Thursday, October 06, 2005

"Tony Takitani" by Haruki Murakami (2)

This is the second part of my translation of "Tony Takitani" by Haruki Murakami. Here is the first part.

But one day, out of the blue, Tony Takitani fell in love. It was a girl who came to his office to pick up his illustration from a publisher, for whom she worked part-time. She was twenty-two. A calm smiled lingered around her mouth while she was in his office. She was a girl with a pleasant face, but was not extraordinarily beautiful. Yet, there was something that struck hard his heart about her. Once he had the first sight of her, his chest was so stuffed that he almost couldn’t breathe well. What was in her that struck him so strongly, he didn’t know. Even if he had, it wouldn’t have been the kind of thing that could be explained with words.

Then his attention was drawn to the way she dressed herself. Although he didn’t have a particular interest in clothing and he wasn’t the type of a person who takes notes of what women wore, he was somehow utterly impressed by the way she wore her clothes so comfortably. It could be said that he was almost moved. There were a fair number of women who were just good at choosing what to wear. There were far more who put decorations on themselves to show off. But she was completely different from such women. He wore her clothes very naturally, very gracefully, like a bird that flies to a distant world puts a special wind around its body. The clothes seemed to have acquired a new life by being put on her.

When she thanked for the illustration and went out with it, he was left speechless for a while. When the dusk came and the room sank in the darkness, he just sat in front of the desk, in an immobile daze.

Next day he called the publisher and cooked up a business so she would have to come to his office. When the business was taken care of, he asked her out for lunch. The two chatted over lunch. Despite the fifteen-year difference of their age, they had much in common. Whatever they talked about, their conversation clicked. Such experience was new for both of them. She was nervous at first, but soon started to relax, laughed a lot and talked a lot. You’re always a great dresser, he complimented when they parted. I love clothes, she said with a shy smile. I spend most of my paycheck on clothing.

From then on, they dated a few times. They sat together in quiet places and talked, instead of going somewhere special. They talked about their lives, about their jobs, about how they feel or think about many things. They could talk on and on tirelessly. They kept talking as if to fill a void. When they met for the fifth time, he asked her to marry him. But she had a boyfriend whom she had been with since high school. With the passage of time, their relationship had gone off the track and now they had reached a point where they had quarrels over trivial things every time they met. She enjoyed being with Tony Takitani more. Even so, she couldn’t severe the relationship with her boyfriend at once. She had her own feelings. And between her and Tony Takitani, there was a fifteen-year age difference. She was still young and didn’t have much experience in life. She couldn’t discern what that fifteen-year difference would mean in future. She said she needed time to think.

While she thought about it, Tony Takitani drank alone, every day. He couldn’t concentrate on his work. Loneliness suddenly became a burden, weighed him down, and made him suffer. Loneliness is like a prison, he thought. He just hadn’t noticed it so far. With desperate eyes, he kept staring at the thickness and coldness of the walls that surrounded him. If she says she doesn’t want to marry me, I might die just like this, he thought.

He went to see the girl and explained it squarely. He explained how lonely his life had been, how much he had lost, and how she made him realize all that.

She was an intelligent girl. She took a liking for Tony Takitani as a human. From the beginning she liked him, and she liked him more as she dated him. She didn’t know if it should be called love. But she felt there was something wonderful within him. I’ll be happy if I get together with this man, she thought. And the two got married.

The lonely period of Tony Takitani’s life ended. When he woke up in the morning, he looked for her. He felt relieved if he saw her sleeping next to him. When she wasn’t in his sight, he looked for her all around the house, feeling insecure. Not being lonely was, for him, a bit strange of a condition. For he was stalked by the fear of being lonely again, now that he ceased to be lonely. From time to time, when he thought about it, he was scared to the point of cold sweat. That fear continued for about three months after their marriage. But it gradually thinned away, as he got accustomed to the new life and as the possibility of her sudden disappearance became scant. He finally became calm and able to soak himself in the quiet happiness.

Once, they went to listen to Shozaburo Takitani’s performance. She wanted to know what kind of music her father-in-law was playing. Would your father mind if we went to his concert, she asked. I don’t think he would, he said. So they visited a club in Ginza where Shozaburo Takitani performed. Except for in his childhood, it was the first time Tony Takitani went out to listen to his father play. Shozaburo Takitani was playing the exact same kind of music he did in the past. They all were tunes Tony heard on record all the time since he was a child. Shozaburo’s play was very smooth, refined, and sweet. It was not art. But it was music, created masterfully by a first-class professional to put its audience in a pleasant mood. Tony Takitani piled up liquor glasses unlike his usual self and listened to the music.

As he listened to the music for a while, however, as if dusts accumulate in a narrow tube, slowly but steadily, something about the music suffocated him and made him ill at ease. The music felt slightly different from what Tony Takitani remembered as his father’s music. Of course it was a long time ago, and it was just a child’s ear. Yet, the difference seemed significant for him. It might be just a tiny difference. But it was important. He wanted to go up to the stage, grab his father’s arm, and ask him: what’s the difference, dad? But of course he didn’t do such a thing. He sipped his brandy without saying anything and listened to his father’s stage until the end. And he clapped his hands with his wife and went home.

There was nothing to cast a shadow upon their marriage. His work was going well as usual. They never quarreled. They often took a walk together, went to see movies, and traveled around. She, for her age, was a fairly talented housekeeper and knew moderation in everything. She did household choirs briskly and never caused unnecessary worries on her husband. There was only one thing that bothered Tony Takitani, however. It was the fact that she bought far too many clothes. When in view of clothes, she almost completely lost control. Her face changed in a moment. Even her voice changed. At first he thought she suddenly felt sick. Although the tendency was visible before they got married, it worsened considerably when they went to Europe on honeymoon. During the trip, she bought and bought an incredible number of clothes. In Milan and Paris, she made tours of boutiques from dawn to dark, as if possessed by something. They didn’t see anything. They went to neither the Duomo, nor the Louver. The only thing he remembered from the trip was the boutiques. Valentino, Missoni, San Laurant, Givancy, Feragamo, Armani, Cerutti, Jean-Franco Ferre… she kept buying one clothes after another, looking as if under a spell, and he followed her, paying the bills. He almost worried that the marks on his credit card might wear out.

Even after their return to Japan, the fervor didn’t calm down. Day after day, she kept on buying clothes. The number of her clothes rapidly increased. They had to order a few large wardrobes. They had a closet specially made to store her shoes. It wasn’t enough: they had to convert an entire room into a dressing room. It was a big house and there were more than enough rooms anyway. They weren’t on a tight budget either. And his wife was very good at dressing herself. New clothes seemed to be enough to make her happy. So I won’t complain, he thought. That’s fine, no one is perfect in this world.

But when her clothes started to overflow the dressing room, he couldn’t but feel uneasy. Once, when his wife was away, he counted them. According to his calculation, it would take close to two years to wear all the clothes even if she changed her clothes twice a day. It was too large of a number for any reasonable thought. He had to stop it at some point.


Post a Comment

<< Home