Sunday, 31 May 2009

Accuracy of death 8

I decided to move closer, saying “What’s wrong?” as if I had just been present by chance. The man standing by her side was trying to figure our my identity. He was staring me up and down.

“Mr Chiba, please save me” she got up, and tried to grab hold of my arm. I was not wearing gloves, so I avoided it.

“Has something happened?” It was a pain to ask as though I had no idea about something I already half understood.

“This man, umm, I said before” her speech was broken, so I made a good ‘guess’.

“The man on the phone?”

“That’s right.”

“Who are you?” the man appeared to have more gumption now than he had from afar. It is just, he did not have the countenance of a well-mannered company employee. He had a sharp look, and being stared at made me uncomfortable. The shoulders of his black jacket were being wet by the rain, but he did not appear concerned.

“I am just an acquaintance.” When I said it, Fujiki Ichikei looked sad and removed her gaze. “And you are?” I asked.

“I have business with her” I held back from saying; so you have no intention of talking honestly then?

At this point, Fujiki Ichikei began running rapidly. Even though she, who had been standing like a withered plant, gave no warning of moving, she suddenly fled. It was not me, but him who let out a gasp of “Ah!”

Her form was terrible, but the way she ran conveyed her desperation. As she ran her hands swung wildly, her head slanted and she looked likely to drop her bag. “Mr Chiba, I’m sorry, see you again” I heard her cry from a distance. Her loud voice echoed about the street; it had a good sound.

“Don’t get in my way” the man advanced on me. He was probably more excited than he realised; he lent forward and flew at me with force. The same instant that I thought “Scary!” He lost his balance and fell.

There was a smack. I fell to the ground with him in my arms. Under my bottom was a manhole cover, on which rain water had collected. This wet the trousers I was wearing, and I felt the cold on my skin. Then I realised, I was touching him bare-handed. Why do humans have such a taste for causing problems? For a tired moment, I stared at his profile.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Accuracy of death 7

For four days, I did not do anything much that could be called work. No, in fact, as I did not meet Fujiki Ichikei until I was phoned by the investigation department it was not ‘anything much’ but rather ‘anything at all.’

During those four days, I wandered around inner city CD shops, enjoying music in front of the listening posts until the shop attendants gave me suspicious glances, I wandered around parks at midnight, I watched youths attacking groups of salary-men, and I read all the music magazines in the bookshops.

In the magazines, an interview was published with the producer my colleague had feverishly described as a ‘genius’ the other day. I did not know his name, but I had listened to several of the CDs that he was introduced as having produced. I remembered all of them as masterpieces, so I admitted; I see, he is a genius. When it is a matter of music, I am generously inclined towards humans.

Amongst his words was the character for ‘death’, and my eyes were drawn to it. “Before I die, I am waiting to come across a truly new talent” was written. Whether it was firm self-belief, or steady faith, I envied his vitality. I had no intention at all of quitting my job but, even so, I had none of the passion that oozed from this producer. Is that it? I thought. What I lack is passion for my work.

The phone rang with a call from the inspection office just as I pushed a button on the listening booth, so panicking, I left the shop.

“How is it?” came the question. They appeared to be doing a spot check, where they would contact us without warning, and check how work was going.

“I am doing it.” I answered ambiguously. It was a reply without excitement or enthusiasm.

“If you can give your report, then do so as soon as possible.” Came the inevitable reply.

“It might take up to the last minute.” This was also the same answer as always. Of course, it was a lie. I could have presented the report at that moment. Not just with Fujiki Ichikei, but in any situation, I could get by writing ‘satisfactory’ and having done with it. But usually those of us in the investigation department do not do so. Up until the last minute we walk about town in human form. Why? It is to enjoy lots of music.

“Approximately, how does it feel?” they asked finally.

“Probably ‘satisfactory’, I think.”

This kind of conversation, whether it was a customary occurrence, or a courtesy, was becoming a mere procedure.

Without change, she left the office at the usual time. Perhaps I imagined it, but her shoulders seemed to be more hunched than last time, and she gave off an appropriate air for someone approaching death.

She held an umbrella in the drizzling rain, and scurried forward. I followed her thinking she would head for the tube station, but contrary to my expectation she passed the entrance to the tube. She crossed at the intersection.

She proceeded along a colonnade lined with famous brand-name shops, and continued more and more into a sordid area. In a roofed pedestrian-only walkway, it was busy. Game arcades and fast food restaurants stood in a row, and piercing noises polluted the air.

Here, she stopped and stood. She sat on a bench near to a fountain that had been placed in the middle of the street.

Her head was lowered, and she held a woman’s fashion magazine at her chest, but she gave no sign of reading it. Perhaps she is waiting for someone, the thought struck me. The magazine seemed like a mark for a counterpart she had never met.

I had not expected that Fujiki Ichikei would have someone to wait for. Who could it be? If it was a friend or a acquaintance, there was no need to be so nervous. At that point, a possibility occurred to me. Perhaps it was that claimant. Perhaps, objecting to the complete lack of improvement in her daily life, she had thought that if there was even a small chance of a saviour, she would take the gamble. No, perhaps she had decided that, for example, even if there was no improvement, any event at all was better than her completely unchanging daily life. And so, she has decided to meet a claimant who can only be thought of as a pervert. It was very possible.

As I thought this, a middle-aged man strode towards the bench she was sitting at. He appeared to be in his early forties. He had shoulder-length permed hair, and wore coloured glasses. He wore all-black, medium-sized clothes, I imagined that this was not a person from an honest trade. In order to not obstruct passers by I moved close to a wall, and watched the situation.

The man spoke out to Fujiki Ichikei. She looked at the man with a fearful face, but for an instant, an expression of disappointment clearly floated across that face.

No matter how favourable the eye that looked on the middle-aged man, he could not be classified as a handsome man. On top of that, he did not look equipped to make a woman happy. In other words, he did not have enough charm to make up for his nonsensical claims. She must have sensed that in the instant she saw him.

I thought that he might also be disappointed when he saw her, but I was mistaken. When he met her eyes, the man gave a mood as if he had said ‘I see’, but gave no open indication of disillusionment.

The man spoke to her, and went to lead her towards the back of the town. She hesitated for a considerable time, but finally walked with the man.

However this unfolds, it can not have a happy result; I had already started to give up on her.

I have often witnessed unworldly women taken from their daily lives by unexpectedly appearing men. There are women who enter the entertainment industry and break their bodies with harsh work, there are those who make nothing but debt, losing their fortunes. I am not very interested in human tragedy, so I do not feel sympathy or compassion, but for the moment I imagined; so Fujiki Ichikei is going to be dragged down that path.

Following behind them, I entered a side street. When I did so I saw the man twenty meters ahead dragging Fujiki Ichikei against her will. In front of the man was a karaoke shop. On a gaudily illuminated building, the word ‘karaoke’ was set.

I do not really like karaoke. Even though I adore listening to music. I have entered a karaoke shop as part of my work, but it was so unpleasant that I wanted to flee. I do not really understand why, but in my reasoning, there is a deep gap that is hard to traverse between music and karaoke. It is not a question of which side is better, it is merely that I can only enjoy one side, and can not cross to the other side; I think it is something like that.

I was able to guess why the man was trying to get her to go into the shop with him. If they enter the shop, private rooms are prepared, so that songs can be sung just as they have written; ‘In a natural voice; it would be suitable for closing the distance between them. Of course, once they had entered the room, he might intend to pounce on her, or he might simply want to let off some steam; neither case would be strange.

She was very reluctant. She was on the verge of squatting on the floor. She also looked likely to drop her umbrella. After this, it was no longer my concern, I thought. It is not my job to solve troubles between men and women. I went to turn my back, but just at that moment a voice flew forth.

“Mr Chiba! Please save me!”

It was a clear-cut, loud voice. Like a trumpet sounding deeply, Fujiki Ichikei called a name. My name; even as I realised this, time passed.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Accuracy of death 6

When I next met Fujiki Ichikei it was two days later, and it was drizzling. I waited in front of her office building, saw her as she left through the automatic door, and tracked after her. Cars passed along the road to the side, pushing through the water that had collected in the gutter, making sounds like waves.

Perhaps because she rushed more than last time, it was hard for me to follow her. Once I had got very close to her, I extended a gloved hand, and tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around with a start. It was as if I had poured hot water on a sleeping cat; it was such a sensitive reaction that I was staggered.

Seeing my face, “Ah,” she gave off a small voice, and took on a relieved hue. It appeared that she was not afraid of me.

“The thing is” I took a handkerchief from my pocket “I wanted to return this.”

“Eh, is that mine?”

“Yes, before, when I spilled beer you lent it to me.”

“Oh, right.” Her face darkened and she twisted her neck. It was a lie. In fact, I had taken it from her pocket when I put her on a taxi.

“Thank you for last time, I don’t remember it well” She bowed as she spoke incoherently.

“I was wandering if you couldn’t talk with me again”

She looked around her restlessly.

It seemed more like caution than self-consciousness so, “Perhaps I shouldn’t have asked?” I showed some reserve.

“N-no.” she twisted her neck. “Um, the thing is, he might be nearby.”


“I might have said about it before, but there is an old guy who phones in with claims.”

“The person who complains to you personally?”

“Yes.” Her voice was small. “He phoned again today, and said things like, ‘I want to meet you.’”

“That’s scary.”

“So I wonder if he is nearby.”

So I got a taxi and took us immediately to the next town. I thought she might refuse my pushy approach, but fortunately she did not.

When we entered a coffee shop I had never seen before, she looked relieved and said “It should be safe in here”, relaxing her shoulders.

“That caller is creepy isn’t he” I matched her in conversation. It was not that I was completely insistent on hearing her talk, but if I could find out how bad daily life for her was, that would be enough to write her report; and more than anything else, if I listened to her worries like this I could get a sense of satisfaction that I was doing my job.

“At first, it was a complaint that the eject button on his video deck was broken.”

“If only you would speak a little louder.” Before I was conscious of it, I had said it.


“When you speak quietly it sounds gloomy.” Even without speaking she had a gloomy air, so I thought that at least she should brighten her tone.

“When I am at work I make an effort to use a brighter tone”

I should hope so, I thought. If she spoke with this voice, the callers would have even more to complain about.

“The people who get put through to me are all making trivial complaints, so all I do is listen to them and apologise earnestly, ‘please forgive us, please forgive us’ repeatedly.”

“I think I’m going to get depressed just by imagining it.”

“At first he was like that as well, but half way through he became strange. Suddenly he said ‘apologise once more’.”

“Once more?”

“he said ‘Apologise once more’. Of course, I apologized again, but he just repeated that. Again and again. He kept saying ‘once more’. Towards the end he got angry, telling me to say something.”

“Maybe he gets sexual excitement when girls apologise to him.” I did not have any evidence, but I was often surprised by human’s sexual tastes, so I did not think it impossible.

Her face blushed when she heard ‘sexual excitement’.

“And that was the end for that day, but he phoned again the next day. This time it was the television.”


“He said that the picture got narrower and narrower, then suddenly disappeared. Of course I said we would send a repair man, but he said that was unnecessary, and that I should explain the cause.”

“The cause of the problem?”

“There’s no way I could know the cause.”

“That’s not your job.”

“Because I’m complaints handling. I’ve never seen that television. He said I could say anything; so speak. In a louder voice, more clearly; he said.”

“He probably didn’t mind about the contents of the conversation. He just wanted to talk to you.” When I said it, she made a disgusted face.

“Next was a radio cassette player.”

“Music!” I shouted out without thinking. I became embarrassed at myself. “Was the radio cassette player broken?” I attempted to smooth my outburst over.

“I’m sure that was a lie as well.” She twisted her face. “He said that he could not get a cd out of the machine, and told me to sing the song.”

“That’s suspicious.”

“Right? He kept saying, ‘do you know this song? Try and sing it.’”

“The thing that needs repairing is that customer’s head. It’s horrible. And eventually, I suppose he said he wanted to meet you?”

“Yes.” She looked at the floor and spoke in a feeble voice. “After harping on and on about a broken DVD player, he asked me if I wouldn’t meet him somewhere.”

“Perhaps he likes you.”
“Me?” I was surprised that she had not made the assumption.

“He might have found your service enchanting” Perhaps if that was true, she might lose her desire to die.

“No way…” she fluttered, and showed a little happiness, but soon realised; “I’m not happy about being liked by such a weird person.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” An almost insane complaining customer was unlikely to make her happy, and it was hard to imagine the gloomy girl having a bright future in a couple with a complaint claimant.

She was quiet for a while. As I worried about whether I should say something, I looked out of the window, and a frowning pedestrian who walked carrying an umbrella came into view. Puddles had gathered unevenly on the pavement, carving the ground unevenly.

“Recently there’s been a lot of rain, hasn’t there.”

“When I work, it always rains.” I confided.

“You’re a rain man aren’t you?” She smiled, but I did not understand what was funny. However, at that point, an old question popped into mind.

“And is that what a snowman is as well?”


“Someone who, when they are about to do something, it snows?”

She burst out laughing; “That’s funny.” And clapped her hands.

I became serious. I was unwilling to have my serious remark mistaken for humour. Because I did not understand what was funny, I was unable to move the conversation on. Pitifully, this experience is extremely common for me.

After a while, she let her voice out; “What exactly is my life?” It was as if she had been holding back, but now was boiling over, and I was startled. It resembled the voice of a woman who had thrown herself down a hole she could not crawl out from, and who wondered cajolingly “I don’t suppose a rope will come down…”

Perhaps she is asking for me to save her, I thought. She looked as though she expected this man in front of her to pluck her out of her low-flying life with nothing good in it. In fact, this time I had quite a charming appearance. This was not a welcome thing. Sadly, it was not useful, and it strayed from the classification of my work. Among my colleagues are those who think things like; because their marks are going to die in a week, they at least want to give them good memories of that short time, but I had no such interests. That is the same as decorating hair that is about to be cut. Either way, the fact that the hair is about to be cut will not change, so there is no meaning to doing anything to it. Just as the barber will not spare hair, I will not spare the girl.