Trouble With Women, Part II

By Kunikida Doppo (Tr. C E Zambrano)

II

In the summer of the same year, I rented a little house near the mountains in Kamakura and stayed there with my family to get away from the heat. One night the sky was so clear and the moon shone so brightly that I decided to go out for a walk along the beach.

The beach was like a different place at night, with few people out despite the exquisite moon. I stood at the water’s edge where a small stream flowed into the ocean and gazed out at the silver light chopped up by the waves. And as I stood there the faint sound of a shakuhachi wafted toward me. I looked around and realized the flute’s sound was coming from a place not very far to the west where several fishing boats were drawn up.

As I approached, I saw that there was indeed one small boat pulled ashore, eight or nine yards from the water’s edge. A group of ten or more men and women surrounded the boat, some sitting along the side of the boat, others squatting or standing in the sand—and one man among them was leaning against the side of the boat playing the shakuhachi.

I stood away from the group and listened. The moonlight washed over the crowd as they listened closely, not making a sound. Just then the song seemed to end, and three or four of the audience stood up and left. The rest stayed and waited for the next song, but the man just set the shakuhachi on his knee, let his head droop, and was still. He stayed like this for another four or five minutes, then another three or four stood up and left. I approached the boat.

Looking around, the only people left were a small child who lived near the beach and two youngsters from town. I went and stood in front of the shakuhachi player. He lifted his head and I couldn’t believe it—it was the same blind man I had seen in Ginza that spring.

Now of course he was blind, and even if he wasn’t, he probably wouldn’t have recognized me, so he just faced in my direction for a while, then finally began to play again. For a short time he moved his fingertips playfully and seemed to be pulling the low notes out like they were threads. But then suddenly he stopped and stepped away from the boat.

Suddenly I said, “Anma-san[1], could you come to my home and play a little for me?”

“Oh-ho,” he said in a surprised voice and looked at my face. Then his head drooped to the side again. “Oh, I go anywhere I’m asked.”

“Alright then, let’s go,” I said, standing up.

“You aren’t able to see at all, are you?” I looked back and asked after a few steps.

“No, I can see a little bit out of my right eye.”

“You can make do as long as you can see just a little, I imagine.”

“He-he-he,” he gave a light-hearted laugh, but then spoke again. “No, actually it can be very hard even if you can see a little, especially when you get hungry.”

“Hey, watch out for the bridge!” I said as we approached a small bridge set over the channel. “Sure, but if you couldn’t see at all, it would be impossible to get out to a place like this and save up some money, right?”

“That would be true if I bothered saving, but it all gets away from me…”

“Hey, where were you born?”

“Oh, I was born out west.”

“I saw you once in Ginza this spring, and since then I’ve wondered from time to time who you were. So today I knew your face as soon as I saw you.”

“Oh, is that so? Well, I just wander aimlessly now, wherever my feet take me. I walk all around, from city to city, so I hardly know who I meet along the way…”

On the road we came across two or three youngsters. A thin wisp of cloud passed in front of the moon, casting a dim haze over our surroundings. The soft tune of an accordion echoed from a high window. We were at my house in no time.

 

*****

Notes:

[1] The word anma (あんま) means “masseuse,” and because many masseuses were blind, it became a way to address the blind, regardless of their profession.

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