Night came, settling with the heat, and cast some things in stark relief and others into shadow. The world was saturated with regret and consolation, people and things that went before.
It's really scary to think about it, though. Before I was even born, I already had everything I needed to have a baby of my own. In some ways, I was even more prepared than I am now. Set up to give birth, before I was even born... This isn't just in books, though. It's happening now, as we speak, inside of me. I wish I could rip out all those parts of me, the parts already rushing to give birth. Why does it have to be like this? —Midoriko
While the rest of us walked around with pens or boxcuters, Rie carried these scissors, safely holstered in the pocket of her apron. I remember the first time I saw the pretty lily-of-the-valley engraved on the part between the handle and the blade, and how Rie slipped them in a leather sheath for safe-keeping. Seeing Rie working with her personal pair of scissors when the rest of us made do with whatever plastic-handled hunk we found laying around, I knew I had encountered something special.
(Sengawa—) "It's bad enough when you have financial security like me. For most women, there's no way they could keep on working. So much pressure. And everything becomes their husband's fault. There's a million articles and books about it. Look at all the novels women writers publish once they're mothers. They're all about how hard it is to have kids and to raise them. THen they're weirdly grateful about it all, too. All that miracle of life crap. Authors can't afford to have middle-class values. If you ask me, once a writer starts going in that direction, their career's pretty much over."
I asked if she was okay. She didn't answer, staring back at me through the mirror. [...] How can being held explain so much about the other person's body?
"I wonder if maybe you're so kind that no one's ever noticed."
"What do you mean?"
"This happens with all kinds of things, not just kindness. It's like people only pick up on things when they're somewhere in the middle, not too strong, not too weak."
"But you caught on?" I smiled.
"Exactly," Aizawa laughed. "Maybe this is a very special day. THe day that someone finally understood how kind you truly are."
"Sometimes when [young people] are about to go through radiotherapy or chemo, they freeze their sperm or eggs so they can use them later. To give them the option of having kids, once they're better. Noriko had done that. But then she died, leaving just her eggs. I can't imagine how hard it was for her mother. That woman was an extremely thoughtful person. She thanked all the doctors and nurses, but when it was just the two of us, she started crying and told me: 'Maybe if I used those eggs, I could have Noriko again.'"
I was speechless.
(Rika—) "For better or worse, living with someone is nothing but frcition, the collision of incompatible ideals. It takes trust to make it viable. I mean, love is basically a drug, right? Without love and trust, resentment is the only thing that's left. And that's where we found ourselvevs, real fast."
(Rika—) "[...] Are you telling me that if you register with city hall as husband and wife and have the money to get treatment, that makes you worthy of being a parent?"
"If you want a kid, there's no need to get wrapped up in a man's desire," Rika declared. "There's no need to involve women's desire, either. There's no need to get physical. All you need is the will."
(Yuriko—) "It's always about [the parents]. They're only thinking about themselves. They never think about the poor kid being born. No one gives a damn how that child is going to feel."
"Parents want to hear their kids say 'I'm happy I was born,' to hear their beliefs reinforced. That's why parents and doctors are always making new life, even though no one asked for it."
"[My dad] used to tell me, 'People are strange, Jun. They know nothing lasts forever, but still find time to laugh and cry and get upset, laboring over things and breaking things aprt. I know it seems like none of it makes sense. But son, these things make life worth living. So don't let anything get you down.'"
Yuriko had been smiling, but then she narrowed her eyes, like she was hovering between laughter and tears, then looked at me, determined not to cry. In that moment, all I wanted was to hold her. To wrap myself around her. Not with words, and not with my arms. In another way entirely. In some other, undiscoverable way — I wanted to embrace her, to hold her skinny shoulders and her tiny back. All I wanted was to hold her. But instead I wiped away the tears and nodded.
"I always thought it was so funny. Once you hit eighty-five or ninety, you gotta figure you've got what, like five or ten years left ot live, right? I mean, you know you're gonna die before too long. That's gotta be weird. Seriously, what's that feel like? To say to yourself I might not be around this time next year. Know what I mean? You know that you're not dying someday. You're dying soon. What do you think that feels like?"
"Wow, hard to say."
"Folks that age always look so calm. I wonder if they really feel that way, though. What are they really thinking?"
The sensation that the world is slowly dying feels good. The view is unchanged since that day I first happened on the store. Early in the morning there are no living creatures in sight other than the occasional suit-clad salaryman rushing past.
There are only offices here, but still some of the customers who come into the convenience store look like ordinary residents, and I always wonder where on earth they live. I absently imagine them asleep somewhere within this cast-off-cicada-shell world.
A convenience store is a forcibly normalized environment where foreign matter is immediately eliminated.
When you work in a convenience store, people often look down on you for working there. I find this fascinating, and I like to look them in the face when they do this to me. And as I do so I always think: that's what a human is.
And sometimes even those who are doing the same job are biased against it. Before I knew what I was doing, I looked Shirahara in the face.
I find the shape of people's eyes particularly interesting when they're being condescending. I see a wariness or a fear of being contradicted or sometimes a belligerent spark ready to jump on any attack. And if they're unaware of being condescending, their glazed-over eyeballs are steeped in a fluid mix of ecstasy and a sense of superiority.
They were harsh words, but he muttered them so quietly I somehow didn't get the feeling he really was all that angry. From where I stood, there were two types of prejudiced people — those who had a deep-rooted urge for prejudice and those who unthinkingly repeated a barrage of slurs they'd heard somewhere.
"So even though you hate people meddling in your life, you're deliberately choosing a lifestyle they won't be able to criticize?"
Surely that was tantamount to accepting society wholesale I thought, surprised.
So that was it: now that she thinks he's "one of us" she can lecture him. She's far happier thinking her sister is normal, even if she has a lot of problems, than she is having an abnormal sister for whom everything is fine. For her, normality — however messy — is far more comprehensible.
I noticed that her way of speaking had shifted slightly. What kind of people was she surrounding herself with these days?
"When everything is over? [...]"
Kojima raked the hair from her face and answered me slowly, dwelling on each word.
"We'll understand some things while we're alive and some after we die. But it doesn't really matter when it happens. What matters is that all the pain and all the sadness have meaning."
"Know what I think?" she said. "They aren't even thinking. Not at all. They're just doing what they've seen other people do, following blindly. They don't know what it means, or why they're doing it. [...]"
"When they say that they're grossed out, they're lying. They're just scared. They're terrified. I don't mean they're scared of the way your eyes look or anything. They're scared to admit there's anything they don't understand. They can't do anything on their own, so they band together, but they aren't really friends, and when something in the world stands out, they get scared and try to destroy it. They try to get rid of it. In reality, they're as scared as anyone, but they trick themselves out of it. They're trying to find peace, but the more they hide, the more numb they become."
"Nobody does anything because they have the right. They do it because they want to."
"See? How can you do something to me that you'd never want done to your own flesh and blood?"
"Those two things have nothing to do with each other. Why can't I do things to people that I don't want other people doing to my sister?
For people to actually live by some golden rule, we'd have to be living in a world with no contradictions. But we don't live in a world like that. No one does. People do what works for them, whatever makes them feel good. But because nobody likes getting stepped on, people start spouting crap about being good to others, being considerate, whatever. Tell me I'm wrong. Everyone does things they don't want people doing back."
I called for Peter to look, tearing up as I sorted through the pile. I passed the baby photographs around to his grandmother and his mother.
"And god, that dress," Fran squealed, singling out a photograph in the small stack amassed in her lap. "You can tell your mother just adored dressing you up."
... Empirical science, empiricism, takes no account of the soul, no account of what constitutes and determines personal being. Perhaps there is a philosophical as well as a clinical lesson here: that in Korsakov's, or dementia, or other such catastrophes, however great the organic damage and Humean dissolution, there remains the undiminished possibility of reintegration by art, by communion.
If we wish to know about a person, we ask 'what is their story — their real, inmost story?' — for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us — through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives — we are each of us unique.
To be ourselves we must have ourselves — possess, if need be re-possess, our life-stories. We must 'recollect' ourselves, recollect the inner drama, the narrative, of ourselves. A person needs such a narrative, a continuous inner narrative, to maintain their identity, their self.
... a quiet garden, the non-human order, making no social or human demands upon [a patient], allows this identity-delirium to relax, to subside; and by their quiet, non-human self suffiiency and completeness allow [the patient] a rare quietness and self-sufficiency of their own, by offering (beneath, or beyond, all merely human identities and relations) a deep wordless communion with Nature itself, and with this the restored sense of being in the world, being real.