From the Diaries

— Itō Noe (tr. Marissa Skeels)


Though I’d hoped it might rain, it’s unexpectedly fine. Soft sunlight is spilling through the sliding doors, which lead to the veranda. One of the smaller screens at the eaves is open, granting me a glimpse of the tip of a pine tree’s crown, a shard of emerald green against a deep blue sky. I cannot hear the waves crashing. Small, saffron flowers perfume the air.

The morning is quiet and calm, the kind I like to get up to see. Upon waking, I pushed my palm against my pillow to rise, to watch. My head heavy, I sat for a while, surrounded on all sides by the twittering of melodious white-eyes.

I waited in vain for a letter which was unlikely to come.

In the afternoon, the old lady a house away, whose mind has been with the foxes for almost a decade, began to sing. Being over seventy, she finds it hard to move and is forever exhausted and sore, so I was surprised to hear she eats enough for two. She sings when struck by occasional good temper, mostly old songs we don’t know. Day after day, I lose myself in them, whiling away my loneliness, my healthy body lying on the floor.

“The carpenter, he smiles when I sing… But this, this is just my jamb.” She knows such funny ditties.

“She belts out songs whenever she’s slipping, whereas I can’t sing a note!” Her young, adopted son is roaring with laughter, bantering with her. Now the old woman’s saying something in her reedy voice. In this moment, she’s a grandmother in her garden, chatting over the fence with her son.

“I’m in such a sorry state, you know. Before long—soon in fact—I’ll have to say my goodbyes…”

The son is doing his part, laughing off what she says. And she laughs along with him.

Like other days, this tranquil one has slipped away in peace.


Kondo came by this morning, but since yesterday a gloom has come over me which no one will yet speak about, so I couldn’t repay his effort in coming here by speaking with him. I knew I was being selfish, so I got hung up on that—as always—and felt awful for a spell.

Speaking of, lately I’ve been extremely selfish, even for me, and despite being aware of it as it happens, I cannot rein myself in. For a long time now, I’ve felt like my body isn’t mine when I’m in this house. Nevertheless, it feels like there’s some power to be had in keeping this from the people living here, so, one way or another, I talk even less about how selfish I am than others do. I ironically scorn people’s shameful mindsets and shallow thinking, deftly deceiving them, yet unable to extricate myself from their fleeting sorrows and solitude. They, in turn, build walls against my sufferings. How much longer must I stay in my parents’ home, missing out, craving, thinking of nothing but escape, escape, escape? What am I raving about in my fugue?

Nowadays, my giving in at the last second keeps the peace, but for how much longer? It’s not that I chase momentary peace to delay being hurt, it’s more that I don’t know how to stick unwaveringly to my own path until death. Being among people who know barely anything and are blind to all but the material world—there are so many, young and not, who bond over their indolence, form groups, and are pained by sharing what they know about themselves. How long should anyone lead that kind of sad life?

I’ve done my utmost up until now to love Mom and Dad even slightly, making an effort, thinking it would be good if I could make them understand the real me but, as anticipated, it’s come to nothing. We are too far apart. If I were to cast off my shyness and show others my true self, then Mom, Dad, and everyone else would cover their eyes and turn away. And I, having exposed my especially vulgar id, would be publicly humiliated, abused, and insulted just for being a naïve idiot on her own totally wrong path. If I had to endure that agony for being earnest, the delicate balance of my tumultuous emotions would break and I would break too, and cackle a bone-chilling laugh.

My parents and others who live conventionally caution against cutting the cords of civility and freely taking charge of one’s destiny. They’ll only ever consider the practice deviant, dangerous, and insane. People who stray from the usual path are likewise: enamoured with foolishness. Mad. I and my kind have never been given space to be in this world, and now that my parents and those around me despair of me, there’s no going back for me, is there? Ever since my eyes were opened, I’ve no longer wanted to close them again and follow blindly with the masses, living a cowardly, stupid life.

I’m not my father’s child, anyway. And my mother didn’t raise me.

Comfort and contentment are certainly ridiculous in cultivating fear of the unknown. If you seek fear from the outset and search for something at its base, then you won’t fear anything once you’ve found it. I would rather live a harsh life which can change course in a flash than a menacingly peaceful, oppressive, and tepid one.

I fool my parents. Everyone around me is fake. But I refuse to consider my phoniness as some kind of flaw.

When I’m at my extremes… When I rage at my parents for whatever reason… I think all I inherited from them is blood and flesh. They won’t accept me for me because they don’t actually love me. They want to treat me like a toddler forever. I’m even more distant from them and my grandmother than I am from my teachers or friends.I lack authority and compatibility, and refuse to think about filial piety when parenthood is—in my pragmatic view—having to care for children in order to satisfy one’s own worthlessly selfish wishes, while repeating like a stock phrase, “There are no parents who’d inflict pain on their children just to to suit themselves.”

Yes, when I think about it, parents are really nothing of the sort, but one wonders why bonds between they who cannot see and their children cannot be severed despite being untied. My father and mother are more to me than an opposing force. I think I can understand them.

I will gladly abandon everything, abandon objectivity, and faithfully and determinedly go my own way (such as it is), and keep going resolutely, never to slow down. I’ve deceived my parents as to my true self countless times, so the pain accrued in this house’s dark, unhappy atmosphere will linger after I’ve gone, poisoning the air they breathe. But that which suffocates me would probably never break my parents, not in our wildest dreams. They’ll just resent their unfilial child.

“Why can’t she just relax? Everyone knows the secret to a good and happy life—even if you have a poor education—is acting normal,” Grandma ranted yesterday in the next room. I said nothing. Just closed my eyes.

Ta came this afternoon, with pomelos. She’s the girl who took care of me until I was five. I remember her fine hair pulled back in a traditional chignon; her black, narrow eyes; her unforgettable dimples in both cheeks, and how she was always flushed. She had the sort of face that screams kindness everywhere you look.

I haven’t seen her often in the eight years since I was five. She’s grown so beautiful that I hardly recognize her. She told me she’s twenty-four or so, and has been in domestic service in Nogata, Kyushu. She’s supposed to go back to work after getting married here. I’d only just heard she was back when I saw her. It’s been so long since I talked to her about anything, and it made me happy to sit and chat with her in a sunny spot on the veranda boards.

Grandmother caught her while I was peeling a pomelo with a knife and subjected her to a barrage of pointless bragging. She embellished her own experiences and bestowed the new bride with various bits of advice. I suppose it goes to show how much she cares about others.

Ta grew the pomelos herself, so they were a luscious red inside. They didn’t taste that good, but their fragrance was incredibly strong. Ta used to listen to all my immature babbling when she saw me off from time to time. I ate pomelos in silence, listening to her amid a deluge of crystal-clear memories. Before the streets had lights, Ta always carried me on her back along the coast as the autumn sun set. I’ve always loved the sea. We (she) would walk through the pines to the sand dunes, me being rocked and jostled on her back while she sang short bursts of song, resonating, “Up we go, up the beech tree mountain! The beech trees sway and sway…”

The hazy dusk tint and rumbling of waves rendered her lullabies heartbreaking. I used to bury my face in her back and weep, listening carefully, waiting for her to stop singing. Then I’d remember what she sang and start crying again. Ta would stride down dunes, singing, to untangle pretty green seaweed from knots of blue seaweed, and press them into my hands. I’d gnaw on their cold roots, slurping out their vinegary juice. Ta would sing against the wind gusting off the cold sea, dashing toward and away from roiling white sea foam while I bounced up and down on her back.

Around 5 o’clock, Ta brushed my hair and left. And I was lonely again.


I spent today laying face up again, fingers knitted on my chest, staring at the ceiling, not thinking until the day turned dark.

Someone had stopped in to pass on news about a murder in the pine grove. Everyone was depressed. The victim was a sweet, gentle dog with a kindly gaze and lovely, fluffy fur—a dog wizened by age, but still cute. Anxiety overcame me on hearing about it, and fat tears fell from my eyes.

Everyone is in the next room—eating, crying, and laughing about the dog. I’m meditating on how lonely it is to be the only one with such piercing pain in my chest. Because I’m accustomed to being alone, I do my best to avoid overhearing local news, drowning out the trivial hassles that unfold around me each day, guarding my feelings and not suffering blows to my heart, ensconced in quiet solitude where I can seriously delve into matters. I always feel like if only I could stay thinking in a calm, unshaken state, even if only for one day, then I would be able to work out the meanings behind anything.

Chilly twilight air is soaking in from all over, filling every part of the room, and stretching out my anxieties further, wringing me out. I shut my eyes tight and am submerged no longer. For as long as I want to be.

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