ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2012
issue/numero: # 01



The only happy ending for a love story is an accident


Author | Autor: João Paulo Cuenca


Translated by Elizabeth Lowe



I can’t see her tonight 
  I have to stop
  So I’ll dine on fugu
  Yosa Buson (1716-83)

1.


Before Mr. Atsuo Okuda opened the box, everything was dark. More than that, there was nothing to be illuminated before Mr. Okuda opened the box. If Mr. Okuda had never opened the box, nothing would exist. The world began only at the instant that Mr. Okuda opened the box and said the word. He said: Yoshiko.
  And Yoshiko became my name.
  After Mr. Okuda said Yoshiko, I gained, in addition to a name, many beginnings and an ending. I begin at the tips of my fingers, in the strands of my hair, on the soles of my feet, the nipples of my breasts, the skin that covers the emptiness in my body and on the entire surface that makes me who I am. I could not be anything else because I have this body, and I only have this body, I am this body. 
  And my purpose with this body is just one thing: to serve Mr. Okuda. 
  Mr. Okuda is my master, but he did not make me. My creator is Luvdoll Inc., located on 4-5-28 Nishi-Kawagushi, in the city of Kawagushi, province of Saitama. My creator followed detailed instructions from Mr. Okuda, whose order number was 2358B. Five copies of order number 2358B were circulated for sixty five days through different departments of Luvdoll Inc. The order said that I should have dark brown eyes (Pantone 4975C), pearly white skin #5, breasts, the sinusoid model, weighing 220 grams and 92.5 centimeters in diameter, a bellybutton .8 cm deep and an extra small vagina #2, with pubic hair in a vertical cut, 8 cm depth and 4 cm in circumference.
  Other details were added in conversations between Mr. Okuda and Luvdoll Inc, since Mr. Okuda is a stickler for detail and this encouraged Luvdoll to introduce several new variations in its production line. Among the minute modifications new to Luvdoll Inc that were introduced by Mr. Okuda, were the curvature of my feet, and the thickness of the bones of my clavicles and hips. 
  Mr. Okuda wanted my bones to be prominent, and they are. 
  Mr. Okuda did not at any time identify himself to Luvdoll Inc. He paid fifty million yen for this customized project, which makes me the most expensive doll ever produced in Japan. Mr. Okuda is a well-known poet and he announced that he had stopped writing years ago. This is a lie, because Mr. Okuda recites poetry to me, saying that he could have paid much more than fifty million yen for me because I am perfect and because I am perfect, I am also the only person with whom he shares his poetry. Mr. Okuda told me this in a poem that he wrote between the lines of another poem. Mr. Okuda addresses me in verse. Mr. Okuda does not need to recite his verses for me to understand them. I know what he wants to say when he looks at me. I take orders from his silence because I am this body and this body has only one purpose, which is to serve Mr. Okuda, even if it’s listening to his poems about my perfection, about the cypress trees on a street in Shikoku, about birdsongs, or even, about poetry itself, a theme very dear to Mr. Okuda that he also inserts between the lines of other poems about many other topics, some that I can barely understand, and thus the poems and the lines of the poems multiply and combine infinitely, and through them Mr. Okuda makes me see not just the beautiful feelings he has for me but also for the world outside, and what is above him and below him, because I have never left nor will I ever leave this house that is my house and also Mr. Okuda’s house.
  And, if I think about it, really my house, my only house, is Mr Okuda, himself.




2.


Under the reflection of red lights on the wet asphalt, the nocturnal submarine sails under the foundation of buildings, between electric cables, sewage tunnels and the metro. The pieces of this submerged vessel are bugs on telephones, cameras and microphones hidden in rooms and one-way mirrors in bathrooms all over the city. Our frog men, workers who monitor the movements of anyone worth watching, can break into mail boxes and follow anyone for as long as Mr. Okuda deems it to be necessary.
  The equipment feeds the monitors and the amplifiers in a small room in my father’s basement, that he calls the Periscope Room. It’s the cockpit of his anonymous observation post. Seen from the door, the bank of monitors look like the eye of a giant fly.
  That’s what I learned growing up from my father, Mr. Atsuo Okuda: to observe. To observe and to remain invisible. 
  Since the days grow ever longer for Mr. Okuda, and the old man dreams while sleeping in an embrace with the doll Yoshiko almost all the time, the job of operating the Periscope falls to me. It’s my inheritance, he would say. "It’s what will be left of me, more than my books, " he would say 
Mr. Lagosta Okuda’s periscope, my inheritance, would not work without the help of Mr. Suguro Shibata, professor of the Association of the Harmonious Fugu of Tsukiji. Mr. Suguro owes favors to my father and, besides everything else, he is handsomely paid to supply wild fugu and to do the dirty job of espionage. A word, by the way, that my father detests—he prefers to call this activity "observation."
  I saw Suguro Shibata just once, when I was a child, almost thirty years ago. My only recollection of him is his smell. He smelled of something rotten. 
  If I only met Mr. Shibata once, that does not mean that I wasn’t being watched by him on innumerable occasions during the last decades. Piled up in the Periscope Room, are thousands of Betamax tapes, VHS tapes and then silver DVD discs, with images of my life, from adolescence to the moment that this story ends. I got used to the vigilance from an early age—I learned how to watch others being watched by my father.
  I discovered the Periscope Room in the basement a few years after I started chasing women. In it, organized by date and time of day, are clandestine recordings of my first sexual encounters in the motels of Shibuya, and also conversations, arguments, and reconciliations at meals and on excursions and during the afternoons of my adolescence.
  With time, I boarded the submarine with my father and together we began to sail in pursuit of our object of study through the city of invisible people, through the city where people from all over our great Japanese nation come to be forgotten, through the asymmetrical city that carries within it all others and none of them.
  In such moments, Mr. Lagosta Okuda utters words in his dreams that enter into mine:
  "One day you will understand that the only possible ending for a love story is an accident without survivors. Yes, Shunsuke, my little leech, idiot fugu: an accident without survivors." 




3.


The train stops. 
The landscape we see through the window stops being a streak of horizontal lines and freezes into shapes backlit by the rain. Next to the small bridge over the Yamanote line there is a wall of commercial buildings and malls. On top of everything a billboard advertises soup in neon tubes. The only set of windows without closed curtains or darkened glass is on the fifth floor of the curved building to the right. There a group of little ballerinas rehearses choreography in the middle of the room, while others stretch their legs on a metal barre. The movement of the girls is so pure that I think of elbowing you and sharing the ballerinas with you. But the reach of my hand to your body is interrupted by the explosion.
   The boom starts with a piercing sound at the front of the car that runs through us like a sharp katana sabre. As the impact advances through the seats and the human beings in them, the grinding of twisted metal takes on a serious tone. The alteration is sudden: where before there was a sense of continuity and order, now there is entropy. The first to be taken by the shock wave is an adolescent who is typing something on a cell phone. Next to him a gray blister in the door that connects the cars swells and gains momentum, like a fish taking in air to then explode, exposing sharpened claws that take the kid by the torso, perforating his body. In a rapid pitching motion, the metal teeth lift him to the ceiling. The boy’s blood squirts on to the faces of the old people sitting in the front. Before they have time to react, they are swallowed by a solid wall that takes the left side of the car. 
   The jelly of human remains, pieces of iron and plastic, advance slowly, taking on other bodies and objects in a lead gray cyclone with red fringes. The metallic rumbling joins the sound of skulls cracking. They are like ripe grapes, Iulana. The floor of the car twists, its ceiling is transformed into a sheer precipice. And now we are the ones who take flight, suspended over the ground, in the grip of a wave about to break. The armrests sway as if they were in an earthquake, the LCD monitors flicker before being sucked into the vortex of destruction. Things are happening, Iulana. 
   Soon we will hear nothing more. There will just be silence and cold when the chaos takes over half of the train car. The wave is almost on us. The "accident" as they will call what is happening here. I feel superior, I can say, because they don’t know anything. They, who at this moment are entering and leaving Tokyo in well lit trains and who are ingested, processed and expelled every day through the guts of this animal of concrete and electricity. They, who are completely unaware of what is happening here while they enter elevators, sidewalks, tunnels, escalators, moving walkways, platforms, the long subterranean tunnels of the stations, that won’t interrupt their perpetual movement with our small tragedy. They, who perhaps in a few hours may find out about our story, the "accident" as they will call what just happened, and they will be moved and fearful looking at our news on the kitchen television while they eat breakfast early in the morning—and I confess that tomorrow already seems like a word and a concept that is totally absurd. They, who will think about death for a brief instant to later forget the matter and return to the streets and to their trains, as if we were not waiting for them at some fixed point in the future. Because there is something in this train car that is inimitable and sublime. 
   Even so, I’ll try to move the story forward. I imagine the newspaper headlines, maybe the picture of our remains tossed together on the tracks. Very little will be left, they will have to take DNA tests from little pieces of charred flesh and bone. I imagine them poking around our corpses, like one of those crime scene investigators, and I think that I’d be useless at forensic medicine—I don’t know if it’s because of this moment of urgency but I am even thankful for the miserable job I’ve had in the last few years. It reminds me of all who are not in this car—like us, soon they will also no longer be in this world. And I can even see the face of Mr. Lagosta Okuda, and I think with some guilt that I should have visited him before, and paid homage to the urn of my mother inside Yoshiko, manufactured in Kawagushi, province of Saitama, according to the detailed specifications my father gave them. 
  And I think of you, Iulana Romiszowska, your thick fingers and solid calves, and the long way that all the parts of your body traveled from Poland to your childhood in the port city of Constanta, at the edge of the Black Sea, in Romania, until your big, round blue eyes found the illuminated monster of Tokyo, and not without some amazement, found me—and at this moment I just wish you could also think about me, who knows how. I feel a strange sense of peace, Iulana. It’s as if I were submerged under the surface of something new. I know that I’m almost not here, and that brings me a sensation of immediate nostalgia as if I were reconstructing a dream, walking in the middle of a long déjà-vu at the same time that the misshapen chaos of steel and ground meat silently gallops in our direction. The darkness takes over everything, as if taking back something that always belonged to it. It’s all very natural, Iulana. Let’s observe this wave with calm indifference, in spite of the certainty of the nearing end, or because of it.
  When you finally turn to me, our eyes meet in an empty place. And before I have time to touch your shoulder to share the ballerinas dancing in white dresses on the fifth floor of the curved building to the right, under the billboard that is advertising soup in neon tubes, in shapes backlit by the rain, before everything disappears and the silence takes over our eyes, you will still have time to say my name, for the first time you’ll say my name, Iulana Romiszowska, for the first time you’ll say my name with your nocturnal voice. 





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