Murakami Haruki (1994)

Trans. Kieran Maynard (2010)

Murakami, Haruki. Nejimakidori kuronikuru (Dai 3 bu) Torisashi otoko hen ねじまき鳥クロニクル〈第3部〉鳥刺し男編. Shinchōsha, 1995. Print.

Book 3, Chapter 26 Translation


Damaging things, ripe fruit

At 9:50 at night I sat in front of Cinnamon's computer and flipped the switch. Using the passwords, I disabled the locks one after another and accessed the message program. I waited for 10:00, entered the line number on the screen and requested a collect call. After a few minutes the screen indicated that the other party had consented to the fee. Then, across a computer screen I came face to face with Noboru Wataya. The last time he and I had exchanged spoken was the summer one year prior, when we met with Malta Kano at the hotel in Shinagawa and talked about Kumiko. We parted with deep mutual hatred. Since then, we hadn't spoken at all. Back then he hadn't yet become a politician, and I didn't have a mark. It even seemed like something out of a past life.

I chose to send first. Like making a serve in tennis, I quietly settled my breathing and placed both hands on the keyboard.

>I have heard that you want to make me pull out of this "residence"—that you can buy the land and building, and on that condition discuss returning Kumiko to me. Is that true? ←

I pressed the enter key to complete the message.

Eventually the reply came. At a quick pace the letters lined up on the screen.

>First I want to clear up a misunderstanding: whether Kumiko returns to you or not isn't up to me. To the end, that is solely up to her judgment. You must have confirmed this yourself during the exchange with Kumiko the other day, but she is not being confined. As family I am only providing a place of refuge and keeping her temporarily under my protection. All I can do is persuade her to talk to you. I have actually set up the computer line so that you two can talk. That is about all that I can do. ←

I switched the mode to "send."

>The condition on my side is very clear. If Kumiko will return, I will pull out completely from what I am doing in that "residence." If she won't come back, I will go on indefinitely. That is the only condition.

Noboru Wataya's response to that was plain and clear.

>I will repeat myself, but this is not a trade. You're not in a position to lay conditions on me. Basically, we're only talking about possibilities. If you will pull out of the "residence," I will certainly persuade Kumiko, but even then I can't give my word that Kumiko will go back to you. That's because Kumiko is an adult with an independent personality and I cannot compel her to do anything. But at any rate, if you continue to frequent that place, you may as well think that Kumiko will never return to you. That is very clear. I guarantee it. ←

I hit the keyboard.

>Listen. You need not guarantee anything. I understand well what you are thinking. You want me to pull out of that "residence." You really want me out. But no matter what I do, you have no intention of persuading Kumiko. From the beginning you've had no intention of letting her go. Am I wrong? ←

A reply came quickly.

>Of course what you think about in your own head is 100% up to you. I can't stop that.

Right, what I think about in my own head is up to me.

I typed.

> It isn't that I am entirely outside a position in which I can set conditions. You must be pretty concerned about what I am actually doing here. Since you can't well grasp what on earth it is, isn't it irritating you? ←

As if to tantalize me, Noboru Wataya left a long pause, like he was

intentionally showing that he had the advantage.

>I think you rather misunderstand your position. Or more accurately, you overestimate yourself. I don't have any idea what you're doing over there, and I don't particularly want to know. It's simply, at my social position, if possible I don't want to get embroiled in petty troubles, thus when it came to Kumiko I thought it best to make what efforts I could. But, if you reject my proposal outright, that's fine by me. After this I will have no relationship with you, and I will manage my own affairs. This may be the last time we talk, and probably you will never speak to Kumiko again. If you have nothing new to talk about, I'd like to hang up. I have to meet someone after this. ←

No, the talk isn't over yet.

>The talk is not yet over. As I said to Kumiko the other day, I am little by little coming closer to the core of things. Over the last year and a half, I have kept thinking about why Kumiko had to leave home. While you became a politician and became increasingly famous, I made conjectures in a dark and quiet place. I explored various possibilities and piled up hypotheses. As you are aware, I am not terribly quick-thinking. But anyway, I had nothing but time, and thought about really various things. Then, at some point I reached this conclusion. Behind Kumiko suddenly leaving home must be lurking some huge secret I don't know about, and unless I bring to light the true cause, Kumiko may never really return to me. And, I think you are holding fast the key to that secret. When we met last summer, I said the same thing. I know well what's under your mask, and if I feel like it, I can expose you. Honestly, what I said that time was mostly a bluff. It was baseless. I was only trying to shake you up. But I wasn't mistaken. I'm coming closer to the truth of what you're holding, and you too should be sensing that. That's why what I'm doing here is worrying you, and you're even thinking to put up a great deal of money to buy the land outright. How about it? Am I wrong? ←

It was Noboru Wataya's turn to talk. I laced my fingers and followed the words lining on the screen.

>I can't well understand what you're trying to say. It seems we're somehow speaking in different languages. As I said it before, but Kumiko got sick of you, found another man, and thus left home. She's seeking divorce. The circumstances are unfortunate, but this happens often. Even so, you are pulling out all kinds of strange theories one after another and throwing the affair into disorder by yourself. No matter how one thinks about it, it's a mutual waste of time.

At any rate, there is no talk about me buying the land from you. Unfortunately, that proposition has completely disappeared. As you must be aware, the second article about that "residence" came out today in that weekly. Now that place seems to be starting to attract public attention, I can't have any dealings in it. And according to my sources, what you are doing there is nearing an end. It seems there you are meeting with multiple followers or clients, giving them something, and taking money as compensation. But they will never come again. Coming near there is a little too dangerous. And if people don't come, money won't either. If that happens, you won't be able to make monthly payments, and sooner or later you won't be able to maintain that place. Like waiting for a ripe fruit to drop from a branch, I only have to sit and wait. Isn't that right? ←

Now it was my turn to leave a pause. I drank the water I'd prepared and reread what Noboru Wataya had written several times. Then, I moved my fingers calmly.

>I certainly don't know how long I can maintain that house. It's as you said. But, you see, I have several months of grace until the capital runs out. With that much time, there are still various things I can do. Even things you can't really imagine. This isn't a bluff. Let me give you an example. For instance, haven't you had bad dreams lately? ←

I felt Noboru Wataya's silence transmitted like magnetism from the screen. I honed my senses and glared at the screen. I tried to read even a little of Noburu Wataya's quivering emotion beyond it. But that was impossible. Eventually, words appeared on the screen.

>I'm afraid that sort of empty threat won't work on me. You should write down roundabout, meaningless babble in a journal or something and save it for your generous clients. I bet they'll run a cold sweat and pay you big money. That is, if they ever come back. It's useless talking with you any further. I want to hang up. As I said before, I am busy. ←

I spoke.

>Please wait a moment. Please listen well to what I am about to say. It's not a bad story, so there's certainly no harm in listening. You see, I can free you from those dreams. Wasn't it basically for that reason that you brought up a trade? Right? All I want is for Kumiko to come back to me. That is the trade I propose. A good deal, don't you think?

I understand that you want to ignore me completely. I also understand that you don't want to have anything to do with me. What you think about in your own head is 100% up to you. I can't stop that. In your eyes, I must be an existence close to zero. But unfortunately for you, it's not truly zero. You must possess far greater power than me. I too recognize that. But when the night comes, even you have to sleep, and when you sleep, you will certainly dream. I guarantee it. And you cannot choose your dreams. Right? I have a question. Just how many times do you change your pajamas each night? So many you can barely keep up with the laundry?

I rested my hands, took a breath and let it out slowly. Then I once again checked the words lined up there. I searched for the words to follow. In the dark depths of the screen, I could feel the presence of something wriggling soundlessly inside a cloth bag. Through the computer line I was nearing there.

Now, I have figured out what you did to Kumiko's older sister who died. This isn't a lie. Until now, you've kept on damaging people, and from here you'll probably keep damaging others. But you can't escape dreams. You'd better give up and return Kumiko to me. Because that's all I'm seeking. Besides, you'd better not make any more pretense with me. It's useless. Because I am steadily nearing the secret under your mask. You must be fearing that from the bottom of your heart. You'd better not falsify your own feelings.

At about the same time as I pressed the enter key to complete sending the message, Noboru Wataya cut the transmission.

[End Chapter 26]