On Meeting My 100 Percent Woman One Fine April Morning

 

by MURAKAMI Haruki

translated by Kevin Flanagan and Tamotsu Omi

 

Haruki Murakami

 

BORN IN KOBE IN 19'49, HARUKI MURAKAMI STUDIED AT WASEDA UNIVERSITY, THEN MANAGED A JAZZ BAR IN TOKYO FROM 1974 TO 1981. HE RECEIVED THE NOMA LITERARY AWARD FOR NEW WRITERS FOR HIS NOVEL A WILD SHEEP CHASE. THE END OF THE WORLD AND THE HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND WERE AWARDED THE TANIZAKI PRIZE. His NORWEGIAN WOOD SOLD MORE THAN FOUR MILLION COPIES, AND DANCE, DANCE, DANCE, HIS MOST RECENT NOVEL, HAS SOLD MORE THAN A MILLION COPIES TO DATE.

 

One fine April morning, I passed my 100 percent woman on a Harajuku back street.

She wasn't an especially pretty woman. It wasn't that she was wearing fine clothes, either. In the back, her hair still showed how she'd slept on it; and her age must already have been close to thirty. Nonetheless, even from fifty meters away, I knew it: she is the 100 percent woman for me. From the moment her figure caught my eye, my chest shook wildly; my mouth was parched dry as a desert.

Maybe you have a type of woman that you like. For example, you think, women with slender ankles are good; or, all in all, it's women with big eyes; or it's definitely women with pretty fingers; or, I don't understand it, but I'm attracted to women who take a lot of time to eat a meal-something like that. Of course, I have that kind of preference. I've even been distracted, eating at a restaurant, by the shape of a woman's nose at the next table.

But no one can "typify" the 100 percent woman at all.

I absolutely cannot even remember what her nose looked like-not even whether she had a nose or not, only that she wasn't especially beautiful. How bizarre!

I tell someone, "Yesterday I passed my one hundred percent woman on the street."

"Hmm," he replies, "was she a beauty?"

"No, it wasn't that."

"Oh, she was the type you like?"

"That I don't remember. What shape her eyes were or whether her breasts were big or small, I don't remember anything at all about that."

"That's strange, isn't it?"

"Really strange."

"So," he said, sounding bored, "did you do anything, speak to her, follow her, huh?"

"I didn't do anything," I said. "Only just passed her."

She was walking from east to west and I was heading west to east. It was a very happy April morning. I think I would have liked to have a talk with her, even thirty minutes would have been fine. I would have liked to hear about her life; I would have liked to open up about mine. And, more than anything, I think I'd like to clear up the facts about the kind of fate that led us to pass on a Harajuku back street one fine morning in April 1981. No doubt there's some kind of tender secret in there, just like the ones in the souls of old-time machines.

After that talk we would have lunch somewhere, maybe see a movie, go to a hotel lounge and drink cocktails or something. If everything went well, after that I might even be able to sleep with her.

Opportunity knocks on the door of my heart.

The distance separating her and myself is already closing down to only fifteen meters.

Now, how in the world should I speak up to her?

"Good morning. Would you please speak with me for just thirty minutes?"

That's absurd. It sounds like an insurance come-on.

"Excuse me, is there a twenty-four-hour cleaning shop around here?"

This is absurd, too. First of all, I'm not carrying a laundry basket, am I? Maybe it would be best to speak out sincerely. "Good morning. You really are my one hundred percent woman."

She probably wouldn't believe that confession. Besides, even if she believed it, she might think she didn't want to talk to me at all. Even if I'm your 100 percent woman, you really are not my 100 percent man, she might say. If it should come to that, no doubt I'd just end up completely flustered. I'm already thirty-two, and when you get down to it, that's what getting older is like.

In front of a flower shop, I pass her. A slight, warm puff of air touches my skin. Water is running on the asphalt sidewalk; the smell of roses is in the air. I can't speak out to her. She is wearing a white sweater, she's carrying an envelope that isn't stamped yet in her right hand. She's written someone a letter. Since she has extremely sleepy eyes, maybe she spent all night writing it. And all of her secrets might be carried inside that envelope.

After walking on a few more steps, when I turned around, her figure had already disappeared into the crowd.

Of course, now I know exactly how I should have spoken up to her then. But, no matter what, its such a long confession I know I wouldn't have been able to say it well. I'm always thinking of things like this that aren't realistic.

Anyway, that confession starts, "once upon a time," and ends, "Isn't that a sad story?"

 

Once upon a time, in a certain place, there was a young boy and a young girl. The young boy was eighteen; the young girl was sixteen. He was not an especially handsome boy; she was not an especially pretty girl, either. They were an average young man and young woman, ~st like lonely people anywhere. But they believed firmly, without doubt, that somewhere in this world their perfect 100 percent partners really existed.

One day It happened that the two suddenly met at a street corner. "What a surprise! I've been looking for you for a long time.

You might not believe this, but you are the one hundred percent woman for me," the man says to the young woman.

The young woman says to the young man, "You yourself are my one-hundred percent man, too. In every way you are what I imagined. This really seems like a dream!"

The couple sat on a park bench, and they continued talking without ever getting tired. The two were no longer lonely. How wonderful to claim a 100 percent partner and be claimed as one

However, a tiny, really tiny, doubt drifted across their hearts; could It really be all right for a dream to come completely true this simply?

When the conversation happened to pause, the young man spoke like this.

"'Well, shall we give this another try? If we're really, truly the one hundred percent lovers for each other, surely, no doubt, we can meet again sometime, somewhere. And this next time we meet if we're really each other's one hundred percent, then let's get married right away. OK?"

'OK," the young woman said.

And the two parted.

However, if the truth be told, it wasn't really necessary to give it another try. That's because they were really and truly the 100 percent lovers for each other. Now, it came to pass that the two were tossed about in the usual waves of fate.

One winter, the two caught a bad flu that was going around that year. After wandering on the borderline of life and death for several weeks, they ended up having quite lost their old memories. When they came to, the insides of their heads, like D. H. Lawrence's childhood savings bank, were empty.

But since the two were a wise and patient young man and young woman, piling effort upon effort, they put new knowledge and feeling into themselves again, and they were able to return to society splendidly. In fact, they even became able to do things like transfer on the subway or send a special-delivery letter at the post office. And they were even able to regain 75 percent or 85 percent of their ability to fall In love.

In that way, the young man became thirty-two, the young woman became thirty. Time went by surprisingly fast

And one fine April morning, in order to have breakfast coffee, the young man was headed from west to east on a Harajuku back street, and in order to buy a special-delivery stamp the young woman was headed from east to west on the same street. In the middle of the block the couple passed. A weak light from their lost memories shone out for one instant in their hearts.

She is the 100 percent woman for me.

He is the 100 percent man for me.

However, the light of their memories was too weak, and their words didn't rise as they had fourteen years ago. The couple passed without words, and they disappeared like that completely into the crowd.

Isn't that a sad story?

That's what I should have tried to tell her.