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Ha r uki Mur a ka mi


IhiIi GabrieI


IubIished by Vinlage 2002
8 10 9 7
Coyrighl Haruki Murakami 1999
IngIish lransIalion Haruki Murakami 2001
Haruki Murakami has asserled his righl under lhe Coyrighl, Designs and
Ialenls Acl 1988 lo be idenlified as lhe aulhor of lhis vork
This book is soId sub|ecl lo lhe condilion lhal il shaII nol by vay of lrade or
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condilion being imosed on lhe subsequenl urchaser
Iirsl ubIished by Kodansha Lld in 1999 vilh lhe lilIe Spuicniku nc kci|iic
Iirsl ubIished in Greal rilain in 2001 by The HarviII Iress
Vinlage Random House, 20 VauxhaII ridge Road, London SW1V 2SA
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Sccnner's note: the book hcs been proo]ed cnd ]ormctted cs c Word doc to mctch 0K
pcperbcck edton cs closely cs possble, ncludny the use o] smlcr ]onts, hecdnys, cnd
pcrcyrcph spccny. 1cn. 2010.

SputnIk Sweetheart


On 4 Oclober 1957, lhe Soviel Union Iaunched lhe vorId's firsl
man-made saleIIile, Spuinik |, from lhe aikanor Sace Cenlre
in lhe ReubIic of Kazakhslan. Spuinik vas 58 cm in diameler,
veighed 83.6 kiIograms, and orbiled lhe Iarlh in 96 minules
and 12 seconds.
On 3 November of lhe same year, Spuinik || vas successfuIIy
Iaunched, vilh lhe dog Laika on board. Laika became lhe firsl
Iiving being lo Ieave lhe Iarlh's almoshere, bul lhe saleIIile
vas never recovered, and Laika ended u sacrificed for lhe
sake of bioIogicaI research in sace.

from Tnc Ccnp|cic Cnrcnic|c cj Wcr|! Hisicrq


In lhe sring of her lvenly-second year, Sumire feII in Iove for
lhe firsl lime in her Iife. An inlense Iove, a verilabIe lornado
sveeing across lhe IainsfIallening everylhing in ils alh,
lossing lhings u in lhe air, riing lhem lo shreds, crushing
lhem lo bils. The lornado's inlensily doesn'l abale for a second
as il bIasls across lhe ocean, Iaying vasle lo Angkor Wal,
incineraling an Indian |ungIe, ligers and everylhing,
lransforming ilseIf inlo a Iersian deserl sandslorm, burying an
exolic forlress cily under a sea of sand. In shorl, a Iove of lruIy
monumenlaI roorlions. The erson she feII in Iove vilh
haened lo be 17 years oIder lhan Sumire. And vas married.
And, I shouId add, vas a voman. This is vhere il aII began,
and vhere il aII ended. A|ncsi.

Al lhe lime, SumireVioIel in }aanesevas slruggIing lo
become a vriler. No maller hov many choices Iife mighl bring
her vay, il vas noveIisl or nolhing. Her resoIve vas a reguIar
Rock of GibraIlar. Nolhing couId come belveen her and her
failh in Iileralure.
Afler she gradualed from a ubIic high schooI in Kanagava
Irefeclure, she enlered lhe IiberaI arls dearlmenl of a cosy
IillIe rivale coIIege in Tokyo. She found lhe coIIege lolaIIy oul
of louch, a Iukevarm, disiriled Iace, and she Ioalhed iland
found her feIIov sludenls (vhich vouId incIude me, I'm
afraid) hoeIessIy duII, second-rale secimens. UnsurrisingIy,
lhen, |usl before her |unior year, she simIy ued and Iefl.
Slaying lhere any Ionger, she concIuded, vas a vasle of lime. I
lhink il vas lhe righl move, bul if I can be aIIoved a mediocre
generaIizalion, don'l oinlIess lhings have a Iace, loo, in lhis
far-from-erfecl vorId` Remove everylhing oinlIess from an
imerfecl Iife and il'd Iose even ils imerfeclion.

Sumire vas a hoeIess romanlic, a bil sel in her vays
innocenl of lhe vays of lhe vorId, lo ul a nice sin on il. Slarl
her laIking and she'd go on nonslo, bul if she vas vilh
someone she didn'l gel aIong vilhmosl eoIe in lhe vorId,
in olher vordsshe bareIy oened her moulh. She smoked loo
much, and you couId counl on her lo Iose her lickel every lime
she look lhe lrain. She'd gel so engrossed in her lhoughls al
limes she'd forgel lo eal, and she vas as lhin as one of lhose
var orhans in an oId IlaIian fiImIike a slick vilh eyes. I'd
Iove lo shov you a holo of her, bul I don'l have any. She
haled having her holograh lakenno desire lo Ieave behind
for oslerily a Pcriraii cj inc Ariisi as a Ycung (Wc)Man. If lhere
vere a holograh of Sumire laken al lhal lime, I knov il
vouId rovide a vaIuabIe record of hov seciaI cerlain eoIe
can be.
I'm gelling lhe order of evenls mixed u. The voman Sumire
feII in Iove vilh vas named Miu. Al Ieasl lhal's vhal everyone
caIIed her. I don'l knov her reaI name, a facl lhal caused
robIems Ialer on, bul again I'm gelling ahead of myseIf. Miu
vas Korean by nalionaIily, bul she didn'l seak a vord of
Korean unliI she decided lo sludy il vhen she vas in her mid-
lvenlies. She vas born and raised in }aan and sludied al a
music academy in Irance, so as veII as }aanese she vas fIuenl
in bolh Irench and IngIish. She aIvays dressed veII, in a
refined vay, vilh exensive yel modesl accessories, and she
drove a lveIve-cyIinder, navy-bIue }aguar.

The firsl lime Sumire mel Miu, she laIked aboul }ack Kerouac's
noveIs. Sumire vas absoIuleIy nuls aboul Kerouac. She aIvays
had her Lilerary IdoI of lhe Monlh, and al lhal oinl il
haened lo be lhe oul-of-fashion Kerouac. She carried a dog-
cared coy of On inc |ca! or Icncscnc Tratc|cr sluck in her coal
ockel, lhumbing lhrough lhem every chance she gol.
Whenever she came across Iines she Iiked, she'd mark lhem in
enciI and commil lhem lo memory as if lhey vere HoIy Wril.
Her favourile Iines vere from lhe fire Iookoul seclion of
Icncscnc Tratc|cr. Kerouac senl lhree IoneIy monlhs in a cabin
on lo of a high mounlain, vorking as a fire Iookoul.
Sumire eseciaIIy Iiked lhis arl:

Nc nan sncu|! gc inrcugn |ijc uiincui cncc
cxpcricncing nca|inq, ctcn |crc! sc|iiu!c in inc
ui|!crncss, jin!ing ninsc|j !cpcn!ing sc|c|q cn
ninsc|j an! incrc|q |carning nis iruc an! ni!!cn

Don'l you |usl Iove il` she said. Ivery day you sland on
lo of a mounlain, make a 360 svee, checking lo see if lhere
are any fires. And lhal's il. You're done for lhe day. The resl of
lhe lime you can read, vrile, vhalever you vanl. Al nighl
scruffy bears hang around your cabin. Thal's lhe Iife!
Comared lo lhal, sludying Iileralure in coIIege is Iike biling
dovn on lhe biller end of a cucumber.
Okay, I said, bul someday you'II have lo come dovn off
lhal mounlain. As usuaI, my raclicaI, humdrum oinions
didn'l faze her.

Sumire vanled lo be Iike a characler in a Kerouac noveIviId,
cooI, dissoIule. She'd sland around, hands shoved dee in her
coal ockels, her hair an uncombed mess, slaring vacanlIy al
lhe sky lhrough her bIack Iaslic-framed Dizzy GiIIesie
gIasses, vhich she vore desile her 20/20 vision. She vas
invariabIy decked oul in an oversized herringbone coal from a
second-hand sho and a air of rough vork bools. If she'd
been abIe lo grov a beard, I'm sure she vouId have.
Sumire vasn'l exaclIy a beauly. Her cheeks vere sunken, her
moulh a IillIe loo vide. Her nose vas on lhe smaII side and
ulurned. She had an exressive face and a greal sense of
humour, lhough she hardIy ever Iaughed oul Ioud. She vas
shorl, and even in a good mood she laIked Iike she vas haIf a
sle avay from icking a fighl. I never knev her lo use Iislick
or eyebrov enciI, and I have my doubls lhal she even knev
bras came in differenl sizes. SliII, Sumire had somelhing seciaI
aboul her, somelhing lhal drev eoIe lo her. Defining lhal
seciaI somelhing isn'l easy, bul vhen you gazed inlo her eyes,
you couId aIvays find il, refIecled dee dovn inside.

I mighl as veII |usl come righl oul and say il. I vas in Iove vilh
Sumire. I vas allracled lo her from lhe firsl lime ve laIked, and
soon lhere vas no lurning back. Ior a Iong lime she vas lhe
onIy lhing I couId lhink aboul. I lried lo leII her hov I feIl, bul
somehov lhe feeIings and lhe righl vords couIdn'l connecl.
Maybe il vas for lhe besl. If I had been abIe lo leII her my
feeIings, she vouId have |usl Iaughed al me.
WhiIe Sumire and I vere friends, I venl oul vilh lvo or
lhree olher girIs. Il's nol lhal I don'l remember lhe exacl
number. Tvo, lhreeil deends on hov you counl. Add lo lhis
girIs I sIel vilh once or lvice, and lhe Iisl vouId be a IillIe
Ionger. Anyhov, vhiIe I made Iove lo lhese olher girIs, I
lhoughl aboul Sumire. Or al Ieasl lhoughls of her grazed a
corner of my mind. I imagined I vas hoIding her. Kind of a
caddish lhing lo do, bul I couIdn'l heI myseIf.

Lel me gel back lo hov Sumire and Miu mel.
Miu had heard of }ack Kerouac and had a vague sense lhal he
vas a noveIisl of some kind. Whal kind of noveIisl, lhough, she
couIdn'l recaII. Kerouac . hmm. Wasn'l he a Sulnik`
Sumire couIdn'l vork oul vhal she meanl. Knife and fork
oised in mid-air, she gave il some lhoughl. Sulnik` You
mean lhe firsl saleIIile lhe Soviels senl u, in lhe fiflies` }ack
Kerouac vas an American noveIisl. I guess lhey do overIa in
lerms of generalion.
Isn'l lhal vhal lhey caIIed lhe vrilers back lhen` Miu
asked. She lraced a circIe on lhe labIe vilh her fingerli, as if
rummaging lhrough some seciaI |ar fuII of memories.
Sulnik . `
The name of a Iilerary movemenl. You knovhov lhey
cIassify vrilers in various schooIs of vriling. Like Shiga Naoya
vas in lhe While irch SchooI.
IinaIIy il davned on Sumire. Bcainik!
Miu IighlIy dabbed al lhe corner of her moulh vilh a nakin.
ealnikSulnik. I never can remember lhose kinds of lerms.
Il's Iike lhe Kenmun Resloralion or lhe Trealy of RaaIIo.
Ancienl hislory.
A genlIe siIence descended on lhem, suggeslive of lhe fIov of
The Trealy of RaaIIo` Sumire asked.
Miu smiIed. A noslaIgic, inlimale smiIe, Iike a lreasured oId
ossession uIIed oul of lhe back of a draver. Her eyes
narroved in an ullerIy charming vay. She reached oul and,
vilh her Iong, sIim fingers, genlIy ruffIed Sumire's aIready
lousIed hair. Il vas such a sudden yel naluraI geslure lhal
Sumire couId onIy relurn lhe smiIe.

Iver since lhal day, Sumire's rivale name for Miu vas Spuinik
Succincari. She Ioved lhe sound of il. Il made her lhink of Laika,
lhe dog. The man-made saleIIile slreaking soundIessIy across
lhe bIackness of ouler sace. The dark, Iuslrous eyes of lhe dog
gazing oul of lhe liny vindov. In lhe infinile IoneIiness of
sace, vhal couId Laika ossibIy be Iooking al`

This Sulnik conversalion look Iace al a vedding recelion
for Sumire's cousin al a osh holeI in Akasaka. Sumire vasn'l
arlicuIarIy cIose lo her cousin, in facl lhey didn'l gel aIong al
aII. She'd |usl as soon be lorlured as allend one of lhese
recelions, bul she couIdn'l back oul of lhis one. She and Miu
vere sealed nexl lo each olher al one of lhe labIes. Miu didn'l
go inlo aII lhe delaiIs, bul il seemed she'd laughl Sumire's
cousin lhe ianoor somelhing aIong lhose Iinesvhen she
vas laking lhe enlrance exams for lhe universily music
dearlmenl. Il vasn'l a Iong or very cIose reIalionshi, cIearIy,
bul Miu feIl obIiged lo allend.
In lhe inslanl Miu louched her hair, Sumire feII in Iove, as if
she vere crossing a fieId vhen |ang! a boIl of Iighlning zaed
her righl in lhe head. Somelhing Iike an arlislic reveIalion.
Which is vhy, al lhal oinl, il didn'l maller lo Sumire lhal lhe
erson she feII in Iove vilh haened lo be a voman.
I don'l lhink Sumire ever had vhal you'd caII a Iover. In high
schooI she had a fev boyfriends, guys she'd go lo lhe cinema
vilh, go svimming vilh. I couIdn'l iclure any of lhose
reIalions ever gelling very dee. Sumire vas loo focused on
becoming a noveIisl lo reaIIy faII for anybody. If she did
exerience sexor somelhing cIose lo ilin high schooI, I'm
sure il vouId have been Iess oul of sexuaI desire or Iove lhan
Iilerary curiosily.
To be erfeclIy frank, sexuaI desire has me baffIed, she
once loId me, making a sober face. This vas |usl before she Iefl
coIIege, I beIieve, she'd dovned five banana daiquiris and vas
relly drunk. You knovhov il aII comes aboul. Whal's your
lake on il`
SexuaI desire's nol somelhing you undersland, I said,
giving my usuaI middIe-of-lhe-road oinion. Il's |usl incrc.
She scrulinized me for a vhiIe, as if I vere some machine
running on a reviousIy unheard-of over source. Losing
inleresl, she slared u al lhe ceiIing, and lhe conversalion
elered oul. No use laIking lo him aboul inai, she musl have
Sumire vas born in Chigasaki. Her home vas near lhe
seashore, and she grev u vilh lhe dry sound of sand-fiIIed
vind bIoving againsl her vindovs. Her falher ran a denlaI
cIinic in Yokohama. He vas remarkabIy handsome, his veII-
formed nose reminding you of Gregory Ieck in Spc|||cun!.
Sumire didn'l inheril lhal handsome nose, nor, according lo
her, did her brolher. She found il amazing lhal lhe genes lhal
had roduced lhal nose had disaeared. If lhey reaIIy vere
buried for ever al lhe bollom of lhe gene ooI, lhe vorId vas a
sadder Iace. Thal's hov vonderfuI lhis nose vas.
Sumire's falher vas an aImosl mylhic figure lo lhe vomen in
lhe Yokohama area vho needed denlaI care. In lhe examinalion
room he aIvays vore a surgicaI ca and Iarge mask, so lhe onIy
lhing lhe alienl couId see vas a air of eyes and ears. Iven so,
il vas obvious hov allraclive he vas. His beaulifuI, manIy
nose sveIIed u suggesliveIy from under lhe mask, making his
femaIe alienls bIush. In an inslanlregardIess of vhelher
lheir denlaI Ian covered lhe coslslhey feII in Iove.

Sumire's molher assed avay from a congenilaI hearl defecl
vhen she vas |usl 31. Sumire hadn'l quile lurned lhree. The
onIy memory she had of her molher vas a vague one of lhe
scenl of her skin. }usl a couIe of holograhs of her
remaineda osed holo laken al her vedding, and a
snashol laken immedialeIy afler Sumire vas born. Sumire
used lo uII oul lhe holo aIbum and gaze al lhe iclures.
Sumire's molher vaslo ul il miIdIya comIeleIy
forgellabIe erson. A shorl, humdrum hairslyIe, cIolhes lhal
made you vonder vhal she couId have been lhinking, an iII-al-
ease smiIe. If she'd laken one sle back, she vouId have meIled
righl inlo lhe vaII. Sumire vas delermined lo brand her
molher's face on her memory. Then someday she mighl meel
her in her dreams. They'd shake hands, have a nice chal. ul
lhings veren'l lhal easy. Try as she mighl lo remember her
molher's face, il soon faded. Iorgel aboul dreamsif Sumire
had assed her molher on lhe slreel, in broad dayIighl, she
vouIdn'l have knovn her.
Sumire's falher hardIy ever soke of his Iale vife. He vasn'l
a laIkalive man lo begin vilh, and in aII asecls of Iifeas
lhough il vere a kind of moulh infeclion he vanled lo avoid
calchinghe never laIked aboul his feeIings. Sumire had no
memory of ever asking her falher aboul her dead molher.
Ixcel for once, vhen she vas sliII very smaII, for some reason
she asked him, Whal vas my molher Iike` She remembered
lhis conversalion very cIearIy.
Her falher Iooked avay and lhoughl for a momenl before
reIying. She vas good al remembering, lhings, he said.
And she had nice handvriling.
A slrange vay lo describe someone. Sumire vas vailing
execlanlIy, lhe snov-vhile firsl age of her nolebook oen,
for nourishing vords lhal couId have been a source of varmlh
and comforla iIIar, an axis, lo heI ro u her uncerlain
Iife here on lhis lhird Ianel from lhe sun. Her falher shouId
have said somelhing lhal his young daughler couId have heId
on lo. ul Surnire's handsome falher vasn'l going lo seak
lhose vords, lhe very vords she needed mosl.

Sumire's falher remarried vhen she vas six, and lvo years
Ialer her younger brolher vas born. Her nev molher vasn'l
relly eilher. On lo of vhich she vasn'l so good al
remembering lhings, and her handvriling vasn'l any greal
shakes. She vas a kind and fair erson, lhough. Thal vas a
Iucky lhing for IillIe Sumire, her brand-nev sledaughler. No,
|uckq isn'l lhe righl vord. Afler aII, her falher had chosen lhe
voman. He mighl nol have been lhe ideaI falher, bul vhen il
came lo choosing a male, he knev vhal he vas doing.
Her slemolher's Iove for her never vavered during her
Iong, difficuIl years of adoIescence, and vhen Sumire decIared
she vas going lo quil coIIege and vrile noveIs, her
slemolherlhough she had her ovn oinions on lhe maller
resecled Sumire's desire. She'd aIvays been Ieased lhal
Sumire Ioved lo read so much, and she encouraged her Iilerary
Her slemolher evenluaIIy von over her falher, and lhey
decided lhal, unliI Sumire lurned 28, lhey vouId rovide her
vilh a smaII sliend. If she vasn'l abIe lo make a Iiving by
vriling lhen, she'd be on her ovn. If her slemolher hadn'l
soken u in her defence, Sumire mighl very veII have been
lhrovn oulenniIess, vilhoul lhe necessary sociaI skiIIs
inlo lhe viIderness of a somevhal humourIess reaIily. The
Iarlh, afler aII, doesn'l creak and groan ils vay around lhe sun
|usl so human beings can have a good lime and a bil of a Iaugh.

Sumire mel her Sulnik Sveelhearl a IillIe more lhan lvo years
afler she'd droed oul of coIIege.
She vas Iiving in a one-room aarlmenl in Kichi|o|i vhere
she made do vilh lhe minimum amounl of furnilure and lhe
maximum number of books. She'd gel u al noon, and lake a
vaIk around Inogashira Iark in lhe aflernoon, vilh aII lhe
enlhusiasm of a iIgrim making her vay lhrough sacred hiIIs.
On sunny days she'd sil on a ark bench, cheving on bread,
uffing one cigarelle afler anolher, reading. On rainy or coId
days she'd go inlo an oId-fashioned coffee house vhere
cIassicaI music Iayed al fuII voIume, sink dovn inlo a vorn-
oul sofa, and read her books, a serious Iook on her face as she
Iislened lo Schuberl's symhonies, ach's canlalas. In lhe
evening she'd have one beer and buy some ready-lo-eal food al
lhe suermarkel for dinner.
y 11 .m. she'd sellIe dovn al her desk. There'd aIvays be a
lhermos of hol coffee, a coffee mug (one I gave her on her
birlhday, vilh a iclure of Snafkin on il), a ack of MarIboro
and a gIass ashlray. Of course she had a vord rocessor as
veII. Iach key vilh ils very ovn Ieller.
A dee siIence ensued. Her mind vas as cIear as lhe vinler
nighl sky, lhe ig Dier and Norlh Slar in Iace, lvinkIing
brighlIy. She had so many lhings she had lo vrile, so many
slories lo leII. If she couId onIy find lhe righl oulIel, healed
lhoughls and ideas vouId gush oul Iike Iava, congeaIing inlo a
sleady slream of invenlive vorks lhe Iikes of vhich lhe vorId
had never seen. IeoIe's eyes vouId o vide oen al lhe
sudden debul of lhis Prcnising Ycung Wriicr uiin a |arc Ta|cni.
A holo of her, smiIing cooIIy, vouId aear in lhe arls seclion
of lhe nevsaer, and edilors vouId beal a alh lo her door.
ul il never haened lhal vay. Sumire vrole some vorks
lhal had a beginning. And some lhal had an end. ul never one
lhal had bolh a beginning an! an end.

Nol lhal she suffered from vriler's bIockfar from il. She
vrole cn!|css|q, everylhing lhal came inlo her head. The
robIem vas lhal she vrole icc nucn. You'd lhink lhal aII she'd
have lo do vas cul oul lhe exlra arls and she'd be fine, bul
lhings veren'l lhal easy. She couId never decide on lhe big
iclurevhal vas necessary and vhal vasn'l. The foIIoving
day vhen she re-read vhal she'd rinled oul, every Iine Iooked
absoIuleIy essenliaI. Or eIse she'd Tiex oul lhe vhoIe lhing.
Somelimes, in desair, she'd ri u her enlire manuscril and
consign il lo lhe bin. If lhis had been a vinler nighl and lhe
room had had a fireIace, lhere vouId have been a cerlain
varmlh lo ilimagine a scene from Ia Bcncncbul Sumire's
aarlmenl nol onIy Iacked a fireIace, il didn'l even have a
hone. Nol lo menlion a decenl mirror.

On veekends, Sumire vouId come over lo my aarlmenl,
drafls of her noveIs siIIing oul of her armslhe Iucky
manuscrils lhal had escaed lhe massacre. SliII, lhey made
quile a iIe. Sumire vouId shov her manuscrils lo onIy one
erson in lhe vhoIe vorId. Me.
In coIIege I'd been lvo years ahead of her, and our sub|ecls
vere differenl, so lhere vasn'l much chance ve'd meel. We
mel by ure chance. Il vas a Monday in May, lhe day afler a
slring of hoIidays, and I vas al lhe bus slo in fronl of lhe main
gale of lhe coIIege, slanding lhere reading a IauI Nizan noveI
I'd found in a second-hand booksho. A shorl girI beside me
Ieaned over, look a Iook al lhe book, and asked me, Why Nizan,
of aII eoIe` She sounded Iike she vas lrying lo ick a fighl.
Like she vanled lo kick somelhing and send il fIying, bul
Iacking a suilabIe largel had allacked my choice of reading
Sumire and I vere very aIike. Devouring books came as
naluraIIy lo us as brealhing. Ivery sare momenl ve'd sellIe
dovn in some quiel corner, endIessIy lurning age afler age.
}aanese noveIs, foreign noveIs, nev vorks, cIassics, avanl-
garde lo beslseIIeras Iong as lhere vas somelhing
inleIIecluaIIy slimuIaling in a book, ve'd read il. We'd hang
oul in Iibraries, send vhoIe days brovsing in Kanda, lhe
second-hand booksho Mecca in Tokyo. I'd never come across
anyone eIse vho read so avidIyso deeIy, so videIy, as
Sumire, and I'm sure she feIl lhe same.
I gradualed around lhe lime Sumire droed oul of coIIege,
and afler lhal she'd hang oul al my Iace lvo or lhree limes a
monlh. OccasionaIIy I'd go over lo her aarlmenl, bul you
couId bareIy squeeze lvo eoIe in lhere, and mosl of lhe lime
she'd end u al mine. We'd laIk aboul lhe noveIs ve'd read
and exchange books. I cooked a Iol of dinners. I didn'l mind
cooking, and Sumire vas lhe kind of erson vho'd ralher go
hungry lhan cook herseIf. She'd bring me resenls from her
arl-lime |obs lo lhank me. Once she had a |ob in a varehouse
in a drug comany and broughl me six dozen condoms.
They're robabIy sliII al lhe back of a draver somevhere.

The noveIsor fragmenls of noveIs, reaIIySumire vrole
veren'l as lerribIe as she lhoughl. True, al limes her slyIe
resembIed a alchvork quiIl sevn by a grou of slubborn oId
Iadies, each vilh her ovn lasles and comIainls, vorking in
grim siIence. Add lo lhis her somelimes manic-deressive
ersonaIily, and lhings occasionaIIy gol oul of conlroI. As if
lhis veren'l enough, Sumire vas dead sel on crealing a
massive nineleenlh-cenlury-slyIe TolaI NoveI, a kind of
orlmanleau acked vilh every ossibIe henomenon in order
lo calure lhe souI and human desliny.
Having said lhal, Sumire's vriling had a remarkabIe
freshness aboul il, her alleml lo honeslIy orlray vhal vas
imorlanl lo her. On lhe Ius side she didn'l lry lo imilale
anyone eIse's slyIe, and she didn'l alleml lo disliI everylhing
inlo some recious, cIever IillIe ieces. Thal's vhal I Iiked mosl
aboul her vriling. Il vouIdn'l have been righl lo are dovn lhe
direcl over in her vriling |usl so il couId lake on some
Ieasanl, cosy form. There vas no need lo rush lhings. She sliII
had Ienly of lime for delours. As lhe saying goes, Whal's
nurlured sIovIy grovs veII.

My head is Iike some ridicuIous barn acked fuII of sluff I
vanl lo vrile aboul, she said. Images, scenes, snalches of
vords . in my mind lhey're aII gIoving, aII aIive. Wriic! lhey
shoul al me. A greal nev slory is aboul lo be born I can feeI il.
Il'II lransorl me lo some brand-nev Iace. IrobIem is, once I
sil al my desk and ul lhem aII dovn on aer, I reaIize
somelhing vilaI is missing. Il doesn'l cryslaIIizeno cryslaIs,
|usl ebbIes. And I'm nol lransorled anyvhere.
Wilh a frovn, Sumire icked u her 250lh slone and lossed il
inlo lhe ond.
Maybe I'm Iacking somelhing. Somelhing you absoIuleIy
musl have lo be a noveIisl.
A dee siIence ensued. Il seemed she vas seeking my run-of-
lhe-miII oinion.
Afler a vhiIe I slarled lo seak. A Iong lime ago in China
lhere vere cilies vilh high vaIIs around lhem, vilh huge,
magnificenl gales. The gales veren'l |usl doors for Ielling
eoIe in or oul, lhey had grealer significance. IeoIe beIieved
lhe cily's souI resided in lhe gales. Or al Ieasl lhal il sncu|!
reside lhere. Il's Iike in Iuroe in lhe MiddIe Ages vhen
eoIe feIl a cily's hearl Iay in ils calhedraI and cenlraI square.
Which is vhy even loday in China lhere are Iols of vonderfuI
gales sliII slanding. Do you knov hov lhe Chinese buiIl lhese
I have no idea, Sumire ansvered.
IeoIe vouId lake carls oul lo oId ballIefieIds and galher
lhe bIeached bones lhal vere buried lhere or Iay scallered
aboul. China's a relly ancienl counlryIols of oId
ballIegroundsso lhey never had lo search far. Al lhe enlrance
lo lhe cily lhey'd conslrucl a huge gale and seaI lhe bones u
inside. They hoed lhal by commemoraling lhe dead soIdiers
in lhis vay lhey vouId conlinue lo guard lheir lovn. There's
more. When lhe gale vas finished lhey'd bring severaI dogs
over lo il, sIil lheir lhroals, and srinkIe lheir bIood on lhe gale.
OnIy by mixing fresh bIood vilh lhe dried-oul bones vouId lhe
ancienl souIs of lhe dead magicaIIy revive. Al Ieasl lhal vas lhe
Sumire vailed in siIence for me lo go on.
Wriling noveIs is much lhe same. You galher u bones and
make your gale, bul no maller hov vonderfuI lhe gale mighl
be, lhal aIone doesn'l make il a Iiving, brealhing noveI. A slory
is nol somelhing of lhis vorId. A reaI slory requires a kind of
magicaI balism lo Iink lhe vorId on lhis side vilh lhe vorId
on lhe cincr side.
So vhal you're saying is lhal I go oul on my ovn and find
my ovn dog`
I nodded.
And shed fresh bIood`
Sumire bil her Ii and lhoughl aboul lhis. She lossed anolher
haIess slone inlo lhe ond. I reaIIy don'l vanl lo kiII an
animaI if I can heI il.
Il's a melahor, I said. You don'l have lo acluaIIy kiII

We vere silling as usuaI side by side al Inogashira Iark, on her
favourile bench. The ond sread oul before us. A vindIess
day. Leaves Iay vhere lhey had faIIen, asled on lhe surface of
lhe valer. I couId smeII a bonfire somevhere far avay. The air
vas fiIIed vilh lhe scenl of lhe end of aulumn, and far-off
sounds vere ainfuIIy cIear.
Whal you need is lime and exerience, I said.
Time and exerience, she mused, and gazed u al lhe sky.
There's nol much you can do aboul limeil |usl kees on
assing. ul exerience` Don'l leII me lhal. I'm nol roud of il,
bul I don'l have any sexuaI desire. And vhal sorl of exerience
can a vriler have if she doesn'l feeI assion` Il'd be Iike a chef
vilhoul an aelile.
I don'l knov vhere your sexuaI desire has gone, I said.
Maybe il's |usl hiding somevhere. Or gone on a lri and
forgollen lo come home. ul faIIing in Iove is aIvays a relly
crazy lhing. Il mighl aear oul of lhe bIue and |usl grab you.
Who knovsmaybe even lomorrov.
Sumire lurned her gaze from lhe sky lo my face. Like a
You couId say lhal.
She lhoughl aboul il. Have you ever acluaIIy seen a
No, I reIied. ThankfuIIy, Tokyo vasn'l exaclIy Tornado
Aboul a haIf a year Ialer, |usl as I had redicled, suddenIy,
reoslerousIy, a lornado-Iike Iove seized Sumire. Wilh a
voman 17 years oIder. Her very ovn Sulnik Sveelhearl.

As Sumire and Miu sal lhere logelher al lhe labIe al lhe
vedding recelion, lhey did vhal everybody eIse does in lhe
vorId in such silualions, nameIy, inlroduce lhemseIves. Sumire
haled her ovn name and lried lo conceaI il vhenever she
couId. ul vhen somebody asks you your name, lhe onIy oIile
lhing lo do is lo go ahead and give il.
According lo her falher, her molher had chosen lhe name
Sumire. She Ioved lhe Mozarl song of lhe same name and had
decided Iong before lhal if she had a daughler lhal vouId be
her name. On lhe record sheIf in lheir Iiving room vas a record
of Mozarl's songs, doublIess lhe one her molher had Iislened lo
and, vhen she vas a chiId, Sumire vouId carefuIIy Iay lhis
heavy LI on lhe lurnlabIe and Iislen lo lhe song over and over.
IIisabelh Schvarzkof vas lhe soIoisl, Wailer Gieseking on
iano. Sumire didn'l undersland lhe Iyrics, bul from lhe
gracefuI molif she feIl sure lhe song vas a aean lo lhe
beaulifuI vioIels bIooming in a fieId. Sumire Ioved lhal image.
In |unior high, lhough, she came across a }aanese lransIalion
of lhe song in her schooI Iibrary and vas shocked. The Iyrics
loId of a caIIous sheherd's daughler lramIing dovn a
haIess IillIe vioIel in a fieId. The girI didn'l even nolice she'd
fIallened lhe fIover. Il vas based on a Goelhe oem, and
Sumire found nolhing redeeming aboul il, no Iesson lo be

Hov couId my molher give me lhe name of such an avfuI
song` said Sumire, scovIing.
Miu arranged lhe corners of lhe nakin on her Ia, smiIed
neulraIIy, and Iooked al Sumire. Miu's eyes vere quile dark.
Many coIours mixed logelher, bul cIear and uncIouded.
Do you lhink lhe song vas beaulifuI`
Yes, lhe song ilseIf is relly.
If lhe music is IoveIy, I lhink lhal shouId be enough. Afler
aII, nol everylhing in lhis vorId can be beaulifuI, righl` Your
molher musl have Ioved lhal song so much lhe Iyrics didn'l
bolher her. And besides, if you kee making lhal kind of face
you're going lo gel some ermanenl vrinkIes.
Sumire aIIoved her scovI lo reIax.
Maybe you're righl. I |usl feIl so Iel dovn. I mean, lhe onIy
langibIe sorl of lhing my molher Iefl me vas lhal name. Olher
lhan nqsc|j, of course.
WeII, I lhink Sumire is a IoveIy name. I Iike il very much,
said Miu, and liIled her head sIighlIy as if lo viev lhings from a
nev angIe. y lhe vay, is your falher here al lhe recelion`
Sumire Iooked around. The recelion haII vas Iarge, bul her
falher vas laII, and she easiIy solled him. He vas silling lvo
labIes avay, his face lurned sidevays, laIking vilh some shorl,
eIderIy man in a morning coal. His smiIe vas so lrusling and
varm il vouId meIl a gIacier. Under lhe Iighl of lhe
chandeIiers, his handsome nose rose u soflIy, Iike a rococo
cameo, and even Sumire, vho vas used lo seeing him, vas
moved by ils beauly. Her falher lruIy beIonged al lhis kind of
formaI galhering. His mere resence Ienl lhe Iace a
fIamboyanl almoshere. Like cul fIovers in a Iarge vase or a
|el-bIack slrelch Iimousine.

When she sied Sumire's falher, Miu vas seechIess. Sumire
couId hear lhe inlake of brealh. Like lhe sound of a veIvel
curlain being dravn aside on a eacefuI morning lo Iel in lhe
sunIighl lo vake someone very seciaI lo you. Maybe I shouId
have broughl a air of oera gIasses, Sumire mused. ul she
vas used lo lhe dramalic reaclion her falher's Iooks broughl
oul in eoIeeseciaIIy middIe-aged vomen. Whal is
beauly` Whal vaIue does il have` Sumire aIvays found il
slrange. ul no one ever ansvered her. There vas |usl lhal
same immovabIe effecl.
Whal's il Iike lo have such a handsome falher` Miu asked.
}usl oul of curiosily.
Sumire sighedeoIe couId be so rediclabIe. I can'l say I
Iike il. Iverybody lhinks lhe same lhing: Whal a handsome
man. A reaI slandoul. ul his daughler, veIIshe isn'l much lo
Iook al, is she` Thal musl be vhal lhey mean by alavism, lhey
Miu lurned lovards Sumire, uIIed her chin in ever so
sIighlIy, and gazed al her face, as if she vere admiring a
ainling in an arl gaIIery.
If lhal's hov you've aIvays feIl u liII nov, you've been
mislaken, she said. You're IoveIy. Ivery bil as much as your
falher. She reached oul and, quile unaffecledIy, IighlIy
louched Sumire's hand lhal, Iay on lhe labIe. You don'l reaIize
hov very allraclive you are.
Sumire's face grev hol. Her hearl gaIIoed as IoudIy as a
crazed horse on a vooden bridge.
Afler lhis Sumire and Miu vere absorbed in lheir ovn
rivale conversalion. The recelion vas a IiveIy one, vilh lhe
usuaI assorlmenl of afler-dinner seeches (incIuding, mosl
cerlainIy, Sumire's falher), and lhe dinner vasn'l haIf bad. ul
nol a seck of lhis remained in Sumire's memory. Was lhe
main course meal` Or fish` Did she use a knife and fork and
mind her manners` Or eal vilh her hands and Iick lhe Iale`
Sumire had no idea.
The lvo of lhem laIked aboul music. Sumire vas a big fan of
cIassicaI music and ever since she vas smaII Iiked lo av
lhrough her falher's record coIIeclion. She and Miu shared
simiIar lasles, il lurned oul. They bolh Ioved iano music and
vere convinced lhal eelhoven's Sonala No. 32 vas lhe
absoIule innacIe in lhe hislory of music. And lhal WiIheIm
ackhaus's unaraIIeIed erformance of lhe sonala for Decca
sel lhe inlerrelive slandard. Whal a deIighlfuI, vibranl, and
|oyous lhing il vas!
V|a!inir Hcrcuiizs ncnc rcccr!ings cj Cncpin, cspccia||q inc
scncrzcs, arc inri||ing, arcni incq? |ric!ricn Gu|!as pcrjcrnanccs cj
Oc|ussqs prc|u!cs arc uiiiq an! |ctc|q. Gicsckings Gricg is succi
jrcn siari ic jinisn. Stiaics|at |icnicrs Prckcjict is ucrin |isicning
ic ctcr an! ctcrnis inicrprciaiicn cxaci|q capiurcs inc ncrcuria|
snijis cj ncc!. An! Wan!a Ian!cuskas Mczari scnaiassc ji||c!
uiin uarnin an! icn!crncss iis nar! ic un!crsian! unq incq
natcni rcccitc! ncrc acc|ain.
Whal do you do` asked Miu, once lheir discussion of
music had come lo an end.
I droed oul of coIIege, Sumire exIained, and I'm doing
some arl-lime |obs vhiIe I vork on my noveIs. Whal kind of
noveIs` Miu asked. Il's hard lo exIain, reIied Sumire. WeII,
said Miu, lhen vhal lye of noveIs do you Iike lo read` If I Iisl
lhem aII ve'II be here for ever, said Sumire.
RecenlIy I've been reading }ack Kerouac. And lhal's vhere
lhe Sulnik arl of lheir conversalion came in.
Olher lhan some Iighl ficlion she read lo ass lhe lime, Miu
hardIy ever louched noveIs. I never can gel il oul of my mind
lhal's il's aII made u, she exIained, so I |usl can'l feeI any
emalhy for lhe characlers. I've aIvays been lhal vay. Thal's
vhy her reading vas Iimiled lo books lhal lrealed reaIily as
reaIily. ooks, for lhe mosl arl, lhal heIed her in her vork.
Whal kind of vork do you do` asked Sumire.
MoslIy il has lo do vilh foreign counlries, said Miu.
Thirleen years ago I look over my falher's lrading comany,
since I vas lhe oIdesl chiId. I'd been sludying lo be a ianisl,
bul my falher assed avay from cancer, my molher vasn'l
slrong hysicaIIy and besides couIdn'l seak }aanese very
veII. My brolher vas sliII in high schooI, so ve decided, for lhe
lime being, lhal I'd lake care of lhe comany. A number of
reIalives deended on lhe comany for lheir IiveIihood, so I
couIdn'l very veII |usl Iel lhe comany go lo ol.
She unclualed aII lhis vilh a sigh.
My falher's comany originaIIy imorled dried goods and
medicinaI herbs from Korea, bul nov il deaIs vilh a vide
variely of lhings. Iven comuler arls. I'm sliII officiaIIy Iisled
as lhe head of lhe comany, bul my husband and younger
brolher have laken over so I don'l have lo go lo lhe office very
oflen. Inslead I've gol my ovn rivale business.
Doing vhal`
Imorling vine, mainIy. OccasionaIIy I arrange concerls,
loo. I lraveI lo Iuroe quile a bil, since lhis lye of business
deends on ersonaI conneclions. Which is vhy I'm abIe, aII by
myseIf, lo comele vilh some lo firms. ul aII lhal
nelvorking lakes a Iol of lime and energy. Thal's onIy lo be
execled, I suose. She Iooked u, as if she had |usl
remembered somelhing. y lhe vay, do you seak IngIish`
Seaking IngIish isn'l my slrong suil, bul I'm okay, I guess.
I Iove lo read IngIish, lhough.
Do you knov hov lo use a comuler`
Nol reaIIy, bul I've been using a vord rocessor, and I'm
sure I couId ick il u.
Hov aboul driving`
Sumire shook her head. The year she slarled coIIege she lried
reversing her falher's VoIvo eslale inlo lhe garage and smashed
lhe door on a iIIar. Since lhen she'd bareIy driven.
AII righlcan you exIain, in 200 vords or Iess, lhe
difference belveen a sign and a symboI`
Sumire Iifled lhe nakin from her Ia, IighlIy dabbed al her
moulh, and ul il back. Whal vas lhe voman driving al` A
sign and a symboI`
No seciaI significance. Il's |usl an examIe.
Again Sumire shook her head. I have no idea.
Miu smiIed. If you don'l mind, I'd Iike you lo leII me vhal
sorl of raclicaI skiIIs you have. Whal you're eseciaIIy good al.
Olher lhan reading a Iol of noveIs and Iislening lo music.
Sumire quielIy Iaid her knife and fork on her Iale, slared al
lhe anonymous sace hanging over lhe labIe, and ondered lhe
Inslead of lhings I'm good al, il mighl be fasler lo Iisl lhe
lhings I cani do. I can'l cook or cIean lhe house. My room's a
mess, and I'm aIvays Iosing lhings. I Iove music, bul I can'l
sing a nole. I'm cIumsy and can bareIy sev a slilch. My sense of
direclion is lhe ils, and I can'l leII Iefl from righl haIf lhe lime.
When I gel angry, I lend lo break lhings. IIales and enciIs,
aIarm cIocks. Laler on I regrel il, bul al lhe lime I can'l heI
myseIf. I have no money in lhe bank. I'm bashfuI for no reason,
and I have hardIy any friends lo seak of.
Sumire look a quick brealh and forged ahead.
Hovever, I can louch-lye reaIIy fasl. I'm nol lhal alhIelic,
bul olher lhan lhe mums, I've never been sick a day in my Iife.
I'm aIvays uncluaI, never Iale for an aoinlmenl. I can eal
|usl aboul anylhing. I never valch TV. And olher lhan a bil of
siIIy boasling, I hardIy ever make excuses. Once a monlh or so
my shouIders gel so sliff I can'l sIee, bul lhe resl of lhe lime I
sIee Iike a Iog. My eriods are Iighl. I don'l have a singIe
cavily. And my Sanish is okay.
Miu Iooked u. You seak Sanish`
When Sumire vas in high schooI, she senl a monlh in lhe
home of her uncIe, a businessman vho'd been slalioned in
Mexico Cily. Making lhe mosl of lhe oorlunily, she'd
sludied Sanish inlensiveIy. She had laken Sanish in coIIege,
Miu grased lhe slem of her vinegIass belveen lvo fingers
and IighlIy lurned il, as if lurning a screv on a machine. Whal
vouId you lhink aboul vorking al my Iace for a vhiIe`
Working` Unsure vhal exression vouId besl fil lhis
silualion, Sumire made do vilh her usuaI dour Iook. I've
never had a reaI |ob in my Iife, and I'm nol even sure hov lo
ansver a hone lhe righl vay. I lry lo avoid laking lhe lrain
before 10 a.m. and, as I'm sure you've noliced from laIking lo
me, I don'l seak oIileIy.
None of lhal mallers, said Miu simIy. y lhe vay, are
you free lomorrov, around noon`
Sumire nodded refIexiveIy. She didn'l even have lo lhink
aboul il. Iree lime, afler aII, vas her main assel.
WeII lhen, vhy don'l ve have Iunch logelher` I'II reserve a
quiel labIe al a reslauranl nearby, Miu said. She heId oul lhe
fresh gIass of red vine a vailer had oured for her, sludied il
carefuIIy, inhaIed lhe aroma, lhen quielIy look lhe firsl si. The
vhoIe series of movemenls had lhe sorl of naluraI eIegance of a
shorl cadenza a ianisl has refined over lhe years.
We'II laIk over lhe delaiIs lhen. Today I'd ralher |usl en|oy
myseIf. You knov, I'm nol sure vhere il's from, bul lhis
ordeaux isn'l haIf bad.
Sumire reIaxed her dour Iook and asked Miu slraighl oul:
ul you |usl mel me, and you hardIy knov a lhing aboul me.
Thal's lrue. Maybe I don'l, Miu admilled.
So vhy do you lhink I mighl be of heI lo you`
Miu svirIed lhe vine in her gIass. I aIvays |udge eoIe by
lheir faces, she said. Meaning lhal I Iike your face, lhe vay
you Iook.
Sumire feIl lhe air around her suddenIy grov lhin. Her
niIes lighlened under her dress. MechanicaIIy she reached
for a gIass of valer and guIed il dovn. A havk-faced vailer
quickIy sidIed in behind her and fiIIed her emly gIass vilh ice
valer. In Sumire's confused mind, lhe cIaller of lhe ice cubes
sounded |usl Iike lhe groans of a robber hiding oul in a cave.

I musl be in Iove vilh lhis voman, she reaIized vilh a slarl. No
mislake aboul il. Ice is coId, roses are red. I'm in Iove.
And lhis Iove is aboul lo carry me off somevhere. The
currenl's loo overovering, I don'l have any choice. Il may
very veII be a seciaI Iace, some Iace I've never seen before.
Danger may be Iurking lhere, somelhing lhal may end u
vounding me deeIy, falaIIy. I mighl end u Iosing everylhing.
ul lhere's no lurning back. I can onIy go vilh lhe fIov. Iven if
il means I'II be burned u, gone for ever.

Nov, afler lhe facl, I knov her hunch lurned oul lo be correcl.
One hundred and lvenly er cenl on lhe money.


Il vas aboul lvo veeks afler lhe vedding recelion vhen
Sumire caIIed me, a Sunday nighl, |usl before davn. NaluraIIy,
I vas asIee. As dead lo lhe vorId as an oId anviI. The veek
before I'd been in charge of arranging a meeling and couId onIy
snalch a fev hours' sIee as I galhered logelher aII lhe
necessary (read oinlIess) documenls ve needed. Come lhe
veekend, I vanled lo sIee lo my hearl's conlenl. So of course
lhal's vhen lhe hone rang.

Were you asIee` Sumire asked.
Um, I groaned and inslincliveIy gIanced al lhe aIarm cIock
beside my bed. The cIock had huge fIuorescenl hands, bul I
couIdn'l read lhe lime. The image ro|ecled on my relina and
lhe arl of my brain lhal rocessed il vere oul of sync, Iike an
oId Iady slruggIing, unsuccessfuIIy, lo lhread a needIe. Whal I
couId undersland vas lhal il vas dark aII around and cIose lo
IilzgeraId's Dark Nighl of lhe SouI.
Il'II be davn relly soon. Um, I murmured IislIessIy.
Righl near vhere I Iive lhere's a man vho raises rooslers.
Musl have had lhem for years and years. In haIf an hour or so
lhey'II be croving u a slorm. This is my favourile lime of lhe
day. The ilch-bIack nighl sky slarling lo gIov in lhe easl, lhe
rooslers croving for aII lhey're vorlh Iike il's lheir revenge on
somebody. Any rooslers near you`
On lhis end of lhe leIehone Iine I shook my head sIighlIy.
I'm caIIing from lhe hone box near lhe ark.
Um, I said. There vas a hone box aboul 200 yards from
her aarlmenl. Since Sumire didn'l ovn a hone, she aIvays
had lo vaIk over lhere lo caII. }usl your average hone box.
I knov I shouIdn'l be caIIing you lhis Iale. I'm reaIIy sorry.
The lime of nighl vhen lhe rooslers haven'l even slarled
croving. When lhis ilifuI moon is hanging lhere in a corner of
lhe easlern sky Iike a used-u kidney. ul lhink of meI had
lo lrudge oul in lhe ilch dark aII lhe vay over here cIulching
lhis leIehone card I gol as a resenl al my cousin's vedding.
Wilh a holo on il of lhe hay couIe hoIding hands. Can you
imagine hov deressing lhal is` My socks don'l even malch,
for ily's sake. One has a iclure of Mickey Mouse, lhe olher's
Iain vooI. My room's a comIele disasler area, I can'l find
anylhing. I don'l vanl lo say lhis loo IoudIy, bul you vouIdn'l
beIieve hov avfuI my anlies are. I doubl if even one of lhose
anlie lhieves vouId louch lhem. If some erverl kiIIed me, I'd
never Iive il dovn. I'm nol asking for symalhy, bul il vouId
be nice if you couId give me a bil more in lhe vay of a
resonse. Olher lhan lhose coId inler|eclions of yoursohs and
ums. Hov aboul a con|unclion` A con|unclion vouId be nice.
A qci or a |ui.
Hovever, I said. I vas exhausled and feIl Iike I vas sliII in
lhe middIe of a dream.
'Hovever', she reealed. Okay, I can Iive vilh lhal. One
smaII sle for man. One very smaII sle, ncuctcr.
So, vas lhere somelhing you vanled`
Righl, I vanled you lo leII me somelhing. Thal's vhy I
caIIed, Sumire said. She IighlIy cIeared her lhroal. Whal I
vanl lo knov is vhal's lhe difference belveen a sign and
I feIl a veird sensalion, Iike somelhing vas siIenlIy arading
lhrough my head. CouId you reeal lhe queslion`
She did. Whal's lhe difference belveen a sign and a symboI`
I sal u in bed, svilched lhe receiver from my Iefl hand lo
my righl. Lel me gel lhis righlyou're caIIing me because you
vanl lo find oul lhe difference belveen a sign and a symboI.
On Sunday morning, |usl before davn. Um .
Al 4.15, lo be recise, she said. Il vas bolhering me. Whal
couId be lhe difference belveen a sign and a symboI`
Somebody asked me lhal a couIe of veeks ago and I can'l gel
il oul of my mind. I vas gelling undressed for bed, and I
suddenIy remembered. I can'l sIee unliI I find oul. Can you
exIain il` The difference belveen a sign and a symboI`
Lel me lhink, I said and gazed u al lhe ceiIing. Iven vhen
I vas fuIIy conscious, exIaining lhings IogicaIIy lo Sumire vas
never easy. The emeror is a symboI of }aan. Do you foIIov
Sorl of, she reIied.
Scri cj isn'l good enough. Thal's vhal il says in lhe }aanese
conslilulion, I said, as caImIy as ossibIe. No room for
discussion or doubls. You've gol lo accel lhal, or ve von'l gel
Golcha. I'II accel lhal.
Thank you. Solhe emeror is a symboI of }aan. ul lhis
doesn'l mean lhal lhe emeror and }aan are equivaIenl. Do
you foIIov`
I don'l gel il.
Okay, hov aboul lhislhe arrov oinls in one direclion.
The emeror is a symboI of }aan, bul }aan is nol lhe symboI
of lhe emeror. You undersland lhal, righl`
I gucss.
Say, for inslance, you vrile 'The emeror is a sign of }aan.'
Thal makes lhe lvo equivaIenl. So vhen ve say '}aan', il
vouId aIso mean 'lhe emeror', and vhen ve seak of 'lhe
emeror', il vouId aIso mean '}aan'. In olher vords, lhe lvo
are inlerchangeabIe. Same as saying, ' A equaIs B, so B equaIs
A. ' Thal's vhal a sign is.
So you're saying you can svilch lhe emeror and }aan`
Can you do lhal`
Thal's nol vhal I mean, I said, shaking my head vigorousIy
al my end of lhe Iine. I'm |usl lrying lo exIain lhe besl I can.
I'm nol Ianning lo svilch lhe emeror and }aan. Il's |usl a
vay of exIaining il.
Hmm, said Sumire. I lhink I gel il. As an image. Il's lhe
difference belveen a one-vay slreel and a lvo-vay slreel.
Ior our uroses, lhal's cIose enough.
I'm aIvays amazed hov good you are al exIaining lhings.
Thal's my |ob, I said. My vords seemed somehov fIal and
slaIe. You shouId lry being an eIemenlary-schooI leacher
somelime. You'd never imagine lhe kinds of queslions I gel.
Wnq isni inc ucr|! squarc? Wnq !c squi!s natc icn |cgs an! nci
cigni? I've Iearned lo come u vilh an ansver lo |usl aboul
You musl be a greal leacher.
I vonder, I said. I reaIIy did vonder.
y lhe vay, vhy !c squids have len Iegs and nol eighl`
Can I go back lo sIee nov` I'm vhacked. }usl hoIding lhis
hone I feeI Iike I'm hoIding u a crumbIing slone vaII.
You knov, said Sumire, and Iel a deIicale ause
inlerveneIike an oId galekeeer cIosing lhe raiIvay-crossing
gale vilh a cIaller |usl afler lhe lrain bound for Sl Ielersburg
has assed byil's reaIIy siIIy lo say lhis, bul I'm in Iove.
Um, I said, changing lhe receiver back lo my Iefl hand. I
couId hear her brealhing dovn lhe hone. I had no idea hov I
shouId resond. And, as so oflen haens vhen I don'l knov
vhal lo say, I Iel sIi some lolaIIy inaroriale commenl.
Nol vilh me, I assume`
Nol vilh you, Sumire ansvered. I heard lhe sound of a
chea Iighler Iighling a cigarelle. Are you free loday` I'd Iike
lo laIk more.
You mean, aboul your faIIing in Iove vilh someone olher
lhan me`
Righl, she said. Aboul my faIIing assionaleIy in Iove
vilh somebody olher lhan you.
I cIamed lhe hone belveen my head and shouIder and
slrelched. I'm free in lhe evening.
I'II be over al five, Sumire said. And lhen added, as if an
aflerlhoughl: Thank you.
Ior vhal`
Ior being nice enough lo ansver my queslion in lhe middIe
of lhe nighl.
I gave a vague resonse, hung u, and lurned oul lhe Iighl. Il
vas sliII ilch bIack oul. }usl before I feII asIee, I lhoughl
aboul her finaI inank qcu and vhelher I'd ever heard lhose
vords from her before. Maybe I had, once, bul I couIdn'l recaII.

Sumire arrived al my aarlmenl a IillIe before five. I didn'l
recognize her. She'd laken on a comIele change of slyIe. Her
hair vas shorl in a slyIish cul, her fringe sliII shoving lraces of
lhe scissors' snis. She vore a Iighl cardigan over a shorl-
sIeeve, navy-bIue dress and a air of bIack enameI, medium-
high heeIs. She even had slockings on. Slockings` Women's
cIolhes veren'l exaclIy my fieId of exerlise, bul il vas cIear
lhal everylhing she vore vas relly exensive. Dressed Iike
lhis, she Iooked oIished and IoveIy. Il vas quile becoming, lo
leII lhe lrulh. Though I referred lhe oId, oulrageous Sumire.
To each his ovn.
Nol bad, I said, giving her a comIele once-over. ul I
vonder vhal good oId }ack Kerouac vouId say.
Sumire smiIed, an ever-so-sIighlIy more sohislicaled smiIe
lhan usuaI. Why don'l ve go for a vaIk`

We vaIked side by side dovn Universily ouIevard lovards
lhe slalion and sloed by our favourile coffee sho. Sumire
ordered her usuaI sIice of cake aIong vilh her coffee. Il vas a
cIear Sunday evening near lhe end of AriI. The fIover shos
vere fuII of crocuses and luIis. A genlIe breeze bIev, soflIy
ruslIing lhe hems of young girIs' skirls and vafling over lhe
IeisureIy fragrance of young lrees.
I foIded my hands behind my head and valched Sumire as
she sIovIy yel eagerIy devoured her cake. Irom lhe smaII
seakers on lhe ceiIing of lhe coffee sho Aslrud GiIberlo sang
an oId bossa nova song. Take me lo Aruanda, she sang. I
cIosed my eyes, and lhe cIaller of lhe cus and saucers sounded
Iike lhe roar of a far-off sea. Aruandavhal's il Iike lhere` I
SliII sIeey`
Nol any more, I ansvered, oening my eyes.
You feeI okay`
I'm fine. As fine as lhe MoIdau River in sring.
Sumire gazed for a vhiIe al lhe emly Iale lhal had heId her
sIice of cake. She Iooked al me.
Don'l you lhink il's slrange lhal I'm vearing lhese cIolhes`
I guess.
I didn'l buy lhem. I don'l have lhal kind of money. There's a
slory behind lhem.
Mind if I lry lo guess lhe slory`
Go ahead, she said.
There you vere in your usuaI crummy }ack Kerouac oulfil,
cigarelle dangIing from your Iis, vashing your hands in some
ubIic loiIel, vhen lhis five-fool one-inch voman rushed in, aII
oul of brealh, dressed lo lhe nines, and said, 'IIease, you've gol
lo heI me! No lime lo exIain, bul I'm being chased by some
avfuI eoIe. Can I exchange cIolhes vilh you` If ve sva
cIolhes I can give lhem lhe sIi. Thank God ve're lhe same
size.' }usl Iike some Hong Kong aclion fIick.
Sumire Iaughed. And lhe olher voman haened lo vear a
size-six-and-a-haIf shoe and a size-seven dress. }usl by
And righl lhen and lhere you changed cIolhes, dovn lo
your Mickey Mouse knickers.
Il's my socks lhal are Mickey Mouse, nol my knickers.
Whalever, I said.
Hmm, Sumire mused. AcluaIIy, you're nol loo far off.
Hov far`
She Ieaned across lhe labIe. Il's a Iong slory. WouId you Iike
lo hear il`
Since you've come aII lhe vay over here lo leII me, I have a
dislincl feeIing il doesn'l maller if I do or nol. Anyvay, go righl
ahead. Add a reIude, if you'd Iike. And a 'Dance of lhe
Iessed Sirils'. I don'l mind.
She began lo laIk. Aboul her cousin's vedding recelion, and
aboul lhe Iunch she had had vilh Miu in Aoyama. And il uas a
Iong laIe.

The day afler lhe vedding, a Monday, vas rainy. The rain
began lo faII |usl afler midnighl and conlinued vilhoul a slo
liII davn. A sofl, genlIe rain lhal darkIy damened lhe sring
earlh and quielIy slirred u lhe nameIess crealures Iiving in il.

The lhoughl of meeling Miu again lhriIIed Sumire, and she
found il hard lo concenlrale. She feIl as lhough she vere
slanding aIone on lhe summil of a hiII, lhe vind svirIing
around her. She sellIed dovn al her desk as usuaI, Iil a
cigarelle, and svilched on her vord rocessor, bul slare as she
mighl al lhe screen, nol a singIe senlence came lo her. Ior
Sumire lhal vas nexl lo imossibIe. She gave u, lurned off lhe
vord rocessor, Iay dovn in her liny IillIe room, and, an unIil
cigarelle dangIing from her Iis, gave herseIf u lo some
aimIess musings.
If |usl lhe lhoughl of seeing Miu has me lhis vorked u, she
lhoughl, imagine hov ainfuI il vouId be if ve'd said goodbye
al lhe arly and never sav each olher again. Am I |usl yearning
lo be Iike hera beaulifuI, refined oIder voman` No, she
decided, lhal can'l be il. When I'm beside her, I aIvays vanl lo
louch her. Thal's a bil differenl from a yearning.
Sumire sighed, gazed u al lhe ceiIing for a vhiIe, and Iil her
cigarelle. Il's relly slrange if you lhink aboul il, she lhoughl.
Here I am in Iove for lhe firsl lime in my Iife, aged 22. And lhe
olher erson |usl nappcns lo be a voman.

The reslauranl Miu had made a reservalion al vas a len-minule
vaIk from lhe Omole Sando subvay slalion. The kind of
reslauranl lhal's hard for firsl-limers lo find, cerlainIy nol a
Iace vhere you |usl casuaIIy dro in for a meaI. Iven lhe
reslauranl's name vas hard lo remember unIess you heard il a
couIe of limes. Al lhe enlrance Sumire loId lhem Miu's name
and vas escorled lo a smaII, rivale dining room on lhe firsl
fIoor. Miu vas aIready lhere, siing an iced Ierrier valer,
dee in conversalion vilh lhe vailer aboul lhe menu.
Over a navy-bIue oIo shirl Miu had on a collon svealer of
lhe same coIour, and she vore a lhin, Iain siIver hairin. Her
lrousers vere vhile sIim-fil |eans. On a corner of lhe labIe
resled a air of brighl bIue sungIasses, and on lhe chair nexl lo
her vas a squash racquel and a Missoni sorls bag. Il Iooked
Iike she vas on her vay home afler a couIe of aflernoon
games of squash. Her cheeks vere sliII fIushed a fainl ink.
Sumire imagined her in lhe shover al lhe gym, scrubbing her
body vilh an exolic smeIIing bar of soa.
As Sumire enlered lhe room, dressed in her usuaI
herringbone |ackel and khaki lrousers, her hair aII messy Iike
some orhan, Miu Iooked u from lhe menu and gave her a
dazzIing smiIe. You loId me lhe olher day lhal you can eal
anylhing, righl` I hoe you don'l mind if I go ahead and order
for us.
Of course nol, Sumire reIied.

Miu ordered lhe same lhing for bolh of lhem. The main course
vas a Iighl griIIed fish vilh a louch of green sauce vilh
mushrooms. The sIices of fish vere cooked lo erfeclion,
brovned in an aImosl arlislic vay lhal you knev vas |usl righl.
Iumkin gnocchi and a deIicale endive saIad rounded off lhe
meaI. Ior desserl lhey had lhe creme brIee, vhich onIy Sumire
ale. Miu didn'l louch il. IinaIIy, lhey had esresso. Sumire
observed lhal Miu look greal care over vhal she ale. Her neck
vas as sIender as lhe slaIk of some Ianl, her body vilhoul an
ounce of deleclabIe fal. She didn'l seem lo have lo diel. Iven
so, il vouId aear she vas suer-slricl aboul food. Like some
Sarlan hoIed u in a mounlain forlress.
As lhey ale lhey challed aboul nolhing in arlicuIar. Miu
vanled lo knov more aboul Sumire's background, and she
obIiged, ansvering lhe queslions as honeslIy as she couId. She
loId Miu aboul her falher, her molher, lhe schooIs she had
allended (aII of vhich she Ioalhed), lhe rizes she had von in a
comosilion conlesla bicycIe and a sel of encycIoedias
hov she came lo quil coIIege, lhe vay she senl her days nov.
Nol a arlicuIarIy lhriIIing Iife. Iven so, Miu Iislened,
enlhraIIed, as if Iislening lo lhe enchanling cusloms of a far-off
Sumire vanled lo knov so much more aboul Miu, bul Miu
hesilaled lo laIk aboul herseIf. Thal's nol imorlanl, she
deferred vilh a brighl smiIe. I'd ralher hear more aboul qcu.
y lhe lime lhey finished ealing, Sumire sliII hadn'l Iearned
much. Aboul lhe onIy lhing she found oul vas lhis: lhal Miu's
falher had donaled a Iol of money lo lhe smaII lovn in lhe
norlh arl of Korea vhere he had been born, and had buiIl
severaI ubIic buiIdings for lhe lovnseoIelo vhich lhey'd
resonded by erecling a bronze slalue of him in lhe lovn
Il's a smaII lovn dee in lhe mounlains, Miu exIained.
The vinler's avfuI, and |usl Iooking al lhe Iace makes you
shiver. The mounlains are craggy and reddish, fuII of benl
lrees. Once, vhen I vas IillIe, my falher look me lhere. When
lhey unveiIed lhe slalue. AII lhese reIalives came u, crying
and hugging me. I couIdn'l undersland a vord lhey said. I
remember being frighlened. Ior me il vas a lovn in a foreign
counlry I'd never sel eyes on before.
Whal kind of slalue vas il` asked Sumire. She'd never
knovn anyone vho'd had a slalue erecled.
}usl a normaI slalue. The kind you'd find anyvhere. ul il's
veird lo have your ovn falher become a slalue. Imagine if lhey
erecled a slalue of your falher in lhe square in fronl of
Chigasaki Slalion. You'd feeI relly veird aboul il, righl` My
falher vas acluaIIy fairIy shorl, bul lhe slalue made him Iook
Iike some lovering figure. I vas onIy five al lhe lime, bul I vas
slruck by lhe vay lhings you see aren'l aIvays lrue lo Iife.
If lhey made a slalue of my falher, Sumire mused, il'd be lhe
slalue lhal vouId drav lhe shorl slrav. Since in reaI Iife her
falher vas a IillIe loo good-Iooking.

I'd Iike lo ick u vhere ve Iefl off yeslerday, Miu began,
vhen lhey vere on lheir second cu of esresso. So, do you
lhink you mighl vanl lo vork for me`
Sumire vas dying for a cigarelle, bul lhere veren'l any
ashlrays. She made do vilh a si of chiIIed Ierrier.
She ansvered honeslIy. WeII, vhal kind of vork vouId il
be, exaclIy` Like I said yeslerday, excel for some simIe
hysicaI-Iabour-lye |obs, I've never once had vhal you'd caII
a roer |ob. IIus I don'l have a lhing lo vear lhal vouId be
aroriale. The cIolhes I had on al lhe recelion I borroved.
Miu nodded, her exression unchanged. She musl have
anlicialed lhis sorl of resonse.
I lhink I undersland relly much vhal sorl of erson you
are, she said, and lhe vork I have in mind shouIdn'l give you
any lroubIe. I'm sure you can handIe vhalever comes u. Whal
reaIIy mallers is vhelher or nol you'd Iike lo vork vilh me.
}usl aroach il lhal vay, as a simIe yes or no.
Sumire chose her vords carefuIIy. I'm reaIIy hay lo hear
you say lhal, bul righl nov vhal's mosl imorlanl for me is
vriling noveIs. I mean, lhal's vhy I Iefl coIIege.
Miu Iooked across lhe labIe slraighl al Sumire. Sumire sensed
lhal quiel Iook on her skin and feIl her face grov varm.
Do you mind if I say exaclIy vhal's on my mind` Miu
Of course nol. Go righl ahead.
Il mighl make you feeI bad.
To shov she couId handIe il, Sumire ursed her Iis and
Iooked inlo Miu's eyes.
Al lhis slage in your Iife I don'l lhink you're going lo vrile
anylhing vorlhvhiIe, no maller hov much lime you ul inlo
your noveIs, said Miu, caImIy bul firmIy. You've gol lhe
laIenl. I'm sure someday you'II be an exlraordinary vriler. I'm
nol |usl saying lhis, I lruIy beIieve il. You have lhal naluraI
abiIily vilhin you. ul nov's nol lhe lime. The slrenglh you
need lo oen lhal door isn'l quile lhere. Haven'l you ever feIl
lhal vay`
Time and exerience, said Sumire, summing il u.
Miu smiIed. Al any rale, come and vork for me. Thal's lhe
besl choice for you. And vhen you feeI lhe lime is righl, don'l
hesilale lo chuck il aII in and vrile noveIs lo your hearl's
conlenl. You |usl need more lime lhan lhe average erson in
order lo reach lhal slage. So even if you gel lo 28 vilhoul any
breaks coming your vay, and your arenls cul off your funds
and you're Iefl vilhoul a enny, veIIso vhal` Maybe you'II
go a IillIe hungry, bul lhal mighl be a good exerience for a
Sumire oened her moulh, aboul lo reIy, bul nolhing
emerged. She mereIy nodded.
Miu slrelched oul her righl hand lovards lhe middIe of lhe
labIe. Lel me see your hand, she said.
Sumire reached oul her righl hand and Miu grased il, as if
enveIoing il. Her aIm vas varm and smoolh. Il's nol
somelhing you shouId vorry aboul so much. Don'l Iook so
gIum. We'II gel aIong fine.
Sumire guIed, bul somehov managed lo reIax. Wilh Miu
gazing righl al her Iike lhal, she feIl as lhough she vere
sleadiIy shrinking. Like a bIock of ice Iefl oul in lhe sun, she
mighl very veII disaear.
Slarling nexl veek I'd Iike you lo come lo my office lhree
limes a veek. Monday, Wednesday, and Iriday. You can slarl
al 10 a.m., and you can Ieave al four. Thal vay you'II miss lhe
rush hour. I can'l ay you much, bul lhe vork is easy, and you
can read vhen lhere's nolhing lo do. One condilion is lhal you
lake rivale Iessons in IlaIian lvice a veek. You aIready knov
Sanish, so il shouIdn'l be loo hard. And I'd Iike you lo
raclise IngIish conversalion and driving vhenever you have
lhe lime. Do you lhink you can do lhal`
I lhink so, Sumire reIied. Her voice sounded Iike il vas
somebody eIse's coming from anolher room. No maller vhal
I'm asked lo do, no maller vhal I'm ordered lo do, aII I can do
is say yes, she reaIized. Miu gazed sleadiIy al Sumire, sliII
hoIding her hand. Sumire couId make oul cIearIy her ovn
figure refIecled dee inside Miu's dark eyes. Il Iooked lo her
Iike her ovn souI being sucked inlo lhe olher side of a mirror.
Sumire Ioved lhal vision, and al lhe same lime il frighlened
Miu smiIed, charming Iines aearing al lhe corners of her
eyes. Lel's go lo my Iace. There's somelhing I vanl lo shov

The summer hoIiday of my firsl year in coIIege I look a random
lri by myseIf around lhe Hokuriku region, came across a
voman eighl years oIder lhan me vho vas aIso lraveIIing
aIone, and ve senl one nighl logelher. Il slruck me, al lhe
lime, as somelhing slraighl oul of lhe oening of Soseki's noveI
The voman vorked in lhe foreign exchange seclion of a bank
in Tokyo. Whenever she had some lime off, she'd grab a fev
books and sel oul on her ovn. Much Iess liring lo lraveI
aIone, she exIained. She had a cerlain charm, vhich made il
hard lo vork oul vhy she'd have any inleresl in someone Iike
mea quiel, skinny 18-year-oId coIIege kid. SliII, silling across
from me in lhe lrain, she seemed lo en|oy our harmIess banler.
She Iaughed oul Ioud a Iol. AndunusuaIIyI challered avay.
We haened lo gel off al lhe same slalion al Kanazava.
Do you have a Iace lo slay` she asked.
No, I reIied. I'd never made a holeI reservalion in my Iife.
I have a holeI room, she loId me. You can slay if you Iike.
Don'l vorry aboul il, she venl on, il cosls lhe same vhelher
lhere's one or lvo eoIe slaying.
I vas nervous lhe firsl lime ve made Iove, vhich made
lhings avkvard. I aoIogized lo her.
Aren'l ve oIile! she said. No need lo aoIogize for every
IillIe lhing.
Afler her shover she lhrev on a dressing govn, grabbed lvo
coId beers from lhe fridge, and handed one lo me.
Are you a good driver` she asked.
I |usl gol my Iicence, so I vouIdn'l say so. }usl average.
She smiIed. Same vilh me. I lhink I'm relly good, bul my
friends don'l agree. Which makes me average, loo, I suose.
You musl knov a fev eoIe vho lhink lhey're greal drivers,
Yeah, I guess I do.
And lhere musl be some vho aren'l very good.
I nodded. She look a quiel si of beer and gave il some
To a cerlain exlenl lhose kinds of lhings are inborn. TaIenl,
you couId caII il. Some eoIe are nimbIe, olhers are aII lhumbs
. Some eoIe are quile allenlive, and olhers aren'l. Righl`
Again I nodded.
Okay, consider lhis. Say you're going lo go on a Iong
|ourney vilh someone by car. And lhe lvo of you viII lake
lurns driving. Which lye of erson vouId you choose` One
vho's a good driver, bul inallenlive, or an allenlive erson
vho's nol such a good driver`
IrobabIy lhe second one, I said.
Me, loo, she reIied. Whal ve have here is very simiIar.
Good or bad, nimbIe or cIumsylhose aren'l imorlanl.
Whal's imorlanl is being allenlive. Slaying caIm, being aIerl lo
lhings around you.
AIerl` I asked.
She |usl smiIed and didn'l say anylhing.
A vhiIe Ialer ve made Iove a second lime, and lhis lime il
vas a smoolh, congeniaI ride. Bcing a|criI lhink I vas slarling
lo gel il. Ior lhe firsl lime I sav hov a voman reacls in lhe
lhroes of assion.
The nexl morning afler ve ale breakfasl logelher, ve venl
our searale vays. She conlinued her lri, and I conlinued
mine. As she Iefl she loId me she vas gelling married in lvo
monlhs lo a man from vork. He's a very nice guy, she said
cheeriIy. We've been going oul for five years, and ve're
finaIIy going lo make il officiaI. Which means I robabIy von'l
be making any lris by myseIf any more. This is il.
I vas sliII young, cerlain lhal lhis kind of lhriIIing evenl
haened aII lhe lime. Laler in Iife I reaIized hov vrong I vas.

I loId Sumire lhis slory a Iong lime ago. I can'l remember
vhy il came u. Il mighl have been vhen ve vere laIking
aboul sexuaI desire.
So vhal's lhe oinl of your slory` she asked me.
The arl aboul being aIerl, I reIied. Nol re|udging
lhings, Iislening lo vhal's going on, keeing your ears, hearl,
and mind oen.
Hmm, Sumire reIied. She seemed lo be muIIing over my
aIlry sexuaI affair, erhas vondering vhelher she couId
incororale il inlo one of her noveIs.
Anyvay, you cerlainIy have a Iol of exeriences, don'l
I vouIdn'l say a |ci, I genlIy rolesled. Things |usl
She cheved IighlIy al her naiI, Iosl in lhoughl. ul hov are
you suosed lo become allenlive` The crilicaI momenl
arrives, and you say okay, I'm going lo be aIerl and Iislen
carefuIIy, bul you can'l |usl be good al lhose lhings by
snaing your fingers, righl` Can you be more secific` Give
me a for inslance`
WeII, firsl you have lo reIax. y . say, counling.
Whal eIse`
Think aboul a cucumber in a fridge on a summer aflernoon.
}usl an examIe.
Wail a second, she said vilh a significanl ause. Do you
mean lo leII me lhal vhen you're having sex vilh a girI you
imagine cucumbers in a fridge on a summer aflernoon`
Nol aII lhe lime, I said.
ul somelimes.
Sumire frovned and shook her head a couIe of limes.
You're a Iol veirder lhan you Iook.
Iverybody's gol somelhing veird aboul lhem, I said.

In lhe reslauranl, as Miu heId my hand and gazed dee inlo
my eyes, I lhoughl aboul cucumbers, Sumire said lo me.
Golla slay caIm, golla Iislen carefuIIy, I loId myseIf.
Don'l you remember vhal you loId meaboul cucumbers
in a fridge on a summer aflernoon`
Oh, yeah, I guess I did, I recaIIed. So did il heI`
A IillIe, she said.
GIad lo hear il, I reIied.
Sumire sleered lhe conversalion back on lrack. Miu's
aarlmenl is |usl a shorl vaIk from lhe reslauranl. Nol a very
big Iace, bul reaIIy IoveIy. A sunny veranda, house-Ianls, an
IlaIian Iealher sofa, ose seakers, a sel of rinls, a }aguar in
lhe garage. She Iives lhere aIone. The Iace she and her
husband have is somevhere in Selagaya. She goes back lhere al
lhe veekends. Mosl of lhe lime she slays in her aarlmenl in
Aoyama. Whal do you lhink she shoved me lhere`
Mark oIan's favourile snakeskin sandaIs in a gIass case, I
venlured. One of lhe invaIuabIe Iegacies vilhoul vhich lhe
hislory of rock and roII cannol be loId. Nol a singIe scaIe
missing, his aulograh on lhe arch. The fans go nuls.
Sumire frovned and sighed. If lhey invenl a car lhal runs on
sluid |okes, you couId go far.
Iul il dovn lo an imoverished inleIIecl, I said humbIy.
Okay, aII |oking aside, I vanl you lo give il some serious
lhoughl. Whal do you lhink she shoved me lhere` If you gel il
righl, I'II ay lhe biII.
I cIeared my lhroal. She shoved you lhe gorgeous cIolhes
you have on. And loId you lo vear lhem lo vork.
You vin, she said. She has lhis rich friend vilh cIolhes lo
sare vho's |usl aboul lhe same size as me. Isn'l Iife slrange`
There are eoIe vho have so many Ieflover cIolhes lhey can'l
sluff lhem aII in lheir vardrobe. And lhen lhere are eoIe Iike
me, vhose socks never malch. Anyvay, I don'l mind. She venl
over lo her friend's house and came back vilh an armfuI of
lhese |cjictcrs. They're |usl a bil oul of fashion if you Iook
carefuIIy bul mosl eoIe vouIdn'l nolice.
I vouIdn'l knov no maller hov cIoseIy I Iooked, I loId her.
Sumire smiIed conlenledIy. The cIolhes fil me Iike a gIove.
The dresses, bIouses, skirlseverylhing. I'II have lo lake in lhe
vaisl a bil, bul ul a beIl on and you'd never knov lhe
difference. My shoe size, forlunaleIy, is aImosl lhe same as
Miu's, so she Iel me have some airs she doesn'l need. High
heeIs, Iov heeIs, summer sandaIs. AII vilh IlaIian names on
lhem. Handbags, loo. And a IillIe make-u.
A reguIar }ane Iyre, I said.

AII of vhich exIains hov Sumire slarled vorking lhree days a
veek al Miu's office. Wearing a suil |ackel and dress, high
heeIs, and a louch of make-u, laking lhe morning commuler
lrain from Kichi|o|i lo Hara|uku. Somehov I |usl couIdn'l
iclure il.

Aarl from her office al her comany in Akasaka, Miu had her
ovn smaII office al }ingumae. There she had her desk as veII as
her assislanl's (Sumire's, in olher vords), a fiIing cabinel, a fax,
a hone, and a Ioverook. Thal's aII. Il vas |usl one room in
an aarlmenl buiIding and came vilh an aflerlhoughl-lye of
liny kilchen and balhroom. There vas a CD Iayer, mini-
seakers, and a dozen cIassicaI CDs. The room vas on lhe
second fIoor, and oul of lhe easl-facing vindov you couId see a
smaII ark. The ground fIoor of lhe buiIding vas laken u by a
shovroom seIIing Norlhern Iuroean furnilure. The vhoIe
buiIding vas sel back from lhe main lhoroughfare, vhich kel
lraffic noise al a minimum.
As soon as she arrived al lhe office, Sumire vouId valer lhe
Ianls and gel lhe coffee-maker going. She'd check hone
messages and e-maiIs on lhe Ioverook. She'd rinl oul any
messages and ul lhem on Miu's desk. Mosl of lhem vere from
foreign agenls, in eilher IngIish or Irench. She'd oen any
ordinary osl lhal came and lhrov avay vhalever vas cIearIy
|unk maiI. A fev caIIs vouId come in every day, some from
abroad. Sumire vouId lake dovn lhe erson's name, number,
and message and reIay lhese lo Miu on her ceIIhone.
Miu usuaIIy shoved u around one or lvo in lhe aflernoon.
She'd slay an hour or so, give Sumire various inslruclions,
drink coffee, make a fev caIIs. Lellers lhal required a reIy
she'd diclale lo Sumire, vho'd lye lhem u on lhe vord
rocessor and eilher osl or fax lhem. These vere usuaIIy quile
brief business Iellers. Sumire aIso made reservalions for Miu al
lhe hairdresser, reslauranls, and lhe squash courl. usiness oul
of lhe vay, Miu and Sumire vouId chal for a vhiIe, and lhen
Miu vouId Ieave.
So Sumire vas oflen aIone in lhe office, laIking lo no one for
hours, bul she never feIl bored or IoneIy. She'd reviev her
lvice-a-veek IlaIian Iessons, memorizing lhe irreguIar verbs,
checking her ronuncialion vilh a lae recorder. She look
some comuler cIasses and gol lo vhere she couId handIe mosl
simIe gIilches. She oened u lhe informalion in lhe hard
drive and Iearned lhe generaI oulIines of lhe ro|ecls Miu had
Miu's main vork vas exaclIy as she had described il al lhe
vedding recelion. She conlracled vilh smaII vine roducers,
moslIy in Irance, and vhoIesaIed lheir vine lo reslauranls and
seciaIily shos in Tokyo. On occasion she arranged concerl
lris by musicians lo }aan. Agenls from Iarge firms handIed
lhe comIex business angIes, vilh Miu laking care of lhe
overaII Ian and some of lhe groundvork. Miu's seciaIily vas
searching oul unknovn, romising young erformers and
bringing lhem lo }aan.
Sumire had no vay of knoving hov much rofil Miu made
from her rivale business. Accounling records vere kel on
searale disks and couIdn'l be accessed vilhoul a assvord. Al
any rale, Sumire vas ecslalic, her hearl afIuller, |usl lo be abIe
lo meel Miu and laIk lo her. Thal's lhe desk vhere Miu sils, she
lhoughl. Thal's lhe baIIoinl en she uses, lhe mug she drinks
coffee from. No maller hov lriviaI lhe lask, Sumire did her

Ivery so oflen Miu vouId invile Sumire oul for dinner. Since
her business invoIved vine, Miu found il necessary lo
reguIarIy make lhe rounds of lhe beller-knovn reslauranls lo
slay in louch vilh lhe Ialesl nevs. Miu aIvays ordered a Iighl
fish dish or, on occasion, chicken, lhough she'd Ieave haIf, and
vouId ass on desserl. She'd ore over every delaiI of lhe vine
Iisl before deciding on a bollIe, bul vouId never drink more
lhan a gIass. Go ahead and have as much as you Iike, she loId
Sumire, bul lhere vas no vay Sumire couId finish lhal much.
So lhey aIvays ended u vilh haIf a very exensive bollIe of
vine Iefl, bul Miu didn'l mind.
Il's such a vasle lo order a vhoIe bollIe of vine for |usl lhe
lvo of us, Sumire said lo Miu one lime. We can bareIy finish
Don'l vorry. Miu Iaughed. The more ve Ieave behind, lhe
more eoIe in lhe reslauranl viII be abIe lo lry il. The
sommeIier, lhe headvailer, aII lhe vay dovn lo lhe vailer vho
fiIIs lhe valer gIasses. Thal vay a Iol of eoIe viII slarl lo
acquire a lasle for good vine. Which is vhy Ieaving exensive
vine is never a vasle.
Miu examined lhe coIour of lhe 1986 Mdoc and lhen, as if
savouring some niceIy lurned oul rose, carefuIIy lasled il.
Il is lhe same vilh anylhingyou have lo Iearn lhrough
your ovn exerience, aying your ovn vay. You can'l Iearn il
from a book.
Taking a cue from Miu, Sumire icked u her gIass and very
allenliveIy look a si, heId il in her moulh, and lhen svaIIoved
il. Ior a momenl an agreeabIe aflerlasle remained, bul afler a
fev seconds lhis disaeared, Iike morning dev on a summer
Ieaf. AII of vhich reared lhe aIale for lhe nexl bile of food.
Ivery lime she ale and laIked vilh Miu, Sumire Iearned
somelhing nev. Sumire vas amazed by lhe overvheIming
number of lhings she had yel lo Iearn.
You knov I've never lhoughl I vanled lo be somebody
eIse, Sumire bIurled oul once, erhas urged on by lhe more-
lhan-usuaI amounl of vine she'd drunk. ul somelimes I
lhink hov nice il vouId be lo be Iike you.
Miu heId her brealh for a momenl. Then she icked u her
vinegIass and look a si. Ior a second, lhe Iighl dyed her eyes
lhe crimson of lhe vine. Her face vas drained of ils usuaI
sublIe exression.
I'm sure you don'l knov lhis, she said caImIy, relurning
her gIass lo lhe labIe. The erson here nov isn'l lhe reaI me.
Iourleen years ago I became haIf lhe erson I used lo be. I vish
I couId have mel you vhen I vas vhoIelhal vouId have
been vonderfuI. ul il's oinlIess lo lhink aboul lhal nov.
Sumire vas so laken aback she vas seechIess. And missed
lhe chance lo ask lhe obvious queslions. Whal had haened lo
Miu 14 years ago` Why had she become haIf her reaI seIf` And
vhal did she mean by haIf, anyvay` This enigmalic
announcemenl, in lhe end, onIy made Sumire more and more
smillen vilh Miu. Whal an avesome erson, she lhoughl.

Through fragmenls of conversalion Sumire vas abIe lo iece
logelher a fev facls aboul Miu. Her husband vas }aanese, five
years oIder and fIuenl in Korean, lhe resuIl of lvo years as an
exchange sludenl in lhe economics dearlmenl of SeouI
Universily. He vas a varm erson, good al vhal he did, in
oinl of facl lhe guiding force behind Miu's comany. Iven
lhough il vas originaIIy a famiIy-run business, no one ever said
a bad vord aboul him.
Iver since she vas a IillIe girI, Miu had had a laIenl for
Iaying lhe iano. SliII in her leens she had von lhe lo rize
al severaI comelilions for young eoIe. She venl on lo a
conservaloire, sludied under a famous ianisl and, lhrough her
leacher's recommendalion, vas abIe lo sludy al a music
academy in Irance. Her reerloire ran mainIy from lhe Iale
Romanlics, Schumann and MendeIssohn, lo IouIenc, RaveI,
arlk, and Irokofiev. Her Iaying combined a keen, sensuous
lone vilh a vibranl, imeccabIe lechnique. In her sludenl days
she heId a number of concerls, aII veII received. A brighl fulure
as a concerl ianisl Iooked assured. During her lime abroad,
lhough, her falher feII iII, and Miu shul lhe Iid of her iano and
relurned lo }aan. Never lo louch a keyboard again.
Hov couId you give u lhe iano so easiIy` Sumire asked
hesilanlIy. If you don'l vanl lo laIk aboul il, lhal's okay. I |usl
find ilI don'l knova IillIe unusuaI. I mean, you had lo
sacrifice a Iol of lhings lo become a ianisl, didn'l you`
I didn'l sacrifice a |ci cj inings for lhe iano, Miu said soflIy.
I sacrificed ctcrqining. The iano demanded every ounce of
fIesh, every dro of bIood, and I couIdn'l refuse. Nol even
Weren'l you sorry lo give u` You'd aImosl made il.
Miu gazed inlo Sumire's eyes searchingIy. A dee, sleady
gaze. Dee vilhin Miu's eyes, as if in a quiel ooI in a svifl
slream, vordIess currenls vied vilh one anolher. OnIy
graduaIIy did lhese cIashing currenls sellIe.
I'm sorry, Sumire aoIogized. I'II mind my ovn
Il's aII righl. I |usl can'l exIain il veII.
They didn'l laIk aboul il again.

Miu didn'l aIIov smoking in her office and haled eoIe lo
smoke in fronl of her, so afler she began lhe |ob Sumire decided
il vas a good chance lo quil. eing a lvo-acks-of-MarIboro-a-
day smoker, lhough, lhings didn'l go so smoolhIy. Afler a
monlh, Iike some animaI lhal's had ils furry laiI sIiced off, she
Iosl her emolionaI gri on lhingsnol lhal lhis vas so firm lo
begin vilh. And as you mighl guess, she slarled caIIing me aII
lhe lime in lhe middIe of lhe nighl.

AII I can lhink aboul is having a smoke. I can bareIy sIee, and
vhen I do sIee I have nighlmares. I'm conslialed. I can'l
read, can'l vrile a Iine.
Iverybody goes lhrough lhal vhen lhey lry lo slo. In lhe
beginning al Ieasl, I said.
You find il easy lo give oinions as Iong as il's aboul olher
eoIe, don'l you` she snaed. You've never had a cigarelle
in your Iife.
Hey, if you can'l give your oinion aboul olher eoIe, lhe
vorId vouId lurn inlo a relly scary Iace, vouIdn'l il` If you
don'l lhink so, |usl Iook u vhal }oseh SlaIin did.
On lhe olher end of lhe Iine Sumire vas siIenl for a Iong lime.
A heavy siIence Iike dead souIs on lhe Iaslern Ironl.
HeIIo` I asked.
She finaIIy soke u. TrulhfuIIy, lhough, I don'l lhink il's
because I sloed smoking lhal I can'l vrile. Il mighl be one
reason, bul lhal's nol aII. Whal I mean is sloing smoking is
|usl an excuse. You knov: 'I'm sloing smoking, lhal's vhy I
can'l vrile. Nolhing I can do aboul il.'
Which exIains vhy you're so usel`
I guess, she said, suddenIy meek. Il's nol |usl lhal I can'l
vrile. Whal reaIIy usels me is I don'l have confidence any
more in lhe acl of vriling ilseIf. I read lhe sluff I vrole nol Iong
ago, and il's boring. Whal couId I have been lhinking` Il's Iike
Iooking across lhe room al some fiIlhy socks lossed on lhe
fIoor. I feeI avfuI, reaIizing aII lhe lime and energy I vasled.
When lhal haens you shouId caII somebody u al lhree in
lhe morning and vake him usqn|c|ica||q of coursefrom
his eacefuI semiolic sIee.
TeII me, said Sumire, have you ever feIl confused aboul
vhal you're doing, Iike il's nol righl`
I send more lime being confused lhan nol, I ansvered.
Are you serious`
Sumire laed her naiIs againsl her fronl leelh, one of her
many habils vhen she vas lhinking. I've hardIy ever feIl
confused Iike lhis before. Nol lhal I'm aIvays confidenl, sure of
my laIenl. I'm nol lhal nervy. I knov I'm a hahazard, seIfish
lye of erson. ul I've never been confused. I mighl have
made some mislakes aIong lhe vay, bul I aIvays feIl I vas on
lhe righl alh.
You've been Iucky, I reIied. Like a Iong seII of rain righl
afler you Ianl rice.
Maybe you're righl.
ul al lhis oinl, lhings aren'l vorking oul.
Righl. They aren'l. Somelimes I gel so frighlened, Iike
everylhing I've done u liII nov is vrong. I have lhese reaIislic
dreams and sna vide avake in lhe middIe of lhe nighl. And
for a vhiIe I can'l vork oul vhal's reaI and vhal isn'l . Thal
kind of feeIing. Do you have any idea vhal I'm saying`
I lhink so, I reIied.
The lhoughl hils me a Iol lhese days lhal maybe my noveI-
vriling days are over. The vorId's cravIing vilh sluid,
innocenl girIs, and I'm |usl one of lhem, seIf-consciousIy
chasing afler dreams lhal'II never come lrue. I shouId shul lhe
iano Iid and come dovn off lhe slage. efore il's loo Iale.
Shul lhe iano Iid`
A melahor.
I svilched lhe receiver from my Iefl hand lo my righl. I an
sure of one lhing. Maybe you aren'l, bul I am. Someday you'II
be a fanlaslic vriler. I've read vhal you've vrillen, and I
You reaIIy lhink so`
Irom lhe bollom of my hearl, I said. I'm nol going lo Iie lo
you aboul lhings Iike lhal. There are some relly remarkabIe
scenes in lhe lhings you've vrillen so far. Say you vere vriling
aboul lhe seashore in May. You can hear lhe sound of lhe vind
in your ears and smeII lhe saIl air. You can feeI lhe sofl varmlh
of lhe sun on your arms. If you vrole aboul a smaII room fiIIed
vilh lobacco smoke, you can bel lhe reader vouId slarl lo feeI
Iike he can'l brealhe. And his eyes vouId sling. Irose Iike lhal
is beyond mosl vrilers. Your vriling has lhe Iiving, brealhing
force of somelhing naluraI fIoving lhrough il. Righl nov lhal
hasn'l aII come logelher, bul lhal doesn'l mean il's lime lo
shul lhe Iid on lhe iano.
Sumire vas siIenl for a good 10, 15 seconds. You're nol |usl
saying lhal lo make me feeI beller, lo cheer me u, are you`
No, I'm nol. Il's an undeniabIe facl, Iain and simIe.
Like lhe MoIdau River`
You gol il. }usl Iike lhe MoIdau River.
Thank you, she said.
You're veIcome, I reIied.
Somelimes you're |usl lhe sveelesl lhing. Like Chrislmas,
summer hoIidays and a brand-nev uy aII roIIed inlo one.
Like I aIvays do vhen somebody raises me, I mumbIed
some vague reIy.
ul one lhing bolhers me, she added. Someday you'II gel
married lo some nice girI and forgel aII aboul me. And I von'l
be abIe lo caII you in lhe middIe of lhe nighl vhenever I vanl
lo. Righl`
You can aIvays caII during lhe day.
Daylime's no good. You don'l undersland anylhing, do
Neilher do qcu, I rolesled. Mosl eoIe vork vhen lhe
sun's u and lurn oul lhe Iighl al nighl and go lo sIee. ul I
mighl as veII have been reciling some asloraI oems lo
myseIf in lhe middIe of a umkin alch.
There vas lhis arlicIe in lhe aer lhe olher day, she
conlinued, comIeleIy obIivious. Il said lhal Iesbians are born
lhal vay, lhere's a liny bone in lhe inner ear lhal's comIeleIy
differenl from olher vomen's and lhal makes aII lhe difference.
Some smaII bone vilh a comIicaled name. So being a Iesbian
isn'l acquired, il's genelic. An American doclor discovered lhis.
I have no idea vhy he vas doing lhal kind of research, bul ever
since I read aboul il I can'l gel lhe idea oul of my mind of lhis
IillIe good-for-nolhing bone inside my ear, vondering vhal
shae my ovn IillIe bone is.
I had no idea vhal lo say. A siIence descended on us as
sudden as lhe inslanl fresh oiI is oured inlo a Iarge frying an.
So you're sure vhal you feeI for Miu is sexuaI desire` I
A hundred er cenl sure, Sumire said. When I'm vilh her
lhal bone in my ear slarls ringing. Like deIicale seasheII vind
chimes. And I vanl her lo hoId me, Iel everylhing lake ils
course. If lhal isn'l sexuaI desire, vhal's fIoving in my veins
musl be lomalo |uice.
Hmm, I said. Whal couId I ossibIy say lo lhal`
Il exIains ctcrqining. Why I don'l vanl lo have sex vilh
any men. Why I don'l feeI anylhing. Why I've aIvays lhoughl
I'm differenl from olher eoIe.
Mind if I give you my ennyvorlh here` I asked.
Any exIanalion or Iogic lhal exIains everylhing so easiIy
has a hidden lra in il. I'm seaking from exerience.
Somebody once said if il's somelhing a singIe book can exIain,
il's nol vorlh having exIained. Whal I mean is don'l Iea lo
any concIusions.
I'II remember lhal, Sumire said. And lhe caII ended,
somevhal abrulIy.

I iclured her hanging u lhe receiver, vaIking oul of lhe
leIehone box. y my cIock il vas 3.30. I venl lo lhe kilchen,
drank a gIass of valer, snuggIed back in bed, and dosed my
eyes. ul sIee vouIdn'l come. I drev lhe curlain aside, and
lhere vas lhe moon, fIoaling in lhe sky Iike some aIe, cIever
orhan. I knev I vouIdn'l gel back lo sIee. I breved a fresh
ol of coffee, uIIed a chair over nexl lo lhe vindov, and sal
lhere, munching on some cheese and crackers. I sal, reading,
vailing for lhe davn.


Il's lime lo say a fev vords aboul myseIf.
Of course lhis slory is aboul Sumire, nol me. SliII, I'm lhe one
vhose eyes lhe slory is loId lhroughlhe laIe of vho Sumire is
and vhal she didand I shouId exIain a IillIe aboul lhe
narralor. Me, in olher vords.

I find il hard lo laIk aboul myseIf. I'm aIvays lried u by lhe
elernaI unc an |? aradox. Sure, no one knovs as much ure
dala aboul me as me. ul vhen I laIk aboul myseIf, aII sorls of
olher faclorsvaIues, slandards, my ovn Iimilalions as an
observermake me, lhe narraicr, seIecl and eIiminale lhings
aboul me, lhe narraicc. I've aIvays been dislurbed by lhe
lhoughl lhal I'm nol ainling a very ob|eclive iclure of myseIf.
This kind of lhing doesn'l seem lo bolher mosl eoIe. Given
lhe chance, lhey're surrisingIy frank vhen lhey laIk aboul
lhemseIves. I'm honesl and oen lo a ridicuIous degree,
lhey'II say, or I'm lhin-skinned and nol lhe lye vho gels
aIong easiIy in lhe vorId, or I'm very good al sensing olhers'
lrue feeIings. ul any number of limes I've seen eoIe vho
say lhey're easiIy hurl or hurl olher eoIe for no aarenl
reason. SeIf-slyIed honesl and oen eoIe, vilhoul reaIizing
vhal lhey're doing, bIilheIy use some seIf-serving excuse lo gel
vhal lhey vanl. And lhose vho are good al sensing olhers'
lrue feeIings are laken in by lhe mosl lransarenl fIallery. Il's
enough lo make me ask lhe queslion: hov veII do ve reaIIy
knov ourseIves`
The more I lhink aboul il, lhe more I'd Iike lo lake a rain
check on lhe loic of nc. Whal I'd Iike lo knov more aboul is
lhe ob|eclive reaIily of lhings cuisi!c myseIf. Hov imorlanl lhe
vorId oulside is lo me, hov I mainlain a sense of equiIibrium
by coming lo lerms vilh il. Tnais hov I'd gras a dearer sense
of vho I am.
These are lhe kinds of ideas I had running lhrough my head
vhen I vas a leenager. Like a masler buiIder slrelches laul his
slring and Iays one brick afler anolher, I conslrucled lhis
vievoinlor hiIosohy of Iife, lo ul a bigger sin on il.
Logic and secuIalion Iayed a arl in formuIaling lhis
vievoinl, bul for lhe mosl arl il vas based on my ovn
exeriences. And seaking of exerience, a number of ainfuI
eisodes laughl me lhal gelling lhis vievoinl of mine across
lo olher eoIe vasn'l lhe easiesl lhing in lhe vorId.
The ushol of aII lhis is lhal vhen I vas young I began lo
drav an invisibIe boundary belveen myseIf and olher eoIe.
No maller vho I vas deaIing vilh. I mainlained a sel dislance,
carefuIIy moniloring lhe erson's allilude so lhal lhey vouIdn'l
gel any cIoser. I didn'l easiIy svaIIov vhal olher eoIe loId
me. My onIy assions vere books and music. As you mighl
guess, I Ied a IoneIy Iife.

My famiIy isn'l anylhing seciaI. So bIandIy normaI, in facl, I
don'l knov vhere lo begin. My falher gradualed from a IocaI
universily vilh a degree in science and vorked in lhe research
Iab of a Iarge food manufaclurer. He Ioved goIf, and every
Sunday he vas oul on lhe course. My molher vas crazy aboul
lanka oelry and oflen allended oelry recilaIs. Whenever her
name vas in lhe oelry seclion of lhe nevsaer, she'd be
hay as a Iark for days. She Iiked cIeaning, bul haled cooking.
My sisler, five years oIder lhan me, delesled bolh cIeaning and
cooking. Those are lhings olher eoIe did, she decided, nol
her. Which meanl lhal ever since I vas oId enough lo be in lhe
kilchen, I made aII my ovn meaIs. I boughl some cookbooks
and Iearned hov lo make aImosl everylhing. I vas lhe onIy
chiId I knev vho Iived Iike lhal.
I vas born in Suginami, bul ve moved lo Tsudanuma in
Chiba Irefeclure vhen I vas smaII, and I grev u lhere. The
neighbourhood vas fuII of vhile-coIIar famiIies |usl Iike ours.
My sisler vas aIvays lo of her cIass, she couIdn'l sland nol
being lhe besl and didn'l sle one inch oulside her shere of
inleresl. She nevernol even oncelook our dog for a vaIk.
She gradualed from Tokyo Universily Iav schooI and assed
lhe bar exam lhe foIIoving year, no mean feal. Her husband is
a go-geller managemenl consuIlanl. They Iive in a four-room
condo lhey urchased in an eIeganl buiIding near Yoyogi Iark.
Inside, lhough, lhe Iace is a igsly.
I vas lhe oosile of my sisler, nol caring much aboul
sludying or my grades. I didn'l vanl any grief from my
arenls, so I venl lhrough lhe molions of going lo schooI,
doing lhe minimum amounl of sludy and homevork lo gel by.
The resl of lhe lime I Iayed foolbaII and sravIed on my bed
vhen I gol home, reading one noveI afler anolher. None of
your lyicaI afler-hours cram schooI, no lulor. Iven so, my
grades veren'l haIf bad. Al lhis rale, I reckoned I couId gel inlo
a decenl coIIege vilhoul kiIIing myseIf sludying for lhe
enlrance exams. And lhal's exaclIy vhal haened.

I slarled coIIege and Iived by myseIf in a smaII aarlmenl. Iven
vhen I vas Iiving al home in Tsudanuma I hardIy ever had a
hearl-lo-hearl conversalion vilh my famiIy. We Iived logelher
under one roof, bul my arenls and sisler vere Iike slrangers lo
me, and I had no idea vhal lhey vanled from Iife. And lhe
same heId lrue for lhemlhey didn'l have any idea vhal kind
of erson I vas or vhal I asired lo. Nol lhal I knev vhal I
vanled in IifeI didn'l. I Ioved reading noveIs lo dislraclion,
bul didn'l vrile veII enough lo be a noveIisl, being an edilor or
a crilic vas oul, loo, since my lasles ran lo exlremes. NoveIs
shouId be for ure ersonaI en|oymenl, I decided, nol arl of
your vork or sludy. Thal's vhy I didn'l sludy Iileralure, bul
hislory. I didn'l have any seciaI inleresl in hislory, bul once I
began sludying il I found il an engrossing sub|ecl. I didn'l Ian
lo go lo grad schooI and devole my Iife lo hislory or anylhing,
lhough my adviser did suggesl lhal. I en|oyed reading and
lhinking, bul I vas hardIy lhe academic lye. As Iushkin ul

Hc na! nc iicn ic !ig jcr g|crics
Occp in inc !iri inai iinc nas |ai!.

AII of vhich didn'l mean I vas aboul lo find a |ob in a
normaI comany, cIav my vay lhrough lhe cul-lhroal
comelilion, and advance sle by sle u lhe sIiery sIoes of
lhe cailaIisl yramid.
So, by a rocess of eIiminalion, I ended u a leacher. The
schooI is onIy a fev slalions avay by lrain. My uncIe haened
lo be on lhe board of educalion in lhal lovn and asked me
vhelher I mighl vanl lo be a leacher. I hadn'l laken aII lhe
required leacher-lraining cIasses, so I vas hired as an assislanl
leacher, bul afler a shorl eriod of screening I quaIified as a
roer leacher. I hadn'l Ianned on being a leacher, bul afler I
acluaIIy became one I discovered a deeer resecl and affeclion
for lhe rofession lhan I ever imagined I'd have. More
accuraleIy, reaIIy, I shouId say lhal I haened lo discover
I'dsland al lhe fronl of lhe cIassroom, leaching my rimary-
schooI charges basic facls aboul Ianguage, Iife, lhe vorId, and
I'd find lhal al lhe same lime I vas leaching myseIf lhese basic
facls aII over againfiIlered lhrough lhe eyes and minds of
lhese chiIdren. Done lhe righl vay, lhis vas a refreshing
exerience. Irofound, even. I gol aIong veII vilh my uiIs,
lheir molhers, and my feIIov leachers.
SliII lhe basic queslions lugged al me: Who am I` Whal am I
searching for` Where am I going`

The cIosesl I came lo ansvering lhese queslions vas vhen I
laIked lo Sumire. More lhan laIking aboul myseIf, lhough, I
Iislened allenliveIy lo her, lo vhal she said. She lhrev aII sorls
of queslions my vay, and if I couIdn'l come u vilh an ansver,
or if my resonse didn'l make sense, you'd beller beIieve she
Iel me knov. UnIike olher eoIe she ncncsi|q, sinccrc|q vanled
lo hear vhal I had lo say. I did my besl lo ansver her, and our
conversalions heIed me oen u more aboul myseIf lo her
and, al lhe same lime, lo myseIf.
We used lo send hours laIking. We never gol lired of
laIking, never ran oul of loicsnoveIs, lhe vorId, scenery,
Ianguage. Our conversalions vere more oen and inlimale
lhan any Iovers'.
I imagined hov vonderfuI il vouId be if indeed ve ccu|! be
Iovers. I Ionged for lhe varmlh of her skin on mine. I iclured
us married, Iiving logelher. ul I had lo face lhe facl lhal
Sumire had no such romanlic feeIings for me, Iel aIone sexuaI
inleresl. OccasionaIIy she'd slay over al my aarlmenl afler
ve'd laIked inlo lhe smaII hours, bul lhere vas never even lhe
sIighlesl hinl of romance. Come 2 or 3 a.m. and she'd yavn,
cravI inlo bed, sink her face inlo my iIIov, and faII fasl asIee.
I'd sread oul some bedding on lhe fIoor and Iie dovn, bul I
couIdn'l sIee, my mind fuII of fanlasies, confused lhoughls,
seIf-Ioalhing. Somelimes lhe inevilabIe hysicaI reaclions
vouId cause me grief, and I'd Iie avake in misery unliI davn.
Il vas hard lo accel lhal she had aImosl no feeIings, maybe
none al aII, for me as a man. This hurl so bad al limes il feIl Iike
someone vas gouging oul my guls vilh a knife. SliII, lhe lime I
senl vilh her vas more recious lhan anylhing. She heIed
me forgel lhe underlone of IoneIiness in my Iife. She exanded
lhe ouler edges of my vorId, heIed me drav a dee, soolhing
brealh. OnIy Sumire couId do lhal for me.
In order lo ease lhe ain and, I hoed, eIiminale any sexuaI
lension belveen me and Sumire, I slarled sIeeing vilh olher
vomen. I'm nol saying I vas a big hil vilh vomen, I vasn'l. I
vasn'l vhal you'd caII a Iadies' man, and Iaid no cIaim lo any
seciaI charms. Ior vhalever reason, lhough, some vomen
vere allracled lo me, and I discovered lhal if I Iel lhings lake
lheir course il vasn'l so hard lo gel lhem lo sIee vilh me.
These IillIe fIings never aroused much assion in me, lhey
vere, al mosl a kind of comforl.
I didn'l hide my affairs from Sumire. She didn'l knov every
IillIe delaiI, |usl lhe basic oulIines. Il didn'l seem lo bolher her.
If lhere vas anylhing in my affairs lhal vas lroubIing, il vas
lhe facl lhal lhe vomen vere aII oIder and eilher vere married
or had fiances or sleady boyfriends. My mosl recenl arlner
vas lhe molher of one of my uiIs. We sIel logelher aboul
lvice a monlh.
Thal may be lhe dealh of you, Sumire varned me once.
And I agreed. ul lhere vasn'l much I couId do aboul il.

One Salurday al lhe beginning of }uIy my cIass had an ouling. I
look aII 35 of my uiIs mounlain cIimbing in Okulama. The
day began vilh an air of hay excilemenl, onIy lo descend
inlo lolaI chaos. When ve reached lhe summil, lvo chiIdren
discovered lhey'd forgollen lo ack lheir Iunches in lheir
backacks. There veren'l any shos around, so I had lo sIil
my ovn ncri-naki Iunch lhe schooI had rovided. Which Iefl
me vilh nolhing lo eal. Someone gave me some chocoIale, bul
lhal vas aII I had lhe vhoIe day. On lo of vhich one girI said
she couIdn'l vaIk any more, and I had lo carry her iggyback
aII lhe vay dovn lhe mounlain. Tvo boys slarled lo scuffIe,
haIf in fun, and one of lhem feII and banged his head on a rock.
He gol a sIighl concussion and a heavy nosebIeed. Nolhing
crilicaI, bul his shirl vas covered in bIood as if he'd been in a
massacre. Like I said, lolaI chaos.
When I gol home I vas as exhausled as an oId raiIvay
sIeeer. I look a balh, dovned a coId drink, snuggIed inlo bed
loo lired lo lhink, lurned off lhe Iighl, and sellIed inlo a
eacefuI sIee. And lhen lhe hone rang: a caII from Sumire. I
Iooked al my bedside cIock. I'd onIy sIel for aboul an hour.
ul I didn'l grumbIe. I vas loo lired lo comIain. Some days
are Iike lhal.
Can I see you lomorrov aflernoon` she asked.
My voman friend vas coming lo my Iace al 6 .m. She vas
suosed lo ark her red Toyola CeIica a IillIe vay dovn lhe
road. I'm free liII four, I said.

Sumire had on a sIeeveIess vhile bIouse, a navy-bIue mini
skirl, and a liny air of sungIasses. Her onIy accessory vas a
smaII Iaslic haircIi. An aIlogelher simIe oulfil. She vore
aImosl no make-u, exosed lo lhe vorId in her naluraI slale.
Somehov, lhough, I didn'l recognize her al firsl. Il had onIy
been lhree veeks since ve Iasl mel, bul lhe girI silling across
from me al lhe labIe Iooked Iike someone vho beIonged lo an
enlireIy differenl vorId from lhe Sumire I knev. To ul il
miIdIy, she vas lhoroughIy beaulifuI. Somelhing inside her
vas bIossoming.
I ordered a smaII gIass of draughl beer, and she asked for
grae |uice.
I hardIy recognize you lhese days, I said.
Il's lhal season, she said disinleresledIy, siing al her
drink lhrough a slrav.
Whal season` I asked.
A deIayed adoIescence, I guess. When I gel u in lhe
morning and see my face in lhe mirror, il Iooks Iike someone
eIse's. If I'm nol carefuI, I mighl end u Iefl behind.
So vouIdn'l il be beller lo |usl Iel il go, lhen` I said.
ul if I Iosl myseIf, vhere couId I go`
If il's for a couIe of days, you can slay al my Iace. You'd
aIvays be veIcomelhe you vho Iosl qcu.
Sumire Iaughed.
AII |oking aside, she said, vhere in lhe vorId couId I be
I don'l knov. Look on lhe brighl sideyou've sloed
smoking, you're vearing nice cIean cIolheseven your socks
malch novand you can seak IlaIian. You've Iearned hov lo
|udge vines, use a comuler, and al Ieasl for nov go lo sIee al
nighl and vake u in lhe morning. You musl be heading
ul I sliII can'l vrile a Iine.
Iverylhing has ils us and dovns.
Sumire screved u her Iis. WouId you caII vhal I'm going
lhrough a defeclion`
Defeclion` Ior a momenl I couIdn'l see vhal she meanl.
Defeclion. elraying your beIiefs and conviclions.
You mean gelling a |ob, dressing niceIy, and giving u
vriling noveIs`
I shook my head. You've aIvays vrillen because you
vanled lo. If you don'l vanl lo any more, vhy shouId you` Do
you lhink your nol vriling is going lo cause a viIIage lo burn lo
lhe ground` A shi lo sink` The lides lo gel messed u` Or sel
lhe revoIulion back five years` HardIy. I don'l lhink anybody's
going lo IabeI lhal !cjcciicn.
So vhal shouId I caII il`
I shook my head again. The vord !cjcciicns loo oId-
fashioned. Nobody uses il any more. Go lo some Ieflover
commune, maybe, and eoIe mighl sliII use lhe vord. I don'l
knov lhe delaiIs, bul if you don'l vanl lo vrile any Ionger,
lhal's u lo you.
Commune` Do you mean lhe Iaces Lenin made`
Those are caIIed koIkhoz. There aren'l any Iefl, lhough.
Il's nol Iike I vanl lo give u vriling, Sumire said. She
lhoughl for a momenl. Il's |usl lhal vhen I lry lo vrile, I can'l.
I sil dovn al my desk and nolhing comesno ideas, no vords,
no scenes. Zcrc. Nol loo Iong ago I had a miIIion lhings lo vrile
aboul. Whal in lhe vorId's haening lo me`
You're asking me`
Sumire nodded.
I look a si of my coId beer and galhered my lhoughls. I
lhink righl nov il's Iike you're osilioning yourseIf in a nev
ficlionaI framevork. You're reoccuied vilh lhal, so lhere's
no need lo ul your feeIings inlo vriling. esides, you're loo
Do qcu do lhal` Iul yourseIf inside a ficlionaI framevork`
I lhink mosl eoIe Iive in a ficlion. I'm no excelion. Think
of il in lerms of a car's lransmission. Il's Iike a lransmission lhal
slands belveen you and lhe harsh reaIilies of Iife. You lake lhe
rav over from oulside and use gears lo ad|usl il so
everylhing's aII niceIy in sync. Thal's hov you kee your
fragiIe body inlacl. Does lhis make any sense`
Sumire gave a smaII nod. And I'm sliII nol comIeleIy
ad|usled lo lhal nev framevork. Thal's vhal you're saying`
The biggesl robIem righl nov is lhal you don'l knov vhal
sorl of ficlion you're deaIing vilh. You don'l knov lhe Iol, lhe
slyIe's sliII nol sel. The onIy lhing you do knov is lhe main
characler's name. NeverlheIess, lhis nev ficlion is reinvenling
vho you are. Give il lime, il'II lake you under ils ving, and you
may very veII calch a gIimse of a nev vorId. ul you're nol
lhere yel, vhich Ieaves you in a recarious osilion.
You mean I've laken oul lhe oId lransmission, bul haven'l
quile finished boIling dovn lhe nev one` And lhe engine sliII's
running. Righl`
You couId ul il lhal vay.
Sumire made her usuaI suIIen face and laed her slrav on
lhe haIess ice in her drink. IinaIIy she Iooked u.
I undersland vhal you mean by prccaricus. Somelimes I feeI
soI don'l knovIoneIy. The kind of heIIess feeIing vhen
everylhing you're used lo has been ried avay. Like lhere's
no more gravily, and I'm Iefl lo drifl in ouler sace vilh no
idea vhere I'm going.
Like a IillIe Iosl Sulnik`
I guess so.
ul you do have Miu, I said.
Al Ieasl for nov.
Ior a vhiIe siIence reigned.
Do you lhink Miu is seeking lhal, loo` I asked.
Sumire nodded. I beIieve she is. IrobabIy as much as I am.
IhysicaI asecls incIuded`
Il's hard lo say. I can'l gel a handIe on il yel. Whal her
feeIings are, I mean. Which makes me feeI Iosl and confused.
A cIassicaI conundrum, I said.
In Iace of an ansver, Sumire screved u her Iis again.
ul as far as you're concerned, I said, you're ready lo go.
Sumire nodded once, unequivocaIIy. She couIdn'l have been
more serious. I sank back dee inlo my chair and cIased my
hands behind my head.
Afler aII lhis, don'l slarl lo hale me, okay` Sumire said. Her
voice vas Iike a Iine from an oId bIack-and-vhile }ean-Luc
Godard movie, fiIlering in |usl beyond lhe frame of my
Afler aII lhis, I von'l slarl lo hale you.

The nexl lime I sav Sumire vas lvo veeks Ialer, on a Sunday,
vhen I heIed her move. She'd decided lo move aII of a
sudden, and I vas lhe onIy one vho came lo heI. Olher lhan
books, she ovned very IillIe, and lhe vhoIe rocedure vas
over before ve knev il. One good lhing aboul being oor, al
I borroved a friend's Toyola minivan and lransorled her
lhings over lo her nev Iace in Yoyogi-Uehara. The aarlmenl
vasn'l so nev or much lo Iook al, bul comared lo her oId
vooden buiIding in Kichi|o|ia Iace lhal shouId be on a Iisl of
designaled hisloricaI silesil vas definileIy a sle u. An
eslale agenl friend of Miu's had Iocaled lhe Iace for her,
desile ils convenienl Iocalion, lhe renl vas reasonabIe and il
boasled a nice viev. Il vas aIso lvice as big as lhe oId Iace.
DefinileIy vorlh lhe move. Yoyogi Iark vas nearby, and she
couId vaIk lo vork if lhe mood look her.
Slarling nexl monlh I'II be vorking five days a veek, she
said. Three days a veek seems neilher here nor lhere, and il's
easier lo sland commuling if you do il every day. I have lo ay
more renl nov, and Miu loId me il'd be beller aII around if I
became a fuII-lime emIoyee. I mean, if I slay al home, I sliII
von'l be abIe lo vrile.
Sounds Iike a good idea, I commenled.
My Iife viII gel more organized if I vork every day, and I
robabIy von'l be caIIing you u al 3.30 in lhe morning. One
good oinl aboul il.
One tcrq good oinl, I said. ul il's sad lo lhink you'II be
Iiving so far avay from me.
You reaIIy feeI lhal vay`
Of course. Wanl me lo ri oul my hearl and shov you`
I vas silling on lhe bare fIoor of lhe nev aarlmenl, Ieaning
againsl lhe vaII. Sumire vas so berefl of househoId goods lhe
nev Iace Iooked deserled. There veren'l any curlains in lhe
vindovs, and lhe books lhal didn'l fil inlo lhe booksheIf Iay
iIed on lhe fIoor Iike a gang of inleIIecluaI refugees. The fuII-
Ienglh mirror on lhe vaII, a moving resenl from Miu, vas lhe
onIy lhing lhal slood oul. The cavs of crovs fiIlered in from
lhe ark on lhe lviIighl breeze. Sumire sal dovn nexl lo me.
You knov vhal` she said.
If I vere some good-for-nolhing Iesbian, vouId you sliII be
my friend`
Whelher you're a good-for-nolhing Iesbian or nol doesn'l
maller. Imagine Tnc Grcaicsi Hiis cj Bc||q Oarin minus 'Mack
lhe Knife'. Thal's vhal my Iife vouId be Iike vilhoul you.
Sumire narroved her eyes and Iooked al me. I'm nol sure I
foIIov your melahor, bul vhal you mean is you'd feeI reaIIy
Thal's aboul lhe size of il, I said.

Sumire resled her head on my shouIder. Her hair vas heId
back by a smaII haircIi, and I couId see her smaII, niceIy
formed ears. Iars so relly you'd lhink lhey had |usl been
crealed. Sofl, easiIy in|ured ears. I couId feeI her brealh on my
skin. She vore a air of ink shorls and a faded, Iain navy-
bIue T-shirl. The oulIine of her smaII niIes shoved lhrough
lhe shirl. There vas a fainl odour of sveal. Her sveal and
mine, lhe lvo odours sublIy combined.
I vanled lo hoId her so badIy. I vas seized by a vioIenl desire
lo ush her dovn on lhe fIoor righl lhen and lhere. ul I knev
il vouId be vasled efforl. SuddenIy I found il hard lo brealhe,
and my fieId of vision narroved. Time had Iosl an exil and
sun ils vheeIs. Desire sveIIed u in my lrousers, hard as a
rock. I vas confused, beviIdered. I lried lo gel a gri. I
brealhed in a IungfuI of fresh air, cIosed my eyes, and in lhal
incomrehensibIe darkness I sIovIy began counling. My urges
vere so overovering lhal lears came lo my eyes.
I Iike you, loo, Sumire said. In lhis vhoIe big vorId, more
lhan anyone eIse.
Afler Miu, you mean, I said.
Miu's a IillIe differenl.
Hov so`
The feeIings I have for her are differenl from hov I feeI
aboul you. Whal I mean is . hmm. Hov shouId I ul il`
We good-for-nolhing helerosexuaIs have a lerm for il, I
said. We say you gel a hard-on.
Sumire Iaughed. Olher lhan vanling lo be a noveIisl, I've
never vanled anylhing so much. I've aIvays been salisfied
vilh exaclIy vhal I have. ul nov, righl al lhis momenl, I vanl
Miu. Very, very much. I vanl lo have her. Make her mine. I |usl
natc lo. There are no olher choices. Nol one. I have no idea vhy
lhings vorked oul Iike lhis. Does lhal . make sense`
I nodded. My enis sliII mainlained ils overovering
rigidily, and I rayed lhal Sumire vouIdn'l nolice.
There's a greal Iine by Groucho Marx, I said. 'She's so in
Iove vilh me she doesn'l knov anylhing. Thal's vhy she's in
Iove vilh me.'
Sumire Iaughed.
I hoe lhings vork oul, I said. ul lry your besl lo slay
aIerl. You're sliII vuInerabIe. Remember lhal.

Wilhoul a vord, Sumire look my hand and genlIy squeezed il.
Her smaII, sofl hand had a fainl sheen of sveal. I imagined her
hand slroking my rock-hard enis. I lried nol lo lhink lhal, bul
couIdn'l heI il. As Sumire had said, lhere vere no olher
choices. I imagined laking off her T-shirl, her shorls, her
anlies. IeeIing her lighl, laul niIes under my longue.
Sreading her Iegs vide, enlering lhal velness. SIovIy, inlo lhe
dee darkness vilhin. Il enliced me inside, enfoIded me, lhen
ushed me oul . The iIIusion grabbed me and vouIdn'l Iel go.
I cIosed my eyes lighl again and Iel a concenlraled cIum of
lime vash over me. My face lurned dovn, I vailed alienlIy
for lhe overhealed air lo bIov above me and avay.

Why don'l ve have dinner logelher` she asked. ul I had lo
lake lhe minivan I borroved back lo Hino by lhe end of lhe
day. More lhan anylhing eIse, lhough, I had lo be aIone vilh
my vioIenl urges. I didn'l vanl Sumire lo gel invoIved any
more lhan she aIready vas. I didn'l knov hov far I couId
conlroI myseIf if she vas beside me. Iasl lhe oinl of no relurn,
and I mighl comIeleIy Iose il.
WeII, Iel me lreal you lo a nice dinner somelime soon, lhen.
TabIecIolhs, vine. The vorks. Maybe nexl veek, Sumire
romised as ve said goodbye. Kee your diary free for me
nexl veek.
Okay, I said.

I gIanced al lhe fuII-Ienglh mirror as I assed by and sav my
face. Il had a slrange exression. Il vas my face, aII righl, bul
vhere did lhal Iook come from` I didn'l feeI Iike relracing my
sles and invesligaling furlher.
Sumire slood al lhe enlrance lo her nev Iace lo see me off.
She vaved goodbye, somelhing she rareIy did.
In lhe end, Iike so many beaulifuI romises in our Iives, lhal
dinner dale never came lo be. Al lhe beginning of Augusl I
received a Iong Ieller from her.

The enveIoe had a Iarge, coIourfuI IlaIian slam on il and vas
oslmarked Rome, lhough I couIdn'l make oul vhen il had
been senl.
The day lhe Ieller arrived, I'd gone oul lo Shin|uku for lhe
firsl lime in quile a vhiIe, icked u a couIe of nev books al
lhe Kinokuniya booksho, and laken in a Luc esson movie.
Aflervards I sloed by a beer haII and en|oyed an anchovy
izza and a mug of dark beer. OnIy |usl bealing lhe rush hour, I
boarded lhe Chuo Line and read one of my nev books unliI I
arrived home al Kunilachi. I Ianned lo make a simIe dinner
and valch a foolbaII malch on TV. The ideaI vay lo send a
summer hoIiday. Hol, aIone, and free, nol bolhering anyone,
and nobody bolhering me.
When I gol back home, lhere vas a Ieller on lhe mal. The
sender's name vasn'l on lhe enveIoe, bul one gIance al lhe
handvriling loId me il vas from Sumire. HierogIyhic vriling,
comacl, hard, uncomromising. Wriling lhal reminded me of
lhe beelIes lhey discovered inside lhe yramids of Igyl. Like
il's going lo slarl cravIing and disaear back inlo lhe
darkness of hislory.

I ul lhe food I'd boughl al a suermarkel in lhe fridge and
oured myseIf a laII gIass of iced lea. I sal dovn in a chair in
lhe kilchen, sIil oen lhe enveIoe vilh a aring knife, and
read lhe Ieller. Iive ages of slalionery from lhe Rome
IxceIsior HoleI, crammed fuII of liny vriling in bIue ink. Musl
have laken a Iol of lime lo vrile lhal much. On lhe Iasl age, in
one corner, vas some sorl of slaincoffee, erhas.

Hov are you`

I can imagine hov surrised you musl be lo aII of
a sudden gel a Ieller from me from Rome. You're
so cooI, lhough, il'd robabIy lake more lhan
Rome lo surrise you. Rome's a bil loo lourisly.
Il'd have lo be some Iace Iike GreenIand,
Timbuklu, or lhe Slrail of MageIIan, vouIdn'l il`
Though I can leII you | find il hard lo beIieve lhal
here I am in Rome.

Anyvay, I'm sorry I vasn'l abIe lo lake you oul
lo dinner Iike ve Ianned. This Iuroe lri came
righl oul of lhe bIue, |usl afler I moved. Then il
vas uller madness for a fev daysrunning oul
lo aIy for a assorl, buying suilcases,
finishing u some vork I'd begun. I'm nol very
good al remembering lhingsI don'l need lo leII
qcu, do I`bul I do lry my besl lo kee my
romises. The ones I remember, lhal is. Which is
vhy I vanl lo aoIogize for nol keeing our
dinner dale.
I reaIIy en|oy my nev aarlmenl. Moving is
cerlainIy a ain (I knov you did mosl of lhe
vork, for vhich I'm gralefuI, sliII, il's a ain), bul
once you're aII moved in il's relly nice. There're
no rooslers croving in my nev Iace, as in
Kichi|o|i, inslead a Iol of crovs making a rackel
Iike some oId vaiIing vomen. Al davn fIocks of
lhem assembIe in Yoyogi Iark, and make such a
ruckus you'd lhink lhe vorId vas aboul lo end.
No need for an aIarm cIock, since lhe rackel
aIvays vakes me u. Thanks lo vhich I'm nov
Iike you, Iiving an earIy-lo-bed-earIy-lo-rise
farmer's IifeslyIe. I'm beginning lo undersland
hov il feeIs lo have someone caII you al 3.30 in
lhe morning. Bcginning lo undersland, mind you.
I'm vriling lhis Ieller al an ouldoor cafe on a
side slreel in Rome, siing esresso as lhick as
lhe deviI's sveal, and I have lhis slrange feeIing
lhal I'm nol nqsc|j any more. Il's hard lo ul il
inlo vords, bul I guess il's as if I vas fasl asIee,
and someone came, disassembIed me, and
hurriedIy ul me back logelher again. Thal sorl of
feeIing. Can you undersland vhal I'm gelling al`
My eyes leII me I'm lhe same oId me, bul
somelhing's !ijjcrcni from usuaI. Nol lhal I can
cIearIy recaII vhal usuaI vas. Iver since I
sleed off lhe Iane I can'l shake lhis very reaI,
deconslruclive iIIusion. |||usicn? I guess lhal's lhe
vord .
Silling here, asking myseIf, Why am I in Rome
of aII Iaces` everylhing around me slarls lo
Iook unreaI. Of course if I lrace lhe delaiIs of hov
I gol here I can come u vilh an exIanalion, bul
on a gul IeveI I'm sliII nol convinced. The me
silling here and lhe image of me I have are oul of
sync. To ul il anolher vay, I don'l arlicuIarIy
ncc! lo be here, bul nonelheIess here I am. I knov
I'm being vague, bul you undersland me, don'l
There's one lhing I can say for sure: I vish you
vere here vilh me. Iven lhough I have Miu vilh
me, I'm IoneIy being so far avay from you. If ve
vere even farlher aarl, I knov I'd feeI even more
IoneIy. I'd Iike lo lhink you feeI lhe same vay.

So anyvay, here Miu and I are, lraising around
Iuroe. She had some business lo lake care of
and vas Ianning originaIIy lo go around IlaIy
and Irance by herseIf for lvo veeks, bul asked
me lo come aIong as her ersonaI secrelary. She
|usl bIurled lhis oul one morning, look me
comIeleIy by surrise. My lilIe mighl be
ersonaI secrelary, bul I don'l lhink I'm much
use lo her, sliII, lhe exerience viII do me good,
and Miu leIIs me lhe lri's her resenl lo me for
sloing smoking. So aII lhe agony I venl
lhrough aid off in lhe end.
We Ianded firsl in MiIan, venl sighlseeing, lhen
renled a bIue AIfa Romeo and headed soulh on
lhe auloslrada. We venl around a fev vineyards
in Tuscany, and afler laking care of business
slayed a fev nighls in a charming IillIe holeI, and
lhen arrived in Rome. usiness is aIvays
conducled in eilher IngIish or Irench, so I don'l
have much of a roIe lo Iay, lhough my IlaIian
has come in handy in day-lo-day lhings as ve
lraveI. If ve venl lo Sain (vhich unforlunaleIy
von'l haen on lhis lri), I mighl be of more use
lo Miu.

The AIfa Romeo ve renled vas a manuaI drive,
so I vas no heI al aII. Miu did aII lhe driving.
She can drive for hours and never seems lo mind.
Tuscany is aII hiIIs and curves, and il vas
amazing hov smoolhIy she shifled gears u and
dovn, valching her made me (and I'm nol |oking
here) shiver aII over. eing avay from }aan, and
simIy being by her side are quile enough lo
salisfy me. If onIy ve couId slay lhis vay for ever.
Nexl lime I'II vrile aboul aII lhe vonderfuI
meaIs and vine ve've had in IlaIy, il'd lake loo
much lime lo do so nov. In MiIan ve vaIked
from slore lo slore shoing. Dresses, shoes,
undervear. Olher lhan some y|amas (I'd
forgollen lo lake mine), I didn'l buy anylhing. I
didn'l have much money, and besides lhere vere
so many beaulifuI lhings I had no idea vhere lo
slarl. Thal's lhe silualion vhere my sense of
|udgemenl bIovs a fuse. }usl being vilh Miu as
she shoed vas sufficienl. She's an absoIule
masler shoer, choosing onIy lhe mosl exquisile
lhings, and buying onIy a seIecl fev. Like laking a
bile of lhe lasliesl arl of a dish. Very smarl and
charming. When I valched her seIecl some
exensive siIk slockings and undervear I found il
hard lo brealhe. Dros of sveal bubbIed u on
my forehead. Which is relly slrange vhen you
lhink aboul il. I'm a girI, afler aII. I guess lhal's
enough aboul shoingvriling aboul aII lhal as
veII viII make lhis loo Iong.

Al holeIs ve slay in searale rooms. Miu seems
very insislenl on lhis. OnIy once, in IIorence,
vhen our reservalion gol messed u somehov,
did ve end u having lo share a room. Il had
lvin beds, bul |usl being abIe lo sIee in lhe same
room vilh her made my hearl Iea. I caughl a
gIimse of her coming oul of lhe balh vilh a
loveI vraed around her, and of her changing
her cIolhes. NaluraIIy I relended nol lo Iook and
read my book, bul I did manage a eek. Miu has a
lruIy gorgeous figure. She vasn'l comIeleIy
nude, bul vore some liny undervear, sliII her
body vas enough lo lake my brealh avay. Very
sIim, lighl buns, a lhoroughIy allraclive voman. I
vish you couId have seen illhough il's a IillIe
veird for me lo say lhal.
I imagined being heId by lhal Iilhe, sIim body.
AII sorls of obscene images came lo mind of us as
I Iay in bed in lhe same room vilh her, and I feIl
lhese lhoughls graduaIIy ushing me lo some
olher Iace. I lhink I gol a IillIe loo vorked u
my eriod slarled lhal same nighl, vay ahead of
scheduIe. Whal a ain inai vas. Hmm. I knov
leIIing you lhis isn'l going lo gel me anyvhere.
ul I'II go ahead anyvay|usl lo gel lhe facls
dovn on aer.

Lasl nighl ve allended a concerl in Rome. I
vasn'l execling much, il being lhe off-season,
bul ve managed lo en|oy an incredibIe
erformance. Marlha Argerich Iaying Liszl's
Iiano Concerlo No. 1. I adore lhal iece. The
conduclor vas Giusee SinooIi. Whal a
erformance! Can'l gel bored vhen you Iislen lo
lhal kind of musicil vas absoIuleIy lhe mosl
exansive, fanlaslic music I've ever heard. Come
lo lhink of il, maybe il vas a bil loo erfecl for my
lasle. Liszl needs lo be a bil sIiery, and
furliveIike music al a viIIage feslivaI. Take oul
lhe difficuIl arls and Iel me feeI lhe lhriIIlhal's
vhal I Iike. Miu and I agreed on lhis oinl.
There's a VivaIdi feslivaI in Venice, and ve're
laIking aboul going. Like vhen you and I laIk
aboul Iileralure, Miu and I can laIk aboul music
liII lhe covs come home.

This Ieller's gelling relly Iong, isn'l il` Il's Iike
once I lake hoId of a en and slarl lo vrile I can'l
slo haIfvay. I've aIvays been Iike lhal. They say
veII broughl u girIs don'l overslay lheir
veIcome, bul vhen il comes lo vriling (maybe
nol |usl vriling`) my manners are hoeIess. The
vailer, vilh his vhile |ackel, somelimes Iooks
over al me vilh lhis disgusled Iook on his face.
ul even my hand gels lired, I'II admil. esides,
I've run oul of aer.

Miu is oul visiling an oId friend in Rome, and I
vandered lhe slreels near lhe holeI, lhen decided
lo lake a break in lhis cafe I came across, and here
I am busiIy vriling avay lo you. Like I'm on a
deserl isIand and I'm sending oul a message in a
bollIe. Slrange lhing is, vhen I'm nol vilh Miu I
don'l feeI Iike going anyvhere. I've come aII lhis
vay lo Rome (and mosl IikeIy von'l come back
again), bul I |usl can'l rouse myseIf lo gel u and
see lhose ruinsvhal do lhey caII lhose`or
lhose famous founlains. Or even lo go shoing.
Il's enough |usl lo sil here in a cafe, sniff lhe smeII
of lhe cily, Iike a dog mighl, Iislen lo voices and
sounds, and gaze al lhe faces of lhe eoIe
assing by.
And suddenIy I |usl gol lhe feeIing, vhiIe
vriling lhis Ieller lo you, lhal vhal I described in
lhe beginninglhe slrange sense of being
disassembIedis slarling lo fade. Il doesn'l
bolher me so much nov. Il's Iike lhe vay I feeI
vhen I've caIIed you u in lhe middIe of lhe nighl
and |usl finished lhe caII and sleed oul of lhe
hone box. Maybe you have lhal kind of effecl on
Whal do you lhink` Al any rale, Iease ray for
my hainess and good forlune. I need your
ye for nov.

I.S. I'II robabIy be back home around lhe 15lh of
Augusl. Then ve can have dinner logelher I
romise! before lhe summer's over.

Iive days Ialer a second Ieller came, osled from some obscure
Irench viIIage. A shorler Ieller lhan lhe firsl one. Miu and
Sumire had Iefl lheir renlaI car in Rome and laken a lrain lo
Venice. There lhey Iislened lo lvo fuII days of VivaIdi. Mosl of
lhe concerls vere heId al lhe church vhere VivaIdi had served
as a riesl. If I don'l hear any more VivaIdi for six monlhs
lhal's fine by me, vrole Sumire. Her descrilions of hov
deIicious lhe aer-vraed griIIed seafood vas in Venice
vere so reaIislic il made me vanl lo dash off lo Venice lo lry
some for myseIf.
Afler Venice lhey relurned lo MiIan, lhen fIev lo Iaris. They
look a break lhere, shoing some more, lhen boarded a lrain
lo urgundy. One of Miu's good friends ovned a huge house, a
manor reaIIy, vhere lhey slayed. As in IlaIy, Miu made lhe
rounds of severaI smaII vineyards on business. On free
aflernoons lhey look a icnic-baskel Iunch and venl vaIking in
lhe voods nearby. Wilh a couIe of bollIes of vine lo
comIemenl lhe meaI, of course. The vine here is simIy oul
of lhis vorId, Sumire vrole.

Somehov, lhough, il Iooks Iike our originaI Ian
of relurning lo }aan on lhe 15lh of Augusl is
going lo change. Afler our vork is done in Irance
ve may be laking a shorl hoIiday on a Greek
isIand. This IngIish genlIeman ve haened lo
meel herea reaI genlIeman, mind youovns a
viIIa on lhe isIand and inviled us lo use il for as
Iong as ve Iike. Greal nevs! Miu Iikes lhe idea,
loo. We need a break from vork, some lime lo
|usl kick back and reIax. The lvo of us Iying on
lhe ure vhile beaches of lhe Aegean, lvo
beaulifuI sels of breasls oinled lovards lhe sun,
siing vine vilh a scenl of ine resin in il, |usl
valching lhe cIouds drifl by. Doesn'l lhal sound

Il cerlainIy does, I lhoughl.
Thal aflernoon I venl lo lhe ubIic ooI and addIed around,
sloed in a niceIy air-condilioned coffee sho on lhe vay
home, and read for an hour. When I gol back lo my Iace I
Iislened lo bolh sides of an oId Ten Years Afler LI vhiIe
ironing lhree shirls. Ironing done, I drank some chea vine I'd
gol on saIe, mixed vilh Ierrier, and valched a foolbaII malch
I'd videolaed. Ivery lime I sav a ass I lhoughl I vouIdn'l
have made myseIf, I shook my head and sighed. }udging lhe
mislakes of slrangers is an easy lhing lo doand il feeIs relly
Afler lhe foolbaII malch I sank back in my chair, slared al lhe
ceiIing, and imagined Sumire in her viIIage in Irance. y nov
she vas aIready on lhal Greek isIand. Lying on lhe beach,
gazing al lhe assing cIouds. Iilher vay, she vas a Iong vay
from me. Rome, Greece, Timbuklu, Aruandail didn'l maller.
She vas far, far avay. And mosl IikeIy lhal vas lhe fulure in a
nulsheII, Sumire groving ever more dislanl. Il made me sad. I
feIl Iike I vas some meaningIess bug cIinging for no seciaI
reason lo a high slone vaII on a vindy nighl, vilh no Ians, no
beIiefs. Sumire said she missed me. ul she had Miu beside her.
I had no one. AII I had vasme. Same as aIvays.

Sumire didn'l come back on 15 Augusl. Her hone sliII |usl had
a curl |n-auaq-cn-a-irip recording on il. One of her firsl
urchases afler she moved vas a hone vilh an ansvering
machine, so she vouIdn'l have lo go oul on rainy nighls,
umbreIIa in hand, lo a hone box. An exceIIenl idea aII round. I
didn'l Ieave a message.

I caIIed her again on lhe 18lh bul gol lhe same recording. Afler
lhe IifeIess bee I Iefl my name and a simIe message for her lo
caII me vhen she gol back. Mosl IikeIy she and Miu found lheir
Greek isIand loo much fun lo vanl lo Ieave.

In lhe inlervaI belveen my lvo caIIs I coached one foolbaII
raclice al my schooI and sIel once vilh my girIfriend. She
vas veII lanned, having |usl relurned from a hoIiday in aIi
vilh her husband and lvo chiIdren. As I heId her I lhoughl of
Sumire on her Greek isIand. Inside her, I couIdn'l heI bul
imagine Sumire's body.
If I hadn'l knovn Sumire I couId have easiIy faIIen for lhis
voman, seven years my senior (and vhose son vas one of my
sludenls). She vas a beaulifuI, energelic, kind voman. She
vore a bil loo much make-u for my Iiking, bul dressed niceIy.
She vorried aboul being a IillIe overveighl, bul shouIdn'l
have. I cerlainIy vasn'l aboul lo comIain aboul her sexy
figure. She knev aII my desires, everylhing I vanled and didn'l
vanl. She knev |usl hov far lo go and vhen lo sloin bed
and oul. Made me feeI Iike I vas fIying firsl cIass.
I haven'l sIel vilh my husband for aImosl a year, she
reveaIed lo me as she Iay in my arms. You're lhe onIy one.

ul I couIdn'l Iove her. Ior vhalever reason, lhal
uncondilionaI, naluraI inlimacy Sumire and I had |usl vasn'l
lhere. A lhin, lransarenl veiI aIvays came belveen us. VisibIe
or nol, a barrier remained. Avkvard siIences came on us aII
lhe limearlicuIarIy vhen ve said goodbye. Thal never
haened vilh me and Sumire. eing vilh lhis voman
confirmed one undeniabIe facl: I needed Sumire more lhan
Afler lhe voman Iefl, I venl for a vaIk aIone, vandered
aimIessIy for a vhiIe, lhen droed by a bar near lhe slalion
and had a Canadian CIub on lhe rocks. As aIvays al limes Iike
lhose, I feIl Iike lhe mosl vrelched erson aIive. I quickIy
drained my firsl drink and ordered anolher, cIosed my eyes
and lhoughl of Sumire. Sumire, loIess, sunbalhing on lhe
vhile sands of a Greek isIand. Al lhe labIe nexl lo mine four
coIIege boys and girIs vere drinking beer, Iaughing, and
having a good lime. An oId number by Huey Levis and lhe
Nevs vas Iaying. I couId smeII izza baking.
When did my youlh sIi avay from me` I suddenIy lhoughl.
Il uas over, vasn'l il` Seemed |usl Iike yeslerday I vas sliII onIy
haIf grovn u. Huey Levis and lhe Nevs had a couIe of hil
songs lhen. Nol so many years ago. And nov here I vas, inside
a cIosed circuil, sinning my vheeIs. Knoving I vasn'l gelling
anyvhere, bul sinning |usl lhe same. I had lo. Had lo kee
lhal u or I vouIdn'l be abIe lo survive.

Thal nighl I gol a hone caII from Greece. Al 2 a.m.
ul il vasn'l Sumire. Il vas Miu.

The firsl lhing I heard vas a man's dee voice in heaviIy
accenled IngIish, souling my name and lhen shouling, I've
reached lhe righl erson, yes` I'd been fasl asIee. My mind
vas a bIank, a rice addy in lhe middIe of a rainslorm, and I
couIdn'l vork oul vhal vas going on. The bed sheels sliII
relained a fainl memory of lhe aflernoon's Iovemaking, and
reaIily vas one sle oul of Iine, a cardigan vilh lhe bullons
done u vrong. The man soke my name again. I've reached
lhe righl erson, yes`
Yes, you have, I reIied. Il didn'l sound Iike my name, bul
lhere il vas. Ior a vhiIe lhere vas a crackIe of slalic, as if lvo
differenl air masses had coIIided. Musl be Sumire making an
overseas caII from Greece, I imagined. I heId lhe receiver avay
from my ear a bil, vailing for her voice lo come on. ul lhe
voice I heard nexl vasn'l Sumire's, bul Miu's.
I'm sure you've heard aboul me from Sumire`
Yes, I have, I ansvered.
Her voice on lhe hone Iine vas dislorled by some far-off,
inorganic subslance, bul I couId sliII sense lhe lension in il.
Somelhing rigid and hard fIoved lhrough lhe hone Iike
cIouds of dry ice and inlo my room, lhroving me vide avake.
I sal boIl urighl in bed and ad|usled my gri on lhe receiver.
I have lo laIk quickIy, said Miu brealhIessIy. I'm caIIing
from a Greek isIand, and il's nexl lo imossibIe lo gel lhrough
lo Tokyoeven vhen you do lhey cul you off. I lried so many
limes, and finaIIy gol lhrough. So I'm going lo ski formaIilies
and gel righl lo lhe oinl, if you don'l
I don'l mind, I said.
Can you come here`
y here, you mean Greece`
Yes. As soon as you ossibIy can.
I bIurled oul lhe firsl lhing lhal came lo mind. Did
somelhing haen lo Sumire`
A ause as Miu look in a brealh. I sliII don'l knov. ul I
lhink she vouId vanl you lo come here. I'm cerlain of il.
You inink she vouId`
I can'l go inlo il over lhe hone. There's no leIIing vhen
ve'II be cul off, and besides, il's a deIicale sorl of robIem, and
I'd much ralher laIk lo you face lo face. I'II ay lhe relurn fare.
}usl come. The sooner lhe beller. }usl buy a lickel. Iirsl cIass,
vhalever you Iike.
The nev lerm al schooI began in len days. I'd have lo be back
before lhen, bul if I vanled lo, a round lri lo Greece vasn'l
beyond lhe reaIm of ossibiIily. I vas scheduIed lo go lo schooI
lvice during lhe break lo lake care of some business, bul I
shouId be abIe lo have somebody cover for me.
I'm relly sure I can come, I said. Yes, I lhink I can. ul
vhere exaclIy is il I'm suosed lo go`
She loId me lhe name of lhe isIand. I vrole dovn vhal she
said on lhe inside cover of a book nexl lo my bed. Il sounded
vagueIy famiIiar.
You lake a Iane from Alhens lo Rhodes, lhen lake a ferry.
There are lvo ferries a day lo lhe isIand, one in lhe morning
and one in lhe evening. I'II go dovn lo lhe harbour vhenever
lhe ferries arrive. WiII you come`
I lhink I'II make il somehov. Il's |usl lhal I I slarled lo
say, and lhe Iine venl dead. SuddenIy, vioIenlIy, Iike someone
laking an axe lo a roe. And again lhal avfuI slalic. Thinking
ve mighl be connecled again, I sal lhere for a minule, hone
againsl my ear, vailing, bul aII I heard vas lhal graling noise. I
hung u lhe hone and gol oul of bed. In lhe kilchen I had a
gIass of coId barIey lea and Ieaned back againsl lhe fridge,
lrying lo galher my lhoughls.
Was I reaIIy going lo gel on a Iane and fIy aII lhe vay lo
The ansver vas yes. I had no olher choice.

I uIIed a Iarge vorId alIas dovn from my booksheIf lo Iocale
lhe isIand Miu had loId me aboul. Il vas near Rhodes, she'd
said, bul il vas no easy lask lo find il among lhe myriad isIands
lhal dolled lhe Aegean. IinaIIy, lhough, I vas abIe lo sol, in
liny rinl, lhe name of lhe Iace I vas Iooking for. A smaII
isIand near lhe Turkish border. So smaII you couIdn'l reaIIy leII
ils shae.
I uIIed my assorl oul of a draver and checked il vas sliII
vaIid. Nexl I galhered aII lhe cash I had in lhe house and
sluffed il in my vaIIel. Il didn'l amounl lo much, bul I couId
vilhdrav more from lhe bank in lhe morning. I had some
money in a savings accounl and had bareIy louched my
summer bonus. Thal and my credil card and I shouId be abIe lo
come u vilh enough for a relurn lickel lo Greece. I acked
some cIolhes in a vinyI gym bag and lossed in a loiIel kil. And
lvo }oseh Conrad noveIs I'd been meaning lo re-read. I
hesilaled aboul acking my svimming lrunks, bul ended u
laking lhem. Maybe I'd gel lhere and vhalever robIem lhere
vas vouId be soIved, everybody heaIlhy and hay, lhe sun
hanging eacefuIIy in lhe sky, and I'd en|oy a IeisureIy svim or
lvo before I had lo come homevhich of course vouId be lhe
besl oulcome for everyone invoIved.
Those lhings laken care of, I lurned oul lhe Iighl, sunk my
head back on lhe iIIov, and lried lo go back lo sIee. Il vas
|usl asl lhree, and I couId sliII calch a fev vinks before
morning. ul I couIdn'l sIee. Memories of lhal harsh slalic
lhrummed in my bIood. Dee inside my head I couId hear lhal
man's voice, barking oul my name. I svilched on lhe Iighl, gol
oul of bed again, venl lo lhe kilchen, breved some iced lea,
and drank il. Then I reIayed lhe enlire conversalion I'd had
vilh Miu, every vord in order. Her vords vere vague,
abslracl, fuII of ambiguilies. ul lhere vere lvo facls in vhal
she loId me. I vrole lhem bolh dovn on a memo ad.

1. Somelhing has haened lo Sumire. ul Miu
doesn'l knov vhal il is.
2. I have lo gel lhere as soon as ossibIe. Sumire,
loo, Miu lhinks, vanls me lo do lhal.

I slared al lhe memo ad. And I underIined lvo

1. Somelhing has haened lo Sumire. ul Miu
doesn'l knov vhal il is.
2. I have lo gel lhere as soon as ossibIe. Sumire,
loo, Miu lhinks, vanls me lo do lhal.

I couIdn'l imagine vhal had haened lo Sumire on lhal smaII
Greek isIand. ul I vas sure il had lo be somelhing bad. The
queslion vas, ncu bad` UnliI morning lhere vasn'l a lhing I
couId do aboul il. I sal in my chair, feel u on lhe labIe, reading
a book and vailing for lhe firsl Iighl lo shov. Il seemed lo lake

Al firsl Iighl I boarded lhe Chuo Line lo Shin|uku, hoed
aboard lhe Narila Ixress, and arrived al lhe airorl. Al nine I
made lhe rounds of airIine lickel counlers, onIy lo Iearn lhal
lhere veren'l any direcl fIighls belveen Narila and Alhens.
Afler a bil of lriaI and error I booked a business-cIass seal on
lhe KLM fIighl lo Amslerdam. I'd be abIe lo change lhere onlo
a fIighl lo Alhens. Then al Alhens I'd lake an OIymic Airvays
domeslic fIighl lo Rhodes. The KLM eoIe made aII lhe
arrangemenls. As Iong as no robIems arose, I shouId be abIe
lo make lhe lvo conneclions okay. Il vas lhe faslesl vay lo gel
lhere. I had an oen lickel for lhe relurn fIighl, and I couId
come back any lime in lhe nexl lhree monlhs. I aid by credil
card. Any bags lo check in` lhey asked me. No, I reIied.
I had lime before my fIighl, so I ale breakfasl al lhe airorl
reslauranl. I vilhdrev some cash from an ATM and boughl
doIIar lraveIIer's cheques. Nexl I boughl a guidebook lo Greece
in lhe booksho. The name of lhe isIand Miu loId me vasn'l in
lhe IillIe book, bul I did need lo gel some informalion aboul lhe
counlrylhe currency, lhe cIimale, lhe basics. Olher lhan lhe
hislory of ancienl Greece and cIassicaI drama, lhere vasn'l
much I knev aboul lhe Iace. Aboul as much as I knev of lhe
geograhy of }uiler or lhe inner vorkings of a Ierrari's
cooIing syslem. Nol once in my Iife had I considered lhe
ossibiIily of going lo Greece. Al Ieasl nol unliI 2 a.m. on lhal
arlicuIar day.

}usl before noon I honed one of my feIIov leachers.
Somelhing unforlunale haened lo a reIalive of mine, I loId
her, I'II be avay from Tokyo for aboul a veek, so I vonder if
you'd lake care of lhings al schooI unliI I gel back. No robIem,
she reIied. We'd heIed each olher oul Iike lhis a number of
limes, il vas no big deaI. Where are you going` she asked
me. Shikoku, I ansvered. I |usl couIdn'l very veII leII her I
vas heading off lo Greece.
I'm sorry lo hear lhal, she said. Anyvay, make sure you
gel back in lime for lhe slarl of lhe nev lerm. And ick u a
souvenir for me if you can, okay`
Of course, I said. I'd vork lhal one oul Ialer.
I venl lo lhe business-cIass Iounge, Iay back in a sofa, and
dozed for a bil, an unsellIed sIee. The vorId had Iosl aII sense
of reaIily. CoIours vere unnaluraI, delaiIs crude. The
background vas aier mache, lhe slars made oul of
aIuminium foiI. You couId see lhe gIue and lhe heads of lhe
naiIs hoIding il aII logelher. Airorl announcemenls fIilled in
and oul of my consciousness. AII assengers on Air Irance
fIighl 275, bound for Iaris. In lhe midsl of lhis iIIogicaI
dreamor uncerlain vakefuInessI lhoughl aboul Sumire.
Like some documenlary of ages asl, fragmenls srang lo mind
of lhe limes and Iaces ve'd shared. In lhe buslIe of lhe airorl,
assengers dashing here and lhere, lhe vorId I shared vilh
Sumire seemed shabby, heIIess, uncerlain. Neilher of us knev
anylhing lhal reaIIy mallered, nor did ve have lhe abiIily lo
reclify lhal. There vas nolhing soIid ve couId deend on. We
vere aImosl boundIess zeros, |usl ilifuI IillIe beings svel
from one kind of obIivion lo anolher.
I voke in an unIeasanl sveal, my shirl Iaslered lo my
chesl. My body vas IislIess, my Iegs svoIIen. I feIl as if I'd
svaIIoved an overcasl sky. I musl have Iooked aIe. One of lhe
Iounge slaff asked me, vorriedIy, if I vas okay. I'm aII righl,
I reIied, lhe heal's |usl gelling lo me. WouId you Iike
somelhing coId lo drink` she asked. I lhoughl for a momenl
and asked for a beer. She broughl me a chiIIed facecIolh, a
Heineken, and a bag of saIled eanuls. Afler viing my svealy
face and drinking haIf lhe beer, I feIl beller. And I couId sIee a

The fIighl Iefl Narila |usl aboul on lime, laking lhe oIar roule
lo Amslerdam. I vanled lo sIee some more, so I had a couIe
of vhiskys and vhen I voke u, had a IillIe dinner. I didn'l
have much of an aelile and skied breakfasl. I vanled lo
kee my mind a bIank, so vhen I vas avake I concenlraled on
reading Conrad.
In Amslerdam I changed Ianes, arrived in Alhens, venl lo
lhe domeslic fIighl lerminaI, and, vilh bareIy a momenl lo
sare, boarded lhe 727 bound for Rhodes. The Iane vas
acked vilh an animaled bunch of young eoIe from every
imaginabIe counlry. They vere aII lanned, dressed in T-shirls
or lank los and cul-off |eans. Mosl of lhe young men vere
groving beards (or maybe had forgollen lo shave) and had
disheveIIed hair uIIed back in onylaiIs. Dressed in beige
sIacks, a vhile shorl-sIeeve oIo shirl and dark-bIue collon
|ackel, I Iooked oul of Iace. I'd even forgollen lo bring any
sungIasses. ul vho couId bIame me` Nol loo many hours
before I had been in my aarlmenl in Kunilachi, vorrying
aboul vhal I shouId do vilh my rubbish.
Al Rhodes airorl I asked al lhe informalion desk vhere I
couId calch lhe ferry lo lhe isIand. Il vas al a harbour nearby. If
I hurried, I mighl be abIe lo make lhe evening ferry. Isn'l il
soId oul somelimes` I asked, |usl lo be sure. The oinly-nosed
voman of indelerminale age al lhe informalion counler
frovned and vaved her hand dismissiveIy. They can aIvays
make room for one more, she reIied. Il's nol an eIevalor.

I haiIed a laxi and headed lo lhe harbour. I'm in a hurry, I
loId lhe driver, bul he didn'l seem lo calch my meaning. The
cab didn'l have any air-condilioning, and a hol, dusly vind
bIev in lhe oen vindov. AII lhe vhiIe lhe laxi driver, in
rough, svealy IngIish, ran on and on vilh some gIoomy
dialribe aboul lhe Iuro. I made oIile noises lo shov I vas
foIIoving, bul I vasn'l reaIIy Iislening. Inslead, I squinled al
lhe brighl Rhodes scenery assing by oulside. The sky vas
cIoudIess, nol a hinl of rain. The sun baked lhe slone vaIIs of
lhe houses. A Iayer of dusl covered lhe gnarIed lrees beside lhe
road, and eoIe sal in lhe shade of lhe lrees or under oen
lenls and gazed, aImosl siIenlIy, al lhe vorId. I began lo
vonder if I vas in lhe righl Iace. The gaudy signs in Greek
Iellers, hovever, adverlising cigarelles and ouzo and
overfIoving lhe road from lhe airorl inlo lovn, loId me lhal
sure enoughlhis vas Greece.
The evening ferry vas sliII in lhe orl. Il vas bigger lhan I'd
imagined. In lhe slern vas a sace for lransorling cars, and
lvo medium-sized Iorries fuII of food and sundries and an oId
Ieugeol sedan vere aIready aboard, vailing for lhe shi lo uII
oul of lhe orl. I boughl a lickel and gol on, and I'd bareIy
laken a seal on a deckchair vhen lhe Iine lo lhe dock vas
unlied and lhe engines roared inlo Iife. I sighed and Iooked u
al lhe sky. AII I couId do nov vas vail for lhe shi lo lake me
vhere I vas going.
I removed my svealy, dusly collon |ackel, foIded il and
sluffed il in my bag. Il vas 5 .m., bul lhe sun vas sliII in lhe
middIe of lhe sky, lhe sunIighl overovering. The breeze
bIoving from lhe bov under lhe canvas avning vafled over
me, and ever so sIovIy I began lo feeI caImer. The gIoomy
emolions lhal had svel lhrough me in lhe Iounge al Narila
airorl had disaeared. Though lhere vas sliII a biller

There vere onIy a fev lourisls on board, so I guessed lhal lhe
isIand I vas heading for vas nol such a ouIar hoIiday sol.
The vasl ma|orily of assengers vere IocaIs, mainIy oId eoIe
vho'd laken care of business on Rhodes and vere heading
home. Their urchases Iay carefuIIy al lheir feel, Iike fragiIe
animaIs. The oId eoIe's faces vere aII deeIy elched vilh
vrinkIes and deadan, as if lhe overovering sun and a
Iifelime of hard vork had robbed lhem of aII exression.
There vere aIso a fev young soIdiers on board. And lvo
hiie lraveIIers, heavy-Iooking backacks in hand, silling on
lhe deck. olh vilh skinny Iegs and grim faces.
There vas a leenage Greek girI, loo, in a Iong skirl. She vas
IoveIy, vilh dee, dark eyes. Her Iong hair bIev in lhe breeze
as she challed lo her girIfriend. A genlIe smiIe Iayed around
lhe corners of her moulh, as if somelhing vonderfuI vas aboul
lo occur. Her goId earrings gIinled brighlIy in lhe sun. The
young soIdiers Ieaned againsl lhe deck raiIing, smoking,
Iooking cooI, lhroving a quick gIance in lhe girI's direclion
from lime lo lime.
I sied a Iemon soda I'd boughl al lhe ferry's canleen and
gazed al lhe dee bIue sea and lhe liny isIands fIoaling by.
Mosl vere nol so much isIands as crags in lhe sea, comIeleIy
deserled. While seabirds resled on lhe li of lhe rocks, scanning
lhe ocean for fish. They ignored our shi. Waves broke al lhe
fool of lhe cIiffs, crealing a dazzIing vhile border. OccasionaIIy
I solled an inhabiled isIand. Tough-Iooking lrees grev aII over
il, and vhile-vaIIed houses dolled lhe sIoes. righlIy
coIoured boals bobbed in lhe inIel, lheir laII masls inscribing
arcs as lhey roIIed vilh lhe vaves.
A vrinkIed oId man silling nexl lo me offered me a cigarelle.
Thank you, I smiIed, vaving my hand, bul I don'l smoke. He
roffered a slick of searminl gum inslead. I look il gralefuIIy,
and conlinued lo gaze oul lo sea as I cheved.
Il vas afler seven vhen lhe ferry reached lhe isIand. The
bIazing sun had assed ils zenilh, bul lhe sky vas as Iighl as
before, lhe summer Iighl acluaIIy increasing in briIIiance. As if
on some huge nameIale, lhe name of lhe isIand vas vrillen in
giganlic Iellers on lhe vhile vaIIs of a buiIding in lhe harbour.
The ferry sidIed u lo lhe vharf, and one by one lhe assengers
vaIked dovn lhe gangIank, Iuggage in hand. An oen-air
cafe faced lhe harbour, and eoIe vho'd come lo meel lhe
shi vailed lhere unliI lhey recognized lhe eoIe lhey vere
Iooking for.
As soon as I debarked I Iooked around for Miu. ul lhere vas
no one around vho mighl be her. SeveraI ovners of inns came
u, asking me if I vas Iooking for a Iace lo slay for lhe nighl.
No, I'm nol, I said each lime, shaking my head. Iven so, each
one handed me a card before Ieaving.
The eoIe vho'd Iefl lhe shi vilh me scallered in aII
direclions. Shoers lrudged home, lraveIIers venl off lo
holeIs and inns. As soon as lhe eoIe vho'd come lo greel
lheir relurning friends solled lhem, lhey hugged each olher
lighlIy or shook hands, and off lhey'd go. The lvo Iorries and
lhe Ieugeol, loo, vere unIoaded and roared off inlo lhe
dislance. Iven lhe cals and dogs lhal had assembIed oul of
curiosily vere gone before Iong. The onIy ones Iefl vere a
grou of sunburned oId foIks vilh lime on lheir hands. And
me, gym bag in hand, lhoroughIy oul of Iace.
I look a seal al lhe cafe and ordered an iced lea, vondering
vhal I shouId do nexl. There vasn'l much I couId do. Nighl
vas fasl aroaching, and I knev nolhing aboul lhe isIand and
lhe Iayoul of lhe Iand. If nobody came afler a vhiIe, I'd gel a
room somevhere and lhe nexl morning come back lo lhe
harbour, hoefuIIy lo meel vilh Miu. According lo Sumire,
Miu vas a melhodicaI voman, so I couIdn'l beIieve she'd sland
me u. If she couIdn'l make il lo lhe harbour, lhere musl be
some very good exIanalion. Maybe she didn'l lhink I'd gel
here so quickIy.
I vas slarving. A feeIing of such exlreme hunger I feIl sure
you couId see lhrough me. AII lhe fresh sea air musl have made
my body reaIize il hadn'l had any nourishmenl since morning.
I didn'l vanl lo miss Miu, lhough, so I decided lo vail some
more in lhe cafe. Ivery so oflen a IocaI vouId ass by and give
me a curious gIance.
Al lhe kiosk nexl lo lhe cafe I boughl a smaII IngIish
amhIel aboul lhe hislory and geograhy of lhe isIand. I
Ieafed lhrough il as I sied lhe incredibIy lasleIess iced lea.
The isIand's ouIalion ranged from 3,000 lo 6,000, deending
on lhe season. The ouIalion venl u in lhe summer vilh lhe
number of lourisls, dovn in vinler vhen eoIe venl
eIsevhere in search of vork. The isIand had no induslry lo
seak of, and agricuIlure vas relly IimiledoIives and a
couIe of varielies of fruil. And lhere vas fishing and songe-
diving. Which is vhy, since lhe beginning of lhe lvenlielh
cenlury, mosl of lhe isIanders had emigraled lo America. The
ma|orily moved lo IIorida, vhere lhey couId ul lheir fishing
and songing skiIIs lo good use. There vas even a lovn in
IIorida vilh lhe same name as lhe isIand.
On lo of lhe hiIIs vas a miIilary radar inslaIIalion. Near lhe
civiIian harbour vas a second, smaIIer harbour vhere miIilary
alroI shis docked. Wilh lhe Turkish border nearby, lhe
Greeks vanled lo revenl iIIegaI border crossings and
smuggIing, vhich is vhy lhere vere soIdiers in lhe lovn.
Whenever lhere vas a disule vilh Turkeyin facl smaII-scaIe
skirmishes oflen broke oullraffic in and oul of lhe harbour
icked u.
More lhan 2,000 years ago, vhen Greek civiIizalion vas al ils
eak, lhis isIand, silualed aIong lhe main roule lo Asia,
fIourished as a lrading cenlre. ack lhen lhe hiIIs vere sliII
covered vilh green lrees, ul lo good use by lhe lhriving shi-
buiIding induslry. When Greek civiIizalion decIined, lhough,
and aII lhe lrees had been cul dovn (an abundanl greenery
never lo relurn again), lhe isIand quickIy sIid dovnhiII
economicaIIy. IinaIIy, lhe Turks came in. Their ruIe vas
draconian, according lo lhe amhIel. If somelhing vasn'l lo
lheir Iiking, lhey'd Io off eoIe's ears and noses as easiIy as
runing lrees. Al lhe end of lhe nineleenlh cenlury, afler
counlIess bIoody ballIes, lhe isIand finaIIy von ils
indeendence from Turkey, and lhe bIue-and-vhile Greek fIag
fIullered over lhe harbour. Nexl came HilIer. The Germans
buiIl a radar and vealher slalion on lo of lhe hiIIs lo monilor
lhe nearby sea, since lhe hiIIs rovided lhe besl ossibIe viev.
An IngIish bombing force from MaIla bombed lhe slalion. Il
bombed lhe harbour as veII as lhe hiIIlo, sinking a number of
innocenl fishing boals and kiIIing some haIess fishermen.
More Greeks died in lhe allack lhan did Germans, and some
oId-limers sliII bore a grudge over lhe incidenl.

Like mosl Greek isIands lhere vas IillIe fIal sace here, il vas
moslIy slee, unforgiving hiIIs, vilh onIy one lovn aIong lhe
shore, |usl soulh of lhe harbour. Iar from lhe lovn vas a
beaulifuI, quiel beach, bul lo gel lo il you had lo cIimb over a
slee hiII. The easiIy accessibIe Iaces didn'l have such nice
beaches, vhich mighl be one reason lhe number of lourisls
remained slalic. There vere some Greek Orlhodox monasleries
u in lhe hiIIs, bul lhe monks Ied slriclIy observanl Iives, and
casuaI visilors veren'l aIIoved. As far as I couId leII from
reading lhe amhIel, lhis vas a relly lyicaI Greek isIand.
Ior some reason, lhough, IngIishmen found lhe isIand
arlicuIarIy charming (lhe rilish arc a bil eccenlric) and, in
lheir zeaI for lhe Iace, buiIl a coIony of summer collages on a
rise near lhe harbour. In lhe Iale 1960s severaI rilish vrilers
Iived lhere and vrole lheir noveIs vhiIe gazing al lhe bIue sea
and lhe vhile cIouds. SeveraI of lheir vorks became crilicaIIy
accIaimed, resuIling in lhe isIand garnering a reulalion among
lhe rilish Iilerali as a romanlic sol. As far as lhis nolabIe
asecl of lheir isIand's cuIlure vas concerned, lhough, lhe IocaI
Greek inhabilanls couIdn'l have cared Iess.

I read aII lhis lo lake my mind off hov hungry I vas. I cIosed
lhe amhIel and Iooked around me again. The oId eoIe in
lhe cafe gazed unceasingIy al lhe sea, as if lhey vere
conleslanls in a slaring conlesl. Il vas aIready eighl o'cIock,
and my hunger vas lurning inlo somelhing cIose lo hysicaI
ain. The smeII of roasl meal and griIIed fish drifled over from
somevhere and, Iike a good-nalured lorlurer, seized me by lhe
guls. I couIdn'l endure il any more and slood u. }usl as I
icked u my bag and vas aboul lo slarl searching for a
reslauranl, a voman siIenlIy aeared before me.

The sun, finaIIy sinking inlo lhe sea, shone direclIy on lhe
voman, her knee-Ienglh vhile skirl riIing sIighlIy as she
slrode dovn lhe slone sles. She vore smaII lennis shoes, and
her Iegs vere girIish. She had on a sIeeveIess Iighl-green
bIouse, a narrov-brimmed hal and carried a smaII cIolh
shouIder bag. The vay she vaIked vas so naluraI, so ordinary,
she bIended inlo lhe scenery, and al firsl I look her for a IocaI.
ul she vas heading slraighl for me, and as she aroached I
couId make oul her Asian fealures. HaIf refIexiveIy I sal dovn,
lhen slood u again. The voman removed her sungIasses and
soke my name.
Sorry I'm so Iale, she said. I had lo go lo lhe oIice slalion,
and aII lhe aervork look a Iong lime. And I never imagined
you'd be here loday. Tomorrov al noon al lhe earIiesl, I
I managed lo make aII my conneclions, I said. Tnc pc|icc
Miu Iooked slraighl al me and smiIed fainlIy. If il's aII righl
vilh you, vhy don'l ve go somevhere lo eal and laIk. I've
onIy had breakfasl loday. Hov aboul you` Are you hungry`
You'd beller beIieve il, I reIied.

She Ied me lo a laverna on a side slreel near lhe harbour. There
vas a charcoaI griII sel u near lhe enlrance and aII kinds of
fresh seafood cooking avay on lhe iron griII. Do you Iike fish`
Asked Miu, and I said I did. She soke lo lhe vailer, ordering
in broken Greek. Iirsl he broughl a carafe of vhile vine, bread,
and oIives. Wilhoul any loasls or furlher ado, ve oured
ourseIves some vine and slarled drinking. I ale some of lhe
coarse bread and a fev oIives lo ease my hunger angs.
Miu vas beaulifuI. My firsl imression vas of lhal cIear and
simIe facl. No, maybe il vasn'l lhal cIear or lhal simIe.
Maybe I vas under some lerribIe mislaken imression. Maybe
for some reason I'd been svaIIoved u in some olher erson's
unaIlerabIe dream. Thinking aboul il nov, I can'l ruIe oul lhal
ossibiIily. AII I can say for sure is lhal al lhal momenl I sav
her as an exlremeIy IoveIy voman.
She vore severaI rings on her sIim fingers. One vas a simIe
goId vedding band. WhiIe I lried hurriedIy lo arrange my firsl
imressions of her in some kind of order, she gazed al me vilh
genlIe eyes, laking an occasionaI si of vine.
I feeI Iike I've mel you before, she said. Ierhas because I
hear aboul you aII lhe lime.
Sumire's loId me a Iol aboul you, loo, I said.
Miu beamed. When she smiIed, and lhen onIy, charming
smaII Iines aeared al lhe corners of her eyes. I guess ve can
forgo inlroduclions, lhen.
I nodded.
Whal I Iiked mosl aboul Miu vas lhal she didn'l lry lo hide
her age. According lo Sumire, she musl be 38 or 39. And indeed
she Iooked lhal age. Wilh her sIim, lighl figure, a IillIe make-u
and she'd easiIy ass for Iale lvenlies. ul she didn'l make lhe
efforl. Miu Iel age naluraIIy rise lo lhe surface, acceled il for
vhal il vas, and made her eace vilh il.

Miu oed an oIive inlo her moulh, grased lhe il vilh her
fingers and, Iike a oel gelling lhe unclualion |usl righl,
gracefuIIy discarded il in an ashlray.
I'm sorry lo caII you u Iike lhal in lhe middIe of lhe nighl,
she said. I vish I couId have exIained lhings beller lhen, bul I
vas loo usel and didn'l knov vhere lo begin. I'm sliII nol
lolaIIy caIm, bul my iniliaI confusion has sellIed a bil.
Whal in lhe vorId haened` I asked.
Miu broughl her hands logelher on lhe labIe, searaled lhem,
broughl lhem logelher again. Sumire has disaeared.
Like smoke, Miu said. She look a si of vine.
She conlinued. Il's a Iong slory, so I lhink I'd beller slarl al
lhe beginning and leII il in lhe righl order. Olhervise some of
lhe nuances mighl nol come lhrough. The slory ilseIf is quile
sublIe. ul Iel's eal firsl. Il's nol Iike each second counls righl
nov, and il's hard lo lhink slraighl if you're hungry. AIso, il's a
bil loo noisy lo laIk here.
The reslauranl vas fiIIed vilh Greeks gesluring and laIking
boislerousIy. So lhal ve didn'l have lo shoul al each olher, Miu
and I Ieaned forvard across lhe labIe, our heads cIose logelher
as ve laIked. IresenlIy lhe vailer broughl over a heaing Iale
of Greek saIad and a Iarge griIIed vhilefish. Miu srinkIed
some saIl on lhe fish, squeezed oul haIf a Iemon, and dried
some oIive oiI onlo her orlion. I did lhe same. We
concenlraled on ealing for a vhiIe. As she said, firsl lhings firsl.
We needed lo assuage our hunger.
Hov Iong couId I slay here` she asked. The nev lerm
begins in a veek, I reIied, so I have lo be back by lhen.
Olhervise lhings viII be a bil slicky. Miu gave a maller-of-facl
nod. She ursed her Iis and seemed lo be vorking oul
somelhing. She didn'l say anylhing rediclabIe, Iike Don'l
vorry, you'II be back by lhen, or I vonder if lhings'II be aII
sellIed by lhen. She came lo her ovn rivale concIusion,
vhich she lucked avay in a draver, and siIenlIy venl back lo
her meaI.
Afler dinner, as ve vere having coffee, she broached lhe
sub|ecl of lhe air fare. WouId you mind laking lhe amounl in
doIIar lraveIIer's cheques` she asked. Or eIse I couId have lhe
money lransferred lo your accounl in yen afler you relurn lo
Tokyo. Which do you refer` I'm nol slraed for funds, I
ansvered, I can ay il myseIf. ul Miu insisled on aying. I'm
lhe one vho asked you lo come, she said.
I shook my head. Il's nol Iike I'm being oIile or anylhing. A
IillIe bil Ialer on, and I robabIy vouId have come here of my
ovn accord. Thal's vhal I'm lrying lo say.
Miu gave il some lhoughl and nodded. I am very gralefuI lo
you. Ior coming here. I can'l leII you hov much.

When ve Iefl lhe reslauranl, lhe sky vas a briIIianl sIash of
coIours. The kind of air lhal feIl Iike if you brealhed il in, your
Iungs vouId be dyed lhe same shade of bIue. Tiny slars began
lo lvinkIe. areIy abIe lo vail for lhe Iong summer day lo be
over, lhe IocaIs vere oul for an afler-dinner slroII around lhe
harbour. IamiIies, couIes, grous of friends. The genlIe scenl
of lhe lide al lhe end of lhe day enveIoed lhe slreels. Miu and
I vaIked lhrough lhe lovn. The righl side of lhe slreel vas
Iined vilh shos, smaII holeIs, and reslauranls vilh labIes sel
u on lhe avemenl. Cosy yeIIov Iighls shone al smaII,
vooden-shullered vindovs, and Greek music fiIlered dovn
from a radio. On lhe Iefl side lhe sea sread oul, dark vaves
IacidIy breaking on lhe vharves.
In a vhiIe lhe road goes uhiII, Miu said. We can eilher
lake some slee slairs or a genlIe sIoe. The slairs are fasler. Do
you mind`
No, I don'l, I ansvered.
Narrov slone slairs araIIeIed lhe sIoe of lhe hiII. They vere
Iong and slee, bul Miu's lrainer-cIad feel shoved no signs of
liring, and she never sIackened her ace. The hem of her skirl
|usl in fronl of me svished IeasanlIy from side lo side, her
lanned, shaeIy caIves shone in lhe Iighl of lhe aImosl fuII
moon. I gol vinded firsl and had lo slo lo lake some dee
brealhs. As ve made our vay u, lhe Iighls of lhe harbour
became smaIIer and furlher avay. AII lhe aclivilies of lhe
eoIe vho'd been righl beside me vere absorbed inlo lhal
anonymous Iine of Iighls. Il vas an imressive sighl, somelhing
I vanled lo cul oul vilh scissors and in lo lhe vaII of my
The Iace vhere Miu and Sumire vere slaying vas a smaII
collage vilh a veranda facing lhe sea. While vaIIs and a red-
liIed roof, lhe door ainled a dee green. A riol of red
bougainviIIeas overgrev lhe Iov slone vaII lhal surrounded
lhe house. She oened lhe unIocked door and inviled me in.
The collage vas IeasanlIy cooI. There vas a Iiving room and
a medium-sized dining room and kilchen. The vaIIs vere
vhile slucco, vilh a couIe of abslracl ainlings. In lhe Iiving
room lhere vas a sofa and booksheIf, and a comacl slereo.
Tvo bedrooms and a smaII bul cIean-Iooking liIed balhroom.
None of lhe furnilure vas very aeaIing, |usl cosy and Iived
Miu look off her hal and Iaid her bag dovn on lhe kilchen
vorklo. WouId you Iike somelhing lo drink` she asked. Or
vouId you Iike a shover firsl`
Think I'II lake a shover firsl, I said.
I vashed my hair and shaved. Iov-dried my hair and
changed inlo a fresh T-shirl and shorls. Made me feeI haIfvay
back lo normaI. eIov lhe mirror in lhe balhroom lhere vere
lvo loolhbrushes, one bIue, lhe olher red. I vondered vhich
vas Sumire's.
I venl back inlo lhe Iiving room and found Miu in an easy
chair, brandy gIass in hand. She inviled me lo |oin her, bul
vhal I reaIIy vanled vas a coId beer. I gol an AmsleI beer from
lhe fridge and oured il inlo a laII gIass. Sunk dee in her chair,
Miu vas quiel for a Iong lime. Il didn'l Iook Iike she vas lrying
lo find lhe righl vords she vanled lo say, ralher lhal she vas
immersed in some ersonaI memory, one vilhoul beginning
and vilhoul end.
Hov Iong have you been here` I venlured.
Today is lhe eighlh day, Miu said afler lhinking aboul il.
And Sumire disaeared from here`
Thal's righl. Like I said before, |usl Iike smoke.
When did lhis haen`
Al nighl, four days ago, she said, Iooking around lhe room
as if seeking a cIue. I don'l knov vhere lo begin.
Sumire loId me in her Iellers aboul going lo Iaris from
MiIan, I said. Then aboul laking lhe lrain lo urgundy. You
slayed al your friend's Iarge eslale house in a urgundy
WeII, lhen, I'II ick u lhe slory from lhere, she said.

I've knovn lhe vine roducers around lhal viIIage for ages,
and I knov lheir vines Iike I knov lhe Iayoul of my ovn
house. Whal kind of vine lhe graes on a cerlain sIoe in a
cerlain fieId viII roduce. Hov lhal year's vealher affecls lhe
fIavour, vhich roducers are vorking hardesl, vhose son is
lrying his besl lo heI his falher. Hov much in Ioans cerlain
roducers have laken oul, vho's boughl a nev Cilroen. Those
kinds of lhings. Wine is Iike breeding lhoroughbredsyou
have lo knov lhe Iineage and lhe Ialesl informalion. You can'l
do business based |usl on vhal lasles good and vhal doesn'l.
Miu sloed for a momenl lo calch her brealh. She seemed
unabIe lo decide vhelher lo go on or nol. She conlinued.
There are a couIe of Iaces in Iuroe I buy from, bul lhal
viIIage in urgundy is my main suIier. So I lry lo send a
fair amounl of lime lhere al Ieasl once a year, lo renev oId
friendshis and galher lhe Ialesl nevs. I aIvays go aIone, bul
lhis lime ve vere visiling IlaIy firsl, and I decided lo lake
Sumire vilh me. Il's more convenienl somelimes lo have
anolher erson vilh you on lris Iike lhis, and besides, I'd had
her sludy IlaIian. In lhe end I decided I ucu|! ralher go aIone
and Ianned lo make u some excuse lo have her go back
home before I sel oul for Irance. I've been used lo lraveIIing
aIone ever since I vas young, and no maller hov cIose you are
lo lhem il's nol easy lo be vilh someone eIse day afler day.
Sumire vas surrisingIy caabIe and look care of Iols of
delaiIs for me. uying lickels, making holeI reservalions,
negolialing rices, keeing exense records, searching oul
good IocaI reslauranls. Those kinds of lhings. Her IlaIian vas
much imroved, and I Iiked her heaIlhy curiosily, vhich
heIed me exerience lhings I never vouId have if I'd been
aIone. I vas surrised al hov easy il is lo be vilh someone eIse.
I feIl lhal vay, I lhink, because of somelhing seciaI lhal
broughl us logelher.

I remember very veII lhe firsl lime ve mel and ve laIked
aboul Sulniks. She vas laIking aboul ealnik vrilers, and I
mislook lhe vord and said 'Sulnik'. We Iaughed aboul il, and
lhal broke lhe ice. Do you knov vhal 'Sulnik' means in
Russian` 'TraveIIing comanion'. I Iooked il u in a diclionary
nol Iong ago. Kind of a slrange coincidence if you lhink aboul
il. I vonder vhy lhe Russians gave lheir saleIIile lhal slrange
name. Il's |usl a oor IillIe Ium of melaI, sinning around lhe
Miu vas siIenl for |usl a momenl, lhen conlinued.

Anyvay, I ended u laking Sumire vilh me lo urgundy.
WhiIe I vas seeing oId acquainlances and laking care of
business, Sumire, vhose Irench vas nonexislenl, borroved lhe
car and drove around lhe area. In one lovn she haened lo
meel a veaIlhy oId Sanish Iady, and lhey challed in Sanish
and gol lo be friends. The Iady inlroduced Sumire lo an
IngIishman vho vas slaying in lheir holeI. He vas more lhan
50, a vriler of some sorl, very refined and handsome. I'm
osilive he vas gay. He had a secrelary vilh him vho seemed
lo be his boyfriend.
They inviled us for dinner. They vere very nice eoIe, and
as ve laIked ve reaIized ve had some muluaI acquainlances,
and I feIl Iike I'd found some kindred sirils.
The IngIishman loId us he had a smaII collage on an isIand
in Greece and vouId be hay if ve used il. He aIvays used
lhe collage for a monlh in lhe summer, bul lhis summer he had
some vork lhal kel him from going. Houses are besl
occuied, olhervise lhe carelakers viII gel Iazy, he loId us. So
if il isn'l any bolher, Iease feeI free lo use il. This collage, in
olher vords.
Miu gazed around lhe room.

When I vas in coIIege I visiled Greece. Il vas one of lhose
vhirIvind lours vhere you Iea from orl lo orl, bul sliII I
feII in Iove vilh lhe counlry. Thal's vhy il vas such an enlicing
offer lo have a free house on a Greek isIand lo use for as Iong as
ve vanled. Sumire |umed al lhe chance, loo. I offered lo ay a
fair rice lo renl lhe collage, bul lhe IngIishman refused,
saying he vasn'l in lhe renlaI business. We balled some ideas
around for a vhiIe, and ended u agreeing lhal I vouId send a
case of red vine lo his home in London lo lhank him.
Life on lhe isIand vas Iike a dream. Ior lhe firsl lime in I
don'l knov hov Iong I couId en|oy a reaI hoIiday, vilhoul any
scheduIe lo vorry aboul. Communicalions are a bil backvard
hereyou knov aboul lhe avfuI hone serviceand lhere
aren'l any faxes or lhe Inlernel. Gelling back lo Tokyo Ialer
lhan originaIIy Ianned vouId cause a bil of a robIem for
olher eoIe, bul once I gol here il didn'l seem lo maller any
Sumire and I gol u earIy every morning, acked a bag vilh
loveIs, valer, sunscreen, and vaIked lo lhe beach on lhe olher
side of lhe mounlains. The shore is so beaulifuI il lakes your
brealh avay. The sand is ure vhile, and lhere are hardIy any
vaves. Il's a IillIe oul of lhe vay, lhough, and very fev eoIe
go lhere, arlicuIarIy in lhe morning. Iveryone, men and
vomen, svims nude. We did, loo. Il feeIs fanlaslic lo svim in
lhe ure bIue sea in lhe morning, as bare as lhe day you vere
born. You feeI Iike you're in anolher vorId.
When ve lired of svimming, Sumire and I vouId Iie on lhe
beach and gel a lan. Al firsl ve vere a IillIe embarrassed lo be
nude in fronl of each olher, bul once ve gol used lo il, il vas no
big deaI. The energy of lhe Iace vas vorking on us, I suose.
We'd sread sunscreen on each olher's backs, IoII in lhe sun,
reading, dozing, |usl challing. Il made me feeI lruIy free.
We'd vaIk back home over lhe mounlains, lake shovers
and have a simIe meaI, lhen sel off dovn lhe slairs lo lovn.
We'd have lea in a harbour cafe, read lhe IngIish aer, buy
some food in a sho, go home, lhen send our lime as ve
Ieased unliI eveningreading oul on lhe veranda or Iislening
lo music. Somelimes Sumire vas in her room, vriling
aarenlIy. I couId hear her oening u her Ioverook and
cIallering avay on lhe keys. In lhe evening ve'd go oul lo lhe
harbour lo valch lhe ferryboal come in. We'd have a cooI drink
and valch lhe eoIe gelling off lhe shi.

There ve vere, silling quielIy on lhe edge of lhe vorId, and
no one couId see us. Thal's lhe vay il feIlIike Sumire and I
vere lhe onIy ones here. There vas nolhing eIse ve had lo
lhink aboul. I didn'l vanl lo move, didn'l vanl lo go
anyvhere. I |usl vanled lo slay lhis vay for ever. I knev lhal
vas imossibIeour Iife here vas |usl a momenlary iIIusion,
and someday reaIily vouId yank us back lo lhe vorId ve came
from. ul unliI lhal lime came I vanled lo en|oy each day lo lhe
fuIIesl, vilhoul vorrying aboul anylhing. We Ioved our Iife
here. UnliI four days ago.

On lheir fourlh morning lhere lhey venl as usuaI lo lhe beach,
skinny-died, relurned home, and Iefl again for lhe harbour.
The vailer al lhe cafe remembered lhemlhe generous lis
Miu aIvays Iefl didn'l hurland greeled lhem varmIy. He
made some oIile commenl aboul hov beaulifuI lhey Iooked.
Sumire venl lo lhe kiosk and boughl a coy of lhe IngIish
nevsaer ubIished in Alhens. Thal vas lheir onIy Iink vilh
lhe oulside vorId. Sumire's |ob vas reading lhe aer. She'd
check lhe exchange rale and lransIale and read aIoud lo Miu
any ma|or nevs ilem or inleresling arlicIe she haened lo
come across.
The arlicIe Sumire icked lo read aIoud lhal arlicuIar day
vas a reorl of a 70-year-oId Iady vho vas ealen by her cals. Il
haened in a smaII suburb of Alhens. The dead voman had
Iosl her husband, a businessman, eIeven years before and ever
since had Iived a quiel Iife in a lvo-room aarlmenl vilh
severaI cals as her onIy friends. One day lhe voman coIIased
face dovn on her sofa from a hearl allack and exired. Il
vasn'l knovn hov much lime had eIased belveen her allack
and her dealh. Al any rale, lhe voman's souI assed lhrough
aII lhe sel slages lo bid fareveII lo ils oId comanion, lhe body
il had inhabiled for 70 years. She didn'l have any reIalives or
friends vho visiled her reguIarIy, and her body vasn'l
discovered unliI a veek Ialer. The doors vere shul, lhe
vindovs shullered, and lhe cals couIdn'l gel oul afler lhe
dealh of lheir ovner. There vasn'l any food in lhe aarlmenl.
There musl have been somelhing in lhe refrigeralor, bul cals
don'l ossess lhe necessary skiII lo oen fridge doors. Slarving,
lhey devoured lhe fIesh of lheir ovner.
Taking an occasionaI si from her coffee cu, Sumire
lransIaled lhe arlicIe in slages. Some bees buzzed around lhe
labIe, Iicking lhe |am a revious alron had siIIed. Miu gazed
al lhe sea lhrough her sungIasses, Iislening inlenlIy lo Sumire.
And lhen vhal haened` Miu asked.
Thal's il, said Sumire, foIding lhe labIoid in haIf and Iaying
il on lhe labIe. Thal's aII lhe nevsaer says.
Whal couId have haened lo lhe cals`
I don'l knov . Sumire said, ursing her Iis lo one side
and giving il some lhoughl. Nevsaers are aII lhe same.
They never leII you vhal you reaIIy vanl lo knov.
The bees, as if sensing somelhing, fIev u in lhe air and vilh
a ceremonious buzz circIed for a vhiIe, lhen sellIed again on
lhe labIe. They relurned lo lheir |am Iicking.
And vhal vas lhe fale of lhe cals, one vonders, Sumire
said, lugging al lhe coIIar of her oversize T-shirl and smoolhing
oul lhe vrinkIes. She had on a T-shirl and shorls andMiu
haened lo knovno undervear undernealh. Cals lhal
deveIo a lasle for human fIesh mighl lurn inlo man-ealing
cals, so maybe lhey deslroyed lhem. Or maybe lhe oIice said,
'Hey, you guys have suffered enough,' and lhey vere
If you vere lhe mayor or chief of oIice in lhal lovn, vhal
vouId you do`
Sumire lhoughl aboul il. Hov aboul Iacing lhem in an
inslilulion and reforming lhem` Turn lhem inlo vegelarians.
Nol a bad idea. Miu Iaughed. She look off her sungIasses
and lurned lo face Sumire. Thal slory reminds me of lhe firsl
Ieclure I heard vhen I enlered a CalhoIic |unior high schooI.
Did I ever leII you I venl lo a very slricl CalhoIic girIs' schooI
for six years` I allended an ordinary eIemenlary schooI, bul I
venl inlo lhal schooI in |unior high. Righl afler lhe enlrance
ceremony a decreil oId nun look aII of us nev sludenls inlo
lhe audilorium and gave a laIk on CalhoIic elhics. She vas a
Irench nun, bul her }aanese vas fIuenl. She laIked aboul aII
kinds of lhings, bul vhal I recaII is lhe slory of cals and lhe
deserled isIand.
Thal's sounds inleresling, Sumire said.
You're shivrecked, vashed u on a deserled isIand. OnIy
you and a cal made il lo lhe Iifeboal. You drifl for a vhiIe and
end u on lhis isIand, |usl a rocky isIand vilh nolhing you can
eal. No valer, eilher. In your Iifeboal you have len days' vorlh
of biscuils and valer for one erson, and lhal's il. Thal's hov
lhe slory venl.
The nun Iooked aII around lhe audilorium and she said lhis
in a slrong, cIear voice. 'CIose your eyes and imagine lhis
scene. You're vashed u on a deserled isIand vilh a cal. This is
a soIilary isIand in lhe middIe of novhere. Il's aImosl
imossibIe lhal someone vouId rescue you vilhin len days.
When your food and valer run oul, you may very veII die.
WeII, vhal vouId you do` Since lhe cal is suffering as you are,
shouId you divide your meagre food vilh il`' The sisler vas
siIenl again and Iooked al aII our faces. 'No. Thal vouId be a
mislake,' she conlinued. 'I vanl you lo undersland lhal
dividing your food vilh lhe cal vouId be vrong. The reason
being lhal you are recious beings, chosen by God, and lhe cal
is nol. Thal's vhy you shouId eal aII lhe food yourseIf.' The
nun had lhis lerribIy serious Iook on her face.
Al firsl I lhoughl il vas some kind of |oke. I vas vailing for
lhe unchIine. ul lhere vasn'l one. She lurned her laIk lo lhe
sub|ecl of human dignily and vorlh, and il aII venl over my
head. I mean, reaIIy, vhal vas lhe oinl of leIIing lhal kind of
slory lo kids vho'd |usl enlered lhe schooI` I couIdn'l figure il
ouland I sii|| can'l.
Sumire lhoughl il over. Do you mean vhelher il vouId be
okay in lhe end, lo eal lhe cal`
WeII, I don'l knov. She didn'l lake il lhal far.
Are you a CalhoIic`
Miu shook her head. Thal schooI |usl haened lo be near
my house, so I venl. I Iiked lheir uniforms, loo. I vas lhe onIy
non-}aanese cilizen in lhe schooI.
Did you have any bad exeriences`
ecause I vas Korean`
Again Miu shook her head. The schooI vas quile IiberaI.
The ruIes vere relly slricl, and some of lhe sislers vere
eccenlrics, bul lhe almoshere vas generaIIy rogressive, and
no, I never exerienced any re|udice. I made some good
friends, and overaII I'd say I en|oyed schooI. I've had a fev
unIeasanl exeriences, bul lhal vas afler I venl oul inlo lhe
reaI vorId. ul lhal's nolhing unusuaIil haens lo mosl
I heard lhey eal cals in Korea. Is il lrue`
I've heard lhe same lhing. ul nobody I knov does.

Il had been lhe hollesl lime of day, and lhe earIy aflernoon
lovn square vas nearIy deserled. AImosl everyone in lovn
vas shul u in a cooI house, laking a na. OnIy curious
foreigners venlured oul al lhal lime of day.
There vas a slalue of a hero in lhe square. He'd Ied a
rebeIIion in mainIand Greece and foughl lhe Turks vho
conlroIIed lhe isIand, bul vas calured and ul lo dealh by
skevering. The Turks sel u a sharened slake in lhe square
and Iovered lhe ilifuI hero onlo il, naked. Iver so sIovIy, lhe
slake venl lhrough his anus, and finaIIy aII lhe vay lo his
moulh, laking him hours lo die. The slalue vas suosedIy
erecled on lhe sol vhere lhis haened. When il vas erecled,
lhe vaIianl bronze slalue musl have been quile a sighl, bul over
lhe inlervening years, vhal vilh lhe sea vind, dusl, and
seaguII droings, you couId bareIy make oul lhe man's
fealures. IsIand foIk hardIy gave lhe shabby slalue a assing
gIance, and lhe slalue ilseIf Iooked Iike il had lurned ils back on
lhe vorId.

Seaking of cals, Sumire had bIurled oul, I have a very
slrange memory of one. When I vas in second grade ve had a
relly IillIe six-monlh-oId lorloisesheII cal. I vas on lhe
veranda one evening, reading a book, vhen lhe cal slarled lo
run Iike crazy around lhe base of lhis Iarge ine lree in lhe
garden. Cals do lhal. There's nolhing lhere, bul suddenIy lhey
hiss, arch lheir backs, |um, hair slanding on end and laiI u, in
allack mode.
The cal vas so vorked u il didn'l nolice me valching il
from lhe veranda. Il vas such a slrange sighl I Iaid dovn my
book and valched lhe cal. Il didn'l seem lo lire of ils soIilary
game. AcluaIIy, as lime assed il gol more delermined. Like il
vas ossessed.
Sumire look a drink of valer and IighlIy scralched her ear.
The more I valched, lhe more frighlened I became. The cal
sav somelhing lhal I couIdn'l see, and vhalever il vas drove il
inlo a frenzy. IinaIIy lhe cal slarled racing around and around
lhe lree lrunk al a lremendous seed, Iike lhe liger lhal changes
inlo buller in lhal chiIdren's slory. IinaIIy, afler running
forever, il Ieaed u lhe lree lrunk. I couId see ils liny face
eeing oul belveen lhe branches vay u high. Irom lhe
veranda I caIIed oul ils name in a Ioud voice, bul il didn'l hear
IinaIIy lhe sun sel and lhe coId Iale-aulumn vind began lo
bIov. I sal on lhe veranda, vailing for lhe cal lo come dovn. Il
vas a friendIy cal, and I lhoughl lhal if I sal lhere for a vhiIe, il
vouId come dovn. ul il didn'l. I couIdn'l even hear il
miaoving. Il gol darker and darker. I gol scared and loId my
famiIy. 'Don'l vorry,' lhey said, '|usl Ieave il aIone and il'II
come dovn before Iong.' ul lhe cal never came back.
Whal do you meannever came back` asked Miu.
Il |usl disaeared. Iikc snckc. Iverybody loId me lhe cal
musl have come dovn from lhe lree in lhe nighl and gone off
somevhere. Cals gel vorked u and cIimb laII lrees, lhen gel
frighlened vhen lhey reaIize hov high lhey are, and von'l
come dovn. Haens aII lhe lime. If lhe cal vas sliII lhere, lhey
said, il'd miaov for aII il's vorlh lo Iel you knov. ul I didn'l
beIieve lhal. I lhoughl lhe cal musl be cIinging lo a branch,
scared lo dealh, unabIe lo cry oul. When I came back from
schooI, I sal on lhe veranda, Iooked al lhe ine lree, and every
once in a vhiIe caIIed oul lhe cal's name. No reIy. Afler a
veek, I gave u. I Ioved lhal IillIe cal, and il made me so sad.
Ivery lime I haened lo Iook al lhe ine lree I couId iclure
lhal ilifuI IillIe cal, slone-coId dead, sliII cIinging lo a branch.
The cal never going anyvhere, slarving lo dealh and
shriveIIing u lhere.
Sumire Iooked al Miu.
I never had a cal again. I sliII Iike cals, lhough I decided al
lhe lime lhal lhal oor IillIe cal vho cIimbed lhe lree and never
relurned vouId be my firsl and Iasl cal. I couIdn'l forgel lhal
IillIe cal and slarl Ioving anolher.

Thal's vhal ve laIked aboul lhal aflernoon al lhe cafe, said
Miu. I lhoughl lhey vere |usl a Iol of harmIess memories, bul
nov everylhing seems significanl. Maybe il's |usl my
Miu lurned and Iooked oul of lhe vindov. The breeze
bIoving in from lhe sea ruslIed lhe Iealed curlains. Wilh her
gazing oul al lhe darkness, lhe room seemed lo acquire an even
deeer siIence.
Do you mind if I ask a queslion` I'm sorry if il seems off lhe
sub|ecl, bul il's been bolhering me, I said. You said Sumire
disaeared, vanished 'Iike smoke', as you ul il. Iour days
ago. And you venl lo lhe oIice. Righl`
Miu nodded.
Why did you ask me lo come inslead of gelling in louch
vilh Sumire's famiIy`
I didn'l have any cIues aboul vhal haened lo her. And
vilhoul any soIid evidence, I didn'l knov if I shouId usel her
arenls. I agonized over il for some lime and decided lo vail
and see.
I lried icluring Sumire's handsome falher laking lhe ferry lo
lhe isIand. WouId her slemolher, underslandabIy hurl by lhe
lurn of evenls, accomany him` Thal vouId be one fine mess.
As far as I vas concerned, lhough, lhings vere aIready a mess.
Hov couId a foreigner ossibIy vanish on such a smaII isIand
for four days`
ul vhy did you caII me`
Miu broughl her bare Iegs logelher again, heId lhe hem of
her skirl belveen her fingers, and lugged il dovn. You vere
lhe onIy one I couId counl on.
ul you'd never mel me.
Sumire lrusled you more lhan anyone eIse. She said you
lhink deeIy aboul lhings, no maller vhal lhe sub|ecl.
DefinileIy a minorily oinion, I'm afraid.
Miu narroved her eyes and smiIed, lhose liny vrinkIes
aearing around her eyes.
I slood u and vaIked in fronl of her, laking her emly gIass.
I venl inlo lhe kilchen, oured some Courvoisier inlo lhe gIass,
lhen venl back lo lhe Iiving room. She lhanked me and look
lhe brandy. Time assed, lhe curlain siIenlIy fIullering. The
breeze had lhe smeII of a differenl Iace.
Do you reaIIy, rca||q vanl lo knov lhe lrulh` Miu asked
me. She sounded drained, as if she'd come lo a difficuIl
I Iooked u and gazed inlo her face. One lhing I can say
vilh absoIule cerlainly, I said, is lhal if I didn'l vanl lo knov
lhe lrulh, I vouIdn'l be here.
Miu squinled in lhe direclion of lhe curlains. And finaIIy
soke, in a quiel voice. Il haened lhal nighl, afler ve'd
laIked aboul cals al lhe cafe.

Afler lheir conversalion al lhe harbour cafe aboul cals, Miu and
Sumire venl grocery shoing and relurned lo lhe collage. As
usuaI, lhey reIaxed unliI dinner. Sumire vas in her room,
vriling on her Ialo. Miu Iay on lhe sofa in lhe Iiving room,
hands foIded behind her head, eyes cIosed, Iislening lo }uIius
Kalchen's recording of rahms's baIIads. Il vas an oId LI, bul
lhe erformance vas gracefuI, emolionaI, and ullerIy
memorabIe. Nol a bil resumluous, bul fuIIy exressive.
Does lhe music bolher you` Miu asked once, Iooking in al
lhe door lo Sumire's room. The door vas vide oen.
rahms never bolhers me, Sumire said, lurning around.
This vas lhe firsl lime Miu had seen Sumire vriling so
inlenlIy. Her moulh vas lighl, Iike a rovIing animaI's, her
eyes deeer lhan usuaI.
Whal are you vriling` Miu asked. A nev Sulnik noveI`
The lenseness around Sumire's moulh soflened a IillIe.
Nolhing much. }usl lhings lhal came lo mind lhal mighl be of
use someday.
Miu relurned lo her sofa and sank back dovn in lhe
minialure vorId lhe music lraced in lhe aflernoon sunIighl,
hov vonderfuI il vouId be, she mused, lo Iay rahms so
beaulifuIIy. In lhe asl I aIvays had lroubIe vilh rahms's
minor vorks, eseciaIIy lhe baIIads, she lhoughl. I never couId
give myseIf u lo lhal vorId of caricious, fIeeling nuances and
sighs. Nov, lhough, I shouId be abIe lo Iay rahms more
beaulifuIIy lhan before. ul Miu knev very veII: | cani p|aq
anqining. |tcr again.

Al 6.30 lhe lvo of lhem reared dinner in lhe kilchen and ale
oul on lhe veranda. A sou of sea bream and fragranl herbs,
saIad, and bread. They had some vhile vine and, Ialer, hol
coffee. They valched as a fishing boal aeared in lhe Iee of
lhe isIand and inscribed a shorl vhile arc as il saiIed inlo lhe
harbour. No doubl a hol meaI vas availing lhe fishermen in
lheir homes.
y lhe vay, vhen viII ve be Ieaving here` asked Sumire
as she vashed lhe dishes in lhe sink.
I'd Iike lo slay one more veek, bul lhal's aboul as Iong as I
can manage, Miu reIied, Iooking al lhe caIendar on lhe vaII.
If I had my vay, I'd slay here for ever.
If I had my vay, me loo, Sumire said, beaming. ul vhal
can you do` WonderfuI lhings aIvays come lo an end.

IoIIoving lheir usuaI rouline, lhey each venl lo lheir rooms
before len. Miu changed inlo Iong-sIeeve, vhile collon y|amas
and feII asIee as soon as her head hil lhe iIIov. ul soon she
voke u, as if shaken by lhe bealing of her ovn hearl. She
gIanced over al lhe lraveI aIarm cIock nexl lo her, il vas asl
12.30. The room vas ilch bIack, enveIoed by lolaI siIence. She
sensed someone nearby, hiding vilh baled brealh. Miu uIIed
lhe covers u lo her neck and ricked u her ears. Her hearl
lhumed IoudIy, drovning oul everylhing eIse. Il vasn'l |usl a
bad dream siIIing over inlo vakefuInesssomeone vas
definileIy in lhe room vilh her. CarefuI nol lo make a sound,
she reached oul and uIIed aside lhe vindov curlain an inch
or lvo. IaIe, valery moonIighl sloIe inlo lhe room. Keeing
erfeclIy sliII, she svel lhe room vilh her eyes.
As her eyes ad|usled lo lhe dark, she couId dislinguish an
oulIine of somelhing graduaIIy forming in a corner of lhe room.
In lhe shadov of lhe vardrobe beside lhe door, vhere lhe
darkness vas deeesl. Whalever ii vas, il vas Iov, roIIed inlo
a lhick baII Iike some Iarge, Iong-forgollen oslbag. An animaI`
A Iarge dog` ul lhe fronl door vas Iocked, lhe door lo her
room shul. A dog vouIdn'l be abIe lo gel in.
Miu conlinued lo brealhe quielIy and slared fixedIy. Her
moulh vas dry, and she couId calch a fainl vhiff of lhe brandy
she'd had before going lo bed. She reached oul and drev lhe
curlain back a IillIe lo Iel more moonIighl in. SIovIy, Iike
unraveIIing a langIed lhread, she couId make oul lhe oulIine of
lhe bIack Ium on lhe fIoor. Il Iooked Iike a erson's body: hair
hanging dovn in fronl, lvo lhin Iegs benl al an acule angIe.
Someone vas silling on lhe fIoor, roIIed u, head belveen Iegs,
scrunched u as if lo rolecl herseIf from somelhing faIIing
from lhe sky.
Il vas Sumire. Wearing her usuaI bIue y|amas, she crouched
Iike an insecl belveen lhe door and lhe vardrobe. Nol moving.
Nol even brealhing, as far as Miu couId leII.
Miu gave a sigh of reIief. ul vhal in lhe vorId vas Sumire
doing here` Miu sal u quielIy in bed and svilched on lhe
Iam. YeIIov Iighl Iil u lhe enlire room, bul Sumire didn'l
budge an inch. She didn'l even seem lo reaIize lhe Iighl vas on.

Whal's lhe maller` Miu caIIed oul. Iirsl in a smaII voice, lhen
more IoudIy.
There vas no resonse. Miu's voice didn'l aear lo reach
Sumire. Miu gol oul of bed and vaIked over lo her. The feeI of
lhe carel vas rougher lhan ever againsl her bare feel.
Are you sick` Miu asked, crouching beside Sumire.
SliII no ansver.
Miu noliced lhal Sumire vas hoIding somelhing in her
moulh. A ink facecIolh lhal vas aIvays hanging in lhe
balhroom. Miu lried lo uII il oul, bul Sumire's moulh vas
cIamed dovn hard. Her eyes vere oen, bul unseeing. Miu
gave u and resled a hand on her shouIder. Sumire's y|amas
vere soaking vel.
You'd beller lake your y|amas off, Miu said. You're
svealing so much you'II calch coId.
Sumire Iooked sluefied, nol hearing anylhing, nol seeing
anylhing. Miu decided lo gel Sumire's y|amas off, olhervise
her body vouId freeze. Il vas Augusl, bul somelimes nighls on
lhe isIand vere chiIIy. The lvo of lhem svam nude every day
and vere used lo seeing each olher's bodies, so Miu lhoughl
Sumire vouIdn'l mind if she undressed her.
Suorling Sumire's body, she unbulloned lhe y|amas and,
afler a lime, vas abIe lo gel lhe lo off. Then lhe bolloms.
Sumire's body vas rigid, bul graduaIIy reIaxed and ended u
Iim. Miu look lhe facecIolh oul of her moulh. Il vas soaked
from her saIiva. There vas a erfecl sel of leelhmarks on il.
Sumire had no anlies on under lhe y|amas. Miu grabbed a
loveI nearby and vied lhe sveal from her body. Iirsl her
back, lhen under her arms, lhen her chesl. She vied her beIIy,
lhen very quickIy lhe area from her vaisl lo her lhighs. Sumire
vas subdued, unresisling. She aeared unconscious, lhough
Iooking inlo her eyes Miu couId make oul a gIinl of
Miu had never louched Sumire's naked body before. Her
skin vas laul, smoolh Iike a young chiId's. Lifling her u, Miu
found lhal Sumire's body vas heavier lhan she had imagined,
and smeIIed of sveal. Wiing lhe sveal from her, Miu feIl
again her ovn hearl lhuming in her chesl. SaIiva galhered in
her moulh, and she had lo svaIIov again and again.
alhed in moonIighl, Sumire's body gIislened Iike some
ancienl ceramic. Her breasls vere smaII, bul shaeIy, vilh veII-
formed niIes. Her bIack ubic hair vas vel vilh sveal and
gIillered Iike grass in lhe morning dev. Her Iim, naked body
vas comIeleIy differenl from lhe one Miu had seen under lhe
bIazing sun al lhe beach. Her body vas a mix of sliII-girIish
eIemenls and a budding malurily bIindIy vrenched oen by
lhe ainfuI fIov of lime.
Miu feIl Iike she vas eering inlo someone's eIse's secrels,
somelhing forbidden she shouIdn'l be seeing. She avoided
Iooking al her naked skin as she conlinued lo vie avay lhe
sveal from Sumire's body, aII lhe vhiIe reIaying in her mind
a ach iece she'd memorized as a chiId. She vied Sumire's
svealy fringe, vhich vas Iaslered lo her forehead. Iven lhe
inside of Sumire's liny ears vere svealy.
Miu feIl Sumire's arm siIenlIy go around her ovn body.
Sumire's brealh grazed her neck.
AII you aII righl` she asked.
Sumire didn'l reIy. ul her arm heId on a bil more lighlIy.
HaIf carrying her, Miu heIed her inlo her ovn bed. She Iay her
dovn and uIIed lhe covers over her. Sumire Iay lhere,
unmoving, and cIosed her eyes.

Miu valched her for a vhiIe, bul Sumire didn'l move a muscIe.
She seemed lo have faIIen asIee. Miu venl lo lhe kilchen and
guIed dovn severaI gIasses of mineraI valer. She look a fev
dee brealhs and managed lo caIm dovn. Her hearl had
sloed ounding, lhough her chesl ached vilh lhe lension of
lhe Iasl fev momenls. Iverylhing vas cIoaked in a choking
siIence. No voices, nol even a dog barking. No vaves, no sound
of lhe vind. Why, Miu vondered, is everylhing so deadIy sliII`
Miu venl inlo lhe balhroom and look Sumire's svealy
y|amas, lhe loveI she'd used lo vie her dovn, and lhe
facecIolh vilh lhe leelhmarks and lossed lhem inlo lhe Iaundry
baskel. She vashed her face and gazed al her refIeclion in lhe
mirror. Since coming lo lhe isIand she hadn'l dyed her hair,
vhich vas nov ure vhile, Iike nevIy faIIen snov.
When Miu venl back inlo lhe room Sumire's eyes vere oen.
A lhin, lransIucenl veiI seemed lo cover lhem, bul a gIimmer of
consciousness had relurned. She Iay lhere, lhe covers u lo her
I'm sorry, she said huskiIy. Somelimes I gel lhis vay.
Miu sal dovn on a corner of lhe bed, smiIed, and reached oul
lo louch Sumire's sliII-dam hair. You shouId lake a good,
Iong shover. You vere reaIIy svealing.
Thanks, said Sumire. I |usl vanl lo Iie here.
Miu nodded and handed Sumire a fresh balh loveI, look oul
a air of her ovn cIean y|amas from lhe chesl of dravers and
Iaid lhem beside Sumire. You can use lhese. I don'l imagine
you have anolher air, do you`
Can I sIee here lonighl` asked Sumire.
AII righl. }usl go lo sIee. I'II sIee in your bed.
My bed musl be soaked, Sumire said. The covers,
everylhing. And I don'l vanl lo be aIone. Don'l Ieave me here.
WouId you sIee beside me` }usl for lonighl` I don'l vanl lo
have any more nighlmares.
Miu lhoughl aboul il, lhen nodded. ul firsl ul on a air of
y|amas. I don'l lhink I'd Iike having somebody naked Iying
righl nexl lo meeseciaIIy in such a smaII bed.

Sumire gol u sIovIy and ushed back lhe covers. She slood
u, sliII naked, and lugged on Miu's y|amas. She Ieaned
forvard and sIied on lhe bolloms, lhen lhe lo. Il look some
lime lo gel lhe bullons aII faslened. Her fingers vouIdn'l vork
righl. Miu didn'l heI, she |usl sal lhere valching. Sumire
bulloned u lhe y|amas in such a deIiberale vay il slruck Miu
as an aImosl reIigious ceremony. The moonIighl Ienl a slrange
hardness lo her niIes.
She mighl be a virgin, Miu suddenIy lhoughl.
Afler ulling on lhe siIk y|amas, Sumire Iay dovn again in
bed, on lhe far side. Miu gol inlo bed, vhere lhe scenl of sveal
remained slrong.
Can I, Sumire began, |usl hoId you for a vhiIe`
HoId me`
WhiIe Miu vondered hov lo resond, Sumire reached oul
and cIased her hand. Her aIm vas sliII svealy, varm and
sofl. She reached bolh hands behind Miu. Sumire's breasls
ushed againsl Miu, |usl above her slomach. Sumire ressed
her cheek belveen Miu's breasls. They remained lhal vay for a
Iong lime. Sumire seemed lo be shaking, ever so sIighlIy. She
musl be crying, Miu lhoughl. ul il vas as if she couIdn'l Iel il
aII oul. Miu reached around Sumire's shouIder and drev her
cIoser. She's sliII a chiId, Miu lhoughl. LoneIy and frighlened,
she vanls someone's varmlh. Like lhal killen cIinging lo a
ine branch.
Sumire shifled her body uvards a bil. The li of her nose
brushed Miu's neck. Their breasls ressed logelher. Miu
guIed. Sumire's hand vandered over her back.
I reaIIy Iike you, Sumire said in a smaII voice.
I Iike you, loo, Miu said. She didn'l knov vhal eIse lo say.
And il vas lhe lrulh.
Sumire's fingers slarled lo unbullon lhe fronl of Miu's
y|amas. Miu lried lo slo her. ul Sumire vouIdn'l slo. }usl
a IillIe, she said. }usl a IillIep|casc.
Miu Iay lhere unresisling. Sumire's fingers genlIy lraced lhe
conlours of Miu's breasls. Her nose fIickered back and forlh al
Miu's lhroal. She louched Miu's niIe, slroked il genlIy, and
heId il belveen lvo fingers. HesilanlIy al firsl, lhen more

Miu sloed seaking. She Iooked u, searchingIy, al me. Her
cheeks vere sIighlIy fIushed.
There's somelhing I need lo exIain lo you. A Iong lime ago
I had a very unusuaI exerience, and my hair lurned ure
vhile. Overnighl, comIeleIy. Since lhen I've dyed my hair.
Sumire knev I dyed il, and since il vas loo much lroubIe afler
ve came lo lhis isIand, I gave u. Nobody knovs me here, so il
didn'l maller. ul knoving you'd be coming, I dyed il again. I
didn'l vanl lo give you a slrange firsl imression.
Time fIoved asl in lhe ensuing siIence.

I've never had a homosexuaI exerience, and never
considered I had lhose lendencies. ul if lhal's vhal Sumire
reaIIy vanled, I lhoughl I couId obIige. Al Ieasl I didn'l find il
disgusling. As Iong as il vas vilh Sunirc, lhal is. So I didn'l
resisl vhen she slarled feeIing me aII over, or vhen she sluck
her longue inside my moulh. Il feIl slrange, bul I lried lo gel
used lo il. I Iel her do vhal she vanled. I Iike Sumire, and if il
made her hay, I didn'l mind vhal she did.
ul my body and my mind are lvo differenl lhings. A arl
of me vas hay lhal Sumire vas caressing me so IovingIy. ul
no maller hov hay my mind vas, my body resisled. Il
vouIdn'l yieId lo her. My hearl and my head vere aroused, bul
lhe resl of me vas Iike a hard, dry slone. Il's sad, bul I couIdn'l
heI il. Of course Sumire icked u on lhal. Her body vas
fIushed and genlIy dam, bul I couIdn'l resond.
I loId her hov I feIl. 'I'm nol re|ecling you,' I said, 'bul I |usl
can'l do lhal kind of lhing. Iver since inai haened lo me, 14
years ago, I haven'l been abIe lo give myseIf lo anyone in inis
vorId. Il's somelhing lhal's oul of my hands, decided
somevhere eIse.' I loId her lhal if lhere vas anylhing I couId
do, you knov, vilh my fingers, or moulh, I vouId. ul lhal
isn'l vhal she vanled. I knev lhal aIready.

She kissed me on lhe forehead and said she vas sorry. 'Il's
|usl lhal I Iike you,' she said. 'I've vorried aboul il for so Iong,
and I had lo lry.' 'I Iike you, loo,' I loId her. 'So don'l vorry
aboul il. I sliII vanl you lo be vilh me.'
As if a dam had bursl, Sumire sobbed inlo her iIIov for lhe
Iongesl lime. As she cried, I rubbed her bare back from lhe lo
of her shouIder lo her vaisl, feeIing aII her bones. I vanled lo
cry aIong vilh her, bul I couIdn'l.
And il came lo me lhen. Thal ve vere vonderfuI lraveIIing
comanions, bul in lhe end no more lhan IoneIy Iums of melaI
on lheir ovn searale orbils. Irom far off lhey Iook Iike
beaulifuI shooling slars, bul in reaIily lhey're nolhing more
lhan risons, vhere each of us is Iocked u aIone, going
novhere. When lhe orbils of lhese lvo saleIIiles of ours
haened lo cross alhs, ve couId be logelher. Maybe even
oen our hearls lo each olher. ul lhal vas onIy for lhe briefesl
momenl. In lhe nexl inslanl ve'd be in absoIule soIilude. UnliI
ve burned u and became nolhing.

Afler crying her hearl oul, Sumire gol u, icked u lhe
y|amas lhal had faIIen lo lhe fIoor and sIied lhem on, said
Miu. She said she vanled lo be aIone and vas going back lo
her room. 'Don'l lhink loo deeIy aboul lhings,' I loId her.
'Tomorrov's a nev day, lhings viII vork oul |usl Iike before.
You'II see.' 'I guess so,' Sumire said. She Ieaned over and heId
her cheek againsl mine. Her cheek vas vel and varm. She
vhisered somelhing in my ear, I lhink. ul in such a smaII
voice I couIdn'l make il oul. I vas aboul lo ask her vhal she
said, bul she'd aIready lurned avay.

Sumire vied her lears avay vilh lhe balh loveI and Iefl lhe
room. The door cIosed, and I snuggIed back under lhe covers
and cIosed my eyes. Afler an exerience Iike lhal, I lhoughl il
vouId be hard lo sIee, bul slrangeIy enough I soon feII fasl
When I voke u al seven lhe nexl morning, Sumire vas
novhere in lhe house. Ierhas she voke u earIyor maybe
never gol back lo sIeeand venl lo lhe beach by herseIf. She
said she vanled lo be aIone for a vhiIe. Il vas odd lhal she
didn'l even Ieave a nole, bul considering lhe nighl before, I
guessed she vas sliII relly usel and confused.
I did lhe vashing, hung oul her bedding lo dry, and sal on
lhe veranda, reading, vailing for her lo come back. The vhoIe
morning assed, and no Sumire. I vas vorried, so I Iooked
lhrough her room, even lhough I knev I shouIdn'l. I vas afraid
maybe she'd Iefl lhe isIand. ul her bags vere sliII oen, her
assorl vas sliII in her handbag, her svimsuil and socks
drying in a corner of her room. Coins, noleaer, and a bunch
of keys Iay scallered on her desk. One of lhe keys vas for lhe
fronl door of lhe collage.
Il aII feIl veird lo me. Whal I mean is vhenever ve venl lo
lhe beach ve aIvays vore heavy lrainers and T-shirls over our
svimsuils as ve vaIked over lhe mounlains. Wilh a canvas bag
vilh our loveIs and mineraI valer. ul she'd Iefl il aII
behindlhe bag, shoes, and svimsuil. The onIy lhings missing
vere lhe air of chea fIi-fIos she'd boughl al a IocaI sho
and lhe air of lhin siIk y|amas I'd Ienl her. Iven if you onIy
meanl lo lake a vaIk around lhe neighbourhood, you vouIdn'l
slay oul Iong dressed Iike lhal, vouId you`
In lhe aflernoon I venl oul lo scour lhe area for her. I made
a couIe of circuils nearby, venl lo lhe beach, lhen vaIked
back and forlh dovn lhe slreels of lhe lovn, and finaIIy
relurned home. ul Sumire vas novhere lo be found. The sun
vas selling, and nighl came on. The vind had icked u. AII
nighl Iong I couId hear lhe sound of lhe vaves. Any IillIe
sound voke me u. I Iefl lhe fronl door unIocked. Davn came,
and sliII no Sumire. Her bed vas |usl as I'd Iefl il. So I venl
dovn lo lhe IocaI oIice slalion near lhe harbour.

I exIained everylhing lo one of lhe oIicemen, one vho
soke IngIish. 'The girI vho vas lraveIIing vilh me has
disaeared,' I loId him, 'and hasn'l been back for lvo nighls.'
He didn'l lake me seriousIy. 'Your friend viII be back,' he said.
'Il haens aII lhe lime. Iveryone Iels lheir hair dovn here. Il's
summer, lhey're young, vhal do you execl`' I venl again lhe
nexl day, and lhis lime lhey aid a bil more allenlion. Nol lhal
lhey vere going lo do anylhing aboul il. I honed lhe }aanese
embassy in Alhens and exIained lhe silualion. ThankfuIIy, lhe
erson lhere vas quile kind. He said somelhing in no uncerlain
lerms in Greek lo lhe oIice chief, and lhe oIice finaIIy slarled
gelling an invesligalion u and running.
They vere simIy cIueIess. They queslioned eoIe in lhe
harbour and around our collage, bul no one had seen Sumire.
The calain of lhe ferry, and lhe man vho soId ferry lickels,
had no recoIIeclion of any young }aanese girI gelling on lhe
boal in lhe Iasl couIe of days. Sumire musl sliII be on lhe
isIand. She didn'l have any money on her lo buy a lickel in lhe
firsl Iace. On lhis IillIe isIand a young }aanese girI vandering
aboul in y|amas vouIdn'l escae eoIe's nolice. The oIice
queslioned a German couIe vho'd been svimming for a Iong
lime lhal morning al lhe beach. They hadn'l seen any }aanese
girI, eilher al lhe beach or on lhe road lhere. The oIice
romised me lhey'd conlinue lo do lheir besl, and I lhink lhey
did. ul lime assed vilhoul a singIe cIue.
Miu look a dee brealh and covered haIf her face vilh her
AII I couId do vas caII you in Tokyo and ask you lo come. I
vas al my vils' end.

I iclured Sumire, aIone, vandering lhe rugged hiIIs in a air
of lhin siIk y|amas and fIi-fIos.
Whal coIour vere lhe y|amas` I asked.
CoIour` said Miu, a dubious Iook on her face.
The y|amas Sumire vas vearing vhen she disaeared.
Whal coIour vere lhey` I'm nol sure. I boughl lhem in
MiIan and hadn'l vorn lhem yel. A Iighl coIour. IaIe green,
maybe` They vere very Iighlveighl, vilh no ockels.
I'd Iike you lo caII lhe embassy in Alhens again and ask
lhem lo send somebody here. Insisl on il. Then have lhe
embassy conlacl Sumire's arenls. Il'II be hard on lhem, bul
you can'l kee il from lhem any more.
Miu gave a smaII nod.
Sumire can be a IillIe oulrageous al limes, as you knov, I
said, and she does lhe craziesl lhings. ul she vouIdn'l Ieave
for four days vilhoul a vord. She's nol lhal irresonsibIe. She
vouIdn'l disaear unIess lhere's a very good reason. Whal
reason, I don'l knov, bul il musl be serious. Maybe she feII
dovn a veII oul in lhe counlry, and she's vailing for someone
lo rescue her. Maybe somebody kidnaed her. Ior aII ve
knov she couId be murdered and buried somevhere. A young
girI vandering al nighl in y|amasanylhing couId haen.
Al any rale, ve've gol lo come u vilh a Ian. ul Iel's sIee on
il. Tomorrov's going lo be a Iong day.
Do you lhink maybe . Sumire . kiIIed herseIf` Miu
We can'l ruIe lhal oul. ul she vouId have Iefl a nole. She
vouIdn'l have Iefl everylhing scallered Iike lhis for you lo ick
u lhe ieces. She Iiked you, and I knov she vouId consider
your feeIings.
Arms foIded, Miu Iooked al me for a vhiIe. You rca||q lhink
I nodded. AbsoIuleIy. Thal's lhe vay she is.
Thank you. Thal's vhal I vanled lo hear mosl.

Miu Ied me lo Sumire's room. Devoid of decoralions, lhe boxy
room reminded me of a big cube. There vas a smaII vooden
bed, a vriling desk, a vardrobe, and a smaII dresser. Al lhe
fool of lhe desk vas an average-size red suilcase. The fronl
vindov vas oen lo lhe hiIIs beyond. On lo of lhe desk vas a
brand nev Macinlosh Ioverook.
I've slraighlened u her lhings so you can sIee here.
Lefl aIone, I grev suddenIy sIeey. Il vas nearIy midnighl. I
undressed and gol under lhe covers, bul I couIdn'l sIee. UnliI
|usl a vhiIe ago, I lhoughl, Sumire vas sIeeing in lhis bed.
The excilemenl of lhe Iong lri reverberaled in my body. I vas
slruck by lhe iIIusion lhal I vas on a |ourney vilhoul end.
In bed I revieved everylhing Miu had loId me, making a
menlaI Iisl of lhe imorlanl oinls. ul my mind vouIdn'l
vork. Syslemalic lhoughl vas beyond me. Leave il for
lomorrov, I concIuded. Oul of lhe bIue, lhe image came lo me
of Sumire's longue inside Miu's moulh. Iorgel aboul il, I viIIed
my brain. Leave lhal for lomorrov as veII. ul lhe chances of
lomorrov being an imrovemenl on loday vere,
unforlunaleIy, sIim. GIoomy lhoughls veren'l going lo gel me
anyvhere, I decided, and cIosed my eyes. I soon feII inlo a dee

When I voke u, Miu vas selling lhe labIe for breakfasl oul on
lhe veranda. Il vas 8.30, and a brand-nev sun vas fIooding lhe
vorId vilh sunIighl. Miu and I sal dovn on lhe veranda and
had breakfasl, gazing al lhe brighl sea as ve ale. We had loasl
and eggs and coffee. Tvo vhile birds gIided dovn lhe sIoe
lovards lhe coasl. A radio vas Iaying nearby, an announcer's
voice, seaking quickIy, reading lhe nevs in Greek.

A slrange |el-Iag numbness fiIIed my head. I couIdn'l searale
lhe boundary belveen vhal vas reaI and vhal onIy seemed
reaI. Here I vas on a smaII Greek isIand, sharing a meaI vilh a
beaulifuI oIder voman I'd mel onIy lhe day before. This
voman Ioved Sumire, bul couIdn'l feeI any sexuaI desire for
her. Sumire Ioved lhis voman and desired her. I Ioved Sumire
and feIl sexuaI desire for her. Sumire Iiked me, bul didn'l Iove
me, and didn'l feeI any desire for me. I feIl sexuaI desire for a
voman vho viII remain anonymous. ul I didn'l Iove her. Il
vas aII so comIicaled, Iike somelhing oul of an exislenliaI
Iay. Iverylhing hil a dead end lhere, no aIlernalives Iefl. And
Sumire had exiled slage righl.

Miu refiIIed my emly coffee cu. I lhanked her.
You Iike Sumire, don'l you` Miu asked me. As a voman, I
I gave a sIighl nod as I bullered my loasl. The buller vas coId
and hard, and il look some lime lo sread il on lhe bread. I
Iooked u and added, Of course lhal's nol somelhing you
necessariIy can choose. Il |usl haens.
We conlinued ealing breakfasl in siIence. The nevs ended,
and lhe radio slarled lo Iay Greek music. The vind sveIIed
u and shook lhe bougainviIIeas. If you Iooked cIoseIy, you
couId make oul vhilecas aearing.
I've given il a greal deaI of lhoughl, and I lhink I shouId go
lo Alhens righl avay, Miu said, eeIing some fruil. I'd
robabIy gel novhere over lhe hone, so il'd be beller if I venl
slraighl lo lhe embassy and laIked vilh lhem face lo face.
Maybe someone from lhe embassy viII be viIIing lo come back
vilh me, or I mighl vail for Sumire's arenls lo arrive in
Alhens and come back vilh lhem. Al any rale, I'd Iike you lo
slay here as Iong as you can. The oIice mighl gel in louch, and
lhere's aIvays lhe ossibiIily lhal Sumire viII come back.
WouId you do lhal for me`
Of course, I reIied.
I'm going lo go lo lhe oIice slalion again lo check on lhe
invesligalion, lhen charler a boal lo lake me lo Rhodes. A
relurn lri lo Alhens lakes lime, so mosl IikeIy I'II gel a holeI
room and slay a couIe of days.
I nodded.
Miu finished eeIing lhe orange and vied il carefuIIy vilh a
nakin. Have you ever mel Sumire's arenls`
I never have, I said.
Miu gave a sigh Iike lhe vind al lhe edge of lhe vorId. I
vonder hov I'm going lo exIain il lo lhem.
I couId undersland her confusion. Hov can you exIain lhe
Miu and I vaIked dovn lo lhe harbour. She had a smaII bag
vilh a change of cIolhes, vore Iealher high-heeIed shoes, and
carried a MiIa Sch|umIauljon shouIder bag. We sloed by lhe
oIice slalion. We loId lhem I vas a reIalive of Miu's vho
haened lo be lraveIIing nearby. They sliII didn'l have a
singIe cIue. ul il's aII righl, lhey said cheeriIy. Nol lo
vorry. Look around you. This is a eacefuI isIand. We have
some crime, of courseIovers' quarreIs, drunks, oIilicaI
fighls. We're deaIing vilh eoIe, afler aII, and everyvhere
you go il's lhe same. ul lhose are domeslic squabbIes. In lhe
Iasl 15 years lhere's never once been a foreigner vho's been lhe
viclim of a crime on lhis isIand.
Thal mighl very veII be lrue. ul vhen il came lo exIaining
Sumire's disaearance, lhey had nolhing lo say.
There's a Iarge Iimeslone cave on lhe norlh shore of lhe
isIand, lhe oIice venlured. If she vandered in lhere, maybe
she couIdn'l find her vay oul. Il's Iike a maze inside. ul il's
very, very far avay. A girI Iike lhal couIdn'l have vaIked lhal
CouId she have drovned` I asked.
The oIicemen shook lheir heads. There's no slrong currenl
around here, lhey said. And lhe vealher lhis asl veek has
been miId, lhe sea caIm. Lols of fishermen go oul lo fish every
day, and if lhe girI had drovned, one of lhem vouId have
come across her body.
Whal aboul veIIs` I asked. CouIdn'l she have faIIen in a
dee veII somevhere vhiIe she vas oul for a vaIk`
The chief of oIice shook his head. There aren'l any veIIs on
lhe isIand. We have a Iol of naluraI srings so lhere's no need
lo dig any. esides, lhe bedrock is hard and digging a veII
vouId be a ma|or underlaking.
Afler ve Iefl lhe oIice slalion I loId Miu I vanled lo vaIk lo
lhe beach she and Sumire had frequenled, if ossibIe in lhe
morning. She boughl a simIe ma of lhe isIand al a kiosk and
shoved me lhe road, il lakes 45 minules one vay, she
caulioned, so be sure lo vear some slurdy shoes. She venl lo
lhe harbour and, in a mixlure of Irench and IngIish, quickIy
concIuded negolialions vilh lhe iIol of a smaII laxi boal lo
lake her lo Rhodes.
If onIy ve had a hay ending, Miu said as she Iefl. ul
her eyes loId anolher slory. She knev lhal lhings didn'l vork
oul lhal simIy. And so did I. The boal's engine slarled u, and
she heId dovn her hal vilh her Iefl hand and vaved lo me
vilh her righl. When her boal disaeared offshore, I feIl Iike
my insides vere missing a couIe of arls. I vandered around
lhe harbour for a vhiIe and boughl some dark sungIasses al a
souvenir sho. Then I cIimbed lhe slee slairs back lo lhe

As lhe sun rose higher il grev fierceIy hol. I ul a shorl-sIeeve
collon shirl on over my lrunks, ul on my sungIasses and
|ogging shoes, and sel off over lhe slee mounlain road lo lhe
beach. I soon regrelled nol bringing a hal, bul decided lo forge
on. I soon gol lhirsly vaIking uhiII. I sloed and look a drink
and rubbed lhe sunscreen Miu had Ienl me over my face and
arms. The alh vas vhile vilh dusl, vhich svirIed inlo lhe air
vhenever lhe vind bIev. OccasionaIIy I'd ass viIIagers
Ieading donkeys. They'd greel me in a Ioud voice: Ka|i ncra!
I'd say lhe same lhing back lo lhem. I suosed il vas lhe lhing
lo do.
The mounlainside vas covered vilh shorl, lvisled lrees.
Mounlain goals and shee made lheir vay over lhe craggy
rock face, crabby Iooks on lheir faces. The beIIs around lheir
necks made a maller-of-facl IillIe linkIing sound. The eoIe
herding lhe fIocks vere eilher chiIdren or oId eoIe. As I
assed lhey'd gIance al me oul of lhe corner of lheir eyes and
lhen haIf raise lheir hand in some sorl of sign. I raised my hand
lhe same vay in greeling. Sumire couIdn'l have come lhis vay
by herseIf. There vas no Iace lo hide, and someone vouId
have seen her.

The beach vas deserled. I look off my shirl and lrunks and
svam in lhe nude. The valer vas cIear and feIl vonderfuI. You
couId see aII lhe vay lo lhe slones on lhe bollom. A yachl vas
anchored al lhe moulh of lhe inIel, saiI sloved, and lhe laII
masl svayed back and forlh Iike a gianl melronome. Nobody
vas on deck. Iach lime lhe lide venl oul, counlIess IillIe slones
vere Iefl behind, cIallering IislIessIy. Afler svimming, I venl
back lo lhe beach and Iay dovn, sliII naked, on my loveI and
gazed u al lhe high, ure bIue sky. Seabirds circIed above lhe
inIel searching for fish. The sky vas ullerIy cIoudIess. I dozed
lhere for erhas haIf an hour, during vhich lime no one
visiled lhe beach. efore Iong a slrange hush feII over me. This
beach vas a IillIe loo quiel for a erson lo visil aIone, a IillIe icc
beaulifuI. Il made me imagine a cerlain vay of dying. I dressed
and vaIked over lhe mounlain alh, back lovards lhe collage.
The heal vas even more inlense lhan before. MechanicaIIy
moving one fool afler lhe olher, I lried lo imagine vhal Sumire
and Miu musl have laIked aboul vhen lhe lvo of lhem vaIked
lhis road logelher.
Sumire mighl very veII have been ondering lhe sexuaI
desire she feIl. The same vay I lhoughl aboul my ovn desire
vhen I vas vilh her. Il vasn'l hard for me lo undersland hov
she feIl. Sumire iclured Miu naked beside her and vanled
nolhing so much as lo hoId her lighl. An execlalion vas lhere,
mixed vilh so many olher emolionsexcilemenl, resignalion,
hesilalion, confusion, fearlhal vouId veII u, lhen vilher on
lhe vine. You're olimislic one momenl, onIy lo be vracked lhe
nexl by lhe surely lhal il viII aII faII lo ieces. And in lhe end il
I vaIked lo lhe lo of lhe mounlain, look a break and a drink
of valer, lhen headed dovnhiII. }usl as lhe roof of lhe collage
came inlo viev, I remembered vhal Miu had said aboul
Sumire feverishIy vriling somelhing in her room afler lhey
came lo lhe isIand. Whal couId she have been vriling` Miu
hadn'l said anylhing more, and I didn'l ush il. There mighl
|usl nignibe a cIue in vhal Sumire vrole. I couId have kicked
myseIf for nol having lhoughl of il before.

When I gol back lo lhe collage I venl lo Sumire's room, lurned
on her Ioverook, and oened lhe hard drive. Nolhing Iooked
romising. There vas a Iisl of exenses for lheir Iuroean lri,
addresses, a scheduIe. AII business ilems reIaled lo Miu's vork.
No ersonaI fiIes. I oened lhe RICINT DOCUMINTS
menunolhing. She robabIy didn'l vanl anybody lo read il
and had erased il aII. Which meanl lhal she had saved her
ersonaI fiIes on a fIoy disk somevhere. Il vas unIikeIy
she'd laken lhe disk vilh her vhen she disaeared, for one
lhing, her y|amas didn'l have any ockels.
I rummaged around in lhe desk dravers. There vere a
couIe of disks, bul lhey vere coies of vhal vas on lhe hard
drive or olher vork-reIaled fiIes. Nolhing Iooked romising. I
sal al lhe desk and lhoughl. If I vere Sumire, vhere vouId I
ul il` The room vas smaII, lhere veren'l many Iaces lo hide
somelhing. Sumire vas very arlicuIar aboul deciding vho
couId read vhal she vrole.
Of courselhe red suilcase. This vas lhe onIy lhing in lhe
room lhal couId be Iocked.
Her nev suilcase seemed emly, il vas so Iighl, I shook il,
bul il didn'l make any sound. The four-digil adIock vas
Iocked, hovever. I lried severaI combinalions of numbers I
knev Sumire vas IikeIy lo useher birlhday, her address,
leIehone number, osl codebul none of lhem vorked. Nol
surrising, since a number lhal someone couId easiIy guess
vasn'l much use as a combinalion number. Il had lo be
somelhing she couId remember, bul lhal vasn'l based on
somelhing ersonaI. I lhoughl aboul il for a Iong lime, and lhen
il hil me. I lried lhe area code for Kunilachinq area code, in
olher vords. 0-4-2-5.
The Iock cIicked oen.
A smaII bIack cIolh bag vas sluck inside lhe inner side
ockel of lhe suilcase. I unzied il and found a IillIe green
diary and a fIoy disk inside. I oened lhe diary firsl. Il vas
vrillen in her usuaI handvriling. Nolhing Ieaed oul al me. Il
vas |usl informalion aboul vhere lhey venl. Who lhey sav.
Names of holeIs. The rice of elroI. Dinner menus. rands of
vine and vhal lhey lasled Iike. asicaIIy |usl a Iisl. A Iol of lhe
ages vere bIank. Keeing a diary vasn'l one of Sumire's
slrong oinls, aarenlIy.

The disk vas unlilIed. The IabeI |usl had lhe dale on il, in
Sumire's dislinclive handvriling. Augusl 19. I sIied lhe
disk inside lhe Ioverook and oened il. The menu shoved
lvo documenls, neilher of vhich had a lilIe. They vere |usl
Documenl 1 and Documenl 2.
efore oening lhem, I sIovIy Iooked around lhe room.
Sumire's coal vas hanging in lhe vardrobe. I sav her goggIes,
her IlaIian diclionary, her assorl. Inside lhe desk vere her
baIIoinl en and roeIIing enciI. In lhe vindov above lhe
desk lhe genlIe, craggy sIoe vas visibIe. A bIack cal vas
vaIking on lo of lhe vaII of lhe house nexl door. The bare
IillIe box room vas enveIoed in lhe Iale aflernoon siIence. I
cIosed my eyes and couId sliII hear lhe vaves on lhe deserled
beach lhal morning. I oened my eyes again, and lhis lime
Iislened cIoseIy lo lhe reaI vorId. I couIdn'l hear a lhing.

I sel my oinler on Documenl 1 and doubIe-cIicked lhe icon.


Did You Lver See Anyone Shot by a Cun without 8leeding?

lute hus led me to u concluslonun ud hoc concluslon, mlnd you
(ls there uny other klnd? lnterestlng questlon, but l'll leuve lt for
some other tlme)und here l um on un lslund ln Creece. A smull
lslund whose nume l'd never even heurd of untll recently. 1he tlme
ls . u llttle ust four ln the mornlng. Stlll durk out, of course.
lnnocent gouts huve slled lnto thelr euceful, collectlve slee.
1he llne of ollve trees outslde ln the fleld ls sllng ut the
nourlshment the durkness rovldes. And the moon, llke some
meluncholy rlest, rests ubove the roofto, stretchlng out lts
hunds to the burren seu.
No mutter where l flnd myself, thls ls the tlme of duy l love best.
1he tlme thut's mlne ulone. lt'll be duwn soon, und l'm slttlng here
wrltlng. Llke 8uddhu, born from hls mother's slde (the rlght or the
left, l cun't recull), the new sun wlll lumber u und eek over the
edge of the hllls. And the ever dlscreet Mlu wlll quletly wuke u. At
slx we'll muke u slmle breukfust together, und ufterwurds go over
the hllls to our ever lovely beuch. 8efore thls routlne beglns, l wunt
to roll u my sleeves und flnlsh u blt of work.

Lxcet for u few letters, lt's been u long tlme slnce l've wrltten
somethlng urely for myself, und l'm not very confldent l cun
exress myself the wuy l'd llke to. Not thut l've ever hud thut
confldence. Somehow, though, l ulwuys feel drven to wrlte.
vhy? lt's slmle, reully. ln order for me to thlnk ubout
somethlng, l huve to flrst ut lt lnto wrltlng.
lt's been thut wuy slnce l wus llttle. vhen l dldn't understund
somethlng, l guthered u the words scuttered ut my feet, und llned
them u lnto sentences. lf thut dldn't hel, l'd scutter them uguln,
reurrunge them ln u dlfferent order. Reeut thut u number of
tlmes, und l wus uble to thlnk ubout thlngs llke most eole.
vrltlng for me wus never dlfflcult. Cther chlldren guthered retty
stones or ucorns, und l wrote. As nuturully us breuthlng, l'd scrlbble
down one sentence ufter unother. And l'd tnnk.
No doubt you thlnk lt's u tlmeconsumlng rocess to reuch u
concluslon, seelng us how every tlme l thought ubout somethlng l
hud to go through ull those stes. Cr muybe you wouldn't thlnk
thut. 8ut ln actual ractce lt dld tuke tlme. So much so thut by the
tlme l entered elementury school eole thought l wus returded. l
couldn't kee u wlth the other klds.
vhen l flnlshed elementury school the feellng of ullenutlon thls
guve me hud lessened conslderubly. 8y then l'd found u wuy to
kee uce wlth the world uround me. Stlll, untll l left college und
broke off uny relutlons wlth offlcluldom, thls gu exlsted lnslde
mellke u sllent snuke ln the gruss.
My rovlslonul theme here: Cn u duytoduy busls l use wrltlng to
work out who l um.

Rlght you ure!

l've wrltten un lncredlble umount u tlll now. Neurly every duy. lt's
llke l wus stundlng ln u huge usture, cuttlng the gruss ull by
myself, und the gruss grows buck ulmost us fust us l cun cut lt.
1oduy l'd cut over here, tomorrow over there. 8y the tlme l
muke one comlete round of the usture the gruss ln the flrst sot
ls us tull us lt wus ln the beglnnlng.
8ut slnce l met Mlu l've burely wrltten. vhy ls thut? 1he llctlon =
1runsmlsslon theory l. told me does muke sense. Cn one level
there's some truth to lt. 8ut lt doesn't exluln everythlng. l've got
to slmllfy my thlnklng here.
Slmllfy, slmllfy.

vhut huened ufter l met Mlu wus l stoed tnnkng. (Cf course
l'm uslng my own lndlvlduul deflnltlon of tnnkng here.) Mlu und l
were ulwuys together, two lnterlocklng soons, und wlth her l wus
swet uwuy somewheresomeluce l couldn't futhomund l just
thought, Ckuy, go wlth the flow.
ln other words, l hud to get rld of u lot of bugguge to get closer
to her. Lven the uct of thlnklng becume u burden. l thlnk thut
exlulns lt. No mutter how tull the gruss got, l couldn't be
bothered. l sruwled on my buck, guzlng u ut the sky, wutchlng
the blllowy clouds drlft by. Conslgnlng my fute to the clouds.
Clvlng myself u to the ungent uromu of the gruss, the murmur
of the wlnd. And ufter u tlme l couldn't huve cured less ubout the
dlfference between whut l knew und whut l dldn't know.
No, thut's not true. |rom day one l couldn't huve cured less. l
huve to be u blt more reclse ln my uccount here.
Preclslon, reclslon.

l see now thut my buslc rule of thumb ln wrltlng hus ulwuys been
to wrlte ubout thlngs us lf l ddn't know themund thls would
lnclude thlngs thut l dld know, or thought l knew ubout. lf l suld
from the beglnnlng, Cn, l know tnat, no need to send my recous
tme wrtng about t, my wrltlng would never huve got off the
ground. lor exumle, lf l thlnk ubout somebody, l know tnat guy,
no need to send tme tnnkng about nm, l've got nm down, l run
the rlsk of belng betruyed (und thls would uly to you us well). Cn
the fll slde of everythlng we thlnk we ubsolutely understund lurks
un equul umount of the unknown.
Understanding is but the sum of our misunderstandings.
'ust between us, thut's my wuy of comrehendlng the world. ln
u nutshell.

ln the world we llve ln, whut we know und whut we don't know ure
llke Slumese twlns, lnseuruble, exlstlng ln u stute of confuslon.
Confuslon, confuslon.
vho cun reully dlstlngulsh between the seu und whut's reflected
ln lt? Cr tell the dlfference between the fulllng ruln und lonellness?
vlthout uny fuss, then, l guve u worrylng ubout the dlfference
between knowlng und not knowlng. 1hut becume my olnt of
deurture. A terrlble luce to sturt, erhusbut eole need u
mukeshlft srlngbourd, rlght? All of whlch goes to exluln how l
sturted seelng duullsms such us theme und style, object und
subject, cuuse und effect, the jolnts of my hund und the rest of me,
not us bluckundwhlte ulrs, but us lndlstlngulshuble one from the
other. Lverythlng hud sllled on the kltchen floorthe sult,
eer, flour, sturch. All mlxed lnto one flne blob.

1he jolnts of my hund und the rest of me . l notlce slttlng here ln
front of the comuter thut l'm buck to my old bud hublt of
crucklng my knuckles. 1hls bud hublt mude qulte u comebuck ufter
l stoed smoklng. llrst l cruck the jolnts of the flve flngers of my
rlght hundcrack crackthen the jolnts of my left hund. l'm not
trylng to brug, but l cun cruck my jolnts so loud you'd thlnk
someone's neck's gettlng broken. l wus the chumlon knuckle
crucker ln elementury school. Put the boys to shume.
vhen l wus ut college, l. let me know ln no uncertuln terms thut
thls wusn't exuctly u sklll l should be roud of. vhen u glrl reuches
u certuln uge she cun't be snulng her knuckles ull over the luce.
Lseclully ln front of other eole. Ctherwlse you'll end u llke
Lotte Lenyu ln |rom ussa wtn Love. Now why hudn't unybody
ever told me thut before? l trled to breuk the hublt. l meun, l reully
llke Lotte Lenyu, but not enough to wunt to be her. Cnce l stoed
smoklng, though, l reullzed thut whenever l sut down to wrlte,
unconsclously l wus crucklng my knuckles ull over uguln. Sna
crackle o.
1he nume's 8ond. 'umes 8ond.

Let me get buck to whut l wus suylng. 1lme's llmltedno room for
detours. lorget Lotte Lenyu. Sorry, metuhorsgottu sllt. As l
suld before, lnslde us whut we know und whut we don't know
shure the sume ubode. lor convenlence's suke most eole erect u
wull between them. lt mukes llfe eusler. 8ut l just swet thut wull
uwuy. l nad to. l hute wulls. 1hut's just the klnd of erson l um.

1o use the lmuge of the Slumese twlns uguln, lt's not llke they
ulwuys get ulong. 1hey don't ulwuys try to understund euch other.
ln fuct the ooslte ls more often true. 1he rlght hund doesn't try
to know whut the left hund's dolngund vlce versu. Confuslon
relgns, we end u lostund we crush smuckbung rlght lnto
somethlng. 1nud.

vhut l'm gettlng ut ls thut eole huve to come u wlth u clever
strutegy lf they wunt whut they know und whut they don't know
to llve together ln euce. And thut strutegyye, you've got lt!
ls tnnkng. ve huve to flnd u secure unchor. Ctherwlse, no mlstuke
ubout lt, we're on un uwful collson course.

A questlon.
So whut ure eole suosed to do lf they wunt to uvold u
colllslon (tnud') but stlll lle ln the fleld, enjoylng the clouds drlftlng
by, llstenlng to the gruss grownot thlnklng, ln other words?
Sounds hurd? Not ut ull. Loglcully, lt's eusy. c'est smle. 1he
unswer ls dreams. Lreumlng on und on. Lnterlng the world of
dreums, und never comlng out. Llvlng ln dreums for the rest of
ln dreums you don't need to muke uny dlstlnctlons between
thlngs. Not ut ull. 8oundurles don't exlst. So ln dreums there ure
hurdly ever colllslons. Lven lf there ure, they don't hurt. Reullty ls
dlfferent. Reullty bltes.
Reullty, reullty.

vuy buck when the Sum Pecklnuh fllm 1ne vld 8uncn remlered,
u womun journullst rulsed her hund ut the ress conference und
usked the followlng: "vhy ln the world do you huve to show so
much blood ull over the luce?' She wus retty worked u ubout
lt. Cne of the uctors, Lrnest 8orgnlne, looked u blt erlexed und
flelded the questlon. "Ludy, dld you ever see unyone shot by u gun
wlthout bleedlng?' 1hls fllm cume out ut the helght of the vletnum
l love thut llne. 1hut's gottu be one of the rlnclles behlnd
reullty. Accetlng thlngs thut ure hurd to comrehend, und leuvlng
them thut wuy. And bleedlng. Shootlng und bleedlng.

Did you ever see anyone shot by a gun without bleeding?

vhlch exlulns my stunce us u wrlter. l thlnkln u very ordlnury
wuyund reuch u olnt where, ln u reulm l cunnot even glve u
nume to, l concelve u dreum, u slghtless foetus culled
understandng, floutlng ln the unlversul, overwhelmlng umnlotlc
fluld of lncomrehenslon. vhlch must be why my novels ure
ubsurdly long und, u tlll now, ut leust, never reuch u roer
concluslon. 1he technlcul, und morul, skllls needed to mulntuln u
suly llne on thut scule ure beyond me.

Cf course l'm not wrltlng u novel here. l don't know whut to cull lt.
'ust wrltlng. l'm thlnklng uloud, so there's no need to wru thlngs
u neutly. l huve no morul obllgutlons. l'm merelyhmm
tnnkng. l huven't done uny reul thlnklng for the longest tlme, und
robubly won't for the foreseeuble future. 8ut rlght now, ut thls
very moment, l am thlnklng. And thut's whut l'm golng to do untll
mornlng. 1hlnk.

1hut belng suld, though, l cun't rld myself of my old fumlllur durk
doubts. Aren't l sendlng ull my tlme und energy ln some useless
ursult? Euullng u bucket of wuter to u luce thut's on the verge of
floodlng? Shouldn't l glve u uny useless effort und just go wlth
the flow?
Colllslon? vhut's thut?

Let me ut lt u dlfferent wuy.
Ckuywhut dlfferent wuy wus l golng to use?
Ch, l rememberthls ls whut lt ls.
lf l'm golng to merely rumble, muybe l should just snuggle under
the wurm covers, thlnk of Mlu, und luy wlth myself. 1hut's whut l
l love the curve of Mlu's reur end. 1he exqulslte contrust
between her jetbluck ublc hulr und snowwhlte hulr, the nlcely
shued urse, clud ln tlny bluck untles. 1ulk ubout sexy. lnslde her
bluck untles, her 1shued ublc hulr, every blt us bluck.
l've got to sto thlnklng ubout thut. Swltch off the clrcult of
olntless sexuul funtusles (clck) und concentrute on wrltlng. Cun't
let these reclous reduwn moments sll uwuy. l'll let somebody
else, ln some other context, declde whut's effectlve und whut lsn't.
Rlght now l don't huve u gluss of burley teu's worth of lnterest ln
whut they mlght suy.

Rlght you ure!
Soonwurd und uwurd.

1hey suy lt's u dungerous exerlment to lnclude dreums (uctuul
dreums or otherwlse) ln the flctlon you wrlte. Cnly u hundful of
wrltersund l'm tulklng the most tulentedure uble to ull off
the klnd of lrrutlonul synthesls you flnd ln dreums. Sounds
reusonuble. Stlll, l wunt to relute u dreum, one l hud recently. l
wunt to record thls dreum slmly us u fuct thut concerns me und
my llfe. vhether lt's llterury or not, l don't cure. l'm just the keeer
of the wurehouse.

l've hud the sume tye of dreum muny tlmes. 1he detulls dlffer,
lncludlng the settlng, but they ull follow the sume uttern. And the
uln l feel uon wuklng ls ulwuys the sume. A slngle theme ls
reeuted there over und over, llke u truln blowlng lts whlstle ut the
sume bllnd curve nlght ufter nlght.

Sumire's Dream

(l've wrltten thls ln the thlrd erson. lt feels more uuthentlc thut

Sumlre ls cllmblng u long slrul stulrcuse to meet her mother, who
dled u long tlme ugo. Eer mother ls wultlng ut the to of the stulrs.
She hus somethlng she wunts to tell Sumlre, u crltlcul lece of
lnformutlon Sumlre deserutely needs ln order to llve. Sumlre's
never met u deud erson before, und she's ufruld. She doesn't
know whut klnd of erson her mother ls. Muybefor some reuson
Sumlre cun't lmuglneher mother hutes her. 8ut she hus to meet
her. 1hls ls her one und only chunce.

1he stulrs go on forever. Cllmb und cllmb und she stlll doesn't
reuch the to. Sumlre rushes u the stulrs, out of breuth. She's
runnlng out of tlme. Eer mother won't ulwuys be here, ln thls
bulldlng. Sumlre's brow breuks out ln u sweut. And flnully the stulrs
come to un end.
At the to of the stulrcuse there's u broud lundlng, u thlck stone
wull ut the very end fuclng her. Rlght ut eye level there's u klnd of
round hole llke u ventllutlon shuft. A smull hole ubout zc lnches ln
dlumeter. And Sumlre's mother, us lf she'd been ushed lnslde feet
flrst, ls crummed lnslde thut hole. Sumlre reullzes thut her tlme ls
neurly u.

ln thut crumed suce, her mother fuces outwurds, towurds her.
She looks ut Sumlre's fuce us lf ueullng to her. Sumlre knows ln u
glunce thut lt's her mother. She's the erson who guve me llfe und
flesh, she reullzes. 8ut somehow the womun here ls not the
mother ln the fumlly hoto ulbum. My reul mother ls beuutlful, und
youthful. So thut erson ln the ulbum wusn't reully my mother
ufter ull, Sumlre thlnks. My futher trlcked me.
"Mother!' Sumlre bruvely shouts. She feels u wull of sorts melt
uwuy lnslde her. No sooner does she utter thls word thun her
mother ls ulled deeer lnto thut hole, us lf sucked by some glunt
vucuum on the other slde. Eer mother's mouth ls oen, und she's
shoutlng somethlng to Sumlre. 8ut the hollow sound of the wlnd
rushlng out of the hole swullows u her words. ln the next lnstunt
her mother ls yunked lnto the durkness of the hole und vunlshes.
Sumlre looks buck, und the stulrcuse ls gone. She's surrounded
by stone wulls. vhere the stulrcuse hud been there's u wooden
door. She turns the knob und oens the door, und beyond ls the
sky. She's ut the to of u tull tower. So hlgh lt mukes her dlzzy to
look down. Lots of tlny objects, llke uerolunes, ure buzzlng
uround ln the sky. Slmle llttle lunes unybody could muke,
constructed of bumboo und llght leces of lumber. ln the reur of
euch lune there's u tlny flstslzed englne und roeller. Sumlre
yells out to one of the usslng llots to come und rescue her. 8ut
none of the llots uys uny uttentlon.

lt must be becuuse l'm weurlng these clothes, Sumlre decldes.
Nobody cun see me. She hus on un unonymous whlte hosltul
gown. She tukes lt off, und ls nukedthere's nothlng on
underneuth. She dlscurds the gown on the ground next to the
door, und llke u soul now unfettered lt cutches un udruught und
sulls out of slght. 1he sume wlnd curesses her body, rustles the hulr
between her legs. vlth u sturt she notlces thut ull the llttle
uerolunes huve chunged lnto drugonflles. 1he sky ls fllled wlth
multlcoloured drugonflles, thelr huge bulbous eyes gllstenlng us
they guze uround. 1he buzz of thelr wlngs grows steudlly louder,
llke u rudlo belng turned u. llnully lt's un unbeuruble rour. Sumlre
crouches down, eyes closed, und covers her eurs.

And she wukes u.

Sumlre could recull every lust detull of the dreum. She could huve
ulnted u lcture of lt. 1he only thlng she couldn't recull wus her
mother's fuce us lt wus sucked lnto thut bluck hole. And the crltlcul
words her mother soke, too, were lost for ever ln thut vucunt
vold. ln bed, Sumlre vlolently blt her lllow und crled und crled.

1he 8arber Won't 8e Digging Any More Boles

After thls dreum l cume to un lmortunt declslon. 1he tl of my
somewhut lndustrlous lckuxe wlll flnully begln to chl uwuy ut the
solld cllff. 1nwack. l declded to muke lt cleur to Mlu whut l wunt. l
cun't stuy llke thls forever, hunglng. l cun't be llke u slneless llttle
burber dlgglng u hole ln hls buck gurden, reveullng to no one the
fuct thut l love Mlu. Act thut wuy und slowly but surely l wlll fude
uwuy. All the duwns und ull the twlllghts wlll rob me, lece by
lece, of myself, und before long my very llfe wlll be shuved uwuy
comletelyund l would end u notnng.

Mutters ure us cleur us crystul.
Crystul, crystul.
l wunt to muke love to Mlu, und be held by her. l've ulreudy
surrendered so much thut's lmortunt to me. 1here's nothlng
more l cun glve u. lt's not too lute. l huve to be wlth Mlu, enter
her. And she must enter me. Llke two greedy, gllstenlng snukes.
And lf Mlu doesn't uccet me, then whut?
l'll cross thut brldge when the tlmes comes.
"Lld you ever see unyone shot by u gun wlthout bleedlng?'

8lood must be shed. l'll shuren my knlfe, reudy to sllt u dog's
throut somewhere.

Rlght you ure!

vhut l've wrltten here ls u messuge to myself. l toss lt lnto the ulr
llke u boomerung. lt sllces through the durk, luys the llttle soul of
some oor kunguroo out cold, und flnully comes buck to me.
8ut the boomerung thut returns ls not the sume one l threw.
8oomerung, boomerung.

Document z

lt's z.c ln the ufternoon. Cutslde lt's us brlght und hot us hell. 1he
cllffs, the sky, und the seu ure surkllng. Look ut them long enough
und the boundurles begln to dlssolve, everythlng meltlng lnto u
chuotlc ooze. Consclousness slnks lnto the sleey shudows to
uvold the llght. Lven the blrds huve glven u flylng. lnslde the
house, though, lt's leusuntly cool. Mlu ls ln the llvlng room
llstenlng to 8ruhms. She's weurlng u blue summer dress wlth thln
strus, her urewhlte hulr ulled buck slmly. l'm ut my desk,
wrltlng these words.
"Loes the muslc bother you?' Mlu usks me.
8ruhms never bothers me, l unswer.

l've been seurchlng my memory, trylng to reroduce the story Mlu
told me u few duys ugo ln the vllluge ln 8urgundy. lt's not eusy. She
told the story ln flts und sturts, the chronology thoroughly mlxed
u. Sometlmes l couldn't unruvel whlch events huened flrst, und
whlch cume luter, whut wus cuuse, whut wus effect. l don't blume
her, though. 1he cruel conslrutorlul ruzor burled ln her memory
slushed out ut her, und us the sturs fuded wlth the duwn ubove the
vlneyurd, so the llfe force drulned from her cheeks us she told me
her tule.
Mlu told the story only ufter l lnslsted on heurlng lt. l hud to run
through u whole gumut of ueuls to get her to tulk ulternutely
encouruglng her, bullylng her, lndulglng, rulslng, entlclng her to
contlnue. ve drunk red wlne und tulked tlll duwn. Eunds clused
together we followed the truces of her memorles, leclng them
together, unulyslng the results. Stlll there were luces Mlu couldn't
dredge u from her memory. Cnce she dled her foot there she
grew quletly confused, und downed more wlne. 1hese were the
dunger zones of memory. vhenever we cume ucross these, we'd
glve u the seurch und glngerly wlthdruw to hlgher ground.

l ersuuded Mlu to tell me the story ufter l becume uwure thut she
dyed her hulr. Mlu ls such u cureful erson thut only u very few
eole uround her huve uny ldeu she dyes her hulr. 8ut l notlced lt.
1ruvelllng together for so long, sendlng euch duy together, you
tend to lck u on thlngs llke thut. Cr muybe Mlu wusn't trylng to
hlde lt. She could huve been much more dlscreet lf she'd wunted
to. Muybe she thought lt wus lnevltuble l'd flnd out, or muybe she
wanted me to flnd out. (Emmure conjecture on my urt.)

l usked her strulght out. 1hut's menever beut ubout the bush.
Eow much of your hulr ls whlte? l usked. Eow long huve you been
dyelng lt? lourteen yeurs, she unswered. lourteen yeurs ugo my
hulr turned entlrely whlte, every slngle strund. vere you slck? No,
thut wusn't lt, suld Mlu. Somethlng huened, und ull my hulr
turned ure whlte. Cvernlght.
l'd llke to heur the story, l suld, lmlorlng her. l wunt to know
everythlng ubout you. You know l wouldn't hlde u thlng from you.
8ut Mlu quletly shook her heud. She'd never once told unyone the
story, even her husbund dldn't know whut hud huened. lor
fourteen yeurs lt hud been her own rlvute secret.
8ut ln the end we tulked ull nlght. Lvery story hus u tlme to be told,
l convlnced her. Ctherwlse you'll be forever u rlsoner to the
secret lnslde you.
Mlu looked ut me us lf guzlng ut some furoff scene. Somethlng
flouted to the surfuce of her eyes, then slowly settled to the
bottom uguln. "l huve nothlng l huve to cleur u,' she suld. 1ney
huve uccounts to settlenot me.'
l couldn't understund whut she wus drlvlng ut.
"lf l do tell you the story,' Mlu suld, "the two of us wlll ulwuys
shure lt. And l don't know lf thut's the rlght thlng to do. lf l llft
oen the lld now, you'll be lmllcuted. ls thut whut you wunt? You
reully wunt to know somethlng l've sucrlflced so much trylng to
Yes, l suld. No mutter whut lt ls, l wunt to shure lt wlth you. l
don't wunt you to hlde u thlng.
Cbvlously confused, Mlu took u sl of wlne und closed her eyes.
A sllence followed ln whlch tlme ltself seemed to bend und buckle.
ln the end, though, she begun to tell the story. 8lt by blt, one
frugment ut u tlme. Some elements of the story took on u llfe of
thelr own, whlle others never even qulvered lnto belng. 1here
were the lnevltuble gus und ellslons, some of whlch themselves
hud thelr own seclul slgnlflcunce. My tusk now, us nurrutor, ls to
gutherever so curefullyull these elements lnto u whole.

1he 1ale of Miu and the Ierris Wheel

Cne summer Mlu stuyed ulone ln u smull town ln Swltzerlund neur
the lrench border. She wus z und llved ln Purls, where she studled
the luno. She cume to thls llttle town ut her futher's request to
tuke cure of some buslness negotlutlons. 1he buslness ltself wus u
slmle mutter, buslcully just huvlng dlnner once wlth the other
urty und huvlng hlm slgn u contruct. Mlu llked the llttle town the
flrst tlme she luld eyes on lt. lt wus such u cosy, lovely luce, wlth u
luke und medlevul custle beslde lt. She thought lt would be fun to
llve there, und took the lunge. 8esldes, u muslc festlvul wus belng
held ln u neurby vllluge, und lf she rented u cur she could uttend
every duy.
She wus lucky enough to flnd u furnlshed uurtment on u short
term leuse, u leusunt, tldy llttle bulldlng on to of u hlll on the
outsklrts of town. 1he vlew wus suerb. Neurby wus u luce where
she could ructlse luno. 1he rent wusn't cheu, but lf she found
herself strued for cush she could ulwuys rely on her futher to
hel out.
1hus Mlu begun her temorury but lucld llfe ln the town. She'd
uttend concerts ut the muslc festlvul, tuke wulks ln the
nelghbourhood, und before long got to muke u few ucquulntunces.
She found u nlce llttle restuurunt und cufe thut she begun to
frequent. Cut of the wlndow of her uurtment she could see un
umusement urk outslde town. 1here wus u glunt lerrls wheel ln
the urk. Colourful boxes wlth doors forever wed to the huge
wheel, ull of whlch would slowly rotute through the sky. Cnce lt
reuched lts uwurd llmlt, lt begun to descend. Nuturully. lerrls
wheels don't go unywhere. 1hey go u, they come buck down, u
roundubout trl thut, for some strunge reuson, most eole flnd
ln the evenlngs the lerrls wheel wus seckled wlth countless
llghts. Lven ufter lt shut down for the nlght und the umusement
urk closed, the wheel twlnkled ull nlght long, us lf vylng wlth the
sturs ln the sky. Mlu would slt neur her wlndow, llstenlng to muslc
on the rudlo, und guze forever ut the uunddown motlon of the
lerrls wheel. Cr, when lt wus stoed, ut the monumentllke
stlllness of lt.
She got to know u mun who llved ln the town. A hundsome, clsh
Lutln tye. Ee wus tull, wlth u thoroughly hundsome nose und durk
strulght hulr. Ee lntroduced hlmself to her ut the cufe. vhere ure
you from? he usked. l'm from 'uun, she unswered. And the two of
them begun tulklng. Els nume wus lerdlnundo. Ee wus from
8urcelonu, und hud moved here flve yeurs before to work ln
furnlture deslgn.
Ee soke ln u reluxed wuy, often joklng. 1hey chutted for u
whlle, then suld goodbye. 1wo duys luter they met euch other ut
the sume cufe. Ee wus slngle, dlvorced, she found out. Ee told her
he left Suln to begln u new llfe. Mlu dldn't huve u very good
lmresslon of the mun. She could sense he wus trylng to move ln
on her. She snlffed u hlnt of sexuul deslre, und lt frlghtened her.
She declded to uvold the cufe.
Stlll, she bumed lnto lerdlnundo muny tlmes ln townoften
enough to muke her feel he wus followlng her. Perhus lt wus just
u sllly deluslon. lt wus u smull town, so runnlng ucross the sume
erson wusn't so strunge. Lvery tlme he suw her, he smlled
broudly und suld hello ln u frlendly wuy. Stlll, ever so slowly, Mlu
becume lrrltuted und uneusy. She sturted to see lerdlnundo us u
threut to her euceful llfe. Llke u dlssonunt cymbul ut the
beglnnlng of u muslcul score, un omlnous shudow begun to cloud
her leusunt summer.

lerdlnundo, though, turned out to be just u gllmse of u greuter
shudow. After llvlng there ten duys, she sturted to feel u klnd of
lmedlment uttuchlng ltself to her llfe ln the town. 1he thoroughly
lovely, neutusuln town now seemed nurrowmlnded, self
rlghteous. 1he eole were frlendly und klnd enough, but she
sturted to feel un lnvlslble rejudlce ugulnst her us un Aslun. 1he
wlne she drunk ln restuurunts suddenly hud u bud uftertuste. She
found worms ln the vegetubles she bought. 1he erformunces ut
the muslc festlvul sounded llstless. She couldn't concentrute on
her muslc. Lven her uurtment, whlch she thought qulte
comfortuble, begun to look to her llke u oorly decoruted, squulld
luce. Lverythlng lost lts lnltlul lustre. 1he omlnous shudow sreud.
And she couldn't escue lt.
1he hone would rlng ut nlght, und she'd lck lt u. "Allo?' she'd
suy. 8ut the hone would go deud. 1hls huened uguln und uguln.
lt hud to be lerdlnundo, she thought. 8ut she hud no roof. Eow
would he know her number? 1he hone wus un old model, und she
couldn't just unlug lt. She hud trouble sleelng, und sturted
tuklng sleelng llls. Eer uetlte hud gone.

l've got to get out of here, she declded. 8ut for some reuson she
couldn't futhom, she couldn't drug herself uwuy from the town.
She mude u u llst of reusons to stuy. She'd ulreudy uld u month's
rent, und bought u uss to the muslc festlvul. And she'd ulreudy let
out her uurtment ln Purls for the summer. She couldn't just u
und leuve now, she told herself. And besldes, nothlng hud uctuully
huened. She hudn't been hurt ln uny reul wuy, hud she? No one
hud treuted her budly. l must just be gettlng overly sensltlve to
thlngs, she convlnced herself.
Cne evenlng, ubout two weeks ufter she begun llvlng there, she
dlned out us usuul ut u neurby restuurunt. After dlnner she declded
to enjoy the nlght ulr for u chunge, und took u long stroll. Lost ln
thought, she wundered from one street to the next. 8efore she
reullzed lt, she wus ut the entrunce to the umusement urk. 1he
urk wlth the lerrls wheel. 1he ulr wus fllled wlth llvely muslc, the
sound of curnlvul burkers, und chlldren's huy shouts. 1he vlsltors
were mostly fumllles, und u few coules from town. Mlu
remembered her futher tuklng her to un umusement urk once
when she wus llttle. She could remember even now the scent of
her futher's tweed cout us they rode the whlrllng teucus. 1he
whole tlme they were on the rlde, she clung to her futher's sleeve.
1o young Mlu thut odour wus u slgn of the furoff world of udults,
u symbol of securlty. She found herself mlsslng her futher.

'ust for fun, she bought u tlcket und went lnslde the urk. 1he
luce wus fllled wlth dlfferent llttle shos und stundsu shootlng
gullery, u snuke show, u fortuneteller's booth. Crystul bull ln front
of her, the fortuneteller, u lurglsh womun, beckoned to Mlu:
"Mudemolselle, come here, leuse. lt's very lmortunt. Your fute ls
ubout to chunge.' Mlu just smlled und ussed by.
She bought some lcecreum und sut on u bench to eut lt,
wutchlng the eole usslng by. She felt herself fur removed from
the bustllng crowds uround her. A mun sturted to tulk to her ln
Cermun. Ee wus ubout c, smull, wlth blond hulr und u moustuche,
the klnd of mun who'd look good ln u unlform. She shook her heud
und smlled und olnted to her wutch. "l'm wultlng for somebody,'
she suld ln lrench. Eer volce sounded hlgher, und remote to her.
1he mun suld nothlng further, grlnned sheelshly, guve her u brlef
wuve of the hund und wus gone.

Mlu stood u, und wundered uround. Somebody wus throwlng
durts und u bulloon burst. A beur wus stomlng uround ln u dunce.
An orgun luyed "1he 8lue Lunube vultz'. She looked u, und
suw the lerrls wheel lelsurely turnlng through the ulr. lt would be
fun to see my uurtment from the lerrls wheel, she suddenly
thought, lnsteud of the other wuy uround. lortunutely she hud u
smull ulr of blnoculurs ln her shoulder bug. She hud left them ln
there slnce the lust tlme she wus ut the muslc festlvul, where they
cume ln hundy for seelng the stuge from her furoff seut on the
luwn. 1hey were llght und strong enough. vlth these she should
be uble to see rlght lnto her room.

She went to buy u tlcket ut the booth ln front of the lerrls wheel.
"ve'll be closlng retty soon, Mudemolselle,' the tlcket seller, un
old mun, told her. Ee looked down us he mumbled thls, us lf
tulklng to hlmself. And he shook hls heud. "ve're ulmost flnlshed
for the duy. 1hls wlll be the lust rlde. Cne tlme uround und we're
flnlshed.' vhlte stubble covered hls chln, hls whlskers stulned by
tobucco smoke. Ee coughed. Els cheeks were us red us lf buffeted
for yeurs ln u north wlnd.
"1hut's ull rlght. Cnce ls enough,' Mlu relled. She bought u
tlcket und steed u on the lutform. She wus the only erson
wultlng to bourd, und us fur us she could muke out, the llttle
gondolus were ull emty. Lmty boxes swung ldly through the ulr
us they revolved, us lf the world ltself were flzzllng out towurds lts
She got lnslde the red gondolu, sut on the bench, whlle the old
mun cume over, closed the door, und locked lt from the outslde.
lor sufety's suke, no doubt. Llke some unclent unlmul comlng to
llfe, the lerrls wheel cluttered und begun lts uscent. 1he ussorted
throng of booths und uttructlons shrunk below her. As they dld,
the llghts of the clty rose u before her. 1he luke wus on her left
hund slde, und she could see llghts from excurslon bouts reflected
gently on the surfuce of the wuter. 1he furoff mountulnslde wus
dotted wlth llghts from tlny vllluges. Eer chest tlghtened ut the
beuuty of lt ull.

1he ureu where she llved, on the hlllto, cume lnto vlew. Mlu
focused her blnoculurs und seurched for her uurtment, but lt
wusn't eusy to flnd. 1he lerrls wheel steudlly rose hlgher und
hlgher. She'd huve to hurry. She swet the blnoculurs buck und
forth ln u fruntlc seurch. 8ut there were too muny bulldlngs thut
looked ullke. 1he lerrls wheel reuched the to, und begun lts
downwurd turn. llnully she sotted the bulldlng. 1hut's lt! 8ut
somehow lt hud more wlndows thun she remembered. Lots of
eole hud thelr wlndows oen to cutch the summer breeze. She
moved her blnoculurs from one wlndow to the next, und flnully
locuted the second uurtment from the rlght on the thlrd floor.
8ut by then the lerrls wheel wus gettlng closer to ground level.
1he wulls of other bulldlngs got ln the wuy. lt wus u shumejust u
few more seconds und she could huve seen rlght lnslde her luce.

1he lerrls wheel urouched the ground, ever so slowly. She trled
to oen the door to get out, but lt wouldn't budge. Cf courselt
wus locked from the outslde. She looked uround for the old mun ln
the tlcket booth, but he wus nowhere to be seen. 1he llght ln the
booth wus ulreudy out. She wus ubout to cull to someone, but
there wusn't unyone to yell to. 1he lerrls wheel begun rlslng once
more. vhut u mess, she thought. Eow could thls huen? She
slghed. Muybe the old mun hud gone to the tollet und mlssed the
tlmlng. She'd huve to muke one more clrcult.
lt's ult rlght, she thought. 1he old mun's forgetfulness would
glve her u second free sln on the wheel. 1hls tlme for sure she'd
sot her uurtment. She grused the blnoculurs flrmly und stuck
her fuce out of the wlndow. Slnce she'd locuted the generul ureu
und osltlon lust tlme uround, thls tlme lt wus un eusy tusk to sot
her own room. 1he wlndow wus oen, the llght on. She huted to
come buck to u durk room, und hud lunned to come buck strulght
ufter dlnner.

lt guve her u gullty feellng to look ut her own room from so fur
uwuy through the blnoculurs, us lf she were eeklng ln on herself.
8ut l'm not there, she ussured herself. Cf course not. 1here's u
hone on the tuble. l'd reully llke to luce u cull to thut hone.
1here's u letter l left on the tuble, too. l'd llke to reud lt from here,
Mlu thought. 8ut nuturully she couldn't see thut much detull.

llnully the lerrls wheel ussed lts zenlth und begun to descend. lt
hud only gone down u short whlle when lt suddenly stoed. She
wus thrown ugulnst the slde of the cur, bunglng her shoulder und
neurly drolng the blnoculurs on the floor. 1he sound of the
lerrls wheel motor ground to u hult, und everythlng wus wrued
ln un uneurthly sllence. All the llvely buckground muslc she'd heurd
wus gone. Most of the llghts ln the booths down below were out.
She llstened curefully, but heurd only the fulnt sound of the wlnd
und nothlng more. Absolute stlllness. No volces of curnlvul burkers,
no chlldren's huy shouts. At flrst she couldn't grus whut hud
huened. And then lt cume to her: she'd been ubundoned.
She leuned out of the hulfoen wlndow, und looked down
uguln. She reullzed how hlgh u she wus. Mlu thought to yell out
for hel, but knew thut no one would heur her. She wus too hlgh
u, her volce too smull.
vhere could thut old mun huve gone to? Ee must huve been
drlnklng. Els fuce thut colour, hls breuth, hls thlck volceno
mlstuke ubout lt. Ee forgot ull ubout uttlng me on the lerrls
wheel und turned the muchlnery off. At thls very moment he's
robubly gettlng lssed ln some bur, huvlng u beer or gln, gettlng
even more drunk und forgettlng whut he's done. Mlu blt her ll. l
mlght not get out of here untll tomorrow ufternoon, she thought.
Cr muybe evenlng? vhen dld the umusement urk oen for
buslness? She hud no ldeu.

Mlu wus dressed only ln u llght blouse und short cotton sklrt, und
though lt wus the mlddle of summer the Swlss nlght ulr wus chllly.
1he wlnd hud lcked u. She leuned out of the wlndow once more
to look ut the scene below. 1here were even fewer llghts thun
before. 1he umusement urk stuff hud flnlshed for the duy und
gone home. 1here hud to be u guurd uround somewhere. She took
u dee breuth und shouted for hel ut the to of her lungs. She
llstened. And yelled uguln. And uguln. No resonse.
She took u smull notebook from her shoulder bug, und wrote on
lt ln lrench: "l'm locked lnslde the lerrls wheel ut the umusement
urk. Pleuse hel me.' She droed the note out of the wlndow.
1he sheet flew off on the wlnd. 1he wlnd wus blowlng towurds the
town, so lf she wus lucky lt mlght end u there. 8ut lf someone
uctuully dld lck lt u und reud lt, would he (or she) belleve lt? Cn
unother uge, she wrote her nume und uddress ulong wlth the
messuge. 1hut should be more bellevuble. Peole mlght not tuke lt
for u joke then, but reullze she wus ln serlous trouble. She sent hulf
the uges ln her notebook flylng out on the wlnd.
Suddenly she got un ldeu, took everythlng out of her wullet
excet u tenfrunc note, und ut u note lnslde: "A womun ls locked
lnslde the lerrls wheel u ubove you. Pleuse hel.' She droed
the wullet out the wlndow. lt fell strulght down towurds the
ground. She couldn't see where lt fell, though, or. heur the thud of
lt hlttlng the ground. She ut the sume klnd of note lnslde her
urse und droed thut us well.
Mlu looked ut her wrlstwutch. lt wus c.c. She rummuged
uround lnslde her shoulder bug to see whut else she could flnd.
Some slmle mukeu und u mlrror, her ussort. Sunglusses. leys
to her rentul cur und her uurtment. An urmy knlfe for eellng
frult. A smull lustlc bug wlth three cruckers lnslde. A lrench
uerbuck. She'd euten dlnner, so she wouldn't be hungry untll
mornlng. vlth the cool ulr, she wouldn't get too thlrsty. And
fortunutely she dldn't huve to go to the tollet yet.
She sut down on the lustlc bench, und leuned her heud buck
ugulnst the wull. Regrets sun through her mlnd. vhy hud she
come to the umusement urk, und got on thls lerrls wheel? After
she left the restuurunt she should huve gone strulght home. lf only
she hud, she'd be tuklng u nlce hot buth rlght now, snuggllng lnto
bed wlth u good book, us she ulwuys dld. vhy hudn't she done
thut? And why ln the world would they hlre u hoeless drunk llke
thut old mun?

1he lerrls wheel creuked ln the wlnd. She trled to close the
wlndow so the wlnd wouldn't get ln, but lt dldn't glve un lnch. She
guve u und sut on the floor. l knew l should huve brought u
sweuter, she thought. As she'd left her uurtment she'd uused,
wonderlng lf she should drue u curdlgun over her shoulders. 8ut
the summer evenlng hud looked so leusunt, und the restuurunt
wus only three blocks from her luce. At thut olnt wulklng to the
umusement urk und gettlng on the lerrls wheel were the furthest
thlngs from her mlnd. Lverythlng hud gone wrong.
1o hel her relux, she removed her wrlstwutch, her thln sllver
brucelet, und the seushellshued eurrlngs und stored them ln her
bug. She curled u ln u corner of the floor, und hoed she could
just slee tlll mornlng. Nuturully she couldn't get to slee. She wus
cold, und uneusy. An occuslonul gust of wlnd shook the gondolu.
She closed her eyes und mentully luyed u Mozurt sonutu ln C
mlnor, movlng her flngers on un lmuglnury keybourd. lor no
seclul reuson, she'd memorlzed thls lece thut she'd luyed when
she wus u chlld. Eulfwuy through the second movement, though,
her mlnd grew dlm. And she fell uslee.

Eow long she slet, she dldn't know. lt couldn't huve been long.
She woke wlth u sturt, und for u mlnute hud no ldeu where she
wus. Slowly her memory returned. 1hut's rlght, she thought, l'm
stuck lnslde u lerrls wheel ut un umusement urk. She ulled her
wutch out of her bug, lt wus ufter mldnlght. Mlu slowly stood u.
Sleelng ln such u crumed osltlon hud mude ull her jolnts uche.
She yuwned u coule of tlmes, stretched, und rubbed her wrlsts.
lnowlng she wouldn't be uble to get buck to slee for u whlle,
she took the uerbuck out of her bug to tuke her mlnd off her
troubles, und begun reudlng where she'd left off. lt wus u new
mystery she'd bought ut u booksho ln town. Lucklly, the llghts on
the lerrls wheel were left on ull nlght. After she'd reud u few
uges, though, she reullzed she wusn't followlng the lot. Eer eyes
were followlng the llnes ull rlght, but her mlnd wus mlles uwuy.
Mlu guve u und shut the book. She looked ut the nlght sky. A
thln luyer of clouds covered the sky, und she couldn't muke out
uny sturs. 1here wus u dlm sllver of moon. 1he llghts cust her
reflectlon cleurly on the gondolu's gluss wlndow. She stured ut her
fuce for u long tlme. vhen wlll thls be over? she usked herself.
Eung ln there. Luter on thls wlll ull be just u funny story you'll tell
eole. lmuglne gettlng locked lnslde u lerrls wheel ln un
umusement urk ln Swltzerlund!
8ut lt dldn't become u funny story.
1hls ls where the reul story beglns.

A llttle luter, she lcked u her blnoculurs und looked out ut the
wlndow of her uurtment. Nothlng hud chunged. vell, whut do
you exect? she usked herself, und smlled.
She looked ut the other wlndows ln the bulldlng. lt wus ust
mldnlght, und ulmost everyone wus uslee. Most of the wlndows
were durk. A few eole, though, were u, llghts on ln thelr
uurtments. Peole on the lower floors hud tuken the recuutlon
of closlng thelr curtulns. 1hose on the uer floors dldn't bother,
und left thelr curtulns oen to cutch the cool nlght breeze. Llfe
wlthln these rooms wus quletly, und comletely, oen to vlew.
(vho would ever lmuglne thut someone looklng ln wlth blnoculurs
wus hldden uwuy ln u lerrls wheel ln the mlddle of the nlght?) Mlu
wusn't very lnterested ln eeklng ln on others' rlvute llves,
though. She found looklng ln her own emty room fur more

vhen she mude one comlete clrcult of the wlndows und returned
to her own uurtment, she gused. 1here wus u nuked mun ln her
bedroom. At flrst she thought she hud the wrong uurtment. She
moved the blnoculurs u und down, buck und forth. 8ut there wus
no mlstuke, lt wus her room ull rlght. Eer furnlture, her flowers ln
the vuse, her uurtment's ulntlngs hunglng on the wull. 1he mun
wus lerdlnundo. No mlstuke ubout lt. Ee wus slttlng on her bed,
sturk nuked. Els chest und stomuch were hulry, und hls long enls
hung down fluccldly llke some drowsy unlmul.
vhut could he be dolng ln my room? A thln sheen of sweut
broke out on Mlu's foreheud. Eow dld he get ln? Mlu couldn't
understund lt. She wus ungry ut flrst, then confused. Next, u
womun ueured ln the wlndow. She hud on u shortsleeve whlte
blouse und u short blue cotton sklrt. A womun? Mlu clutched the
blnoculurs tlghter und flxed her eyes on the scene.
vhut she suw wus nerselj.

Mlu's mlnd went blunk. l'm rlght here, looklng ut my room through
blnoculurs. And ln thut room ls me. Mlu focused und refocused the
blnoculurs. 8ut no mutter how muny tlmes she looked, lt wus ner
lnslde the room. veurlng the exuct sume clothes she hud on now.
lerdlnundo held her close und currled her to the bed. llsslng her,
he gently undressed the Mlu lnslde the room. Ee took off her
blouse, undld her bru, ulled off her sklrt, klssed the buse of her
neck us he curessed her breusts wlth hls hunds. After u whlle, he
ulled off her untles wlth one hund, untles exuctly the sume us
the ones she hud on now. Mlu couldn't breuthe. vhut wus
8efore she reullzed lt, lerdlnundo's enls wus erect, us stlff us u
rod. She'd never seen one so huge. Ee took Mlu's hund, und
luced lt on hls enls. Ee curessed her und llcked her from heud to
toe. Ee took hls own sweet tlme. She dldn't reslst. Shethe Mlu ln
the uurtmentlet hlm do whutever he wunted, thoroughly
enjoylng the rlslng usslon. lrom tlme to tlme she would reuch out
und curess lerdlnundo's enls und bulls und ullow hlm to touch her
Mlu couldn't drug her guze uwuy from thls strunge slght. She felt
slck. Eer throut wus so urched she couldn't swullow. She felt us lf
she wus golng to vomlt. Lverythlng wus grotesquely exuggeruted,
menuclng, llke some medlevul ullegorlcul ulntlng. 1hls ls whut Mlu
thought: thut they were dellberutely showlng her thls scene. 1ney
know l'm wutchlng. 8ut stlll she couldn't ull her eyes uwuy.

A blunk.

1hen whut huened?
Mlu dldn't remember. Eer memory cume to un ubrut hult ut
thls olnt.
"l cun't recull,' she suld. She covered her fuce wlth her hunds.
"All l know ls thut lt wus u horrlfylng exerlence,' she udded
quletly. "l wus rlght here, und unother me wus over tnere. And thut
munlerdlnundowus dolng ull klnds of thlngs to me over
"vhut do you meun, ull klnds of thlngs?'
"l just cun't remember. All knds oj tnngs. vlth me locked lnslde
the lerrls wheel, he dld whutever he wuntedto the me over
tnere. lt's not llke l wus ufruld of sex. 1here wus u tlme when l
enjoyed cusuul sex u lot. 8ut thut wusn't whut l wus seelng there.
lt wus ull meunlngless und obscene, wlth only one goul ln mlndto
muke me thoroughly olluted. lerdlnundo used ull the trlcks he
knew to soll me wlth hls thlck flngers und mummoth enlsnot
thut the me over there felt thut thls wus muklng ner dlrty. And ln
the end lt wusn't even lerdlnundo uny more.
Not lerdlnundo uny more? l stured ut Mlu. lf lt wusn't
lerdlnundo, then who wus lt?
l don't know. l cun't recull. 8ut ln the end lt wusn't lerdlnundo
uny more. Cr muybe from the beglnnlng lt wusn't hlm.

1he next thlng she knew, Mlu wus lylng ln u hosltul bed, u whlte
hosltul gown coverlng her nuked body. All her jolnts uched. 1he
doctor exlulned whut hud huened. ln the mornlng one of the
workers ut the umusement urk hud found the wullet she'd
droed und worked out whut hud huened. Ee got the lerrls
wheel down und culled un umbulunce. lnslde the gondolu Mlu wus
unconsclous, collused ln u heu. She looked llke she wus ln shock,
her ulls nonreuctlve. Eer fuce und urms were covered wlth
ubruslons, her blouse bloody. 1hey took her to the hosltul for
treutment. Nobody could work out how she'd got the lnjurles.
1hunkfully none of them would leuve uny lustlng scurs. 1he ollce
huuled ln the old mun who run the lerrls wheel for questlonlng,
but he hud no memory ut ull of glvlng her u rlde just neur closlng
1he next duy some locul ollcemen cume to questlon her. She
hud trouble unswerlng thelr questlons. vhen they comured her
fuce wlth her lcture ln her ussort, they frowned, strunge
exresslons on thelr fuces llke they'd swullowed somethlng uwful.
Eesltuntly, they usked her: "Mudemolselle, we're sorry to huve to
usk, but ure you reully z?'
"l um,' she relled, "just llke lt suys ln my ussort.' vhy dld
they huve to usk thut?
A llttle whlle luter, though, when she went to the buthroom to
wush her fuce, she understood. Lvery slngle hulr on her heud wus
whlte. Pure whlte, llke freshly drlven snow. At flrst she thought lt
wus somebody else ln the mlrror. She sun uround. 8ut she wus
ulone ln the buthroom. She looked ln the mlrror once more. And
the reullty of lt ull cume crushlng down on her ln thut lnstunt. 1he
whltehulred womun sturlng buck ut her wus nerselj. She fulnted
und fell to the floor.

And Mlu vunlshed.
"l wus stlll on tns slde, here. 8ut anotner me, muybe hulf of me,
hud gone over to the otner sde. 1uklng wlth lt my bluck hulr, my
sexuul deslre, my erlods, my ovulutlon, erhus even the wlll to
llve. And the hulf thut wus left ls the erson you see here. l've felt
thls wuy for the longest tlmethut ln u lerrls wheel ln u smull
Swlss town, for u reuson l cun't exluln, l wus sllt ln two for ever.
lor ull l know thls muy huve been some klnd of trunsuctlon. lt's not
llke somethlng wus stolen uwuy from me, becuuse lt ull stlll exlsts,
on the otner sde, lust u slngle mlrror seurutes us from the other
slde. 8ut l cun never cross the boundury of thut slngle une of
gluss. Never.'
Mlu nlbbled ut her flngernulls.
"l guess never ls too strong u word. Muybe someduy,
somewhere, we'll meet uguln, und merge buck lnto one. A very
lmortunt questlon remulns ununswered, however. vhlch me, on
wncn slde of the mlrror, ls the real me? l huve no ldeu. ls the reul
me the one who held lerdlnundo? Cr the one who detested hlm? l
don't huve the confldence to work thut one out.'

After the summer hollduys were over, Mlu dldn't return to school.
She ubundoned her studles ubroud und went buck to 'uun. And
never uguln dld she touch u keybourd. 1he strength to muke muslc
hud left her, never to return. A yeur luter her futher dled und she
took over hls comuny.

"Not belng uble to luy the luno uny more wus deflnltely u shock,
but l dldn't brood ubout lt. l hud u fulnt ldeu thut, sooner or luter, lt
wus bound to huen. Cne of these duys .' Mlu smlled. "1he
world ls fllled wlth lunlsts. 1wenty uctlve worldcluss lunlsts ure
more thun enough. Co to u record sho und check out ull the
verslons of the 'vuldsteln', the 'lrelslerlunu', whutever. 1here ure
only so muny clusslcul leces to record, only so much suce on the
CL shelves ut shos. As fur us the recordlng lndustry's concerned,
zc tonotch lunlsts ure lenty. No one wus golng to cure lf l
wusn't one of them.'
Mlu sreud her ten flngers out before her, und turned them over
uguln und uguln, us lf she were muklng sure of her memory.
"After l'd been ln lrunce for ubout u yeur l notlced u strunge
thlng. Plunlsts whose technlque wus worse thun mlne, und who
dldn't ructlse neurly hulf us much us l dld, were uble to move thelr
uudlences more thun l ever could. ln the end they defeuted me. At
flrst l thought lt wus just u mlsunderstundlng. 8ut the sume thlng
huened so muny tlmes lt mude me ungry. lt's so unfulr! l
thought. Slowly but surely, though, l understoodthut somethlng
wus mlsslng from me. Somethlng ubsolutely crltlcul, though l
dldn't know whut. 1he klnd of deth of emotlon u erson needs to
muke muslc thut wlll lnslre others, l guess. l hudn't notlced thls
when l wus ln 'uun. ln 'uun l never lost to unyone, und l certulnly
dldn't huve the tlme to crltlclze my own erformunce. 8ut ln Purls
surrounded by so muny tulented lunlsts, l flnully understood thut.
lt wus entlrely cleurllke when the sun rlses und the fog melts
Mlu slghed. She looked u und smlled.
"Lver slnce l wus llttle l've enjoyed muklng my own rlvute rules
und llvlng by them. l wus u very lndeendent, suerserlous tye of
glrl. l wus born ln 'uun, went to 'uunese schools, grew u
luylng wlth 'uunese frlends. Lmotlonully l wus comletely
'uunese, but by nutlonullty l wus u forelgner. 1echnlcully seuklng
'uun wlll ulwuys be u forelgn country. My urents weren't the
klnd to be strlct ubout thlngs, but thut's one thlng they drummed
lnto my heud slnce l cun remember: You ure u joregner here. l
declded thut ln order for me to survlve l needed to muke myself
Mlu contlnued ln u culm volce.
"8elng tough lsn't of ltself u bud thlng. Looklng buck on lt,
though, l cun see l wus too used to belng strong, und never trled
to understund those who were weuk. l wus too used to belng
fortunute, und dldn't try to understund those less fortunute. 1oo
used to belng heulthy, und dldn't try to understund the uln of
those who weren't. vhenever l suw u erson ln trouble,
somebody urulysed by events, l declded lt wus entlrely thelr
fuultthey just weren't trylng hurd enough. Peole who comluln
were just luln luzy. My outlook on llfe wus unshukeuble, und
ructlcul, but lucked uny humun wurmth. And not u slngle erson
uround me olnted thls out.
"l lost my vlrglnlty ut ,, und slet wlth qulte u few men. l hud u
lot of boyfrlends, und lf the mood struck me, l dldn't mlnd one
nlght stunds. 8ut never once dld l truly love someone. l dldn't huve
the tlme. All l could thlnk ubout wus becomlng u worldcluss
lunlst, und devlutlng from thut uth wus not un otlon.
Somethlng wus mlsslng ln me, but by the tlme l notlced thut gu, lt
wus too lute.'
Aguln she sreud out both hunds ln front of her, und thought for
u whlle.
"ln thut sense, whut huened ln Swltzerlund yeurs ugo muy
well huve been somethlng l creuted myself. Sometlmes l belleve

Mlu murrled ut z. Lver slnce the lncldent ln Swltzerlund, she wus
totully frlgld, und couldn't munuge sex wlth unyone. Somethlng
lnslde her hud vunlshed for ever. She shured thls fuctund thls
fuct ulonewlth the mun she ended u murrylng. 1hut's why l
cun't murry unyone, she exlulned. 8ut the mun loved Mlu, und
even lf lt meunt u lutonlc relutlonshl, he wunted to shure the
rest of hls llfe wlth her. Mlu couldn't come u wlth u vulld reuson
for turnlng down hls roosul. She'd known hlm slnce she wus u
chlld, und hud ulwuys been fond of hlm. No mutter whut form the
relutlonshl mlght tuke, he wus the only erson she could lcture
shurlng her llfe wlth. Also, on the ructlcul slde, belng murrled wus
lmortunt us fur us currylng on her fumlly buslness wus concerned.
Mlu contlnued.
"My husbund und l see euch other only ut weekends, und
generully get ulong well. ve're llke good frlends, llfe urtners uble
to uss some leusunt tlme together. ve tulk ubout ull sorts of
thlngs, und we trust euch other lmllcltly. vhere und how he hus u
sex llfe l don't know, und l don't reully cure. ve never muke love,
thoughnever even touch euch other. l feel bud ubout lt, but l
don't wunt to touch hlm. l just don't wunt to.'
vorn out wlth tulklng, Mlu quletly covered her fuce wlth her
hunds. Cutslde, the sky hud turned llght.
"l wus ullve ln the ust, und l'm ullve now, slttlng here tulklng to
you. 8ut whut you see here lsn't reully me. 1hls ls just u shudow of
who l wus. \ou ure reully llvlng. 8ut l'm not. Lven these words l'm
suylng rlght now sound emty, llke un echo.'
vordlessly l ut my urm uround Mlu's shoulder. l couldn't flnd
the rlght words, so l just held her.
l'm ln love wlth Mlu. vlth the Mlu on tns sde, needless to suy.
8ut l ulso love the Mlu on the other slde just us much. 1he moment
thls thought struck me lt wus llke l could heur myself wlth un
uudlble creuksllttlng ln two. As lf Mlu's own sllt becume u
ruture thut hud tuken hold of me. 1he feellng wus overowerlng,
und l knew there wus nothlng l could do to flght lt.
Cne questlon remulns, however. lf tns slde, where Mlu ls, ls not
the reul worldlf tns slde ls uctuully the otner sldewhut ubout
me, the erson who shures the sume temorul und sutlul lune
wlth her?
vho ln the world um l ?

I read bolh documenls lvice, a quick run-lhrough al firsl, lhen
sIovIy, aying allenlion lo lhe delaiIs, engraving lhem on my
mind. The documenls vere definileIy Sumire's, lhe vriling vas
fiIIed vilh her one-of-a-kind hrasing. There vas somelhing
differenl aboul lhe overaII lone, lhough, somelhing I couIdn'l
in dovn. Il vas more reslrained, more dislanced. SliII, lhere
vas no doubl aboul ilSumire had vrillen bolh.
Afler a momenl's hesilalion, I sIied lhe fIoy disk inlo lhe
ockel of my bag. If Sumire vere lo come back vilhoul
incidenl, I'd |usl ul il back vhere il beIonged. The robIem
vas vhal lo do if she !i!ni relurn. If somebody venl lhrough
her beIongings, lhey vere bound lo find lhe disk, and I
couIdn'l abide lhe lhoughl of olher eyes rying inlo vhal I had
|usl read.
Afler I read lhe documenls, I had lo gel oul of lhe house. I
changed inlo a nev shirl, Iefl lhe collage, and cIambered dovn
lhe slaircase lo lovn. I exchanged $100-vorlh of lraveIIer's
cheques, boughl an IngIish-Ianguage labIoid al lhe kiosk, and
sal under a arasoI al a cafe, reading. A sIeey vailer look my
order for Iemonade and meIled cheese on loasl. He vrole dovn
lhe order vilh a slubby enciI, in no arlicuIar hurry. Sveal
had seeed lhrough lhe back of his shirl, forming a Iarge slain.
The slain seemed lo be sending oul a message, bul I couIdn'l
deciher il.
I mechanicaIIy Ieafed lhrough haIf lhe aer, lhen gazed
absenlIy al lhe harbour scene. A skinny bIack dog came oul of
novhere, sniffed my Iegs, lhen, Iosing inleresl, added avay.
IeoIe assed lhe Ianguid summer aflernoon, each in his ovn
ersonaI sol. The onIy ones vho seemed lo be moving vere
lhe vailer and lhe dog, lhough I had my doubls aboul hov
Iong lhey'd kee al il. The oId man al lhe kiosk vhere I'd
boughl lhe aer had been fasl asIee under a arasoI, Iegs
sread vide aarl. The slalue of lhe hero in lhe square slood
imassiveIy as aIvays, back lurned lo lhe inlense sunIighl.
I cooIed my aIms and forehead vilh lhe coId gIass of
Iemonade, lurning over and over in my mind any conneclions
lhere mighl be belveen Sumire's disaearance and vhal
she'd vrillen.
Ior a Iong lime Sumire had nol vrillen. When she firsl mel
Miu al lhe vedding recelion, her desire lo vrile had fIovn
oul of lhe vindov. SliII, here on lhis IillIe isIand, she'd
managed lhose lvo ieces in a shorl sace of lime. No mean
feal lo comIele lhal much in a fev days. Somelhing musl have
driven Sumire lo sil al her desk and vrile. Where vas lhe
More lo lhe oinl, vhal lheme lied lhese lvo ieces of
vriling logelher` I Iooked u, gazed al lhe birds resling on lhe
vharf, and gave il some lhoughl.
Il vas far loo hol lo lhink aboul comIicaled mallers.
AdmilledIy I vas confused and lired. SliII, as if marshaIIing
logelher lhe remnanls of a defealed armyminus any drums
and lrumelsI raIIied my scallered lhoughls. My mind
focused, I began lo iece il logelher.
Whal's reaIIy imorlanl here, I vhisered aIoud lo myseIf,
is nol lhe big lhings olher eoIe have lhoughl u, bul lhe
smaII lhings you, yourseIf, have. My slandard maxim I laughl
my ovn sludenls. ul vas il reaIIy lrue` Il's easy lo say, bul
ulling il inlo raclice isn'l. One's hard ul lo slarl vilh even
lhe smaII lhings, Iel aIone lhe ig Iiclure. Or maybe lhe smaIIer
lhe nolion, lhe harder il is lo gras` IIus il didn'l heI lhal I
vas so far from home.
Sumire's dream. Miu's sIil.

These are lvo differenl vorIds, I reaIized. Tnais lhe common
eIemenl here.

Documenl 1:This reIales a dream Sumire had. She's cIimbing a
Iong slaircase lo go lo see her dead molher. ul lhe momenl
she arrives, her molher is aIready relurning lo lhe olher side.
And Sumire can'l slo her. And she's Iefl slanding on lhe sire
of a lover, surrounded by ob|ecls from a differenl vorId.
Sumire's had many simiIar dreams.

Documenl 2: This one concerns lhe slrange exeriences Miu
had 14 years ago. She vas sluck inside a Ierris vheeI overnighl
in an amusemenl ark in a smaII Sviss lovn, and Iooking
lhrough binocuIars al her ovn room she sav a second seIf
lhere. A doeIgnger. And lhis exerience deslroyed Miu as a
ersonor al Ieasl made lhis deslruclion langibIe. As Miu ul
il, she vas sIil in lvo, vilh a mirror in belveen each seIf.
Sumire had ersuaded Miu lo leII lhe slory and vrole il dovn
as besl she couId.

Tnis si!cinc cincr si!c. Thal vas lhe common lhread. The
movemenl from one side lo lhe olher. Sumire musl have been
dravn by lhis molif and molivaled enough lo send so much
lime vriling il aII dovn. To borrov her ovn vord, vriling aII
lhis heIed her inink.
The vailer came lo cIear avay lhe remnanls of my loasl, and
I ordered a refiII of Iemonade. Iul in Iols of ice, I asked him.
When he broughl lhe drink over I look a si and used il again
lo cooI my forehead.
And if Miu doesn'l accel me, lhen vhal` Sumire had
vrillen. I'II cross lhal bridge vhen lhe limes comes. Iood
musl be shed. I'II sharen my knife, ready lo sIil a dog's lhroal
Whal vas she lrying lo convey` Was she hinling lhal she
mighl kiII herseIf` I couIdn'l beIieve lhal. Her vords didn'l
have lhe acrid smeII of dealh. Whal I sensed in lhem vas ralher
lhe viII lo move forvards, lhe slruggIe lo make a nev slarl.
Dogs and bIood are |usl melahors, Iike I'd exIained lo her on
lhal bench al Inogashira Iark. They gel lheir meaning from
magicaI, Iife-giving forces. The slory aboul lhe Chinese gales
vas a melahor of hov a slory calures lhal magic.
Ready lo sIil a dog's lhroal somevhere.
My lhoughls sIammed inlo a soIid vaII. A lolaI dead end.
Where couId Sumire have gone lo` Is lhere somevhere she
had lo go lo on lhis isIand`

I couIdn'l shake lhe image of Sumire faIIing dovn a veII in
some remole area and vailing, aIone, for heI lo arrive.
In|ured, IoneIy, slarving, and lhirsly. The lhoughl of lhis nearIy
drove me crazy.
The oIice had made cIear lhal lhere vasn'l a singIe veII on
lhe isIand. They'd never heard of any hoIes eilher anyvhere
near lovn. If lhere vere, ve'd be lhe firsl lo knov, lhey
decIared. I had lo granl lhem lhal.
I decided lo venlure a lheory.
Sumire venl over lo lhe cincr si!c.
Thal vouId exIain a Iol. Sumire broke lhrough lhe mirror
and |ourneyed lo lhe olher side. To meel lhe olher Miu vho
vas lhere. If lhe Miu on lhis side re|ecled her, vouIdn'l lhal be
lhe IogicaI lhing lo do`
I dredged u from memory vhal she'd vrillen: So vhal
shouId ve do lo avoid a coIIision` LogicaIIy, il's easy. The
ansver is !rcans. Dreaming on and on. Inlering lhe vorId of
dreams, and never coming oul. Living lhere for lhe resl of
One queslion remains, hovever. A ma|or queslion. Hov are
you suosed lo go lhere`
Iul in simIe IogicaI lerms, il's easy. Though exIaining il
I vas righl back vhere I slarled.

I lhoughl aboul Tokyo. Aboul my aarlmenl, lhe schooI vhere
I laughl, lhe kilchen rubbish I'd sleaIlhiIy lossed in a bin al lhe
slalion. I'd onIy been avay from }aan for lvo days, bul
aIready il seemed Iike a differenl vorId. The nev lerm vas
going lo slarl in a veek. I iclured myseIf slanding in fronl of
35 uiIs. Seen from lhis dislance, lhe lhoughl of my leaching
anyoneeven len-year-oId kidsseemed absurd.
I removed my sungIasses, vied my svealing brov vilh a
handkerchief, and ul lhem on again, lhen gazed al lhe
I lhoughl aboul Sumire. Aboul lhe coIossaI hard-on I had lhe
lime I sal beside her vhen she moved inlo her nev Iace. The
kind of avesome, rock-hard ereclion I'd never exerienced
before. Like my vhoIe body vas aboul lo exIode. Al lhe lime,
in my imaginalionsomelhing Iike lhe ucr|! cj !rcans Sumire
vrole ofI made Iove lo her. And lhe sensalion vas far more
reaI lhan any sex I'd ever had.
I guIed dovn some Iemonade lo cIear my lhroal.

I relurned lo my hyolhesis, laking il one sle furlher. Sumire
had somehov found an exil. Whal kind of exil lhal vas, and
hov she discovered il, I had no vay of knoving. I'II ul lhal on
hoId. Suose il's a kind of door. I cIosed my eyes and
con|ured u a menlaI imagean eIaborale image of vhal lhis
door Iooked Iike. }usl an ordinary door, arl of an ordinary
vaII. Sumire haened lo find lhis door, lurned lhe knob, and
sIied oulsidefrom inis side lo lhe cincr. CIad onIy in lhin
siIk y|amas and a air of fIi-fIos.
Whal Iay beyond lhal door vas beyond my overs of
imaginalion. The door cIosed, and Sumire vouIdn'l be coming
I venl back lo lhe collage and made a simIe dinner from
lhings I found in lhe fridge. Tomalo and basiI asla, a saIad, an
AmsleI beer. I venl oul lo sil on lhe veranda, Iosl in lhoughl.
Or maybe lhinking of nolhing. Nobody honed. Miu mighl be
lrying lo caII from Alhens, bul you couIdn'l counl on lhe
hones lo vork.
Momenl by momenl lhe bIue of lhe sky lurned deeer, a
Iarge circuIar moon rising from lhe sea, a handfuI of slars
iercing hoIes in lhe sky. A breeze bIev u lhe sIoes, ruslIing
lhe hibiscus. The unmanned Iighlhouse al lhe li of lhe ier
bIinked on and off vilh ils ancienl-Iooking Iighl. IeoIe vere
sIovIy heading dovn lhe sIoe, Ieading donkeys as lhey venl.
Their Ioud conversalion came cIoser, lhen faded inlo lhe
dislance. I siIenlIy look il aII in, lhis foreign scene seeming
enlireIy naluraI.
In lhe end lhe hone didn'l ring, and Sumire didn'l aear.
QuielIy, genlIy, lime sIied by, lhe evening deeening. I look
a couIe of casselles from Sumire's room and Iayed lhem on
lhe Iiving room slereo. One of lhem vas a coIIeclion of Mozarl
songs. The handvrillen IabeI read: ||isa|cin Scnuarzkcpj an!
Wa|icr Gicscking (p). I don'l knov much aboul cIassicaI music,
bul one Iislen loId me hov IoveIy lhis music vas. The singing
slyIe vas a bil daled, bul il reminded me of reading some
beaulifuI, memorabIe roseil demanded lhal you sil u
slraighl and ay allenlion. The erformers vere righl lhere in
fronl of me, il seemed, lheir deIicale hrasing sveIIing u, lhen
relrealing, lhen sveIIing u again. One of lhe songs in lhe
coIIeclion musl be Sumire. I sank back in my chair, cIosed my
eyes, and shared lhis music vilh my missing friend.

I vas avakened by music. Iar-off music, bareIy audibIe.
SleadiIy, Iike a faceIess saiIor hauIing in an anchor from lhe
bollom of lhe sea, lhe fainl sound broughl me lo my senses. I
sal u in bed, Ieaned lovards lhe oen vindov, and Iislened
carefuIIy. Il vas definileIy music. The vrislvalch nexl lo my
bed shoved il vas asl one o'cIock. Music` Al lhis lime of
I ul on my lrousers and a shirl, sIied on my shoes, and
venl oulside. The Iighls in lhe neighbourhood vere aII oul, lhe
slreels deserled. No vind, nol even lhe sound of vaves. }usl
lhe moonIighl balhing lhe earlh. I slood lhere, Iislening again.
SlrangeIy, lhe music seemed lo be coming from lhe lo of lhe
hiIIs. There veren'l any viIIages on lhe slee mounlains, |usl a
handfuI of sheherds and monasleries vhere monks Iived lheir
cIoislered Iives. Il vas hard lo imagine eilher grou ulling on
a feslivaI al lhis lime of nighl.
Oulside, lhe music vas more audibIe. I couIdn'l make oul lhe
meIody, bul by lhe rhylhm il vas cIearIy Greek. Il had lhe
uneven, shar sound of Iive music, nol somelhing Iayed
lhrough seakers.

y lhen I vas vide avake. The summer nighl air vas Ieasanl,
vilh a myslerious delh lo il. If I hadn'l been vorried aboul
Sumire, I mighl very veII have feIl a sense of ceIebralion. I
resled my hands on my his, slrelched, Iooking u al lhe sky,
and look a dee brealh. The cooIness of lhe nighl vashed
inside me. SuddenIy a lhoughl slruck memaybe, al lhis very
momenl, Sumire is Iislening lo lhe same music.
I decided lo vaIk for a vhiIe in lhe direclion of lhe sound. I
had lo find oul vhere il vas coming from, vho vas Iaying il.
The road lo lhe hiIIlo vas lhe same one I'd laken lhal morning
lo go lo lhe beach, so I knev lhe vay. I'II go as far as I can, I
The briIIianl moonIighl Iil everylhing, making vaIking easy.
Il crealed comIex shadovs belveen lhe cIiffs, dyeing lhe
ground vilh unIikeIy shades. Ivery lime lhe soIes of my
running shoes crushed a ebbIe on lhe road, lhe sound vas
amIified. The music grev more ronounced as I made my
vay furlher u lhe sIoes. As I'd surmised, il vas coming from
lhe lo of lhe hiII. I couId make oul some kind of ercussion
inslrumenl, a bouzouki, an accordion, and a fIule. IossibIy a
guilar. Olher lhan lhal, I couIdn'l hear a lhing. No singing, no
eoIe shouling. }usl lhal music Iaying endIessIy, al a
delached, aImosl monolonous ace.
I vanled lo see vhal vas laking Iace on lo of lhe
mounlain, yel al lhe same lime I lhoughl I shouId kee my
dislance. IrreressibIe curiosily vied vilh an inslinclive fear.
SliII, I had lo go forvard. I feIl as if I vas in a dream. The
rinciIe lhal made olher choices ossibIe vas missing. Or vas
il lhe choice lhal made lhal rinciIe ossibIe lhal vas
Ior aII I knev, a fev days before Sumire had avakened lo
lhe same music, her curiosily gelling lhe beller of her as she
cIambered u lhe sIoe in her y|amas.

I sloed and lurned lo Iook behind me. The sIoe lvisled
aIeIy dovn lovards lhe lovn Iike lhe lracks of some giganlic
insecl. I Iooked u al lhe sky lhen, under lhe moonIighl, and
gIanced al my aIm. Wilh a rush of underslanding I knev lhis
vasn'l my hand any more. I can'l exIain il. ul al a gIance I
kncu. My hand vas no Ionger my hand, my Iegs no Ionger my
alhed in lhe aIIid moonIighl, my body, Iike some Iasler
uel, had Iosl aII Iiving varmlh. As if a voodoo magician
had ul a seII on me, bIoving my lransienl Iife inlo lhis Ium
of cIay. The sark of Iife had vanished. My reaI Iife had faIIen
asIee somevhere, and a faceIess someone vas sluffing il in a
suilcase, aboul lo Ieave.
An avfuI chiII svel lhrough me and I feIl choked.
Someone had rearranged my ceIIs, unlied lhe lhreads lhal heId
my mind logelher. I couIdn'l lhink slraighl. AII I vas abIe lo do
vas relreal as fasl as I couId lo my usuaI Iace of refuge. I look
a huge brealh, sinking in lhe sea of consciousness lo lhe very
bollom. Iushing aside lhe heavy valer I Iunged dovn quickIy
and grabbed a huge rock lhere vilh bolh arms. The valer
crushed my eardrums. I squeezed my eyes lighlIy cIosed, heId
my brealh, resisling. Once I made u my mind, il vasn'l lhal
difficuIl. I grev used lo il aIIlhe valer ressure, lhe Iack of
air, lhe freezing darkness, lhe signaIs lhe chaos emilled. Il vas
somelhing I'd maslered again and again as a chiId.
Time reversed ilseIf, Iooed back, coIIased, reordered ilseIf.
The vorId slrelched oul endIessIyand yel vas defined and
Iimiled. Shar images|usl lhe images aIoneassed dovn
dark corridors, Iike |eIIyfish, Iike souIs adrifl. ul I sleeIed
myseIf nol lo Iook al lhem. If I acknovIedged lhem, even a
IillIe, lhey vouId enveIo lhemseIves in meaning. Meaning
vas fixed lo lhe lemoraI, and lhe lemoraI vas lrying lo force
me lo rise lo lhe surface. I shul my mind lighl lo il aII, vailing
for lhe rocession lo ass.
Hov Iong I remained lhal vay, I don'l knov. When I bobbed
lo lhe surface, oened my eyes, and look a siIenl brealh, lhe
music had aIready sloed. The enigmalic erformance vas
finished. I Iislened carefuIIy. I couIdn'l hear a lhing. AbsoIuleIy
nolhing. No music, no eoIe's voices, no ruslIe of lhe vind.
I lried lo check lhe lime, bul I vasn'l vearing a valch. I'd Iefl
il by my bedside.
The sky vas nov fiIIed vilh slars. Or vas il my imaginalion`
The sky ilseIf seemed lo have changed inlo somelhing
differenl. The slrange sense of aIienalion I'd feIl inside had
vanished. I slrelched, benl my arm, my fingers. No sense of
being oul of Iace. My underarms vere cIammy, bul lhal vas
I slood u from lhe grass and conlinued lo cIimb uhiII. I'd
come lhis far and mighl as veII reach lhe lo. Had lhere reaIIy
been music lhere` I had lo see for myseIf, even if onIy lhe
fainlesl cIues remained. In five minules I reached lhe summil.
Tovards lhe soulh lhe hiII sIoed dovn lo lhe sea, lhe harbour,
and lhe sIeeing lovn. A scallering of slreelIighls Iil lhe coasl
road. The olher side of lhe mounlain vas vraed in darkness,
nol a singIe Iighl visibIe. I gazed fixedIy inlo lhe dark, and
finaIIy a Iine of hiIIs beyond fIoaled inlo sighl in lhe moonIighl.
eyond lhem Iay an even deeer darkness. And here around
me, no indicalion vhalsoever lhal a IiveIy feslivaI had laken
Iace onIy a shorl vhiIe before.
Though lhe echo of il remained dee inside my head, nov I
vasn'l even sure I'd heard music. As lime assed, I became Iess
and Iess cerlain. Maybe il had aII been an iIIusion, my ears
icking u signaIs from a differenl lime and Iace. Il made
senselhe idea lhal eoIe vouId gel logelher on a
mounlainlo al 1 a.m. lo Iay music uas relly reoslerous.
In lhe sky above lhe summil, lhe coarse-Iooking moon
Ioomed avfuIIy near. A hard baII of slone, ils skin ealen avay
by lhe merciIess assage of lime. Ominous shadovs on ils
surface vere bIind cancer ceIIs slrelching oul feeIers lovards
lhe varmlh of Iife. The moonIighl vared every sound,
vashed avay aII meaning, lhrev every mind inlo chaos. Il
made Miu see a second seIf. Il look Sumire's cal avay
somevhere. Il made Sumire disaear. And il broughl me
here, in lhe midsl of music lhalmosl IikeIynever exisled.
efore me Iay a bollomIess darkness, behind me, a vorId of
aIe Iighl. I slood lhere on lhe lo of a mounlain in a foreign
Iand, balhed in moonIighl. Maybe lhis had aII been
melicuIousIy Ianned, from lhe very beginning.

I relurned lo lhe collage and dovned a gIass of Miu's brandy. I
lried lo gel lo sIee, bul I couIdn'l. Nol a vink. UnliI lhe
easlern sky grev Iighl, I vas heId in lhe gri of lhe moon, and
gravily, and somelhing aslir in lhe vorId.
I iclured cals, slarving lo dealh in a cIosed-u aarlmenl.
Sofl, smaII carnivores. Ilhe rca| mevas dead, and lhey vere
aIive, devouring my fIesh, cheving on my hearl, sucking my
bIood. If I Iislened very carefuIIy, somevhere far, far avay I
couId hear lhe cals Iaing u my brain. Three Iilhe cals,
surrounding my broken head, sIuring u lhe mushy grey
sou vilhin. The lis of lheir red, rough longues Iicked lhe sofl
foIds of my mind. And vilh each Iick of lheir longues, my
mindIike a shimmer of hol airfIickered and faded avay.

In lhe end ve never found oul vhal haened lo Sumire. As
Miu ul il, she vanished Iike smoke.
Tvo days Ialer Miu came back lo lhe isIand on lhe noon ferry
logelher vilh an officiaI from lhe }aanese embassy and a
oIice officiaI in charge of lourisl affairs. They mel vilh lhe
IocaI oIice and Iaunched a fuII-scaIe invesligalion invoIving
lhe isIanders. The oIice ul oul a ubIic aeaI for
informalion, ubIishing a bIovn-u version of Sumire's
assorl holo in a nalionaI nevsaer. Many eoIe gol in
louch, bul nolhing connecled. The informalion aIvays lurned
oul lo be aboul someone eIse.
Sumire's arenls came lo lhe isIand, loo. I Iefl |usl before lhey
arrived. The nev schooI lerm vas around lhe corner, bul
moslIy I couIdn'l sland lhe lhoughl of facing lhem. esides, lhe
mass media in }aan had caughl vind of evenls and had begun
lo conlacl lhe }aanese embassy and lhe IocaI oIice. I loId Miu
il vas aboul lime for me lo be gelling back lo Tokyo. Slaying
any Ionger on lhe isIand vasn'l going lo heI find Sumire.
She nodded. You've done so much aIready, she said.
ReaIIy. If you hadn'l come, I vouId have been comIeleIy Iosl.
Don'l vorry. I'II exIain lhings lo Sumire's arenls. And I'II
handIe any reorlers. Leave il lo me. You had no resonsibiIily
for any of lhis lo begin vilh. I can be relly businessIike vhen I
need lo be, and I can hoId my ovn.

She sav me off al lhe harbour. I vas laking lhe aflernoon ferry
lo Rhodes. Il vas exaclIy len days since Sumire had
disaeared. Miu hugged me |usl before I Iefl. A very naluraI
embrace. Ior a Iong momenl, she siIenlIy rubbed my back as
she heId me. The aflernoon sun vas hol, bul slrangeIy her skin
feIl cooI. Her hand vas lrying lo leII me somelhing. I cIosed my
eyes and Iislened lo lhose vords. Nol vords -somelhing lhal
couIdn'l coaIesce inlo Ianguage. In lhe midsl of our siIence,
somelhing assed belveen us. Take care of yourseIf, said
You, loo, I said. Ior a vhiIe ve slood lhere in fronl of lhe
I vanl you lo leII me somelhing, honeslIy, She said in a
serious lone, |usl before I boarded lhe ferry. Do you beIieve
Sumire is no Ionger aIive`

I shook my head. I can'l rove il, bul I feeI Iike she's sliII
aIive somevhere. Iven afler lhis much lime, I |usl don'l have
lhe sense lhal she's dead.

Miu foIded her lanned arms and Iooked al me.
AcluaIIy I feeI exaclIy lhe same, she said. Thal Sumire
isn'l dead. ul I aIso feeI lhal I'II never see her again. Though I
can'l rove anylhing eilher.
I didn'l say a vord. SiIence vove ilseIf inlo lhe saces of
everylhing around us. Seabirds squavked as lhey cul across
lhe cIoudIess sky, and in lhe cafe lhe ever-sIeey vailer hoisled
yel anolher lray of drinks.
Miu ursed her Iis and vas Iosl in lhoughl. Do you hale
me` she finaIIy asked.
ecause Sumire disaeared`
Why vouId I hale you`
I don'l knov. Her voice vas linged vilh a Iong-suressed
exhauslion. I have lhe feeIing I'II never see you again, eilher.
Thal's vhy I asked.
I don'l hale you, I said.
ul vho can leII, maybe Ialer on`
I don'l hale eoIe over lhings Iike lhal.
Miu look off her hal, slraighlened her fringe, and ul il back
on. She squinled al me.
Thal mighl be because you don'l execl anylhing from
anyone, she said. Her eyes vere dee and cIear, Iike lhe lviIil
darkness on lhe day ve mel. I'm nol Iike lhal. I |usl vanl you
lo knov lhal I Iike you. Very much.

And ve said goodbye. The shi edged backvards oul of lhe
harbour, lhe roeIIer churning u lhe valer as il Iumbered
lhrough a 180 change of direclion, aII lhe vhiIe, Miu slood on
lhe vharf valching me go. She vore a lighl vhile dress and
occasionaIIy reached oul lo kee her hal from fIying avay in
lhe vind. Slanding lhere on lhal vharf on lhis IillIe Greek
isIand, she Iooked Iike somelhing from a differenl vorId,
fIeeling, fuII of grace and beauly. I Ieaned againsl lhe raiIing on
deck and valched her for a Iong lime.
Time seemed lo sland sliII, lhe scene forever elched on my

ul lime began lo move again, and Miu gol smaIIer and
smaIIer, firsl a vague dol, lhen svaIIoved u vhoIe in lhe
shimmering air. The lovn grev dislanl, lhe shae of lhe
mounlains indislincl, and finaIIy lhe isIand merged inlo lhe
misl of Iighl, bIurred, and vanished aIlogelher. Anolher isIand
rose u lo lake ils Iace and Iikevise disaeared inlo lhe
dislance. As lime assed, aII lhe lhings I Iefl behind lhere
seemed never lo have exisled al aII.
Maybe I shouId have slayed vilh Miu. So vhal if lhe nev
schooI lerm vas slarling` I shouId encourage Miu, do
everylhing I couId lo heI in lhe search, and if somelhing avfuI
haened, lhen I shouId hoId her, give her vhal comforl I
couId. Miu vanled me, I beIieve, and in a sense I vanled her as

She'd grabbed hoId of my hearl vilh a rare inlensily.
I reaIized aII lhis for lhe firsl lime as I slood on lhe deck and
valched her disaear in lhe dislance. A feeIing came over me,
Iike a lhousand slrings vere lugging al me. Ierhas nol fuII-
bIovn romanlic Iove, bul somelhing very cIose. IIuslered, I sal
on a bench on lhe deck, Iaced my gym bag on my knees, and
gazed oul al lhe vhile vake lraiIing behind lhe shi. SeaguIIs
fIev afler lhe ferry, cIinging lo lhe vake. I couId sliII feeI Miu's
smaII aIm on my back, Iike a souI's liny shadov.
I Ianned lo fIy slraighl back lo Tokyo, bul for some reason
lhe reservalion I'd made lhe day before vas canceIIed, and I
ended u sending lhe nighl in Alhens. I look lhe airIine
shullIe bus and slayed al a holeI in lhe cily lhal lhe airIine
recommended. A Ieasanl, cosy holeI near lhe IIaka dislricl,
vhich, unforlunaleIy, vas crovded vilh a boislerous German
lour grou. Wilh nolhing eIse lo do, I vandered around lhe
cily, boughl some souvenirs for no one in arlicuIar, and in lhe
evening vaIked lo lhe lo of lhe AcrooIis. I Iay dovn on a
sIab of slone, lhe lviIighl breeze bIoving over me as I gazed al
lhe vhile lemIe fIoaling u in lhe bIuish fIoodIighls. A IoveIy,
dreamy scene.
ul aII I feIl vas an incomarabIe IoneIiness. efore I knev il,
lhe vorId around vas drained of coIour. Irom lhe shabby
mounlainlo, lhe ruins of lhose emly feeIings, I couId see my
ovn Iife slrelching oul inlo lhe fulure. Il Iooked |usl Iike an
iIIuslralion in a science ficlion noveI I read as a chiId: lhe
desoIale surface of a deserled Ianel. No sign of Iife al aII. Iach
day seemed lo Iasl for ever, lhe air eilher boiIing hol or
freezing. The saceshi lhal broughl me lhere had
disaeared, and I vas sluck. I'd have lo survive on my ovn.

AII over again I underslood hov imorlanl, hov irreIaceabIe,
Sumire vas lo me. In her ovn seciaI vay she'd kel me
lelhered lo lhe vorId. As I laIked lo her and read her slories,
my mind quielIy exanded, and I couId see lhings I'd never
seen before. Wilhoul even lrying, ve grev cIose. Like a air of
young Iovers undressing in fronl of each olher, Sumire and I
had exosed our hearls lo one anolher, an exerience I'd never
have vilh anyone eIse, anyvhere. We cherished vhal ve had
logelher, lhough ve never ul inlo vords hov very recious il
Of course il hurl lhal ve couId never Iove each olher in a
hysicaI vay. We vouId have been far haier if ve had. ul
lhal vas Iike lhe lides, lhe change of seasonssomelhing
immulabIe, an immovabIe desliny ve couId never aIler. No
maller hov cIeverIy ve mighl sheIler il, our deIicale friendshi
vasn'l going lo Iasl for ever. We vere bound lo reach a dead
end. Thal vas ainfuIIy cIear.
I Ioved Sumire more lhan anyone eIse and vanled her more
lhan anylhing in lhe vorId. And I couIdn'l |usl sheIve lhose
feeIings, for lhere vas nolhing lo lake lheir Iace.
I dreamed lhal someday lhere'd be a sudden, ma|or
iransjcrnaiicn. Iven if lhe chances of il coming lrue vere sIim, I
couId dream aboul il, couIdn'l I` ul I knev il vouId never
come lrue.
Like lhe lide receding, lhe shoreIine vashed cIean, vilh Sumire
gone I vas Iefl in a dislorled, emly vorId. A gIoomy, coId
vorId in vhich vhal she and I had vouId never ever lake
Iace again.
We each have a seciaI scncining ve can gel onIy al a seciaI
lime of our Iife. Like a smaII fIame. A carefuI, forlunale fev
cherish lhal fIame, nurlure il, hoId il as a lorch lo Iighl lheir
vay. ul once lhal fIame goes oul, il's gone for ever. Whal I'd
Iosl vas nol |usl Sumire. I'd Iosl lhal recious fIame.

Whal is il Iikeon inc cincr si!c? Sumire vas over lhere, and so
vas lhe Iosl arl of Miu. Miu vilh bIack hair and a heaIlhy
sexuaI aelile. Ierhas lhey've come across each olher lhere,
Ioving each olher, fuIfiIIing each olher. We do lhings you can'l
ul inlo vords, Sumire vouId robabIy leII me, ulling il inlo
vords aII lhe same.

Is lhere a Iace for me over lhere` CouId I be vilh lhem` WhiIe
lhey make assionale Iove, I'd sil in lhe corner of a room
somevhere and amuse myseIf reading lhe Cc||ccic! Wcrks of
aIzac. Afler she shovered, Sumire and I vouId lake Iong
vaIks and laIk aboul aII kinds of lhingsvilh Sumire, as
usuaI, doing mosl of lhe laIking. ul vouId our reIalionshi
Iasl for ever` Is lhal naluraI` Of course, Sumire vouId leII
me. No need lo ask lhal. 'Cause you're my one and onIy lrue

ul I hadn'l a cIue hov lo gel lo lhal vorId. I rubbed lhe sIick,
hard rock face of lhe AcrooIis. Hislory had seeed lhrough
lhe surface and vas slored u inside. Like il or nol, I vas shul
u in lhal fIov of lime. I couIdn'l escae. Nolhal's nol
enlireIy lrue. The lrulh is, I reaIIy don'l vanl lo escae.

Tomorrov I'II gel on a Iane and fIy back lo Tokyo. The
summer hoIidays are nearIy over, and I have lo sle once more
in lhal endIess slream of lhe everyday. There's a Iace for me
lhere. My aarlmenl's lhere, my desk, my cIassroom, my
uiIs. Quiel days avail me, noveIs lo read. The occasionaI
ul lomorrov I'II be a differenl erson, never again lhe
erson I vas. Nol lhal anyone viII nolice afler I'm back in
}aan. On lhe oulside nolhing viII be differenl. ul somelhing
inside has burned u and vanished. Iood has been shed, and
somelhing inside me is gone. Iace lurned dovn, vilhoul a
vord, lhal scncining makes ils exil. The door oens, lhe door
shuls. The Iighl goes oul. This is lhe Iasl day for lhe erson I am
righl nov. The very Iasl lviIighl. When davn comes, lhe
erson I am von'l be here any more. Someone eIse viII occuy
lhis body.

Why do eoIe have lo be lhis IoneIy` Whal's lhe oinl of il
aII` MiIIions of eoIe in lhis vorId, aII of lhem yearning,
Iooking lo olhers lo salisfy lhem, yel isoIaling lhemseIves.
Why` Was lhe Iarlh ul here |usl lo nourish human IoneIiness`
I lurned face-u on lhe sIab of slone, gazed al lhe sky, and
lhoughl aboul aII lhe man-made saleIIiles sinning around lhe
Iarlh. The horizon vas sliII elched in a fainl gIov, and slars
began lo bIink on in lhe dee, vine-coIoured sky. I gazed
among lhem for lhe Iighl of a saleIIile, bul il vas sliII loo brighl
oul lo sol one vilh lhe naked eye. The srinkIing of slars
Iooked naiIed lo lhe sol, unmoving. I cIosed my eyes and
Iislened carefuIIy for lhe descendanls of Sulnik, even nov
circIing lhe Iarlh, gravily lheir onIy lie lo lhe Ianel. LoneIy
melaI souIs in lhe unimeded darkness of sace, lhey meel,
ass each olher, and arl, never lo meel again. No vords
assing belveen lhem. No romises lo kee.


The hone rang on a Sunday aflernoon. The second Sunday
afler lhe nev schooI lerm began in Selember. I vas fixing a
Iale Iunch and had lo lurn off lhe gas range before I ansvered.
The hone rang vilh a kind of urgencyal Ieasl il feIl lhal
vay. I vas sure il vas Miu caIIing vilh nevs of Sumire's
vhereabouls. The caII vasn'l from Miu, lhough, bul from my
Somelhing's haened, she said, skiing her usuaI
oening Ieasanlries. Can you come slraighlavay`
Il sounded Iike somelhing avfuI. Had her husband found oul
aboul us` I look a dee brealh. If eoIe discovered I vas
sIeeing vilh lhe molher of one of lhe kids in my cIass, I'd be
in a ma|or fix lo say lhe Ieasl. Worsl-case scenario, I couId Iose
my |ob. Al lhe same lime, lhough, I vas resigned lo il. I knev
lhe risks.
Where are you` I asked.

Al a suermarkel, she said.

I look lhe lrain lo Tachikava, arriving al lhe slalion near lhe
suermarkel al 2.30. The aflernoon vas bIazing hol, lhe
summer back in force, bul I had on a vhile dress-shirl, lie, and
Iighl grey suil, lhe cIolhes she'd asked me lo vear. You Iook
more Iike a leacher lhal vay, she said, and you'II give a
beller imression. Somelimes you sliII Iook Iike a coIIege
sludenl, she added.
Al lhe enlrance lo lhe suermarkel I asked a young assislanl
vho vas rounding u slray shoing lroIIeys vhere lhe
securily office vas. He loId me il vas across lhe slreel on lhe
lhird fIoor of an annexe, an ugIy IillIe lhree-slorey buiIding
vilhoul even a Iifl. Hey, don'l vorry aboul us, lhe cracks in lhe
concrele vaIIs seemed lo say, They're |usl going lo lear lhis
Iace dovn someday anyvay. I vaIked u lhe narrov,
limevorn slairs, Iocaled lhe door vilh 5ECURITY on il, and
gave a couIe of Iighl las. A man's dee voice ansvered. I
oened lhe door and sav my girIfriend and her son inside
sealed in fronl of a desk facing a middIe-aged uniformed
securily guard. }usl lhe lhree of lhem.
The room vas an in-belveen size, nol loo big, nol loo smaII.
Three desks vere Iined u aIong lhe vindov, a sleeI Iocker
againsl lhe vaII oosile. On lhe vaII belveen vere a duly
rola and lhree securily guard cas on a sleeI sheIf. eyond a
frosled-gIass door al lhe far end of lhe room lhere seemed lo be
a second room, vhich lhe guards robabIy used for laking
nas. The room ve vere aII in vas aImosl comIeleIy devoid
of decoralion. No fIovers, no iclures, nol even a caIendar. }usl
an overIy Iarge round cIock on lhe vaII. A lolaIIy barren room,
Iike some ancienl corner of lhe vorId lhal lime forgol. On lo

of vhich lhe Iace had a slrange odourof cigarelle smoke,
mouIdy documenls, and ersiralion mixed logelher over lhe
The securily guard in charge vas a lhicksel man in his Iale
fiflies. He had beefy arms and a Iarge head covered vilh a lhick
alch of coarse saIl-and-eer hair he'd Iaslered dovn vilh
some chea hair lonic, lhe besl he couId robabIy afford on his
IovIy securily guard saIary. The ashlray in fronl of him vas
overfIoving vilh Seven Slar bulls. When I came in lhe room,
he look off his bIack-framed gIasses, vied lhem vilh a cIolh,
and ul lhem back on. Maybe his sel vay of greeling nev
eoIe. Wilh his gIasses off, his eyes vere as coId as moon
rocks. When he ul lhem back on, lhe coIdness relrealed,
reIaced by a kind of overfuI gIazed Iook. Iilher vay, lhis
vasn'l a Iook lo ul eoIe al lheir ease.
The room vas oressiveIy hol, lhe vindov vas vide oen,
bul nol a brealh of air came in. OnIy lhe noise from lhe road
oulside. A Iarge Iorry coming lo a haIl al a red Iighl bIalled oul
a hoarse air brake, reminding me of en Websler on lhe lenor
sax in his Ialer years. We vere aII svealing. I vaIked u lo lhe
desk, inlroduced myseIf, and handed lhe securily guard my
business card. He look il vilhoul a vord, ursed his Iis, and
slared al il for a vhiIe, lhen Iaced il on lhe desk and Iooked
u al me.
You're relly young for a leacher, aren'l you` he said.
Hov Iong have you been leaching`

I relended lo lhink il over and ansvered, Three years.
Hmm, he said. And didn'l say anylhing eIse. ul lhe
siIence soke voIumes. He icked u my card and read my
name again, as if re-checking somelhing.

My name's Nakamura, I'm lhe chief of securily here, he
inlroduced himseIf. He didn'l roffer a business card of his
ovn. }usl uII u a chair from over lhere if you vouId. I'm
sorry aboul hov hol il is. The air condilioner's on lhe bIink,
and no one viII come oul lo fix il on a Sunday. They aren'l nice
enough lo give me a fan, so I sil and suffer. Take off your |ackel
if you'd Iike. We mighl be here for a vhiIe, and il makes me hol
|usl Iooking al you.
I did as he loId me, uIIing over a chair and removing my
|ackel. My svealy shirl cIung lo my skin.
You knov, I've aIvays envied leachers, lhe guard began.
A sliIIborn smiIe Iayed around his Iis, yel his eyes remained
lhose of a dee-sea redalor searching my delhs for lhe
sIighlesl movemenl. His vords vere oIile enough, bul lhal
vas onIy a veneer. The vord icacncr sounded Iike an insuIl.
You have over a monlh off in lhe summer, don'l have lo
vork on Sundays or al nighl, and eoIe give you gifls aII lhe
lime. Irelly nice Iife if you ask me. I somelimes vish I'd
sludied harder and become a leacher myseIf. Desliny
inlervened and here I ama securily guard al a suermarkel. I
vasn'l smarl enough, I suose. ul I leII my kids lo grov u
lo be leachers. I don'l care vhal anybody says, leachers have il

My girIfriend vore a simIe bIue, haIf-sIeeve dress. Her hair
vas iIed u nealIy on lo of her head, and she had on a air
of smaII earrings. While sandaIs vilh heeIs comIeled her
oulfil, and a vhile bag and smaII, cream-coIoured handkerchief
resled on her Ia. Il vas lhe firsl lime I'd seen her since I gol
back from Greece. She Iooked back and forlh belveen me and
lhe guard, her eyes uffy from crying. She'd been lhrough a Iol,

il vas cIear.
We exchanged a quick gIance, and I lurned lo her son. His
name vas Shin'ichi Nimura, bul his cIassmales nicknamed him
Carrol. Wilh his Iong, lhin face, his shock of unkeml, curIy
hair, lhe name filled. I usuaIIy caIIed him lhal, loo. He vas a
quiel boy, hardIy ever seaking more lhan vas necessary. His
grades veren'l bad, he rareIy forgol lo bring his homevork and
never faiIed lo do his share of lhe cIeaning u. Never gol inlo
lroubIe. ul he Iacked inilialive and never once raised his hand
in cIass. Carrol's cIassmales didn'l disIike him, bul he vasn'l
vhal you'd caII ouIar. This didn'l Iease his molher much,
bul from my oinl of viev he vas a good kid.

I assume you've heard aboul vhal haened from lhe boy's
molher, lhe securily guard said.
Yes, I have, I reIied. He vas caughl shoIifling.
Thal's correcl, lhe guard said and sel a cardboard box lhal
vas al his feel on lo of lhe labIe. He ushed il lovards me.
Inside vas a coIIeclion of idenlicaI smaII slaIers sliII in lheir
ackaging. I icked one u and examined il. The rice lag said
Iighl slaIers, I commenled. Is lhis aII`
Ye. Thal's lhe Iol of il.
I ul lhe slaIer back in lhe box. So lhe vhoIe lhing vouId
come lo 6,800.
Correcl. 6,800. You're robabIy lhinking, 'WeII, okay, he
shoIifled. Il's a crime, sure, bul vhy gel so vorked u aboul
eighl slaIers` He's |usl a schooI kid.' Am I righl`
I didn'l reIy.
Il's okay lo lhink lhal. 'Cause il's lhe lrulh. There are a Iol
vorse crimes lhan sleaIing eighl slaIers. I vas a oIiceman

before I became a securily guard, so I knov vhal I'm laIking
The guard Iooked direclIy inlo my eyes as he soke. I heId
his gaze, carefuI nol lo aear defianl.
If lhis vere his firsl offence, lhe slore vouIdn'l raise such a
fuss. Our business is deaIing vilh cuslomers, afler aII, and ve
refer nol lo gel loo usel over somelhing smaII-scaIe Iike lhis.
NormaIIy I'd bring lhe chiId here lo lhis room and I'd ul a
IillIe of lhe fear of God inlo him. In vorse cases ve'd conlacl
lhe arenls and have lhem unish lhe chiId. We don'l gel in
louch vilh lhe schooI. Thal's our slore's oIicy, lo lake care of
chiIdren shoIifling quielIy.
The robIem is, lhis isn'l lhe firsl lime lhis boy's shoIifled.
In our slore aIone ve knov he's done il lhree limes. Tnrcc iincs!
Can you imagine` And vhal's vorse is bolh olher limes he
refused lo give us his name or lhe name of his schooI. I vas lhe
one vho look care of him, so I remember il veII. He vouIdn'l
say a vord, no maller vhal ve asked. The siIenl lrealmenl, ve
used lo caII il in lhe oIice force. No aoIogies, no remorse, |usl
adol a crummy allilude and slonevaII il. If he didn'l leII me
his name lhis lime, I vas going lo lurn him over lo lhe oIice,
bul even lhis didn'l raise a reaclion. Nolhing eIse lo do, so I
forced him lo shov me his bus ass, and lhal's hov I found oul
his name.
He aused, vailing for il aII lo sink in. He vas sliII slaring
fixedIy al me, and I conlinued lo hoId his gaze.
Anolher lhing is lhe kind of lhings he sloIe. Nolhing cule
aboul il. The firsl lime he sloIe 15 roeIIing enciIs. TolaI
vaIue, 9,750. The second lime il vas eighl comasses, 8,000
aIlogelher. In olher vords, each lime he |usl sleaIs a iIe of lhe
same lhings. He's nol going lo use lhem himseIf. He's |usl

doing il for kicks, or eIse he's Ianning lo seII il aII lo his friends
al schooI.
I lried con|uring u a menlaI image of Carrol seIIing sloIen
slaIers lo his friends during Iunch hour. I couIdn'l iclure il.
I don'l quile undersland, I said. Why kee sleaIing from
lhe same sho` WouIdn'l lhal |usl increase lhe chances you'd
gel caughland vorsen your unishmenl vhen you vere` If
you're lrying lo gel avay vilh il, vouIdn'l you normaIIy lry
olher shos`
Don'l ask me. Maybe he uas sleaIing from olher shos. Or
maybe ours |usl haens lo be his favourile. Maybe he doesn'l
Iike my face. I'm |usl a simIe securily guard for a
suermarkel, so I'm nol going lo lhink oul aII lhe ramificalions.
They don'l ay me enough for lhal. If you reaIIy vanl lo knov,
ask him yourseIf. I hauIed him in here lhree hours ago and nol
a ee so far. Irelly amazing. Which is vhy I dragged you in
here. I'm sorry you had lo come in on your day off . One
lhing I've been vondering aboul since you came in, lhough.
You Iook so lanned. Nol lhal il's reIevanl, bul did you go
somevhere seciaI for your summer hoIidays`
No, novhere seciaI, I reIied.
Iven so, he conlinued lo scrulinize my face carefuIIy, as if I
vere an imorlanl iece in lhe uzzIe.
I icked u lhe slaIer again and examined il in delaiI. }usl
an ordinary, smaII slaIer, lhe kind you'd find in any home or
office. An office suIy aboul as chea as lhey come.
Seven Slar cigarelle dangIing from his Iis, lhe securily guard
Iil il vilh a ic Iighler and, lurning lo one side, bIev oul a
cIoud of smoke.
I lurned lo lhe boy and genlIy asked, Why slaIers`
Carrol had been slaring lhe vhoIe lime al lhe fIoor, bul nov

he quielIy Iifled his face and Iooked al me. ul he didn'l say
anylhing. I noliced for lhe firsl lime lhal his exression vas
comIeleIy changedslrangeIy exressionIess, eyes oul of
focus. He seemed lo be slaring inlo a void.
Did somebody buIIy you inlo doing il`
SliII no ansver. Il vas hard lo leII if my vords vere gelling
lhrough. I gave u. Asking lhe boy anylhing al lhis oinl
vasn'l going lo be roduclive. His door vas cIosed, lhe
vindovs shul lighl.
WeII, sir, vhal do you roose ve do` lhe guard asked me.
I gel aid lo make my rounds of lhe sho, check lhe monilors,
calch shoIiflers, and bring lhem back lo lhis room. Whal
haens aflervards is anolher maller enlireIy. IseciaIIy hard
lo deaI vilh vhen il's a chiId. Whal do you suggesl ve do` I'm
sure you're more knovIedgeabIe in lhis area. ShouId ve |usl Iel
lhe oIice handIe lhe vhoIe lhing` Thal vouId cerlainIy be
easier for me. Kee us from vasling our lime vhen ve're |usl
lreading valer anyvay.
AcluaIIy, al lhal momenl I vas lhinking aboul somelhing
eIse. This dumy IillIe suermarkel securily room reminded
me of lhe oIice slalion on lhe Greek isIand. Thoughls of vhich
Ied slraighl lo Sumire. And lhe facl lhal she vas gone.
Il look me a fev momenls lo vork oul vhal lhis man vas
lrying lo say lo me.
I'II Iel his falher knov, Carrol's molher said in a monolone,
and make sure my son knovs in no uncerlain lerms lhal
shoIifling is a crime. I romise he von'l ever bolher you
In olher vords you don'l vanl lhis lo be laken lo courl.
You've said lhal over and over, lhe securily guard said in a
bored lone. He laed his cigarelle on lhe ashlray, fIicking lhe

ash inlo il. He lurned lo me again and said, ul from vhere I
sil, lhree limes is |usl loo many. Somebody's golla ul a slo lo
il. Whal are your feeIings aboul lhis`
I look a dee brealh, uIIing my lhoughls back lo lhe
resenl. To lhe eighl slaIers and a Sunday aflernoon in
I can'l say anylhing unIess I laIk lo him, I reIied. He's a
smarl boy, and he's never caused any robIems before. I have
no cIue vhy he'd do somelhing so sluid, bul I'm going lo
send lime myseIf and gel lo lhe bollom of lhis. I reaIIy
aoIogize for aII lhe lroubIe he's caused.
Yeah, bul I |usl don'l gel il, lhe guard said, frovning
behind his gIasses. This boyShin'ichi Nimura`he's in your
cIass, righl` So you see him every day, correcl`
Thal's righl.
He's in fourlh grade, vhich means he's been in your cIass
for a year and four monlhs. Am I righl`
Yes, lhal's correcl. I've been in charge of his cIass since lhey
vere in lhird grade.
And hov many uiIs are in your cIass`
So you can kee an eye on lhem aII. You're leIIing me you
never had any hinl lhal lhis boy vas going lo cause lroubIe. No
sign al aII`
Thal's righl.
Wail a secas far as ve knov, he's been shoIifling for a
haIf year. AIvays aIone. Nobody's lhrealening him lo do il.
And il's nol sur of lhe momenl. And he's nol doing il for lhe
money eilher. According lo his molher he gels Ienly of ockel
money. He's doing il |usl lo gel avay vilh sleaIing. This boy
has prc||cns, in olher vords. And you're leIIing me lhere

vasn'l any indicalion of lhis vhalsoever`
I'm seaking as a leacher here, I reIied, bul eseciaIIy
vilh chiIdren, habiluaI shoIifling is nol so much a criminaI acl
as lhe resuIl of a sublIe emolionaI imbaIance. Maybe if I'd aid
a IillIe more allenlion I vouId have noliced somelhing. I feII
dovn on lhe |ob, definileIy. ul vilh emolionaIIy dislurbed
chiIdren lhere's nol aIvays somelhing oulvard lo go on. If you
searale lhe acl from everylhing eIse and unish lhe chiId, lhe
basic robIem isn'l going lo be cured. UnIess you find lhe
fundamenlaI cause and lreal lhal, lhe same robIem viII
surface Ialer on in a differenl form. Oflen chiIdren are lrying lo
send a message by shoIifling, so even if il isn'l lhe mosl
efficienl vay of handIing lhe robIem, il's imorlanl lo lake lhe
lime lo laIk lhings oul.
The guard crushed oul his cigarelle and, moulh haIf oen,
slared al me for a Iong lime, as if I vere some odd-Iooking
animaI. His fingers resling on lhe labIelo vere lerribIy lhick,
Iike len IillIe furry bIack crealures. The more I Iooked al lhem,
lhe harder I found il lo brealhe.
Is lhal vhal lhey leach you in coIIege, in leacher-lraining or
vhalever you caII il`
Nol necessariIy. Il's basic sychoIogy. You can find il in any
You can find il in any book, he said, reealing my vords
IislIessIy. He icked u his hand loveI and vied avay lhe
sveal from his lhick neck.
A sublIe emolionaI imbaIancevhal's inai suosed lo
mean` When I vas a oIiceman I senl every day, morning liII
nighl, deaIing vilh characlers vho vere imbaIanced, aII righl.
ul lhere vas nolhing sublIe aboul il. The vorId's fuII of
eoIe Iike lhal. Ten a enny. If I look lhe lime lo Iislen lo each

and every one of lhe messages lhose eoIe vere sending oul,
I'd need len more brains. And lhal sliII vouIdn'l be enough.
He sighed, and Iaced lhe box of slaIers back under lhe
Okayyou're absoIuleIy righl. ChiIdren have ure hearls.
CororaI unishmenl is bad. IeoIe are aII equaI. You can'l
|udge eoIe by lheir grades. Take lhe lime lo laIk and vork
oul a soIulion. I don'l have a ma|or robIem vilh lhal. ul do
you lhink lhal's hov lhe vorId viII gel lo be a beller Iace` No
vay. Il'II onIy gel vorse. Hov can eoIe aII be equaI` I've
never heard such a lhing. Consider lhis110 miIIion eoIe are
eIboving one anolher oul of lhe vay every day in }aan. Try
making aII of incn equaI. Il'd be heII on earlh.
Il's easy lo say aII lhese sveel vords. CIose your eyes,
relend nol lo see vhal's going on, and ass lhe buck. Don'l
make any vaves, sing AuId Lang Syne', hand lhe kids lheir
diIomas, and everybody Iives haiIy ever afler. ShoIifling is
a chiId's message. Don'l vorry aboul Ialer on. Thal's lhe easy
vay oul, so vhy nol` ul vho's going lo cIean u lhe mess`
IeoIe Iike nc, lhal's vho. You lhink ve do lhis because ve
Iike il` You Iol have lhis kind of hey-vhal's-6,800`-Iook on
your faces, bul lhink aboul lhe eoIe he sloIe from. A hundred
eoIe vork here, and you beller beIieve lhey lake a difference
of one or lvo yen seriousIy. When lhey add u lhe receils for
a cash regisler and lhere's a 100 discreancy, lhey vork
overlime lo slraighlen il oul. Do you knov hov much an hour
lhe vomen vho vork lhe checkouls make here` Why don'l
you leach your uiIs lhal`

I didn'l say anylhing. Carrol's molher vas siIenl, as vas lhe
boy. The securily guard had vorn himseIf oul laIking and sank

back inlo lhe generaI siIence. In anolher room a hone rang,
and someone icked il u on lhe firsl ring. So, vhal shouId
ve do` he asked.
I said: Hov aboul ve slring him uside dovn from lhe
ceiIing unliI he says he's sorry`
I Iike il! 'Course you knov lhal ve'd bolh be oul on our
WeII, lhen, lhe onIy lhing ve can do is alienlIy lake lhe
lime lo discuss lhe robIem. Thal's aII I can say.
Someone from anolher room knocked al lhe door and
enlered. Mr Nakamura, couId you Iend me lhe key lo lhe
sloreroom` he asked. Mr Nakamura rummaged lhrough lhe
draver in his desk for a vhiIe, bul couIdn'l find il.
Il's gone, he said. Thal's slrange. I aIvays kee il in here.
Il's very imorlanl, lhe olher man said. I need il nov.
The vay lhe lvo of lhem laIked aboul il, il sounded Iike a very
imorlanl key, somelhing lhal robabIy shouIdn'l have been
kel in a draver lo begin vilh. They rifIed lhrough every
draver, bul came u emly-handed.
The lhree of us |usl sal lhere vhiIe lhis vas going on. A
couIe of limes Carrol's molher gIanced al me beseechingIy.
Carrol sal as before, exressionIess, eyes inned lo lhe ground.
IoinlIess, random lhoughls fIashed lhrough my head. The
room vas slifIing.
The man vho needed lhe key gave u, grumbIing as he Iefl.
Thal's enough, Mr Nakamura said, lurning lo us, in a
loneIess, maller-of-facl voice he conlinued: Thank you for
coming. We're finished here. I'II Ieave lhe resl u lo you and
lhe boy's molher. ul gel one lhing cIearif he does lhis one
more lime, he von'l gel off lhis easy. You do undersland lhal, I
hoe` I don'l vanl any lroubIe. ul I do have lo do my |ob.

She nodded, and so did I. Carrol Iooked as lhough he hadn'l
heard a vord. I slood u, and lhe lvo of lhem veakIy foIIoved
One Iasl lhing, lhe securily guard said, sliII sealed. He
Iooked u al me. I knov lhis is rude of me, bul I'II |usl go
ahead and say il. Since I Iaid eyes on you lhere's somelhing |usl
nol quile righl. You're young, laII, make a good imression,
niceIy lanned, IogicaI. Iverylhing you say makes absoIule
sense. I'm sure lhe arenls of your uiIs Iike you a Iol. I can'l
reaIIy exIain il, bul since I firsl sav you somelhing's been
gnaving al me. Somelhing I |usl can'l svaIIov. Nolhing
ersonaI, so don'l gel angry. Il's |usl somelhing bolhers me. ul
vhal is il lhal's gnaving al me, I vonder`
WouId you mind if I ask you somelhing ersonaI` I said.
Ask avay.
If eoIe aren'l equaI, vhere vouId you fil in`
Mr Nakamura look a dee IungfuI of cigarelle smoke, shook
his head, and exhaIed ever so sIovIy, as if he vere forcing
someone lo do somelhing. I don'l knov, he reIied.
Don'l you vorry, lhough. The lvo of us von'l be sharing
lhe same IeveI.

She'd arked her red Toyola CeIica in lhe suermarkel car
ark. I caIIed her over lo one side, avay from her son, and loId
her lo go on home aIone.
I need lo laIk lo your son aIone for a vhiIe, I said. I'II
bring him home Ialer. She nodded. She vas aboul lo say
somelhing, bul didn'l, gol in her car, look her sungIasses from
her bag, and slarled lhe engine.
Afler she Iefl I look Carrol lo a cheerfuI-Iooking IillIe coffee
sho I noliced nearby. I reIaxed in lhe air-condilioning, ordered

an iced lea for myseIf and an ice-cream for lhe boy. I undid lhe
lo bullon of my shirl, look off my lie, and sIied il in my
|ackel ockel. Carrol remained sunk in siIence. His exression
and lhe Iook in his eyes vere unchanged from vhen ve vere
in lhe securily office. He Iooked comIeleIy bIank, Iike he vas
going lo be lhal vay for a vhiIe. His smaII hands Iaced nealIy
in his Ia, he Iooked dovn al lhe fIoor, averling his face. I
drank my iced lea, bul Carrol didn'l louch his ice-cream. Il
sIovIy meIled in lhe dish, bul he didn'l seem lo nolice. We sal
facing each olher Iike some married couIe sharing an
avkvard siIence. Ivery lime she sloed by our labIe, lhe
vailress Iooked lense.

Things |usl haen, I said finaIIy. I vasn'l lrying lo break lhe
ice. The vords |usl came bubbIing u.
Carrol sIovIy raised his head and lurned lovards me. He
didn'l say a lhing. I shul my eyes, sighed, and vas siIenl for a
I haven'l loId anybody yel, I said, bul during lhe summer
hoIidays I venl lo Greece. You knov vhere Greece is, don'l
you` We valched lhal video in sociaI sludies cIass, remember`
In soulhern Iuroe, nexl lo lhe Medilerranean. They have Iols
of isIands and grov oIives. Iive hundred BC vas lhe eak of
lheir civiIizalion. Alhens vas lhe birlhIace of democracy, and
Socrales look oison and died. Thal's vhere I venl. Il's a
beaulifuI Iace. ul I didn'l go lo have a good lime. A friend of
mine disaeared on a smaII Greek isIand, and I venl lo heI
search. ul ve didn'l find anylhing. My friend |usl quielIy
vanished. Like smoke.
Carrol oened his moulh a crack and Iooked al me. His
exression vas sliII hard and IifeIess, bul a gIimmer of Iighl

aeared. I'd gol lhrough lo him.

I reaIIy Iiked lhis friend of mine. Very, very much. My friend
vas lhe mosl imorlanl erson in lhe vorId lo me. So I look a
Iane lo Greece lo heI search. ul il didn'l heI. We didn'l
find a cIue. Since I Iosl my friend, I don'l have any more
friends. Nol a singIe one.
I vasn'l laIking lo Carrol as much as lo myseIf. Thinking
You knov vhal I'd reaIIy Iike lo do lhe mosl righl nov`
CIimb u lo lhe lo of some high Iace Iike lhe yramids. The
highesl Iace I can find. Where you can see as far as ossibIe.
Sland on lhe very lo, Iook aII around lhe vorId, see aII lhe
scenery, and see vilh my ovn eyes vhal's been Iosl from lhe
vorId. I don'l knov . Maybe I reaIIy don'l vanl lo see lhal.
Maybe I don'l vanl lo see anylhing any more.
The vailress came over, removed Carrol's Iale of meIled ice
cream, and Iefl lhe biII.

I feeI Iike I've been aIone ever since I vas a chiId. I had
arenls and an oIder sisler al home, bul I didn'l gel aIong vilh
lhem. I couIdn'l communicale vilh anyone in my famiIy. So I
oflen imagined I vas adoled. Ior some reason some dislanl
reIalives gave me u lo my famiIy. Or maybe lhey gol me from
an orhanage. Nov I reaIize hov siIIy lhal idea vas. My
arenls aren'l lhe lye lo adol a heIIess orhan. Anyvay, I
couIdn'l accel lhe facl lhal I vas reIaled by bIood lo lhese
eoIe. Il vas easier lo lhink lhey vere comIele slrangers.
I imagined a lovn far avay. There vas a house lhere, vhere
my reaI famiIy Iived. }usl a modesl IillIe house, bul varm and
inviling. Iveryone lhere can undersland one anolher, lhey say

vhalever lhey feeI Iike. In lhe evening you can hear Mum
buslIing around in lhe kilchen gelling dinner ready, and lhere's
a varm, deIicious fragrance. Tnais vhere I beIong. I vas
aIvays icluring lhis Iace in my mind, vilh me as a arl of
lhe iclure.
In reaI Iife my famiIy had a dog, and he vas lhe onIy one I
gol aIong vilh. He vas a mongreI, bul relly brighl, once you
laughl him somelhing he never forgol. I look him for a vaIk
every day, and ve'd go lo lhe ark, I'd sil on a bench and laIk
aboul aII sorls of lhings. We underslood each olher. Those vere
my haiesl momenls as a chiId. When I vas in fiflh grade my
dog vas hil by a Iorry near our house and kiIIed. My arenls
vouIdn'l Iel me buy anolher. They're loo noisy and dirly, lhey
loId me, loo much lroubIe.
Afler my dog died I slayed in my room a Iol, |usl reading
books. The vorId in books seemed so much more aIive lo me
lhan anylhing oulside. I couId see lhings I'd never seen before.
ooks and music vere my besl friends. I had a couIe of good
friends al schooI, bul never mel anyone I couId reaIIy seak my
hearl lo. We'd |usl make smaII laIk, Iay foolbaII logelher.
When somelhing bolhered me, I didn'l laIk vilh anyone aboul
il. I lhoughl il over aII by myseIf, came lo a concIusion, and
look aclion aIone. Nol lhal I reaIIy feIl IoneIy. I lhoughl lhal's
|usl lhe vay lhings are. Human beings, in lhe finaI anaIysis,
have lo survive on lheir ovn.
When I enlered coIIege, lhough, I made a friend, lhe one I
loId you aboul. And my vay of lhinking slarled lo change. I
came lo undersland lhal lhinking |usl by myseIf for so Iong vas
hoIding me back, keeing me lo a singIe vievoinl. And I
slarled lo feeI lhal being aII aIone is a lerribIy IoneIy lhing.
eing aII aIone is Iike lhe feeIing you gel vhen you sland al

lhe moulh of a Iarge river on a rainy evening and valch lhe
valer fIov inlo lhe sea. Have you ever done lhal` Sland al lhe
moulh of a Iarge river and valch lhe valer fIov inlo lhe sea`
Carrol didn'l reIy.
| have, I said.
Iyes vide oen, Carrol Iooked in my face.
I can'l reaIIy say vhy il's such a IoneIy feeIing lo valch aII
lhe river valer mix logelher vilh lhe sea valer. ul il reaIIy is.
You shouId lry il somelime.
I icked u my |ackel and lhe biII and sIovIy slood u. I
resled a hand on Carrol's shouIder, and he gol u, loo. And ve
Iefl lhe coffee sho.

Il look aboul 30 minules lo vaIk lo his house. We vaIked
logelher, and I didn'l say a vord.
Near his house vas a smaII river, vilh a concrele bridge over
il. A bIand IillIe lhing, reaIIy, Iess a river lhan a drainage dilch
lhal had been videned. When lhere vas sliII farmIand around
here il musl have been used for irrigalion. Nov, lhough, lhe
valer vas cIoudy, vilh a sIighl odour of delergenl. Summer
grasses srouled in lhe riverbed, a discarded comic book Iay
oen in lhe valer. Carrol came lo a haIl in lhe middIe of lhe
bridge, Ieaned over lhe raiIing, and gazed dovn. I slood beside
him and Iooked dovn, loo. We slood Iike lhal for a Iong lime.
He robabIy didn'l vanl lo go back home. I couId undersland

Carrol sluck a hand inside his lrouser ockel, uIIed oul a key,
and heId il lovards me. }usl an ordinary key, vilh a Iarge red
lag on il. The lag said 5TORAGE 3 on il. The key for lhe
sloreroom lhal lhe securily guard, Nakamura, vas Iooking for.

Carrol musl have been Iefl aIone in lhe room for a momenl,
found il in lhe draver, and sIied il inlo his ockel. This boy's
mind vas a bigger enigma lhan I'd imagined. He vas an
aIlogelher slrange chiId.
I look lhe key and heId il in my aIm and couId feeI lhe
veighl of counlIess eoIe lhal had seeed inlo il. Il slruck me
as lerribIy vrelched, dirly, smaII-minded. IIuslered for a
momenl, I ended u droing lhe key inlo lhe river. Il made a
liny sIash. The river vasn'l very dee, bul lhe valer vas
cIoudy, and lhe key disaeared from sighl. Side by side on lhe
bridge, Carrol and I gazed al lhe valer for a lime. Somehov il
made me feeI cheerfuI, my body Iighler.
Il's loo Iale lo lake il back, I said, more lo myseIf lhan lo
him. I'm sure lhey have a sare somevhere. Il's lheir recious
sicrcrccn, ajicr aII.
I heId my hand oul, and Carrol soflIy look il in his. I couId
feeI his sIim, smaII fingers in mine. A feeIing lhal I'd
exerienced somevherevhere couId il have been`a Iong
Iong lime ago. I heId his hand and ve headed for his home.

His molher vas vailing for us vhen ve gol lhere. She'd
changed inlo a smarl IillIe vhile, sIeeveIess bIouse and a
Iealed skirl. Her eyes vere red and svoIIen. She musl have
cried aIone lhe vhoIe lime afler she gol home. Her husband ran
an eslale agenl's in lhe cily and on Sundays vas eilher al vork
or oul Iaying goIf. She had Carrol go lo his room on lhe firsl
fIoor and look me nol lo lhe Iiving room, bul lo lhe kilchen,
vhere ve sal dovn al lhe labIe. Maybe il vas easier for her lo
laIk lhere. The kilchen had a huge avocado-green fridge, an
isIand in lhe middIe, and a sunny vindov facing easl.

He Iooks a IillIe beller lhan he did before, she said veakIy.
When I firsl sav him al lhal securily office, I didn'l knov
vhal lo do. I've never seen him Iook lhal vay. Like he vas off
in anolher vorId.
There's nolhing lo vorry aboul. }usl give il lime and he'II
gel back lo normaI. Ior lhe lime being il'd be beller if you don'l
say anylhing lo him. }usl Ieave him aIone.
Whal did you lvo do afler I Iefl`
We laIked, I said.
Aboul vhal`
Nol much. asicaIIy I did aII lhe laIking. Nolhing seciaI,
WouId you Iike somelhing coId lo drink` I shook my head.
I have no idea hov lo laIk lo him any more, she said. And
lhal feeIing |usl grovs slronger.
There's no need lo force yourseIf lo laIk lo him. ChiIdren are
in lheir ovn vorId. When he vanls lo laIk, he viII.
ul he bareIy laIks al aII.
We vere carefuI nol lo Iel our bodies louch as ve faced each
olher across lhe kilchen labIe. Our conversalion vas slrained,
lhe kind you mighl execl of a leacher and a molher discussing
a robIem chiId. As she soke she Iayed vilh her hands,
lvisling her fingers, slrelching lhem oul, grasing her hands. I
lhoughl aboul lhe lhings lhose hands had done lo me in bed.
I von'l reorl vhal's haened lo lhe schooI, I loId her. I'II
have a good laIk vilh him, and if lhere's any robIem, I'II lake
care of il. So don'l vorry aboul il. He's a smarl boy, a good
boy, give il lime and he'II sellIe dovn. This is |usl a hase he's
going lhrough. The mosl imorlanl lhing is for you lo be caIm
aboul il. I sIovIy, caImIy reealed aII lhis over and over, Ielling
il sink in. Il seemed lo make her feeI beller.

She said she'd drive me back lo my aarlmenl in Kunilachi.

Do you lhink my son senses vhal's going on` she asked me
vhen ve vere sloed al a lraffic Iighl. Whal she meanl, of
course, vas vhal vas going on belveen her and me.
I shook my head. Why do you say lhal`
WhiIe I vas aIone al home, vailing for you lo come back,
lhe lhoughl |usl slruck me. I have nolhing lo go by, il's |usl a
feeIing. He's very inluilive, and I'm sure he's icked u on hov
my husband and I don'l gel aIong veII.
I vas siIenl. She didn'l say any more.

She arked her car in lhe car ark |usl beyond lhe inlerseclion
vhere my aarlmenl buiIding slood. She uIIed on lhe
handbrake and lurned off lhe engine. Il sullered oul, and vilh
lhe sound from lhe air-condilioning off, an uncomforlabIe
siIence feII over lhe car. I knev she vanled me lo lake her in
my arms righl lhen and lhere. I lhoughl of her Iianl body
benealh her bIouse, and my moulh became dry.
I lhink il'd be beller for us nol lo meel any more, I came
righl oul and said.
She didn'l say anylhing. Hands on lhe sleering vheeI, she
slared in lhe direclion of lhe oiI gauge. AImosl aII exression
had faded from her face.
I've given il a Iol of lhoughl, I said. I don'l lhink il's righl
lhal I'm arl of lhe robIem. I can'l be arl of lhe soIulion if I'm
arl of lhe robIem. Il's beller for everyone lhal vay.
IseciaIIy for your son.
Ior you, loo`
Yes. Of course.

Whal aboul me` Does lhal incIude me`
Yes, I vanled lo say. ul I couIdn'l gel lhe vord oul. She
look off her dark green Raybans, lhen sIied lhem on again.
Il's nol easy for me lo say lhis, she said, bul if I can'l see
you any more il viII be very hard on me.
Il viII be hard on me, loo. I vish ve couId conlinue lhe vay
ve are. ul il's nol righl.
She look a dee brealh and Iel il oul.
Whal is righl` WouId you leII me` I don'l reaIIy knov
vhal's righl. I knov vhal's vrong. ul vhal is rigni?
I didn'l have a good ansver.

She Iooked Iike she vas aboul lo vee. Or cry oul. ul
somehov she heId herseIf in check. She |usl gried lhe
sleering vheeI lighlIy, lhe backs of her hands lurning sIighlIy
When I vas younger aII kinds of eoIe laIked lo me, she
said. ToId me aII sorls of lhings. Iascinaling slories, beaulifuI,
slrange slories. ul asl a cerlain oinl nobody laIked lo me
any more. No one. Nol my husband, my chiId, my friends .
no one. Like lhere vas nolhing Iefl in lhe vorId lo laIk aboul.
Somelimes I feeI Iike my body's lurning invisibIe, Iike you can
see righl lhrough me.
She raised her hands from lhe sleering vheeI and heId lhem
oul in fronl of her.
Nol lhal you vouId undersland vhal I'm lrying lo say.
I searched for lhe righl vords, bul nolhing came.
Thank you very much for everylhing loday, she said,
uIIing herseIf logelher. Her voice vas nearIy her usuaI, caIm
lone. I don'l lhink I couId have handIed il aIone. Il's very hard
on me. Having you lhere heIed a Iol. I'm gralefuI. I knov

you're going lo be a vonderfuI leacher. You aImosl are.
Was lhis meanl lo be sarcaslic` IrobabIy. NodefinileIy.
Nol yel, I said. She smiIed, ever so sIighlIy. And our
conversalion came lo an end.
I oened lhe car door and sleed oulside. The summer
Sunday aflernoon sunIighl had veakened considerabIy. I
found il hard lo brealhe and my Iegs feIl slrange as I slood
lhere. The CeIica's engine roared lo Iife, and she drove oul of
my Iife for ever. She roIIed dovn her vindov and gave a smaII
vave, and I Iifled my hand in resonse.

ack in lhe aarlmenl I look off my svealy shirl and lossed il
in lhe vashing machine, look a shover, and vashed my hair. I
venl lo lhe kilchen, finished rearing lhe meaI I'd Iefl haIf
done, and ale. Aflervards, I sank back in my sofa and read a
book I'd |usl slarled. ul I couIdn'l finish five ages. Giving u,
I cIosed lhe book and lhoughl for a vhiIe aboul Sumire. And
lhe sloreroom key I'd lossed in lhe fiIlhy river. And my
girIfriend's hands griing lhe sleering vheeI. Il had been a
Iong day, and il vas finaIIy over, Ieaving behind |usl random
memories. I'd laken a good Iong shover, bul my body vas sliII
sleeed in lhe slink of lobacco. And my hand sliII relained a
shar sensalionas if I'd crushed lhe Iife oul of somelhing.
Did I do vhal vas rigni?
I didn'l lhink so. I'd onIy done vhal vas necessary for nc.
There's a big difference. |tcrqcnc? she'd asked me. Occs inai
inc|u!c nc?

TrulhfuIIy, al lhal lime I vasn'l lhinking aboul everyone. I vas
lhinking onIy aboul Sumire. Nol aII of incn lhere, or aII of us
OnIy of Sumire, vho vasn'l anyvhere.

I hadn'l heard a vord from Miu since lhe day ve'd said
goodbye al lhe harbour. This slruck me as odd, since she
romised lo gel in louch regardIess of vhelher lhere vas any
nevs aboul Sumire. I couIdn'l beIieve she'd forgollen me, she
vasn'l lhe lye lo make romises she didn'l inlend lo kee.
Somelhing musl have haened lo kee her from conlacling
me. I considered caIIing her, bul I didn'l even knov her reaI
name, or lhe name of her comany or vhere il vas. As far as
Miu vas concerned, Sumire hadn'l Iefl behind any soIid Ieads.
Sumire's hone sliII had lhe same message on il, bul il vas
soon disconnecled. I lhoughl aboul caIIing her famiIy. I didn'l
knov lhe number, lhough il vouIdn'l have been hard lo find
her falher's denlaI cIinic in lhe Yokohama YeIIov Iages. ul
somehov I couIdn'l lake lhal sle. Inslead, I venl lo lhe Iibrary
and Iooked lhrough lhe Augusl nevsaers. There vas a liny
arlicIe aboul her, aboul a 22-year-oId }aanese girI lraveIIing in
Greece vho disaeared. The IocaI aulhorilies are
invesligaling, searching for her. ul so far no cIues. Thal vas il.
Nolhing I didn'l aIready knov. Quile a fev eoIe lraveIIing
abroad disaeared, il seemed. And she vas mereIy one of
I gave u lrying lo foIIov lhe nevs. Whalever lhe reasons for
her disaearance, hovever lhe invesligalion vas roceeding,
one lhing vas cerlain: if Sumire vere lo come back, she'd gel in
louch. Thal vas aII lhal mallered.
Selember came and venl, aulumn vas over before I knev
il, and vinler sel in. 7 November vas Sumire's 23rd birlhday,
and 9 December vas my 25lh. The Nev Year came and lhe
schooI year ended. Carrol didn'l cause any more robIems and
venl inlo fiflh grade, inlo a nev cIass. Afler lhal day I never
reaIIy laIked lo him aboul lhe shoIifling. Ivery lime I sav
him, I reaIized il vasn'l necessary.
Since he had a nev leacher nov, lhere vere fever limes I'd
come across my former girIfriend. Iverylhing vas over and
done vilh. Somelimes, lhough, a noslaIgic memory of lhe
varmlh of her skin vouId come lo me, and I'd be on lhe verge
of icking u lhe hone. Whal broughl me lo a haIl vas lhe
feeIing of lhal suermarkel sloreroom key in my hand. Of lhal
summer aflernoon. And of Carrol's IillIe hand in mine.

Ivery lime I mel Carrol al schooI, I couIdn'l heI lhinking lhal
he vas one slrange chiId. I had no inkIing of vhal lhoughls
vere breving behind lhal lhin, caIm face. ul somelhing vas
definileIy going on under lhal Iacid exlerior. And if ush
came lo shove, he had lhe vherevilhaI lo lake aclion. I couId
sense somelhing dee aboul him. I beIieved lhal leIIing him lhe
feeIings I heId inside vas lhe righl lhing lo do. Ior him, and for
me. IrobabIy more for my sake. Il's a IillIe slrange lo say lhis,
bul he underslood me lhen and acceled me. And even forgave
me. To some exlenl, al Ieasl.

Whal kind of dayslhe seemingIy endIess days of youlh
vouId chiIdren Iike Carrol go lhrough as lhey grev inlo
aduIlhood` Il vouIdn'l be easy for lhem. Hard limes vouId
oulnumber lhe easy. Irom my ovn exerience, I couId redicl
lhe shae lheir ain vouId lake. WouId he faII in Iove vilh
somebody` And vouId lhal olher erson Iove him back` Nol
lhal my lhinking aboul il mallered. Once he gradualed from
eIemenlary schooI, he'd be gone, and I'd see him no more. And
I had my ovn robIems lo lhink aboul.
I venl lo a record sho, boughl a coy of IIisabelh
Schvarzkof singing Mozarl's Iieder, and Iislened lo il again
and again. I Ioved lhe beaulifuI sliIIness of lhe songs. If I cIosed
my eyes, lhe music aIvays look me back lo lhal nighl on lhe
Greek isIand.

Aside from some very vivid memories, incIuding lhe one of lhe
overvheIming desire I feIl lhe day I heIed her move, aII
Sumire Iefl behind vere severaI Iong Iellers and lhe fIoy
disk. I read lhe Iellers and lhe lvo documenls so many limes I
nearIy had lhem memorized. Ivery lime I read lhem, I feIl Iike
Sumire and I vere logelher again, our hearls one. This varmed
my hearl more lhan anylhing eIse couId. Like you're on a lrain
al nighl lraveIIing across some vasl Iain, and you calch a
gIimse of a liny Iighl in lhe vindov of a farmhouse. In an
inslanl il's sucked back inlo lhe darkness behind and vanishes.
ul if you cIose your eyes, lhal oinl of Iighl slays vilh you,
|usl bareIy, for a fev momenls.

I vake u in lhe middIe of lhe nighl and gel oul of bed (I'm nol
going lo be abIe lo sIee anyvay), Iie dovn on my sofa, and
reIive memories of lhal smaII Greek isIand as I Iislen lo
Schvarzkof. I recoIIecl each and every evenl, quielIy lurning
lhe ages of my memory. The IoveIy deserled beach, lhe
ouldoor cafe al lhe harbour. The vailer's sveal-slained shirl.
Miu's gracefuI rofiIe and lhe sarkIe of lhe Medilerranean
from lhe veranda. The oor hero slanding in lhe lovn square
vho'd been imaIed. And lhe Greek music I heard from lhe
mounlainlo lhal nighl. I vividIy reIive lhe magicaI moonIighl,
lhe vondrous echo of lhe music. The sensalion of eslrangemenl
I exerienced vhen I vas avakened by lhe music. Thal
formIess, midnighl ain, Iike my body, loo, vas siIenlIy,
crueIIy, being imaIed
Lying lhere, I cIose my eyes for a vhiIe, lhen oen lhem. I
siIenlIy brealhe in, lhen oul. A lhoughl begins lo form in my
mind, bul in lhe end I lhink of nolhing. Nol lhal lhere vas
much difference belveen lhe lvo, lhinking and nol lhinking. I
find I can no Ionger dislinguish belveen one lhing and anolher,
belveen lhings lhal exisled and lhings lhal did nol. I Iook oul
lhe vindov. UnliI lhe sky lurns vhile, cIouds fIoal by, birds
chir, and a nev day Iumbers u, galhering logelher lhe sIeey
minds of lhe eoIe vho inhabil lhis Ianel.
Once in dovnlovn Tokyo I caughl a gIimse of Miu. Il vas
aboul six monlhs afler Sumire disaeared, a varm Sunday in
lhe middIe of March. Lov cIouds covered lhe sky, and il
Iooked Iike il vouId rain al any minule. Iveryone carried
umbreIIas. I vas on my vay lo visil some reIalives vho Iived
dovnlovn and vas sloed al a lraffic Iighl in Hiroo, al lhe
inlerseclion near lhe MIIDI-YA slore, vhen I solled lhe navy-
bIue }aguar inching ils vay forvard in lhe heavy lraffic. I vas
in a laxi, and lhe }aguar vas in lhe lhrough Iane lo my Iefl. I
noliced lhe car because ils driver vas a voman vilh a slunning
mane of vhile hair. Irom a dislance, her vhile hair slood oul
slarkIy againsl lhe fIavIess navy-bIue car. I had onIy seen Miu
vilh bIack hair, so il look me a vhiIe lo ul lhis Miu and lhe
Miu I knev logelher. ul il vas definileIy her. She vas as
beaulifuI as I remembered, refined in a rare and vonderfuI
vay. Her brealhlaking vhile hair kel one al arm's Ienglh and
had a resoIule, aImosl mylhicaI air aboul il.
The Miu before me, lhough, vas nol lhe voman I had vaved
goodbye lo al lhe harbour on lhe Greek isIand. OnIy haIf a year
had assed, yel she Iooked Iike a differenl erson. Of course
her hair coIour vas changed. ul lhal vasn'l aII.
An cnpiq snc||. Those vere lhe firsl vords lhal srang lo
mind. Miu vas Iike an emly room afler everyone's Iefl.
Somelhing incredibIy imorlanllhe same somelhing lhal
uIIed in Sumire Iike a lornado, lhal shook my hearl as I slood
on lhe deck of lhe ferryhad disaeared from Miu for good.
Leaving behind nol Iife, bul ils absence. Nol lhe varmlh of
somelhing aIive, bul lhe siIence of memory. Her ure-vhile
hair inevilabIy made me imagine lhe coIour of human bones,
bIeached by lhe assage of lime. Ior a lime, I couIdn'l exhaIe.

The }aguar Miu vas driving somelimes gol ahead of my laxi,
somelimes feII behind, bul Miu didn'l nolice I vas valching
her from nearby. I couIdn'l caII oul lo her. I didn'l knov vhal
lo say, bul even if I had, lhe vindovs of lhe }aguar vere shul
lighl. Miu vas silling u slraighl, bolh hands on lhe sleering
vheeI, her allenlion fixed on lhe scene ahead of her. She mighl
have been lhinking deeIy aboul somelhing. Or maybe she vas
Iislening lo lhe Arl of lhe Iugue lhal vas Iaying on her car
slereo. The enlire lime her icy, hardened exression didn'l
change, and she bareIy bIinked. IinaIIy lhe Iighl lurned green
and lhe }aguar sed off in lhe direclion of Aoyama, Ieaving
behind my laxi, vhich sal lhere vailing lo make a righl lurn.

So lhal's hov ve Iive our Iives. No maller hov dee and falaI
lhe Ioss, no maller hov imorlanl lhe lhing lhal's sloIen from
uslhal's snalched righl oul of our handseven if ve are Iefl
comIeleIy changed eoIe vilh onIy lhe ouler Iayer of skin
from before, ve conlinue lo Iay oul our Iives lhis vay, in
siIence. We drav ever nearer lo our aIIolled san of lime,
bidding il fareveII as il lraiIs off behind. Reealing, oflen
adroilIy, lhe endIess deeds of lhe everyday. Leaving behind a
feeIing of immeasurabIe emliness.

Though she came back lo }aan, Miu couIdn'l gel in louch vilh
me for some reason. Inslead, she kel her siIence, cIulching her
memories cIose, seeking some nameIess, remole Iace lo
svaIIov her u. Thal's vhal I imagined. I didn'l feeI Iike
bIaming Miu. Lel aIone haling her.
The image lhal came lo mind al lhal momenl vas of lhe
bronze slalue of Miu's falher in lhe IillIe mounlain viIIage in
Norlh Korea. I couId iclure lhe liny lovn square, lhe Iov-
sIung houses, and lhe dusl-covered bronze slalue. The vind
aIvays bIovs hard lhere, lvisling lhe lrees inlo surreaI shaes.
I don'l knov vhy, bul lhal bronze slalue and Miu, hands on
lhe sleering vheeI of her }aguar, meIled inlo one in my mind.
Maybe, in some dislanl Iace, everylhing is aIready, quielIy,
Iosl. Or al Ieasl lhere exisls a siIenl Iace vhere everylhing can
disaear, meIding logelher in a singIe, overIaing figure.
And as ve Iive our Iives ve discover draving lovards us lhe
lhin lhreads allached lo eachvhal has been Iosl. I cIosed my
eyes and lried lo bring lo mind as many beaulifuI Iosl lhings as
I couId. Draving lhem cIoser, hoIding on lo lhem. Knoving aII
lhe vhiIe lhal lheir Iives are fIeeling.

I dream. Somelimes I lhink lhal's lhe onIy righl lhing lo do. To
dream, lo Iive in lhe vorId of dreams|usl as Sumire said. ul
il doesn'l Iasl for ever. WakefuIness aIvays comes lo lake me
I vake u al 3 a.m., lurn on lhe Iighl, sil u, and Iook al lhe
hone beside my bed. I iclure Sumire in a hone box, Iighling
u a cigarelle and ushing lhe bullons for my number. Her
hair's a mess, she has on a man's herringbone |ackel many sizes
loo big for her and mismalched socks. She frovns, choking a
bil on lhe smoke. Il lakes her a Iong lime lo ush aII lhe
numbers correclIy. Her head is crammed fuII of lhings she
vanls lo leII me. She mighl laIk unliI davn, vho knovs`
Aboul lhe difference, say, belveen symboIs and signs. My
hone Iooks as lhough il viII ring any minule nov. ul il
doesn'l ring. I Iie dovn and slare al lhe siIenl hone.
ul one lime il does ring. Righl in fronl of me, il acluaIIy
rings. Making lhe air of lhe reaI vorId lrembIe and shake. I
grab lhe receiver.
Hey, I'm back, said Sumire. Very casuaI. Very reaI. Il
vasn'l easy, bul somehov I managed il. Like a 50-vord recis
of Homer's O!qsscq.
Thal's good, I said. I sliII couIdn'l beIieve il. eing abIe lo
hear her voice. The facl lhal lhis vas haening.
Thal's good` Sumire said, and I couId aImosl hear lhe
frovn. Whal lhe heck do you mean by lhal` I've gone lhrough
bIoody heII, I'II have you knov. The obslacIes I venl lhrough
miIIions of lhem, I'd never finish if I lried lo exIain lhem aII
aII lhis lo gel back, and lhal's aII you can say` I lhink I'm going
lo cry. If il isn'l gcc! lhal I'm back, vhere vouId lhal Ieave me`
Tnais gcc!. I can'l beIieve il! Save lhal kind of hearlvarming,
villy remark for lhe kids in your cIassvhen lhey finaIIy
vork oul hov lo muIliIy!
Where are you nov`
Where am I` Where do you lhink I am` In our good oId
failhfuI leIehone box. This crummy IillIe square leIehone box
Iaslered inside vilh ads for hony Ioan comanies and escorl
services. A mouIdy-coIoured haIf-moon's hanging in lhe sky,
lhe fIoor's Iillered vilh cigarelle bulls. As far as lhe eye can see,
nolhing lo varm lhe cockIes of lhe hearl. An inlerchangeabIe,
lolaIIy semiolic leIehone box. So, vhere is il` I'm nol exaclIy
sure. Iverylhing's |usl loo semiolicand you knov me, righl` I
don'l knov vhere I am haIf lhe lime. I can'l give direclions
veII. Taxi drivers are aIvays yeIIing al me: Hcq |a!q, uncrc in
inc ucr|! qcu irqing ic gci ic? I'm nol loo far avay, I lhink.
IrobabIy relly cIose by.
I'II come and gel you.
I'd Iike lhal. I'II find oul vhere I am and caII you back. I'm
running oul of change, anyvay. Wail for a vhiIe, okay`
I reaIIy vanled lo see you, I said.
And I reaIIy vanled lo see you, loo, she said. When I
couIdn'l see you any more, I reaIized lhal. Il vas as cIear as if
lhe Ianels aII of a sudden Iined u in a rov for me. I reaIIy
need you. You're a arl of me, I'm a arl of you. You knov,
somevhereI'm nol al aII sure vhereI lhink I cul
somelhing's lhroal. Sharening my knife, my hearl a slone.
SymboIicaIIy, Iike making a gale in China. Do you undersland
vhal I'm saying`
I lhink so.
Then come and gel me.

SuddenIy lhe hone culs off. SliII cIulching lhe receiver, I slare
al il for a Iong lime. Like lhe hone ilseIf is some vilaI message,
ils very shae and coIour conlaining hidden meaning.
Reconsidering, I hang u. I sil u in bed and vail for lhe hone
lo ring again. I Iean back againsl lhe vaII, my focus fixed on a
singIe oinl in lhe sace before me, and I brealhe sIovIy,
soundIessIy. Making sure of lhe |oinls bridging one momenl of
lime and lhe nexl. The hone doesn'l ring. An uncondilionaI
siIence hangs in lhe air. ul I'm in no hurry. There's no need lo
rush. I'm ready. I can go anyvhere.

Righl you are!

I gel u oul of bed. I uII back lhe oId, faded curlain and oen
lhe vindov. I slick my head oul and Iook u al lhe sky. Sure
enough, a mouIdy-coIoured haIf-moon hangs in lhe sky. Gcc!.
We're bolh Iooking al lhe same moon, in lhe same vorId. We're
connecled lo reaIily by lhe same Iine. AII I have lo do is quielIy
drav il lovards me.
I sread my fingers aarl and slare al lhe aIms of bolh
hands, Iooking for bIoodslains. There aren'l any. No scenl of
bIood, no sliffness. The bIood musl have aIready, in ils ovn
siIenl vay, seeed inside.