Haruki Murakami- Men Without Women
Here's the opening section of the last story in the collection, Men Without Women--the source of the collection's title, which is a pretty accurate thematic summation of about 90% of Murakami's writing, as well as an Ernest Hemingway nod (to which Murakami cops in the foreword).
JUST PAST ONE IN the morning, a phone call comes and wakes me up. The phone ringing is always more violent in the middle of the night. It sounds like somebody at work with ferocious metal fastenings, trying to wreck the very world. As a member of the human race myself, I of course must stop them. Which is why I get out of bed and go to the living room, and pick up the receiver.
A man's low voice informs me of something, of the fact that a woman has disappeared from this world for all time. The voice's owner was this woman's husband. Such was the only identification he gave for himself. And then he said this: My wife committed suicide on Wednesday this past week, and if nothing else I think I have got to tell you that, he said. If nothing else. As far as I heard, there wasn't a drop of emotion in his voice. It was like he was reading off a telegram. There was nearly no space between his words. A pure announcement. Information, no decoration. Period.
Now how did I respond to that? I'm sure I said something, but I can't remember what. Either way, for a while after there was silence. A silence like two people staring deeply, from opposite sides, into a gaping hole in the middle of the road. And then the man hung up just like that, without another word, like placing a fragile work of art gently on the floor. I stood there for some time after, holding onto the receiver without any real point. There in my white T-shirt and blue boxers.
How he even knew who I was, I have no idea. Had she dropped my name, that of an old lover? Why? And how did he get my home phone number (which was unlisted)? And in the first place, why me? Why had her husband had to expressly call me, and inform me that she had died? I highly doubted that she would have asked him to in her will. It had been a long, long time since we were together. We had only even seen each other once since then. We hadn't even talked on the phone.
But that, well, who really cares about that? The problem here is that he he didn't bother to give me a word of explanation. He'd believed he had to let me know that his wife had killed herself. Then he'd gotten hold of my home phone number from somewhere. And then he hadn't felt the need to give me any further details. Just left me right at the halfway point between knowledge and ignorance, where it certainly looked like he'd intended to leave me all along. Why in the world? Was there some thought he was trying to lead me to?
I can't even imagine. The question marks just keep on piling up, as if some child with a question mark stamp were trying to fill up a whole notebook with them.
So I'm still in the dark as to why she committed suicide, and how she chose to do it. I have neither the inclination nor the means to find out. I'd had no idea where she was living, or even that she was married, for that matter. Couldn't possibly have known what her new surname was (the man on the phone hadn't given his name). How long had they been married, anyway? Did they have a child? Children, even?
But I accepted what her husband had told me at face value. I didn't feel inclined to doubt him. So, then: after breaking up with me, she'd gone on living through this world, fallen in love (probably) with someone, gotten married, and then, for some reason, by some means, ended her own life on Wednesday of last week. If nothing else. There had, without a doubt, been something in his voice that was deeply bound to the world of the dead. In the stillness of the night, I could hear it vividly. I could even see the tension of a thread pulled taut, the sharp glimmer. By that line of thought--whether it was intentional or not--calling me at one in the morning had been, from his perspective, the right choice. One in the afternoon probably wouldn't have worked out.
When I finally placed the receiver down and returned to bed, my wife was awake.
"What was the call about? Did someone die?" she asked.
"No one died. Just a wrong number," I said, in a sleepy drawl.
She didn't believe me, of course. A hint of death was buried in my voice. The unrest stirred by the recently deceased is virulently contagious. It travels down phone lines as a faint quiver, mutating the vibrations of words, synchronizing the world with its oscillations. But my wife didn't say anything else. We lay there in the dark, leaning our ears to the silence, each with our own thoughts spinning through our heads.
P.S. will sincerely try and post about something besides Murakami next time (maybe)