When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?

Thích Nhất Hạnh

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Tác giả: Haruki Murakami
Thể loại: Tiểu Thuyết
Biên tập: Truong Ngoc Tuan
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Language: English
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Chapter 14: The Rat’S Second Letter (Postmarked May, This Year)
ast letter I think maybe I was a little too chatty. Even so, I’ve forgotten completely what I said.
I changed addresses again. Some place totally different from any place I’ve been up to now. It’s really quiet here. Maybe a little too quiet.
In a sense, I’ve reached what is for me a final destination. I feel like I’ve come to where I was meant to come. What’s more, I feel I’ve had to swim against the current to get here. But that’s nothing I can pass judgment on.
What lousy writing! It’s so vague you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Or maybe you think I’m reading too much meaning into my fate. If that’s the case, then the blame is all mine.
I want you to know that the more I try to explain to you what’s going on with me, the more I start to digress like this. Still, I’m in good shape. Maybe better shape than I’ve ever been.
Let me put things more concretely.
Hereabouts, as I said earlier, it’s incredibly quiet. There’s nothing to do around here, so I read books (I’ve got enough books here to last me a decade) or listen to FM music or to records (got a whole lot here too). It’s been ten years since I listened to so much music. To my surprise, the Rolling Stones and Beach Boys are still going strong. Time really is one big continuous cloth, no? We habitually cut out pieces of time to fit us, so we tend to fool ourselves into thinking that time is our size, but it really goes on and on.
Here, there is nothing my size. There’s nobody around here to make himself the measure of everything, to praise or condemn others for their size.
Time keeps on flowing unchanged like a clear river too. Sometimes just being here I feel my slate has been cleaned, and I’m all the way back to my primal state. For example, if I catch sight of a car, it takes me a few seconds before I realize it’s a car. Sure, I must have some kind of fundamental awareness that it’s a car, but it doesn’t quite get across to my immediate waking consciousness. These experiences have been happening to me more and more lately. Maybe it’s because for a long time now I’ve been living by myself.
The nearest town is an hour and a half away by car. No, it’s not even a town. Imagine your smallest town, then reduce it to a skeleton. I doubt you can picture it. I guess you’d have to call it a town anyway. You can buy clothes and groceries and gasoline. And if you get an urge to see other human beings, they’re there to be seen.
All winter long the roads are frozen and almost no cars come through. Off the roads, it’s damp, so the ground is frosted over like sherbet. When there’s snowfall, it’s impossible to tell what’s road and what’s not. It’s a landscape that might as well be the end of the world.
I came here at the beginning of March. Driving through the thick of it, chains on the tires of the jeep. Just like being exiled to Siberia. But now it’s May and the snow has all melted. From April on, the mountains were rumbling with snowslides. Ever hear a snowslide? Right after a snowslide comes the most perfect silence. Complete, total silence. You lose almost all sense of where you are. It’s that quiet.
Sealed off in the mountains all this time, I haven’t slept with a woman for the last three months. Which isn’t bad, as far as that goes. All the same, if I stayed up here like this much longer, I know I’d lose all interest in people, and that’s not something I want to do. So I’m thinking that when the weather gets a little warmer I’ll stretch my legs and find myself a woman. I don’t want to brag, but finding women has never been much of a problem for me. So long as I don’t care—and staying here is living proof that I don’t care—then sex appeal’s easy, not a problem. It’s not a big deal for me to put the moves on. The problem is, I myself am not at ease with this ability of mine. That is to say, when things get to a certain point, I lose track of where I myself stop and where my sex appeal begins. It’s like where does Olivier stop and Othello begin? So midway when I find I’m not getting a return on all I’m putting into the situation, I toss everything overboard. Which makes problems for everyone all the way around. My whole life up to now has been nothing but one big repetition of this after another.
But this time I can be grateful (really, I am) that I don’t have anything to throw overboard. A great feeling. The only thing I could possibly throw overboard would be myself. Not such a bad idea, throwing myself overboard. No, this is getting to sound pathetic. The idea itself, though, isn’t pathetic in the least. I’m not feeling sorry for myself. It only sounds that way when I write it down.
Moan and groan.
What the hell was I talking about?
Women, that’s right.
Each woman has a drawer marked “beautiful,” stuffed full of all sorts of meaningless junk. That’s my specialty. I pull out those pieces of junk one by one, dust them off, and find some kind of meaning in them. That’s all that sex appeal really is, I think. But so what? What’s that good for? There’s nowhere to go from there short of stopping being myself.
So now I’m thinking about sex pure and simple. If I focus purely on sex, there’s no need to get all bent out of shape whether I’m feeling sorry for myself or not.
It’s like drinking beer on the shores of the Black Sea.
I just went back over what I’ve written so far. A few inconsistencies here and there, but pretty honest writing by my standards. All the more so because it’s boring.
I don’t even seem to be writing this letter to you. Probably the postbox is as far as my thinking goes. But don’t get on my case for that. It’s an hour and a half by jeep to the nearest postbox.
From here on, this letter is addressed to you.
I’ve got two favors to ask of you. Neither is in the particularly urgent category, so whenever you get around to taking care of them is fine. I’d really appreciate it. Three months ago I probably couldn’t have brought myself to ask anything of you. But now I can. That’s progress, I guess.
The first is a sort of sentimental request. Meaning it has to do with “the past.” Five years ago when I skipped town, I was in such a confused hurry, I forgot to say goodbye to a number of people. Specifically, you and J and this woman you don’t know. I guess I could probably see you again to tell you goodbye face-to-face, but with the other two I know I’ll never have the chance. So if you’re ever back there, can you say goodbye to them for me.
I know it’s a selfish request. I ought to write them myself. But honestly, I’d rather have you go back there and see them for me. I know my feelings will get across better that way. I’m including her address and phone number separately. If she’s moved or married by now, then it’s okay, you don’t have to see her. Leave things at that. But if she’s still at the same address, give her my best.
And be sure to give J my best too. Have a beer for me.
That’s one.
The other favor is maybe a bit odd.
I’m enclosing a photo. A picture of sheep. I’d like you to put it somewhere, I don’t care where, but someplace people can see it. I realize I’m making this request out of the blue, but I’ve got no one else I can ask. I’ll let you have every last ounce of my sex appeal if you do me this favor. I can’t tell you the reason why, though. This photo is important to me. Sometime, at some later date, I’ll explain everything to you.
I’m enclosing a check. Use it for whatever expenses you have. There’s no need for you to have to worry about money. I’m hard put even to find a way to use money here, and anyway at the moment it’s about the extent of what I can do for you.
Make sure you don’t forget to have a beer for me.
Your friend,
The Rat
I found the letter in my mailbox as I was leaving my apartment and read it at my desk at the office.
The postmark was obliterated beyond legibility. I tore open the flap. Inside the envelope was a check for one hundred thousand yen, a piece of paper with a woman’s name and address, and a black-and-white photograph of sheep. The letter was written on the same pale-green stationery as before and the check was drawn on a bank in Sapporo. Which would mean that the Rat had crossed further north to Hokkaido.
The bit about snowslides didn’t register with me, but it did strike me, as the Rat himself had said, as an honest letter. Besides, nobody sends a check for one hundred thousand yen as a joke. I opened my desk drawer and tossed in the whole lot, envelope and all.
Maybe it was because my marriage was falling apart at the time, but spring that year had no joy for me. My wife hadn’t come home in four days. Her toothbrush by the washbasin was caked and cracked like a fossil. The milk in the refrigerator smelled sour, and the cat was always hungry. A lazy spring sun poured in on this state of affairs. At least sunlight is always free.
A long, drawn-out dead-end street—probably just what she meant.
A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel - Haruki Murakami A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel