“Sometimes things don’t work out. Sometimes all the conditions are right, but no catalyst steps in to perfect the potentialities. Sometimes the most important variable/vector that people leave out of their master plans is time, circumstance in sequence…”
Murakami sat down with two sweating dai-bins of Kirin 一番 (Ichi-ban) in a sack and three small glasses (juice glasses?) his jeans were new, and he was wearing a warm-looking cardigan sweater. He pulled one of the bottles out of the perfectly ordinary brown paper sack, popped the top off with a church key he had secreted in his front jeans pocket. He had been listening to me spout advice from the kitchen where he had been making and consuming ham sandwiches for one hundred forty-three millenia, sandwiches with individually-wrapped pieces of cheese and white bread gravid with mayonnaise. Sometimes they were egg salad sandwiches, but the activity and the devourer remained constant. Tanizaki was just outside the room on the balcony, sitting by a low table in his 甚平, (Jinbei), looking out over Manhattan. I couldn’t tell if he was listening.
“I’m just trying to wean us off of our old relationship. I know it will take some time, if it works, but the key is to seep into her slowly… normally…”
“Like water into rock- reminds me of something a poet once wrote,” I began, taking another opportunity to be verbose, “We are the ghosts of water, hiding in rock… something about geodes and the works of man on man. There was a nice metaphor comparing having teeth in one’s head to being in possession of a rock full of knives.”
My friend was becoming impatient with my need to get off topic, and Murakami sipped his beer resignedly.
“We know you’re talking about yourself,” he chastened.
He was right. If Murakami only taught me one thing, it was to just write it all down. All of it. No one wants to be tortured mid-pow-wow with the wishful remembrances of half-poems you only thought about writing. But give anyone all of anything that occurs to you anytime and you have a career.
I’ve failed as a writer.
“You see what I’m saying, though? You know I’m not necessarily talking to hear advice?”
One version of poetry holds that the simple observation of completeness is itself a work of art. Beheld with those eyes, all is complete in an instant, and all judgment is exchanged for forgiveness. God, to see with the mercy of the sculptor’s eyes, he who sees the embryo of genius already embedded in simpleton stone.
“I know. Go on.”
But it was Murakami who picked up the thread of conversation, refilling our glasses in the golden light of the afternoon, hypnotizing with that light made more golden as it passed through the beer he had raised to his lips, light pressed also through the slow fluid silicate vessels we saw as solid, yet invisible, objects.
“It’s true, what I think he’s getting at, though. Whether or not it works, in the end, well…”
He paused to enjoy the cold beer in his mouth immensely. The “he”, of course, was referring to me.
“In the end, I suppose there’s not always anything you can do about it either way. Do you really want to be invested in something like that?”
He directed the question to my friend.
I knew Murakami would show his colors eventually, finally betraying his serenity for a willful and trite nihilism, but I didn’t relish being lumped in with him like that, having him use me to justify him.
But the respect I felt for him, I had to make some final show of deference before giving up on him entirely.
“Is that really your lesson, Haruki, if I may call you that?”
“…Or are is your serenity an act of didactic wrongdoing? Is your quietude and your opposition to response, surprise, all of it, supposed to feel wrong? You sit there eating sandwiches and drinking beers, so many hundreds of them since I’ve known you, and you can tell me what each of them was made of, how fat the dew collected on the outside of the glasses. Goat-men, dreams, fealty to loss, fealty to victimhood- you die in such extravagant wonderlands. Methinks you don’t protest too much”
Murakami put his glass down on the table, only partially to the left of a ring of condensation already evaporating and losing its definition. He smiled and opened the other bottle, poured again. There was no man here, here instead was a method writ large, a temple of impossible alien machination on a dimly-lit planet. Were these things (the bend of the elbow, the massive, that is heavy, grin, the precision) intelligence or its ancestors? Human kin or monument?
He said nothing.
Tanizaki, without turning, put down the glass of sake he was sipping and began a discourse on the value of- the PRESENTATION of- the unseen.
“Junichiro, we’ve read your “In Praise of Shadows.” We are trying to uncover things here as they are, not as we imagine them to be.”
My friend was smoking now, pausing after the smoke had filtered into his lungs, and exhaling. “I don’t know. I don’t want to make a big deal of this, I just want it to go right. There’s no reason to get hopes up when what I want might not even be the best thing. I’m not looking for advice.”
“She is uncommonly beautiful, though, is she not?”
I had built up a fantasy of the girl in my mind, and she was tits and ass, she was cleavage and the power invested in that space, she was the bounty of youth and adventurous mercy between refractory periods. That is to say, I didn’t know this girl.
“Don’t go the way Murakami might be telling you to be ok with going, whether or not he’ll tell us if he’s for or against us. The industry of the will, uh, that is, desire becomes the driving, justifying force in all human relations only willingly.”
Tanizaki: “You love to hate yourself. Finish a poem for once, or admit that, for you, divorce from achievement is itself achievement and that it leaves you sated. The things you say make no sense, otherwise.”
My friend had begun to read. The last afternoon sun had slid a ransom note beneath the door. Tanizaki may have fallen asleep immediately following his outburst.
Fearing the worst, fearing Murakami might go back into the eternal kitchen and stand by the sink eating sandwiches, fearing my friend might leave to brood elsewhere without resolution, I recited loudly:
I need you,
I have made the decision
to need the regard
of your softened aspect.
Desire is the single motive force
“That is, it is only agency and ownership of events, right or wrong, that let anything really happen as opposed to simple occurrence.”
“But, you were saying, Time is the most important unacknowledged medium for love?”
“I’m saying that you have to take up agency, and that a part of that is acknowledging the possibility of loss, but not resignation to it.”
“But what was the metaphor you used earlier? ‘Getting the message of love from one heart to another is like making a cross-country telephone call- something with enough juice has to push that lightning across the miles of wires, the miles and yards of days/weeks/years before it arrives… Is the heart the only dynamo that can power the message across so many invisible miles of years strung out above our heads? Do you expect a guided stroke of lightning to the center of some distant vision’s chest?’ The way you talk, it sounds like all is lost before it’s begun.”
“Murakami is dishonest.” Thoughts of “shit, he’s used me again” began to convince me I, too, was a passive nihilist, but I pressed on.
“I would like to quote Mayakovsky, though he destroyed himself- another act of didactic wrongdoing, but forgive him for being in some fashion right in this instant-
The bull of the days is skewbald, the cart of years is slow. Our god is speed. The heart is our drum.
“I’d say history is full of the sentiment that the heart is dynamo enough.”
More beer all around, we stand and shout BONZAI!, Clapping after, and the evening begins.
“And some prefer nettles.” muttered a sleeping Tanizaki, who would wake up the next day to divorce his wives and build his houses into literary perpetuity.