Saturday, May 1, 2010

"A 32-Year Old Day Tripper"

"A 32-Year Old Day Tripper" by Haruki Murakami

    I'm thirty-two and she's eighteen, and... every time I say that to myself, it just always sounds so boring.

    I'm not yet thirty-three, and she's still eighteen... that'll do.

    The two of us are simply friends; nothing more, nothing less. I have a wife, and she has no less than six boyfriends. On weekdays she goes out with these six boyfriends, and one Sunday a month she goes out with me. The other Sundays she watches TV at home. She's as cute as a walrus when she's watching TV.

    She was born in 1963, the same year President Kennedy was shot and killed. And the first time I asked a girl out on a date. And the popular song at the time was... Cliff Richard's “Summer Holiday”?

    Well, whatever.

    At any rate, that's the sort of year she was born into.

    That I would be going on dates with a girl born that year would have been inconceivable then. Even now it feels impossible. Like going to the other side of the moon to have a smoke.

    The general consensus of our peers is that “Young girls are boring, man!” Nevertheless, these  very same guys date young girls too, all the time. So do you think they eventually discover young girls that aren't boring? Nah, it doesn't mean that at all. It's actually the boringness of the girls that attracts them.  They're just playing a complicated game, a game they honestly enjoy. A game where they wash their faces with buckets full of the young girls' boredom water, while they don't let their lady friends have a single drop.

    At least, that's how it seems to me.

    In truth, nine girls out of ten are boring things. However, girls don't realize that. Girls are young, beautiful, and full of curiosity.  The boringness of their own selves is completely unrelated to the things that young girls are thinking about.


    I have nothing to criticize them for, and again, no reason to dislike them. On the contrary, I like girls. Girls make me remember the times when I was a boring young man. That is, how should I put it, quite wonderful.

    “Hey, do you think you'd ever want to be eighteen again?” she asked me.

    “No way,” I replied. “I don't wanna go back.”

    It looked like she didn't quite get my answer.

    “Don't wanna go back... really?”

    “Of course.”


    “Cause I'm fine the way I am now.”

    She thought about this for some time while resting her chin in her hands at the table, and while she pondered she spun a clinking spoon in her coffee cup.

    “I don't believe you.”

    “You better believe it.”

    “But isn't being young wonderful?”


    “So why is it better now?”

    “Because once is enough.”

    “It's not enough for me.”

    “But you're still eighteen.”


    I caught the attention of the waiter and asked for a second beer. Outside it was raining, and from the window you could see Yokohama Port.

    “Hey, what did you think about when you were eighteen?”

    “Sleeping with girls.”

    “What else?”

    “That's it.”

    She giggled after taking a sip of coffee.

    “So, did it turn out well?”

    “There were things that turned out well and things that didn't turn out so well. Of course, there were more things that didn't turn out well, I guess.”

    “How many girls did you sleep with?”

    “I'm not counting.”


    “I don't wanna count.”

    “If I were a guy I'd definitely count. Isn't it fun?”

    There are times when it seems to me that it might not be so bad to be eighteen again. However, when I try to think of what the first thing I'd do if I was eighteen again, I can't come up with a single idea.

    Or maybe I'll end up dating charming thirty-two year old women. That wouldn't be so bad.

    “Do you ever think you'd want to be eighteen again?” I'll ask.

    “Hmm, let me see.” She'll grin and pretend to think about it. “Nope. Doubt it.”



    “I don't get it,” I'll say. “Everyone says that being young is a wonderful thing.”

    “Yeah, it is wonderful.”

    “Then why don't you want to?”

    “You'll understand when you're older.”

    Of course at thirty-two, if I skip even a week of running, my stomach flab starts getting conspicuous. I can't be eighteen again. That's obvious.

    After I finish my morning run, I always drink a can of vegetable juice, lie on my side and put on “Day Tripper” by the Beatles.

    “Dayyyy-ay-ay tripper!”

    When listening to that song, I start feeling like I'm sitting on a train. Telephone poles, train stations, tunnels, bridges, cows, horses, smoke stacks, garbage, steadily they all pass by, one after the other. Scenery that never changed, no matter where I was. Though in the old days, it seemed like the scenery was incredibly beautiful.

    Only the person sitting next to me would change. This time, the one sitting next to me is the eighteen year old girl. I'm in the window seat, she in the aisle seat.

    “Would you like to change seats?” I'll say.

    “Thanks,” she says. “You're too kind.”

    It's not a matter of kindness, I say with a bitter laugh. It's just that I'm much more used to boredom than you.

    A 32 year old
    Day tripper
    Sick of counting the telephone poles.


[From the collection カンガルー日和, 1986, Kodansha.]

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