Written by Vosot Ikeida
……Continued from Round 3
A Rootless Person
I was so delighted with the idea that had suddenly occurred to me.
Only if I pretend not to have my hometown, I might build up new relationship with neighbors.
Then they wouldn't ask me about my family, parents, upbringing, and past...
If I pretended so, Mrs. Cucumber might think of me as a dubious man more and more.
And in the dubious community called the neighborhood, a dubious man is going to be called a dangerous man soon.
For example, Seito Sakakibara(*1), who had a bizarre murder case is said to be living quietly in a far region from his hometown under a different name after serving his time in prison. If such a person were to be asked by an old lady in the neighborhood where he was from, he would probably not tell her his hometown.
The same would be true for the survivors of the Japan Red Army(*2), the remnants of the Aum(*3), etc.
*1. Seito Sakakibara:
A pseudonym given by the perpetrator of the 1997 Kobe serial murders. He cut off the heads of his victims and left them at the main gate of an elementary school. Since he was 14 years old at the time of the crime, he did not receive the death penalty, but was treated in a medical reformatory for eight years. After he was discharged from there, he was given a new identity by the government and is apparently living in a new place.
*2. Japan Red Army:
A far-left group that carried out terrorist attacks in various locations in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the suspects are still on the run.
*3. the Aum:
Cult religious group that perpetrated a major terrorist attack in 1995. The perpetrators of the attacks, including the head of the cult, were arrested and executed, but many of their followers are said to still be hiding everywhere. To the average Japanese they are uncanny.
This means, that if I were to honestly tell her that I have no hometown, Mrs. Cucumber would think that I was either a perpetrator of a bizarre crime, a wanted criminal, or someone who has to hide from society for some reason.
In short, she would think I was hiding my old identity because I was guilty of something.
At this point, I recalled that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has jurisdiction over "hikikomori" in its Tokyo Public Safety Task Force(*4).
Now I, a hikikomori, would more and more become a target of public safety.
*4. This was true in 2018 when the original text was written. As the background, prior to this year, there had been a series of bloody incidents around hikikomori, such as a few hikikomoris being so cornered that they committed indiscriminate murders in the streets, or a parent killing his son of hikikomori to prevent such disastrous ends. Later, the hikikomori issue was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Department of Social Services in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
I Have Nothing To Hide, But...
To be straight, I have no guilty past.
I don't have to hide my old identity.
I used to be working for a short while. At that time, I was called a fancy titles such as "international journalist", only because I wrote something that I had experienced in Africa during the period of "sotokomori". The title made me travel around overseas, meeting people you would call dignitaries.
I don't mean to try bragging.
Those days were so different from the days I am having nowadays.
But still, I don't think I have to hide those days.
However, what would happen if I told it to the neighbors?
I am sure they would get confused, more curious, and ask,
"Then why do you live like this nowadays?"
And I am sure their curiosity would converge on that satanic question.
"And now? WHAT'S YOUR JOB?"
Would I be able to tell the whole story of my past to the chatty ladies of the neighborhood while standing around talking?
No. That would be impossible.
One often thinks,
"Those who have something to hide will not talk about one's past."
But that's not true.
In my case, I can't talk about my past just because I have nothing to hide in the past which is too complicated.
In other words, I am hiding my past just because I have nothing to hide there.
Hiding things consumes extra energy.
That's why I get more exhausted in everyday life in my neighborhood than other "normal" inhabitants here.
The Paradoxes about "Who I Am"
After all, the more honest I tried to be about the question of "who I am," the more the image Mrs. Cucumber would have of me would be far removed from who I really am.
The more I sincerely try to let my neighbors know who I really am, the more I may be accused of a crime I did not commit.
Here I fell into a paradox like this,
"For the neighbors to know who I am, I must not tell them who I am."
If I am so afraid of people asking me, "What's your job?" I could take a mundane job for now and live a life that is not really mine.
However, that would mean living a false life. The time left in life is dwindling by the day. Do I have the time to "live a false life for now"? Won't "for now" become "forever" without knowing?
So, I stopped preparing any gifts for Mrs. Cucumber, in return for her cucumber.
Instead, I decided to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude for her cucumber in my own words.
I thought that if I were in the opposite position, I would love something like that the most.
Fearful Reunion with Mrs. Cucumber
A couple of days later I bumped into Mrs. Cucumber at the feet of the stairs.
I immediately began to tell her the words of appreciation and gratitude that I had prepared in mind.
"Thank you very much for the wonderful cucumber you gave me the other day.
The cucumber was very nice.
Unlike the ones we buy at the supermarket, your cucumber was fresh and juicy enough. The inside was fully packed with fruit."
"You're welcome. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed such small..."
Mrs. Cucumber smiled back at me and fell silent.
I felt as if her silence was rushing me this way,
"And is that all? Hadn't you prepared any gifts in return that would give me a hint of who you are?”
In reality, Mrs. Cucumber had not said a word, but looking at her silent face, I could not help but think that somehow she was going to say so at any seconds.
I was muttering in my mind.
I knew you would say something like that, so I didn't bring you anything in return."
So instead of a gift, I had started offering her my critique of the cucumber itself, as planned.
Even though I belong to the poor, there is still something I can give to others. Words.
Taking a breath, I began to speak quietly.
"Well, I could not stop thinking deeply when I ate your cucumber. ......
A really good cucumber should not be sliced and mixed with mayonnaise and put in salads like other mundane cucumbers that we could get anywhere.
Because then you are not taking advantage of the cucumber's true flavor, which is noble and even sensual.
Consuming cucumbers as an ingredient in a messy salad is a sacrilege to good cucumbers.
A good cucumber should not lose its essence of being a cucumber. It must be eaten in such a way as it fulfills its existence as a cucumber.
Or, I could put it in this way too. A good cucumber is not satisfied with being just a cucumber. It is a cucumber that transcends its existence as a cucumber."
It had become a soft and roundabout discourse, like the French philosopher Roger Caillois talking about cucumbers, but it was my sincere critique.
However, when I looked up, I saw that Mrs. Cucumber's smile had become rather tight.
She looked as if she was unsure whether she should break her smile or sincerely nod her head.
"Well... Anyway..... I'm glad to hear you enjoyed my cucumber..."
She seemed to have said that much for the time being, but then appeared to be unable to continue.
I had nothing more to say either.
"Well, then, excuse me now."
I quickly left the place and ascended the stairs with a big step.
Mrs. Cucumber was standing at the bottom of the stairs of my shabby apartment as if to want to ask me more questions.
Her mere presence made me feel oppressed.
I went upstairs to my room and quickly closed the door behind me.
I also locked the door.
I was huffing and puffing and out of breath and my heart was beating, even though I hadn't run.
・・・Hopefully continued to Round 5 (English) in the future
...To the Original Japanese Text Round 4