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The Rat Trilogy, Tiga Karya Pertama Haruki Murakami

Bagi kalian penggemar buku, terutama literatur Jepang, pasti tau dong yang namanya Haruki Murakami. Haruki Murakami pada umumnya dikenal sebagai penulis buku Norwegian Woods yang sudah di filmkan, Kafka on the Shore yang unik dan penuh dengan pelajaran yang adapat dipetik, dan juga buku terbarunya 1Q84 yang tebelnya luar biasa, tapi diyakinkan memiliki cerita yang tak kalah menarik.haruki murakami

Murakami-san dikenal sebagai penulis yang memiliki cara penceritaan yang unik dan epik. Biasanya setiap bagian buku memiliki chapter-chapter yang melompat-lompat dan terkesan tidak saling berhubungan, dan hubungannya baru diketahui pada bagian akhir dan biasanya tidak terduga. Hal ini lah yang bisa membuat pembaca ketagihan ingin membaca lagi karya-karya lainnya dari Haruki Murakami.

Untuk trilogi The Rat, adalah karya pertamanya Murakami-san. Buku yang pertama banget berjudul Hear the Wind Sing, yang bercerita tentang tokoh utama “Aku” yang menghabiskan liburan musim panasnya di kampung halamannya bersama sahabatnya The Rat.

Hear the Wind Sing

pinball

a wild sheep chase

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lalu yang kedua adalah Pinball, yang masih menceritakan “Aku” sebagai pemeran utama juga The Rat kali ini dalam lingkungan yang berbeda, mengenang dan mencari sebuah mesin pinball yang dulu biasa “Aku” mainkan.

Buku ketiga dari trilogi ini adalah A Wild Sheep Chase, yang seperti judulnya, “Aku” kali ini mencari seekor domba langka yang memiliki tanda bintang di badannya, dan tentu saja the Rat, kali ini the Rat muncul melalui surat-suratnya untuk “Aku”.

Ketiga buku tersebut tidak terlalu saling berhubungan, sehingga tidak masalah harus dimulai dari mana membacanya. Uniknya lagi, dari ketiga buku ini, hanya A Wild Sheep Chase yang diterjemahkan kedalam bahasa Inggris dan dicetak resmi, sisanya sepertinya gak mendapat persetujuan dari sang penulis. Hear the Wind Sing sendiri sempat di cetak dalam bahasa Indonesia, namun sepertinya saat ini sudah habis terjual dan belum dicetak kembali.

Bagi kalian yang mungkin belum siap buat membaca bukunya dalam bahasa Inggris, bisa berlatih dulu membaca kumpulan cerpen dari Haruki Murakami, seperti Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman; Birthday Girl, The Ice Man, atau yang paling populer On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning.

 
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Ditulis oleh pada April 9, 2013 in buku, info

 

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Finding Dory, Sekuel Resmi dari Finding Nemo

Mayoritas penggemar film pasti sudah menonoton film animasi produksi Disney-Pixar yang berjudul Finding Nemo, yang rilis tahun 2003 lalu. Di awal April 2013 ini mulai panas dibicarakan mengenai dibuatnya sekuel film animasi tentang ikan tersebut, dengan judul Finding Dory yang katanya akan dirilis pada tanggal 25 November 2015 mendatang.

finding dory

Dikarenakan tersiarnya kabar ini tepat di tanggal 1 April 2013 lalu, sempat diduga bahwa ini hanya sebuah lelucon untuk memeriahkan April Fool belaka. Apalagi pada Twitter, ramai dibicarakan mengenai Finding Dory ini bahkan terdapat akun baru bernama @itsfinddory yang menyuarakan apa yang kira-kira akan di twit oleh Dory jika Ia memiliki akun Twitter.

Namun kemudian, kabar ini diiyakan oleh sang pengisi suara Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen berkata, “Skripnya fantastis. Semua yang saya sukai di film pertama ada di sekuel ini: cerita yang menyentuh, skrip yang benar-benar lucu dan yang terbaik adalah lebih banyak lagi mengenai Dory”.

dory

Sutradara film ini yang merupakan veteran di Pixar, Andrew Stanton pun mantap membenarkan kabar ini. Menurutnya Finding Dory akan bersetting satu tahun setelah film Finding Nemo. Menghadirkan kembali Marlin, Nemo, teman-teman Nemo di akuarium, dan juga beberapa karakter baru.

Dory adalah nama ikan berwarna biru yang ceria namun pelupa yang menemani Marlin untuk mencari anaknya Nemo pada film produksi Disney Pixar, Finding Nemo, yang selalu mengucapkan kalimat “just keep swimming“.

Penasaran bagaimana rupanya film Finding Dory ini, sementara kita intip dulu saja cuplikan dari The Ellen Degeneres Show berikut ini:

sumber: telegraph.co.uk dan buzzfeed.com

 
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Ditulis oleh pada April 5, 2013 in film, info

 

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Nominasi MTV Video Music Awards Japan 2013

MTV Video Music Awards Japan 2013, ajang musik tahunan yang diadakan di Jepang ini, pada tanggal 29 Maret 2013 lalu resmi mengumumkan nominasi-nominasi dari 16 kategori penghargaan yang ada.

Acara besar yang biasa disingkat MTV VMAJ ini, akan diadakan pada hari Sabtu tanggal 22 Juni 2013 di Makuhari Messe, Chiba Prefecture, Jepang dan akan ditayangkan di MTV Japan pada hari Minggu, 23 Juni 2013 jam 8PM (waktu Tokyo).

MTVVMAJ2013

Para nominator, musisi barat dan Jepang, hadir seimbang di setiap kategori, seperti Bruno Mars, Rihanna, FUN, Taylor Swift, Alicia Keys, One Direction, Linkin Park dan Muse yang dinominasikan bersama dengan musisi Jepang, One Ok Rock, MIYAVI, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Namie Amuro dan Kana Nishino. Serta beberapa musisi Korea Selatan juga masuk dalam nominasi antara lain Big Bang dan 2PM serta TOHOSHINKI.

Uniknya lagi, dalam ajang penghargaan musik bergengsi di Jepang ini, terdapat kategori yang tak biasa, yakni Best Karaokee! Song yang menominasikan Bruno MarsKyary Pamyu PamyuKana Nishino, Taylor Swift, dan J Soul Brothers III.

Proses voting atau pemilihan musisi di setiap kategori MTV VMAJ 2013 sendiri, telah dibuka sejak 29 Maret lalu, dan dapat di pilihi melalui MTV Japan’s Official Facebook sampai dengan 11 Juni 2013 pukul 5PM waktu Tokyo, sayangnya hanya berlaku bagi pecinta musik yang berdomisili di Jepang.

Berikut adalah nominasi-nominasi dari MTV Video Music Awars Japan 2013:

Best Male Video
• BRUNO MARS “Locked Out of Heaven” (Dir: Cameron Duddy)
• EXILE ATSUSHI “MELROSE ~Aisanai Yakusoku~” (Dir: Tetsuo Inoue)
• GOTYE “Somebody That I Used to Know feat. KIMBRA” (Dir: Natasha Pincus)
• JUSTIN BIEBER “Beauty and a Beat feat. NICKI MINAJ” (Dir: Jon M. Chu)
• Daichi Miura “Two Hearts” (Dir: tatsuaki)

Best Female Video
• ALICIA KEYS “Girl on Fire feat. NICKI MINAJ” (Dir: Sophie Muller)
• JUJU “Arigatou” (Dir: Tsugihisa Tanaka)
• Kana Nishino “Always” (Dir: Nobu Sueyoshi)
• RIHANNA “Diamonds” (Dir: Anthony Mandler)
• TAYLOR SWIFT “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (Dir: Declan Whitebloom)

Best Group Video
• FUN. “We are Young feat. JANELLE MONAE” (Dir: Marc Klasfeld)
• MAROON 5 “Payphone feat. WIZ KHALIFA” (Dir: Samuel Bayer)
• ONE DIRECTION “What Makes You Beautiful” (Dir: John Urbano)
• TOHOSHINKI “Catch Me -If you wanna-“ (Dir: JAE-HYUK JANG)
• J Soul Brothers III “Hanabi” (Dir: Mika Ninagawa)

Best New Artist Video
• CARLY RAE JEPSEN “Call Me Maybe” (Dir: Ben Knechtel)
• FUN. “We are Young feat. JANELLE MONAE” (Dir: Marc Klasfeld)
• GENERATIONS from EXILE TRIBE “BRAVE IT OUT” (Dir: Shigeaki Kubo)
• ONE DIRECTION “What Makes You Beautiful” (Dir: John Urbano)
• SALU “The Girl On A Board feat. H.TEFRON” (Dir: SITE)

Best Video of the Year
• Namie Amuro “In The Spotlight(TOKYO)(from ALBUM “Uncontrolled”)” (Dir: Shigeaki Kubo)
• BRUNO MARS “Locked Out of Heaven” (Dir: Cameron Duddy)
• EXILE TRIBE “24karats TRIBE OF GOLD” (Dir: Shigeaki Kubo)
• Mr.Children “Marshmallow day” (Dir: Shinji Kawamura+Kazuaki Seki+Kei Takahashi)
• MUSE “Follow Me (Tekken Version)” (Dir: Tekken)

Best Rock Video
• FUN. “We are Young feat. JANELLE MONAE” (Dir: Marc Klasfeld)
• MAN WITH A MISSION “distance” (Dir: Takayuki Kojima)
• MUSE “Follow Me (Tekken Version)” (Dir: Tekken)
• ONE OK ROCK “The Beginning” (Dir: maxilla)
• Sakanaction “Yoru no Odoriko” (Dir: Yusuke Tanaka)

Best Pop Video
• GReeeeN “Orange” (Dir: Taro Okagawa)
• JUSTIN BIEBER “Beauty and a Beat feat. NICKI MINAJ” (Dir: Jon M. Chu)
• Kyary Pamyu Pamyu “Fashion Monster” (Dir: Jun Tamukai)
• NEGOTO “nameless” (Dir: Kazuaki Seki)
• TAYLOR SWIFT “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (Dir: Declan Whitebloom)

Best R&B Video
• ALICIA KEYS “Girl on Fire feat. NICKI MINAJ” (Dir: Sophie Muller)
• Namie Amuro “In The Spotlight (TOKYO)(from ALBUM “Uncontrolled”)” (Dir: Shigeaki Kubo)
• FRANK OCEAN “Pyramids” (Dir: Nabil Elderkin)
• MILIYAH KATO “LOVERS partII feat.waka-danna” (Dir: Tomoo Noda)
• RIHANNA “Diamonds” (Dir: Anthony Mandler)

Best Hip Hop Video
• AKLO “RED PILL” (Dir: Ryoji Kamiyama)
• AK-69 “START IT AGAIN” (Dir: RIK CORDERO)
• A$AP ROCKY “F**kin’ Problems feat. DRAKE, 2 CHAINZ & KENDRICK LAMAR” (Dir: Sam Lecca)
• KENDRICK LAMAR “Swimming Pools (Drank)” (Dir: JeromeD)
• CYPRESS UENO & ROBERTO YOSHINO “YOKOHAMA SHIKA feat.OZROSAURUS” (Dir: GhettoHollywood)

Best Reggae Video
• HAN-KUN “ROAD TO ZION” (Dir: Tsuyoshi Nakakuki)
• lecca “Clown Love” (Dir: tatsuaki)
• PUSHIM “Yuuhi” (Dir: PUSHIM)
• SEAN KINGSTON “Back 2 Life (Live it Up) feat. T.I.” (Dir: Benny Boom)
• SEAN PAUL “Dream Girl (Remix feat. lecca)” (Dir: Masaki Ohkita)

Best Dance Video
• BIGBANG “FANTASTIC BABY -Ver. Final-” (Dir: Hyun Seung Seo)
• group_inou “9” (Dir: Ryu Okubo)
• livetune adding Megumi Nakajima “Transfer” (Dir: fantasista utamaro × Kazuma Ikeda)
• SKRILLEX “Bangarang” (Dir: Tony T. Datis)
• ZEDD “Spectrum feat. MATTHEW KOMA” (Dir: Petro)

Best Video from a Film
• ADELE “Skyfall (Lyric Video)” from “Skyfall” (Dir: Nick Chappell)
• FLORENCE + THE MACHINE “Breath of Life” from “Snow White and the Huntsman” (Dir: Scott Murray)
• Mr.Children “Inori ~Namida no kidou” from “Bokura ga Ita Zenpen” (Dir: Genki Ito)
• ONE OK ROCK “The Beginning” from “Rurouni Kenshin” (Dir: maxilla)
• PITBULL “Back in Time (featured in “MEN IN BLACK III”)” from “Men in Black 3” (Dir: David Rousseau)

Best Collaboration Video
• BACK DROP BOMB “The Beginning and The End feat. AKLO” (Dir: Hiromasa Sasaki)
• CALVIN HARRIS “Sweet Nothing feat. FLORENCE WELCH” (Dir: Vincent Haycock)
• MAROON 5 “Payphone feat. WIZ KHALIFA” (Dir: Samuel Bayer)
• MIYAVI vs YUKSEK “DAY 1” (Dir: Yasuhiko Shimizu)
• Keiichiro Shibuya + Hiroki Azuma feat. Hatsune Miku “Initiation” (Dir: YKBX)

Best Album of the Year
• CARLY RAE JEPSEN “Kiss”
• LINKIN PARK “Living Things”
• Kana Nishino “Love Place”
• ONE DIRECTION “Take Me Home”
• 2PM “Legend Of 2PM”

Best Karaokee! Song
• BRUNO MARS “Locked Out of Heaven” (Dir: Cameron Duddy)
• Kyary Pamyu Pamyu “Fashion Monster” (Dir: Jun Tamukai)
• Kana Nishino “Always” (Dir: Nobu Sueyoshi)
• TAYLOR SWIFT “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together” (Dir: Declan Whitebloom)
• J Soul Brothers III “Hanabi” (Mika Ninagawa)

Best Choreography
• CHRIS BROWN “Turn Up the Music” (Dir: Chris Brown & Godfrey Tabarz)
• Momoiro Clover Z “Saraba, Itoshiki Kanashimitachiyo” (Dir: Hideki Kuroda)
P!NK “Try” (Dir: Floria Sigismondi)
• WILLY MOON “Yeah Yeah” (Dir: Alex Courtes)
• WORLD ORDER “PERMANENT REVOLUTON” (Dir: GENKI SUDO)

sumber: mtvasia.com

 
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Ditulis oleh pada April 4, 2013 in info, musik

 

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One Ok Rock Mantap Go Internasional

Segera setelah tampilnya band asal Jepang, One Ok Rock, sebagai Ending Sound Track untuk live action movie: Rurouni Kenshin, nama band yang berdiri sejak tahun 2005 ini makin melejit dan banyak dikenal. OST.nya yang berjudul the Beginning menjadi alat bantu yang melonjakkan nama band yang beranggotakan TAKA (vokal, TORU (gitar), TOMOYA (drum), dan RYOTA (bass).

oor

Musiknya yang yang berbeda dibanding band J-Rock lainnya, memberikan One Ok Rock memiliki ciri khas. Band rock yang baru saja mengeluarkan album yang bertajuk Jinsei X Boku ini, memiliki ciri musik yang lebih mengarah ke musik rock barat dengan tambahan lirik campuran berbahasa Jepang dan Inggris.
Bukti keberhasilan mereka antara lain adalah di undangnya sang vokalis, TAKA untuk berkolaborasi dalam pembuatan ulang lagu Simple Plan, Summer Paradise serta tampilnya mereka di sebuah acara radio bersama Fall Out Boy, 1 April 2013 lalu.

Bagaimana kolaborasi sang vokalis dengan Simple Plan untuk lagu Summer Paradise? Berikut hasilnya:

 
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Ditulis oleh pada April 2, 2013 in info, musik

 

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Birthday Girl – by: Haruki Murakami

Short story karya Haruki Murakami, salah satu dari kumpulan cerpen dalam buku Blind Willow Sleeping Woman, yang menceritakan mengenai seorang wanita yang mengenang kejadian tak lazim yang Ia alami saat ulang tahunnya ke dua puluh tahun.

Birthday Girl 

She waited on tables as usual that day, her twentieth birthday. She always worked on Fridays, but if things had gone according to plan that particular Friday, she would have had the night off. The other part-time girl had agreed to switch shifts with her as a matter of course: being screamed at by an angry chef while lugging pumpkin gnocchi and seafood fritto to customers’ tables was not a normal way to spend one’s twentieth birthday. But the other girl had aggravated a cold and gone to bed with unstoppable diarrhea and a fever of 104, so she ended up working after all on short notice.

She found herself trying to comfort the sick girl, who had called to apologize. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “I wasn’t going to do anything special anyway, even if it is my twentieth birthday.”

And in fact she was not all that disappointed. One reason was the terrible argument she had had a few days earlier with the boyfriend who was supposed to be with her that night. They had been going together since high school, and the argument had started from nothing much. But it had taken an unexpected turn for the worse until it became a long and bitter shouting match–one bad enough, she was pretty sure, to have snapped their long-standing ties once and for all. Something inside her had turned rock-hard and died. He had not called her since the blowup, and she was not about to call him.

Her workplace was one of the better-known Italian restaurants in the tonyRoppongi district of Tokyo. It had been in business since the late sixties, and, although its cuisine was hardly leading edge, its high reputation was fully justified. It had many repeat customers, and they were never disappointed. The dining room had a calm, relaxed atmosphere without a hint of pushiness. Rather than a young crowd, the restaurant drew an older clientele that included some famous stage people and writers.

The two full-time waiters worked six days a week. She and the other part time waitress were students who took turns working three clays each. In addition there was one floor manager and, at the register, a skinny middle-aged woman who supposedly had been there since the restaurant opened–literally sitting in the one place, it seemed, like some gloomy old character from Little Dorrit. She had exactly two functions: to accept payment from the guests and to answer the phone. She spoke only when necessary and always wore the same black dress. There was something cold and hard about her: if you set her afloat on the nighttime sea, she could probably sink any boat that happened to ram her.

The floor manager was perhaps in his late forties. Tall and broad-shouldered, his build suggested that he had been a sportsman in his youth, but excess flesh was now beginning to accumulate on his belly and chin. His short, stiff hair was thinning at the crown, and a special aging-bachelor smell clung to him–like newsprint that had been stored for a while in a drawer with cough drops. She had a bachelor uncle who smelled like that.

The manager always wore a black suit, white shirt, and bow tie–not a snap-on bow tie but the real thing, tied by hand. It was a point of pride for him that he could tie it perfectly without looking in the mirror. His job consisted in checking the arrival and departure of guests, keeping the reservation situation in mind, knowing the names of regular customers, greeting them with a smile, lending a respectful ear to any customers’ complaints, giving expert advice on wines, and overseeing the work of the waiters and waitresses. He performed his duties adroitly day after day. It was also his special task to deliver dinner to the room of the restaurant’s owner.

“The owner had his own room on the sixth floor of the same building where the restaurant was,” she said.

“An apartment or office or something.”

Somehow she and I had gotten onto the subject of our twentieth birthdays–what sort of day it had been for each of us. Most people remember the day they turned twenty. Hers had happened more than ten years earlier.

“He never, ever showed his face in the restaurant, though. The only one who saw him was the manager. It was strictly his job to deliver the owner’s dinner to him. None of the other employees knew what he looked like.”

“So, basically, the owner was getting home delivery from his own restaurant.”

“Right,” she said. “Every night at eight the manager had to bring dinner to the owner’s room. It was the restaurant’s busiest time, so having the manager disappear just then was always a problem for us, but there was no way around it because that was the way it had always been done. They’d load the dinner onto one of those carts that hotels use for room service, the manager would push it onto the elevator wearing a respectful look on his face, and fifteen minutes later he’d come back empty-handed. Then, an hour later, he’d go up again and bring down the cart with empty plates and glasses. Like clockwork, every day. I thought it was really weird the first time I saw it happen. It was like some kind of religious ritual, you know? After a while I got used to it, though, and never gave it another thought.”

The owner always had chicken. The recipe and the vegetable sides were a little different every day, but the main dish was always chicken. A young chef once told her that he had tried sending up the same exact roast chicken every day for a week just to see what would happen, but there was never any complaint. Of course, a chef wants to try different ways of preparing things, and each new chef would challenge himself with every technique for chicken that he could think of. They’d make elegant sauces, they’d try chickens from different suppliers, but none of their efforts had any effect: they might just as well have been throwing pebbles into an empty cave. Every one of them gave up and sent the owner some really standard chicken dish every day. That’s all that was ever asked of them.

Work started out as usual on her twentieth birthday, November 17. It had been raining on and off since the afternoon, and pouring since early evening. At five o’clock the manager gathered the employees together to explain the day’s specials. Servers were required to memorize them word for word and not use crib sheets: veal Milanese, pasta topped with sardines and cabbage, chestnut mousse. Sometimes the manager would take the part of a customer and test them with questions. Then came the employees’ meal: waiters in this restaurant were not going to have growling stomachs as they stood there taking customers’ orders!

The restaurant opened its doors at six o’clock, but guests were slow to arrive because of the downpour, and several reservations were simply canceled. Women didn’t want their dresses ruined by the rain. The manager walked around tight-lipped, and the waiters killed time polishing the salt and pepper shakers or chatting with the chef about cooking. She surveyed the dining room with its single couple at a table and listened to the harpsichord music flowing discreetly from ceiling speakers. A deep smell of late-autumn rain worked its way into the restaurant.

It was after seven-thirty when the manager started feeling sick. He stumbled over to a chair and sat there for a while pressing his stomach, as if he had suddenly been shot. A greasy sweat clung to his forehead. “I think I’d better go to the hospital,” he muttered. For him to have medical problems was a most unusual occurrence: he had never missed a day since he started working in this restaurant more than ten years earlier. It was another point of pride for him that he had never been out with illness or injury, but his painful grimace made it clear that he was in very bad shape.

She stepped outside with an umbrella and hailed a cab. One of the waiters held the manager steady and climbed into the car with him to take him to a nearby hospital. Before ducking into the cab, the manager said to her hoarsely, “I want you to take a dinner up to room 604 at eight o’clock. All you have to do is ring the bell, say, ‘Your dinner is here,’ and leave it.”

“That’s room 604, right?” she said.

“At eight o’clock,” he repeated. “On the dot.” He grimaced again, climbed in, and the taxi took him away. The rain showed no signs of letting up after the manager was gone, and customers arrived at long intervals. No more than one or two tables were occupied at a time, so if the manager and one waiter had to be absent, this was a good time for it to happen. Things could get so busy that it was not unusual for even the full staff to have trouble coping.

When the owner’s meal was ready at eight o’clock, she pushed the room-service cart onto the elevator and rode up to the sixth floor. It was the standard meal for him: a half bottle of red wine with the cork loosened, a thermal pot of coffee, a chicken entree with steamed vegetables, dinner rolls, and butter. The heavy aroma of cooked chicken quickly filled the little elevator. It mingled with the smell of rain. Water droplets dotted the floor of the elevator, suggesting that someone with a wet umbrella had recently been
aboard.

She pushed the cart down the corridor, bringing it to a stop in front of the door marked “604.” She double-checked her memory: 604. That was it. She cleared her throat and pressed the button by the door. There was no answer. She stood in place for a good twenty seconds. Just as she was thinking of pressing the bell again, the door opened inward and a skinny old man appeared. He was shorter than she was, by some four or five inches. He had on a dark suit and a necktie. Against his white shirt, the tie stood out distinctly with its brownish-yellow coloring like withered leaves. He made a very clean impression, his clothes perfectly pressed, his white hair smoothed down: he looked as though he were about to go out for the night to some sort of gathering. The deep wrinkles that creased his brow made her think of deep ravines in an aerial photograph.

“Your dinner, sir,” she said in a husky voice, then quietly cleared her throat again. Her voice grew husky whenever she was tense.

“Dinner?”

“Yes, sir. The manager suddenly took sick. I had to take his place today. Your meal, sir.”

“Oh, I see,” the old man said, almost as if talking to himself, his hand still perched on the doorknob.

“Took sick, eh? You don’t say.”

“His stomach started to hurt him all of a sudden. He went to the hospital. He thinks he might have appendicitis.”

“Oh, that’s not good,” the old man said, running his fingers along the wrinkles of his forehead. “Not good at all.”

She cleared her throat again. “Shall I bring your meal in, sir?” she asked.

“Ah yes, of course,” the old man said. “Yes, of course, if you wish. That’s fine with me.”

If I wish? she thought. What a strange way to put it. What am I supposed to wish?

The old man opened the door the rest of the way, and she wheeled the cart inside. The floor was covered in short gray carpeting with no area for removing shoes. The first room was a large study, as though the apartment were more a workplace than a residence. The window looked out on Tokyo Tower nearby, its steel skeleton outlined in lights. A large desk stood by the window, and beside the desk was a compact sofa and love seat. The old man pointed to the plastic laminate coffee table in front of the sofa. She arranged his meal on the table: white napkin and silverware, coffeepot and cup, wine and wineglass, bread and butter, and the plate of chicken and vegetables.

“If you would be kind enough to set the dishes in the hall as usual, sir, I’ll come to get them in an hour.” Her words seemed to snap him out of an appreciative contemplation of his dinner. “Oh, yes, of course. I’ll put them in the hall. On the cart. In an hour. If you wish.”

Yes, she replied inwardly, for the moment that is exactly what I wish. “Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?”

“No, I don’t think so,” he said after a moment’s consideration. He was wearing black shoes that had been polished to a high sheen. They were small and chic. He’s a stylish dresser, she thought. And he stands very straight for his age.

“Well, then, sir, I’ll be getting back to work.”

“No, wait just a moment,” he said.

“Sir?”

“Do you think it might be possible for you to give me five minutes of your time, miss? I have something I’d like to say to you.”

He was so polite in his request that it made her blush. “I … think it should be all right,” she said. “I mean, if it’s really just five minutes.” He was her employer, after all. He was paying her by the hour. It was not a question of her giving or his taking her time. And this old man did not look like a person who would do anything bad to her.

“By the way, how old are you?” the old man asked, standing by the table with arms folded and looking directly into her eyes.

“I’m twenty now,” she said.

“Twenty now,” he repeated, narrowing his eyes as if peering through some kind of crack. “Twenty now.

As of when?”

“Well, I just turned twenty,” she said. After a moment’s hesitation, she added, “Today is my birthday, sir.”

“I see,” he said, rubbing his chin as if this explained a great deal. “Today, is it? Today is your twentieth birthday?”

She nodded silently.

“Your life in this world began exactly twenty years ago today.”

“Yes, sir,” she said, “that is true.”

“I see, I see,” he said. “That’s wonderful. Well, then, happy birthday.”

“Thank you very much,” she said, and then it dawned on her that this was the very first time all day that anyone had wished her a happy birthday. Of course, if her parents had called from Oita, she might find a message from them on her answering machine when she got home after work.

“Well, well, this is certainly a cause for celebration,” he said. “How about a little toast? We can drink this red wine.”

“Thank you, sir, but I couldn’t. I’m working now.”

“Oh, what’s the harm in a little sip? No one’s going to blame you if I say it’s all right. Just a token drink for celebration.”

The old man slipped the cork from the bottle and dribbled a little wine into his glass for her. Then he took an ordinary drinking glass from a glass-doored cabinet and poured some wine for himself.

“Happy birthday,” he said. “May you live a rich and fruitful life, and may there be nothing to cast dark shadows on it.”

They clinked glasses.

May there be nothing to cast dark shadows on it: she silently repeated his remark to herself. Why had he chosen such unusual words for her birthday wish?

“Your twentieth birthday comes only once in a lifetime, miss. It’s an irreplaceable day.”

“Yes, sir, I know,” she said, taking one cautious sip of wine.

“And here, on your special day, you have taken the trouble to deliver my dinner to me like a kindhearted fairy.”

“Just doing my job, sir.”

“But still,” the old man said with a few quick shakes of the head. “But still, lovely young miss.”

The old man sat down in the leather chair by his desk and motioned her to the sofa. She lowered herself gingerly onto the edge of the sofa, with the wineglass in her hand. Knees aligned, she tugged at her skirt, clearing her throat again. She saw raindrops tracing lines down the windowpane. The room was strangely quiet.

“Today just happens to be your twentieth birthday, and on top of that you have brought me this wonderful warm meal,” the old man said, as if reconfirming the situation. Then he set his glass on the desktop with a little thump. “This has to be some kind of special convergence, don’t you think?”
Not quite convinced, she managed a nod.

“Which is why,” he said, touching the knot of his withered-leaf-colored necktie, “I feel it is important for me to give you a birthday present. A special birthday calls for a special commemorative gift.”

Flustered, she shook her head and said, “No, please, sir, don’t give it a second thought. All I did was bring your meal the way they ordered me to.”

The old man raised both hands, palms toward her. “No, miss, don’t you give it a second thought. The kind of ‘present’ I have in mind is not something tangible, not something with a price tag. To put it simply”–he placed his hands on the desk and took one long, slow breath–”what I would like to do for a lovely young fairy such as you is to grant a wish you might have, to make your wish come true. Anything. Anything at all that you wish for–assuming that you do have such a wish.”

“A wish?” she asked, her throat dry.

“Something you would like to have happen, miss. If you have a wish–one wish, I’ll make it come true. That is the kind of birthday present I can give you. But you had better think about it very carefully, because I can give you only one.” He raised one finger into the air. “Just one. You can’t change your mind afterward and take it back.”

She was at a loss for words. One wish? Whipped by the wind, raindrops tapped unevenly at the windowpane. As long as she remained silent, the old man looked into her eyes, saying nothing. Time marked its irregular pulse in her ears.

“I have to wish for something, and it will be granted?”

Instead of answering her question, the old man–hands still side-by-side on the desk–just smiled. He did it in the most natural and amiable way.

“Do you have a wish, miss–or not?” he asked gently.

“This really did happen,” she said, looking straight at me. “I’m not making it up.”

“Of course not,” I said. She was not the sort of person to invent some goofy story out of thin air. “So … did you make a wish?”

She went on looking at me for a while, then released a tiny sigh. “Don’t get me wrong,” she said. “I wasn’t taking him 100 percent seriously myself. I mean, at twenty you’re not exactly living in a fairy-tale world anymore. If this was his idea of a joke, though, I had to hand it to him for coming up with it on the spot.

He was a dapper old fellow with a twinkle in his eye, so I decided to play along with him. It was my twentieth birthday, after all: I figured I ought to have something not so ordinary happen to me that day. It wasn’t a question of believing or not believing.”

I nodded without saying anything.

“You can understand how I felt, I’m sure. My twentieth birthday was coming to an end with nothing special happening, nobody wishing me a happy birthday, and all I’m doing is carrying tortellini with anchovy sauce to people’s tables.”

I nodded again. “Don’t worry,” I said. “I understand.”

“So I made a wish.”

The old man kept his gaze fixed on her, saying nothing, hands still on the desk. Also on the desk were several thick folders that might have been account books, plus writing implements, a calendar, and a lamp with a green shade. Lying among them, his small hands looked like another set of desktop furnishings.

The rain continued to beat against the glass, the lights of Tokyo Tower filtering through the shattered drops.

The wrinkles on the old man’s forehead deepened slightly. “That is your wish?”

“Yes,” she said. “That is my wish.”

“A bit unusual for a girl your age,” he said. “I was expecting something different.”

“If it’s no good, I’ll wish for something else,” she said, clearing her throat. “I don’t mind. I’ll think of something else.”

“No no,” the old man said, raising his hands and waving them like flags. “There’s nothing wrong with it, not at all. It’s just a little surprising, miss. Don’t you have something else? Like, say, you want to be prettier, or smarter, or rich? You’re okay with not wishing for something like that–something an ordinary girl would ask for?”

She took some moments to search for the right words. The old man just waited, saying nothing, his hands at rest together on the desk again.

“Of course I’d like to be prettier or smarter or rich. But I really can’t imagine what would happen to me if any of those things came true. They might be more than I could handle. I still don’t really know what life is all about. I don’t know how it works.”

“I see,” the old man said, intertwining his fingers and separating them again. “I see.”

“So, is my wish okay?”

“Of course,” he said. “Of course. It’s no trouble at all for me.”

The old man suddenly fixed his eyes on a spot in the air. The wrinkles of his forehead deepened: they might have been the wrinkles of his brain itself as it concentrated on his thoughts. He seemed to be staring at something–perhaps all-but-invisible bits of down–floating in the air. He opened his arms wide, lifted himself slightly from his chair, and whipped his palms together with a dry smack. Settling in the chair again, he slowly ran his fingertips along the wrinkles of his brow as if to soften them, and then turned to her with a gentle smile.

“That did it,” he said. “Your wish has been granted.”

“Already?”

“Yes, it was no trouble at all. Your wish has been granted, lovely miss. Happy birthday. You may go back to work now. Don’t worry, I’ll put the cart in the hall.”

She took the elevator down to the restaurant. Empty-handed now, she felt almost disturbingly light, as though she were walking on some kind of mysterious fluff.

“Are you okay? You look spaced out,” the younger waiter said to her.

She gave him an ambiguous smile and shook her head. “Oh, really? No, I’m fine.”

“Tell me about the owner. What’s he like?”

“I dunno, I didn’t get a very good look at him,” she said, cutting the conversation short.

An hour later she went to bring the cart down. It was out in the hall, utensils in place. She lifted the lid to find the chicken and vegetables gone. The wine bottle and coffee carafe were empty. The door to room 604 stood there closed and expressionless. She stared at it for a time, feeling as though it might open at any moment, but it did not open. She brought the cart down on the elevator and wheeled it in to the dishwasher. The chef looked at the plate, empty as always, and nodded blankly.

“I never saw the owner again,” she said. “Not once. The manager turned out to have had just an ordinary stomachache and went back to delivering the owner’s meal again himself the next day. I quit the job after New Year’s, and I’ve never been back to the place. I don’t know, I just felt it was better not to go near there, kind of like a premonition.”

She toyed with a paper coaster, thinking her own thoughts. “Sometimes I get the feeling that everything that happened to me on my twentieth birthday was some kind of illusion. It’s as though something happened to make me think that things happened that never really happened. But I know for sure that they did happen. I can still bring back vivid images of every piece of furniture and every knickknack in room 604. What happened to me in there really happened, and it had an important meaning for me too.”

The two of us kept silent for a time, drinking our drinks and thinking our separate thoughts.

“Do you mind if I ask you one thing?” I asked. “Or, more precisely, two things.”

“Go right ahead,” she said. “I imagine you’re going to ask me what I wished for that time. That’s the first thing you’ll want to know.”

“But it looks as though you don’t want to talk about that.”

“Does it?”

I nodded.

She put the coaster down and narrowed her eyes as though staring at something off in the distance.

“You’re not supposed to tell anybody what you wished for, you know.”

“I’m not going to try to drag it out of you,” I said. “I would like to know whether or not it came true, though. And also–whatever the wish itself might have been–whether or not you later came to regret what it was you chose to wish for. Were you ever sorry you didn’t wish for something else?”

“The answer to the first question is yes and also no. I still have a lot of living left to do, probably. I haven’t seen how things are going to work out to the end.”

“So it was a wish that takes time to come true?”

“You could say that. Time is going to play an important role.”

“Like in cooking certain dishes?”

She nodded.

I thought about that for a moment, but the only thing that came to mind was the image of a gigantic pie cooking slowly in an oven at low heat.

“And the answer to my second question?”

“What was that again?”

“Whether you ever regretted having chosen what you wished for.”

A few moments of silence followed. The eyes she turned on me seemed to lack any depth. The desiccated shadow of a smile flickered at the corners of her mouth, giving me a kind of hushed sense of resignation.

“I’m married now,” she said. “To a CPA three years older than me. And I have two children, a boy and a girl. We have an Irish setter. I drive an Audi, and I play tennis with my girlfriends twice a week. That’s the life I’m living now.”

“Sounds pretty good to me,” I said.

“Even if the Audi’s bumper has two dents?”

“Hey, bumpers are made for denting.”

“That could be a great bumper sticker,” she said. “‘Bumpers are for denting.’”

I looked at her mouth when she said that.

“What I’m trying to tell you is this,” she said more softly, scratching an earlobe. It was a beautifully shaped earlobe. “No matter what they wish for, no matter how far they go, people can never be anything but themselves. That’s all.”

“There’s another good bumper sticker,” I said. “‘No matter how far they go, people can never be anything but themselves.’”

She laughed aloud, with a real show of pleasure, and the shadow was gone.

She rested her elbow on the bar and looked at me. “Tell me,” she said. “What would you have wished for if you had been in my position?”

“On the night of my twentieth birthday, you mean?”

“Uh-huh.”

I took some time to think about that, but I couldn’t come up with a single wish.

“I can’t think of anything,” I confessed. “I’m too far away now from my twentieth birthday.”

“You really can’t think of anything?”

I nodded.

“Not one thing?”

“Not one thing.”

She looked into my eyes again–straight in–and said, “That’s because you’ve already made your wish.”

——————————-END————————-

 
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Ditulis oleh pada Maret 18, 2013 in cerpen

 

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The Kidney–Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day — by Haruki Murakami

Cerita Pendek karya Haruki Murakami, mengenai pria dan kehidupan cintanya. Merupakan bagian dari kumpulan cerpen yang berjudul Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.  Cerpen ini seperti membuat pembaca mengintip kehidupan dibalik seorang penulis.

The Kidney–Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day — by Haruki Murakami

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Junpei was sixteen years old when his father made a surprising pronouncement. True, they were father and son; the same blood flowed through their veins. But they were not so close that they often opened their hearts to each other and it was extremely rare for Junpei’s father to offer him views of life that might (perhaps) be called philosophical. So that day’s exchange would remain vivid in his memory long after he had forgotten what prompted it.

“Among the women a man meets in his life, there are only three who have real meaning for him. No more, no less,” his father said—or, rather, declared. He spoke coolly but with utter certainty, as he might have in noting that the earth takes a year to revolve around the sun. Junpei listened in silence, partly because his father’s speech was so unexpected; he could think of nothing to say on the spur of the moment.

“You will probably become involved with many women in the future,” his father continued, “but you will be wasting your time if a woman is the wrong one for you. I want you to remember that.”

Later, several questions formed in Junpei’s young mind: Has my father already met his three women? Is my mother one of them? And, if so, what happened with the other two? But he was not able to ask his father these questions. As noted earlier, the two were not on such close terms that they could speak heart to heart.

When Junpei was eighteen, he left home and went to college in Tokyo, where over time he became involved with several women, one of whom had “real meaning” for him. Before he could express his feelings, however (by nature, it took him longer than most people to express his feelings), she married his best friend, and soon after that became a mother. For the time being therefore, she had to be eliminated from the list of possibilities that life had to offer Junpei. He had to harden his heart and sweep her from his mind, as a result of which the number of women remaining who would have real meaning in his life—if he accepted his father’s theory—was reduced to two.

Whenever Junpei met a new woman, he would ask himself, Is this a woman who has real meaning for me? And the question would create a dilemma. For even as he continued to hope (as who does not?) that he would meet someone who had real meaning for him, he was afraid of playing his few remaining cards too early. Having failed to connect with the very first important Other he encountered, Junpei had lost confidence in his ability—the crucial ability—to give outward expression to love at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner. I may be the type who manages to grab all the pointless things in life but lets the really important things slip away: whenever this thought crossed his mind—which was often—his heart would descend to a place devoid of light and warmth.

Whenever, after he had been with a new woman for some months, he began to notice something about her character or behavior, however trivial, that displeased him or touched a nerve, somewhere in a recess of his heart he would feel a twinge of relief. As a result, it became a pattern for him to carry on tepid, indecisive relationships with one woman after another. Each of these relationships dissolved on its own. The breakups never involved any discord or shouting matches, because he never became involved with women who seemed as if they might be difficult to get rid of. Before he knew it, he had developed a kind of nose for convenient partners.

Junpei was unsure whether this ability stemmed from his own innate character or whether it had been formed by his environment. If the latter, it might well have been the fruit of his father’s curse. Around the time that he graduated from college, he had a violent argument with his father and cut off all contact with him, but still the “three-women theory,” its basis never fully explained, clung tenaciously to him. At one point, he even half-jokingly considered becoming gay: maybe then he’d be able to free himself from this ridiculous countdown. For better or for worse, however, women were the only objects of Junpei’s sexual interest.

The next woman Junpei met was older than he was. She was thirty-six. Junpei was thirty-one. An acquaintance of his was opening a little French restaurant on a street leading out of central Tokyo, and Junpei was invited to the party. He wore a Perry Ellis shirt of deep-blue silk, with a matching summer sports jacket. He had planned to meet a close friend at the party but the friend cancelled at the last minute, which left Junpei with no one to talk to. He nursed a large glass of Bordeaux alone at the bar. Just as he was ready to leave and beginning to scan the crowd for the owner in order to say goodbye, a tall woman approached him holding a purple cocktail. Junpei’s first thought on seeing he was: Here is a woman with excellent posture.

“Somebody over there told me that you’re a writer. Is that true?” she asked, resting an elbow on the bar.

“I suppose so, in a way,” Junpei answered.

“A writer ‘in a way’?”

Junpei nodded.

“How many books have you published?”

“Two volumes of short stories and one book I translated. None of them sold much.”

She gave him a quick head-to-toe inspection and smiled with apparent satisfaction.

“Well, anyhow, you’re the first real writer I’ve met.”

“I might be a little disappointing,” Junpei said. “A pianist could play you a tune. A painter could draw something for you. A magician could perform a trick. There’s not much a writer can do on the spot.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I can just enjoy your artistic aura or something.”

“Artistic aura?” Junpei said.

“That special radiance—something you don’t find in ordinary people.”

“I look at my face in the mirror every morning when I’m shaving, but I’ve never noticed anything like that.”

She smiled and asked, “What kind of stories do you write?”

“People ask me that a lot, but my stories don’t really fit into any particular genre.”

She ran a finger around the lip of her cocktail glass. “I suppose that means you write literary fiction?”

“I suppose it does. You say that the way you might say ‘chain letters.’ ”

She smiled again. “Could I have heard your name?”

“Do you read literary magazines?”

She gave her head a small, sharp shake.

“Then you probably haven’t. I’m not that well known.”

Without asking his permission, she sat on the barstool next to his, sipped what was left of her cocktail, and told him her name: Kirie.

Junpei guessed that she was an inch or more taller than he was. She had a deep tan, her hair was short, and her head was a beautiful shape. She wore a pale-green linen jacket, with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, and a knee-length flared skirt. Under the jacket, she had on a simple cotton blouse with a small turquoise brooch at the collar. The swell of her breasts was neither large nor small. She dressed with style, and while there was nothing affected about it, her entire outfit seemed to express a strong and independent personality. Her lips were full, and they marked the ends of her sentences by spreading or pursing. This gave her a strangely lively quality. Three parallel creases formed across her broad forehead whenever she stopped to think about something; when she finished thinking, they disappeared.

Junpei was aware that he was attracted to her. Something indefinable but persistent was exciting him, pumping adrenaline to his heart. Suddenly aware that his throat was dry, he ordered a Perrier from a passing waiter, and as always he began to ask himself, Is she someone with real meaning for me? Is she one of the remaining two? Will she be my second strike? Should I let her go, or take a swing?

“Did you always want to be a writer?” Kirie asked.

“Hmm. Let’s just say I could never think of anything else I wanted to be.”

“So your dream came true.”

“I wonder. I wanted to be a great writer.” Junpei spread his hands about a foot apart. “There’s a pretty big distance between the two, I think.”

“Everybody has to start somewhere. You have your future ahead of you. You can’t attain perfection right away.” Then she asked, “How old are you?”

Being older than he was didn’t seem to bother her in the least. It didn’t bother Junpei, either. He preferred mature women to young girls. In most cases, it was easier to break up with an older woman.

“What kind of work do you do?” he asked.

Her lips formed a perfectly straight line, and her expression became earnest for the first time.

“What kind of work do you think I do?”

Junpei jogged his glass, swirling the red wine inside it exactly once. “Can I have a hint?”

“No hints. Is it so hard to tell? Observation and judgment are your business.”

“Not really,” he said. “What a writer is supposed to do is observe and observe and observe again, and put off making judgments till the last possible moment.”

“Of course,” she said. “All right, then, observe and observe and observe again, and then use your imagination. That wouldn’t clash with your professional ethics, would it?”

Junpei raised his eyes and studied Kirie’s face with new concentration, hoping to find a secret sign there. She looked straight into his eyes, and he looked straight into hers.

After a short pause, he said, “All right, this is what I imagine, based on nothing much: You’re a professional of some sort. Not just anyone can do your job. It requires some kind of special expertise.”

“Bull’s-eye! But try to narrow it down a little.”

“Something to do with music?”

“No.”

Fashion design?”

No.”

Tennis?”

No,” she said.

Junpei shook his head. “Well, you’ve got a tan, you’re solidly built, your arms have a good bit of muscle. Maybe you do a lot of outdoor sports. I don’t think you’re an outdoor laborer. You don’t have that vibe.”

Kirie rested her arms on the counter and turned them over, inspecting them. “You seem to be getting there.”

“But I still can’t give you the right answer.”

“It’s important to keep a few little secrets,” Kirie said. “I don’t want to deprive you of your professional pleasure—observing and imagining… I will give you one hint, though. It’s the same for me as for you.”

“The same how?”

“I mean, my profession is exactly what I always wanted to do, ever since I was a little girl. Like you. Getting to where I am, though, was not an easy journey.”

“Good,” Junpei said. “That’s important. Your work should be an act of love, not a marriage of convenience.”

“An act of love,” Kirie said. The words seemed to make an impression on her. “That’s a wonderful metaphor.”

“Meanwhile, do you think I might have heard your name somewhere?” Junpei asked.

“Probably not,” she answered, shaking her head. “I’m not that well known.”

“Oh, well, everybody has to start somewhere.”

“Exactly,” Kirie said with a smile. Then she turned serious. “My situation is different from yours in one way. I’m expected to attain perfection right from the start. No mistakes allowed. Perfection or nothing. No in-between. No second chances.”

“I suppose that’s another hint.”

“Probably.”

A waiter circulating with a tray of champagne approached them. She took two glasses from him and handed one to Junpei.

“Cheers,” she said.

“To our respective areas of expertise,” Junpei said.

They clinked glasses.

“By the way,” she said, “are you married?”

Junpei shook his head.

“Neither am I,” Kirie said.

She spent that night in Junpei’s room. They drank wine—a gift from the restaurant—had sex and went to sleep. When Junpei woke at ten o’clock the next morning, she was gone, leaving only an indentation, like a memory, in the pillow next to his and a note: “I have to go to work. Get in touch with me if you like.” She included her cell-phone number.

He called her, and they had dinner at a restaurant the following Saturday. They drank a little wine, had sex in Junpei’s room, and went to sleep. Again the next morning she was gone. It was Sunday, but her note said again, “Got to go to work.”

Junpei still had no idea what kind of work Kirie did, but it certainly started early in the morning. And—on occasion, at least—she worked on Sundays.

The two were never at a loss for things to talk about. She had a sharp mind and was knowledgeable on a broad range of topics. She enjoyed reading, but generally favored books other than fiction—biography, history, psychology, and popular science—and she retained an amazing amount of information. One time, Junpei was astounded at her detailed knowledge of the history of prefabricated housing.

“Prefabricated housing? Your work must have something to do with construction or architecture.”

“No,” she said. “I just tend to be attracted to highly practical topics. That’s all.”

She did, however, read the two story collections that Junpei had published, and found them “wonderful.” “They were far more enjoyable than I expected,” she told him. “To tell you the truth, I was worried. What would I do if I read your work and didn’t like it? What could I say? But there was nothing to worry about. I enjoyed them thoroughly.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Junpei said, relieved. He had had the same worry when, at her request, he gave her the books.

“I’m not just saying this to make you feel good,” Kirie said, “but you’ve got something special—that special element it takes to become an outstanding writer. Your stories are lively, and the style is beautiful, but mainly it’s that your writing is so balanced. For me, that is always the most important thing—in music, in fiction, in painting. Whenever I encounter a work or a performance that lacks balance, it makes me sick. It’s like motion sickness. That’s probably why I don’t go to concerts and hardly read any fiction.”

“Because you don’t want to encounter unbalanced things?”

“Exactly.”

“Sounds a little far out to me.”

“I’m a Libra. I just can’t stand it when things are out of balance. No, it’s not so much that I can’t stand it as…”

She closed her mouth in search of the right words, but she wasn’t able to find them, releasing instead a few tentative sighs. “Oh, well, never mind,” she went on. “I just wanted to say that I believe someday you are going to write novels. And, when you do that, you will become a more important writer. It may take a while, but that’s what I feel.”

“No, I’m a born short-story writer,” Junpei said dryly. “I’m not suited to writing novels.”

He offered nothing more on the subject, just lay quietly and listened to the hum of the air-conditioner. In fact, he had tried several times to write a novel, but had always bogged down partway through. He simply could not maintain the concentration it took to write a story over a long period of time. He would start out convinced that he was going to write something incredible. The story would flow out almost by itself. But, the farther he went with it, the more its energy and brilliance would fade—gradually at first, but undeniably, until, like an engine coming to a halt, it petered out entirely.

The two of them were in bed. It was autumn. They were naked after a long, warm session of lovemaking. Kirie’s shoulder pressed against Junpei, whose arms were around her. Two glasses of white wine stood on the night table.

“Junpei?”

“Uh-huh.”

“You’re in love with another woman, aren’t you? Somebody you can’t forget?”

“It’s true,” Junpei admitted. “You can tell?”

“Of course,” she said. “Women are very sensitive to such things. You can’t see her?”

“There are problems.”

“And no possibility those ‘problems’ could be solved?”

“None,” Junpei said with a quick shake of the head.

Kirie drank a little wine. “I don’t have anybody like that,” she said almost under her breath. “I like you a lot, Junpei. You really move me. When we’re together like this, I feel tremendously happy and calm. But that doesn’t mean that I want to have a serious relationship with you. How does that make you feel? Relieved?”

Junpei ran his fingers through her hair. Instead of answering her question, he asked one of his own. “Why is that?”

“Why don’t I want to be with you?”

“Uh-huh.

“Does it bother you?”

“A little.”

“I can’t have a serious everyday relationship with anybody. Not just you, anybody,” she said. “I want to concentrate completely on what I’m doing now. If I were living with somebody—if I had a deep emotional involvement with somebody—I might not be able to do that.”

Junpei thought for a minute. “You mean you don’t want to be distracted?”

“That’s right.”

“If you were distracted, you could lose your balance, and that might prove to be an obstacle to your career.”

“Exactly.” She nodded.

“But you still won’t tell me what that is.”

“Guess.”

“You’re a burglar.”

“No,” Kirie answered with amusement. “What a sexy guess! But a burglar doesn’t go to work early in the morning.”

“You’re a hit man.”

“Hit person,” she corrected him. “But no. Why are you coming up with these awful ideas?”

“So what you do is perfectly legal?”

“Perfectly.”

“Undercover agent?”

“No. O.K., let’s stop for today. I’d rather talk about your work. Tell me about what you’re writing. You are writing something now?”

“Yes, a short story.”

“What kind of story?”

“I haven’t finished it yet.”

“So tell me what has happened so far.”

Junpei fell silent. He had a policy of not talking to anyone about his works in progress. If he put his story into words and those words left his mouth, he feared, something important would evaporate like morning dew. Delicate shades of meaning would be flattened into a shallow surface. Secrets would no longer be secrets. But here in bed, running his fingers through Kirie’s short hair, Junpei felt that it might be all right to tell her. After all, he was taking a break from the story because he didn’t know how to finish it. He hadn’t been able to move forward for some days now.

“It’s in the third person, and the protagonist is a woman,” he began. “She’s in her early thirties, a skilled internist who practices at a big hospital. She’s single, but she’s having an affair with a surgeon at the same hospital. He’s in his late forties and has a wife and kids.”

Kirie took a moment to imagine the heroine. “Is she attractive?”

“I think so. Quite attractive,” Junpei said. “But not as attractive as you.”

Kirie kissed Junpei on the neck. “That’s the right answer,” she said.

“So, anyway, she takes a vacation and goes off on a trip by herself. It’s autumn. She’s staying at a little hot-spring resort in the mountains and she goes for a walk along a stream. She’s a bird-watcher, and she especially enjoys seeing kingfishers. She steps down into the dry streambed and notices an odd stone. It’s black with a tinge of red, it’s smooth, and it has a familiar shape. She realizes right away that it’s shaped like a kidney. I mean, she’s a doctor, after all. Everything about it is just like a real kidney—the size, the thickness.”

“So she picks it up and takes it home.”

“Right,” Junpei said. “She takes it to her office at the hospital and uses it as a paperweight. It’s just the right size and weight.”

“And it’s the perfect shape for a hospital.”

“Exactly,” Junpei said. “But a few days later she notices something strange.”

Kirie waited silently for him to continue with his story. Junpei paused as if deliberately teasing his listener, but in fact this was not deliberate at all. He had not yet written the rest of the story. This was the point at which he had stopped. Standing at this unmarked intersection, he surveyed his surroundings and worked his brain. Then he thought of how the story should go.

“Every morning, she finds the stone in a different place. She’s a very methodical person, so she always leaves it in exactly the same spot on her desk when she goes home at night, but in the morning she finds it on the seat of her swivel chair, or next to the vase, or on the floor. Her first thought is that her memory is playing tricks on her. The door to her office is locked, and no one else can get in. Of course, the night watchman has a key, but he has been working at the hospital for years and he would never take it upon himself to enter anyone’s office. Besides, what would be the point of his barging into her office every night just to change the position of a stone she’s using as a paperweight? Nothing else in the office has changed, nothing is missing, and nothing has been tampered with. The position of the rock is the only thing that changes. She’s totally stumped. What do you think is going on? Why do you think the stone moves during the night?”

“The kidney-shaped stone has its own reasons for doing what it does,” Kirie said with simple assurance.

“What kind of reasons can a kidney-shaped stone have?”

“It wants to shake her up. Little by little. Over a long period of time.”

“All right, then, why does it want to shake her up?”

“I don’t know,” she said. Then, with a giggle, she added, “Maybe it just wants to rock her world.”

“That’s the worst pun I’ve ever heard,” Junpei groaned.

“Well, you’re the writer. Aren’t you the one who decides?”

Junpei scowled. He felt a slight throbbing behind his temples from having concentrated so hard. Maybe he had drunk too much wine. “The ideas aren’t coming together,” he said. “My plots don’t move unless I’m actually sitting at my desk and moving my hands, making sentences. Talking about it like this, though, I’m beginning to feel as if the rest of the story is going to work itself out.”

“I’ll wait,” Kirie said. She reached over for her glass and took a sip of wine. “But the story is really getting interesting. I want to know what happens with the kidney-shaped stone.”

She turned toward him and pressed her shapely breasts against his side. Then, quietly, as if sharing a secret, she said, “You know, Junpei, everything in the world has its reasons for doing what it does.” Junpei was falling asleep and could not answer. In the night air, her sentences lost their shape as grammatical constructions and blended with the faint aroma of the wine before reaching the hidden recesses of his consciousness. “For example, the wind has its reasons. You just don’t notice it as you go about your life. Then, at some point, you are made to notice. The wind envelops you with a certain purpose in mind and shakes you up. It knows everything that’s inside you. And it’s not just the wind. Everything, even a stone, knows you. And all you can do is go with those things. As you take them in, you survive and deepen.”

For the next five days, Junpei hardly left the house; he stayed at his desk, writing the rest of the story of the kidney-shaped stone. As Kiri had predicted, the stone continues quietly to shake the doctor—little by little, but decisively. She is engaged in a hurried coupling with her lover in an anonymous hotel room one evening when she stealthily reaches around to his back and feels for the shape of a kidney. Something tells her that her kidney-shaped stone is lurking in there. The kidney is a secret informer that she herself has buried in her lover’s body. Beneath her fingers it squirms like an insect, sending her messages. She converses with the kidney exchanging intelligence. She can feel its sliminess against the palm of her hand

The doctor grows gradually used to the existence of the kidney-shaped stone that shifts position every night. She comes to accept it as natural. She is no longer surprised when she finds that it has moved. When she arrives at the hospital each morning, she looks for the stone, picks it up, and returns it to her desk. This has simply become part of her routine. As long as she remains in the room, the stone does not move. It stays quietly in one place, like a cat napping in the sun. It awakes and begins to move only after she has left the room and locked the door.

Whenever she has a spare moment at her desk, she reaches out and caresses the stone’s smooth dark surface. After a while, it becomes increasingly difficult for her to take her eyes off the stone; it is as if she has been hypnotized. She gradually loses interest in anything else. She can no longer read books. She stops going to the gym. Talking to her colleagues bores her. She becomes indifferent to her own grooming. She loses her appetite. Even the embrace of her lover becomes a source of annoyance. When there is no one else around, she speaks to the stone in a lowered voice—the way lonely people converse with a dog or a cat—and she listens to the wordless words the stone speaks to her. The dark kidney-shaped stone now controls the greater part of her life.

Surely the stone is not an object that has come to her from without: Junpei becomes aware of this as his story progresses. The main point is something inside herself. Something inside herself is activating the kidney-shaped stone and urging her to take some kind of action. It keeps sending her signals for that purpose—signals in the form of the stone’s nightly movements.

While he writes, Junpei thinks about Kirie. He senses that she (or something inside her) is propelling the story; it was never his intention to write something so divorced from reality. What Junpei had imagined vaguely beforehand was a more tranquil, psychological story line. In that story line, rocks did not take it upon themselves to move around.

Junpei imagined that the doctor would cut her ties to the married surgeon. She might even come to hate him. This was probably what she had been seeking all along, unconsciously.

Once the rest of the story had become visible to him, writing it out was relatively easy. Listening to the songs of Mahler at low volume, Junpei sat at his computer and wrote the conclusion at what was, for him, top speed.

The doctor makes her decision to part with her lover. “I can’t see you anymore,” she tells him. “Can’t we at least talk this over?” he asks. “No,” she tells him firmly, “that is impossible.” On her next free day, she boards a Tokyo Harbor ferry, and from the deck she throws the kidney-shaped stone into the sea. The stone sinks down to the bottom of the ocean, plunging toward the core of the earth. She resolves to start her life over. Having cast away the stone, she feels a new sense of lightness.
The next day, however, when she arrives at the hospital, the stone is on her desk, waiting for her. It sits exactly where it is supposed to be, as dark and kidney-shaped as ever.

As soon as he finished writing the story Junpei called Kirie. She would probably want to read the finished work, which she, in a sense had inspired him to write. His call, however, did not go through. “Your call cannot be completed as dialled,” a recorded voice said. “Please check the number and try again.” Junpei tried it again—and again. But the result was always the same She was probably having some kind of technical problem with her phone, he thought.

Junpei stuck close to home, waiting for word from Kirie, but nothing came. A month went by. One month became two, and two became three. The season changed to winter, and a new year began. His story came out in the February issue of a literary magazine. A newspaper ad for the magazine listed Junpei’s name and the title, “The Kidney-Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day.” Kirie might see the ad, buy the magazine, read the story, and call him to share her impressions—or so he hoped. But all that reached him were new layers of silence.

The pain that Junpei felt when Kirie vanished from his life was far more intense than he could have imagined. In the course of a day he would think any number of times, If only she were here! He missed her smile, he missed the words shaped by her lips, he missed the touch of her skin as they held each other. He gained no comfort from his favorite music or from the arrival of new books by authors that he liked. Everything felt distant, divorced from him. Kirie may have been woman No. 2, Junpei thought.

Junpei’s next encounter with Kirie occurred on day in early spring—though you couldn’t reall call it an encounter.

He was in a taxi stuck in traffic. The driver was listening to an FM broadcast. Kirie’s voice emerged from the radio. At first, Junpei didn’t realize that he was hearing Kirie. He simply thought the voice was similar to hers. But the more he listened the more it sounded like her, her manner of speaking—the same smooth intonation, the same relaxed style, the special way she had of pausing between thoughts.

Junpei asked the driver to turn up the volume.

“Sure thing,” the driver said.

Kirie was being interviewed by a female announcer. “So you’ve liked high places since you were a little girl?” the announcer asked.

“Yes,” Kirie—or a woman with exactly the same voice—said. “As long as I can remember, I’ve liked being up high. The higher I am, the more peaceful I feel. I was always nagging my parents to take me to tall buildings. I was a strange little creature,” she said with a laugh.

“Which is how you got started in your present line of work, I suppose.”

“First I worked as an analyst at a securities firm. But I knew right away that it wasn’t right for me. I left the company after three years, and the first thing I did was get a job washing windows in tall buildings. What I really wanted to be was a steeplejack, but that’s such a macho world—they don’t let women in very easily.”

“From securities analyst to window-washer—that’s quite a change!”

“To tell the truth, washing windows was much less stressful for me. If something’s going to fall, it’s just me, not stock prices.” Again the laugh.

“Now, by ‘window-washer’ you mean one of those people who get lowered down the side of a building on a platform?”

“Right. Of course, they give you a lifeline, but some spots you can’t reach without taking the lifeline off. That didn’t bother me at all. No matter how high we went, I was never scared—which made me a very valuable worker.”

“I suppose you like to go mountain-climbing?”

“I have almost no interest in mountains. I’ve tried climbing a few times, but it does nothing for me. The only things that interest me are man-made structures that rise straight up from the ground. Don’t ask me why.”

“So now you run a window-washing company that specializes in high-rise buildings in the Tokyo metropolitan area.”

“Correct,” she said. “I saved up and started my own little company about six years ago. Of course, I go out with my crews, but basically I’m an owner now. I don’t have to take orders from anybody, and I can make up my own rules.”

“Meaning you can take the lifeline off whenever you like?”

“In a word.” Another laugh.

“You really do like high places, don’t you?”

“I do. I feel it’s my calling to be up high. I can’t imagine doing any other kind of work. Your work should be an act of love, not a marriage of convenience.”

“It’s time for a song now,” the announcer said. “James Taylor, with ‘Up on the Roof.’ We’ll talk more about tightrope-walking after this.”

While the song played, Junpei leaned over the front seat and asked the driver,
“What does this woman do?”

“She puts up ropes between high-rise buildings and walks across them,” the driver explained. “With a long pole in her hands for balance. She’s some kind of performer. I guess she gets her kicks that way. I get scared just riding in a glass elevator.”

“That’s her profession?” Junpei asked. He noticed that his voice was dry and the weight had gone out of it. It sounded like someone else’s voice.

“Yeah. I guess she gets a bunch of sponsors together and puts on a performance. She just did one at some famous cathedral in Germany. She says she wants to do it on higher buildings but can’t get permission. ‘Cause if you go that high a safety net won’t help. Of course, she can’t make a living that way, so—well, you heard her say she’s got this window-cleaning company. Weird chick.”

“The most wonderful thing about it is that when you’re up there you change as a human being,” Kirie told the interviewer. “You have to change or you can’t survive. When I come out to a high place, it’s just me and the wind. Nothing else. The wind envelops me, shakes me up. It understands who I am. At the same time, I understand the wind. We accept each other and we decide to go on living together. That’s the moment I love more than anything. No, I’m not afraid. Once I set foot in that high place and enter completely into that state of concentration, all fear vanishes.”

She spoke with cool assurance. Junpei could not tell whether the interviewer understood what she was saying. When the interview ended, Junpei stopped the cab and got out, walking the rest of the way to his destination. Now and then he would look up at a tall building and at the clouds flowing past. No one could come between her and the wind, he realized, and he felt a violent rush of jealousy. But jealousy of what? The wind? Who could possibly be jealous of the wind?

Junpei waited several more months for Kirie to contact him. He wanted to see her and talk to her about lots of things, including the kidney-shaped stone. But the call never came, and his calls to her could never be completed as dialled. When summer came, he gave up. She obviously had no intention of seeing him again. And so the relationship ended calmly, without discord or shouting matches—exactly the way he had ended relationships with so many other women. At some point, the calls would stop coming, and everything would come to an end quietly, naturally.

Should I add her to the countdown? Was she one of my three women with real meaning? Junpei agonized over the question for some time without reaching a conclusion. I’ll wait another six months, he thought. Then I’ll decide.

During those six months, he wrote with great concentration and produced a large number of short stories. As he sat at his desk polishing a story, he would think, Kirie is probably in some high place with the wind right now. Here I am, all alone at my desk writing stories, while she’s all alone up there, without a lifeline. Once she enters that state of concentration, all fear vanishes: it’s just her and the wind. Junpei would often recall her words and realize that he had come to feel something special for Kirie, something that he had never felt for another woman. It was a deep emotion, with clear outlines and real weight. He was still unsure what to call this emotion. It was, at least, a feeling that could not be exchanged for anything else. Even if he never saw Kirie again, this feeling would stay with him forever. Somewhere in his body—perhaps in the marrow of his bones—he would continue to feel her absence.

As the year came to an end, Junpei made up his mind. He would count her as No. 2. She was one of the women who had real meaning for him. Strike two. Only one left.

But he was no longer afraid. Numbers aren’t the important thing, he told himself. The countdown has no meaning. Now he knew: what matters is deciding in your heart to accept another person completely. When you do that, it is always the first time and the last.

One morning, the doctor notices that the dark kidney-shaped stone has disappeared from her desk. And she knows: it won’t be coming back.

 
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Ditulis oleh pada Maret 11, 2013 in cerpen

 

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Short Story by Haruki Murakami: The Ice Man

Haruki Murakami, seorang penulis asal Jepang yang dikenal memiliki gaya tulisan dan penceritaan yang khas. Selain novel-novelnya seperti: A Wild Sheep Chase, Pinball, Hear the Wind Sing, Norwegian Wood, dan masih banyak lagi, Haruki Murakami juga turur membuat cerita-cerita pendek (cerpen) yang cukup laris ditampilkan di beberapa majalah maupun surat kabar, serta dikumpulkan dalam satu buku yang berjudul Blind Willow Sleeping Woman salah satu cerita pendek yang popular berjudul The Ice Man, mengisahakan kehidupan seorang wanita dan suaminya.

 The Ice Man by: Haruki Murakami

I married the Ice Man.
I first met the Ice Man at this ski resort hotel. I guess that’s the kind of place one ought to meet an Ice Man. In the boisterous hotel lobby, crowded with young people, the Ice Man was sitting in a chair at the furthest possible remove from the fireplace, silently reading a book. Though it was approaching high noon, it seemed to me that the cool, fresh light of the winter morning still lingered around him. Hey, that’s the Ice Man, my friend informed me in a low voice. But at that time, I had no idea what in the world an Ice Man was. My friend didn’t really know, either. She just knew that he existed and was called the Ice Man. She’s sure he’s made out of ice. That’s why he’s called the Ice Man, she said to me with a serious expression. It was like she was talking about a ghost or somebody with a contagious disease or something.

The Ice Man was tall, and from looking at him, his hair seemed bristly. When I saw his face, he looked fairly young still, but that thick, wiry hair was white, like it had been mixed with melted snow. He had high cheek-bones that appeared to have been chiseled out of cold, hard rock, and there was a slight coating of unmelted white frost on his fingers, but other than that the Ice Man’s appearance wasn’t much different from a normal person. While he probably couldn’t have been called handsome, there was undeniably something charming in his bearing. There are some people that just jab you sharply in the heart. It was especially this way with him, so he really stood out. He had a shy, transparent look, like an icicle on a winter morning. There was something in the way his body was put together that made his whole being seem to sparkle. I stood there for a moment and gazed at the Ice Man from afar. But the Ice Man didn’t lift his face from his book even once. Without moving so much as a muscle, he continued reading. It was as if he was trying to persuade himself that there wasn’t anybody at all around him.

The next day, the Ice Man was in the same place, reading a book exactly the same way. When I went to the cafeteria to get lunch, and again when I came back in the evening from skiing with everybody else, he was sitting in the same chair as the day before, pouring over the top of a page of the same book with the same expression on his face. And the next day was the same. The day passed, the night grew late, and he sat there as quietly as the winter outside the window, reading his book alone.

On the afternoon of the fourth day, I fashioned an appropriate excuse and didn’t go out to the slopes. Staying behind alone in the hotel, I wandered around the lobby for a while. Since everyone had gone out for an afternoon skiing, the lobby was deserted like a ghost town. The air in the lobby was unnecessarily warm and moist, and there was a strange, dank smell mixed in with it. It was the smell of people tracking snow into the hotel on the bottom of their boots and then carelessly sitting by the fireplace, where it slowly melted off. I stared vacantly out the various windows, and flipped through the newspaper. Then, bravely walking up to the Ice Man, I boldly started a conversation. I’m normally a very shy person, and not at all in the habit of talking to total strangers. But at that time, I really wanted to talk to the Ice Man, no matter what. It was our last night in that hotel, and I thought that if I let it slip away, I might never have another chance to talk to an Ice Man.

Don’t you ski? I asked the Ice Man, trying to sound as casual as possible. He slowly raised his head. He had an expression on his face like he could a hear the sound of wind blowing from incredibly far away. He looked at my face with eyes like that. He silently shook his head. I don’t ski. I’m fine just reading a book and watching the snow fall, he said. His words made little white clouds in the air, like when you breathe on a TV screen. I could literally see his words with my own eyes. He gently brushed off the frost that had accumulated on his fingers.

I didn’t know what to say after that. I just stood there blushing. The Ice Man looked in my eyes. Then he seemed to smile a little. But I wasn’t really sure. Did he really smile? Or was it just a feeling? Won’t you sit down? the Ice Man said. Let’s have a little conversation. You’re curious about me, right? You want to know what an Ice Man is, right? Then he really did laugh a little. It’s OK. There’s nothing to worry about. You won’t catch a cold or anything talking to me.

This is how I came to talk to the Ice Man. Sitting side-by-side on the sofa in the corner of the lobby, watching the snow flakes dance on the other side of the window, our conversation proceeded haltingly. I ordered some cocoa and drank it. The Ice Man didn’t have anything. He was just as bad a conversationalist as me. In addition, we didn’t really have anything in common to talk about. At first, we talked about the weather. Then, how cozy the hotel was. Did you come here alone? I asked the Ice Man. Yes, the Ice Man replied. The Ice Man asked me whether I liked to ski. Not really, I responded. My girlfriends invited me to go skiing with them for some reason, but I’m not very good at it. I really wanted to know what kind of thing the Ice Man was: whether he was really made out of ice or not; what he ate; where he spent the summer; whether he had a family–that type of thing. But the Ice Man didn’t seem to want to talk about himself. I didn’t dare to broach the subject either. He probably just doesn’t like to talk about stuff like that, I thought.

Instead, we talked about me as a human being. I really couldn’t believe it, but, for whatever reason, the Ice Man knew all kinds of things about me: the make up of my family, my age, my hobbies, my health, the school I attended, the friends I hung out with–he knew it all from beginning to end. He knew things about me that had happened so long ago that I had forgotten about them.
I don’t understand, I said, blushing. I had this feeling like I was naked in public. How do you know so much about me? I asked. Can you read people’s minds?

No, it is not possible for me to read people’s minds. But I know. I just know, he said. It’s just like seeing something frozen in ice. So, when I looked at you, I could see all kinds of things about you clearly.

Can you see my future? I asked.

I can’t see the future, the Ice Man said expressionlessly. And he shook his head slowly. I’m not interested in the future at all. To speak more precisely, I have no concept of the future. Ice has no future. It just captures the past. It captures everything just as it was in life, fresh, and preserves it that way. Ice can preserve all kinds of things in this way. Totally freshly, totally clearly. Just as it is. That’s the purpose of ice, it’s true quality.
Good, I said. I laughed a little. I’m relieved to hear it. I don’t want to know anything about my future.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After we had returned to Tokyo, we got together frequently. Eventually, we were going out on dates nearly every weekend. But we didn’t go out to movies together, or to coffee shops. We didn’t even have dinner. We’d always go to parks together, sit on a bench, and talk about stuff. We really talked about a lot of different stuff. But as always, the Ice Man wouldn’t say anything about himself. Why is that? I asked him. How come you never talk about yourself? I want to know more about you–where you were born, what kind of people your parents were, and how you got to be an Ice Man. The Ice Man looked at my face for a moment. Then he slowly shook his head. I don’t know either, the Ice Man said, his voice barely above a whisper. Then he exhaled a hard, white breath into the air. I don’t have a past. I know all things past. I preserve all things past. But I myself don’t have a past. I don’t know where I was born. I wouldn’t recognize my parents if I saw them. I don’t even know whether or not I have parents. I don’t even know how old I am. I don’t even know whether I have an age or not.
The Ice Man was as isolated as an iceberg in the mist.

And gradually I came to love the Ice Man very deeply. Having no past and no future, he loved just the me of the present. And I loved just the present Ice Man, without a past and without a future. This seemed a splendid thing to me. We even began to speak of marriage. I had just turned twenty years old. And the Ice Man was the first person to inspire such feelings in me. I couldn’t imagine then what in the world it meant to love the Ice Man. But if, hypothetically, the Ice Man hadn’t been my partner, but someone else instead, I wouldn’t have known anything then either, I guess.

My mother and my sister were strongly opposed to me marrying the Ice Man. You’re too young to get married, they said. You don’t even know clearly what kind of person he is, or what his family is like. Or where he was born, or when. As your family, we can’t consent to you marrying such a person. And, besides, he’s an Ice Man. What happens if he melts? they said. I know you don’t really understand it, but marriage is a big responsibility. Do you really think that you’re capable of the responsibility of marrying this Ice Man?

But their fears were needless. It wasn’t like the Ice Man was actually made out of ice. He was just cool like ice. He doesn’t melt if he gets too warm. That chilliness really was like ice, but his body was different from ice. And while he was incredibly cold, it wasn’t the kind of coldness that robs other people of their body heat.

So we got married. No one celebrated our wedding, though. Not my friends, or my parents, or my sisters: no one was happy about it. We didn’t have a ceremony. Since the Ice Man didn’t have a family register, we didn’t even apply for a marriage license. We just jointly decided that we were married. We bought a small cake and ate it together. That was the extent of our meager wedding. We rented a little apartment, and the Ice Man got a job at a meat storehouse to cover our expenses. He liked the cold a lot, and no matter how hard he worked, he never got tired. He didn’t even stop much to eat. Naturally, he quickly caught the boss’s eye, and was rewarded with a higher salary than anybody else. We didn’t bother anybody and nobody bothered us; and we had a quiet, happy life together.

Whenever the Ice Man embraced me, I always thought of this quiet, still iceberg that existed in some far off place. I thought that the Ice Man probably knew where that iceberg was. The ice was hard, harder than anything I could think of. It was the biggest iceberg in the world. But it was in some incredibly far away place. He was telling the secret of that ice to the world. At first, the Ice Man’s embraces made me feel disoriented, but after a while I got used to it. I even came to love it. As always, he didn’t talk about himself at all. Not even why he became the Ice Man. And I didn’t ask anything. Embracing in the silence, we shared that huge, still iceberg. The entirety of past events of the whole world for billions of years was stored pristinely, just as it was, inside that ice.

In our married life, there weren’t really any problems that could properly be called problems. We loved each other deeply, and nothing impeded that. While the neighbors seemed as if they were quite unfamiliar with the existence of Ice Men, as time passed, little by little they began to talk to him. Even though he’s an Ice Man, he’s no different than anybody else, they came to say. But in the depths of their hearts they never really accepted him, and so they never really accepted that I was married to him. We were a different type of human being from them, and no matter how much time passed, that chasm could never be filled.

The two of us were unable to have children. Perhaps the result of mixing human and Ice Man genes was problematic. In any event, since we didn’t have any children, I had an abundance of free time. I’d take care of the house work fairly quickly in the morning, but after that there was nothing to do. I didn’t have any friends to talk to, or to go somewhere with, and I didn’t have much to do with the neighbors. My mother and sisters, still mad that I had married the Ice Man, weren’t speaking to me. They were ashamed of my household. There wasn’t even anyone to call on the telephone. While the Ice Man was working at the storehouse, I stayed at home all alone, reading books or listening to music. I generally prefer staying at home to going out anyway, and I’m not the kind of person for whom being alone is a trial. But in spite of this, I was still young, and the endless daily repetition without any variation began to get me down. It wasn’t the boredom that got to me. The thing I couldn’t bear was the repetition. In the midst of that endless repetition, I felt kind of like my own shadow.

So one day, I made a proposal to my husband. Why don’t we go on a trip together somewhere, for a change of pace. Trip? he said. He narrowed his eyes as he looked at me. Why in the world should we take a trip? Aren’t you happy living here with me?

It’s not that, I said. I’m perfectly happy. There are no problems between us. It’s just that I’m bored. I want to go somewhere far away and see things I’ve never seen before. I want to breath air I’ve never breathed before. Do you understand? And anyway, we never went on a honeymoon. We have plenty of money in the bank, and taking a few days off shouldn’t be a problem. I just think a relaxing trip somewhere would be nice.

The Ice Man heaved a deep, frozen sigh. The sigh made a crisp sound as the air crystallized. He brought his long, frost-covered fingers together on his knee. I guess so. If you want to go on a trip so badly, I’m not particularly opposed to it. I don’t think it’s such a good idea to take a trip, but if it will make you happy, I’ll do whatever you want, go wherever you want to go. Taking a vacation should be OK since I always work really hard when I’m there. I don’t think there will be any problem. But where do you want to go?

How about the South Pole? I ventured. I chose the South Pole because I thought the Ice Man would be interested in a cold place. And besides, I’ve always wanted to go to the South Pole sometime. I wanted to see the Northern Lights, and penguins. I imagined myself wearing a fur coat with an attached hood, playing with a flock of penguins under a sky lit up by the aurora borealis.

When I said this, my husband the Ice Man looked straight into my eyes. He didn’t blink even once. His gaze like sharp icicles, it pierced through my eyes to the back of my head. He pondered it silently for a moment, and finally said It’s fine, with a twinkle. Fine, if that’s what you want to do, we’ll go to the South Pole. That’s what you want to do?

I agreed.

In about two weeks I think I can take a long vacation. We can probably make all the preparations before then. Really, it won’t be a problem.
I couldn’t respond right away. When the Ice Man had looked at me with that icicle gaze, it had numbed the inside of my head.

However, with the passage of time, I came to regret that I had ever brought up the idea of going to the South Pole with my husband. I don’t know why this was so. Before the words ‘South Pole’ came out of my mouth, I had this feeling that something had changed in him. His gaze had become even sharper and more icicle-like than before; his breath had become even whiter than before; and even more frost accumulated on his fingers than before. He became even more stubborn and reticent. Now, he wasn’t eating anything at all. All of these things made me terribly uneasy. Five days before we were due to depart, I boldly made a proposal to my husband. Let’s call off the South Pole trip, I said. I’ve thought about it a little, and it’s so cold, it will probably be bad for me.

It just seems like it would be a better idea to go somewhere a little more normal. I bet Europe is really nice; why don’t we go to Spain instead? We could drink wine, and eat paella, and watch bullfights. But my husband didn’t respond. For a little while, he just stared at some place far away. Then he looked at my face. He peered deeply into my eyes. That look, was so deep that I felt as if my body, just as it was, had evaporated into nothing. No, I don’t want to go to Spain, my husband, the Ice Man, said plainly. I know it’s not fair to you, but Spain is too hot and dusty for me. And the food is too spicy. Anyway, we’ve already bought to tickets for the South Pole. We’ve already bought a fur coat for you, and a pair of fur-lined boots. We can’t afford to waste all that. At this point, we have to go.

The way he said it scared me. I had this sense of foreboding that, if we went to the South Pole, something would happen and we would lose something that we would never be able to recover. I had terrible nightmares over and over. It was the same dream each time. In the dream, I was taking a walk, and I fell in a deep hole in the ground, but no one discovered me and I ended up being frozen there. Trapped inside that ice, I could see the sky clearly. I was conscious, but I couldn’t move even a single finger. It was a terribly strange feeling. I understood as moment by moment the present changed into the past. I had no future. The past kept piling up irreversibly. And everyone kept staring at me. They were looking at the past. I was looking backwards at passing scenes.

And then I would wake up. The Ice Man was sleeping next to me. He slept without breathing at all. Just like he had died and frozen that way or something. But I loved the Ice Man. I’d start to cry. My tears would land on his cheek. Then he’d wake up and hold me in his arms. I had a bad dream, I’d say. He’d shake his head silently in the darkness. It was just a dream, he’d say. Dreams are things from the past. They aren’t from the future. That wasn’t you imprisoned there. You imprison your dreams. You understand?

Yeah, I’d say. But I wasn’t convinced.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Eventually, my husband and I boarded the plane for the South Pole. There just wasn’t a good enough reason to cancel it. The pilot and the stewardesses on the plane to the South Pole were all totally silent. I really wanted to look at the scenery outside the window, but the clouds were thick and I couldn’t see anything. After a while, they were completely covered with ice anyway. My husband just silently read a book all the while. I didn’t have the excitement or sense of anticipation that usually accompanies going on a trip. I was just going through a set of pre-determined motions.

When I first stepped off the gangway and onto the surface of the South Pole, I could feel my husband’s whole body tremble violently. It was quicker than a wink, maybe half the time that it takes to blink, so no one noticed; and my husband didn’t so much as bat an eyelash, but I couldn’t miss it. Something deep inside my husband’s body had shuddered violently, although in secret. He stopped there, looked at the sky, then stared at his hands, and finally took a deep breath. Then he looked me in the eye and beamed merrily. So, this is the land of your dreams, he said. Yeah, I said.

The gloominess of the South Pole exceeded even the worst of my premonitions. Almost no one lived there. There is just one little featureless town there. In the town, there is just one little featureless hotel. There are no sights to see. There aren’t even any penguins. You can’t see the Northern Lights. Occasionally, I’d set about trying to ask people where I might be able to see penguins, but they would just shake their heads silently. They couldn’t comprehend my speech. I would try to draw a picture of a penguin on a piece of paper. But of course, they would just shake their heads silently. I was all alone. If you took one step outside of town, there was nothing beyond but ice. There weren’t any trees; there weren’t any flowers; no rivers, no ponds, no nothing. Wherever you went, there was nothing but ice. Frozen wasteland stretched out as far as the eye could see in every direction.

And yet my husband, breathing his white breath, frost growing on his fingers, his eyes, as ever, glaring icicle-like, walked around from place to place vigorously, as if knowing no satiation. The native speech of that land quickly returned to him, and he had conversations with the people of the town, in a voice that rang as hard as ice. They talked together for hours at a time, with serious expressions on their faces. I couldn’t understand at all what in the world they were talking about so earnestly. My husband was completely delirious in that place. There was something there that entranced him. At first, this really irritated me. I felt as though I had been left behind by myself. I felt neglected and betrayed by my husband.

Eventually, though, I lost all of my strength, in the midst of that desert world, hemmed in by thick ice. Slowly, gradually. I even lost the power to be upset. It was like I had misplaced the compass of my senses. Direction vanished, time vanished, even my awareness of my own existence vanished. I don’t know when this process began or when it ended. I came to realize, though, that I was imprisoned all alone, senseless, in the midst of that world of ice, in the midst of that color-starved eternal winter. After my senses were almost all gone, I understood only this. My husband in the South Pole was not my former husband. It wasn’t that his behavior toward me had changed. He was as concerned about me as ever, and his speech was always kind. And I’m sure that he meant everything that he said. He was simply a different Ice Man than the one that I met at the ski lodge. But there wasn’t anyone there who I could ask about it. All of the South Poleans were friends with him, and besides, they couldn’t understand my speech. They all breathed their white breaths, frost grew on their faces, and they told their jokes, debated their debates, and sang their songs in South Pole-ese. I ended up locking myself in my room alone, staring blankly at the never-changing gray sky, and pouring over the impossibly complicated mystery of South Pole-ese grammar, even though I had no hope of ever mastering it.

There were no planes at the airstrip. After the plane that had brought us here promptly took off again, there hadn’t been even one single arrival. The runway had eventually become buried in a thick layer of ice. Just like my heart.

Winter has come, my husband said. It’s a very long winter. No planes will come, no ships will come. Everything is frozen. We’ll just have to wait here for the spring, he said.

After we had been in the South Pole for about three months, I realized that I was pregnant. I knew right away: the child to whom I would give birth was a little Ice Man. My uterus was covered with ice, and the amniotic fluid was mingled with slush. I could feel the chill growing in my abdomen. I just knew. The child would have his father’s icicle gaze, and frost would grow on his little fingers. And I just knew: our new family would never again leave the South Pole. Our feet would surely catch on the insensate mass of the eternal past. No matter how hard we tried, we would never shake it off.

Now, there is almost nothing left of my former self. My natural warmth has been displaced far, far away. Sometimes I forget that I ever even had it. And yet somehow I can still cry. I am truly alone. I am in a colder, lonelier place than anyone in the whole world. When I cry, the Ice Man kisses my cheek. His kisses turn my tears to ice. Then he takes these ice tears in his hand and sets them on his tongue. I love you, he says. It’s not a lie. I understand this well. The Ice Man loves me. But then, from some far-off place, a wind stirs and blows his white, frozen words away, away, into the past. I cry. Icy tears stream down my face. In our far away, frozen home at the South Pole.

 
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Ditulis oleh pada Maret 6, 2013 in cerpen

 

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