Murakami Haruki (1994)

Trans. Kieran Maynard (2010)

Murakami, Haruki. Nejimakidori kuronikuru (Dai 2 bu) Yogen suru tori hen ねじまき鳥クロニクル 〈第 2 部〉予言する鳥編 . Shinchōsha, 1994. Print.

Chapter 15, Book 2 Translation1

正しい名前、夏の朝にサラダオイルをかけて焼かれたもの、不正確なメタファー The right name, the things burned with salad oil on a summer morning, a faulty metaphor

Come morning, Creta Kano had lost her name. Just as the dawn broke Creta Kano quietly awakened me. Coming to and opening my eyes I caught the morning light streaming in through a slit in the curtains. Next, I saw the profile of the woman shifting her body in bed to look at me. In place of sleepwear she wore my old T-shirt, but this covered her entire body. Her pubic hair cast a faint gleam in the sunlight.

"Mr. Okada. I no longer have a name," said she. She had quit being a prostitute, quit being a medium, and quit being Creta Kano.

"Okay, you're not Creta Kano anymore," I said. I rubbed my eye with a fingertip. "Congratulations. You're a new person. But without a name, what should I call you? Without a name it'll be a pain if I have to call you from behind or something."

She -- the woman who up until last night was Creta Kano -- shook her head. "I don't know. Perhaps I must search for a new name. Long ago I had a real name. Then, as a prostitute -- though I never want to say it again -- I had a fake name. When I quit prostitution, for the me who would act as a medium Malta Kano gave the name Creta Kano. But as I am no longer any of those people, for a new me I believe an entirely new name is necessary. Mr. Okada, haven't you any suggestions? Something like a suitable name for me?"

I mulled it over but couldn't conjure up a good name.

"That's probably something you need to come up with yourself. Because you're starting a new life as an independent person and all. It might take a while, but I definitely think that's best."

"But, this 'finding the proper name for myself' is difficult."

"Of course it's not easy. 'Cause a name in some cases expresses everything," I said. "It may be better for me too to completely get rid of my name. I've got that feeling."

Malta Kano's sister sat up in bed, reached out her hand and touched her fingertips to my right cheek. There I assumed was still a mark about the size of a baby's palm. "If Mr. Okada were to lose his name here, what shall I call him?"

"Wind-Up Bird," I said. In any case, at least I had a new name.

"Mr. Wind-Up Bird," she said, then floated that name in the air and stared at it. "A wonderful name, I think, but just what kind of bird is that?"

"The Wind-Up Bird's a bird that really exists. What it looks like, even I don't know, 'cause I've never seen it in real life. I've only heard its voice. The Wind-Up Bird stops in the branches of those trees and little by little winds the spring of the world. With the screech of twisting metal winds the spring. If the Wind-Up Bird doesn't wind the spring, the world won't move. But nobody knows that. All the people of the world think some big, fancy, complicated device moves the earth. But that's not it. Really, the Wind Up-Bird goes from place to place, winds the tiny springs a bit at a time, and moves the earth. They're simple springs, like the kind you find in wind-up toys. All you have to do is wind the springs, but only the Wind-Up Bird can see them.

"Wind-Up Bird," she repeated. "Mr. Wind-Up Bird, who winds the spring of the world." I raised my head and looked around; I saw the same room as always. I'd been sleeping only in that room for the last four or five years, but it appeared perplexingly hollow and vast.

"But sad as it is I don't know where to find the spring. And what form that spring takes, I don't know."

She put her finger on my shoulder. Then, with her fingertip drew a circle. I lay face-up, and for a long time concentrated on a tiny stomach-shaped stain on the ceiling. The stain was precisely over my pillow. I'd never before noticed the existence of such a stain. Exactly when was that place stained? I wondered. It had probably been there since we moved in. So, the whole time Kumiko and I slept together in that bed, that stain was silent, holding its breath, stuck right over us. Then one morning I spotted it. Beside me I felt the warmth of the breath of the woman formerly known as Creta Kano. I could smell that fragrant naked flesh. She was still busy drawing little circles on my shoulder. If I could I wanted to reach out and take her again, but whether or not that was right I couldn't decide. My relationships vertical and horizontal were way too tangled. I abandoned the idea and went back to staring at the ceiling. Malta Kano's sister then leaned over me and softly kissed my right cheek. Something like a deep paralysis struck me as her supple lips gentled the mark.

I closed my eyes and tuned my ears to the sound of the world. Somewhere, I heard a pigeon cry. "Ho, ho, ho," it persisted, filled with good will that celebrated the summer morning and announced the break of day. But that's not enough, I thought. Someone's got to wind the spring.

"Mr. Wind-up Bird," said the woman formerly known as Creta Kano. "I believe that certainly, some day, you will find that spring."

Eyes closed, I asked, "If so, and say someday I find the spring, and wind it, do you think a normal life will come back to me?"

She shook her head. A little something like sadness crept into her eyes, like a broken nimbus clouds the sky.

"I do not know," she said.

"Nobody knows," I said.

Some things in the world are better unknown, said Lt. Mamiya.

Malta Kano's little sister said she wanted to go to a beauty salon. Since she had no money at all (having turned up stark naked), I lent her money. Wearing Kumiko's blouse she slipped into a skirt and sandals and left for the salon near the train station. It was the one Kumiko used to use.

Once Malta Kano's sister left I gave the floor an overdue cleaning and tossed the piled laundry into the wash. I pulled all drawers out of my desk and dumped them into a cardboard box. I planned to save the necessities and torch the rest, but in reality the "necessities" were pretty much nonexistent; everything in there was something useless: an old diary, age-old unfinished letters, a planner crammed with long-past engagements, an address book lined with names of people who'd passed through my life, discolored scraps of newspapers and magazines, an expired membership card for the pool, a tape recorder's warranty and instructions, used pens and pencils, somebody's phone number jotted on a memo (whose number I had no clue). I took the letters I'd kept in the closet and burned them. About half those letters were from Kumiko. We wrote each other a lot before we got married. Kumiko's fine and careful handwriting lined the envelopes. Her handwriting hadn't really changed in the last seven years. Even used the same ink. I took the cardboard box into the garden, doused it with salad oil and struck a match. The box went up in a nice blaze, but it took longer than I was expecting to reduce everything to ash. On that windless day the white plume of smoke shot straight up into the sky, stretching through the clouds like a giant tree out of "Jack and the Beanstalk." If I climbed all the way up, perhaps there'd be gathered all my past selves, living the good life in their own little world. I kept my gaze on that smoke, sitting on a stone in the garden. It was a hot summer morning that prophesized an afternoon hotter still. My T shirt was sweat-plastered against my skin. In Russian novels, things like letters are best burned in the fireplace on a winter night. Things like burning them with salad oil in the garden on a summer morning just aren't done. But in the wretched, Realistic world in which we live, people soaked in sweat burn letters on summer mornings. With some things we can't do as we like. Some things can't wait until winter.

Once everything was burned I scooped water in a bucket, extinguished the flames, and with the sole of my shoe ground the ash.

With all my things in order I went to Kumiko's room and examined her desk. I hadn't looked inside since she'd left home. I had felt like it wasn't an upright thing to do. But as she herself had said she was never coming back she probably wouldn't mind my pulling out her desk drawer. It seemed before leaving she'd seen to the desk: the drawer was almost empty. Left were new stationery and envelopes, a box of paper clips, a ruler, scissors, a half-dozen pens and pencils, like she'd cleared things so she might leave at any time. Nothing that suggested Kumiko's existence remained. But what had she done with her letters from me? She should have had just as many, and she should have saved them somewhere, but they were nowhere to be found.

Next I entered the bathroom and boxed all the cosmetics. Lipstick, cleansing cream, perfume, hairspray, eyebrow pencils, cotton pads, lotion, and other things I didn't know what they were I gathered and chucked into a candy box. There weren't that many items. Kumiko wasn't that into cosmetics. I threw away Kumiko's toothbrush and dental floss. I threw out her shower cap.

Just completing those tasks had exhausted me. I sat in the kitchen and drank a glass of water. The only things left of Kumiko's were a small shelf's worth of books and her clothes. The books I'd sell. The clothes were a problem. Kumiko had written for me to "properly dispose of" her clothes. That she had no intention of wearing them again. But in practice how exactly I should "dispose of" them, she didn't elaborate. Should I sell them? Or stuff them in vinyl bags and trash them? Give them away? Donate them to the Salvation Army? None of those things seemed to me like a "proper" sort of method. Whatever, there's no hurry, I thought. For the time being I'd just leave them be. (The woman who was once) Creta Kano might wear them, or Kumiko might reconsider and come back for them. Unthinkable at the moment, but who could say for sure? Nobody knows what may happen tomorrow. The day after tomorrow is even more unknown. Or, if you're going to say that, we have no idea what may happen this afternoon.

The woman who was once Creta Kano returned from the beauty parlor just before noon. Her new hairstyle was surprisingly short, the longest patches being only about three or four centimeters. She'd done the whole thing up in hair cream. Since she'd taken off her makeup at first I hardly recognized her. In any case she no longer looked liked Jacqueline Kennedy. I praised her new hairstyle.

"This way looks much younger and more natural, but it seems like you turned into someone else."

"I have become someone else!" she said, and laughed. I suggested we have lunch together, but she shook her head. "Mr. Okada. Mr. Wind-Up Bird," she said. "I believe I have taken the first step as a new human being. I'll go home, have a long talk with my sister, and prepare for Crete. Getting my passport, buying the plane ticket, packing my bags: I'm not at all used to doing these things, so I am not sure how to go about it. I've never once traveled, or even been outside Tokyo."

"Do you still think we ought to go to Crete together?" I asked.

"Of course," she said. "For me, and for you, I believe that is best. So I hope you will please think it over. This is very important."

"I'll think about it," I said.

The woman who was once Creta Kano left the house, and I put on a fresh Polo and long trousers. I wore sunglasses so the mark wouldn't stand out, then walked through the glaring sun to the station and took the rattling afternoon train to Shinjuku. I bought two Greece travel guides from Kinokuniya and a medium-size suitcase from Isetan. I spotted a restaurant and decided to have lunch. The waitress was terribly surly and ill tempered. I fancied myself well-versed in surly, ill-tempered waitresses, but a waitress of such ill-tempered surliness I'd never met. She seemed disgusted by my order and me as a human being. While I chose from the menu she glared at the mark on my face like she'd just drawn an unlucky o-mikuji2. I could feel her gaze on the mark. I ordered a small bottle of beer but she brought over a large. I didn't complain. When a cold, frothy beer comes along, be thankful. If it's too big, drink half and leave.

Until the food arrived I drank and read the travel guide. Crete is the long and narrow Greek island closest to Africa. On the island are no trains; travelers move by bus. The biggest city is Iraklion, near the famed ruins of the maze at the palace of Knossos. Olive cultivation is the primary industry; wine is also highly prized. Wind is strong; windmills galore. For various political reasons the island was the last to achieve independence from Turkey, therefore the cultural atmosphere is different from the rest of Greece. The island is known for its "fighting spirit" and fierce resistance against the Germans during the Second World War. Nikos Kazantzakis used the island as the setting for his novel Zorba the Greek. The knowledge I gained from the Crete travel guide ended there. What real life was like there I couldn't know. Well that's how it is, right? A travel guide is a book for folks just passing through; it's not like it's written for people who want to settle down and live.

I tried to imagine life on Crete with the woman who was once Creta Kano. Just what kind of life would we lead? What kind of house would we live in? What kind of food would we eat? What we would do upon waking? What kind of conversation would we have all day? And would we go on for months, years? Nothing I could call an "image" came to mind.

But, I thought, no matter what I'm in for I can beat it for Crete just as it is. I can go and live with the woman who was once Creta Kano. For a while I alternated stares between the two travel guides on the table and the brand-new suitcase at my feet. These were my "possibility" taken physical form. To visualize that concept called possibility I marched into town and bought the suitcase and guides. And the more I looked the more enticing a possibility it appeared. Suitcase in hand I ought to shuck off everything and flee from here. Simple.

Sitting at home awaiting Kumiko's return was about all I could do staying in Japan. No, first of all, she's not coming back. Don't wait for me, don't search, she'd insisted in her letter. Of course, no matter what I was told I had a right to keep waiting. Only doing so might grind me down. I might be even more alone, groping in a deeper darkness, my power on the wane. The problem: I am no one's necessity.

Perhaps it's necessary I go to Crete with Malta Kano's sister. Like she said, it would be for me, and for her, a good thing. I stared again at the suitcase at my feet. I imagined myself carrying this suitcase, alighting in Iraklion Airport with Creta Kano. I imagined a tranquil life in a village somewhere: eating fish, swimming in the deep blue sea. But while imagining those impossible picture-postcard dreams, a solid cloudlike something expanded in my breast. New suitcase in one hand, mobbed by shoppers crowding the Shinjuku street, like an air hole was plugged I struggled to breathe. I could hardly move my own hands and feet.

That time, as I left the restaurant and walked the street, the suitcase I carried swiped the leg of an oncoming man. The young man of large build wore a gray T-shirt and baseball cap. He had Walkman earphones stuck in his ears. "I'm so sorry," I apologized. The man only adjusted his baseball cap, and as if extending his arm straight out thrust it unhesitatingly into my chest. As it was totally unexpected I crumpled and cracked my head against the wall of a building. The man watched me fall, then without a single change in expression walked off and disappeared. For a moment I thought to chase him down, but reconsidered and gave it up. No point doing that. I got up, took a deep breath and brushed the dirt off my pants. Then I took up my suitcase again. Someone picked up the dropped books and handed them back to me. It was a little old lady wearing a nearly brimless hat. That was a really weirdly shaped hat. When she handed me the books she shook her head a bit, without saying a thing. Looking at that old woman's hat and sympathetic face, I recalled for no reason the Wind-Up Bird. The Wind-Up Bird somewhere in the depths of the forest. My head hurt for a bit, but I had nothing you could call an injury, just a bump that appeared on the back of my head. Probably best if I go home early, I thought. Got to return to that silent alley.

To calm my nerves I bought a newspaper and lemon drops at a kiosk in the station. I took my wallet from my pocket and paid cash, then clutching that newspaper I turned and walked toward the ticket gate. I heard a woman's voice from behind.

"Hey, Mister!" she called. "Over there, Mister tall guy with a mark on his face!" That was me. Calling was the girl from the counter. Not knowing what was going on, I turned around.

"You forgot your change," she said, then gave me change in coins from 1,000 yen. I said thanks and took it. "Sorry I mentioned the mark," she said. "I couldn't think of another way to call you so it just slipped out."

I managed to float an "I don't mind" sort of smile on my face and shook my head. She looked at the mark. "You're covered with sweat, though; you ok? Not feeling sick?" "It's hot so I started sweating while walking. Thanks," I said.

I rode the train and read the newspaper. Until that moment I hadn't realized, but it had been a long time since I'd actually handled a newspaper. We didn't take the newspaper. When commuting, if she felt like it Kumiko would buy a morning daily from the station and bring it back home for me. The next day I would read the previous day's news. I read the newspaper for the classifieds. But with Kumiko's disappearance, the paper-bestowing people in my life disappeared as well. Nothing written in the paper caught my interest. I flipped every page from front to back, but there wasn't a single thing in there I needed to know. I closed the paper and scanned the weekly ads hanging in the train one by one, when suddenly my eye landed on the name "Noboru Wataya." There, in great big letters: "Mr. Noboru Wataya's Political Debut Makes Waves." For a long time I stared up at that "Noboru Wataya." So that guy really means it. He really means to become a politician. I thought, in this alone there's value in getting out of Japan.

I carried my empty suitcase to the station and rode the bus home. It was an empty husk of a house, but I was nonetheless relieved to be home. I took a short rest, then went to the bathroom to take a shower. Inside the bathroom not a shadow of Kumiko remained.

Toothbrush, shower cap, makeup and all had disappeared. No stockings or underwear were drying there; her special shampoo was gone.

I stepped out of the shower, and drying my body with a towel I realized I should have bought the weekly carrying the Noboru Wataya article. Wondering just what was written in there started to weigh on my mind. Then I shook my head. If Noboru Wataya wants to become a politician, let him. In this country anyone who wants to become a politician has got the right to. With Kumiko leaving me, the relationship between Noboru Wataya and I was essentially severed; where his life was headed from then on wasn't a thing I would know. Just as where my life was headed was of no concern to him. That was fine. It should have been that way from the very beginning.

But I couldn't chase that weekly's headline out of my head. I spent that whole afternoon organizing the closet and the kitchen, but no matter what other things I thought about or busied my body with, that big "Noboru Wataya" printed on the hanging advertisement's vivid afterimage floated out and hovered in front of my eyes. It was just like a distant telephone bell, heard through the wall in the next room. While that phone rang unanswered it rang on and on and on. I tried to believe it didn't exist. I tried to pretend I couldn't hear. But it was no use. I gave up, walked as far as the nearest convenience store, bought the weekly and returned.

Sitting in a chair in the kitchen drinking tea, I read the article. Famous economist and critic Noboru Wataya is definitely considering the candidacy for Niigata XX Ward in the House of Representatives for the next election, it was written. A detailed personal history followed: academic, literary and mass media activities of the last few years. His uncle Yoshitaka Wataya, Representative for Niigata XX Ward, citing health concerns announced his withdrawal from the next race; for lack of another suitably well-known and influential successor, if talks continue smoothly he will likely attempt to have his nephew Noboru Wataya succeed him in that candidacy. If that happens, considering the strength of the current Representative Wataya's constituency and his nephew's youth and public presence, is not Noboru Wataya a shoo-in for election? they wrote. "The probability Mr. Noboru will file candidacy is, say, 95 percent. The particulars will be negotiated, but ultimately since he himself seems motivated it seems things will turn out the way they should," said a local "influential person."

A talk with Noboru Wataya was also included. It was a pretty long talk. He said at this time he had not yet decided to file a formal candidacy.

Certainly such talk is circulating. But I have my own ideas; it's not a problem where I'm offered, "Come out and run," and can simply answer, "Yes. Got it. Let's go." Between what I am seeking in the world of politics and what it is seeking from me there may be considerable discrepancy. So from now on if little by little discussion is maintained, perhaps modulation will take place. However, if both sides agree and I actually come forward as a candidate, by all means I certainly intend to be elected, and after my election I have no intention of serving as a coolie-hatted backbencher. I'm only 37; if from here I choose the path of a politician the road ahead is long. I've got a clear

"vision" and the power to present it to the people. My long-range vision and strategy will serve as fundaments in my endeavors. My current aim is the next 15 years. Within the 20th Century, as a politician I definitely intend to place this nation of Japan in a position where its particular identity may be established. That is the objective for the time being. What I am aiming to do is free Japan from its current place in the political hinterlands and thrust it upwards as a unified political and cultural model. In other words, to reshape the framework of the state we call Japan, to forgo hypocrisy and establish logic and ethics. What are important are not opaque phrases and endless rhetoric, but a clear image one can grasp. We are coming to a time where we must grasp that sort of clear image, and construct that sort of state and popular consensus now sought by the people. Now, the kind of senseless politics we are engaged in will ultimately leave our country tossed on the ebbing tide, swept along like a giant jellyfish. We have no interest in ideals or dreams. What I am talking about is simply what must be done, and that which must be done, no matter what, must not remain undone. I have a concrete policy plan tailored to that purpose that will be elucidated following the progress of our situation.

The weekly's article seemed mostly slanted in favor of Noboru Wataya. Mr. Noboru Wataya: a sharp-witted, brilliant political and economic critic whose eloquence was noted early on. Young, of good breeding: a promising future as a politician. His "long-range strategy" probably not a pipe dream but actually feasible. Most voters welcome his political debut. For his conservative constituency his divorcee and single status may pose a bit of a problem, but his youth and mental aptitude will more than compensate for those "minus points." He's certain to rake in the female vote. "Even so," the article tied up the end in a bit of a dry tone, "Noboru Wataya's inheritance of his uncle's constituency doesn't necessarily escape the view that it is enabled by the 'senseless politics' he criticizes. His lofty political views have a convincing ring to them, but how far they will carry practical political efficacy, we can only wait and see."

When I finished reading the article about Noboru Wataya I tossed the weekly into the kitchen trashcan. Then I tried to fill my suitcase with the clothes and things I would need to go to Crete. How cold the winter gets in Crete I had no idea. Looking at the map it was close to Africa. Even so, in Africa depending on the place the winter can get pretty cold. I pulled out a leather jumper and stuck it in the suitcase. Then two sweaters, two pairs of slacks. Two long-sleeved shirts and three short-sleeved. Tweed jacket. T-shirts and shorts. Socks and underwear. Hat and sunglasses. Swimwear. Towel. Travel toiletries case. Even with that stuff the suitcase was only about halfway full. But in terms of "essentials" I couldn't really think of anything else.

For the time being I closed the lid of the suitcase and managed to feel like I was really going to get out of Japan. I am leaving this house, and going to leave this country. While sucking a lemon drop I concentrated for a moment on my brand-new suitcase. That when Kumiko left the house she didn't even carry a suitcase suddenly popped into my mind. Carrying only a small shoulder bag and the skirt and blouse she'd picked up from the cleaner's by the station, in the sunny summer morning she went away from here. The luggage she'd carried was even smaller than mine.

I thought about the jellyfish. This kind of senseless politics will ultimately leave our country tossed on the ebbing tide, swept along like a giant jellyfish, Noboru Wataya had said. Had Noboru Wataya ever seen a real jellyfish up close? I had. Though hating it the whole time, while I went on a date with Kumiko at the aquarium I saw with my own eyes the shapes of jellyfish from all around the world. Kumiko stood before each tank, hardly saying anything, intent on the calm and graceful movements of the jellyfish. Though it was our first date she seemed to completely forget I was beside her. There

really were various kinds of jellyfish of various size and shape. Comb jellies, Beroe jellies, Venus's girdle jellies, lion's mane jellies... Kumiko was immersed in those jellyfish, so much so that I bought her an illustrated book about jellyfish as a present. Noboru Wataya probably doesn't know it, but some jellyfish actually have bones, even muscles. Some breathe oxygen, even defecate. Some have sperm and eggs. And, they use their feelers and umbrella to make beautiful movements. It's not like they're just getting tossed around in the tide. It's not like I'm trying to defend jellyfish or anything, but they have their own will to live.

Hey, Noboru Wataya-kun, I said. I don't care if you become a politician. That's up to you. It's not a problem I'll open my mouth about. But, at least let me say this: it's a mistake using a faulty metaphor to insult jellyfish.

After nine that night the phone rang. But for a while I didn't take the receiver. Staring at the ringing phone on the table, I wondered who it could be. What could anyone want from me?

But then I realized who it was. It was that phone woman. How I could tell I didn't know, but I was sure. She was seeking me from that strange, dark room. In there even now drifted the heady scent of flowers. Even now she was there nursing her fierce sexual desire. "I'll do anything, you know. Even things your wife won't." In the end I didn't pick up the receiver. The bell rang ten times, cut, and rang for another twelve. From then it was silent. A silence more profound than before. My heartbeat sounded out loud. I stared for a long time at my fingertips. I imagined the blood sent from my heart taking time to make its way to my fingertips. Then I quietly covered my face with my hands, and took a deep breath.

In the silence only the dry tock-tock of the clock echoed in the room. I went to the bedroom, sat on the floor and for a while again stared at my new suitcase. Crete, huh? I thought. Sorry, but I've decided to go to Crete. I'm a little tired of living here under the name Tōru Okada. "As the man who was once Tōru Okada, I've decided to go to Crete with the woman who was once Creta Kano," I tried saying out loud. But to whom I was saying it, even I didn't know. Someone.

Tock-tock-tock-tock-tock-tock, the clock struck time, as if that sound was interlocked with the beat of my heart.