by Yoshiro Takayasu (translated by Toshiya Kamei)
Ryota dreamed he saw God, for the ninth time. He had quarreled with his girlfriend Misa earlier that day. Out of the blue, she said, “As beautiful as ever, don’t you think so too?”
“I saw them every year,” Ryota answered, glancing in the direction she pointed.
“Where?” Misa asked.
“In this park,” came his answer.
“What a liar you are!” she said in a mocking tone.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he inquired.
“I’ve been talking about that actress on the billboard.”
“I thought you meant the flowers in bloom over there.”
“No, I didn’t mean the flowers. How many times do I have to tell you? I mean that actress. You don’t pay attention to what I’m saying, do you?” She spat out in anger. Before long they got into a seemingly endless quarrel.
That night, when Ryota went to bed, he had trouble falling asleep, feeling quite unhappy. It was then that he had such a dream.
“What’s got you in such a bad mood?” God asked.
“Well, because…” Ryota then proceeded to say what had happened in the daytime.
“I’ve turned back time before. I could go back in time and listen to your quarrel with your girlfriend if you wish.”
“Yes, please do so.” Before Ryota had finished saying these words, God suddenly vanished and then reappeared while he took a breath. God said, “She had said nothing about the actress. All of a sudden she said, ‘As beautiful as ever.’ And then you replied, ‘I see them every year.’”
“I told you so. Just as I thought, she hadn’t said anything about the actress. But I wonder why she kept insisting she had mentioned her.”
“She thinks she had said aloud what she has thought to herself. She’s still somewhat telepathic.”
“What do you mean?” Ryota asked.
“Some time ago I told you that humans used to communicate through telepathy, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did. What’s that got to do with it?”
“Actually, while men have lost their telepathic abilities, women still have retained them to some degree, even though they aren’t sufficiently strong. Apparently, that’s why women think they have said what they have thought to themselves.”
“Are all women like that?” Ryota wondered aloud.
“Ever since ancient times, or so it seems. You must have read The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon, a tenth-century courtesan, when you were in high school. That diary is so typical of a blue stocking who believes she’s always right.”
“Well, she wrote in classical Japanese, ‘In spring the dawn is most beautiful, as the light sweeps over the mountains,’ but her sentences lack subjects.”
“Are you saying that it has no literary value?”
“Her writing provides a window into the aesthetic sense and lifestyle of the Heian period, so it has some value in that sense, but her sentences are incomplete. In modern translations the translators have added subjects.”
“Is Misa going to keep talking like that, without subjects? Can we get along well as a married couple?” Ryota wondered, worried.
“Who knows? It all depends on how well you can guess what she means.”
“Are women able to communicate with each other telepathically, even with their diminished telepathic abilities?”
“That’s the funny part. They hardly understand each other, but they think they actually do. Women are very strange creatures, if you ask me. Oh, speaking of which, I don’t remember exactly when, but one day I overheard a middle-aged couple’s quarrel. The wife said, ‘Please do that to that thing over there.’ Then her husband asked, ‘Who are you talking to?’ And she replied, ‘You, who else?’ He burst out, “How'm I supposed to know? Besides, what do you mean by that thing?’ She answered, ‘You don’t even know?” Hearing this conversation, their daughter said, ‘So thick-headed, Dad. You should’ve guessed it. It’s that thing.’ Then she hurried into the kitchen and took out the garbage.”
“Hmmm, women can understand each other without saying much.”
“The woman apparently wanted her husband to move a bunch of old newspapers to the front door. But in addition to taking them out, the daughter took care of the garbage when she saw it. That was the end of the matter.”
“They can’t be bothered to have proper conversations.”
“That’s right. But even so, funnily enough, such a couple can live happily, and their marriage doesn’t fall apart despite their lack of decent communication. As God, I find this kind of family ridiculous, so I intend to stay away from them. But humans care for their pets for a long time precisely because they know from the get-go dogs and cats don’t understand them. So humans still love them and don’t get annoyed even though their pets pay no heed to them. Maybe those who give up on having meaningful conversations can live a better life, without worrying, without getting upset,” God said. He then smiled with a chuckle before disappearing again.
About the Author: Yoshiro Takayasu lives in Togane, Chiba, where he edits Village Tsushin. He is the author of several poetry collections, including Mukashi mukashi and Jigenkyo. English translations of his fiction and poetry have appeared in The Broken Plate, Existere, The Dirty Goat, Metamorphoses, Nebo, and Visions International, among others.
About the Translator: Toshiya Kamei is the translator of books by Claudia Apablaza, Naoko Awa, Liliana Blum, Selfa Chew, Espido Freire, and Leticia Luna.