Tokyo Damage Report

Oe’s DEATH OF A POLITICAL YOUTH part 5

I went to the post office to mail the card, and then returned to the lodging-house, where the leaders, who had not yet gone outside, had become quite excited by the TV.
 
Since noon, Hiroshima Television had been broadcasting a special Bomb Memorial Day variety show, including a bunch of novelists who had been invited to the studio. These novelists were having a round-table discussion. Nanbara Seishirou, the youngest (in fact, just graduated from college), was describing the incidents yesterday, making the Imperial Way Party sound like a bunch of ignorant hoodlums. He was still giving his report, speaking to audiences as far away as Tokyo, when I entered the room.
 
The leaders could go to the TV station to formally object, I thought. And us Patriotic Youth Corps could find this youngster and make him apologize. He must still be in the studio, droning on and on.
 
It seemed that, out of all the Youth Corps, I was the first to return to the lodging house. Everyone else was probably at the movies, breathing that filthy air, struggling mightily with the resulting sickness.
 
(I remembered seeing Elder Sister one time with one of Nanbara’s novels. I remembered his face from the author photo, too. In a newspaper interview, he was arrogantly mocking the Military Academy. To provoke Elder Sister, I took all of her Nanbara novels and sold them at the used-book store.) 
 
“That asshole! He’s just talking that rubbish to get paid! It’s like a trained-monkey show – with a dirty Communist bitch-ass monkey!” I complained to the leaders clustered around the TV. Perhaps I should just accost him myself? After all, he’s just a writer. One look at my valorous armband should be enough to make him tremble. I’d be surprised if he didn’t piss his pants and apologize on the spot.
 
I got on board the taxi that the Hiroshima Party Branch had hired for our use, and ordered it to go to the TV studio. Nanbara, (as if he had been waiting for me to come alone, looking for him! like some kind of date!!), was slouched in the corner of the studio’s “tea room”, easily visible from the street through the large glass windows, eating some peach sherbet with a forlorn, worried look on his face.
 
I entered the tea room wordlessly, and sat in one of the plastic chairs facing him.
 
“I’m from the Imperial Way Party, and I’ve come to object,” I said in the thick and hoarse voice of a classic young uyoku. Nanbara slowly raised his head and stared at me from behind his thick glasses, with his delicate, feminine, deep brown eyes, looking surprised. His eyes, which at first seemed un-focused, slowly assumed an expression of vehemence. “This guy,” I said to myself, “is one of those people whose face reveals all the secrets of his heart. He was waiting for someone to pick him up, here in the dark corner where the sun wouldn’t hurt his precious eyes. And instead of that someone, I showed up instead! Ha! This intellectual, he’s the kind who would confess before the torture even started, all shrieking and crying. If the Communist Party is using this kind of fellow for its illegal operations, we’ll beat them hands-down!”
 
 As Nanbara’s eyes fuzzily tried to focus on a point midway between my own eyes, I prepared to unleash my second attack:
 
“You’re the asshole who was just on TV saying that the Imperial Way Party was a bunch of hoodlums, aren’t you? And you went on to accuse us of violence! As a Party member, it’s my duty to protest! You’ll have to pay for your actions!”
 
Terror spread like a brush-fire across Nanbara’s eyes, and then fear oozed like a liquid from the depths of those same eyes. . .His almost grape-hued pupils expanded rapidly within his dark brown irises, like night opening and engulfing the light of high noon. Then the wave spread to his face, whitening his cheeks and making his forehead twitch. His lips grew moist and pulled back so far I could see his gums.
 
Is he going to scream? For an instant I was thrown into confusion, but when he didn’t scream, I knew I had achieved a perfect (if somewhat excessive) victory: I had never seen a man stricken with such total fear. It was as if his “mental garage” had been stocked with a hundred people’s worth of “terror gasoline.”  
 
I grabbed the switchblade in my pocket, and pushed the release button. Without pausing, I shoved with the flat of my thumb, and with a distinctive “GACHI!” sound, the silver blade sprang open, causing over two centimeters of silver metal to rip out of my pants, the surface of it quickly clouding in the hot lobby air. I knew he could see it through the transparent table-top which separated us.
 
Nanbara’s shoulders clenched in fear, as his terror-stricken eyes darted to the blade and then shut tightly. I could see his wide, pale eyelids trembling.
 
I became aware that his entire face had gone white and was covered in sweat. It was soaking – as if he’d dived into an ocean of horror.  
 
I felt like a hunter who had cornered the rabbit in its hole.
 
There was no need to rush – maybe I should have a smoke.
 
Like a spectator in a horror movie, just enjoy the show. Or – better yet – I was a peeping Tom, who had poked a hole in the screen itself and was secretly watching the horrified faces of the spectators! 
 
Next, from the eyes which had been shut in surprise, tiny tears began to ooze out, like mucous. It looked like the fun was about to reach its climax. I began to feel like laughing. To forestall this, I concentrated instead on the pain of his death – better yet, on how much I despised and detested this weakling, this left-wing traitor.
 
I was nauseous with anger!  
 
I felt like the scene in the movie where the French actor stabbed an American boy to death on a yacht floating in the south French ocean, full of transparent green plankton. Like the handsome and dark-eyed Alain Delon, I wanted to pull my knife out and cackle with the maniacal laughter of a vicious dictator as I viciously murdered this fellow!
 
“I’m going to stab you, asshole! You dishonored the actions of the Imperial Way Party, and now you’ve got to pay for it! With being stabbed! It’s an inexcusable insult to President Sakagibara, as well as other friends of the Party. I won’t kill you – just cut your abdomen. You should call an ambulance!”
 
His eyes were shut tight, but Nanbara Seishirou remained quiet, not responding to me. I clung to the enjoyment and the fact that I still had time to spare. I felt it throughout my body – my “gas tank” was 100% full of “uyoku energy”. I could see directly into the trembling head of Nanbara – it was full of the murky water of fear. Because I was the chosen child of The Emperor, and I was omnipotent!
 
“Hey asshole with your eyes closed! Hiding in fear . . .Like you’re burying half your head in a mud puddle, trying to avoid the burning heat of the sun. Your mouth is dry, the root of your tongue is inflamed. You’re scared of the light. You can’t take the heat. And now you’re feeling it in your whole body. You’re an anemic fucker who chokes on the pure air of a sunny day. The happy people on the bustling street fill you with envy and shame – you see life as absurd and meaningless because you’re alone and unloved.
 
“You got the shakes, you piss yourself, the tears and snot drip endlessly down your face, making your throat itch. You’re making yourself sick! Why did you come to the big, hot city?  
 
“Well it’s meaningless to play “woulda, coulda, shoulda.” You’re here now, paying the price. You want to go back in time, but you can’t. That’s reality! Too bad, isn’t it? The voices in your heart keep saying, “I shouldn’t have gone on TV and said all that garbage,” but those voices are too late, aren’t they? “I should have retracted my comments before the show ended,” they say. “I shouldn’t have gone along with what the other authors were saying, just to fit in.””
 
“You hateful little fuck!
 
“The hot air, the sweat, the television makeup making you break out in a rash, the necktie which is already too tight, your young body already turning to fat. . .your plastic table, plastic chair, even the clitoris-looking plastic pink spoon you use to eat your precious sherbet, everything about you is lightweight and fragile! You’re so wretched, you make me want to scream!
 
“Still you sit there, your lips and eyelids twitching with terror, your head completely dry and parched, trying to hold back your tears.
 
“Hmm! I’m going to give you one chance to get down on your knees and make amends.
 
“Well?”
 
Nanbara at last lifted his red and tear-polluted eyes, opening them just a little, vaguely staring at my cheeks. He replied, in a serious, calm, slow voice:
 
“I have no intention of being stabbed quietly. If you try it, I’ll resist.”
 
I was dumbfounded.
 
I’d been abusing him for thirty minutes, making him dive headfirst into the “ocean of terror,” and in the end, he has this attitude?!? I’ve got the knife, he’s been afraid to even open his eyes, for thirty fucking minutes on and on, and now he’s acting hard?!? Perhaps he is recovering to some extent from the terror. But, so quickly? Or. . . was he just fucking with me . . . the whole time??
 
Either way, I had to change tactics.
 
“See that red telephone in the corner? Call the station. Tell them you were mistaken about the Party’s “violence.” Tell them you mis-spoke when you said we were ‘thugs’. Demand that they broadcast a retraction!”
 
Nanbara frowned slightly, his reddened eyes seeming to stare at me from a very far-away place. Though he was a wretched and scandalous loser, I realized that he did possess a resoluteness in the face of terror. I’ve never met anyone like this fucker. With a small cough, he began to hesitantly speak:
 
“I’m not going to retract my statements. It wouldn’t do any good: there’s already other witnesses that have testified to the Imperial Way Party’s violence yesterday. And as for my comment about your thuggin’, if you really think about it, isn’t that exactly what you’re doing right now?”
 
Before I knew it, I’d been backed into a corner. Such utter, utter impudence! I felt like I was meeting the real Nanbara for the first time. I flew into a rage:
 
“You are . . . .a coward! That is certain! You were so scared you started weeping. And you’re still in the grip of a deep fear. Your lips tremble, your body curls up and shakes, you sweat and it drips off the tip of your nose onto the table because you didn’t dare wipe it!”
 
But Nanbara was carefully and steadily pushing back against the fear, as if establishing a base camp to hold his position.  Moreover, it looked as if he would never budge: he could crawl on painfully enduring the terror forever. Strange fucker! There’s no one like him in our Party. For the first time since joining the Party, I felt a great unease: I’d never dealt with anyone like this before, and didn’t know what to do. I became embarrassed.
 
“Well, OK, maybe we are violent sometimes, but aren’t the SAG violent as well?”
 
Nanbara’s red, tear-polluted eyes widened slightly. An impish expression passed across his face – in flash of insight, I recognized it as the face of someone who has pulled off a prank, but try as I might, I couldn’t grasp the meaning of it. I felt like I must be retarded somehow – as if I’d shown my true, weak, “Seventeen-self.” My uyoku armor failed to blind him with its radiant gleam.
 
“Fucking shit-ass! I’ve wasted thirty minutes trying to make this fucker break down!”
 
I stood up roughly, almost knocking the chair over. Nanbara looked like he was ready to leap up too. I remembered he said he wouldn’t be stabbed without a fight. I turned and stalked out, into the hot, hot air of the street. Finally I realized that the tea room’s air-conditioner, which I had thought broken, had been trying its best, the whole time.
 
From outside, I yelled, “I’ll definitely stab you someday! You traitorous left-wing boners can’t be allowed to survive!”
 
And with that, I dashed into the taxi which was still waiting for me.
No comments

No comments yet. Be the first.

Leave a reply

Mexico