I had constantly troubled my parents by asking reasons for about everything in the world when I was little. “Why did that person say that?” “Why does this go this way?” Too many things in the world didn’t seem reasonable to me. Among them, the reason for people’s behavior was chiefly mysterious. My parents had been fed up with my unstoppable assault of questions and their answers had become stuck to “You’ll understand when you grow up.” Now I’m grown-up, and yet I still don’t understand anything.
Why do many shoppers choose a list-price package on the shelf right next to ones with half-price stickers? Why do they come to the supermarket without bringing their shopping bags but pay additionally for harmful plastic bags instead? Why is driving a luxury car by paying outrageously a status symbol while accidents and natural disasters caused by environmental destruction kill people? Why do people throw away clothes that are still wearable? Why do people replace appliances that are perfectly working to new ones? Why do people leave and discard food or drink that they pay for or order by themselves?
Why do I bring travel amenities like toothbrushes or combs from the hotel to my home where they have been stored in cardboard boxes to the amount of what I would never use them all up before I die? Why don’t I feel like throwing away old receipts and tattered socks? Why can’t I get up in the morning like most people do? Why do I have every night dreams that are too vivid to distinguish from reality? Why do I do everything slower than others although I do it in a great hurry each time with trembling hands? Why do I always button my shirt one hole down? Why don’t I have friends? Why have I felt an urge to wash my hands each and every time when I touch something since long before the pandemic? Why has the government kept giving so much money since the pandemic?
Why do people keep getting married while marriage doesn’t make them happy? Why do people have children who consume their money and aspirations?
Why did my mother lie to the doctor that she hurt her arm when she tried to get something heavy from the top shelf and it fell on her although in truth her injury was inflicted by a chair that my sister had thrown at her? Why did my father suddenly send me a letter in which he lashed out at me severely and at the same time, enclose some money for me? Why did my parents do so many terrible things to me who was their own child?
Why don’t I stop wondering why? It would be easy and at peace if I could swallow everything and accept it simply as the way it is.
When I was five or six years old and visited my grandparents’ home, an acquaintance of the family’s showed up. He is good at fortune telling, at least known to the family so. My grandparents’ family deeply depended on fortune telling for almost everything, including my mother’s marriage and the building of their new house. They excitedly brought me to the man and asked him to see my future.
According to him, by just looking at someone’s ear, he could tell the future. Surrounded by almost all members of the family, I was made to show my ear to him. As soon as he saw my ear, he shouted, “Oh! This is an ear of a family’s successor!” I had never seen him before, and was introduced to him only as a child related to them. But in my family, I had been already looked on as a successor because I was a firstborn and there was no boy. Since the man uttered an accurate situation, they were so impressed and said in unison that the man surely could see the future.
I, on the other hand, was shocked. Succeeding my family meant living at the same house with my parents and bearing the same last name all my life. While I had been told I would succeed the family, I still had clung to a little hope of freedom and secretly enjoyed imagining my future. Although I had only a younger sister so far, my parents may have a baby boy in future and then my secret wish would come true. I could choose my husband by myself and could live wherever I want.
But when the man declared I was destined to be a successor, I saw my hope crushed. I felt all doors of possibilities slammed shut. Now I knew where I would live, what my last name would be, and even which grave I would be buried in. While I despaired, they congratulated me joyfully, as if good news was delivered. “Good for you! You are a successor! It’s your destiny!”
Decades later, the man’s fortune telling proved wrong after all. I left home and live where I want. My last name is unchanged all right, but of my own free will…
One day, I saw numbers in my dream. I dream a lot every night, but numbers rarely appear. I thought it was some sort of sign, and bought a lottery ticket. I won $10. A few weeks later, I dreamed about numbers again, and bought a ticket accordingly. I won $100. I was convinced this was it. This must be the way for me to become a millionaire. Since then, I’ve kept buying a lottery ticket every week, but with no luck at all. For the first time in almost a year, I won $10 yesterday. The sum dropped off. And the total spending for the lottery has become incomparably much more than I gained…
Speaking of dreams, I have one that foresees something once in a while.
Back in high school, I needed to go to school for my extracurricular activity during a summer break. The teacher on duty was randomly selected for the day. I saw a teacher of a Japanese class on duty wearing a peculiar tie in my dream. And the very next day, that teacher was on duty at school, wearing the exact tie I’d seen.
I saw the members of my favorite band go away in two separate vehicles, and a few weeks later, the band broke up in the way exactly how I’d seen.
A big earthquake occurred and an old Japanese house was flattened in my dream. I saw the future date for it, too. Two weeks earlier than that date, an earthquake actually occurred in northern Japan, and I saw the flattened house on TV. On the date of the dream, instead of an earthquake, the stock market tumbled.
In each case, nothing worked for my benefit, because it was too trivial, or happened remotely, or I don’t have stocks. Worthless dreams…
When I was little, my mother constantly said bad things about others. She believed that, even when someone was kind to her, there must have been some plot behind the nice gesture. To sum up what she talked about every day, there are only evil people in this world.
In kindergarten, mothers would fix a lunchbox for their kids and the kids would eat lunch with their classmates and their teacher. At one lunchtime, when I was opening a lid of my lunchbox, I inadvertently dropped it to the floor without having a single bite and it overturned there. I lost my lunch. While other kids laughed at me, my teacher, who had been trying so hard to make me play with other kids because I had ignored them and had hardly talked to anyone, cleaned up the mess for me and took me to a small candy store outside the kindergarten.
She told me to pick any bread I liked. I picked one timidly, feeling afraid what kind of trap this would be, as I didn’t have any money. She suggested one more. I couldn’t figure out what was going on and shook my head. She picked one more piece of bread by herself, took out money from her own wallet, and gave all the bread to me.
I was stunned. She bought me lunch. It was the first time that someone unrelated to me was so kind to me. Since then, I had started talking to her. Even after I finished kindergarten, I had kept exchanging letters with her and I still send her a Christmas card every year.
She was the first person who destroyed my mother’s theory of the evil world and taught me that there were some good people in this world…
Eight years ago today, I moved into this apartment. There are things that I like about it such as the utilities-included rent, the unique design, and the view. It has the flip side though. Every time the wind blows, TV is down. The roof is so thin that raindrops sound like the percussion. The walls are also thin and even subtle sounds I make trigger the neighbor’s banging. Those things keep me looking for a better place constantly. Each and every place has a flaw. Too dense, too rural. At least one side of the place borders the next-door neighbor. It seems that an ideal place for me to live in doesn’t exist. Well, to begin with, is there such thing as an ideal place to live in on this planet…?
Last night, I had a nightmare. In it, I got up and found myself alone. I was a child still living with my family in my hometown. My parents and my little sister came back from McDonald’s. They had breakfast there without me. I grabbed my mother’s arms and said, “Listen to me! Listen to me very carefully!! You must treat your kids equally! Whatever you do to my little sister, you should do the same to me! You can’t keep doing nice things only to her! Besides, how could you bring home nothing for me? It’s McDonald’s where you can get take-out!!“ But, no matter how hard I tried, my voice didn’t come out. I repeated those words very hard again and again but only my mouth was moving. In the end, I shouted at the top of my throat, and awoke from the dream.
I’m still exhausted. I dream a lot every night. And this one is one of the repeated dreams. Although the details are different, I am ignored by my parents and left alone each time. I’m fed up with this kind of dream but I know I will soon have it again. When am I released from this…?
As I recall it, a ticket vending machine first appeared in the early 80’s at the nearest train station from my home in Japan where I grew up. There had been two ticket windows one of which was replaced with the machine. It was an exciting new gizmo especially for children that spewed out a train ticket by just pushing a button corresponded to the destination. The ticket gate was still operated by a clerk. The ticket examiner stood in an open booth with special clippers in his hand. Passengers would show the commuter pass to him, or have the ticket clipped by his clippers to get a hole or a nick on it. The examiner handled clippers skillfully, clipped tickets one after another so fast and rhythmically. When passengers broke off, he would turn clippers many times in his hand artfully as if he had been a juggler. Later on, the ticket booth was also replaced by the automatic ticket gate. In those days, more and more vending machines had emerged here and there in Japan. They started with coffee and soft drinks, then cigarettes and beer. Soon pornographic magazines and condoms, hamburgers and noodle soup were all purchasable from the machine. Nowadays, ordering at restaurants has been by a touch screen on the table, and check-out counters at the supermarket have been self-service registers. Either at a restaurant or a supermarket, I pay an incorrect total once in two or three visits when human servers and cashiers take care the payment and make a mistake. I know the odds because I look into the receipt very carefully right after the payment each and every time. Almost in every case I don’t gain but overpay, which is a mystery, so that I claim at once. I understand I myself induce their mistakes by using every possible coupon and discount promotion in one payment that makes my total so complicated. When a machine handles service in place of a human, it’s fast, convenient, clean and no mistakes. But on the other hand, no small talk or smiles are a little tasteless. Even so, machines may fit better for me since I often get annoyed with people too easily. The day that machines take up most jobs of humans’ might arrive sooner than expected. If it happened, the government would pay the people a basic income by taxing companies. Is it possible that people don’t have to work? For the first time after the ancient times, humans would get liberated from money at long last. Everybody could live by doing what they want. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing that day come. I’m strongly hoping. And I believe in a miracle as such.
I was born at the small hospital in a rural area. Although not many expectant mothers checked in there, two baby girls were born on the same day, one of whom was I. We shared the newborn room, sleeping in a bed side by side. Before the birth, I’d had a possibility to have severe jaundice of the newborn.
My mother was told it would either leave a brain defect if I had it, or make me extremely intelligent if I didn’t have it. Instead of jaundice, I was born with a hip joint dislocation. My right leg had been regularly dislocated and hung loosely until I was one or two years old and my mother had to take me to the hospital each time.
About the time when my leg finally stopped getting dislocated, there was a piece of news in a local newspaper that a little girl was thrown into the river and killed by her parent. The victim was the baby who was born on the same day as I was and slept in the next bed to me at the hospital. Since both the town and the hospital were small, my mother and my grandmother remembered the name of the baby and the area she lived in. I was luckier and I outlived her without any more dislocation or jaundice. The latter should have resulted in me being extremely intelligent but my parents consider me simply crazy…
As long as I could remember, my family members had told me that I was a successor of the family and I was to live with my family all my life as my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather and on and on and on did, by taking a husband into our family to bear our family name. They kept saying that as a usual chant so repeatedly that I was sort of under the spell that I would be stuck in the house as a successor until the day I die.
So, I was an outsider when other girls chatted giggly about what last name they would bear after their marriage or where they would live in the future. I knew what my last name and what my future address would be because they wouldn’t be changed. My whole life was so predictable for that matter. Since I knew my future, I had no interest in my life, and days were so boring.
I changed my future completely by abandoning my family, my friends, my hometown and the old tradition. Now, I’m free from my once-arranged future. Instead, I dread my uncertain future everyday…