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Pages of Carrot soup and Cocaine


(see below for Japanese)


1 A winter day with Hiromi

   Leaves of erable and horse chestnut trees fell completely withered on the avenue. Brussels was a winter scene. The sky was as dim as in a clay pot covered with the lid. Low clouds were pressing the city from above, storing the cold and moist air between it. It kept drizzling and a sudden shower fell, and the temperature slowly fell from the night before. A thermometer attached to the outside of the window significantly updated the lowest temperature of the year. Not a figure walked down the street. The stone of the pavement wet in the rain had given more depth to the drifts of bleakness into the city. Just barely visible white mist hangs in Duden Park. The grove became naked because of reduced leaves and was showing slightly its silhouette at the other side of the fog that floated vaguely. The sun just came up, being a little bit obscure, for it looked like a blurred vision that light was reflected in the fog and the trees appeared tomb towers. Even though it is 9:00 in the morning the street is still pitch black, darkness of night is precipitated in this town as sugar failing to dissolve in cold water.

    Hiromi was looking blankly from the window of the dining room in her apartment on Avenue Victor Rousseau as if watching a boring TV show. Such a heavy scene was not necessarily intended, but with a big sigh she drowsily supported her heavy face with her right hand. Her hair that she kept long, was still with a terrible bed look like blown in crosswinds. Sleepwear was twisted and sloppy as if she just came out of bed, in what looked like a wake-up that was exceptionally bad. Her puffy eyelids are about double the size of normal. On top of a bright red dining table in front of her was a guidebook of Brussels, purchased at Fnac in the city , but the page had remained at the index page for an hour. A coffee cup next to it, in a state in which she hasn’t put her mouth to it, fully cooled down. Toast with elderberry jam was dry, a shade on top of the dish like a weathered rock.

  Suddenly she woke up out of a daze wondering about the time. Her body was feeling heavy like a golden statue; she glanced lazily towards the clock on the wall of the kitchen. At that time, her right elbow hit upon the coffee cup, the cup fell with a bang. Spookily, jet-black coffee spread slowly over the table, and the guidebook became stained with amber. She stared impassively and with nonchalance as if everything washappening in another world. However, when it spread as far that the coffee was likely to drip at any moment onto the carpet from the edge of the table, a sense of crisis pierced. She stood up from the chair and quickly picked up a dishtowel that was hanging next to the oven.

    After finishing wiping the table, she tried turning the pages gingerly as though she is  was worried about the state of the book, or read a line from a tragedy novel of tragedy.  Sure enough, as she had expected, without mercy, most pages were drenched thoroughly in thewith coffee . The lazy idea that came first and foremost in her head, but she remembered  after a few seconds that it had no meaning, that there was nothing else she had to do. She had the orange colored kitchen paper that she bought the other day at Delhaize, and she started with the task that was carefully wiping the wet part of the book. When she opened the stained guidebook  in color of soil, as one says, even though it appeared to her a sort of new product, "a book with scent", the smell of brewed coffee had drifted around in the room. The work of wiping off the wet part of the page was monotonous and yet her mood eased somewhat thanks to the bonus of the scent.


     She continued to work about an hour, but when she reached the middle of the book, her weariness had come complete because of the monotonous work. Once you possessed that kind of inertia, you think all is totally banal, even the smell of coffee that had seemed fresh become completely irrelevant. She sensed her work had finally become troublesome and she moved her line of sight back and forth in the room.  Looking for another way to dry the book quicker, from furniture to furniture, from drawer to drawer, looking for inspiration for something. Then the central heating, against a wall of windows, caught her eyes and a marvelous idea made her hollowed eyes shine brightly. 

The heating equipment, because hot water is circulating, the upper part is moderately hot. I do not do that stupid thing to dry each page separately, it is just that I should put this whole wet thing on there and place the book on the equipment . When the table was cleared up completely, Hiromi settled again on a dining chair with a smiling expression that mixed melancholy and satisfaction as she looked out the window.

    The lights that shone on the streets were turned off right then, the fog of the park was clearing and the day was becoming slightly sunny. Pale and empty streets of Brussels hazily appeared between gaps in the trees.

    On the street, there were seen the figures of students who attended film school in the park. A male student wearing a yellow raincoat was passing in front of Hiromi’s apartment. A girl, walking next to him, closed the umbrella and made a practice swing as rain that finally ceased. The man in the raincoat looked up at the sky and took off a brown knit sweater. With a grim face with some doubts at first but, a second later a radiant look in the glare of the sunlight as if he had been looking forward to the moment for a long time.  

    The rain ceased, but it would begin to fall again in half an hour, it was easy to imagine from the looks of the sky. It is not an exaggeration to say that the weather changes every ten minutes and nobody expects the same weather for one complete hour in the winter of Belgium. A life from right to left? By feeling a hassle with the weather is really troublesome, but it is not likely to say that she is indifferent to it. She can’t, by any means, be flexible about the weather as Belgian people who were born and raised in this land.  If only for the cold, it wouldn’t be unreasonable, but any cheerful human being would become depressed if it rains like this every day.

    The Japanese expression AIKYUOKUU 愛及屋鳥あいきゅうおくう-means when you love someone deeply enough, you will also even love the bird perched on their roof, because it is part of their existence . This expression is not correct at all. People are cautious when they love something, but such prudence would become completely senseless for the damnable?. There is a tendency to spread pessimistic thinking from one thing to another. As Hiromi was having terribly grumbling thoughts about the change of weather, all the accumulated anger which was not limited to a single reason, poured the power of dissatisfaction to the trivial aspects of day to day life in Belgium.

    The target of her thoughts, such as that bad smell of dog feaces smeared on the street, a tram station that was deserted just like a Japanese old temple, a dirty antique-looking church and a worn out building were gradually spread into this vast category and they fell on her as a massive unfortunate rock.

  In unavoidable frustration, her lonely mind derived the arbitrary conclusion,

" For some reason or not, it did not go well, this life in Belgium"

  Then the girl and the boy wearing a yellow raincoat became completely invisible after they had entered the shadow of the trees in the park. Hiromi stood up from the chair and moved to the living room. A computer was on the table and her skype contact list was showing on the screen. It was still during working hours in Japan, so there weren’t any of her friends online. She had it clear in her mind, but couldn’t help checking again.  The tone would ring in the first place if there was someone over there online, really she didn’t even need to bother to check. However, for the poor nature of her giving up continuously on something, and to slightly turn her object of interest out of the house, there was a need to annihilate the light of hope that there might be someone in Japan who could become a conversation partner for the day.

   Moving to the bathroom from the living room, she took off her socks and touched her bare feet on the white shiny marble floor, the back of her feet trembled as though touching ice. She stripped off her pajamas in a hurry and got quickly under the hot water of the shower, but it took a while for her body to warm up. Parts of her back that the hot water didn’t hit stayed cold so she flipped round and round orienting her body every ten seconds. When she repeated this for about 10 minutes, she slipped and almost fell over. Because there had been many similar experiences the last few weeks, she had made up her mind to buy a rubber mat to lay in the tub, although if after all, to stay at home were the dogma of life . And it wasn’t necessary to do it.

 When she got out of the shower, sitting on the crappy round chair that was next to the washbasin, she began rubbing her face evenly with the cosmetics she had brought from Japan. She dried her hair with hot wind, and took out a change of clothes from the cabinet. Everything was so far done mechanically as everyday routine work, and when she put her neck through the sweater, a trifle thought jumped into her mind,

“When was the last time I went out from this house?”.  

   Three days ago she went shopping in Delhaize, a nearby supermarket, but since she went out in the remains of sleepwear, it didn’t really count as a going out. In other words, she had been at home the whole week till then, just like if somebody had locked her up in the apartment. Even that day, a week before, she went out and tried to walk into the city, but struck by a sudden rain upon arriving in the centre, and she returned straight back home. Hiromi remembered the terrible frustration when she thought of such things, as if not realising the today significance of something as valuable as time.

   On top of the Ikea shoe rack at the entrance, flyers of exhibitions and museums, collected from around Brussels over the last month, were scattered. Hiromi glanced at them while she put on her shoes. While she looking over several flyers, her eyes caught a voucher written in English, "Following faithfully the beauty of nature so as Ruskin said". The black background and silver lettering on it was not of a conspicuous special design. She had never even heard of the person named Ruskin, but the phrase "following the beauty of nature" oddly captured the heart of Hiromi. The beauty of nature, she used to have in her mind, were things like pictures of nature or landscapes. However on this one, was an image of a dirty black machine not at all relevant to the title just read on the voucher.

“This is also a contradiction. “ Hiromi muttered. “So, it is the words that captivated me.  There's no doubt that words of contradiction have a sort of power to captivate me deeply. People are always moved by some kind of words, or the values behind them. Most people feel as if they'd remember the excitement from those lukewarm things, such as efforts of love, friendship and family, but those words never impressed me.  Yet, every time I hear the word “contradiction”, my heart, that was rigid as steel, melts completely and  fluctuates erratically.

    The word contradiction seems to somewhat show the coordinates of the existence of myself. Living in Belgium, where I don’t even want to live, living under the same roof with a gay guy who is my husband and missing Japan unconditionally, but without wanting to go back there. Not as a necessity, not by chance, or even not impulsivelye. Perhaps inside my body there is a hollow area with a contradiction spider, sticking its net all over my thoughts, movements, as far as my entire existence.”

  Hiromi picked up the voucher as if dealing with something valuable. She gazed at the character “Ruskin” printed on paper without expression, as if looking in the mirror before going out to meet with someone essential. Then she gently put it into her shoulder bag and left the apartment.


With thanks for this first translation to Saskia, Emiel, Shane, François.






 それから一時間ほど作業を続けていたが、本が半ばに差しかかると、広美はその単調な作業にすっかり飽きがきていた。一旦、そういった類の惰性に取り憑かれてしまうと、まるで全てが陳腐なように思え、先ほどまで新鮮に思えたコーヒーの香りまでもがすっかりどうでもよくなった。とうとう仕事が億劫になった彼女は、てっとり早く本を乾燥させる方法がないものかと思案し、部屋のあちらこちらへと視線を動かした。家具から家具へ、引き出しから引き出しへと視線を移し、何かのひらめきをさがしていると、窓下の壁に備え付けられたセントラルヒーティングが目にとまり、これは妙案だと彼女は虚ろだった目を輝かせた。 ヒーティングの器具内には、熱湯が循環しているため、その上部はほどよく熱くなっている。何も一頁ごと渇かすなどという馬鹿なことはしなくても、そこへ濡れた本を丸ごと置いておけばよいのだけのことである。セントラルヒーティングの器具の上に本を広げて乗せ、テーブルがすっかり片付くと、広美は再びダイニングチェアーに腰掛け、満足と憂鬱の入り交じった表情を浮かべ、窓の外に目をやった。