike voices among the rocks, which had grown silent once again. Without realizing it, Yoko had been staring at a tower of small rocks sitting right in front of her. According to her recollection, she was completely unaware at that time that it was supposed to be a trail marker. There were eight small round rocks in all, each about the size of her two fists joined together. They were piled up with no great care, and the tower leaned to one side as if about to collapse at any moment. She was ab- sorbed in staring at that vertical, meaningless thing for a long time. How- ever, the more she looked, the more it became apparent that the stone tower did not rely upon an accidental equilibrium, but rather that the force of each rock trying to reach toward the sky was supporting the tower from within. Little by little each rock began to take on a living form. As she watched this transformation, her own body was gradually, relentlessly dissolving into the flow of the riverbed, which spread out- ward like a fan from the pivotal point of the stone tower. Forlorn and helpless, Yoko hugged herself tightly. There was still some feeling left in her body. It was a faraway feeling, as if she were looking down at her house from the top of a hill.

"It felt just like that

no, that's not quite right," she said, con-

... tradicting herself, leaving him all the more puzzled. At no other time, she said, was she so clearly aware of her own existence. Hugging her numbed body, she continued to gaze at the stone tower. But she was doing more than that. While she was gazing, she was slowly pouring her own energy into the base of the rocks. As she did so, each rock began to look increasingly full and rounded from within, and slowly, in a sort of trance, they began to grow as truly pure life in th

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light of the ravine. Yoko, too, felt as if she were slowly growing along with the rocks. She felt a profound happiness. "You say 'profound happiness'?" he asked, startled at her words. Yoko nodded. He thought he knew what she meant, but he asked again. "But when I got there, you didn't look at all'happy' or 'fulfilled. 111 Yoko put her hand to her forehead, deep in thought. After a long pause, she only replied, "Yes, I guess I should say 'pain' rather than 'hap- piness.' I never want to feel like that again." While she was looking at the stone tower, Yoko's fear subsided. She no longer had the helpless feeling that her being was diffusing out into the rocky riverbed. But, all around her, the rocks of the mountain and the valley were still lying stubbornly and heavily, sullenly preserv- ing a taut balance among themselves. Caught in the meshes of that net, she was unable to move. If she were to attempt to stand up, the balance of the netting would rupture and these rocks in their stony wrath would rush down upon her for her carelessness. To be a human being means to stand up and walk, Yoko thought to herself. It means to stand up among other things that all have the same weight as oneself, and to make an arrogant distinction between inside and outside, or near and far. To be a human being means to form one's own arbitrary view of reality on that basis, and to walk around in a daze, balancing a big head upon frail shoulders. But as soon as she made that distinction between inside and outside, a fear flowed into her and filled her completely, imparting a somehow animal-like feeling to her whole being. She would not stand up from this place again. The next time she would move from this place would be when the rocks of this riverbed began to crash down all at once. By that time she would have already turned into one of the rocks, and, feeling nothing, she would tumble down with the other rocks of the mountains and rivers. She felt her feet gradu- ally becoming imbedded in the gravel. At that point, the sound of footsteps drew near and stopped right above her. When the noise around her subsided to the sounds of the river, Yoko started out of her daze, and, in spite of the rigid and unresponsive posture of her body, she was finally able to tum her face in the approxi- mate direction of its source. There, standing amid that jostling throng of rocky debris straining skyward, was a man. "There's someone there," Yoko thought. But no matter how hard she gazed at the man's figure, it stood as expressionless as a stake rising sharply out of the rocky wasteland, and she was unable to perceive it clearly. The thought that someone was there grazed her consciousness, evoking no feeling. Yoko was tired and averted her eyes. Then she felt

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her gaze being drawn toward him once more and she looked up. The . xnoment she did, the man's figure suddenly began to move. Just then ... Every time her story reached this point, Yoko's expression took on a tender cruelty. She pressed herself tightly against him, turning only her face slightly away from his shoulder, and although the light of sym- pathy shone in her eyes, she began to speak in a dry voice without soft- ening her words in the least. just then, Yoko's eyes seized upon the man's figure for the

... first time and put him into focus. He began to walk two or three paces directly toward her, but he shrank back from the direct line of her gaze and gradually wandered off toward the left. Neither moving away nor drawing nearer, he traced a strange arc in the jostling rocks of the river- bed, occasionally glancing at her briefly out of the corner of his eye. He walked as if inching across thin ice, curling his long thin back with an animal sluggishness. His young eyes revealed his apprehension. Yet, as he walked, the gray stretch of rock came together into a somehow hu- man landscape, with the man at its center. Yoko stared intently at this scene, feeling as if an extraordinarily strange thing had come before her eyes. How he must love himself, she marveled. He loves himself and because of that he is troubled by apprehension. He loves that apprehen- sion, too. Because of that, although the man was nothing but a puny ex- istence looking as if he could be carried away in an instant by the clamor of rocky debris, he kept clear of her. Yet, when the man walked like this, the rocks that looked sinister to her gathered kindly around him and began to bind themselves together with a mild uneasiness. Yoko studied this scene fixedly for a while. Then, at that overly obvious display of his self-love and apprehension, she felt the same type of fear as when she passed a drunk on the road at night, and she cried out inside, "Hey, you! Stop!" He abruptly stopped and stood perfectly still among the rocks, his body tensed and poised to flee. But then, he turned toward her as if in a daze, and approached timidly like a large, cowardly beast with clouded eyes. Just as Yoko had observed, he had been troubled by every pos- sible superstitious thought as he drew closer to the woman seated on the rock. She sat facing away from him, so in order to look at him as he ap- proached from behind, she had to twist her upper body from the waist as far as she could, her arms still folded protectively across her chest. As he drew closer, she had to arch her back and tilt her head diagonally back- ward in her effort to watch hiin. But when he reached her side, she sud- denly grew small, and silently looked up into his face from her rigid posture. There was something both pathetic and a bit uncanny about that posture. He slowly circled in front of her, fixing his eyes on her tense,

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white throat. At the same time, she untwisted her body, brought her arms down to her sides, and straightened her neck to look up to him. Then she stood up, and, as if feeling dizzy, she stumbled toward his left shoulder.

  • I "Please take me down to the foot of the mountain," Yoko said to him in a low, soft voice.

**********

He offered his right arm, and Yoko immediately accepted it, cling- ing fast to him. Without a word he started off. Yoko stooped forward slightly and stepped carefully as if she were treading on a quagmire. Her arm was weightless. Her body floated at his side, faintly warm, and she matched his pace as if she were being carried along. After the strain, he, too, was unable to speak. When they had gone along the riverbed for a while, the valley gradually closed in from the left. The path began to twist and turn up along the right face of the desolate surface of the mountain, so narrow that only one person could pass at a time. He loosened her hand from his right arm. Yoko crouched down among the rocks and looked up at him reproachfully. He turned his back on her with apparent indifference and began to climb onward. When he had climbed about ten meters, he looked back and jerked his chin as if urging her to follow. Yoko shook her head silently. But as she began to shake her head once more, she gazed into his eyes. He flashed her a penetrating look. She slowly straightened and climbed toward him as if reeled in by his gaze. This scene was repeated again and again. After continuing for over an hour, up and down over rather difficult terrain, they finally de- scended to a suspension bridge, which led into the shrine that served as a gateway to the shrine at the summit. At the approach to the bridge, Yoko crouched down on the ground again. It was there that he first spoke to her.

"If you can't cross this kind of bridge by yourself, you shouldn't come to the mountains again." "I won't," Yoko murmured, looking at the ground. "What's more, when you've lost your confidence, you won't even be able to walk around by yourself in the city anymore." Wondering to himself why he had said such cruel things, he un- fastened the knapsack from the cowering Yoko and, carrying it in one hand, briskly crossed the bridge. Throwing the two knapsacks down on the opposite bank, he returned halfway across the bridge. Yoko raised her head meekly and followed his movements with her eyes. He stood in the middle of the bridge and, assuming as carefree a posture as he could, signaled with his eyes, "Come across now!"

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It was a scenario that they had been repeating for some time, so when Yoko felt his stare, she stood up almost reflexively and began to cross the bridge with stiff, awkward steps. As she came nearer, he gradu- ally drew back toward the far bank, still firmly holding her gaze. When he had lured her about halfway across the bridge, he sud- denly thought, "Why, she's just like a dog!" At that very moment, Yoko stopped. She took her eyes away from him and peeped down between the footboards at the swift torrent about four meters below. She seemed to have fallen into a daze again. But it was not as if she were paralyzed. Rather, her body relaxed from its tense, stooped posture and took on a defiant, almost brazen appearance. Her back straight, knees slightly bent, she rested her fingertips lightly on the ropes at either side and gazed dreamily down at the current as if she were not even aware that he was waiting for her. As she stood on the suspension bridge, looking down at the rushing water beneath her feet, the whole bridge began to slide upstream, sending up clouds of spray.... "Don't look down!" he shouted out instinctively. Yoko slowly raised her head and gave him a puzzled look. Then reluctantly, but with an air of abandonment, she began to make her way across. Now it was his turn to become tense. Keeping his eyes on Yoko, he slowly retreated and jumped backward onto the bank, where he waited for her. Crossing to the point where there were only two wooden slats left to go, Yoko stopped again. This time she was truly unable to move. "It's okay now," he said, reaching out with both arms from the bank. A tight, drawn expression, neither laugh nor scowl, came over her face, and in the next instant she threw her body forward as if she were hurling a stick and collapsed into his arms. Under the impact of the weight, he landed upon the ground on his buttocks. "You sure do crazy things," he said. As he helped the still gasp- ing Yoko up from the ground, he looked over at the slat where she had been standing. He was shocked. If he had held out his hand one second later, she surely would have missed her step and fallen through. Without even glancing back toward the bridge, she turned her flushed face into the wind, absorbed in the task of smoothing stray wisps of hair back into place.

The second time they met was also by chance. One day near the end of January, more than three months after their meeting in 0 Valley, he was waiting in a train station when Yoko came dashing down the crowded stairway toward him.

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He was standing at the white line on the platform, waiting for his train. A train going in the opposite direction had stopped right across from him on the next track over. Yoko later explained that she'd been sitting on that train when she spotted him standing there and had run out onto the platform seconds before the doors closed. He, too, thought he had caught a brief glimpse of Yoko's face. As he was looking in through the window at the commotion of passengers getting on and off the train, he was suddenly reminded of the tiny, blurred face of the woman he had met in the ravine. However, before he could get a clear grasp on that memory, the train began to move forward and the faces of the people inside-all holding on to the hanging straps and gazing toward him with bored expressions-took on an appearance quite similar to his own. His attention was vaguely drawn to the emerald green flow of the train cars sliding out of the station. Just then, the same cur- rent of emerald green came sliding into the platform from the opposite direction, and a large train chassis stood in front of his nose, obscuring the far platform and the fragile memory that had just begun to take shape in his mind. A second before, he had seen a childlike figure dashing up the stairs of that other platform. Soon the figure came running along the over- pass toward the platform where he was standing; as it flitted past each window, it flashed dark against the glass tinted red by the setting sun. He followed the figure that far with his eyes without really giving it a thought. Then his attention was drawn to the open door in front of him. The passengers poured out of the train and proceeded toward the stairway at the same brisk speed, but suddenly they looked up and slackened their pace as if annoyed. A faint glimmer of curiosity simulta- neously flickered in the eyes of the men looking up. Their gaze seemed to follow the high-pitched sound of footsteps dashing recklessly down the stairs. "So, it's a woman," he thought to himself, as the image of a woman in high heels, with her skirt immodestly disheveled, flashed into his head. But feeling he had seen his own curiosity reflected in the eyes of the men around him, he saw no need to make the effort to turn and see her for himself. He merely began to walk along with the boarding pas- sengers, who had begun to shuffle toward the door of the train. The warning bell signaling the train's departure had already be- gun to ring. Just then, out of the crowd and confusion, a gentle, some- how familiar, warmth drew near, directly behind his right arm. He felt someone place a hand lightly on his elbow, and when he turned around, a girl in a white coat had just stepped away from his side and was bow- ing to him politely. He thought he had been mistaken for someone else. Then the girl looked into his eyes and tilted her flushed face a little to the right.

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"I want to thank you, very much, for helping me out the other " she said in a formal manner. Her voice was thin and a little high-

Even after he had puposely missed his train and found himself beside the girl along the underground passage from the plat- form to the station, he still could not free himself of the doubt that this someone else. Her footsteps sounded completely different. The girl walking to his right, about one step behind. From time to time he 'saw her pointed shoes out of the corner of his eye. They made a clear, methodical sound amid the noise and confusion of the crowd. One could ,even say her footsteps had a definite character, and sometimes they went ,,,m,uL<><u the movements impatiently as if bothered by their own distinct- . At those times, he turned around and looked back at her. Her al- ed eyes flinched a little under his gaze, but then they sprang like a small branch to meet his, and she looked into his eyes and smiled.

Again he picked out each feature of the face of the woman who }tad been sitting in the ravine: the eyes and nose and lips and lines that tapered softly toward the narrow jaw. The last time he had seen her, each :feature had retained its own character in isolation, within the blankness that vaguely permeated the whole face. But now, each one had found its iplace and fit together in tense harmony in the beautiful glow that radi- ated from her small face. However, there was a sense of instability, which he couldn't place, as if that blankness would immediately take over again should that glow fail to keep renewing itself. He casually speeded up his pace and then slowed down. Adjusting to his caprice, the clear footsteps echoed as methodically as ever through the crowd.

**********

On the day of their first meeting, neither of them had asked a single question about the other. They barely spoke at all. Their meeting was a little too unusual for the typical exchange of a young man and woman who had just become acquainted. Besides, in order to get home before evening, they had to move on with no time to spare for talking. They walked purposefully between the mulberry plantations misting over with a fine rain, sharing the shelter of a vinyl raincoat they held over their heads. Yoko became a slight warmth under his right arm, faint enough that he wasn't sure whether she was there or not. Her feet made no sound, but still she walked capably, adjusting herself to his pace. An hour later they barely managed to catch the bus. Even on the bus, they both just stared ahead into the evening darkness, mindful of the time of the next express train. From the time they got off the bus until

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they were on board the train, they also had to keep running. Finally, when they had settled in their seats, and he had bought her a box lunch at the next station, Yoko said, "Thank you," and smiled shyly. As she ate, she turned her body toward the window as if to conceal her eating from him. She ate about one third of the box lunch, and then, as she sipped her tea and gazed out of the window into the darkness, her head began to nod drowsily. Sometimes she raised her head with a start and smiled, then sank back into a doze, a smile still on her lips. Gradually her features grew somewhat puffy, and she fell soundly asleep. She slept all the way to the last station. Even when they parted at the station, the only words they exchanged were, "Are you all right?" "Yes, I'm fine. Thank you very much." It was only after Yoko had disappeared into the stream of people that he finally realized that they had never even told each other their names.

Nothing of Yoko remained but the faint warmth he had grown accustomed to in his right arm. He felt exactly as if he had whimsically picked up a cat in the rain and then put it back down again. The con- sciousness that he had experienced something unusual had faded away to practically nothing. Around the time they first met, he himself was not exactly in an ordinary state of mind either. He still hadn't attended school since sum- mer vacation; for the most part, he stayed cooped up in the house. At the worst times, he shut himself up in his own "nursery" for ten days at a stretch, except for mealtimes, without feeling bored. Perhaps this, too, was the illness of self-absorption. However, as this harmless illness grew worse, it brought about an extreme indifference to other things outside him. That was not all. Ironically, the illness had the tendency to lead him to a strange indifference toward his present self and his own experience. On rare occasions, he recalled the incident in that ravine. Then he felt as if he wanted to go out to school the very next day and tell his friends about it. There was no doubt that his friends would find the story interesting. Then, in a roundabout way, the incident would become a unique experience for him at last. And perhaps he would be able to take an interest in himself again, precisely because he would continue to have similar experiences in the future. However, when he tried to remember the incident in detail, he invariably carne up against a feeling of discomfort. At times, he had seen an expression in that woman's eyes that looked as if she somehow pitied him and was puzzled at his good intentions. Then he was struck by an inspiration. "She was planning to commit suicide there, wasn't she?" His memory turned completely upside down, and he felt that he was quietly watching through her clear eyes the conduct of a young mountaineer, rough and brimming with self-confidence. He decided that she must have

y i5 k 0 25 0 a young woman, the same age as he, or rather
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a young woman, the same age as he, or rather three or four years
Then, at last, his memory was calm.
''"~'"~--·
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Now, sitting opposite her at a table in a coffee shop, he was no
sure how old she was. On a chair, she held her upper body with
and her hips looked unexpectedly womanly. Clear downy hair grew
on her white arms and swept along her lackluster skin. Her
was somehow ageless, and inexplicably radiated a pallid, lifeless
that made him feel vaguely uncomfortable. He again remembered
idea about suicide. He had his own image of a person, whether man
woman, who would commit suicide. At that moment a person was
to take his own life, his age would be swept away and he would be
in an ashen pallor neither aged nor
...
"Thanks to you I've recovered now," she said in a thin voice.
"Thanks to me
" he stammered, unable to grasp the meaning
her words.
"I was ill."
"What was the matter?"
"Acrophobia." The harsh word rang out almost cheerfully from
small, pouting lips.
"Acrophobia? Why would a person with a fear of heights climb
mountains?"
"I didn't know I had acrophobia."
"You'd come all the way down to the ravine and there you finally
"Strange, isn't it?"
"You didn't feel anything on the mountain peak?"
"No, I was perfectly happy."
He drew back slightly, his curiosity suddenly dampened by the
word "happy." She looked down. When there was a break in the conver-
sation, the high pitch of her voice lingered in his ears. It was certainly
not so high that an outsider would remark on it; rather, it should have
been described as a thin, clear voice. But compared to her deep, full voice
in the ravine, it sounded pathetic to his ears. Whether she sensed his
confusion or not, she was looking down and smiling to herself. He no-
that every now and then, she would knit her brow almost imper-
and twist her body slightly toward her left shoulder.
"So, you didn't feel a thing on the top of the mountain," he asked
her, "but the acrophobia hit after you came down into the ravine?" The
between them seemed strange to him, for although this was
effect their first meeting, he was asking all the questions, and about
inner thoughts and feelings, too.
"

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Lost in thought, she gazed over his shoulder at some faraway place, then answered in a softer voice. "Maybe a ravine is the place where the sensation of height accumulates. Each rock is packed to the core with the sensation of height, and it seems like they feel hostility toward any "

human being who trespasses there

....

Now that the uncanny quality of the ravine had been put directly into words, he reexamined her face with a new interest. She blushed and said in a nasal voice, "I'm not really sure." Then she stretched, leaning back in her chair, and began to look all around the shop like a child who has been brought to an unusual place. Each time her gaze shifted from one distant point to another, it came back before him and fell on his watch- ing eyes, and she smiled absently as if approaching from afar. Every time her profile began to turn toward him, he started to recall the profile of the woman who had been sitting on the rock, but before he could com- pletely recapture it, she was squarely facing him and starting to smile in a friendly way again. He was taken aback by the defenselessness of that smiling face. But in contrast to the expression on her face, the words she spoke were more awkward; she seemed to fling them out in confusion from within her reticence. Because of this, their exchange bore a slight resemblance to a dialogue between doctor and patient. "Is acrophobia something that appears so suddenly?" "I had it a little before I went up into the mountains." "But you said that was the first time you noticed it, didn't you?" "Yes, I hadn't realized that it was acrophobia."

"Why not?" "It's strange. I don't feel it at all when I'm in high places. Actu- ally, I feel rather lighthearted." "But wait a minute. Someone who has acrophobia tenses up when he's standing in a high place, right?" "Yes. But I feel it when I'm in a flat place. It only happens some- times, but when it does, I don't know how I'm able to keep standing." Then her talk suddenly took a strange turn. "If the floor of the room were bulging out like a lens, it would be hard to stay put, wouldn't it? And then what if the floor were tilted a little to one side, that would make you nervous, wouldn't it? I certainly don't want to have a conversation with someone or drink tea or eat meals in a place like that, so I immediately walk out to try to find a place that's normal, but wherever I go, the ground is cockeyed. I want to scream out, 'How can everybody stand to live in a place like this!' But nobody seems to care and I don't know what to do

"

....

As she talked on, the expression on her face faded, and, para- doxically, as her words filled with enthusiasm, her voice took on a mono- tone. It was as if she were sinking gradually into drowsiness while exert-

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ing herself to the utmost to speak from beyond the thin membrane of sleep. Her eyes and nose and lips lost their coherence and each individual feature was somehow unrestrained. There was an oddly suggestive qual- ity about it that made him want to take her into his arms. "Do you really feel that way?" he asked with concern. With these words she recovered her genial expression. Running her hand over her knee, she answered in the voice of a mature woman. "Yes, well, I'm probably telling a lie. When I'm asked if I really mean what I say, I feel that the proper answer is 'No.' But I find myself want- ing to go ahead and say it. Whenever I talk to someone about my illness, I always end up telling lies." He was conscious of an undertone in her voice, as if she pitied him, who knew nothing and had no need to know. Unable to find the words, he blurted out rudely, "You're not talking about acropho- bia at all!" "Yes, you're right. It isn't acrophobia, is it?" she said, contradict- ing herself graciously. She smiled. When they left the shop and came back to the underground pas- sage, she still seemed like a young girl to him, although he already knew they were the same age. This time she walked two or three paces ahead, and now that he was able to get a good look at her, he saw that her legs graceful as she walked. Her whole body was animated by the en- ergy springing up from her narrow shoes that stepped along as if they were rapping the concrete, thus making her slender body look more and more cheerful. However, each time they approached the congestion of a cross passage or subway entrance, her step became uncertain. Her foot- steps were no longer audible, and she began to look absently around her. She looked as if she were trying to make sure of something. In retaliation for the sense of inferiority she had given him in the shop a few moments ago, he silently passed her and proceeded on at the same pace. A mo- ment later, when he had just started to worry about her, the clear sound of her hurried footsteps approached from behind once more. She passed him and walked two or three paces ahead, animated with deliberate glee. Repeating this routine several times, they went through the ticket gate at the station and walked on for a while. Then she suddenly stopped and turned around. That gentle warmth drew near his chest, and she spoke in a high, thin voice. "Would it be okay if I wait for you next week on this day, at the same time and place?" Until that instant, he'd had no plan whatsoever about the future, as if he thought they would naturally run into each other again once , they had parted. He was amazed at his own carelessness.

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When the next week came, he no longer remembered when Yoko's "same time" was. She must have meant the time they had arrived at the coffee shop, but he hadn't the slightest idea when he had met her the last time. He was not at all sure what time he had left the house, how long he had walked around in the streets, and what time he had been standing on that platform. For the first time in a long while, he tried to retrace the day's activities one by one. However, all he could do was to narrow down Yoko's "same time" to three- or four-thirty, a difference of a little over an hour.

Finally, after taking a number of factors into consideration, he estimated four o'clock and arrived at the coffee shop a little before four. Yoko was sitting at a table in the same corner as before, poised at the edge of her chair, her body bent stiffly forward. She clasped her purse tightly on top of her knees with both hands, and even though the shop was heated, she was still wearing her coat. She looked as if she had come for the purpose of explaining that she had to go back home immediately. He approached her expecting her to say just that. Yoko heard the sound of his footsteps from rather far away and looked up. For a moment she looked blankly into his face, then her eyes lit up. When he sat down across from her, she took off her coat as if she'd just arrived with him, and she settled back into the chair and bowed her head in greeting. The week after that, she was waiting for him in exactly the same posture. He thought she looked like a country girl who had come to the city alone and was sitting on a bench in the station, shrinking with fear because the person who was supposed to meet her had not come. Watching Yoko slowly twist and turn in her seat as she took her coat off, he asked, "Why did you have your coat on?" "I was sort of uncomfortable," she said, frowning from the ap- parent exertion of pulling her shoulder from her coat. Then, seeing that he looked dissatisfied with her answer, she said, "Besides, I'm sensitive to the cold. When I come back home on a cold, windy day, I go straight into the living room and sit in front of the heater for a while with my coat on."

He thought of Yoko's house. Seven years ago, she had lost both of her parents one after the other. Apparently she was now living with her older sister and her husband in the house their parents had left them. However, he had not wanted to know about her family. From the begin- ning they had both avoided the subject of families. After that, Yoko waited with her coat off. However, she still sat well forward, practically on the edge of the chair, and the stiff, stooped posture of her thin body was always exactly the same. When it became clear that both of them were comfortable with silence, they no longer spoke much and passed the time offering disconnected phrases to each

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in between long intervals of silence. On rare occasions, their con- was inspired by some conventional topic, but even at such times, 's voice was thin and somewhat high-pitched, and seemed as if it were about to disappear at any moment. Even in the middle of a conver- ~ation, she had the habit of suddenly swallowing the end of her sentence · sinking into silence with no apparent concern. However, they al- one another these vagaries, like two fellow convalescents. Whenever they touched upon the subject of "illness," Yoko's '""J"'L" became particularly vague. She said over and over that she had because she had happened to meet him in the mountains. And she also said that the "illness" had been at its worst during the month so following her return from the mountains. When he pointed out the she revised her statement to, "I got better after I met you the train platform," or, "After I came back from the mountains, I con- pictured your face in my mind," which hardly qualified as a proper ~~·"'"'',. Then she began to recite again, with tears in her eyes, how very better she had gotten because of him. He denied it. "As I've said so many times before, I just brought down to the foot of the mountain. Even if I hadn't come along, you .would have come down by yourself a little while later." "It would have been hopeless. Even if I'd been able to make it by myself, it still would have been hopeless." "But surely you would have been all right if you'd made it down

"Thanks to you, I've gotten better." "I don't remember having cured this 'illness' of yours." "But it's gotten better. After that everything seemed so tranquil, easy on the eye, so very beautiful. It was too beautifut too good to be

He had absolutely no idea when she meant by" after that." But in spite of his uncertainty, he was touched all the same.

**********

One day, he had just come along the underground passage on his , way to meet her and was about to ascend the narrow stairway that led to their usual meeting place, when he saw Yoko. She was clutching her hand- to her chest and walking restlessly back and forth in front of the ei1tr<:mc:e to the shop on the landing between the two flights of stairs. A of haze hung about her face and yet her thin body was terribly agi- He stopped at the bottom of the stairway and watched her. After wandered around thelanding for a while, she peered into the shop, her forehead against the light brown glass door.

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The hostess noticed her from the inside and quickly opened the door to glare at the profile of this woman who seemed to have no inten- tion of actually coming inside. Completely unaffected, Yoko peeped through this new opening in the door into the interior of the dim coffee shop, stooping a little and craning her neck in every direction. The angry hostess released the door handle and the door slammed shut practically in Yoko's face. Yoko straightened, lifted her handbag back to her chest, and wandered around the landing again for a while. Then she leaned against the wall, looked down at her feet and waited, motionless. When he walked up to her, Yoko raised her eyes and all at once her face was beaming with joy. She took his arm, and looked anxiously toward the door as if she wanted to tell him there were strange things going on inside the shop. Supposing that the place must be serving as a rendezvous for gangsters, he entered the coffee shop first, shielding Yoko

  • I behind him. Looking around, he saw nothing particularly strange, ex- cept that a middle-aged couple was sitting and talking at the table in the comer where he and Yoko usually sat. "What's the matter?" he said as he turned back to her. Not even trying to hide herself behind him, Yoko stared boldly at the place where the middle-age couple was sitting. "Our seats are taken," she said in a plaintive voice. "Well, aren't there plenty of other seats?" "I thought we'd miss each other if I didn't sit in the same seat." "That's ridiculous! You know I'd be able to find you no matter where you were sitting." "I know, but there are so many seats and I didn't know which "

I:

'

one I should take

.... Dumbfounded, he looked around at the empty tables scattered throughout the spacious coffee shop. Without asking any further ques- tions, he picked out a place and seated Yoko there. Perhaps because she felt ashamed to have revealed part of her strange neurosis, she barely said a word that day. He too didn't know what to say; he just sat in front of her, silently recalling the incident at the ravine. When they left the coffee shop about two hours later, he sud- denly grew tired of repeating the same thing over and over. So instead of going down to the underground passage as usual, they went up the stair- way and came out onto the main street, which glowed with neon under the night sky. Yoko seemed slightly disoriented as they went up, and she stayed closer to him than usual. He turned off the main street onto a narrower side street and proceeded to make a tour of the neighborhood, turning comers at random but deliberately choosing streets with more

pedestrian traffic. The gentle warmth nestled close to his right side amid the bustling crowd and stayed beside him without making a sound. Ev-

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rlhPt'P he went, she followed. This seemed strange to him and he Yoko automatically halted and looked up at him. Immediately his left there was a coffee shop that had a somehow depressed air about · · in comparison with the other shops on the street. · He pointed to the door of the shop and said, "Next time, let's at this place." "Oh, I can't," Y6ko murmured, bringing her hand to her forehead. "Why not? Well, we won't meet in the evening then-let's make two in the afternoon. I promise I'll get here first and wait for you," he said, determined to hold his ground. ·

A

..

.,,

..

Yoko looked at him with reproachful eyes. Then she looked slowly the neighborhood. Frowning deeply, she studied each one of the -~·"'"h" shops and store signs and looked along the street to the left and counting off the intersecting streets in a thin voice. "That's the main ~reet, isn't it?" she asked, cocking her head, and then as if to reassure herself, "When you turn left there, you get to the station." Finally she ~rned to him with an anxious look on her face and nodded, "Yes, it's

That day, he arrived at the new place earlier than the appointed Wne to wait for her. He sat at a table close to the entrance, and as he was .J!VIJAJ-''1". out through the brown-tinted glass at the sidewalk, he saw Yoko ~o:tning from the direction of the main street, almost exactly at the ap- . time. She stopped right in front of him, separated only by the plille of glass, and looked at the shop sign and then the door. She seemed to. be murmuring the name of the shop to herself over and over again. Presently her face took on the formal expression of a woman approach- l;ng a stranger's house, and she walked toward the door, smoothing the collar of her coat lightly with her left hand. However, when she stood directly in front of the rectangle of tinted glass and set her eyes on the large letters of the shop's name in white paint before her, she seemed to hold her breath a moment and her face looked as if a thin film were gradually over her features. She leaned back slightly and glanced over the whole building, then cocked her head and walked away uncer- tainly. He was about to go after her, but just at that moment, a waiter with a tray in one hand came over and stood right in front of him, block- ing his way. So, he sank back into his chair and decided to wait and watch her.

.,,, ._

...u''1".

Before long, Yoko came slowly back along the sidewalk on the other side of the street. She looked earnestly at the store signs on this $ide, checking each one and nodding. Her feet seemed to waver right across from the shop where he was waiting, and she looked as if she would step off the sidewalk and come over at any moment. But she walked on.

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He knew that he had to call out to her before she disappeared into the crowd. But the strange thrill of watching her from a hidden place kept him fixed in his seat. The way she walked did not give the impres- sion that she would go much farther. He continued gazing intently, tell- ing himself that of course she would come back, drawn by the familiar impression of that shop. As he expected, in a little while Yoko came briskly back down the first side of the street, walking with apparent purpose. Her profile looked haggard. In an instant, she had walked right past him. This time she walked intently as if she had absolutely no connection with his pres- ence on the other side of the glass. "I wonder what she's looking for?" he thought as he gazed after her abstractedly. After she had completely dis- appeared into the crowd, he could imagine that all of his dealings with her had been nothing but a dream. After quite a long time he was still looking toward the place where Yoko had disappeared, when her white face, eyes half-closed, quietly reached out to him from the crowd, and she approached step by step as if she were treading cautiously along a suspension bridge. When she came to the coffee shop, she halted in exactly the same pose and exactly the same spot where they had stood together that evening the time before. She slowly looked around, her eyes still half-closed. He finally came to his senses and got up from his chair. At that very instant, Yoko abruptly opened her eyes. They seemed to take on the expression of a cat staking out an alley as she quickly pushed open the door of the shop and came in. She caught his eye right away, and with a sugary smile on her face, she heaved a sigh of relief. "I didn't know which one it was. All of the shops looked the same." Yoko sank down sideways into the chair across from him. "The last time I stood there, I was only looking at the shops on the other side, so I couldn't remember the ones on this side at all." "Liar!" Although he had half understood what she had said, he wasn't in the mood for listening. "I was watching you from the inside. At first you stopped right in front of this shop and then you came up close to the door, didn't you?" The expression in her eyes grew hard. A sharpness still lingered there as her mouth twitched into a confused smile. He decided to strike once more. "The name has just three letters. And look, they're written very large in white on brown glass. You must have heard me repeat that name last time." Yoko was still smiling. She did not look as if she didn't know how to answer, rather she was making sure that the answer was not too obvious to put into words. Then she began to speak in a slightly hoarse voice.

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"It was because I was looking from such a short distance that I 't recognize it. Each letter became a mere symbol and it wasn't easy • to read all three together as a name. To make matters worse, when I fi- read it, it sounded wrong. After I left the house, I recited that name over and over to myself on the way. The name that you told me last time." "I can hardly believe that the same word sounded so different." "It sounded completely different." "So how was it different?" "I felt like I was hearing it for the first time. The whole shop looked different and I felt as if I'd never seen it before. I couldn't bring myself to push open the door and come in." Yoko sighed and looked down. With her hands on her knees and her shoulders drooping forward, her appearance seemed modest at first, but the expression on her face, averted diagonally downward, gave him • the sense that she was shut up within herself and would not give an Her hips suddenly looked full, and the shameless face of a woman who had just gotten out of bed showed through her stubborn, blank expression. "I understand what you're talking about," he finally said. In any case, he broke the silence with the intention of attacking from a different direction. However, the moment he nodded and said, "I understand," he was half dragged into Yoko's feelings, and he began to rebuke her with great seriousness in a tone of voice he rarely used. "But even granting for the time being that it sounded completely different, you knew that it was the same word, didn't you? And if it was the same word, couldn't you figure out that I'd be waiting for you in a shop by that name? And if you knew that, even if it still didn't seem like the right place, you should've opened the door and come in. You use the · telephone every day, don't you? At school you check the numbers on the classrooms and go in, right? You manage to do the same things without any trouble." Yoko lifted her head slowly and looked into his eyes again. "Yes, but suppose you were standing in front of some shop that you had no memory of ever having seen or heard about before. You con- clude only in your head that I'm waiting inside for you, could you come in on that basis alone? Suppose there's a large building and you are walk- ing down a long, dark corridor in it. There are doors that all look the same lined up along either side. Could you go into one just by deciding in your mind which one I was waiting behind?" There was a sticky qual- ity in her voice. "If you had the slightest hunch that this was the right place, you should have closed your eyes and rushed in. You wouldn't have had such

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a feeling if it had been the wrong door." This time, it was his voice that sounded thin and childish. Yoko thrust aside his words in a damp, clinging voice. "The reason I didn't come in was precisely because I had a faint, lingering feeling that this was the right place. If I had opened the door thinking that this was the place and it was a completely different shop, what would I do? That would leave me with no choice but to try opening all of the doors. Don't you agree?" As she said this, she covered her cheeks with both palms, gather- ing tight vertical wrinkles on her forehead, and fell silent. He remem- bered the figure of the woman wandering around from shop to shop in search of him, and he felt as if he had been burdened with a heavy re- sponsibility. Again he thought back over the encounter in the ravine. "Your problem is that you have a bad case of direction-blind- ness." These altogether meaningless words spilled from his puzzled lips. As he spoke, Yoko's face lit up. "That's it. I have direction-blind- ness," she said in a high, thin voice, and she twisted and turned her thin, girlish body from side to side. He was taken aback by the change in her. "No, I mean you have

  • I no sense of discrimination," he said, correcting himself nonsensically. "Yes, no sense of discrimination," said Yoko, grasping joyfully at the words. He was surprised to see that the conversation was taking the op- posite turn from the time they had discussed acrophobia. However, he could no longer bear the unpleasantness of questioning her in this point- less way, so he joined in with Yoko's joviality. "Shall I give you some remedial training?" "Yes. Put me on a remedial training program. Please do. I can't go on this way." Just as he started thinking that he would assign a different coffee shop for the next time, he had a premonition that the same thing would happen again, and he sank into a gloomy sadness. "Inside and outside-there's something weird about it, isn't

I'

I,

Ji'i

'I

!

there?"

"I want you to help me, like you did at the suspension bridge." He was only too ready to be moved by these words.

Part Three

From that time on, he came to fear Yoko's illness. As if in reaction to his fear, her illness confined her once again inside a young girl's stiff demeanor, and, for a time, the more intimate face of the mature woman he had seen that day in the coffee shop was not revealed to him.

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When he thought back to that period of his life, it seemed to him if Yoko were perpetually romping around him, the clear, sharp sound her footsteps ringing in his ears, as he lay sprawled listlessly in the of early spring. They stopped meeting in gloomy coffee shops and began to take in various parks around the city in the bright sunshine. Of course, didn't believe that Yoko would be cured of her illness by strolling in park. Nevertheless, he sensed that to go to a certain park by making bus or train connections and then to find her way home without lost was a far more difficult task for her than to pass the time across a table from him in a coffee shop. If only in that respect, to the park seemed likely to have a positive effect on her. It was March, and since Yoko's women's college was well into spring va- they met once every three days. Because she told him that her nerves were in far better condition the morning, they agreed to meet at an earlier time. They chose a spa- cious area with an unobstructed view for their meeting place and arranged .that he would arrive first and be there waiting for her. By the second or third meeting, the time and place seemed to be settled with no particular planning. He would be seated on a bench reading a newspaper in a more or less uncrowded corner of the plaza in front of a particular station be- tween nine-thirty and ten o'clock, a safe interval after the commuter rush had subsided. About the time he had finished reading the paper once through, Yoko would appear at the ticket gate and dash straight through the crowd toward him without even pausing to check on the location of the bench. When she plopped down beside him, he would ask her, "Well, where shall we go today?" Yoko would go through the list of the names of the parks one by one like a grade school child being forced to recite a lesson. In spite of her efforts, she was still unable to choose among them. He would press her to choose one quickly. Then her voice would grow weak. She would start to cross names off the list, and, if he let her con- tinue, a slightly puzzled expression would appear on her face. Then, be- cause it didn't really matter where they went, he would reluctantly pick one at random. "Oh, that's a good place. I wonder why I didn't think of that," Yoko would say, twisting her body impatiently. Then the "preparatory exercises" would begin. He was raised in the city, so when he heard the name of a place he was easily able to figure out how to get there, but he would deliberately have Yoko tell him the way to the park. As she, too, was brought up in the city, she usually knew the way. But her way of describing it to him was strangely meticulous. For example, she would say, "Walk along the underground passageway

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to track number two," and then, absorbed in thought, "Or maybe it's track number one." At last she would gravely hand down her decision. "No, it's track number two, that's right, I'm absolutely certain." Both track number one and track number two were on the same platform, but since she had been to that station many times before, there was no reason for her to be afraid of confusing the left and right sides of the platform, even if she went there with her eyes closed. All the same, she would worry over the platform number when it made no difference whatsoever. After that, although she really had to say no more than," Get on the train and go to such and such a station," she would begin to count all the stations along the way. In the case of a transfer station, she would give painstaking instructions: "Go down the stairs, go out of the ticket gate and turn right, go about fifty meters to the right, go up the stairs,

and then go right again

" Thus,

she would proceed to trace the entire

.... route scrupulously, in spite of the fact that such detail would be com- pletely useless if she made just one mistake in her directions. However, the part he found most fascinating came next. If her explanation took her beyond the national train system to the suburban train lines, and she had been to that place before, Y6ko would count out every single station along the way. Even if there were more than ten of them she counted them all the way through to the end. Fixing her gaze on a point somewhere above the heads of the people bustling in and out of the station, she would strain her eyes until her small face became ex- pressionless. Meanwhile, she held both hands out in front of her c:md folded down one finger at a time as she counted. He would watch her intently without making any effort to stop her. When she had finished, he would stand up and say, "Okay, why don't you take me there?" At this suggestion, she would dash off reck- lessly, bumping into people and staggering a bit as she plunged into the crowd around the ticket window. Because he had just been through an excruciatingly detailed explanation of their trip, he always felt worried as he watched her go. But his fears were brushed aside by a certain spirit of determination in her retreating figure, which seemed to say, "Let me do it!" Occasionally she would even use her elbow to nudge aside a large man who was blocking the way. He felt a little embarrassed to be stand- ing there staring after a running woman, so he fixed his eyes on the place in the crowd where Yoko had disappeared, and, using that point as a pivot, he traced a wide arc around it and advanced toward the ticket window. Before long, Yoko would come rushing out of the crowd, her face flushed, proudly holding in her right hand the tickets she had just bought. She would run five or six steps toward the bench and then stop. Seized by a slight panic, her eyes would dart restlessly back and forth in search of him. It was always the same.

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Until they arrived at their destination, Yoko's slender body re- d tense. But once they entered the park, and the street noise, su:tx.Ll""'"'" out by the walls and trees, had receded into a gentle hum en- "ct4os1ng their small realm of quiet on all sides, Yoko instantly relaxed and ot::l.:a cheerful. Every step she took had a carefree buoyancy. Yet even at a time like this, there was little sense of flowing continuity in the move- of her body. Rather, each movement was like one in a series of lines. Each time she turned abruptly in a new direction, a rush of ua'•~"''"'o energy filled in the break. And the instant she stopped, a womanliness quietly flowed into her thin body like a lingering resonance of her movements. But if she remained still for just a little while longer, );l.er body suddenly began to grow stiff like a puppet on slackened strings. ~he may have been aware of this, for she moved around constantly. She would walk by him at a brisk pace, making her footsteps ring out clear and sharp, then suddenly turn and glide past him silently, and then in a tew moments come running back from behind again. While she was :moving around and around in this way, they were finally able to bandy words between them with ease. He was even nonchalant about bringing up topics that were likely to irritate Yoko's nerves. Yoko, too, nimbly volleyed her replies. "Do you always count the number of stations even when you go to school and back?" "Yes, I do. I can keep track because you're not there to bother me." "You must be happy when the numbers match exactly every day." "Yes, I'm terribly happy." "I'll bet you are. People who can check on something every day and make sure it's exactly right are few and far between. If I concen- trated on counting the stations day after day, I'm sure the numbers would never come out the same." "Well then, you should come over to my place." Even as they chatted, Yoko was constantly in motion, now be- side him, now circling around him. There was also this kind of strange banter. "Yoko, where's your room?" "It's on the second floor." "No problem going up the stairs?" "Once out of ten times I crawl up." "Counting the steps?" "There are fourteen steps, whether I count them with my feet or my hands. Sometimes there'll be thirteen. No matter how many times I count, it comes out thirteen. Then I rest for a minute in the darkness at the top of the stairs, and when I count again, it's gone back to fourteen. While I'm resting, I smoke a cigarette in the dark."

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Occasionally, he forgot that there was also a sexual tension at work between the two of them, and he blurted out suggestive things. "With your poor sense of direction, when you kiss your boyfriend, you probably can't tell where the lips are."

"My own lips? Or his lips

...

?"

"Let's experiment-you stretch out your neck from there and try to touch my lips." "Try kissing a butterfly in flight." "One of these days I'll catch you." "I'll turn to stone." Her tone was innocent on the surface, but there was a stirring of hatred in her eyes. When they had gone once around the park and sat down beside each other on a bench, he was suddenly overtaken by fatigue. Even after he had started seeing Yoko, he persisted in his habit of shutting himself

up in his room alone. Every night, he lay awake in bed thinking about nothing in particular until dawn broke. When he heard the milkman making his rounds and drowsiness finally began to fill his body, which had been drained by insomnia, the idea that he would have to get up in a few hours and go out to meet Yoko seemed almost unthinkable. How- ever, as the drowsiness overtook him, the image of Yoko with her pale, sad profile, wandering around that same plaza unable to find him, rose before his eyes to torment him. Having entered that self-centered state of mind a person reaches when he is about to fall asleep, her existence in his life felt like a heavy burden. On the days when he came to meet her, he never got more than three hours of sleep. Because of his fatigue, the conversation took on a slightly de- pressing tone. "Are you always this way? You can't even go someplace you re- ally want to go to by yourself?" "I get to school without any trouble." "Because the route is familiar. Aside from that, what would hap- pen if you wandered away from that route? For example, you've cer- tainly thought about stopping at a department store to look around on your way home." "Recently I've stopped going out anywhere except to come meet you, so I don't know." "Suppose you were to meet a friend from school at a coffee shop?" "I guess that would be okay."

"So then, why

...

?"

"Why? Because when I think of you waiting for me, I have the sense that everything around me has become cold and distant, just like it was the first time I met you, and going to meet you in such a faraway

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seems so very difficult. I already start feeling strange from the time the house." "Well, why do you come? Why do you promise to meet me?" "You're the one who said it, at the bridge, remember? You said, ~If you can't cross this bridge by yourself, you won't even be able to get around in the city by yourself any more."' "That was just then." He brushed aside her words lethargically. Suddenly his relationship with Yoko seemed like dangerous business. If ):'oko were right, he thought, then the very thing binding her now to her illness was none other than himself. In that ravine, Yoko had been crouch- ing in the worst state of her illness. She was exactly like a wild animal curled up in a cramped place, waiting for her illness to pass away of its own accord. Then he had come along, and although he should have passed $ilently on, he stopped and looked at her. They looked at each other. At that moment, perhaps, the illness, which should have run its natural course, under the gaze of another person had solidified inside her like a small stone. He had seen Yoko's illness, and, with his gaze he had drawn it in closer and closer to him, until he had brought her down to the foot 0f the mountain. Moreover, at the edge of the suspension bridge he had once again forced the cowering Yoko to stand up, look into his eyes, and cross the bridge. Because of that, when he was here before her now, when she felt his glance, the kernel of the illness inside of her began to swell. However, he mused, the second time they met, wasn't Yoko the one who had come running down the stairs to him? Realizing that he had become an inadvertent eyewitness to her embarrassing illness, his own existence felt burdensome to him, and he fell silent. Yoko perched on the hard bench beside him. The energy cours- ing through her was too much for her, and she was continuously making small movements with some part of her body. Carried away by his mel- ancholy, he began to feel drowsy. For a while, Yoko romped around him in her usual way, her footsteps tapping sharply on the pavement, then she disappeared. A few minutes later, she came running gleefully from beyond the flower bed. She planted both feet in front of him with a little hop and said triumphantly, "I went once around the park-alone."

**********

One day, he was seated on a bench near a pond, dozing as usual, when he noticed a light green blouse, its outlines vivid in the spring sun- shine, moving slowly along the water's edge on the far bank. As he fol- lowed it with his eyes, he eventually discerned that the human figure standing beneath the brilliant noon sun directly across the pond from

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him was a woman who had suddenly stopped in passing to look at some- thing. She looked at him, without moving, for a long, long time. Then he realized it was Yoko. She had left her coat on the bench beside him, folded neatly into a square bundle. The warmth of her body still lingered in the folds of the cloth. The expression on Yoko's face was masked by shadow, but her motionless body seemed to suggest that she was doubting some- thing as she gazed steadily at him. Still half asleep, he was only being gazed at by her, an object without the ability to return that gaze. He now learned how uneasy it made one feel to be observed by someone else. As the mere object of observation, his body on the bench was subjugated to an almost unconscious state of being, like that of an animal intent only upon its own existence. "Is that person watching me?" At first she was startled at this realization, and then a loathing spread through her body. How she longed to crush the eyes of that offensive observer! He imagined such an im- pulse taking form within her. Embarrassed that he was just sitting there doing nothing, he abruptly shifted his heavy, shameless body and rear- ranged his legs. Then across the bright expanse of water, Yoko suddenly lifted her right hand high above her head and called, "Hey!" in a high, thin voice. For a few moments he stared at her absentmindedly. Then, as the final echo of her voice trailed off into silence, he finally raised his right hand from his heavy body in a half-hearted response. "Hey!" Yoko's voice came from the opposite bank again, a soli- tary fragment of sound cutting through the silence. He half raised his hand again. Then the light green blouse began to move smoothly along the water's edge. Yoko took a few brisk steps, stopped again, and called, "Hey!", then made an about face, walked a short distance to the left, and called, "Hey!" Each time a long moment elapsed before he, the focus of her attention, idly raised his hand, but she walked round and round the lake without any sign of losing interest. On another day, while he had been sprawled on the grass of a river bank, gazing up from the warmth of the ground through the chilly wind to the brightness of the sky, Yoko had slipped down to the edge of the river. Squatting down among the rocks scattered abundantly along the water, she was building a tower by piling one rock on top of another. A flat rock half buried in the sand served as a foundation, and five or six rocks of various shapes and gradually decreasing weight had been placed on top of one another in such a way that the pile tottered to the left and seemed on the verge of collapse. A rock of twice the circum- ference of the last was laid on top of the tower so that half of it protruded out to the right, maintaining a dangerous balance with the rocks below.

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That rock served as yet another base for several lightweight rocks piled on top of it in a casual way, regardless of the order of size or the balance of shape. Leaning now to the left, now to the right, the wobbly tower somehow managed to stay upright. Yoko was just in the process of placing a large rock precariously on top of the fist-sized stone at the apex, which, because she was squat- ting down beside it, stood higher than her forehead. From her squatting she raised her haunches slightly and moved stealthily toward the apex of the tower, holding the rock above her in both hands. The look in Yoko's eyes suddenly became determined, and as she placed the rock on top, she purposely shifted it well to the left of the center of the rock at the apex. Then quickly pulling her hands away, she crouched tight and low to the ground and gazed at the tower swaying unsteadily from side to side. Although each individual rock trembled as if it had just been put into place, as a whole the tower showed signs of a fresh, vital growth, full of uncertainty. It reached up toward the sky, and seemed to reach still further without making a sound. Feeling as if he had just noticed that Yoko was there, he got up and went to her side. Then he squatted down beside her and looked at the tower of rocks. After a moment, he put his hand on her shoulder. "Come on, let's go home," he suggested and stood up. Yoko didn't move. Even when he finally pulled her up by the hand, she continued to scrutinize the stone tower. As he slipped an arm around her waist to lead her away, a shadow of fear passed across her face. He went over to the tower. "We can't leave it this way," he said, and he proceeded to take the rocks down one by one and pile them up below, constructing a low, stable mountain. Only then did Yoko finally relax her body and walk away from the river bank. They usually decided to start for home sometime after two o'clock. Always, by that time of day, the rays of the sun had weakened, and a strong, dusty wind had begun to blow against them. Then the en- ergy suddenly drained from Yoko's body. The tension and impatience of the morning was gone. Yoko buried her chin in the upturned collar of her coat and walked into the wind, bending her body slightly forward. Her footsteps didn't make a sound. Other women here and there on the street frowned as they walked in that same wind. When the wind came driving against them, they turned their faces away and shrank back. But inside their coats plastered against them by the force of the wind, be- neath the hands that held down blow-away hems, their bodies were freed from their sense of shame and began to blossom. In contrast, Yoko kept on walking in the same stooping posture, exposing her expressionless face to the driving wind, and letting her hair and coat fly about freely as

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if completely unaware that she was facing into the wind. It seemed as if she were floating, leaving her tired body behind with every step. When he compared her appearance to that of other women, he instinctively felt the urge to call out to her: "Hey, I get it now. You lose your sense of yourself because you ignore the wind around you and what it is doing to your body. That's why you can't go out alone, even to places where you want to go." However, he kept these words to himself and just wrapped his right arm around her shoulders. He felt as if he were embracing some- thing as light as air.

**********

It was the end of March when they took their last such walk in a "nature park" in the middle of the city. On their way home the time before, he had become irritated with Yoko walking silently beside him, and, feeling a bit cruel, he suddenly named the next meeting place without consulting her at all. Then he told her how to get there in the same painstaking detail that she always used to give directions, and he ordered her to meet him there on her own. She looked up at him with reproachful eyes as she listened carefully to his explanation. But he became concerned when she remained attentive even after he had finished his explanation, and he asked, "Did you under- stand what I said?" "Yes, I know where it is/' said Yoko, nodding. "I've been there

before."

Arriving at the appointed time, he entered the park from a busy street and walked for a while through the virgin forest, which had flour- ished all the more for being surrounded by buildings and concrete. He came to a small, dark pond, which looked as if it had sunken into the forest floor, and sat down on a bench. Ten minutes after the appointed time, Yoko still hadn't arrived. After twenty minutes had gone by and he was wondering why she hadn't shown up, he realized something that made him very anx- ious. The layout of the train station he had just come from, including the location of the stairway and the direction the ticket gate faced, had changed completely since the time he had been there several years be- fore. When he had first gotten off the train, he couldn't find the stairway and was disoriented for an instant, but he quickly took in the fact that the station was under construction. At the time he had only been im- pressed at how much nicer the place looked, and he walked up the stairs without giving a thought to Yoko. When he exited through the ticket gate, he naturally remembered where he was from his previous trip and started walking toward the park. But, in this new station, the instructions he

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given Yoko would send her in exactly the opposite direction from the gate. Thirty minutes later, Yoko still hadn't arrived. He hoped that she had remembered the location of the park from the time she had come here before by herself. Yet he was persistently haunted by the image of Yoke's face listening with such concentration to his explanation in the train the other day. As things stood now, Yoko had probably discounted her own memory and was methodically following the instructions he given her, making rapid headway in the wrong direction. He had told her to walk for about fifteen minutes, but, given her nature, she would probably tell herself that she was slow and would end up walking as fast as she could for about half an hour. Wondering if he shouldn't go after her at once, he started to get up from the bench. However, when he thought of himself staring in wonder at the renovations around him at the station without a thought of her entering his mind, it somehow seemed useless to try and catch up with her after such a long time. He sat down again. Even if he went after her now, he wouldn't find her. More to the point, ifYoko were wandering around lost somewhere, he mustn't move from this place. He suspected that she wouldn't be able to get to the park. But at least she should be able to retrace her steps back to the station by the same path she had come. Then she could get on the train and go home. As for himself, he decided to stay where he was until just before the park closed. One hour past the appointed time, Yoko still hadn't arrived. He was surprised when he realized that the two of them hadn't exchanged addresses or phone numbers. He was aware that he would have no way of getting in touch with her after this. Surely Yoko was already on the train home. She was lost in the crowd again. Nonetheless, he didn't move from the bench. Even if Yoko were lost, he thought, he had to be in the place where he was supposed to be. Some time later, Yoko came running through the forest up the gently sloping path toward him. She circled shakily once around him under the force of momentum, and then stopped in front of him, breath- ing hard. Her eyes glittered, and strangely enough she seemed in good spirits.

"I'm sorry about that," he apologized. "I suppose you got really

Yoko caught her breath, raised her eyebrows, and began to shake her head vigorously. "I knew right away. I figured out how to get here immediately." Her voice was so high-pitched that it hurt his ears. Yoko continued shaking her head back and forth like a goose-neck doll. "I've been waiting here for more than an hour, you know. Well, you must have gotten a late start."

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"Not at all. I arrived at the station exactly fifteen minutes before our appointment."

"Oh, well

then you were wandering around lost for a whole

... hour and a half, weren't you?" "I wasn't lost. I knew how to get here right away. I figured out how to get here immediately." Seeing that she was very high strung, he made her sit down on the bench. They were silent for a while. Yoko continually twisted her thin body from side to side. She frowned deeply. Then, out of a belated desire to console her, he spoke.

"So you remembered the way from the last time you came here?"

"The last time I came

I don't know what you're talking about."

... "Did you ask somebody for directions?" "No, I certainly didn't ask anybody." "Well then, how did you get here?" "What do you mean? You told me how to get here, didn't you?" "But in the directions I gave you, right and left were switched around."

"Right and left were switched

" It was apparent that the en-

.... ergy was draining out of Yoko's body as she murmured these words. "Damn, I blew it," he silently admonished himself. A thin film settled over her face, and Yoko seemed to be sinking right before his eyes into the same state of mind she had been in thirty minutes or an hour before, when she had been standing bewildered in some place far away from here. But before long, a burst of irritation ener- gized her body again. "Why don't you believe me? Didn't I say I figured out how to get here right away? I didn't get lost at all. It's just that the train station is a long way from here. Besides, it didn't take me that much time, did it? What are you doing, looking at your watch like that?" On her flushed face, a dark, frowning expression alternated with a girlish innocence sev- eral times in rapid succession. Then Yoko's eyes flashed, she folded her arms across her chest in a childlike gesture, and stood up from the bench. "Well, I'm going once around this park by myself. So you wait here and see." She started to run off before he had a chance to stop her, but after she ran about ten meters, she suddenly stopped and hastily retraced her steps. Scooping up a pile of the gravel at his feet in the palms of both hands, she muttered peevishly to herself, "I have to leave mark- ers." The expression on her face was that of a person obsessed. Clench- ing both fists tightly, she ran off into the grove. The sharp-edged sound of her footsteps rang out for a while from within the quiet grove, en- circled by the distant noise of the city, and then they suddenly disappeared. He sat on the bench and waited. Despite having run off into the

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grove so forcefully, Yoko wasn't coming back as quickly as might be ex- pected. Before long, he felt as if he were being watched from the shad- ows of the trees, and he concentrated his gaze near the leaves where she had disappeared. He had a strong suspicion that she was lurking there. But as he stared, the feeling gradually grew faint, the leaves became merely leaves, and in their place the solitary figure of Yoko sitting some- where in the grove floated before his eyes. "Well, should I go look for her?" he said to himself, and stood up. Just then the sound of footsteps rang out behind him and Yoko came running along the same path she had come before, with exactly the same cheerful appearance. When she came up to him, she circled around him, then put both hands on his waist and rested her forehead on his back. Breathing hard, she pushed against him with all her strength. Then she spun him half- way around, making him face in the direction where she had just run off a little while ago. "You go and see for yourself!" she shouted and pushed him for- ward with an unbelievable force. As he started off unsteadily, he turned and looked back. Yoko was standing with her right hand on her hip and her left hand extended straight to the side. "This time, I'll go in this di- rection. We'll meet here, okay?" she cried, then disappeared into the thicket to her left. Whenever he approached a fork in the road, he left the narrower path and followed the main path into the grove. He was not surprised to find a pinch of gravel always neatly laid on the outer left-hand corner of the stone benches located here and there along the path. They had a cer- tain quality, like a reserved, methodical signal from a distant place. He made his round quickly, and when he emerged by the pond, he collided into Yoko, who had just jumped out from the thicket to the left. She doubled over and screamed with laughter. Then before her laugh- ter subsided, she ordered him to take another path. "This time you go that way and I'll go this way." Without giving him a chance to utter a word, she ran into the thicket. She was in extremely high spirits. He too ran off as he was told, hiding the dubious expression on his face from her. He had no choice but to go along with her game. The moment he stopped to think, Yoko's be- havior would begin to look altogether too crazy. In this way, they would run off into the grove in various differ- ent directions, and although they didn't make a special effort to synchro- nize their pace, they would meet by the lake at practically the same time. They repeated the same process over and over again. At length, they dis- carded their base by the lake and began walking around as they pleased without deciding where to meet. Every ten minutes or so, their paths intersected. Yoko would rush out at him from different directions. When

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he reached out his hand to try and grab her, she slipped past him, reveal- ing a faint dislike within her laughter, and disappeared. After a while, he found he had gotten into the spirit of her game. As a result, he felt that he was able determine where Yoko was even when he couldn't see her, as if her presence were being transmitted through a single signal that moved constantly around in the grove. On occasion, every thicket he saw swelled with signs that Yoko was hiding within. Then these signs suddenly disappeared. The silence of the grove became hollow. At that moment he had the uneasy feeling that he was no longer able to get a sense of himself. He began to walk around drowsily. Not even once did their paths meet. He walked around that way for a long time, and then he came to a crossroads in the grove. He saw Yoko coming from the opposite direc- tion along another path intersecting his on the diagonal. She was stoop- ing slightly forward as she always did, leaving her own body a little be- hind. Her footsteps were completely silent. Thinking vaguely, "Ah, there she is," he drew back behind a tree trunk and allowed Yoko to pass. Then, without passing through the cross- roads, he went directly into the bamboo grass thicket and followed her, stifling the sound of his footsteps within the underbrush. The rustling sound of the bamboo grass revealed his presence. Even so, Yoko showed no sign of turning around. He purposely made his footsteps noisier, but when he realized he would be unable to distract her from her daze, he jumped out of his hiding place and pursued her swiftly. As he came out of the grove, he hesitated a moment, feeling some- where inside like a beast stalking its prey, but he advanced up to Yoko's side without slackening his pace. Even after he had kept pace beside her for a while, she still hadn't noticed him and continued walking forward. Then he wrapped his right arm completely around her and proceeded in that position for a while longer. Next he brought his right hand around to her chest and gradually slackened his pace. Yoko advanced another five or six steps without altering her speed, then, slowly becoming aware of the force against her chest, raised her head and stopped. Exposing the white skin of her neck to the wind, she looked up at him as if she were looking at a person who was far away. He drew his lips close to those expressionless lips. Her lips neither evaded nor re- fused, but faded off into a somehow vague expanse of sensation. He be- gan to embrace her body tightly with his right arm. She put up no resis- tance. He loosened his hold and drew close to her, until their bodies were almost touching. He continued to wrap Yoko's body in his arms in just - that way until her lips took on a hard contour and responded faintly to his.

Part Four

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During that time, he, too, rarely had a clear sense of his own body. When he touched Yoko's body, he now felt very little sexual desire, for if he did so, he knew their relationship could not endure the confusion of her feelings. Yet, the moment he touched her, Yoko' s body became even more distant, an entity even more difficult to grasp than when they were only looking at each other. And because he was unable to grasp Yoko . even though their bare skin was touching, his own body sometimes felt like a distant thing that he must hastily draw back toward himself. The first time he found himself in this situation was a result of his irritation toward Yoko's "attacks." After the episode in the grove, they stopped strolling in the park and met once a week at a coffee shop in town as they had before. There they got into the habit of spending about two hours together in the evening, for the most part barely speak- ing to one another. Since that day in the nature park, Yoko's nerves had remained stable and she never got lost on her way to meet him. She sat before him looking exactly the same as she had the last time they had met in town, as if both the outings in the park, which had only resulted in provoking her illness, and their kiss in the forest had made no impres- sion upon her at all. As long as they were sitting across from each other in the shop, it was uncanny how little things had changed since their last such meeting. However, once they went outside together, Yoko now made him feel anxious about everything around them. She sensed his tension, and then the movements of her body also became stiff. Before long, they were both walking through the crowd with silent, stealthy footsteps. He felt as if he were constantly watching out for Yoko's illness when they were together. After about thirty minutes of this, he was completely exhausted. Still, he wasn't used to the idea of sending her home immediately after they left the coffee shop. Nor did Yoko behave as if she wanted to go home soon. When they left the shop, he had no idea what they should do from there. One by one he recalled the things he had done with girlfriends before, but every harmless amusement that came to mind seemed risky with Yoko. So long as he was at her side, she was unable to leave him and move around comfortably by herself. And as long as she was at his side, he was unable to watch her walking around alone with any peace of mind. It seemed to him that while they were both guarding over Yoko' s illness in this way, they were gradually being shut into an isolated time and place of their own, like the ravine where they had first met or the table in that first coffee shop where they always had to sit.

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end of the faintly trembling fork into her mouth. Her cheeks moved dis- creetly, patiently enduring the embarrassment. Her eyes were fixed on a stain on the tablecloth a little beyond her plate. Now and then the move- ment of her cheeks stopped, the skin of her white throat expanded, and her eyes started to tear. In this way, Yoko dispatched her food bit by bit into her cowering body, as if she were stoically gauging the pain inside of her.

Watching Yoko's actions from across the table, he noisily set about to consume everything on his plate, pretending to have a particularly healthy appetite, although it had actually vanished long ago. On the one hand he pitied Yoko, but on the other a feeling of resentment toward her illness and the shamelessness of her self-absorption began to grow un-

reasonably within him.

By the time he had finished€ating, Yoko had just

barely eaten one fourth of the food on her plate. She was resting her knife and fork steadily on the plate and was moving her cheeks slowly. Then she looked up into his face and, tilting her head slightly, spoke in a voice wet with saliva. "Please, forgive me," she pleaded.

**********

Two hours later, in a room not far from the restaurant, they lay side by side in the depths of the twilight, listening to the footsteps of groups of men and women as they passed just below the window and then suddenly vanished at some place a little further on. A thin blanket protected their bodies from the chill of the April night air, but he was surprised that it never grew warm beneath that blanket. The sheets, too, were crisp and neat and still preserved the coldness they'd had when they first touched his bare skin. Lying under the cold sheets and blanket, he felt his body losing its feeling of existence from within and thinning to an uncertain outline of a silhouette. In the light of the streetlamps pen- etrating the curtains, Yoko lay with her pathetic shoulder exposed above the edge of the blanket. She was gazing at the darkness of the ceiling with her eyes wide open. Although their bodies were pressed together, he didn't feel the slightest warmth radiating from her. He became aware that Yoko was lightly grasping a place around his elbow with the tips of her fingers. It was exactly the same gesture she made when she suddenly lost her sense of direction and drew her body close to him as they were walking through the city. Yoko had silently followed behind him with small steps as he left the restaurant and walked on without a word. When he saw her na- ked body before him, he was surprised by its unexpected fullness. He felt as if this was fitting repayment for having treated her thus far like a skinny, neurotic girl. However, at the same time as she revealed the vo-

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luptuousness of her body to him, the expression on her face came tore- semble even more than usual that of a thin young girl, and she lay down on the bed indifferently. Her fluttering eyelids and the line of her shoul- der and arm as she embraced him were young and pathetic. Her bare chest pressing against him absorbed the warmth of his body but remained chilly and unresponsive in return. The unpleasant feeling he had experi- enced when touching her between her awkwardly opened thighs still lingered within him. He wanted to make Yoko, who would sometimes stop in the middle of a busy street, lost in a vacant-eyed daze, become aware of the sensations of her body, make her conscious of her own self. That initial wish of his lingered like a pale specter even after his sexual desire subsided. Yoko's body lay ,heavily by his side without giving off the slightest warmth. He wondered if Yoko's illness would live on without being affected by his body at all. Or perhaps, he feared, now that her illness knew the powerlessness of his body, it might surge forth all the more strongly. Except for the faint impression of her fingertip clutching his elbow, her body became distant, difficult to grasp. He could no longer believe that they had been embracing just a few moments ago. When he stretched out his hand to touch her waist, he felt fine goose pimples standing out all over her rigid, wooden body, which seemed to have been abandoned by her face as she stared fixedly at the ceiling. "Shall we get dressed?" he asked. Yoko got up as she was told. Again she unveiled her voluptuous body from under the blanket. Crouching right in front of him with no sign of embarrassment, she put on her underwear with the solemn ex- pression of a child putting away her toys.

**********

They continued to meet at coffee shops and spend their time to- gether exactly as they had before. Yoko's body and behavior were no different from their previous meetings. As he sat across from her, he could not believe that they were a couple who had slept together. As always there was an unbridgeable gap between them, and they sometimes gazed at each other in silence, unable to make any deeper contact. From this time on they frequently talked about their first meeting in the ravine. Their stories were constantly at odds, and they disagreed with each other's versions until they could no longer argue. After a long silence, they began again to relate their experience in minute detail. Yoko gazed fixedly at his face in silence as he carelessly recounted bits and pieces of his memory of that time without having really comprehended what she

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had said to him. At those times, her body seemed to him to become more womanly, even more so than when she lay naked in his arms. There was one thing about their meetings that was different from before. Whenever Yoko was even a little late, he immediately envisioned her wandering around somewhere along the way in one of her anxious fits, and he could not contain himself. It wasn't from worry. Rather it was because this vision of Yoko had become intimately connected to his own shame. Within ten minutes, Yoko timidly pushed open the door of the coffee shop and came in. Then she stood by the doorway, an utterly lonely figure, looking around the shop, touching her left hand to her mouth. After a long while, she finally found him and walked over. When she reached his side, Yoko drew her hips back a bit and peered into his face. A vague smile played about her eyes as if she were ashamed of her own body. He felt a faint dislike for that posture. It was a feeling very close to self-hatred. When they went outside, Yoko's body suddenly stiffened. Her footsteps were unsteady and she clung to his arm. Before, even when she was in a nervous state, she had only touched his elbow lightly with the tip of her finger. Sometimes she even had the composure to stand on tiptoe and look around. But now she leaned her weight on his arm, and, although she propelled her feet hurriedly forward, they seemed to be left behind the movement of her body. She kept her face close to his shoul- der, and her eyes, with a mixture of earnestness and absentmindedness, were opened wide as if she were looking at the world outside from a sunken cellar. To an outsider, perhaps they did indeed look like a young couple who had just slept together, absorbed in a lingering memory of their ec- stasy even here in public. It startled him to think of himself .in that way. Yet, as he looked at the cynical eyes of passersby who glanced casually at them, he took a hint from the repetition of the same expression on their faces. He gradually came to feel that he didn't care if he and Yoko turned into the kind of couple who were reflected in those people's eyes. If that's what people think we are, then that's what we'll be, this very moment, he thought, and he began to feel sexual desire for the lifeless body that was resting its weight so intently on his arm. It was not a direct sexual desire, but a sexual desire all the more lewd because he had left her body at his side and half stepped into the realm of fantasy. Besides, it was mixed in with a bewildered feeling that he was unable to support the burden ofYoko's body. His steps naturally turned toward the room where they had gone before. The same thing happened again. When they were together in the room alone, everything was exactly like the first time. His body heated up from irritation rather than desire while Yoko lay beneath him, en-

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twining her arms in his in the same way she did when they walked through a crowd. However, her expression of anxiety stopped there. Her body showed no response at all to his irritation but only lay submis- sively, accepting what he was doing to her. When he rolled over on his back beside her, his body felt a keen chill beneath the blanket. He longed to be wrapped up in his clothes as soon as possible. Yoko's naked body did not seem bothered by that chill but lay impassively by his side. The thought that this body could not walk around outside without clinging fast to his arm made him realize once again how difficult it was to shake Yoko's illness. Rather, what had been shaken was his own sense of the reality of his body, something he had never doubted before. When he was heading for home beside Yoko, he had the strange feeling that his body had become weightless and was being left behind. Then it became somewhat difficult for him to get a sense of himself and make sure of the direction he was going in the flow of people. Yoko was clutching with all her might at the arm of such a man as this. However, as soon as he said good-bye to Yoko in the station, she suddenly became independent. Drop- ping her head, she walked straight away as if his existence was of abso- lutely no importance to her. One day, as he lay beside Yoko as usual, he finally decided he could no longer bear another repetition of the same thing. He sighed into the darkness of the ceiling. "It looks to me like I don't have it in my power to do anything for you. If I weren't there beside you, you could probably walk around by yourself again." Yoko gazed at the ceiling in silence. The image of her bounding around in the morning light in the park flashed into his head. And he felt sorry that he had soiled her body by the incompetence of his own and had changed it into a heavy, expressionless lump. Out of pity, he got up and drew near her. Of the cold emptiness of Yoko's body, only the swell- ing of her left breast and the inward curve of her waist barely touched his skin. Without drawing any closer, he remained in that unstable posi- tion and closed his eyes, absorbing their lonely, meager contact. After a while he heard Yoko emit a low sigh, but, undistracted by this, he concentrated fully on the feeling of her skin. A sensation, burn- ing from far away as if it would vanish at any moment, began moving along his cold skin. His body instinctively stiffened. Then from the dark chasm of Yoko's body, the delicate, forlorn skin of her belly, the narrow curve of her rib cage, the coarse touch of her armpit, all came rising one by one to brush his skin and sink back again as if being thrust up rhyth- mically by a gentle undulation. Gradually her whole body turned to- ward him and began to respond to him. Maintaining the respective cold- ness of their skins, they lay on top of each other without pressing against

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each other. The unpleasant feeling of her loins softened little by little and melted into the gentle flow of her whole body. Afterward, for the first time, their bodies generated warmth to- gether beneath the blanket, and they snuggled and dozed. Before he knew what was happening, he could hear the gentle, intermittent sound of a female voice welling up, now far away, now close by, in the humid dark- ness beyond the blanket. As he listened, the resonance of his recent plea- sure permeated every corner of the darkness and seemed to echo around the room. He fell back into a doze. When he opened his eyes, Yoko was putting on her underwear with her white back toward him. As she carefully put on each piece of clothing, one by one, she seemed to be full of tenderness for her own body. They went outside and walked around for a while in the back streets, passing several other couples. Suddenly Yoko drew close and whispered in his ear, "Let's not go back there. Find a different place. Be- cause voices come from everywhere. Somehow, it doesn't seem like it's just the two of us."

It was a full woman's voice, masking fatigue with heartiness. When he looked at her, he saw her smiling in the pale glow of the far- away streetlights, her face glowing with yet another dim light coming from within. Her footsteps echoed softly, and only the tip of her finger was touching his right arm.

**********

It was May. It seemed to him that Yoko's skin had begun to give off a fragrance. It was not just at night when any fragrance would inten- sify. In the middle of the day, when Yoko stepped into the shadows from the sunlight, her fragrance flowed out around her like a gentle wave. At times, even when they were walking through the streets and Yoko twisted her upper body to look back at something that had caught her eye, the pleats of her skirt swayed gently, and he thought that he could distin- guish that scent from the tumult of the city. She carried herself more freely now. Her slim legs, which had put on a little weight, carried the weight of her body naturally and soaked up the resilience of the ground with every step, transmitting it to her small, firm breasts. Gone was the impression of drifting along, the jovi- ality as if she were being jerked by a string from afar, the melancholy as if she were treading deep into a quagmire with every step. Yoko walked beside him calmly keeping her eye on everything around her. Sometimes when he gazed at her, she smiled drowsily in his direction without actu- ally returning the gaze. Reports of going shopping by herself, going to see a movie with friends on her way home from school, or going to a

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gallery or a beer hall with a school club gradually became more

t.

**********

Like any young man, he took the words Yoko had whispered to on the street near the hotel too seriously. They would be unable to from the shadow of the damp pleasure and pain of countless other +"'-H·ll•'~'"''"'' no matter where they might choose to go for their evening en- With this in mind, he began to look for a place to take Yoko in daytime, in the middle of a suburban residential area. Fixed in the of his mind was the memory of an inn, in a place a short distance from a certain park he and Yoko had visited in March. If he hadn't ,.,,.,,."',n the unobtrusive sign, the inn would have been indistinguishable an old mansion. In sharp contrast with several other houses of as- tian near the park, the identity of which anyone could tell at a glance, particular house had not been remodeled. When he tried to imagine this house had become an inn, he could only come up with various · depressing possibilities, but because the place seemed to have no guests during the day and the stillness of a vacant house reigned over it, he .ut:''-•u.<:::u. not to think too much about such things. When they got off the train and exited through the ticket gate, he walking quickly ahead of Yoko in order not to attract attention. In the quiet afternoon, the narrow paved street stretched through the resi- dential quarter straight toward the park. When he turned around along way, he saw Yoko was walking quietly about a hundred meters be- The sunlight of early summer poured down onto the gray pave- _rnent and the whole road shimmered with heat haze. The pale color of Yoko' s clothing grew bright and expanded in that wavering air. Rippling faintly up and down, it made her look as if she would evaporate at any .moment. A fear that he thought had disappeared long ago rekindled in- side of him. "Please, I hope she can walk along the street without having a relapse." At the same time, he had a vivid sense of her body within the pale clothing, a feeling no less intense than when he was actually hold- ing her in his arms. Then, when he turned his back again and continued Walking, the distance that separated their two bodies appealed almost directly to his senses with a strange palpability. He arrived at the room several steps ahead of her, and while he was waiting for her in the elec- tric lamplight, that distance between them gradually shrank, still bear- ing a faintly tangible quality. At long last there were footsteps in the cor- ridor, and Yoko entered the room, her cheeks slightly flushed. Even when · he turned off the light and they drew close to each other, the tension of the distance still remained.

...

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Before he could embrace her, Yoko swept past him and escaped into the deeper darkness of the inner room. He waited a moment. Yoko

was crouching in the corner of the room with her back to him. She got up when he entered the room. Placing her hands one over the other in an ambiguous way below her breasts, dragging her hips a little behind, she gazed up at him as he approached her. As he drew nearer, she relaxed her shoulders and arms and stretched upward as if she were entrusting her upper body to the heavens. The slender rays of light flowing in through the cracks in the shutters diffused the color of the leaves of the trees just outside the window into a pale green and washed over her white flesh. She was only standing upright on her tiptoes, yet the strain filled her whole body from her feet to the gentle slope of her shoulders. When he saw her like this, he always felt he was standing before a truly extraordinary being. Even when she let out a low moan of pleasure, Yoko's skin still preserved a chill and seemed to draw away from his skin in quiet agony. Through this chill he took in the feel of the indentation of her collarbone, the softness of the inside of her arms, the line that flowed from her breasts to her flanks, and her sharp, jutting pelvic bones. Devoid of sexual pas- sion, they brushed against his skin point by point as if they were con- tinually coming down a long road from a distant place to join together again. He concentrated on the sensation of her body on his skin, point by point, while feeling something just a little different from sexual excitement. As he maintained this heightened tactile sense, he sometimes ex- perienced the feeling that he was being joined in a single line with Yoko's disturbed senses. For a brief moment, he felt he accurately understood Yoko's solitary trance as she stood motionless in the street.

Yoko came down the road, and suddenly she stepped into

... another world. She stopped, and the air around her became extraordi- narily clear. Although they still maintained their natural appearance, each and every object surrounding her, each and every expression and ges- ture of the people walking by, grew more and more vivid and distinct. Then they began to look unnaturally distinct and sharp. This sharpness, which grew progressively more intense as if it were slowly seeping from a deep source, captured her senses. Yoko experienced a loneliness that was almost sensual. Captivated by the excessively clear manifestation of each and every object, her senses split into innumerable fragments, each growing clear and lucid, until she was unable to grasp that vague, famil- iar feeling of coherence. She could not even pin down her sense of her own being. Yet from within that fragile sense of her own existence, Yoko gazed intently at the clarity of her surroundings. Although she could hardly stand up straight, she murmured in a thin, husky voice, "Oh, how beautiful!" ...

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The memory of the tension he had felt as he slowly walked uu·v~•~- the stream of rocky debris and gazed into the eyes of the woman on the rock was revived within him as a terribly urgent desire. was always an instant when he felt he was perfectly connected by single thread to the depths ofYoko's illness. However, when he took a

deep breath to try to force his way into Yoko's feelings, the thread was tangled, confused with sexual desire. Nonetheless, this time he ·took pleasure in repeating the same thing over again. · Unable to break out of that pattern, he still remained locked in desire of a young man without maturing beyond it, although he had :been to bed with her many times. By contrast, Yoko's flesh preserved its intact, but she had matured into a woman without his being aware of it, the illness still harbored inside of her. One day in bed, Yoko turned toward him and with one cheek

deeply in the pillow asked, "Do you

like children?" Her eyes

... held a gleam that was more syrupy than usual. At once he thought of pregnancy, and he frowned at the ques- tion. Seeing this, Yoko spoke again in a reproving tone. "No, that's not it . . I only asked whether you liked children or not." Relieved, he gave a young man's typically impudent answer to such a question. "Do I like children? Hmm, well, when I see two parents with their child sitting together in a row in a train or someplace like that, it looks so I can barely stop myself from laughing. The man sits on one side of the kid, right? And the woman sits on the other side. Neither of their faces look at all alike. And yet you can see the faces of both parents coexisting intact in the face of the kid sitting between them. And so it looks like a contrived, obvious montage, and yet it's natural. So, this 'natu- ral' guy is after all a just a joker advertising his misdeeds to the world. For all that, I really wonder how they dare to show their faces together in public like that." A bitter smile played across Yoko's lips, and she slowly turned her face away. Then she murmured, as if to herself, into the darkness. "Well, I hate them," she murmured. "When I imagine another person just like me walking around somewhere, I get goose bumps. I'd want to lock it up in an underground dungeon." He wondered why she hadn't merely said, "Yes, I hate children, too." As they prepared to go home that day, Yoko sat on the floor with her knees bent to one side before the inn's dirty vanity, giving no indica- tion that she was aware he had finished dressing and was ready to leave. The contours of her body had suddenly softened, and she twisted gently from side to side as she combed her hair over and over again with no sign of stopping.

Part Five

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They were sitting in a coffee shop one day in early July, when he noticed Yoko staring fixedly across the table at the front of his Oxford shirt.

"You must be terribly hot dressed like that," she said with the air of an older woman. "I'll buy you a polo shirt. It'll be much cooler." She stood up to leave without waiting for his reply. He was not much in the mood for shopping, and he lagged be- hind her as she strode into the department store, the look in her eyes growing more determined as she approached the counter. He stood a short distance away, watching her as she picked out his polo shirt. It seemed to him that the expression on her face was far from that of a young woman trying to buy something for her boyfriend and enjoying an innocent taste of real-life domesticity. Rather, she had that hard-to-please expression one sees on women in pursuit of some- thing of passable quality at a reasonable price for a member of the fam- ily. It occurred to him that perhaps receiving a personal gift brings two people closer together than an embrace. Oblivious to the saleswoman's increasing displeasure, Yoko had her bring out one polo shirt after another. Even as the woman was in the midst of enthusiastically pointing out the merits of one article, Yoko would quickly reach out for another, hold it up to his chest and look him up and down as if he were a mannequin. Whichever shirt she held up, he would give the same response, "This one is fine, isn't it?" The saleswoman, her courteous smile revealing rather than masking her irritation at being ignored, would also repeat the same phrase, "That one also looks very nice on you, doesn't it?" Without appearing to notice any of this, Yoko would concentrate her sharp gaze on the polo shirt against his chest, tilt her head without comment, and have yet another new one brought out. Before long, he noticed that the expression in Yoko's eyes was becoming dull as she began to withdraw into herself. Then he became aware that her hands, which had been hurriedly grabbing up one shirt after another, were suddenly moving more slowly. She would pick up a shirt she had just put down, or drop one immediately after she had just picked it up, and begin to pull out another kind, repeating such point- less motions over and over again. The saleswoman was looking at her as if to say, "What is this woman doing?" Yoko seemed to be sinking into a daze right before her eyes. Only her lips remained stubbornly pressed together. "Maybe we should look around a little more," he said, breaking in to stop the situation from continuing any further. The saleswoman took half a step back from the counter and nodded lightly. She was obvi-

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waiting for them to leave. Even then, Yoko didn't stop the cursory of picking up and putting down polo shirts. But a few moments she suddenly sighed as if she were unable to go on, gathered up the scattered on the counter with both hands, and pushed them to- the saleswoman. "Thank you for your help." Somehow she man- to say this much in a bright, clear voice, and she began to walk As he followed along behind, he gave a brief nod of thanks to the She bowed courteously but could barely restrain a smile. expression in her eyes seemed to say, "Can't you choose things for

II

Yoko walked quickly straight through the men's department as had a particular destination in mind. He followed five or six paces matching his speed to hers. It was just like a scene where a couple had a sudden disagreement but feel they have to stay together, he '"u"'"'·L· with the realization that he had already taken on the role of "-~n·"'"'""' quite some time ago. Soon, Yoko's steps became heavy. She slackened her pace as if had just thought of something or wanted to let him catch up to tell something. Then, suddenly, with her back still turned to him as if had forgotten his existence and was all alone, she stopped and her handbag to her chest with both arms. Next, her handbag to slip out of her arms along her body. Bending her knees and her upper body tightly forward in a sort of crouching position, caught her handbag in the hollow formed by her stomach. She re- motionless in that posture, pressing her handbag against her abdomen. Tautly stretched by her inclining upper body, her dress revealed the curve of her back and hips, and the cloth gathered in several layers of deep wrinkles running from her waist toward inside of her hollowed abdomen. Her knees folded under her and more and more unsteady, as if to show that no matter how tightly clutched her handbag, it was ready to slip and fall at any moment. It lasted only a few seconds. Presently, Yoko straightened up, her handbag back up to her chest, and began to walk forward. when she had gone five or six steps, she crouched over again tottered slowly off to the left. Placing her elbow on the left-hand she gently rested the weight of her body against it and remained

'"''"· Suspecting that her body might continue to slide gradually

,.... along the wall, he switched out of the observer's role and walked her side, blocking her from public view with his body. Then he brought ..." ""-"' close to Yoko' s ear, pretending that he was peering over the shoul- of his female companion who was leaning against the wall to look her handbag. "What's the matter?" he asked.

..

...

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Her eyes almost closed, Yoko lifted her head and leaned toward him as if she were pushing her upper body diagonally from her hips, which dragged behind. Then she breathed a long, shallow sigh. Instinc- tively, he looked around to make sure that no one was watching them. He knew he had to do something right away, so he took her by the elbow and pulled her away from the wall. Yielding her elbow with- out leaning against him, Yoko lifted her feet slowly, bending her body slightly forward. Her eyes were opened in a wide stare, her face com- pletely expressionless. Her tightly pursed lips, which moved as if she were continuously swallowing saliva, grew red and ripe by some spon- taneous power, exposing a sort of female sensuality. Now and then Yoko stopped and turned her head slowly to look around at the people mov- ing about in the store. In order to make her vacant expression and em- barrassing posture less conspicuous, he too matched his head movement to hers and looked around inside the store as if the two of them were searching for something. As he copied her movements, he felt again that he was becoming connected to Yoko's illness by a single thread. How- ever, when he started to walk again, he was surprised by the fact that her illness had suddenly taken on the weight of a mature woman's body. He no longer got the impression that her body was fading away or reverting to the weight of a mere object unable to stand on its own. Rather, as she walked, her body revealed a female sensuality reminis- cent of the way she looked when she got into bed, her arms folded across her chest, her knees slightly pressed together. Again and again Yoko would stagger and begin to turn in a different direction. When he pulled her closer, she twisted her body away from his arm toward the bustle and confusion around them with a vaguely trancelike motion, and a thin, hoarse sound escaped from deep within her chest. Each time this hap- pened, his apprehension grew and he couldn't help feeling that Y6ko's illness was disclosing their secrets to the world. He fought the urge to walk off into the crowd alone. After a while, he finally found the stairway and led Yoko down to the landing. Here, he was unhappy to see, the situation was no better. The landing connected two stairways, which descended from either side, and opened out exactly like a stage; from there a wide stairway led down toward the grocery and the prepared food vendors on the basement floor. Yoko went to the edge of that stairway and stood looking around va- cantly at the people moving below. "She certainly picked the most obvi- ous place," he thought, completely at a loss as to what to do next. Anx- ious that they should blend into the crowd in the basement without a moment's delay, he took her by the arm again and pulled her to his side. As her body was pulled nearer, she nimbly drew her head back and gazed at him suspiciously, then she twisted her shoulder back and forth, slipped

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of his arm, and, to his astonishment, pushed his chest with both hands hard as she could. "Who do you think you are?" Her sticky murmur reached his ears as he stumbled backward.

.........~·o

~J<.

his balance, he no longer

had the energy to do anything more

stood a few steps away keeping an eye on both Yoko and the activity the shoppers in the basement. Yoko stood with her back arched, her pushed out, and worse still, her stomach thrust out toward the sales Standing at the edge of the stairway, exposed to public view, she the picture of a woman who was pondering where she should go At the bottom of the stairs, several men here and there paused and up at her with vaguely dubious expressions, but before a gleam definite interest flashed into their eyes, they looked down again and h,.,,,. • .,,, along on their respective ways. Finally, Yoko lowered her eyes modestly to the ground and to walk down the stairs naturally. Like a servant, he moved "~"""'"'n her without a word. When he held out his arm, she took it protest. When they had returned to the coffee shop, he asked, "Are you

right now?" "What are you talking about?" she replied. "What am I talking about? But wasn't something wrong with you?" "There wasn't the slightest thing wrong with me." She sounded surprised. However, when he looked at Yoko now, was obvious from the way she leaned back comfortably in her chair ~;Jnd slowly sipped her soft drink that she was giving herself up to the sense of relief after one of her attacks had run its course. "From now on, you have to be a little careful, okay?" He didn't want to disturb her peace of mind, and so he thought

to bring this part of the conversation to a close with these words. How- ever, Yoko turned upon him as if she were protesting her innocence. "What is it you're talking about? What did I do?"

"It seemed like you couldn't walk by yourself

"

....

"Oh, that. I was just feeling a little sick." This was the first time he had heard Yoko use a commonplace excuse for her illness. "There's no need to hide it," he murmured, feeling dispirited. "My illness has been cured," Yoko replied. Sulking, she looked down at her plump knees, which were pressed together with ladylike propriety. With that, they both fell silent. From that time on, he decided to keep the time he spent with Yoko in public places to a minimum. He was frightened by wild fancies:

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perhaps the next time, regardless of the people around them, Yoko's ill- ness would let out a woman's scream .... In an effort to stay away from crowds of people, their activities naturally became limited to the usual place. He was pleased that their relationship was gradually becoming closed off to the outside world. Even when he got off at the station in the early afternoon and headed toward their customary inn, he no longer took such half-hearted precautions as hurrying along the road ahead of Yoko. He walked slowly through the heavy summer sunlight with his arm wrapped around her as if she were a sick person. They walked right in front of the usual inn at the same steady pace, and then, together, they suddenly took refuge from the sun in the deep shadows. If they stood immobile in the small garden, even the people directly behind them were blinded by the difference between light and shadow and passed on without noticing where the two of them had gone. However, when they were alone together in the room, he became aware of the extent to which the time they had spent outside, tense and estranged from each other, had up to this point preserved their lovemaking in a state of sensual purity. When their bodies came together in the darkness, a fresh, vivid image of Yoko crouching over and press- ing her handbag to her abdomen in public suddenly appeared before his eyes and aroused him intensely in a way that was surprisingly not sen- sual. Her fit that day had a wanton quality, which was liberated from his self-consciousness of the public eye and flowed into the dark room all at once. Not only had Yoko's body changed, his own had changed as well. The rigid intransigence of its former boundaries had disappeared, and along with that the lucid sensation of bare skin. Thus, they were able to join their bodies together with greater abandon than ever before. Now a warm moistness constantly flowed through Yoko's skin, and her body took on a feminine coyness with each passing day. He rather hoped to become completely immersed in Yoko's illness with her. However, the moments when he came in contact with something cold, which seemed to be the core of her illness, ceased to occur. From that time on, the illness itself maintained its silence like a stubborn woman. Instead, Yoko began to speak of her illness with more frequency. Nestled in the sheets and looking at the ceiling, she would suddenly mur- mur, "Been feeling funny again lately." When he asked her what was wrong, she would reply, shaking her head slowly back and forth on the pillow, "My body feels heavy. I get tired when I stand up and walk." Even her complaints about her difficulties contained a feeling of weary self-sufficiency. She no longer felt as if she was losing a sense of her own body as she had in the past. Rather, she was too aware of it, and there was noth-

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she could do. Her body was exactly like a heavy rock that had been to lie undisturbed, she murmured with a sigh. When she was in her room alone and examined herself attentively, whether it was her chest, or the area around her hips, her own body had become unbelievably thick. She didn't mind that, but she was unable to bear the strange feeling that clung to each and every simple movement she made. For example, when she put her hand behind her ear to smooth her hair, she sensed some- where in the movements of her own hand the figure of a plump woman unconsciously bringing her hand around to scratch an itchy spot on the nape of her neck while she gossiped about someone. When she picked up a bowl filled with rice, the hand holding her chopsticks took on the white plumpness of the grains of rice and began to move hurriedly of its own accord as if it were somehow deeply embarrassed yet at the same time quite shameless. The feeling in her hips when she stood up from the tatami, the feeling in her thighs when she went down the stairs, the feel- ing of her hollowed abdomen when she bent down to pick something up from the floor-each and every action took on the feeling of a woman who already seemed to have a couple of children. Her movements were slightly delayed and gradually emanated from somewhere inside her body. But it was not as if her body had become someone else's. Although she had a real, vivid sense that each feeling and action was her own, she felt weighed down by a heaviness against which she was powerless, and she had nowhere to turn .... "I don't know what to do," she said, choking back her hoarse voice. The expression on Yoko's face, however, seemed to become more and more blissful. When he raised his head slightly from the pillow and looked over at her, she was twisting and turning her body beneath the towel draped over her breasts.

**********

This same kind of conversation recurred every week. One day about a month later, he was watching Yoko twist and turn as if she truly did not know what to do with her heavy body, and he suddenly felt a desire to ask about her everyday life. "What do you do all day?" "I lie down in my room, most of the time." Yoko continued mov- ing her body, unaware that she was being watched. Throwing open all of the windows on the second floor, Yoko lay curled up on the sofa next to the wall, all day long. An entire wall, from floor to ceiling, was taken up by a bookcase, which was packed full with her father's old books, despite the fact that nobody read them. It had a cluttered, untidy look about it and seemed to be leaning its weight to-

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ward the middle of the room. Her body was heavy, and so was the book- case against the walt and the desk, and the table, and the chair. It was difficult to support her own weight, and while she was wondering if it wouldn't be best for all of them to share the weight among themselves, she was able to stand up on her own after all. Before, the objects around her had pressed down upon her with such a strange intensity that she felt her body was going to disappear in the space between them, and so she would end up tightly hugging her thin body and cowering down before the table. This happened once or twice a year. When she crouched over like this, the uneasy feeling emanating from the depths of her body was slowly and steadily boiled down, finally enabling her to achieve a balance with the intensity of the objects around her. Meanwhile, she was gradually falling into a daze, and except for the anxious feeling that she mustn't move her body in the slightest, eventually everything dissolved into drowsiness. In order to minimize the number of objects pressing in upon her as much as possible, she had drawn the heavy curtains and made the room dark, but, even in the middle of summer, she didn't sweat at all. Yet now, even if she opened all the windows and the door between the rooms and lay down in the cross-breeze, her skin became damp with perspiration. She no longer had the uneasy feeling that the objects around her were going to collapse in upon her. The objects were objects, and each one was painfully absorbed in its own weight. She, too, pressed her body into the sofa, it was almost embarrassing how engrossed she was in the simple act of lying there. "Why is that a problem for you?" he said. "If it's uncomfortabk you should stand up and just do something to get your body moving."

"But you know

" Yoko's sticky voice trailed off. "But when I

... stand up and try to do something, I get confused. My illness has defi- nitely gotten better.f\o.d because it's better, I think I must quickly get my own life in order. Except, welt I don't feel like getting up. I want to lie around like this forever, if I could." "Why?" "Because, when I get up and start walking around, with my body the way it is, I feel like I'm becoming another person. My slightest ges- ture is suddenly enveloped by my sister's gesture." Yoko was talking about the sister, nine years her senior, who was her only blood relative and guardian. Yoko had told him that her sister had married five years before and now had two sons, a three year old

and a one year old. "Wouldn't it be a good thing if you were like your sister?" He was already vaguely aware of the tension between them from the indifferent way Yoko spoke about her older sister. But when he thought of the discrepancy between Yoko crouching in the ravine and

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sister skillfully managing a household, the question slipped out in

spite of himself.

. "I couldn't stand to be like my Sister/' Yoko murmured qu1etly m a hoarse, constricted voice, and she looked up toward the ceiling with a hateful look in her eyes. It seemed to him that if he gave an ordinary answer, she might break out in hystericat scornful laughter. Conscious of the awkwardness of having unintentionally pried into the affairs of someone else's family, he remained silent. For the first time, he somehow felt guilty that they were lying here in bed together without having sufficiently questioned each other about their families. However, a moment later, Yoko turned around to face him. Rest- ing her elbows on the sheet, she slowly pulled the towel down off her white breasts, then suddenly she moved her face close to his with a lust- ful gleam in her eyes. Although it was dark and there was no one else around to hear them, she whispered, "A long time ago, my sister was crazy."

.

_

.

He was conscious that he had instinctively furrowed his brow,

and he turned his face away from her gaze. Although she had certainly noticed his reaction, Yoko leaned even closer to him, pressed one of her breasts against his forearm, and wrapped her arm around his neck. So close that her lips were practically touching his ear, she began to speak.

"She was exactly the same age that I am now. And she

welt it

... took about ten minutes to walk to the train station from our house. But she couldn't even make it there in thirty minutes, and she'd come back to the house with eyes as wide as an owl's. And you know, it was a simple route, she only had to make three turns to get there. When she had to describe the way to go, she could do it perfectly. But, she said that once she started out, it would start to feel different from the way it was sup-

posed to as she got farther along, and she'd end up getting lost. She would tell all of this to my mother, who was still well at the time, and when I overheard her complaining with this ridiculously serious expression on her face, I thought I was going to burst out laughing. You see, along the way there was this tobacconist, okay? It was the first landmark. She'd

come up to it thinking,' Ah, so here's the tobacconist.' But

when she was

right in front of it, the shop seemed completely different. Then, she just couldn't pass it and continue any further, so she had no choice but to go back to our house and start all over from the beginning. The next time

she would force herself not to look in the direction of the tobacconist until she walked right in front of it and then she'd quickly look up. But she said she felt as if she'd never seen that shop before in her life. The

same thing happened over and over again, every morning

but actu-

... ally, she was aware of everything. She was perfectly sane. She was just

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stubborn and selfish, and so she wouldn't be satisfied unless she sub- jected everything to her own feelings once a day. And to prove it, as long as someone took her to the station, she went off to school quite calmly and came back home with no problem at all."

He was dumbfounded. Yoko was supposedly suffering from the same problem, so where did this cool sense of reality lie hidden within her? If she was so perceptive about her sister, why wasn't she able to look at her own illness in the same light? Or perhaps, was it that she did look at herself in that way and still suffered all the same when an attack occurred? After she spoke for a while, Yoko drew away and turned over on her back again.

"Aaah

...

"she sighed, and closed her eyes.

However, a moment later, she suddenly raised her head, and, with a cloying smile on her face, as if she had remembered some very amus- ing dirty story, she simultaneously drew her face and upper body closer toward him. "Soon it was summer vacation. And it was a good thing that she could avoid going outside, but then she brought those things she was doing on the street into the house. It was quite a problem for the family, too. She wasn't able to do anything unless she followed a certain order even for the most minor thing. You get up in the morning and get dressed, right? Everybody just unconsciously puts on his clothes in the same or- der every morning. But she wasn't satisfied unless she checked each piece of clothing one by one as if she were getting dressed for the very first time. If she got even the slightest strange feeling when she was button- ing her buttons, then-what an ordeal!-it was strip down and start all over again. And even going down the stairs, she always started with her right foot and walked very carefully, one step at a time as if she was going to lose her balance. But even then-you know the way your feet get tangled up when you run down the stairs in a hurry, don't you?-the rhythm of her feet got messed up like that and she stopped short, lean- ing forward like she was going to fall on her face. Then she went back up to the top step and started all over again. It was really strange! Because although she was so careful when she came down the stairs, she bounded up the stairs without stopping." "If she did everything like that, the day would never end," he said, drawn into Yoko's story before he knew what was happening. It was as if they were talking about a third person who had no relation to

them.

"But everything has a way of taking care of itself," Yoko said, naturally continuing her story. "Even though she was methodical, there was something that was entirely lacking. Although she took thirty min- utes to get dressed and come downstairs, she'd forget to wash, and she'd

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sit down at the breakfast table just the way she was. Or she'd take over

an hour to

get ready to take

a bath and

then just go to sleep without

actually getting in." Yoko started laughing softly into his ear. The flat, malicious laugh- ter continued on into the darkness in spite of the fact that he, lying right there beside her, was silent. Since her sister was the same age that Yoko was now, Yoko must have been a girl of twelve. That skinny, sensitive girl, hiding in the shadows at the foot of the stairs, had peered with her sharp eyes at the woman standing motionless for so long in the middle of the stairway. Perhaps those same eyes were still watching this Yoko from far away.... Yoko suddenly broke off her laughter. She lowered her voice again and continued her story. "After about a month, it finally got to the point where she did nothing but stay in her room all day long. That's the room I have now. Even though it was hot, she closed the curtains and lay face down at the table in the middle of the room without doing anything for hours on end. She said that the family-my father and my mother and 1-all got together and conspired to make trouble for her. For example, she said that while she was sleeping, we would come in and ever so slightly rear- range her clothes, which were folded so neatly beside her pillow. Or when she wasn't looking, we would make the waistband of her skirt narrower, to try to make her think that her waist had gotten bigger. Or we'd shift the position of all the furniture little by little to make the room feel un- stable. Once she began talking like this, she wouldn't stop, and if we tried to reason with her, she'd turn her eyes away like a crazy cat and "

then cower down in front of the table again

....

Yoko's voice was gradually losing its vehemence. While she still seemed to be complaining about the trouble her sister had caused so long ago, she also seemed to be trying to appeal to the perversity of her own illness, and the ends of her words were swallowed up in this ambivalent sentiment. She stopped talking and was quiet for a while as if she were wrapped up in the feeling of crouching down in front of the table. Then, resuming her previous tone, she began to speak again. "So I had to bring her her meals. When I went into her room, it was dark, and she was sitting with her chest on the table and her head in her arms. But her waist and hips were stretched out in an odd way. And, as if it were a different creature, her rear end was perched on a chair pushed far away from the table. Even when I put the tray on the table and called to her, she didn't move at all. Yet, when I carne back about an hour later, the food was all gone. When she wanted to go to the toilet, she sneaked down by herself. When we heard the sound of her footsteps, my mother and I closed the door tightly and didn't make a sound. If we

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would neither become thin, like a sensitive young girl, nor assume the well-rounded appearance of a sexy woman. The conceited hope that he could cure her illness had long since vanished completely. He didn't want her illness to move toward convalescence, nor did he want it to grow worse. Getting better or getting worse, it seemed likely that either one

would destroy Yoko. There was no need for Yoko to feel sad about the weight of her own body. He, or at least his body, could put up with re- peating the same thing over and over again with Yoko just as she was

now, and he could even feel joy in

it.

...

Before he left, he had given her the address of the inn, and so on the tenth day a letter arrived from her.

I can't very well lie around forever, and so I'm trying to get up and get on with my life. When I sit up properly in my chair during the hot hours of the afternoon, I feel like I am inserting my body into thin air from the neck up. A human being is a creature who stands and walks. Someone who does nothing but lie around is an invalid or an animal. In the evening when the rays of the sun are not so strong, I go out of the house and stroll around the neighborhood. I don't lose my way, but scenes that I should be used to seem a little intense, and I sometimes frown at myself. In order to walk steadily, I have to imagine your face in front of me with that funny expression you have when you don't know what to do.

Yi5ko

A short time after he had finished reading the letter, he realized that his own face had stiffened into the funny expression Yoko had de- scribed. It was the same expression he had had when he walked step by step between the rocks as he and Yoko gazed at each other in the ravine; it was the same expression he had had as he retreated backward, reeling Yoko in by her line of vision on the suspension bridge. From that day on, he lost the equilibrium he had found while dozing. Afflicted with lethargy during the day and insomnia at night, his nerves began to feel on edge again. Perhaps he could blame it on the fact that the weather had changed and rain fell continuously, starting the same day he received her letter. The chilly autumn dampness of the val- ley was not comfortable for lying around and napping. He passed the time leaning against the wall, holding his knees and gazing out the win- dow at the rain. A winged insect flew up from the near bank, but, beaten down by the falling rain, it crossed low over the surface of the stream. As he slowly followed its movements with his eyes, his felt his irritation

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growing. At night, the sound of the rain became one with the sound of the stream, a low, throbbing sound that flowed into the darkness of the valley. The image of Yoko rose up within that sound. Yoko had already gotten up and was slowly advancing her slightly stooped body toward a funny-looking face floating before her. When the evenness of her pace was disturbed, her body stiffened and her eyes flashed with stubborn- ness. Just then, her footsteps suddenly became careless, and she dragged her unmanageable body drowsily along, with a touch of hysteria in her eyes. Her sleepwalking figure, constantly shifting between tension and laxity, floated transparently here and there in the murmuring darkness. Gazing forward, it walked on for a while, was swept along by the mur- muring sounds, and disappeared again. He considered sending Yoko a reply telling her she didn't have to overdo it. But unable to recall that vision of her during the day, he could not bring himself to sit down at the desk. At night, Yoko's exist- ence became a burden that weighed heavily upon his mind. Once again her pale figure began to hover here and there in the murmuring sounds of the valley. He stayed another five days at the inn in the valley. On the sixth day it was still raining. The following day he had a date to meet Yoko, and so he took the bus down from the valley of rain to the nearest town on the train line. He had sent ahead the books and mountain climbing gear, which had proved so useless, and so, wearing nothing but a wet raincoat over his clothes, he boarded the diesel train to the neighboring town as if he were going to do an errand. The following day, although it did not look like rain, the wind blowing against his skin felt damp and chilly. Therefore, as he was about to leave his house, he once more slipped into his raincoat, which he had hung carelessly in the front hall the evening before. The raincoat was still damp from the valley and felt excessively cold against his skin. But since it was more trouble to take it off once he had put it on, he wore it anyway. As he waited in front of the shop where they had decided to meet, Yoko came along, also wearing a white raincoat. The clouds were still quite high in the sky, and when he looked around at the people on the street, he realized that they were the only two wearing raincoats. Yoko emerged slowly from the crowd, and, like a convalescent woman, it was difficult to tell whether her smile reflected the relief of recovery or the lingering memory of pain. Her body had returned to its former slender- ness. However it was no longer the sort of slenderness that seemed to strain painfully over every part of her body. In the soft contours, there was the shadow of that physical awareness, which had already spread out through her body. Fine blood vessels were visible through the pale,

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her thin body regained its roundness, and a soft shadow flowed from her chest to her hips and was carried slowly from rock to rock. Every time she stepped onto a differently shaped rock with a different stride, a different woman's body would come into being, regardless of the ear- nest look in her eyes as she stared at the rock at her feet. As he watched Yoko absorbed in her footsteps, he followed about ten meters diagonally behind her. When Yoko was poised on one rock, picking out the next, occa- sionally the light in the sky would change, and far above her bowed head, the horizon suddenly became sharper. Then, except for Yoko's body stand- ing out so clearly and the horizon, both the expanse of water and the rocky beach became vague and difficult to fathom. He had no other point of reference with which to determine her location but that single hori- zontal line, which almost seemed to lie in a different space at some un- known distance far across the sea. At these times, he became Yoko and felt the strain of standing up straight and walking through this bleak wilderness of rocks, exposing her body fully to the vast stretch of sky and sea. He fervently hoped that she would not look up and notice the bleakness around her, that she would concentrate on her feet forever. However, when she turned around to him on the rock and began to smile, Yoko's being crossed over the distance between them and wrapped itself around him like a warm, gentle wave. They were only gazing at each other, but there on the windy beach, his body was over- come with a rush of longing for her. The gray water rose up smoothly behind Yoko and came toward him, carrying her along with it. He looked at Yoko' s chest. She smiled as if in pain and shook her head. Her hair, shaken free by the slow swaying motion of her head, flowed out toward him, and the collar of her coat billowed up, enveloped in a warm shadow. Yoko's face took on an exasperated expression, as if annoyed by the wind driving against her back, and she twisted her body and thrust out her abdomen toward him. Even so, she continued to shake her head back and forth, tenaciously holding this awkward pose, although she seemed about to lose her balance at any moment. Rejected, his desire became willful, and he felt as miserable as a disappointed child. He wanted to be the one to wrap himself around Yoko's body. He walked toward her, into the wind, and slipped his arm around the waist of the body standing stiffly with both feet planted on the rock. Yoko bent her chest bravely into the wind as if to pull herself free of his arm, and staring wide-eyed toward the horizon, she spoke in a clear voice. "We'll have endured all these days apart so far for nothing." "Isn't it okay if we go back to the way it was?" he whispered,

and felt a pang of fear at the sound

of his own voice. But his arm only

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Yoko' s waist more tightly. Still looking

off into the distance, Yoko

ly loosened his arm and started walking off alone. As he watched her walk away, her eyes fixed on her feet as she stepped from one rock to

the next, it struck him that Yoko was resolved to make her way deeper fUld deeper into her own illness. He felt a faint stirring of distaste. Yoko would no longer stop. The path eventually cut through the rocks and came out onto a sandy beach. Yoko's feet sank into the sand and became somewhat un- steady. He followed directly behind her, at the usual ten meters, glanc- ing now and then at the pale, stubborn-looking nape of her neck. The beach was not very wide, and after a short distance it was cut off by a narrow river, which flowed in from the mountains. There was no bridge, and the path followed the watercourse and continued in the direction of the high bluff, a dark mass just beginning to jut out into the sea on their right. He could see a car driving on the bluff, its headlights casting small circles of light into the evening shadows. Yoko stopped at the river and looked to either side. From behind, her body had the look of someone standing in a daze. As he slowly approached her, he suddenly felt the darkness descending upon the sand. Then realizing that he had been unwittingly stifling the sound of his footsteps, he stopped in his tracks. Yoko turned around. The expression on her face had changed. Her eyes, fixed in a wide stare, had a glazed expression, and her lips were thick and rounded. Her face began to take on a sadly touching wom- anliness. "So, it's begun," he thought. However, with the two of them alone like this, cloaked in the vast darkness of the beach, he didn't feel the slightest sense of panic. His body remained standing upright on the sand, but inside he crouched down into his own solitary fear, and from there he gazed out at Yoko. Her pale face floating in the darkness, she drew close to him. She came right in front of him, dropped her eyes to the ground, and slipped past him. After a moment, he followed behind her. Yoko moved her feet cautiously, as if with every step she were dividing the expanse of sand in two with the tips of her narrow shoes. Suddenly she started walking straight back in the direction she had just come. Little by little, she swerved closer to the sea, and before long she turned directly toward the dark water and stopped. Then she twisted her body to the left with a frantic violence of some unknown origin, and started walking off to the left again. When he followed, matching his pace with hers, her will to walk straight across the beach came through to him with painful clarity. Be- fore long, he realized that Yoko's objective was a long, narrow rock jut- ting out from the edge of the beach. Every time she twisted away from the sea, she checked the location of the rock. Then she began walking

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"What do you mean, 'What is it?' The other day you said you

wanted me to call you

" He faltered, upset at her unexpected greeting,

.... Then the voice grew a little fainter. "What are you doing there? Go over there!" she shouted in annoyance. The voice grew louder again. "My sister's two kids are poking their heads out from behind the pillar and they're looking at me," she complained. Speaking to Yoko on the telephone for the first time, he was once again made aware how words alone were ineffectual between them. He was still worried about her behavior at the seaside and asked, "How have you been feeling since last time?" "I'm feeling just fine," she replied in a dejected tone, and fell silent. Unlike the times when they were face to face, they had no means of connecting with each other when the conversation broke off. He asked several awkward questions. Yoko answered with halting, everyday phrases and didn't seem to be at all bothered by pauses in the conversa· tion. Soon she began to ramble on about her examinations at school, oblivi· ous to the fact that he was quite irritated that she was not letting him question her further about her condition. Since exams started, she had spent all of her time at home in

... her room looking at her textbooks and notes, but because she hadn't done anything for over two months, she couldn't keep anything in her head no matter how much she read, and she only ran her eyes over the words again and again, and then the day was over. In the end, she would go to

school with an empty head. Even if she looked at her notes once more in the classroom before the exam began, they were completely unfamiliar to her, even though she had written them out herself. In spite of that,

when the exam started she was able to finish the test paper in about thirty minutes. When she held the paper back and looked at it carefully, the scrupulously written words were disagreeable, and she wanted to rip it

up and throw it away. If she tried

reading it again, she was no longer

able to read what she herself had written. And while she was gazing vacantly at the paper, the exam ended. Her friends came over and asked, "How did you answer that question? What about this one?" And then she was able to answer again. But when she had gone home, finished studying, and was taking her bath late that night, as she knelt there soap· ing herself, she began to get the feeling that she had written strange things on her exam. Somehow she just couldn't stop herself from feeling that way. And then she would end up squatting down with worry near the tub. She no longer seemed to be able to get a sense of her own body, and she stayed as she was, half of her body still covered with soap, unable to move .... Yoko described herself squatting in the bathroom in exactly the same indifferent tone as she had used to talk about her exams.

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Finally, unable to get a clear idea of her situation and feeling some· what disappointed, he decided to hang up before the call went on too long. Even though Yoko's voice didn't sound very happy, she asked him

to call her again the following evemng. When he called the second time, Yoko's sister answered again. As a sort of intruder, he listened intently to see if he could pick up either or coldness in the tone of the lady of the house. However, Yoko's sister's voice was as expressionless as the first time. Even the interval between when she said, "Just a moment, please," and the sound of the receiver being placed on the table was the same, as if it had been pre· cisely measured. Furthermore, what he found truly incomprehensible was the fact that it always took a terribly long time for Yoko to pick up the phone. At first he wondered if her room was quite far away from the telephone, but every night he was definitely able to hear footsteps as· cending the stairs next to the telephone receiver. On the fourth night he finally became angry at having been kept waiting so long, and when Yoko picked up the phone he abruptly started grilling her. "For heaven's sake, where is your room?" "Where is it?" Yoko murmured, as if a difficult question had un· expectedly been thrust upon her, and she fell silent. Wondering if he were responsible for bringing on an attack, he asked again, "Well then, where is the telephone?" Then Yoko suddenly became quite animated and began to ex· plain the location of the telephone in great detail. "When you come into the foyer, there's a concrete floor, and when you come up into the house, there's a four-and·a·half·mat tatami room. On the right is the door to the "

living room, and if you go past it, the hall

continues

back. ...

"I don't mean that I want to come find your telephone right now.

Just tell me where the telephone is, that's all." In spite of these words, he realized on second thought that if she really wanted to tell someone who was unfamiliar with the house where the telephone was, there was no other way to explain it. He pitied her for her inability to abbreviate her explanations. Yoko was silent.

"For example, 'in front of the stairway' or something

...

"he said,

helping her out. Yoko came to life once again and began explaining the rest. "Yes,

when you come into the hall, directly on the right, no, from your stand·

point the stairway is on the left, and you go up one, two

...

five steps

and you're here." "The telephone is halfway up the stairs?" The image of Yoko's slender body standing halfway up the steep stairway, holding the receiver to her ear took shape in his mind as a very strange scene. It floated before his eyes.

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"No, it's on the landing. It's pretty big. The telephone table is sitting in the corner. From here the stairway changes direction and goes up to the second floor. We decided to put the telephone here because in his last years, my father used to spend a lot of time in his study on the second floor." Yoko's voice had become somewhat far away. It seemed as if she had turned her face away from the receiver and was looking up the stairs.

"So, then where's your room?" he asked, taking advantage of the opening in the conversation. "When you go up the stairs, it's on your left. My father's study's on the right," she answered, her voice still sounding far away. Without humoring her, he pressed for an answer. "Well then, why don't you come down right away?" "Don't I come down right away?" Again her voice was heavy with a stubborn undertone. The following day, when he called at eight in the evening, Yoko' s sister answered the phone again. After she said her usual, "Just a mo- ment, please," and set down the receiver, there was a pause. Then, far away, he could hear her voice, full of foreboding, shouting, "Yoko! Yoke- san!" It sounded as if she had put a hand on Yoko's shoulder and was shaking her. Suddenly he heard a shrill cry, "Hey, what are you shouting about? You should see the awful expression on your face!" Two low, trem- bling voices hastily exchanged words, immediately followed by the sound of slippers running down the stairs. The footsteps stopped beside the telephone. Then, when everything became quiet again, he heard Yoko's thin voice coming through the receiver, "Hello?" "What's the matter?" he asked, as if to take that voice in his arms. "Mmm, there's something I'd like to ask you, Mr. S," a voice re- plied, vividly evoking a severe, frowning face in his mind. For an instant, he was confused. That voice brought to mind a Yoko who had suddenly put distance between them and regarded him as a stranger. And the way she called him "Mr. S" made him shudder at the cruelty of her illness. "It's a very difficult thing to ask, but, as her sister, of course I'm worried." When he realized it was her sister's voice, rather than feeling bewildered, he quickly braced himself to be cross-examined about his relationship with Yoko. And yet, though he had just prepared himself, he had the feeling that he would confess everything after all, and, worse still, he would end up blurting out something conventional like, "I in- tend to marry Yoko." However, Yoko's sister heaved a deep sigh into the

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telephone, then lowered her voice to a whisper, like a gossip suddenly leaning closer to speak into someone's ear. "When you go out, have you noticed that Yoko's been acting a little funny recently?" "What do you mean by 'recently'?" he responded coolly, with a question of his own. "For about the past week." "Well, we haven't seen each other for ten days, so I really don't

know."

"I see." The voice broke off and it seemed• that Yoko's sister was deep in thought. Then, as if she had suddenly become aware of his exist- ence, she altered the tone of her voice, and said brightly, "Actually, she's worn herself out studying for exams. Right now she is a bit neurotic. Even though she isn't very strong, she's always been unusually persis- tent in her efforts since she was a small child, and she always ends up overdoing it. Once she decides to do something, she won't listen to anyone." Yoko's sister lowered her voice again. Judging from the fact that

he could hear her lowered voice even more clearly, it seemed that she was speaking with her mouth pressed to the receiver. "When I go into her room, she glares at me. Like her mortal en- emy has just come in. Still, in spite of that, she makes me bring her meals up to her room, and her appetite is surprisingly healthy. And I don't know

why, but

even though she's a young woman, she's gone without a

... bath for five days."

"A young woman

has gone without a bath

for five days."

... These words alone suggested the most appalling filthiness in the world. He was shocked at the force of combinations of simple words. Feeling sorry for Yoko who had been soiled by such words, he thought he was going to shout out, "What's so terrible about not taking a bath for five days!"

...

Just then: "Oh, she's standing over there. Glaring at me with that awful expression," Yoko' s sister murmured in a husky voice. Then: "Yoko!

What are you doing? It's Mr. S. You have no excuse for keeping him wait- ing all the time," resounded the polished voice of a mature woman. At the same time, he could hear the sound of a door slamming.

After a moment, Yoko' s sister resumed the conversation in a familiar

tone.

"Mr. S, I'm really very sorry. She saw me talking to you and went back into her room. She's such an obstinate girl, I don't know what to do. Could you call back again? I won't answer next time."

He purposely waited four hours and then called again after mid- night. As he listened to the phone ring, he imagined the sound of the monotone bell at the other end of the line echoing through the darkness

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he was mountain climbing, she laughed heartily, twisting her slender body. Then she began to call him by his first name. He was naturally taken aback by this sudden intimacy, and once again he began to feel strange that he had been talking on with Yoko's sister without having informed Yoko herself of his visit. Looking at his watch, he saw that it was considerably later than the time he had agreed to meet her. Ner- vously, he appealed to Yoko's sister with his eyes. At which point, she looked down at her knees and resumed her former stiff posture. She seemed to be deep in thought for a few mo- ments, and then she glanced toward the second floor and, in a low voice, she spoke to the point. "I want to put Yoko in the hospital." "I don't think that's necessary." His answer was spontaneous. However, he, too, had lowered his voice. For the first time Yoko's sister gave him a searching glance. He gazed back, thinking, "I know a lot about Yoko's illness." Yoko's sister looked down at her knees again and slowly began to shake her head. "No, she can't go on this way. The doctor said so, too." Her face had the same obstinate expression he had seen on Yoko's face. Yoko's sister continued speaking as if she were shut up in a dark place, quietly lamenting. "It's best if the patient goes of her own accord. But pathetically, Yoko doesn't understand that she has an illness. When I suggest that she go into the hospital, she wrinkles her nose and smiles scornfully and starts saying that she'll move out of the house if she's such a bother to me. Then I have nowhere to turn. As the doctor said, in cases like my sister's, the method of admitting the patient is especially important. If you force them to go, then a resistance lingers inside of them and the treatment isn't fully effective. And Yoko is like that, so ... even if she must be tricked, the person who does it has to be someone close to her, her confidant. In other words, even if she realizes she is being tricked, she can trust in that person's love. The doctor says it's quite different if it happens that way." It was finally clear to him what Yoko's sister wanted. However, when she said the word "patient," he sensed the cruelty of one's own flesh and blood, and he wanted to protect Yoko. At the same time, he felt bewildered by the irony of a situation where the relationship between the sisters had unexpectedly intruded into his life, when he was the one who should have been the intruder. This contradictory feeling led him to ask in a challenging tone, "Why can't you do it yourself?" Still looking down, Yoko's sister shook her head slowly. It was exactly the same gesture she had made just a moment ago. No matter what he said, or how forcefully he said it, he got the feeling that he would receive the same, fixed response, and he was a bit daunted. "We're too much alike. So once we start quarreling, the very fact

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we are so near to each other takes us to the point where it's intoler- and for a while we just can't get back to normal. Even after the cause of our quarrel is long since forgotten, the slightest gesture or ex-

"nr·Ps~non is enough to goad each

other....

"

He completely comprehended whatYoko's sister was saying. The ".path of argument was closed off from that direction, and, for Yoko' s sake, "there was no other way but getting right to the point, with words that revealed his youth. "Can you really say that she is sick?" "She is sick." "But it's not that easy to decide whether someone is sick or healthy in the mind, is it?" "She is sick." "What standard are you using to determine this?" "There's no question in my mind that she is sick. Because years ago I, too, was sick." He started to say, "How can you say that Yoko is now sick and you are now healthy?" but closed his mouth. The sound of children's voices, the ones he had heard over the telephone the first night, echoed in his ears again. He felt the signs of children's presence were strongly prevalent in the quiet house. His words were fast fading into sophistry. Certainly viewed from this kind of life, Yoko was sick, and if she was sick, then she must go into the hospital. But, it was Yoko's sister, the one who was rooted in that life, who kept stubbornly repeating the same an- swer with exactly the same expression no matter what he asked her, like some kind of autistic woman. In the face of such opposition, he felt as if he were carrying Yoko's "illness" in his arms with nowhere to go. Then Yoko's sister's face regained a mild expression, and she started speaking as if she were admonishing a stubborn young man. "Please convince my sister to go into the hospital. Make her well. She loves you. After you call, she goes up the stairs as if she's walking on air. And you love Yoko, too, don't you?" "Yes, I do love her." He nodded with a sop.r look on his face. He was speechless with astonishment at the realization that he had been so easily forced to say in front of Yoko's sister words that he had never once spoken to Yoko herself. Together they glanced toward the corner of the ceiling, listening for any sounds from Yoko's room on the floor above. The clinking noise of two objects hitting against each other came down through the floorboards. Yoko's sister stood up, opened the living room door, and, in the voice of a middle-aged woman, called loudly into the dark hallway, "Yoko! Mr. Sis here." Then she turned to him and winked significantly to indicate that he should go upstairs alone.

Part Eight

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As he reached the square landing half way up the stairs, he no~ ticed the telephone was indeed sitting on a table in the corner. From there he turned and proceeded up the stairway. He immediately felt separated from the atmosphere below, where Yoko's sister's family lived. His sense of place was suddenly confused. This was not a house he was visiting for the first time; rather, he had the feeling that he was walking up a stair- way he had climbed many times before in a house that he knew well. When he reached the top of the stairs and slowly opened the door to his left, an odor more dense than that below passed over his face from the dim room. The windows along both sides of the fairly large, Western- style room were hung with heavy curtains. One of them was drawn back about a third of the way, and the light of the overcast day flowed into the darkness through the white lace underdrapes. Yoko was sitting at a table at the edge of that faintly lit area, with her profile toward him and her head resting between her hands. She wore a pale-colored nightgown, with a red cardigan draped over her shoulders. When she felt his presence by the door, she turned toward him and smiled, her head still buried in her palms. Her face was white and puffy, as if she had just taken a bath. "How's it going?" The same words escaped from their lips si- multaneously. Neither of them had the slightest interest receiving an answer, and he automatically sat down at the table across from her, as if it were the usual course of things. Moving only their eyes, they looked at each other curiously. Her chair was pulled out a bit too far from the table, and Yoko was perched upon it as if she were only staying a moment. From the hips up, her body was extended straight forward, and her elbows alone sup- ported her on the table. It was the same position she had once described to him when she told him about her sister's illness. However, Yoko's body did not look as if it were burdened by rigidity or heaviness; rather, it was dividing its weight between the table and chair with an air of self-suffi- ciency. Her light blue nightgown was definitely dirty. Her underwear, which hugged the curves of her body, was visible through the thin mate- rial, and he could see that this, too, was not pure white. It may have just been his imagination, but the skin he glimpsed beneath her loosely opened collar seemed to emanate a muddy light that was darker than usual. Yet there was no sense of uncleanliness or obscenity. On the contrary, he felt as if they were both were gazing at a gentle animal that both he and Yoko knew very well. "Aren't you awfully uncomfortable in those clothes?" "Last night, I said I'd wait for you just as I was, didn't I?"

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"How long have you been wearing it?" "I haven't taken off my nightgown in three days. It feels nice. The material is exactly the same temperature as my skin." "What a dirty girl! You smell, you know." As he spoke, he made point of breathing in a lungful of the dim air. There was definitely a faint, shameless odor of body fluids oozing from her skin, but as his nose gradually became accustomed to the smell, it began to assume a fullness. ''It really is the smell of a person secluded in here," he thought, moved simple and profound emotion. Yoko, too, took a deep breath, her chest "'""""n v under her nightgown. She smiled and narrowed her eyes languidly. Without hesitation, he gave away the secret. "You know, your sister told me I should convince you to go into the hospital." "If you told me to, I'd go right now." "What would happen if you went to the hospital?" "I'd get well." "What does 'get well' mean?" "It means that I'd make the people around me feel more comfortable." More than just a careless reply, it seemed as if she had reconciled herself to her illness, and was speaking from a sense of satisfaction at having decided she could even live with it as she was now, but that later she had also considered her family's worries and was waiting for events to run their course. He felt he understood why Yoko hadn't taken a bath for five days, just as her sister had once done. There was little doubt in his mind that Yoko was in touch with the source of her illness. Therefore, knowing that her true being would never change no matter what she did, or what was done to her, she was sending a signal to her sister down- stairs that it didn't matter if she was sent to the hospital as a sick person. With that realization, and Yoko sitting before him in her state of extreme self-sufficiency, he felt abandoned again, and stretched his body across the table toward her. Yoko looked at him, tilted her head in her palms for . a moment, then slowly lowered her hands and drew her lips closer. When their lips touched, the scent of a child locked up in a dark room-mingled sweat and tears-was clearly perceptible to him. He opened his eyes slightly and saw the pores opening one by one on her skin, which seemed to have grown softer and more pliable. "You don't have to go to the hospital," he whispered, their lips still touching. "You know, really, I can't go on like this," Yoko said, echoing her sister's words. "Yes, you can. Don't worry." "Maybe if I could stay here in this room all the time."

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'Til fix it so that there'll be the same darkness around you as there is in this room, even when you're walking around in the city." "Even if you could do that, you could never bring along enough of this darkness. I'd just have to stay shut up in here." "You can stay the way you are now on the inside, and only fol- low along with what ordinary people do on the outside." "You're a healthy person, so you really don't understand the hor- ror of a healthy life," Yoko said, and she kissed him intensely as if to console him. This was the first time she had rejected him with the words, "you don't understand." At that moment, they heard her sister's footsteps coming up the stairs. He started to pull back, but Y6ko brought her face nearer and lis- tened to the footsteps with her eyes wide open as they kissed. Then she brought her lips to his ear. "Watch what she does very carefully," she whispered, and returned to her original position with her head in her hands.

"Y6ko! I've brought you some tea." The door opened quietly and Yoko's sister stood beyond the threshold, holding a tray in both hands. Her jaw set, she glared disapprovingly at Yoko's nightgown. Yoko stared back calmly from between her hands. "Well, what kind of outfit is that? You should at least make your- self up a little bit for your guest. Mr. S won't like you any more." In contrast to the expression in her eyes, her tone of voice suggested that she was tolerantly regarding her sister's slovenly behavior, meeting her boyfriend in her nightgown, as a sort of naive immaturity. He alone was bewildered by the dimness of the room compared to the light beyond the threshold, and stood up from his chair. "We're finished with the courtesies, so please, make yourself at home Mr. S," Yoko's sister said in a good-humored tone as she came into the room. At that point, he had already forgotten Y6ko's request that he observe her actions. However, when her sister had taken two or three steps across the threshold, his eyes were drawn to her stiff way of walk- ing, which exhausted his nerves just to watch her. It was exactly the same way Yoko had walked at the seashore, progressing toward the crashing waves as if she were dividing the sand with her feet each and every time she took another step. Supporting the rectangular tray of tea and cake with both hands, her head bent forward at an abrupt angle from her straight back, Yoko's sister moved her feet exactly as if she had been for- bidden to tilt the tray as much as one millimeter. As he watched her, involuntarily infected by that tension, he noticed a thick kitchen cloth tucked in her hand under the left side of the tray, which made it all the harder to balance.

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She came over to the table and stood between them, then slowly leaned forward, keeping her back straight, and lowered the tray toward the corner closer to Yoko. Sliding her hand between the left corner of the tray and the table, she looked like she was holding her breath for an in- stant, as she smoothly pulled the cloth from under the tray and placed it on the table with such careful precision there was not even a ripple on the surface of the tea. Then she picked up the folded cloth, stretched out her right arm, and began to wipe the table along the wood grain from the far corner. She put all the strength of her arm into her task, but her thin wrist was bent, and it trembled slightly as it moved slowly and steadily from left to right. Then, when she had carefully and evenly wiped all the way to the right side, she brought the cloth back to the left corner, moved it slightly closer to her, and repeated the same process three more times. The fourth time, she turned the cloth over and glanced sharply at Yoko's elbow, which she had not moved out of the way. Leaving an unwiped square around the spot her sister was occupying, she folded the cloth · again on the fourth time around and finished wiping the near side of the table with three passes. Next, she turned the cloth over yet again, slid the tray to the right, and carefully wiped the area underneath. Finally, she looked up and, with the cloth in one hand, glanced sideways with evident reluctance at her sister's elbow still resting on the table. Yoko smiled at him out of the corner of her eyes as he stood beside the table. Next, Yoko's sister picked up the teacups and cake plates one at a time in both hands, and, balancing them with scrupulous care, she set each one in front of them in an orderly fashion. When she finished set- ting them out, she leaned far back from the table and surveyed the whole arrangement. She put her hand on Yoko's teacup and moved it a little to the left. Then she looked up and, without saying anything, tilted her head to the side. She began to reach out her hand once again, but Yoko shook her head downward with a jerk. Her sister pulled back her extended hand as if she were frightened, blushed, and took one step away from the table, smiling radiantly. "Please forgive her for wearing these dirty clothes in front of com- pany. Think of this as a visit to a sick person. Well, enjoy your tea." Yoko's sister bowed her head deeply and turned her body toward the door. Still standing, he watched her leave. Her way of walking was somehow dis- tracted as she approached the door, and, as she started to cross the thresh- old, a flower vase on the shelf to her right caught her eye. With one hand she fixed the arrangement of the flowers. With a serious nod in the direc- tion of the vase, she started to step over the threshold, but, just as she was about to leave the room, she stopped again in mid-step. As if she had forgotten the presence of both her guest and her sister, she wrinkled

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her forehead into an expression that made her look hard to please, and fumbled with the flowers for a while. Finally, as the sound of measured · footsteps slowly receded down the stairs, he returned to the table with a feeling of relief and sat down. When he looked up, he saw that in the meantime Yoko had clutched her spoon like a dagger, with a desperate look in her eyes. "Just look at this," she said in a high-pitched voice. Triumphantly rising from her chair, she leaned over the table, with the handle of her spoon pointed to the bright red strawberry in the exact center of the frost- ing on her cake. Then keeping his line of vision fixed to the end of the spoon, she extended that hand in a straight line and pointed to the center of his teacup from which steam was faintly rising. Then she moved her hand to the right and pointed to the strawberry on his cake, and finally she brought her hand back again in a straight line and pointed to her own cup. As he watched stupidly, unable to figure out what she was doing, Yoko's eyes flickered and her hand repeated the same motion sev- eral times like an automaton. "What's this all about?" he asked nervously, feeling that Yoko was suddenly about to slip right between his hands into a state of true madness. Yoko scolded him, /fDon't look at my face, look at the end of the spoon! See, here, and here, and here, and here." As she spoke, Yoko made another circuit with the spoon. Then with a triumphant expression on her face again, she cried, "See, doesn't it make a perfect rectangle?" Now that she had mentioned it, he saw that the four points did indeed precisely connect into a rectangle. On top of that, every side ran parallel to the sides of the table and accurately managed to inscribe a rectangle corresponding to the shape of the table. He was not sure whether he was in awe of the older sister or the younger, and, as if pleading with her, he said to Yoko, "You shouldn't do such a perverse thing. She prob- ably did it unconsciously." "It's because it was unconscious that it's so weird," Yoko said, looking down and shaking her head emphatically as she vigorously pushed the plate and cup before her in different directions. After a mo- ment, she looked up and said with a malicious smile, "You observed what she just did, didn't you? Shall I tell you what you just saw?" She lowered her voice and described, in more detail and more intensely than he had observed, everything her sister had just done. He experienced an emo- tion close to fear at the coldness in Yoke's eyes. He was overcome by an impulse to cover those eyes with his hands. But at that moment, he re- membered that Yoko had been looking at the wall the entire time her sister had been in the room. Seeing the questioning look on his face, Yoko replied, "I can tell without even looking because everything is always

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same. When a friend of mine from school comes over once in a while, when she brings my meals up, it's an exact repetition of what you just

w. She fixes the flowers the same way, too. Those flowers are her beach-

into my territory. Or are they a bridge

...

connecting the two sick

At the end, her voice sounded more like a sob, and Yoko covered

face with her hands. But, a few moments later when she took away hands, she rolled up her eyes and began to rail against her sister. "No, I'm different from her. She is healthy. Her whole day consists en- of that kind of repetition. The way she walks down the hall, the she puts on makeup, the way she cleans the house, the way she eats

. day after day, for the rest of her life ...

the least bit of embarrassment

....

she keeps at it so seriously, That's what it means to be

althy. I can't stand it, and I'm going to stay in here. Do you under- "

You don't understand, do you? The expression on your face

... The moment she said this, he was conscious that at some point his face had stiffened into a dubious expression. He was reminded of the incident in the ravine, the incident at the suspension bridge. In this case, ~'"'~ he felt he had to calm her down somehow. With this purpose,

_... began to rattle off his own analysis. "Everyone has their peculiar habits. Besides, isn't the repetition of those habits is just one little part of life? No matter how much one seems to be shut up in those repetitions, the outside world is always seeking connections by various means, so at any rate those habits are broken by adapting to circumstances. That's probably what your sister does. If she didn't, she couldn't manage a horne." "That's right. The kind of life you're thinking about is something along those lines. But, no matter how much you live in accordance with the outside world, isn't there a part of you that remains separate? Every day, inevitably, isn't there still a time when you're pushed back into your own unchanging self? And there you're always repeating the same thing over and over in real earnest. That's what I think life is." "That's what living is all about, so there's nothing we can do about it. Or do you hate living?" "I do hate it. When I watch my sister." Yoko looked down. The tea and cake suggested the most humiliating repetition among all of those repetitions that Yoko hated: the repetition of the habit of eating. They sat before her mockingly. This makes the fourth time, he thought to himself. However, although finally comprehending the reason why Yoko didn't like being watched when she was eating, he was at a loss as to what to do with the tea before them, which was getting cold. There was nothing he could do about the fact that he was perplexed by such things. "Well, let's eat," he finally murmured.

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Yoko looked up and smiled as if she were confused by the sound of these simple words. Then she helplessly picked up her fork and began to cut into the cake from the edge of the frosting.

With her elbows on the table and the hand holding the fork dan- gling limply from the wrist, she would scoop up a bit of the frosting on the end of her fork and bring it to her lips. Even for such a tiny amount of frosting, her pursed lips suddenly thickened and closed tightly around the end of the fork. Her tongue slowly wriggling behind her closed lips was visible in her cheeks, and, when that movement stopped, the soft skin of her throat distended wearily as she swallowed what was in her mouth. Then she heaved a sigh. She was quietly enduring the embar- rassment of the repetition, which even a close personal relationship could not conceal. Noticing this, he called out to her with his mouth still full of cake, "I think I can put up with your habits."

"Hmmm

...

" Yoko murmured, her fork poised in mid-air. Again

she smiled as if she were distressed by his words or by the slipperiness of her own voice, and she twisted her body slightly from side to side. It looked as is she were half suffering from the difficulty of shaking of( her own self and half coldly immersed in it. "Right now, I haven't yet grown into my own habits. I'm a sick person, so I'm only half formed. Being healthy means that you've identi- fied completely with your own habits, and you don't feel weird repeat- ing the same thing over and over. So, in that case, habits are exposed

even more plainly than they are for sick people. If I were like that, I won-

der if you could put up with me

"

.... "Doesn't every couple put up with each other?" "That's right, you find a balance by exposing your habits exactly to the same extent that the other person does. That's the horror of being

healthy." "If that's the case, we can both become horrible people." Yoko knit her brow. Conscious of the way he was eating, he grew awkward. They were both silent, each absorbed in his own embarrass- ment. As he ate silently, suppressing even his breathing, he felt a sense of isolation, as if he were slipping down into his own life of blindness while his eyes alone remained watching himself. A few moments passed. Using the tip of her fork to poke at the strawberry, which had emerged from the frosting, Yoko said, "A friend once said that when she remembered the most insignificant habit of some-

one she loved, that was enough to make her feel happy. But I wasn't able "

to understand that sort of thing at

all. ...

Yoko poked at the strawberry, rolling it around and around on her plate. Then she looked up at him with a pitiful expression, and, gaz-

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at him eating, she continued, "But, after I met you, I feel like I've sort been able to understand the idea of liking someone's peculiar little

"What kind of habit do you mean? I'm a healthy person, so I don't " he replied, without raising his eyes from the stubborn misery of

't::a••u•,Fo· He was not rejecting Yoko's words, rather he felt he had under- stood the gentleness that she was finally able to hold out to him from her aversion. Yoko too, did not mistake the intention of his question.

"Let's see

...

when you turn and look at me, there's always a

sort of bewildered quality about you. You're watching me as if you're slightly distanced from yourself, with a subtle, gentle feeling that some- how corresponds to that distance. And then, suddenly you cling to me. you don't push through to me, you stay completely still with only

our skin touching

It's always the same, but it's not the jarring repeti-

.... tion of an ordinary person." He pictured himself when he was not doing that. Then here- called the image of himself while he was beside Yoko and absorbed in his own solitary uneasiness, unconsciously manifesting the same habit and repeating it, like an animal. He then thought of Yoko's feelings at that same time as she lay beside him, knitting her brows slightly and enduring this. However, he locked this thought up inside, and he inter- preted the words Yoko had presented to him as they were. "I don't really come in, I don't really distance myself, I don't re- ally embrace your illness, I don't really pull you out of your illness ... because even as a healthy person, I myself have some half-formed quali- ties, don't I?" "But that's exactly why I can bear sitting here like this and eating with you. Now, in front of you, I don't feel embarrassed at all," Yoko said, and she took the strawberry, which had been pierced through in every place and was beginning to fall apart, between her fingers and pushed it into her mouth, moving her red, wet lips as if they were two separate creatures. Then, suddenly using her hands in a womanly fash- ion, she pinched the handle of the fork tightly, cut off a large chunk of cake, and began to eat, making soft noises and focusing her gaze on the table. As he ate noisily along with her, he intently took in the feeling of the movements of his own cheeks, and the same dull repetitions of the same pathetic expression. When they were both absorbed in this same repetition in the gloom, there was a stronger, darker sense of contact than when they lay in each other's arms. However, their eyes that watched each other doing this remained detached from the scene, and they floated side by side in the darkness expressing sympathy for each other's shame. He felt that this was a balance that could not withstand a second repetition. When she'd finished eating, Yoko stood up and looked hesitantly

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at the table for a few moments. With a swift and merciless movement of her hand, she stacked her plate and his plate, her own cup and his cup

on top of each other, and set them in the exact center of the table. The cup on top slanted at an angle into the cup on the bottom, then stabilized itself with the handle. They looked at each other. Yoko walked over to the window slowly, as if she were valuing every moment, and pulled the partially opened thick curtain back over the lace underdrape. Her pale face floating in the deeper darkness, she sank down in the sofa against the wall. Destroying with one effort a balance that could not last, he lay down beside her and they embraced. Now and again they held their breath, to see if that balance was still preserved between them, and, finally, they abandoned themselves completely to the pleasure of its collapse. When they got up, Yoko smoothed down her hair as she went over to the window and opened the curtain slightly. She stood in the amber light, which had spread across the western sky. "Tomorrow I'm going into the hospital. I think I could get by without becoming an in-patient. If I made up my mind to do it, it would

be easy to get well. But it's humiliating to be forced to take medicine

"

.... Yoko sighed, and stared off into the amber light. ' He walked over, put his arm around her, and gazed at the land- scape outside with her. The narrow road receded into the distance in a straight line between the houses, and beyond, the autumn sun, tinged with deepening shades of red, was just about to set over the sparse tree- tops. Everything on the ground below was half warmed in amber light, while deep shadows flowed stickily in the same direction. Standing on the borderline between the natural and the mysterious, each object was regaining a hushed tranquility. "Oh, it's so beautiful. This moment is my peak," Yoko murmured in a thin, clear voice. She was half talking to herself. To his eyes as well, all at once everything before him began to take on a look of boundless- ness, which he would never see again. But he was unable to grasp any- thing beyond that. As he began to think of going home, Yoko's body, perhaps from a distaste toward his own, dwindled beneath his arm until it felt like no more than a faint shadow.

THE PLAIN OF SORROWS

"I was standing on the plain, the wind blowing all around me," my friend whispered in a strange voice. "At my age, I should have known better."

As far as the eye could see, knee-high grasses grew thick and luxuriant, rippling in the wind like a long wave. My friend walked slowly forward, the wind at his back. It was night. No, it was not night, the sun was just beginning to set, and the dark, low-hanging clouds were suf- fused with a purple glow. Nothing but a ghostly light floated between earth and sky, like vapor rising from a swamp, and yet the back of his hand had a faint reddish cast and the blood vessels stood out promi- nently beneath the skin. His arms hung loosely at his sides, but a certain stiffness lingered in his right palm, a sensation of having desperately gripped something, some dangerous weapon. He had flung it away into the grass a few moments earlier, and then all was silent. Rain had not yet begun to fall, but his clothes were already damp on the inside. The ground was darker than the sky. Strange, unknown objects stirring beneath the grass brushed against his feet, but he ignored the dreary, somehow morbid sensation against his skin and simply stepped over them without stumbling or stopping. With each step his body grew heavier. The wind continued to blow against his back. It would die down a bit, then pick up once again, so that the grass before him bowed down one row after another, glittering with a pale white light. His body, too, became pale and transparent and began to flow along the plain, one with the swaying grasses; his consciousness dissolved and spread out across the length and breadth of the field so that even the memory of his parents or children, even the distinction between himself and another, all melted away. My friend said he wondered if this was how the fox spirit felt when she cast off her human form and human thoughts and bounded away into the grass. "It must have been a dream." Every time I'd give the same reply, almost as a reflex. During those seven days, there was no reason to be-

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lieve my friend had really gone to such an overgrown field in the wilder- ness. Night after night, as we spoke on the phone, it was fairly clear from the noise in the background that he was calling from a bar. After the second phone call, his wife got in touch with me to ask if I'd heard from him. Apparently he hadn't been home for two nights in a row. She told me that he'd been diagnosed with lung cancer, which had progressed to the terminal stage all the more quickly because of his youth. Then she went on to say that she wanted him to do as he pleased under the cir- cumstances, because he had always been such a forbearing husband. She didn't mind if he went to the other woman. She just wanted to hear his

voice, even a word would do. She just wanted to say something soothing and tender to him-his wife said bravely-but she was afraid that if her husband called her there would no longer be anything for them to talk about but his illness. By the third night I was ready for his call, and I immediately pressed him to tell me the name of the bar he was calling from so I could meet him, promising I wouldn't say a word to his wife, and that I would be there as soon as I could. But in the midst of my efforts, my friend's replies started to take a bizarre turn. First he began to whisper about having committed some terrible crime, then he suddenly became agi- tated and began to accuse me of killing someone and forgetting all about it and going on with my life with no remorse whatsoever. Each time the phone call ended on a tense note, but then he'd call me again in the middle of the night and ramble on about nothing in particular in a calm voice. Then he'd say he was finally at peace, so he would come home soon, and he asked if I would please let everyone know. Sometimes he would hum Buddhist folk songs: "Buddha is al-

ways with us, though 'tis sad we see him not

....

"*It was during one of

these midnight phone calls that he first talked about standing on the dark, windy plain. "This time he's really coming home," I thought, and for some reason I went back to bed filled with a quiet confidence. But near dawn I opened my eyes, and for a split second I froze in panic. Perhaps he really had killed someone. Perhaps he had tried to commit double suicide with a woman but had survived her and was now hanging around with nowhere to go. This idea came to mind because some ten years be- fore my friend's younger sister had committed suicide with a man. But one day later, in the early morning, my friend returned home like a half- wit and was admitted to the hospital that same day. Early the following morning I got yet another call from a woman who said by way of apology that my friend had told her to get in touch with me first in case of an emergency. Apparently, for the past week she

*Quote from Ryojin hisho (Songs to Make the Dust Dance on the Beams).

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bad kept constant watch over my friend, who had been acting very strangely. Near daybreak the morning before, however, he seemed to have calmed down, and so she had allowed herself to get some much-needed sleep, but in that brief time, he had slipped out of her apartment. She had waited a whole day for his return and was afraid he had committed suicide. There was a tearful, pleading note in her voice. I informed her that he had since returned home. "Oh, I see," the woman murmured, and hung up the phone. "It must have been a dream," my friend laughed again. "I won't say I don't remember what I did during those seven days. I can't remem- ber the details now, but that's all the more reason why I won't shirk my responsibility. I ran away to her place, then I came running back to my wife. But it doesn't mean that my love for one has taken away from my feelings for the other. I can't justify my actions, but I will remember ev- erything and take responsibility, even if I may not be able to resolve the problem." Hearing such words from a man on his deathbed, I instinctively looked away in embarrassment. Concerning his cancer, my friend said that on the third day of his hospitalization, he had his wife sit beside his bed and said to her in an admonishing tone, "Let's stop hiding things from each other now. We already understand what we must, so there's nothing more to say. We'll hide nothing in our silence." All the while he stroked his weeping wife's back. I heard he'd already given his wife a set of detailed written instructions, mostly involving financial matters, on what to do after his death. However, in my presence, he spoke only like a man who was gradually recovering from a long illness. His hair had hardly changed throughout his twenties and thir- ties, but now it was suddenly showing white at the roots and seemed somehow finer and softer than before. The masculine quality had van- ished from his face, and, now and again, his features took on the quali- ties of a young girl or an old woman. Still, beneath the weakened mem- branes, his eyes were filled with a serene courage. "There really is such a thing as an unlucky age,"* my friend would murmur. I would start to shrink back from that dangerous topic, but my friend never faltered in his confident tone of someone recovering from an illness. "Although it's probably different for each person," he would concede, and then he would continue to talk at length punctuated with frequent pauses. Since about a year ago, without warning, his body would

*In Japan, twenty-five, forty-two, and sixty are considered unlucky ages for a man, with forty-two being the most dangerous year. For a woman, thirty-three is the age of greatest bad luck; nineteen is also unlucky. During the years before and after the unlucky ages one is also vulnerable to bad luck-one preventative measure is the purchase of the appropriate amulet from a Buddhist temple.

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be overcome from time to time by a deep sense of sorrow. It wasn't really an emotion, it was more physical, like an ache. But he couldn't think of any reason he should be particularly sad. He was beyond feeling bitter about anything. And it was quite different from a feeling of depression. He wondered if it would sound strange to say that his kneecaps were stifling their sobs and the pit of his stomach was choking back a cry. It was just like that helpless feeling you get when you knock your shin against something and hold your breath to bear the pain; it resonates throughout your whole body, and you almost want to cry in agony. He'd even wondered half jokingly if his soul weren't trying to escape from his body, and his body was thus lamenting its own weight. At first, these attacks occurred once every few days, before long it was once a day, and finally it was happening several times a day, at any time or place, even in the middle of a meeting at work or when he was having dinner with his wife and kids. For an instant, he wanted to crouch down right where he was, the spasm of sorrow was so intense. But whenever that happened, he was aware that he was behaving with almost exaggerated politeness and answering questions in an extremely proper tone of voice. In this way, he was able to maintain outward ap- pearances. Hiding his pain was an expression of love, and he would try to continue to do so. He would keep on hiding it if he had to do it for the rest of his life. And so, he saw himself talking about the latest complica- tion at work or answering his children's questions as if it were already a scene from a distant memory. As he reached toward those sweet memo- ries, something deep inside his body was slowly sinking farther and far- ther away. Yet he thought perhaps now, in his present state, he was at his most dependable as a father in his children's eyes. He had never woken up at dawn crying, but sometimes, as he opened his eyes in the pale morning light, he felt as if his whole body had cried itself out and was finally at rest. He was overcome not by sad- ness, but rather a feeling close to nostalgia. A desolate wind was blow- ing from the western horizon. When he was ten years old, he lost his mother and a crack opened in the horizon. For many years afterward, when he went to bed each night and when he awoke each morning, he felt that same wind blowing against his skin. As he grew to manhood, and his body tossed and turned in the fever of youth, the wind was still blowing. In the bed next to his slept his sister, who was four years younger. Troubled by asthma since infancy, her breathing sounded like the music of a thin flute. When he was in his twenties, my friend's father breathed his last after an agonizing illness. Soon afterward his stepmother remarried, but she, too, died suddenly before she had spent two years in her new house. The night he heard the news, there was still a break in the western hori-

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but the wind had long since stopped blowing. His sister, who had committed suicide with a man, was swallowed up into that same void, and the sound of her familiar cough was heard no more. All was silent. Within that silence, he married and had children. Because of that silence, the ordinariness of family life always seemed marvelous somehow, and thus he never knew the luxury of growing tired of the repetition of ev- eryday existence. I found myself thinking, "I'm not so sure about that," but I pushed these doubts to the back of my mind and maintained my pose of atten- tive listener. I was more or less familiar with this man's "woman troubles." He was not the type of man who played around with women. Each time he became infatuated with a woman, he had her devote herself to him completely and care for him like a wife who had gone through many years of good times and bad by his side. But then, after a month or two, he'd suddenly stop seeing her. I got phone calls from several of these women. "Do you know what has happened to him these past few weeks?" they'd ask me, as if I were my friend's guardian. They were all around thirty, intelligent women with a slightly melancholy look in their eyes and a smile that seemed to be instinctively apologizing to those around them. When I told them that my friend had a long history of ending his affairs without a word of good- bye, none of them got angry. They would nod sadly, and although it was obvious to me they felt an attachment to him, strangely enough they never bothered him afterward. They all bore a certain similarity to his wife. Although my friend went through countless relationships of this sort, he not only showed no signs of getting tired of it, he seemed to experience none of the pain of dividing his affections between two women. "At the unlucky age, life is even more fragile than during pu- berty," my friend continued like a man confident of recovery. "It's the time when the membranes that cover and protect life begin to weaken. Because the person himself sees that instability as a sign of strength, be- cause he is unprepared for life to be exposed, he becomes all the more vulnerable. During those two or three years around the unlucky age, his life undergoes its final transformation, wraps itself around the core of a terminal disease and finally moves into harmonious old age." At this point I found myself completely unable to fathom my friend's thoughts. Knowing that he was terminally ill, was he speaking so nonchalantly in front of a healthy person in order to calm his bitter- ness and fear? Or had he already crossed beyond concern for his own life and death? Or did his calm exterior belie inner turmoil, had his sense of reality been stripped from his consciousness along with his fear? With these thoughts running through my head, I could only gaze at his face with its confused smile playing lightly over his lips. Once again I was

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struck by the gray in his hair which had so surprised his wife when she saw her husband standing in the front hall after a seven-day absence.

**********

Soon afterward, I had an opportunity to talk with the woman who took care of my friend at her apartment during those seven days. As I had expected, she was an intelligent-looking woman, a little under thirty, who lived alone in Tokyo, estranged from her family in the country. Her relationship with my friend had begun two years before, and for about two months they met almost every week at a hotel or her apartment. But one day, with absolutely no warning as far as she was concerned, my friend stopped calling her. When she tried calling him at work, he'd say, "I'm busy this week so I'll get in touch with you next week," his voice sounding no different from when they had still been seeing each other regularly. Because she was not the type who could pressure someone, and indeed hated the very idea of making someone feel pressured, she limited herself to a rare phone call, just so she could hear his voice. She suffered from the fact that he was avoiding her, even though she hadn't been at all trouble- some or demanding. It was hard for her to go back to her apartment with that telephone sitting there. Her life was disrupted, and for a time even her looks were affected, but surprisingly enough she held no deep re- sentment against him. Rather, she blamed herself for not understanding how to have a relationship with a man and for being unable to stay at- tached to someone she loved. Things went on this way for over a year, then one night, just as she was beginning to get over him, my friend called and asked if he could stop by since he was in the neighborhood. Thirty minutes later, he showed up at her door looking completely exhausted. "Ah, I can relax here," he said and settled down beside her. She, too, breathed a deep sigh of relief, and the events of the past year were completely erased from her mind. He now began to visit her regularly once a month. He listened to all the details of her life history. She rarely talked about herself to others, and she herself was terribly indifferent to her own past. Yet, when he drew her out, she was able to talk about herself with surprising animation, and she began to like herself for the same reasons she had hated herself in the past. He would arrive in the early evening, and when one o'clock rolled around, he'd quickly gather his things together and go home with a light and carefree step, carrying himself like a young man. When he left, she was determined not to feel possessive, and she went right to bed, with the warm feeling of having him listen to her still lingering inside. She always awoke the next morning near dawn, and

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she watched the room growing brighter in the morning light, she aware that the expression on her face was twisted and horrible a demon's. Yet, when she recalled the caress of his voice, she became again. He only called once a month, but she still came home early night just in case. Before, she used to feel a sudden stab of pain, like a gnawing in her body, when she stood before the silent phone, but she felt confident and relaxed as she waited for his call. "There are probably a lot of things I have to sort out, but I am satisfied with things the way they are. Because I know that at least once a month he cares about me. I don't hope for anything more, because, well, I'm afraid of people." For a brief moment, I was touched by these self-effacing words of a woman who, though near thirty, still looked good in jeans and was much younger than her years. Perhaps that was why I felt a creeping anger toward my friend. As far as I knew, he only had relationships with this kind of woman, or rather, he changed the women he had relation- ships with in such a way that any feeling of possessiveness in them would be completely washed away. At home, he behaved with self-discipline in front of his children. In particular, since he had become bedridden, he responded to his sons' precocious display of manliness with a grave gentleness unhindered by self-consciousness. "Aren't you just letting him take advantage of you?" Before I could catch myself, I blurted out these words, which were traitorous to

my friend. It was hard to determine if she was about to laugh or cry as she gave this strange response. "He was the one who put himself out for me. I'm an insensitive woman. I seem to be lacking something in my feelings toward others. Four years ago, I lived with someone for a while. He soon became dissatisfied with me, and he suffered so much that it was painful for me even to look at him. Finally, after he could take it no more, he left. I thought I had suffered so much, too, that looking back on that experi- ence would be frightfully painful, but I settled myself into that room we had rented together. I'm still there. It doesn't matter to me at all." She told me that it took a lot of coaxing and pleading on her part to get my friend to accept her invitation to come to her apartment that first time. Until she was finished preparing their drinks, he usually sat around looking bored, but one night, after he had been coming several times, something happened. She had opened the door of a small clothes closet just a crack and stood with her back blocking his view as she looked for something inside, when he suddenly told her, "I had a younger sister, you know." That evening, he haltingly recounted the story of his younger sister, who at the age of twenty-seven had died together with a married man, the expression in his eyes detached and distant from start to finish.

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anywhere near the places they said I was. During the time right before my sister started falling into the abyss with that man, she frequently spoke "

of how afraid

she was of such things

.... Or he would tell her, "You know, I've had nightmares in which nothing moves at all. There would be a landscape, and I didn't know where it was or why it was there, but I could see no sign of people, and I wasn't there in the scene either. And yet, I would find myself ready to break down and cry. Or I would look up at a tree and feel as if I were disappearing into the thickness of the trunk, and I would groan in my helplessness. Or at some distant place, there would be one ordinary stone just lying there that was somehow connected to me. It was a much stron- ger and heavier presence than I was, and it gradually swallowed me up, until finally I couldn't breath anymore. A dead branch was trembling in the winter dusk, and someone somewhere was crying out the same line of a song over and over in a slow, dull melody, like an idiot, in a voice redder than the evening sky. Flowers were blooming in the garden; in an instant they grew larger and then whiter, and then I realized it was the middle of the night.

"Up until her death, my sister and I never talked about our horne- town or our parents, but one night, when she was about to go home and she was in the entrance hall of my apartment bending over to put on her new shoes, which were a little tight, she said, 'Wasn't there a place called "The Plain of Sorrows" near our house? Just a little while ago, in a dream, I went to a dark plain by that name-and remember when our mother was sick, once she slipped out of bed to the field in the back? Well, I was crouching down and crying just as she did.' "I replied, 'There was no such place near our house. You must be very tired. You must take care of yourself.' "'I will,' she said. 'But my dream wasn't all bad. I felt as if some- one was promising to take over for me now that I'd come this far, prom-

ising

me I was no longer alone,' she said as she looked into my eyes.

Then she left. I could hear the sound of her thin cough for a long way off as she made her way home in the winter night."

The woman sighed as she finished recounting this scene, and then she continued her story, "Recently, we've talked about his dead sister a great deal. But I listened to him as if he were talking about me, as if he were showing his love for me. I felt as if he had really gotten me just right, as if he had been watching me since childhood. So, even when he talked about his sister, I automatically took it in without once thinking about what was going on inside his head. I'm a terrible person. I don't understand what other people feel. He told me that was because I lost my mother at an early age." And so that evening, when he suddenly knocked on her door

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around midnight and stood there with a glazed expression on his face, she greeted him with a light, happy air as if she had really been wanting to see him that very evening. She helped him off with his rain-drenched coat. While she was in the kitchen fixing drinks, she had a little trouble breathing from a dry throat, and she coughed a few times. When she went back to the living room, he was staring at her incredulously, his whole body emanating a kind of dazed suspicion. "You didn't die, did you? So you've been living in a place like this all along? I've been suffering because of you for over ten years," he said as he grabbed her shoulder, his eyes filling with tears. A shudder filled the room as if another woman really had quietly come in and taken her place. As she mechanically stroked his broad back, as if he were a child rather than a man more than ten years her senior, a thought began to take shape in her mind: "This man is insane." As this realization dawned on her, she felt a growing anxiety pulling her down into a seem- ingly bottomless pit, but that thought was soon replaced by another:

"Now that he's insane, he's belongs to me." And thus, she was bolstered by a desire for possession welling up inside her for the first time. Thinking it was probably painful for him to be seen in his condi- tion, she turned down the lights. She proceeded to undress him and laid him in bed, where he sniffled, curled up, and fell asleep. She lay down next to him and fell asleep while massaging his back. A little while later, she was awakened by a noise and when she opened her eyes, he was just slipping his arm into his suit jacket. His necktie was also neatly tied. It was not yet three in the morning. When she asked him where he was going, he mumbled vacantly, "I'm going back." Having no reply to such unflappable male composure, given all that had happened between them, she stayed in bed and watched him go. She noticed his back, radiating the calm and perfect poise of a man in his prime as he bent over in the hallway to put on his shoes. Then he casually picked up a woman's um- brella, which was standing against the wall, and a pair of her galoshes and walked out the door. She paused for a moment in confusion, then jumped out of bed, slipped on a raincoat over her nightgown, and ran after him. He was not headed toward the railroad crossing as she had feared, but instead she saw him walking fairly far ahead along the road leading into a new housing development. He stopped for a moment, then turned a corner as if he had a specific destination in mind and disappeared from view.

He kept up a brisk pace, and she soon became winded. When she finally caught up with him, she was rather short of breath, and because he seemed to have no idea he was being followed, she didn't bother call- ing out to him. She thought about coming up beside him, but when she

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caught sight of the women's raingear he was clutching, she thought she might be mistaken again for a dead person, and this time she herself would be drawn into the fantasy. So she decided simply to watch over him from a few paces behind. He went from intersection to intersection choosing the streets with apparent conviction. He cut through the lrous~ ing development, went past fields and older homes set among groves of trees, and walked right through the courtyard of an apartment complex. Now and again, he would look from side to side as if trying to jog his memory, but he showed no signs of tiring. Before long, he started going around in circles. He would pause on a corner for a long while, deep in thought, and look up at the second floor windows of the apartment build- ings. As dawn began to break, he sank down onto a bench in a small park. She sat down beside him. "Where did you want to go back to?" she asked, taking the um- brella and galoshes from his hand. "I don't know," he said, burying his face in his hands. She was shocked to see so many new gray hairs mixed in with the black. He slept soundly in her bed until evening. Crowded out by his large body, she curled up at the foot of the bed. She was wakened repeatedly by his terrible groans, and she rocked him in her arms until his cries subsided. Around five o'clock, she left him sleeping in her room and went out to the store near the train station. As she hurried back, she noticed that the window of her apartment had been opened, and she found him sitting on the bed looking out at the street, his face pale and expressionless. As she prepared dinner in the kitchen, he sat on the bed, his eyes following her every move like a child's. When she placed the dinner trays on the table, he slowly climbed down from the bed, gazing at them as if he found it all very strange. Then he began to eat with such voracity, his body seemed to shudder. He quickly consumed two portions. "Let's play cards. I'll teach you a new game," he said after din- ner was over. His words put her in a cheerful mood, and she rushed off to the stationery store near the train station to buy a deck of cards. They were absorbed in the game until late into the night. She asked him noth- ing about his state of mind, his family, or his work. If they could go on just as they were right now, she didn't want to talk about anything hav- ing to do with tomorrow. Around midnight he suggested they go out somewhere for a drink, so she took him to the neighborhood tavern. There he was vivacious and talkative, and he treated her with easy affection. At one point, he made a call from the public phone on the premises and carried on a friendly chat in a loud voice. That night she slept in his arms. Even as she slept, she felt as if he were gazing at her and stroking her hair and cheek and throat. When she

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woke, crowded out of bed by the same man who had been so attentive, was already past nine. "I always wake up too late when I sleep so soundly," she thought a wry smile. She picked up the phone and called her office to say she wouldn't be coming in again that day. The thought crossed her mind that her office wouldn't let her get away with this forever, and she won- dered vaguely what his wife would tell the children, but she merely curled up at the bottom of the bed and went back to sleep. When she opened her eyes again, it was almost noon, and he was still sleeping. She quietly went about straightening up the room and then made breakfast, but even then he didn't wake up. He was sleeping very soundly. Something struck her as odd, and she glanced down at his shirt and trousers, which he had thrown against the wall at the foot of the bed. The trousers were soaked from the knees down. She went to the entry hall and checked the men's sandals, which she had bought for him the day before with something close to a sense of resolve that his stay would be an extended one. They, too, were quite damp. Outside there was no indication that rain had fallen since the night before. For the next five days after that, she fell into his routine and was no longer able to distinguish one day from the next. Every day, from dawn until dusk, he slept like an animal, sometimes having terrible night- mares. Then he wolfed down his dinner. Afterward, he looked refreshed and said things that showed he was sorry for the trouble he was causing her. A little while later, however, he would start to mope again and make strange confessions to her. "To tell the truth, I killed my sister," he would say. He looked so serious that after a few times she began to believe it and began to feel vaguely apprehensive about their own relationship. But when she ques- tioned him further, he would stubbornly recount in detail bits and pieces of his own life during the time right before her death, when it was obvi- ous he knew nothing about her plans. When pressed further, he evaded the question by talking about incidents from his childhood. Apparently, after their mother died, his sister was doted on by their paternal grandmother. This grandmother was the type of person who never missed a day without going to hear a sermon at the temple, and under her influence, the little girl's way of talking seemed to be im- bued with temple incense, and even her face took on a somber, gloomy air. For this reason, she was constantly being teased and bullied by the other children. After the grandmother died, his sister was perpetually tagging along after him, and in fact, he was the one who was most cruel to her. If he was even the slightest bit out of sorts, he would ridicule her persistently to the point where she could no longer reply. Then, angry at her for not putting up any resistance, he would finally lose his temper

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and strike out at her in spite of himself. But even under his blows, his sister never cried out, she only cowered on the ground with tears trick- ling down her cheeks. When he started to walk away, she would follow after him again, a few steps behind, with a contrite expression on her face. One day, on impulse, he pushed her into the river. This time even she looked at him reproachfully, but as usual she didn't cry out. She could have reached the bank with little effort, and if she had stood up, the wa- ter would only have come up to her chest. Instead she let her body float face up in the current, her lips moving rhythmically in some sort of chant, until she began to bob up and down in the waves. Horrified, he ran back and forth along the river bank until he found a good place downstream to catch her floating body and pull her from the water. His sister sank down on the grass, her hands clasped in thankful prayer toward him as she chanted something under her breath. When they got horne, she told her father that the wind had blown her into the river when she wasn't paying attention and accepted his scolding without protest. She was only seven years old at the time. Nine days before she died, his sister visited his apartment for the last time. As she was about to leave, she hung her head, turning her pro- file to him. He stared at her bowed face for a long moment. "You intend to just accept everything I say," he thought, and again he was filled with a kind of cruel feeling as he gazed at her thin neck. But in the end, he said nothing. That night he could hear her lonely cough along the dark road home for an especially long time. Then suddenly, near the station, it disappeared as if it had suddenly been swept off the road. 'Trn the one who killed my sister," he repeated. She nodded, but she implored him not to take so much responsi- bility, not to torture himself. She even went so far as to say that in the very process of living you could never tell if something you did or didn't do, something you said or didn't say, might at any time have the same result as actually killing someone, so there was nothing you could do. In the meantime, she ended up taking a closer look at him. His was not at all the face of a man who was airing a guilty conscience, but rather one who was possessed by terrible delusions while in a kind of trance. "You didn't kill anyone," she blurted out in spite of herself, and then she began to argue with him in earnest. She pointed out each con- tradiction in his story and mercilessly exposed the confusion between his fantasy and reality. At that point, he jumped up and started pacing slowly around the kitchen and living room of the small studio, now and then glaring at her with hatred in his eyes. As if she were now engaged in a competition, she sat perfectly still in the middle of the room, her legs tucked under her in a formal posture. Every time he murmured, "I killed her," she replied sharply,

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"You did not." She spoke without gentleness or concern, but with a kind of sanity radiating coldly from within, which in itself seemed to have a touch of madness. However, after half an hour, her body and mind gradu- ally began to feel worn out by the man's unflagging energy, and now, every time she answered, "You did not," she heaved a sigh. Finally, he came and sat cross-legged before her and put his hands on her shoul- ders. As he gradually applied more and more pressure, he stared at her, his eyes flickering like a fire. "I killed her," he whispered hoarsely. "Yes, you killed her," she said and slumped against his chest, completely exhausted. "Let's die together." He spoke these words only once. She drew her face back from his chest, and for some reason looked slowly around the room as if branding each object on her memory. Then she answered lightly, "All right," and buried her face against his chest again. Except for the melancholy realization that her room would still be here after she was gone, she felt no emotion at all. "Ah yes, you were supposed to live to be older than your mother, now I remember," he murmured as if nodding, but before long he seemed to be talking to himself. "This woman is going to live until she comes to know what it feels like to be older than her mother. She'll become more of a woman than her mother." Every night after that, he gently lulled her to sleep. As he stroked her hair, she quickly fell asleep. Yet even as she slept, she had a persis- tent feeling that she was being closely watched, that his gaze was travel- ing from her face to her chest and along her whole body. Once in a while a cold shudder would run over her skin. Eventually that feeling passed as well, and then, through the haze of sleep, she was only vaguely aware that the shadow of a person beside her was at rest. Or rather, she repeat- edly had a glimpse of a figure like an old man's hunched over at the foot of the bed, staring absently out the closed window. She saw all of this without waking. Then that shadow disappeared, and when she opened her eyes, she glimpsed the back of his pale figure as he was leaving the apartment. Until daybreak, the same thing happened so many times that she carne to know exactly what to do. She was no longer surprised or upset; still half asleep, she slipped on a robe and followed him out to a little beyond the front of the apartment building, trailing silently behind him until he was satisfied. He walked as if he had a particular destination in mind, but he was much less perseverant than the first night, and he would come to a standstill after turning at just three intersections. "Let's go home," she would say, coming up beside him and tak- ing his arm. As she guided him back, he always had a deeply puzzled

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look on his face. When she asked him what he was looking for, he would tell her he was looking for an apartment. When she asked whose apart- ment, a worried look would come into his eyes, but he didn't resist her as she guided him back. However, when they were back in bed, and she was about to nod off, he got up again and went out. Each time he walked a shorter distance, so that near dawn, when she stuck her head out the door, he was still standing in the street right in front of the apartment, ~ooking confused. However, at the same time, the comings and goings mcreased. She no longer had time to lie down, so she merely sat on the bed, drowsily watching his restless movements. When dawn broke, he fell asleep as if breathing a sigh of relief. Sometimes he let the window open and gazed out at the sunrise, saying,

"Ah, I feel like I've woken from a dream. I've put you to a lot of trouble, haven't I?"

Sometimes he murmured with tears in his eyes, "I waken gently

with the dawn

"*She had just gotten to the point where she was think-

.... ing that things couldn't go on this way any longer and that she should contact his wife and let her take him to a hospital. When she heard him utter such words, however, she now felt in her heart that she definitely wouldn't let him go until he was better, and then she would send him home as if nothing strange had happened. When his rhythmic breathing told her he was asleep, she wiped his face and chest with a cool towel, then lay down beside him and quickly fell asleep herself. Soon, however,

she was pushed out of bed by his sprawling body. He had countless night- mares and groaned in a deep voice, but she didn't have the energy even to lift her head from the foot of the bed. She wondered what the neigh-

bors thought when they heard that animal-like cry in broad

daylight.

... It was from her room that he made those nightly phone calls to me. Right in the middle of their exchange about whether or not he had killed his sister, he picked up the phone, turned on the radio at high vol- ume, and blabbered on about having killed someone to the person on the other end of the line. She watched him uneasily, but she herself was so confused, she couldn't tell whether this other person took this to be the words of a madman or not. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, he would pick up the phone and dial a number again and murmur in a quiet, earnest voice. Watching from the bed with half-closed eyes, she hoped that he had finally calmed down, but when he hung up the phone, his expression grew tense again and he continued his comings and goings until dawn. After the fourth day, she was ashamed to have other people see her thin, ravaged face, and she stopped going out to the store. As a re-

*Quote from Ryojin hisho (Songs that Make the Dust Dance on the Beams).

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sult, their dinner was a dreary affair of rice and whatever else happened be in the cupboard. At the same time, his appetite began to decline, and except for meals and the period between midnight and dawn, he did nothing but doze on the bed. His night wanderings lost a lot of their urgency as well. Because she only went as far as his footsteps could be heard, she no longer even got out of bed as dawn approached, but only listened for his footsteps to stop and turn back. On the sixth day, their dinner consisted only of rice and salt. Af- ter about two in the morning, he fell face down on the bed and didn't move. "We might sleep here together like this until we die," she thought as she felt herself being drawn into the sweetness of a full night's sleep, which she hadn't experienced in a long time. After a long while, the sound of footsteps moved straight away from the front of the apartment and disappeared. Wondering if it was only the footsteps of someone passing by, she groped around beside her, her eyes still closed. The bed was empty. She was not at all upset. After putting on a robe over her night- gown and carefully combing her hair, she slipped on some sandals and went out. She didn't really have any destination in mind, but she was confident she would soon find him. As if her feet had a mind of their own, she followed the route he had taken on the very first night, choos- ing the correct way to turn at each intersection without getting confused. Although each street looked like the same newly laid road lead- ing through the same indistinguishable housing development, she was somehow able to tell if the road would lead her to her destination. She felt as if she could distinguish the intensity of the smell of each pool of water or blade of grass around her. In this way, guided by the sixth sense of the sleepwalker, she proceeded to trace his steps from crossroad to crossroad, without feeling tired or discouraged. But after some time, she came upon an overgrown vacant lot, and she had to stop in confusion. She was sure she had passed by this same place thirty minutes before, a place not very far from her apartment. The sixth sense suddenly vanished and the road no longer had a sense of familiarity. "A road isn't supposed to be like this, is it?" She sighed over this strange turn of events and began walking on. "You feel a touch of familiarity, like a long distant memory, even on a road you come upon for the first time in your life. But these roads are so com- pletely unfamiliar, I can't go anywhere!" After ten more minutes, she passed the same empty lot again. This time she made a concerted effort to choose different roads from before, but she ended up coming back to the same place even sooner. Without realizing it, she had been going around in circles, and once again she felt as if she were in a dream. Before long, as she was turning at a certain intersection, she saw him crossing another about fifty

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meters ahead of her and then disappear. But she didn't quicken her steps. It was as if the pace had been somehow preordained. It was obvious that he was close by and walking around in circles like her. At every corner, she had the feeling that he had been there just a moment before. Although they seemed to be pulling each other along by magnetic force, they con- tinued to miss each other by the slightest distance. Her intuition that he was walking suddenly went blank. How- ever, she had not lost touch with him completely. It was as if he were sitting down somewhere. Soon she had returned to that same vacant lot wedged between two large, modern-style houses. There was a faint, al~ most imperceptible light on the eastern horizon. Thinking she need only wait a little longer until dawn broke, she squatted down next to a tele- phone pole. At that instant, she felt the presence of her dead mother in her body. She had no recollection of seeing her mother squatting down by the side of the road at dawn. She had been six years old when her mother died, so even her mother's face was nothing more than a hazy memory. And yet this fullness in her hips as she squatted was a sensation she had never felt before in her life. She remembered that in two years she would have lived longer than her mother, and remembered the countless times she had considered dying. She was so happy that one part of her had now finally begun to merge with her mother that she cried out loud. Even the sobs sounded vaguely familiar to her. When she looked up, it was getting light around her. She stood up and looked at the vacant lot. It was a cramped, dirty plot of land. Enclosed by barbed wire, it was waiting to be sold at the right price. The summer grass was tall and thick, but it showed no freshness of early morning. Piles of concrete rubble and red clay were scattered here and there. Beneath a fallen-down "Do Not Litter" sign were heaps of dis- carded electrical appliances and rotting garbage. She was shocked to dis- cover that she had been drawn back to such an unpleasant place again and again. Suddenly, a gust of wind blew toward her from somewhere between the houses, and all of the stalks of grass began to ripple like a wave. She was beginning to appreciate how the wind gave even this place the feel of an open country field, when his head rose up from the waving grass. He was crouched down, staring at her with a puzzled look. His hair was almost completely gray. "Come out of there," she called into the wind, beckoning with her hand. He made no move to get up, however; he merely gazed at her intently, his eyes wide as if in fear. At that moment, she did something that surprised even herself. Pulling open the collar of her robe, she showed him the swelling of her breasts beneath her pajamas.

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He stood up as if lifted by the wind, hurried through the tall grass, --~~c"''" over the pile of rubbish, and stepped over the break in the barbed wire fence, his legs wet with dew. Standing before her, he gently closed the collar of her robe around her neck and said softly, "You'll catch cold." At this display of tenderness, she mumbled involuntarily as if in a trance, "Have I gone crazy, to come to a place like this?" "No, you're not crazy. I'm the one who's crazy," he replied firmly. "I'm sorry. I won't do these crazy things anymore. I'm okay now." He put his arm around her shoulders and started walking in the direction of her apartment at a steady pace. Then he added, half to himself, "Oh, I see, then it must have been you who was sobbing," as he guided her straight back to her apartment without making a single wrong turn. For the whole day he was extremely kind to her. She was so ex- hausted, she could not get out of bed, so he cooked some rice gruel for her lunch and supper and brought it to her in bed on a tray. The rest of the time, they lay side by side and dozed while the curtains grew light with the dawn, brightened with the noonday sun, and gradually dark- ened with the dusk. Late at night, they both found themselves wide awake from too much sleep. Staring up at the ceiling, they talked about ordi- nary everyday things. The events of the past several days were too seri- ous to talk about. In the middle of the night, he stroked her hair as she fell asleep again, solemnly humming tunes that reminded her of Bud- dhist pilgrim chants. The light of the midmorning sun was pouring into the room when she awoke the next morning. The moment she lifted her head from the pillow, she knew he had gone home. As she expected, his suit, shirt, tie, and shoes were nowhere to be seen. She waited a whole day, and the next morning she became worried that he may have gone off to commit suicide or something. But all of that was her way of apologizing to her- self for being too calm. She already knew that he had gone straight back to his wife and family. "I'm grateful that he allowed me to share in his suffering. Be- cause of what he did for me, I made up my mind to live longer than my mother. Since that night, I often feel my mother in my body. It certainly should be all right for someone like him, who has already been through so much, to take just one week in the middle of his life to go crazy and relax at the place of someone like me. If it had been another woman, it would have been too intense. I don't mind if he forgets about it. It will be enough for me if he stops by once in a while as if nothing had happened." I gazed at her face, unable to hide my embarrassment. She looked as if she were truly at peace. Somehow, it seemed, my friend had man- aged to keep only the fact that he was terminally ill from this woman until the end. After agonizing over what to do, I finally decided to say

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nothing. But at that moment, she noticed my slight frown. Unable to with- stand her direct stare, I lost control of myself and blurted out the news. "I see. So then he's dying," she said in an oddly bright voice, a strange smile on her face. But with her brow still furrowed, her lips grew pale. As she attempted to smile one more time, she suddenly burst into tears. "What a terrible thing to do!"

THE DOLL

In the week after she returned from her hometown in the coun- cradling the doll in her arms, Ikuko was mistaken for someone else times. The first time was on Monday evening. She was on her way home from work, and just as she was being pushed out from the subway train the platform with the crowd of other commuters, she suddenly heard a man's voice at her side: "Oh, I thought you were someone else." When she stepped out on the platform and looked back, sure enough she saw a man of about thirty standing there with an embarrassed smile, staring at her as if he couldn't believe his own eyes. In fact, when the train had pulled into this station, she had been vaguely aware of someone approach- ing her, making every effort to push aside the other passengers near the door. She remembered wondering why he'd been in such a hurry. Never- theless, that night, she simply thought of it as a strange experience, since she had only noticed she'd been mistaken for someone else after the man had realized he was wrong. The second time it happened was on Thursday night, and this time it was a genuine case of mistaken identity. Ikuko was on her way to meet someone. As she came up the deserted stairs from the subway onto the dark street, a man, also around thirty years old, came over from across the street. He stopped right in front of her and cried out in surprise, "Ms. Yajima, what are you doing here?" "You've made a mistake," Ikuko replied. She turned her face di- rectly to the dumbfounded man. "You have the wrong person." And yet, she herself was surprised at the note in her voice that seemed to be mak- ing an excuse or asking pardon. After she walked on for a little while, she turned back to see the man still standing there, his head tilted to one side in confusion. She had never before been mistaken for another per- son by someone looking directly in her face. On Friday night the person who mistook her for someone else was a woman who looked a little older than Ikuko, probably around thirty

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years old. She stopped hesitantly, right in the middle of the street, looked closely at Ikuko's face as she approached. At times it seemed as if she were about to smile as she waited for Ikuko to smile back in recogni- tion. In order to prove to the woman that she had mistaken her for some- one else, Ikuko looked straight into her eyes as she passed. She won- dered briefly why this sort of unpleasant thing kept happening, but she. didn't think too much more about it. Nonetheless, for two or three days afterward, her annoyance at being mistaken for someone else lingered in her mind. On the following Wednesday, five days later, her girlfriend of many years mistook some- one else for Ikuko. As soon as she saw Ikuko, her girlfriend said, "Didn't you get off at the Shimo-Kitagawa station around two o'clock last Saturday? I saw you from inside the train and I was about to call out to you, but I didn't. Somehow it looked like you were going to meet your lover." "That's impossible. I've never gotten off at that station." As Ikuko was trying to correct her friend's mistake, she was sud- denly overcome by a strange feeling of irritation. In spite of herself, her voice took on a serious tone and her face grew flushed. For in fact, on that very day, at that very time, Ikuko had been at her lover's apartment- though it was on a different railroad line. She had stayed overnight be- cause she had gotten drunk the night before. She was still naked. And she was thinking about another man. She felt her mind and body become more and more empty as if she were punishing herself for having two lovers. She wanted to go back to her own room right away, where the doll was waiting. She longed with all her heart to forget about both men, to regain herself and then fall into a deep sleep. Over and over again she imagined herself getting up and going out in the rain without even wak- ing her lover to say good-bye. Yet she lingered in bed, still loathe to lose the familiar warmth of this relationship, which was almost at an end. Her friend smiled as if she knew the reason. No matter how much Ikuko insisted she was mistaken, she refused to believe her. Ikuko tried to convince herself that since she had been doing the same thing in a different place anyway, it didn't matter what her friend thought. But then, she was suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of even greater anxiety, and she was surprised at the words that came from her own lips. "Are you sure? Was it really me?" "You don't have to hide anything from me." Her friend looked embarrassed at first, but when she saw Ikuko's serious expression, she began to look a bit frightened, and her faced clouded as if it were cov- ered by a thin film. "I thought it was you. Then I thought that since you can't always trust your own eyes, I might be wrong. But when I first saw you today, I

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absolutely sure I was right. Well, it doesn't really matter anyway,

**********

"Please, help me. What's going on here?" Ikuko complained to doll from her bed after she'd returned home that night. "I've been for other people four times in a week, and the people who mis- me looked so incredibly shocked when I told them they were wrong. who am I anyway? Am I not just me, myself, not just a single person · anymore? Lots of different me's must be walking around out there. You're a doll, so you understand things like that, don't you?" The doll looked down at her from the dresser with a smile. She was twenty inches tall and wore a festive, red, long-sleeved kimono. The was so charming that Ikuko felt ashamed to put her in such a dreary . Beneath her bobbed hair, the doll's full-cheeked face looked slightly .downward, and she was always smiling quietly. But whenever Ikuko asked her such serious questions, her smile seemed noticeably broader, as if she were amused. Ikuko, too, found herself laughing out loud. "I'm sorry. I'm ashamed of myself. I never thought I'd start de- on you like this." Actually, Ikuko used to think that she didn't understand people who took great care over something weird like a doll, displaying it proudly in their rooms. Therefore, she had barely boarded the bullet train to Tokyo before she was regretting that she had chosen such a large doll from her uncle's collection to bring back with her. Ikuko had decided to withdraw from her uncle's family register in the country and establish her own at her apartment address in Tokyo. The morning she left his house, her uncle said curtly to her aunt, "Take Iku to the storehouse and give her a doll that she likes." He tried not to look at Ikuko. She was touched by her uncle's thoughtful farewell gesture. She ·bowed low with both hands on the tatami and said, "Thank you for tak- ing care of me for all of these years." She found it hard to say good-bye. "You know, if you wanted to, your uncle thought he would adopt you and let you marry from our family," her aunt grumbled as she dusted off a box and took out a rather small doll. It was the kind of dress-up doll little girls played with, and it was said to have been in the family since the late nineteenth century. Ikuko was about to ask if her mother had also played with this doll, but then she realized that it was impossible for her aunt to know this since she had married late into the family, so she took the doll without a word. Although the doll was right before her eyes, its white face seemed to emerge ever so slowly in the dim light of the storehouse. By holding the doll at different angles, various expressions appeared and disappeared

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from her narrow eyes and red mouth. Ikuko imagined that whenever a young girl dressed the doll in a new kimono made of leftover cloth, the doll's face would surely overflow with gaiety. The girl's spirits, too, would become cheerful, and the two would engage in girl talk for hours on end. In those days, time passed more slowly for girls than today, and they could somehow manage to linger in their world of dreams until their mother called from far away. Life was nothing more than slow repeti- tion. The girl who had played with this dress-up doll had only yesterday got married, and before long her own daughter played the same game. Girls knew this instinctively. As they played with dolls, they themselves became that very repetition.

However, Ikuko wondered if a woman who felt herself getting old didn't feel a profound hatred toward the doll of her girlhood, so care- fully stored away. For the doll did not age along with her. In days past, the doll had accepted the girl's endless dreams. But now, the woman's life in adulthood was nothing more than a single night's dream to the doll. When the woman finally died, perhaps then the face of the doll inside her box would show signs of having woken from that dream. A doll shouldn't live longer than a girl. Having taken on her dreams and misfortunes in her stead, the doll should be thrown in the river or burned or somehow be made to disappear so that the girl wouldn't suffer. Ikuko once heard that a doll attracts her master. However, couldn't there also be a case where the person attracts the doll, then grows to hate her, then becomes so insanely attached that she seeks to bring the doll with her in death? Ikuko wondered if her mother, who had died at the age of

thirty, had imagined the white face of

the doll from her sickbed ....

"Thank you for the offer, but this doll is too good for me. Be- sides, I haven't cared much for dolls since I was a child," Ikuko said, and

she put the doll back in the box. Her aunt made no reply. She placed another fairly large rectan- gular box in front of Ikuko and slowly opened the lid. Wrapped in Japa- nese paper, the doll lay face up, filling the entire box. The doll's face was covered by yet another sheet of yellowed paper, and Ikuko could see vivid black hair peeping out around it. She looked away. However, the sound of her aunt's voice caused her to look back again timidly, and she smiled in spite of herself. In the dim light seeping through the small windows of the store- house, a girl with bobbed hair wearing a long-sleeved kimono stood on the oblong chest. She was looking slightly downward and smiling. Her face was not white, but flesh-colored. This was not a face that emerged dimly from the darkness. This doll had a definite existence of her own, and her charming smile remained the same from whichever angle Ikuko

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ed her. Ikuko looked up at the doll as she squatted on the musty She felt the doll's childish figure in her own thighs and smiled along the doll. Then, Ikuko began to feel that if she had this doll with her, would still be loved by someone. "You seem to like this one," her aunt said, looking at Ikuko. She a moment and then continued. "Actually, your uncle told me

give this doll to you. It's fairly new, from the mid-1920s, but it's very le, and if you go to the right place, you could sell it for three hun- thousand yen. Your uncle might say that he never wants to see you but he really worries about you living alone. He told me not to tell

how

much it was worth, but it would be a shame if you gave it to

one else without knowing its value." Since her uncle had supported her both materially and spiritu- in such a nonchalant way, Ikuko felt grateful to him as she left his On her way to the station it seemed too much trouble to put down luggage to hail a taxi, so she decided to walk. It began to rain just as got to the train station, but she could not put up her umbrella be- e her hands were full, so she had to run awkwardly for cover. By then the large doll box already felt like a burden to her. Even after she ran into the station, she had to fumble around trying to buy her ticket get herself to the train, randomly switching her handbag, her suit- case, and the doll box from one hand to another. Her nerves were on edge, as if everything around her bore her some kind of grudge, and she didn't have time to indulge herself in sentimental feelings of parting. Occasionally she would drag the doll box along so that the doll's head was facing downward, but the sound of something sliding around in the box only made her angry. In the bullet train she put the doll box up on the luggage rack. Clutching her handbag firmly on her knees, she drifted •· into a fitful sleep, troubled by an agonizing stinging sensation all over her head. Her body was so stiff and tense, she could not think of any- thing else. When the train arrived at Tokyo station, she got up and began to walk toward the door like an imbecile. It wasn't until someone called out to her that she remembered the doll on the luggage rack. She wondered how she, who didn't like people, could live with such a big doll, and she supposed that soon she would dread coming back every night to an apart- ment that had been taken over by the doll. She wanted to run away and leave the doll on the train right where it was.

**********

At first, she only placed the doll on top of her dresser out of a sense of obligation to her uncle for his generosity. In her small room the doll looked twice as big as it had in the storehouse, and all the more

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charming, so that Ikuko felt it

didn't really fit. The doll was

... so that it looked directly down onto her bed, and this depressed her some,:. how. But since she was planning to pack it up and put it under her bed the following Sunday anyway, she left it where it was and only shifted it so that the face looked off a little to the left. And now, in spite of those feelings, Ikuko found herself almost in tears complaining about her life to this very doll. Even though as a little girl in her uncle's house she had never played with the doll ... She had, in fact, decided to establish her own family register long ago, but when it came down to actually doing it, she had always encoun- tered some unexpected reason for delay. On the Monday morning after she got back, she went straight down to city hall and finished the neces-, sary procedures. Ikuko' smother died when she was nine years old, and a year later her father married again and moved the family to, a town some distance away. However, within the year her stepmother was un- able to cope with her stubbornness, and thus Ikuko was sent to live with her father's older brother, who was the head of the main household, and there she stayed. Even in her child's heart she was determined not to

.. ..

,,, ,,

u•u.

reveal her feelings of weakness and inferiority, and Ikuko became even

more competitive. She would be the first to talk back to her uncle before

any of her cousins, and he sometimes slapped her cheek. Yet because he

didn't have a girl of his own, he loved her like a daughter in spite of her

strong will. At Bon and the New Year, he told her to pay her respects at

her father's house, but he didn't want her to stay overnight there. He

even sent her to a university in Tokyo.

When her father died, her uncle advised her to give up her inher-

itance rights in favor of her half brothers since the assets were few. After

Ikuko graduated from college, she avoided coming home on one pretext

or another. Whenever she did come home, her uncle would yell at her for

turning down a series of arranged marriage proposals, but then, at least

once before she went back to Tokyo, he would make a point of inviting

her out to a bar he frequented after they'd shared an early dinner. He

said that his sons had never enjoyed drinking, and he seemed happy to

spend time with her. For her part, Ikuko was so spoiled by him, she felt

no restraint when they argued-to the amazement of her aunt and cous-

ins. More than once he had shouted, "Get out of my house," to which she

would reply, "Fine. I'm going."

And so it had finally come to this. These past two years her cous-

ins moved out in quick succession to live on their own, and her uncle

had to give up alcohol because of an illness. He suddenly lost patience

with Ikuko, and he warned her that unless she came back home and

married, he would not welcome her in his house again. And yet, in a

way, he was revealing his dependence on her.

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Ikuko thought herself a cold-hearted person, and when the situ-

had reached this stage, she began to feel some reserve toward him

she was not his real daughter after all. The words she spoke to

were affectionate, but she found herself withdrawing from him. Ev-

time her uncle lectured her, he told her that what she was doing in

was not a real life and that she couldn't get by without the help of

. Ikuko would merely hang her head. She knew he was right. And

she decided that she must become truly independent: Before long it

obvious that her uncle had less and less to say to her. Time and time

Ikuko would comfort him with kind words as best she could, then,

a four- or five-day stay, rush back to Tokyo where she could relax at

in her own apartment. Occasionally her uncle would call her long-

as if on impulse, and in a burst of excitement he would reproach

for her ingratitude. Yet even when her uncle broke down and told

he didn't care about her marriage, that he only wanted her to come

home, she refused with a tearful apology. Finally, he told her he

t want to see her anymore.

Realizing that she had alienated him that much, Ikuko was natu-

bewildered, but she had her heart set on confirming her decision to

alone in Tokyo on the official family register. In the process, she dis-

"'"'"'T'Pn that she had never been on her uncle's register; she remained on

register of her father's family, with which she had had no contact

since his death, and she finally had to come to terms with the fact that

she had been a burden to her stepmother and stepbrothers for all this

When she first told her uncle about her desire to establish her own

family register, he took her more seriously than she expected. She thus

began to take the idea more seriously herself.

Ikuko moved to her present apartment a little over a year ago as

a way of finishing off her relationship with a lover. It was located in a

newly developed neighborhood more than thirty minutes farther west

by train than her old apartment. The area somehow seemed desolate to

her, a place she thought she would have a hard time getting used to. For

a while she had difficulty remembering her own address, and she would

have to consult her address book every time she wanted to give it to

someone. She never dreamed she'd actually establish her own register.

She finished filling out the necessary forms at city hall in the morning

and went to work in the afternoon. It was then that the things and people

around her she was accustomed to seeing each day seemed somehow

different. They seemed to be just slightly disengaged from reality. But

she attributed this to her own fatigue. That very evening was the first

time she was mistaken for someone else.

Her sense of reality in general was somewhat more tenuous. She

felt as if the city streets and the figures of people passing by were sepa-

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rated from her awareness by a thin film. Her own actions and gestures and even her conversations, were somehow detached now from present self. There were times when she seemed to find herself cautiously and methodically following the routine of her life she'd established since she'd come to Tokyo ten years before with a feeling of unease. As she walked down familiar streets, it suddenly struck her as very odd that her feet were moving forward rapidly as if they knew their own way. Then she unintentionally slowed her pace as if to be sure of each step, and the more she paid attention to her feet, the stronger was the sensa~ tion of sleepwalking. And then there were her lovers. For about a year now Ikuko had been hCJ,ving relationships with two different men, but up until now she had definitely sensed herself moving into middle age while turning her affections from one to the other. However, with recent events, she suddenly could no longer tell the difference between them. Even when she wasn't with them, she could recall their faces, their hab- its, the touch of their skin with frightening clarity. Both attracted her equally. Her body and miJ1ld had come to rest at a point between them, without any of the usual pain or sense of being separated from one or the other. She felt a sort of paralysis, as if she were floating suspended be- yond any kind of relationship, and she gazed doubtfully at their kind jealousy of each other. They both seemed too good for her. There were times when her sense of reality was so weak that the vitality of the words, expressions, and actions of the people around her became strangely intense and seemed about to surge into her being. Feel- ing as if she were making pointless apologies, Ikuko would withdraw while trying to make a rational excuse for her confusion. Then, when she looked around again, her sense of reality was even weaker. "Ah, this is happening because I'm afraid of the world," Ikuko sometimes thought. "No," she thought at other times, "it's because I've started hating the world and so I'm afraid of myself." She remembered the sensation she felt deep in her nose when her uncle slapped her face. At that point, she hated her uncle with all her heart. Her uncle took on all of her hatred. And so, until now, she had never seriously hated anyone else. Even with her lovers, the relationships had ended with no hatred on her part. In the midst of these days spent in a state of detachment from her own self and the world around her, it was only those moments when she was mistaken for someone else that this barrier fell away. She felt as if she had suddenly come to her senses and was looking around. However, she was not returning to her own self. Rather, it was the sensation of returning to a realm where distant memories dwelled. She didn't know her own face. She seemed to have a face that could belong to anybody. She felt she was looking in the mirror when she looked at the people around her. Every face looked as if it were somehow taking on the vari-

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features of a doll. She heard a voice in her ear saying, "Look care- You can surely find the faces of your dead parents among these that you see." A wind slowly blew through the crowd like a wind across a dark plain. Although she hadn't gone more than ten

Incredibly, she was actually mistaken for someone else once more, a fifth time, but then these incidents finally stopped. However, on the and in the train, the sense that she was being mistaken for some- else continued to grow stronger. People often looked into her face. In past, there had been times in her life when men would stare at her a It happened when she started sleeping with her first lover. It also pened when she met her other lover and began to fall in love with Before that, when her relationship with her first lover had come to a . standstill and she thought he would leave her, men on the street had looked her up and down with lust in their eyes. lkuko was also in an excited state. But the men did not try to pick her up. At that time her relationship with her uncle was strained. For a week after she came back from her hometown completely exhausted, men would call out to her timidly on the street, or offer to share their umbrellas on rainy days. They were invariably young, naive-looking men. Ikuko would smile in em- barrassment." Are you all right? You're all right, aren't you?" they would say and then hurry away. She had been walking with her head down, and to them she must have looked as if she were crying. However, this time the people who approached her were differ- ent from before. They were male and female, old and young. Everyone would look at her with an expression of surprise. With a dullness in their eyes, they would slowly avert their gaze. Then every one of their faces would be overcome by a gloomy shadow for a brief moment. It was as if they were sifting through a faulty memory. Moreover, it seemed to her that each face had features that somehow resembled each other. Finally it got to the point where Ikuko could no longer look around at other passengers on the train home from work, especially as the car emptied with each stop farther from the city. As she looked in- tently downward, a single face would take shape vaguely in her mind. It could have been almost any kind of face-old or young, male or female- but it did in fact look like one face. While she concentrated on that face, not quite able to get it in focus, her own face began to lose its distinctive expression and reveal itself as a meaningless type. She thought that her own dreary face must now be attracting the attention of strangers with the same type of face. These people could project whatever face they liked onto hers. However, she didn't want them to speak to her. If she had been mistaken for someone else straight on, if someone had smiled in recognition at her, then she might indeed take on the face they were seek-

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