The Smooth Sea Ruffles By No Desire
Copyright © by Hideo Asano
This was his first summer spending with her in the large summerhouse, where he had spent last winter with her, on this Awaji Island, which has a finger-pointing-shape and as big as Singapore. It was also his first winter he had spent there, even though it was not his first time elsewhere in Japan.
Last summer, they had spent in Malaysia. He loved fishing there and she joined him later. Unusually, as Japanese, she was wearing cheerless panjabi. She was wearing neither kimono nor western clothes, but only the Indian cloak she loved to wear on earth. She loved to feel the dupata, shawl, rippling, like small waves at sea or ripples in a lake or river, against her body in the gentle wind. She loved to feel the moscosh. George also loved to see her wrapped with the fabric. She fashioned herself with the garment three hundred sixty five days a year, not even a day out of it, as her uniform in her civil life. The primary reason was she, simply, felt comfortable wearing it, and in it she looked marvelous and she in it gave you an instant feeling that she was fashionable and, therefore, she, in it, wouldn’t give you any immediate idea that it was a traditional Indian garment.
The gazebo was built almost on the edge of high cliff, only two other summerhouses were situated in front of it on the slope. From the house, they could look out the openness of Harimanada, the nearest portion of the Setonai-kai, inland sea of Setonai, which they could look out from the house, which people called “sakana no houko”, the treasure house of fish, where all sorts of fish congregated. From the house, many fishing boats painted in white they could see in the morning and in the evening. Setonai-kai is the gift to the people in Japan like the River Nile is the gift to the people in Egypt.
Across the sea, they could see the mountains of Honshu Island dimly, on right, like they saw Singapore dimly from Batam Island, and the small Shyodo Island and the small group of tiny Ie islands, far out across the sea, right before them, clearly. Both, Shyodo Island, on right, and Ie islands, on left, are situated close to each other. Seasonally, the fishermen caught horse mackerels during the day and congor eels at night. Unlike the nice view from, the house was built poorly for winters very cold and very windy. There was neither heating system nor a fireplace so the rooms were sharp cold as a freezer but they were happy clinging together like octopus in bed to warm each other. That winter they enjoyed eating boiled octopus with tokuri, hot sake. Both loved to drink tokuri in the cold winter.
Often a large dark shade of kite was cutting through the smoothness of the well-sun lit vast gravel yard that gently downward toward the cliff. They could see many of them, sailing elegantly with their long, wide wings controlled with their short-wide-tail as a rudder, all day long, without any serious movement of hunting, as if they didn’t have stomachs. At an angle their wings looked very thin. George didn’t much care to look at them. He knew that kites were not hunters. They were cleaners, he thought. George rather fond of millions of swallows and swifts, in Malaysia, because, beside their speed, they were sailing energetically, playfully and restlessly hunting insects, all day long, just, barely, to fill their stomachs.
The hot sun, between one to four in the afternoon, made him a refugee down to the beach, where he had fished last winter, to swim in the nice and cool water. He loved snorkeling to see whitish pink baby sea breams swimming above the pebbles in the shallow water.
Summers are hot but good weather on this island until a typhoon hits as in typhoon season. If he had a choice, he preferred to be on this island in summers not in winters, because of the gale. All the windows were shaken violently, nearly everyday, by the gale, disturbing his work, beside coldness, immensely, like the wind and waves makes fishermen tire, unlike the summer helping his work, so far without having any typhoon yet, with the cool air of early morning and evening.
What they badly needed were newspapers and transportation. Neither English papers nor other foreign papers they could get on this island. There was no way to know what’s going on around the world. They felt like they were segregated from the world. He wished he had mouth-papers remembering a Pakistani man who had said: “I don’t read paper. I am a simple man. I like a simple life. I get the news from my friends.”
But the most remarkable thing was they had a friendly food supply system. A grocery, a liquor store and a bakery has been delivered them daily necessaries immediately to the door of their house on free of charge for delivery service from the nearby town, called Tusshi, whenever they ordered by phone. George always felt sorry for their free services so he tried to give them a small tip at their each trip, but they all seriously refused. It was a small cheerless fishing village. There were no bars and no fancy restaurants.
With the good line of an excellent food supply, he felt like he was combating dullness. Dangerously dull that the degree of bluntness could kill you, unless you were strong enough to defend yourself. With plenty of ammunition of food, they were trying to entertain for themselves, trying to hold themselves, trying to protect their own space of life style, not to be ruined by any means at all. Their stomachs were strong and well worked. She was always hungry as the mealtime approached. She enjoyed both cooking and eating. They were fishing, swimming, quarreling, reading and chatting.
Again, that night, he went to bed late, much late, as a writer, after working hard.
When the sun was up above the red roof, George Dean got up and brushed and washed. He then looked at his sunburned face in the mirror in the bathroom in his naked body and ran his hand across his cheeks and chin disapprovingly. Not wanting to shave his shark skin yet, he took a cold shower, picked one of the neatly folded fresh bath towels up from the basket and wrapped himself below waist and tugged a corner of the towel deep inside holding a breath after he took a deep breath.
He, now, sat at table eating branch* feeling of him slowly waking up by the aid of coffee. He sat against the bright window filled with tall brightly green grass that grew close by the window. He, across the empty sun baking road and the grass field, looked at the brightly green leaves of trees of the thick forest, in the sun, far off, on the end of the empty level grass field. Behind the forest, which sharply sloped down, the main road was running down to Tusshi in winding against the dark green of the mountains in a distance across the green of the rice fields. Right in front, slightly on his right, he also could see, through the screen across the bedroom, an old tree that stood at the edge of the front yard. All the branches that had been cut close to the trunk looked like stout, shapeless legs of elephants. Sprouts grew out from the flat ends of the branches. It could be seen in one of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings.
The cool morning breeze, came down the mountain, was blowing through the house. The cicadas were shrilling clinging against the branches of the trees. On the table was a pair of binoculars standing.
“George, you can’t be a fisherman,” she said, drinking coffee.
“I wish I am an old man now,” he said, after he took a gulf of eggnog like a moray eel.
“You already look like an old man now.”
“I wish I am as old as Old Parr.”
“Old Parr is only twelve years old.”
“Old Parr refers Thomas Parr, who lived hundred fifteen years.”
“A few more decades later you will go to bed early and get up early in the morning as an old man like a bird.”
“But I am glad I have a hand-alarm clock.”
“I couldn’t wake you up earlier this morning. I know you were tired.”
“I know you wanted me to sleep well and longer as possible as you could to let me have fresh and clear head after I got up.”
“How was your work?”
“Two clean hits.”
Imaging a play baseball, he called a “hit” for a solid good line that could make the book, which he has been working on, better, or it could give him a new idea he could develop it further deep and well to lead the book to where he has been aiming for.
“I paid the price for them.”
“What time did you finish?”
“I thought that too when you came into the bed.”
“What time did you get up, little sister?”
“That’s a good time to start for a new day.”
“I have sun-alarm clock.”
“Not stomach-alarm clock?”
“What did you do since?” he asked, enjoying bacon and fried eggs, buttered whole-wheat toast and spread strawberry jam.
“I know you can’t hardly wait to eat together.”
“I will die, if I do.”
“That’s one thing I can’t wait for you, even though eating together is tastier. My empty stomach is always crying and crying and crying in the morning.”
“Without the profile of you eating, alone, well and seriously in the morning is unthinkable.”
“Which one is more sentimental-looking between those two profiles of mine reading your work or eating food?”
Indeed George loved the profile of her reading of his works. Her gentle oval face against the whiteness of sheet held in her right hand, or looking into the screen of laptop, with her smoothly long neck and fine brownish black hair gathered upward in a bun was what made his heart beat violently.
“As a good-eater,” she smiled.
“As a good-reader for good reading.”
“You are a good-eater now.”
“Good-eater, you are a good reader and I am a good writer so we are equally good.”
“But you are a creator. You are an inventor. Inventors are greater than users.”
“No readers, no writers,” he said.
“So here we are brother and sister again,” she said.
“Not as man and woman?”
“But we are like brother and sister as always.”
“All right. Good-reader, what did you do then?”
She stood up and walked away and came back with something in her hand.
“For this,” she sat it on the table.
“I picked it up down on the beach this morning.”
“A sculpture by an unknown artist.”
“What is it look to you, honey?”
“Hard to tell.”
“Come on say something. You are a writer.”
“You can go for a woman holding a baby.”
“What’s the next?”
“Vacuuming floors of the rooms and kitchen and reading.”
“Couldn’t it wake me up?”
“You were sleeping like dead one. I am kidding. I was just mopping.”
“Water is very calm today,” he said, looking out through the screen across the bedroom and the brightness of gravel yard.
“Water is very clean today.”
“I could see only a few fishing boats out there now.”
“There were a lot while you were sleeping.”
“I suppose so.”
“Are you going down to swim after eating?” she asked.
“What do you want to eat tonight, honey? Isn’t there anything you specially like to eat?”
“Better not too soon.”
“All right then. I can’t think other food now. I am eating this good food now.”
“Grilled fish, cooked vegetable, miso soup, pickles will do for dinner for a nice and fine day. What do you think?”
“All right then.”
“I admire you. You are a great decision-maker. You always make the decision in the morning.”
“I like to make the decision in the morning by the weather and by the health condition of the day.” She made the same line she had made long time ago in an Italian restaurant in Singapore. But she omitted one thing he still remembered.
“What kind of mood do you have this morning, Sweet?”
“Good. Things isn’t always good as it has been so far.”
“I have enough rudeness so you don’t have to be.”
“That’s what I am talking about you.”
“Be polite tonight then?”
“I can’t be a polite person, can I?”
“But aren’t you going to be yourself in bed where no one bother your rudeness?”
“If that’s what you want, I can go for.”
“Oh, please don’t tease me.”
“I don’t want to bother your work either.”
“Oh, come on. Don’t be too polite.”
“I mean it.”
“You promise me you don’t go out for fishing tonight?”
“Is good is good here?”
“Truly. Fishing spoil you badly.”
“You can be a destroyer then.”
“Oh, come on, I don’t want to be a destroyer.”
“Then we could be brother and sister again.”
“All right, my destroyer.”
“As both destroyers.”
“As friendly destroyers.”
The dinning room was shaded and cool. It had two large windows. One was facing directly toward the sun baking concrete road ran parallel with the window you could not see by the interruption of four big cypress, each was trimmed in the shape of many scoops of ice cream piled up one after another, standing side by side closely. The young man didn’t much care of the man-made form of trees. The other was facing the neighbor, across the tall brightly green grass but from where he sat now he could only look at the road, that ran downward, at angle, to the main road, and the forest, far off, across the sun baking road and the grass field. He, now, looked at the shiny green leaves of the top of the tall trees, still, swinging gently and lazily against the whiteness of cumulus clouds. Then he looked at the tall grass iron still in the sun for a long time until the grass rippled in the wind, as the top of the bamboo against the forest were swinging lazily. A green-blue-green oniyama-tombo was cutting the window against the trees far off.
She lay on the sofa comfortably with her legs stretched out beneath the window filled with green of grass and trees. Her heavy-bottomed sweaty crystal glass of jin tonic with a piece of squeezed lime packed with ice sat on the cool wooden floor. Her head was on the armrest of the sofa. She now sat up to drink her liquor.
“Hana, do you want to go down to swim after drinking it?”
“What you mean you may?”
“I will see how strong the sun is.”
“Okay, let’s go out to see it. To see how clean the water is too.”
“Not now. Leave it there. I will wash it.”
“Are you going to work now?” she asked.
“Meanwhile I will wash and vacuum the rooms. Rooms are so messy.”
“All right. You are truly an octopus”
“We are in summer. Not in winter, honey.”
“Octopus like clean places.”
“Oh, you’re too much,” she said, remembering what a fisherman said that octopus love clean places so all the takotsubo, pale orange of vase-like earthen traps, must be cleaned thoroughly for them before fishermen set them up at the seabed.
He now picked up the field glasses from the table and walked over the bedroom and opened the screen window. Across the brightness of gravel yard and the brightly green lawn of neighbor surrounded with lowerchain-link fence, he looked out. The sea rose high toward the horizon. Neither the mountains of Honshu Island, across the sea, nor Ie, a group of islets, nor Shyodo Island were visible by the steamy heat. Far left of the green lawn, was a small two-story square house, also, white-painted, but turned to gray by the weather. The square house stood against the background of tall trees and all the windows covered with shatters facing to the road and sea. On the right, before him, the road ran down smoothly toward the edge of cliff, where was a street light standing against the sea and the sky. He loved to look out from, he called his personal vista. Directly below was the narrow and long concrete stairs against the slump cliff reached down to the pebble beach. He loved to stand in the vista to look out at the color of the sea that changed, all the time, by the shape of clouds and wind that stronger wind made the sea greener. So far, they had good weather so the sea was, usually, dark blue, except green with a few dark islands of seaweed along near the beach. From the edge of cliff, you could see the pebble beach and you even could clearly see the pebbles through the clear colorless shallow water along near the shore. Below right, was a white house had a red lean-to roof among the trees on the corner where the road curved sharply, from near the edge of the cliff, and ran downward steeply through several other white houses with all the windows also covered with shatters tightly. He looked out at the lazy sea, through the heavy binoculars, like a captain looking out at sea from his ship. He, through the lenses, loved to see the sharpness of texture of surfaces of the sea. The sea was calm and blue.
“You can’t see any fishing boats out there now,” he said, looking out through the binoculars what she called his personal toy.
“It’s very hot now.”
“Hana, are you sure you don’t want to go down to swim?”
“I don’t think so. The sun is too strong now. I don’t want to get tanned.”
“I want to make me coffee brown,” he said, still covering his eyes with his toy.
“You are already close to that, aren’t you?”
“Not really. Still too far to close to that,” he said, walking over to her.
“I don’t want you get more tanned.”
“I like dark skin.”
“I don’t like dark skin.”
“I know you don’t.”
“Honey, are you going to swim in naked again too?”
“We will do it in the twilight.”
“I hope there isn’t any people down there.”
“Probably there isn’t any one yet.”
“Usually most of the bathers will be coming late summer toward the end of summer.”
“We are in early summer. We are not even in the mid-summer.”
“So, until then, the beach is like our own private beach,” she said.
“But, honey, I don’t like the pebbles,” she said.
“I know you don’t like it. But once you started to swim it won’t bother you.”
“But when you stand in the water you feel bad underneath your feet and hard to walk on them.”
“It won’t bother me,” he said, cleaning the lenses carefully as he was standing.
“But Keinomatsubara Beach is nice. It has beautiful sandy beach and plenty of pine trees behind along the beach.”
“I know. We saw it on the way to Minato City on a bus to see a second hand cassette radio,” he said.
“Do you think we should have bought it?”
“It was worthless. Too old and too expensive.”
“But the trip was worth because we saw the nice beach.”
“It’s a man-made pine forest,” she said.
“Was the sand too?”
“I am not sure.”
“Wai Kiki Beach is man-made.”
“Was it pebbly too?”
“Must be a beautiful beach to be crowded then.”
“Too well known for that too.”
“I guess our beach is much better.”
“I think so too. Honey, is there anyway we can rent bicycles around here?”
“Only we have to buy.”
“Too expensive. Any used ones?”
“The shop don’t have any used ones at this moment.”
“I wish we can ride bicycles down to Keinomatsubara Beach.”
“It will be a nice riding.”