Pinball, 1973

Pinball, 1973 by Haruki Murakami Read Free Book Online

Book: Pinball, 1973 by Haruki Murakami Read Free Book Online
Authors: Haruki Murakami
last ring trailed off down the hall into the night, a sudden hush would fall over the place. A disturbing, ominous hush. Everyone would be holding their breath under the covers of their futon thinking about the call that had died.
    Phone calls in the dead of night never brought good news. Somebody would pick up the receiver, and would begin softly. “Can we not talk about this?... Can’t you see, it’s not like that.... So what, you say? That’s just how it’s gotta be, right? Guess I’m just tired. . . . Of course, I’m sorry and all that.... So you see... Like I get the picture, I get it, so just let me think it over a bit, okay?... I just can’t find the words over the phone...”
    Everybody was up to here in troubles, it seemed. Trouble fell like rain from the heavens, and we just couldn’t get enough of it. We went around picking up the stuff and cramming our pockets full of it. Even now I can’t figure out why we persisted in doing that. Maybe we mistook it for something else.
    Sometimes we’d even get telegrams. Four o’clock in the morning a bike would pull up to the entrance, followed by footsteps tramping down the hall. Then there’d come a knock on someone’s door. A pounding thud thud that always seemed to announce the arrival of the God of Death. Any number of people were cutting their lives short, going out of their heads, burying their hearts in the sludge of time, burning up their bodies with pointless thinking, making trouble for one another. Nineteen seventy was that kind of year. If indeed the human species was created to elevate itself dialectically, then that year had to have been some kind of object lesson.
    * * *
    I lived on the first floor next to the superintendent’s apartment, and this girl with long hair lived upstairs by the stairwell. She was the house champion at receiving phone calls, and it somehow fell to me to be perpetually running up and down those fifteen slippery steps. And let me tell you, did she ever get all kinds of phone calls. Polite voices, officious voices, touchingly sad voices, overbearing voices, and they’d all be asking for her by name. I have long since managed to drive that name out of mind; I only remember it was a pathetically ordinary name.
    She would always talk into the receiver in a low, tired monotone. A bare whisper of a voice you could hardly make out. She was pretty enough, I suppose, yet there was something dark and moody about her face. We’d pass on the street sometimes, but she’d never say a thing. She’d be walking with such an intense expression she might have been trudging down a path though the deepest jungle astride a white elephant.
    * * *
    She lived in the apartment house maybe half a year. The half-year from the beginning of autumn to the end of winter.
    I’d answer the phone, climb the stairs, knock on her door, and call out, “Telephone!” Then, after a slight pause would come “Thanks.” That’s all I ever heard her say, “Thanks.” But for that matter, I never said anything either except ‘‘Telephone.”
    For me, it was a lonely season. Whenever I got home and took off my clothes, I felt as if any second my bones would burst through my skin. Like some unknown force inside me had taken a wrong turn somewhere, and was leading me off in some strange direction to another world.
    The phone would ring. And I’d think, somebody’s got something to tell somebody else. I almost never got calls myself. There wasn’t anybody who’d have anything to say to me, at least not anybody I’d want to hear from.
    Everyone had by then begun to live according to systems of their own making. If theirs were very different from mine, I’d get irritable; if they were too much alike, I’d get depressed. That’s pretty much how it went.
    * * *
    The last phone call I took for her was at the end of winter. A bright, clear Saturday morning, the beginning of March. By “morning,” I mean around ten o’clock, when the winter sun cast its

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