subliminal message!

32-year-old Day Tripper

Written by Murakami Haruki

Translated by Gabriel Rasa

 

I’m thirty-two, and she’s seventeen… let’s take that from a different angle.

I’m only thirty-two, and she’s already seventeen… that’s better.

We’re friends of a sort, nothing more and nothing less. I have a wife; she has six boyfriends. A boyfriend for each day of the week, and then one Sunday each month she goes on a date with me. The other Sundays she stays home and watches TV. She’s adorable when she’s watching TV; she looks kind of like a walrus.

She was born in 1963, the year President Kennedy was assassinated. The year I first asked a girl out. I think Cliff Richard’s “Summer Holiday” was the hit song that year.

Ah, whatever.

In any case, that’s when she was born.

At the time, of course, it never occurred to me that I’d end up dating a girl born in that year, and even now I find it kind of odd. Like going all the way to the moon just to have a cigarette.

Young girls are tiresome—that’s the collective opinion of my friends. Nevertheless, my colleagues go out on dates with young women too. Could it be that they finally discovered an interesting young lady? Nope, that’s not it. The fact is, it is their very dullness that these men are fascinated by. They play a complicated game, basking in the boredom raining down on their heads while making certain that not a drop of it spills over onto their young companions.

Or that’s how it seems to me anyway.

In reality, nine out of ten young women are tedious affairs, although the girls themselves are totally unaware of that fact. They’re young, beautiful, and full of curiosity. They can’t imagine that someone could possibly find them boring.

Man, oh man.

That’s not to say I blame the girls for anything, or that I dislike them. Quite the contrary, I do like them. They put me in mind of my own tedious youth. Which is—how to put it?—quite a feat.

“Hey tell me again—would you want to go back to being eighteen?”

“No,” I reply. “Not particularly.”

She looks as though she can’t possibly comprehend what I’m thinking.

“You wouldn’t… Do you mean that?”

“Of course.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m fine the way I am now.”

She leans her cheek against the table and ponders that. As she thinks, she twirls a spoon in her coffee cup. “I don’t believe you.”

“You should.”

“But isn’t being young the best thing there is?”

“Maybe.”

“Then why don’t you want to be young again?”

“Because once was enough.”

“It hasn’t been enough for me yet.”

“Well, you’re not even eighteen.”

“Hmmm.”

I flagged down the waitress and ordered two bottles of beer. Outside it was raining, and through the window we could see Yokohama harbor.

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

“Sleeping with girls.”

“What else?”

“That’s it.”

She giggled and sipped her coffee.

“So did you succeed?”

“Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. Of course, more often than not I didn’t.”

“How many girls have you slept with?”

“I haven’t kept count.”

“Really? Why not!?”

“I don’t want to.”

“If I were a guy, I’d definitely count them. Isn’t that the fun part?”

 

I confess, there are times when I think that being eighteen again wouldn’t be so bad. But when I think about what I would do if I were eighteen again, not a single thing comes to mind.

Perhaps I would find a charming thirty-two year old woman to go on dates with. That wouldn’t be too bad.

“Do you ever wish you could go back to being eighteen?” I would ask this hypothetical woman.

“I wonder…” She smiles slightly and makes a show of thinking it over. “Nope. Probably not.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t get why,” I say. “Everybody says being young is wonderful.”

“That’s true, it is wonderful.”

“Then why don’t you want to be young again?”

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

 

But of course I’m thirty-two, and when I neglect to go jogging for a week, my gut starts to hang out. I can’t go back to being eighteen. Everyone knows that.

I finish my morning run, drink a glass of vegetable juice, collapse into a chair, and put on the Beatles’ “Day Tripper.”

“Daaaaaaaaaa-ay tripper~!”

When I hear that tune it makes me think of a train zipping past telephone poles, stations, tunnels, iron bridges, cows, horses, chimneys, rubbish heaps, etc. The landscape is pretty much the same wherever you go. Long ago I might have thought it was charming, but now…

The only thing that changes sometimes is the person sitting next to me. Currently sitting beside me is an eighteen-year-old girl. I’m at the window; she’s in the aisle seat.

“Do you want to trade seats?” I ask.

“Thanks,” she says. “You’re so sweet.”

It’s not that I’m sweet, I think with a bitter smile. I’m simply better accustomed to boredom than you.

 

A thirty-two year old day-tripper, grown tired of counting telephone poles.

August 20, 1981