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Tác giả: Haruki Murakami
Thể loại: Tiểu Thuyết
Biên tập: Truong Ngoc Tuan
Upload bìa: Minh Khoa
Language: English
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Chapter 13: The Rat’S First Letter (Postmarked December 21St, One Year Ago)
o how’s everything?
Seems like an awful long time since I saw you last. How many years is it now? What year was it?
I think I’ve gradually lost my sense of time. It’s like there’s this impossible flat blackbird flapping about over my head and I can’t count above three. You’ll have to excuse me, but why don’t you do the counting?
I skipped town without telling anybody and maybe you had your share of troubles because of it. Or maybe you were upset at me for leaving without a word to you. You know, I meant to set things straight with you any number of times, but I just couldn’t. I wrote a lot of letters and tore them all up. It should’ve been obvious, but there was no way I could explain to others what I couldn’t even explain to myself.
I guess.
I’ve never been good at writing letters. Everything comes out backwards. I use exactly the wrong words. If that isn’t bad enough, writing letters makes me more confused. And because I have no sense of humor, I get all discouraged with myself.
Generally, people who are good at writing letters have no need to write letters. They’ve got plenty of life to lead inside their own context. This, of course, is only my opinion. Maybe it’s impossible to live out a life in context.
It’s terribly cold now and my hands are numb. It’s like they aren’t my own hands. My brains, they aren’t like my own brains either. Right now it’s snowing. Snow like flakes of someone else’s brains. And it’ll pile up deeper and deeper like someone else’s brains too. (What is this bullshit all about anyway?)
Other than the cold, though, I’m doing fine. How about you? I won’t tell you my address, but don’t take it personally. It’s not like I’m trying to hide anything from you. I want you to know that. This is, you see, a delicate question for me. It’s just this feeling I’ve got that, if I told you my address, in that instant something inside me would change. I can’t put it very well.
It seems to me, though, that you always understand very well what I can’t say very well. Trouble is I end up being even worse at saying things well. It’s got to be an inborn fault.
Naturally everyone’s got faults.
My biggest fault is that the faults I was born with grow bigger each year. It’s like I was raising chickens inside me. The chickens lay eggs and the eggs hatch into other chickens, which then lay eggs. Is this any way to live a life? What with all these faults I’ve got going, I have to wonder. Sure, I get by. But in the end, that’s not the question, is it?
In any case, I’ve decided I’m not giving you my address. I’m sure things’ll be better that way. For me and for you.
Probably we’d have been better off born in nineteenth-century Russia. I’d have been Prince So-and-so and you Count Such-and-such. We’d go hunting together, fight, be rivals in love, have our metaphysical complaints, drink beer watching the sunset from the shores of the Black Sea. In our later years, the two of us would be implicated in the Something-or-other Rebellion and exiled to Siberia, where we’d die. Brilliant, don’t you think? Me, if I’d been born in the nineteenth century, I’m sure I could have written better novels. Maybe not your Dostoyevsky, but a known second-rate novelist. And what would you have been doing? Maybe you’d only have been Count Such-and-such straight through. That wouldn’t be so bad, just being Count Such-and-such. That’d be nice and nineteenth century.
But well, enough of this. To return to the twentieth century.
Let me tell you about the towns I’ve seen.
Not the town where I was born, but different other towns.
There really are a lot of different other towns in the world. Each with its own specific features, incomprehensible things that attract me. Which is why I’ve passed through my share of towns these past few years.
Wherever I end up, I just get off at, and there’s a small rotary where a map of the town is posted and a street of shops. That much is the same everywhere. Even the dogs look the same. First thing I do is a quick once-around the place before heading to a real estate agent to see about cheap room and board. Sure I’m an outsider and nobody in a small town will trust me right off, but as you know I can be decent enough if I put half a mind to it. Give me fifteen minutes, and I can generally get on good terms with most people. That much accomplished, I’ve found out where I can fit in and all sorts of information about the town.
Next, I look for work. This also begins with getting on good terms with a lot of different people. I’m sure this’d be a comedown for someone like you (and believe me, I’ve seen enough comedowns to last me) because you know you’re only going to stick around for four months anyway. But there’s nothing hard about getting on good terms with people. You find the local watering hole where all the kids hang out (every town has one—it’s like the town navel), you become a regular customer, meet people, get an introduction for some work. Of course, you come up with some likely name and life story. So that by now I’ve got a string of names and identities like you wouldn’t believe. At times I forget what I was like originally.
In the work department, I’ve done all kinds of jobs. Most have been boring, but still I enjoy the work. Most often it’s been at a gasoline station. Next is tending some rinky-dink bar. I’ve minded shop at bookstores, even worked at a radio station. I’ve hired out as a day laborer. Been a cosmetics salesman. I had quite a reputation as a salesman, let me tell you. And I’ve slept with my share of women. Sleeping with women each time with a different name and identity isn’t half bad.
You get the picture, in all its variations.
So now I’m twenty-nine, turning thirty in another nine months.
I still don’t know whether I’m cut out for this kind of life or not. I don’t know if there’s something universal about wanting to be a drifter. But as somebody once wrote somewhere, you need one of three things for a long life of wandering—a religious temperament, or an artistic temperament, or a psychic temperament. If you have one but only on the short side, an extended drifter’s existence is out of the question. In my case, I can’t see myself with any of them. In a pinch, I might say … no, better not.
Otherwise, I might end up opening the wrong door some day, only to find I can’t back out. Whatever, if the door’s been opened, I better make a go of it. I mean I can’t keep buying my kicks for the rest of my life, can I?
That’s about the size of it.
Like I said at the beginning (or did I?), when I think of you, I get a little uneasy. Because you remind me of when I was a comparatively regular guy.
Your friend,
The Rat
P.S.: I enclose a novel I wrote. It doesn’t mean anything to me anymore, so do whatever you want with it. I’m sending this special delivery to make sure it reaches you by December 24. Hope it gets there on time.
Anyway, Happy Birthday.
And by the way, Merry Christmas.
The Rat’s package was shoved all crumpled up into my apartment mailbox on December 29. Attached was a forwarding slip. It had been sent to my previous address. There’d been no way to tell him I’d moved.
Four pages of pale-green stationery packed solid with writing. I read the letter through three times before I brought out the envelope to check the blurred postmark. It was a place I’d never heard of. I got the atlas down from my bookshelf and looked the place up.
The Rat’s words had reached me from a small town on the northern tip of Honshu, smack in the middle of Aomori Prefecture. According to my book of train schedules, about an hour from the city of Aomori. Five trains stopped every day, two in the morning, one at noon, two in the evening.
I’d been to Aomori several times in December. Frigid. The traffic signals freeze.
I showed the letter to my wife, wife at the time, that is. All she could say was “poor guy.” What she probably meant was you poor guys. Hell, it makes no difference now.
I tossed the novel, around two hundred pages, into my desk drawer without bothering to read the title. I don’t know why, I just didn’t feel like reading it. The letter was enough.
I pulled a chair up in front of the heater and smoked three cigarettes.
The Rat’s next letter came in May the following year.
A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel - Haruki Murakami A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel