When he saw my grandmother’s picture on the altar, again his tears fell like rain. My first thought when I saw that was that my love for my own grandmother was nothing compared to this boy’s, whoever he was. He looked that sad.
Usually, the first time I go to a house, face to face with people I barely know, I feel an immense loneliness.
This was his mother? Dumbfounded I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Hair that rustled like silk to her shoulders; the deep sparkle of her long, narrow eyes; well-formed lips, a nose with a high, straight bridge—the whole of her face gave off a marvelous light that seemed to vibrate with life force.
Yes, but. Could you call someone who looked like that ‘Dad?’
You’re a good kid, too.
We would spend a little time together before bed, sometimes drinking coffee, sometimes green tea, eating cake and watching TV.
Little by little, light and air came into my heart.
I loved the Tanabes’ sofa as much as I loved their kitchen. I came to crave sleeping on it […] I slept like a baby. There wasn’t anything more I wanted: I was happy.
When I opened the door, I shuddered. It was like coming back to a stranger’s house. Cold and dark, not a sigh to be heard. Everything there, which should have been so familiar, seemed to be turning away from me […] there was only one thing to do—humming a tune, I began to scrub the refrigerator.
It was like watching Bewitched.
It was like being falling-down-drunk. My body was independent of me. Before I knew it, tears were flooding out.
Looking up, I saw white steam rising, in the dark, out of a brightly lit window overhead. I listened. From inside came the sound of happy voices at work, soup boiling, knives and pots and pans clanging. It was a kitchen. I was puzzled, smiling about how I had just gone from the darkest despair to feeling wonderful. I stood up, smoothed down my skirt, and started back for the Tanabes’.
Yes. But if a person hasn’t ever experienced true despair, she grows old never knowing how to evaluate where she is in life; never understanding what joy really is.
One night, screaming that he had been made a fool of he lunged at her with a knife. Eriko, wounded, grabbed a barbell off the bar—it was part of the club’s decor—with both hands and beat him to death. “There!” she said. “Self-defense, that makes us even.” Those were her last words.
She, too, is a very precious child of mine.
For an instant I had a vision of Eriko’s smiling face, and my heart turned over. I felt an urge to get moving. It looked to me like the kitchen had not been used in quite a while. It was somewhat dirty and dark. I began to clean. I scrubbed the sink with scouring powder, wiped off the burners, washed the dishes, sharpened the knives. I washed and bleached all the dish towels and while watching them go round and round in the dryer I realized that I had become calmer.
They had been taught, probably by caring parents, not to exceed the boundaries of their happiness regardless of what they were doing. […] What I mean by “their happiness” is living a life untouched as much as possible by the knowledge that we are really, all of us, alone. That’s not a bad thing. […] But—that one summer of bliss. In that kitchen […] Having known such joy, there was no going back.
Nothing, nothing at all has any flavor for me know.
I realized that the world did not exist for my benefit. It followed that the ratio of pleasant to unpleasant things around me would not change. It wasn’t up to me. It was clear that the best thing to do was to adopt a sort of muddled cheerfulness.
But right now there’s this katsudon. Go ahead, eat it.
Will you tear a telephone book in half for me?
The endless sea was shrouded in darkness. I could see the shadowy forms of gigantic, rugged crags against which the waves were crashing. While watching them I felt a strange, sweet sadness. In the biting air I told myself, there will be so much pleasure, so much suffering. With or without Yuichi. The beacon of a faraway lighthouse revolved. It turned its light toward me, then turned away, forming a pathway of light on the waves. Nodding to myself, my nose dripping, I returned to my room.