Dansu dansu dansu, Kodansha Ltd, Tokyo 1988
Translated by Alfred Birnbaum
Vintage Books, London 2002
See also A Wild Sheep Chase
The assignment was a piece called "Good Eating in Hakodate" for a women’s magazine. A photographer and I were to visit a few restaurants. I’d write the story up, he’d supply the photos, for a total of five pages. Well, somebody’s got to write these things. And the same can be said for collecting garbage and shoveling snow. It doesn’t matter whether you like it or not – a job’s a job.
For three and a half years, I’d been making this kind of contribution to society. Shoveling snow. You know, cultural snow.
"Well, now," she hedged, touching the bridge of her glasses with her index finger. "That was before we opened our doors, so I really couldn’t -"
Her words cut off. I waited for her to continue, but she didn’t.
"I’m terribly sorry," she said.
"Oh," I said. Seconds went by. I found myself liking her. I wanted to touch the bridge of my glasses as well, except that I wasn’t wearing glasses. "Well, then, is there anyone you can ask?"
She held her breath a second, thinking it over. The smile vanished. It’s exceedingly difficult to hold your breath and keep smiling. Just try it if you don’t believe me.
Naturally I didn’t know whether she wanted to sleep with me. But I understood that she wouldn’t mind sleeping with me. I could tell from her eyes, how she breathed, the way she talked, even her hand movements. And of course, I knew I wouldn’t mind sleeping with her. There probably wouldn’t be any complications either. I’d simply happened through and gone off. Just as she herself had said. Yet, somehow, the resolve failed me. The notion of fairness lingered somewhere in the back of my mind. She was ten years younger than me, more than a little insecure, and she’d had so much to drink she couldn’t walk straight. It’d be like calling the bets with marked cards. Not fair.
Still, how much jurisdiction does fairness hold over sex? If fairness was what you wanted, your sex life would be as exciting as the algae growing in aquarium.
"So what I have to do?"
"Dance," said the Sheep Man. "Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays. Yougotta dance. Don’teventhinkwhy. Starttothink, yourfeetstop. Yourfeetstop, wegetstuck. Wegetstuck, you’restuck. Sodon’tpayanymind, nomatterhowdumb. Yougottakeepthestep. Yougottalimberup. Yougottaloosenwhatyoubolteddown. Yougottauseallyougot. Weknowyou’retired, tiredandscared. Happenstoeveryone, okay? Jusdon’tletyourfeetstop."
I looked up and gazed again at the shadow on the wall.
"Dancingiseverything," continued the Sheep Man. "Danceintip-topform. Dancesoitallkeepsspinning. Ifyoudothat, wemightbeabletodosomethingforyou. Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays."
Dance. As long as the music plays, echoed my mind.