22 April, Izumi Kurosawa

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Today is April 22—Good Couples Day*

This wedding anniversary marks something of a milestone for my wife and me, but it’s all a bit irrelevant now. It isn’t like we’re going on a trip, or going out for a nice meal. Nor will the children help us celebrate the day. It’s an ordinary day of nothingness.
  When you’ve been married for as long as we have, there cease to be any happenings of note or conversations to make the heart dance. A monotonous, humdrum routine—that’s what it is to have a quiet, uneventful life.
  I stare dazedly at the television. Soon after I look away from the dismal news, a vacuous variety show comes on like any ordinary day.
  How peculiar it is to buy into the deception of such shows putting on a veneer of normalcy as if nothing is the matter. Everyone wants to look away. Everyone wants to believe that once these extraordinary days are behind us, there will be a natural return to normal. But we aren’t likely to find normal anywhere. It is an illusion. The notion of normal is already being rewritten. Turning a blind eye to this truth, people find solace in deception and cling to the cult of life as usual.
  No one wants change. That’s understandable. Change is frightening. The thought of not being able to go back to the way things were brings a lot of anxiety. And so, we try to pretend the pandemic isn’t happening. We want to turn back the clock entirely. We’ve designated the past as the rightful home of the soul. In that regard, I’m no exception.
  Has the world really changed all that much? I step out onto the balcony and breathe in the air, still tinged with the bite of winter and none of the warmth of spring. I look out over the scene—vehicle traffic doesn’t appear to have declined all that dramatically, and there are occasional passersby.
  Stay home, close businesses, lock down. Is it worth all the fuss, I wonder, and yet, the disease bares its fangs equally without regard to wealth or virtue.
  Faced with an invisible threat, perhaps we are standing at the edge of a precipice. Living as we are at the whim of the disease, will we be pushed off the precipice if we go out and congregate with others?
  Active people who break stay-at-home orders out of restlessness are pelted with criticism, while recluses, whose introversion might ordinarily be frowned upon, have become objects of admiration. The world has become inverted.
  I hear the cries that stores will go out of business and companies will not survive. As much as we want to support them, we barely have the means to get by ourselves. The end is approaching. Of what, exactly—I don’t yet know. Should these stagnant days come to an end and bring about reform to change society for the better—whether that is something to shun or celebrate—for now, I can’t say.
  Only one thing is for certain. The illusory doll’s house in which we now live will collapse someday. As surely as nothing stays unchanged, it will collapse, if not tomorrow, or a month from now, then within the next six months. Something dramatic will happen and that, in turn, will become the new normal. In the not too distant future.
  I go back into the living room and watch my wife laughing vacantly at the television. I take a seat on the sofa next to her, keeping the usual distance between us. The social distancing measures observed in our household haven’t changed since before the commotion began. And now, we find ourselves confined together.
  I cast another glance at my wife, whose face hasn’t moved an inch from the television.
  Today is Good Couples Day.

(*Note: April 22: The numbers 4-22 can be read in Japanese as yoi fuufu, which means good married couple.)

Translated by Takami Nieda/Arranged by TranNet KK

Izumi Kurosawa
Born in Fukuoka Prefecture. Made their literary debut with Ningen ni muitenai (Not suitable for people), for which they won the 57th Mephisto Prize.




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