Tokyo Damage Report

Kenzaburo Oe’s SEVENTEEN, part five

When we last left our hero, he was in the middle of an 800 meter run in gym class.

Life is Hell, I reflected. Society is Hell too, and the Devil is a fat man in immaculately pressed sweatpants and a baseball cap, holding a flare gun, and there is no escape for the likes of me. The other fellows in the first group were so far ahead, they began to pass me in reverse, on their return trip. That’s how slow and alone I was. My legs were moving slowly – like in a nightmare where one is being pursued by a Kaijuu (Godzilla or etc.) and can’t get away. My head was burning, and I realized that I was groaning audibly as I ran.
As I approached the girls’ field, I somehow found the strength to improve my posture and raise my legs high. But as soon as I passed them, I resumed running like a spaz, my head tilted back, arms hanging limply at my sides, legs flapping out all pigeon-toed, and my belly sticking out as if it was trying to win the race all by itself. And of course the wheezing. It was in that state that I reached the halfway point, where I could see the entire rest of the class was waiting for me to finish, before they could start their own races. This made me self-conscious, but I didn’t have the energy to do anything apart from stare frantically from one face to another, a hangdog expression on my thick face.
“Hey! Run like a man! Suck in that belly!” Coach bellowed.
“You look sick! You’re turning pale!” shrieked the kids of the mall shoppers from across the fence. At this, I began to run even slower. Everyone was staring at me. I was the butt of the joke once again. Everyone in the world was snickering at Seventeen, with his pain-whitened face, his dirty tears of shame, his flapping pigeon-toed legs, and his girlish gait: “Look at this dirty fellow, saliva dangling from his mouth like a dog, belly thrust out,” they said. Or could it be that I was imagining things? At any rate, God could see my disgraceful race, as surely as He saw my red-faced and obscene fantasies when I self-satisfied, as surely as He saw my anxiety and cowardice and lies. The normal people had started yelling: “ There’s nothing about you that we don’t know! You’re a huge pervert, a chronic self-satisfier, you’re rotting from the inside out, your crotch is soggy, and what’s more you constantly talk about yourself!”
On my final return trip, I arrived at the girls’ field, and they were staring too. I prayed to be struck dead with a heart attack, but Lady Luck did not smile upon me. Instead, I had to stagger past the girls – my suffering made even vaster by self-consciousness. When I finally staggered across the ‘goal line’, I felt relief well up from my chest like a wet, warm liquid. With a cruel laugh, Coach pointed behind me and laughed. I refused to smile back at him, vowing to merely nod manfully. However all I could manage was a dopey, shit-eating ‘eh-heehhh’ face and a shrug. It was then I discovered a long, black trail behind me: I had pee-peed on myself.
Like a great storm crashing through the forest trees, word of my urination resounded through the school, and I was at the center of their mocking laughter. I had sincerely tried my best, tried so hard I thought I might die, just to finish their un-cool 800 meter race, and yet my only reward was this humiliating treatment. Certainly I am a horrible and pathetic Seventeen, but it is the normal people who made me this way. I can no longer cling to the hope that if I search hard enough, I might still find some goodwill in today’s world.  I was sinking in a bottomless pit of disgrace and too exhausted to fight it. Besides, my soaking gym shorts had grown chilly and it was making me sneeze. At any rate, I repeated my usual pledge with even firmer resolve: return all hostility with hostility, and all abhorrence with abhorrence, because if I don’t, I’ll surely break down crying.
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  1. Aylmer July 17th, 2010 11:31 am

    Hi, love the live music pics/descriptions on TDR. Fucking awesome. Sorry to be off topic here, but was wondering if you have any live pics (or could point me in the right direction) of samurai death metal band GOTSU TOTSU KOTSU? thanks

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