30 May, Maru Ayase

文字数 4,476文字

What Will Follow You


Back when I used to walk around with my baby strapped to my chest, there was an irritating man who often stalked me.
  He would suddenly appear from some back street when I was coming or going from the nursery school in the morning or evening, stepping right up behind me and attempting to start a conversation. He was a chubby man who looked to be in his sixties, and he terrified me when he began to ask rapid-fire questions about my child, like:
  “How cute! How old is she?” “Where are the two of you going?” and “Where do you live?”
  If I ignored him and walked away, he would come after us on his bicycle. He’d be standing in front of the supermarket waiting for me to finish my shopping. I had talked to the police and had had a man I knew, a convenience store manager who happened to be around, glare at the man. But despite my efforts, he continued to stalk me at the train station and around the park for almost two years.
  One day, I saw the suspicious man standing at a ticket gate at the train station. He was looking at us with a faint smile on his face. I turned away from him, feeling my usual sense of aversion.
  

Hush!

Dont

meet

his

eyes.


  That’s a line you often find in manga. I wonder where it began? It’s the one a nagging mother grabbing her child by the hand always says. I hadn’t realized what I had unconsciously believed: that you shouldn’t meet the eyes of anything dangerous. The moment I lowered my eyes to the floor, I felt a strong feeling of anger rising inside me; I raised my head and stared the man in the eye. I could tell that he was taken aback when my eyes locked on his. He turned around and made a hasty exit.
  You shouldn’t look away from something dangerous. It will follow you if you do. I understood then that self-protection begins by looking at it and showing it that you will respond.
  For a few years after that time, I had forgotten about that man.
  Five days after the state of emergency was lifted, I helped my child practice riding a bicycle during the afternoon and went shopping by myself in the evening. It was a comfortable day with light clouds in the sky, and there were only a few people out. I was beginning to get used to the quiet we’d been experiencing for the last two months.
  It was then that I noticed one of the men who had been cutting the trees on the side of the road that afternoon still standing in the same spot he had been before. Tall and muscular, he looked like he was in his late thirties. I remembered him because he had kept looking my way, and made an impression on me when I passed by a few hours earlier. There were no more tools around him and the area appeared to have been cleaned up, but the man was still acting like he was working on something as he stood in front of the shrubs.
  I felt oddly uncomfortable about passing by this man or turning my back to him. With a vague sense of anxiety, I slipped into a narrow path a few meters away from where he stood.
  As I walked for a few minutes along the familiar path, I suddenly remembered something.
  You shouldn’t look away from something dangerous.
  I turned around and saw the man making his way along the narrow path. He was about ten meters away from me. In line with my movement, he turned his face away from me in an exaggerated way before running back to where he’d been before. I got home and reported him to the police and was told that other women had also reported a man with a similar description in the same location.
  The momentum to refrain from going out will probably go on. People won’t be back on the streets right away, and there are fewer businesses open during the evening hours. Please, readers, do be careful.


Translated by Eriko Sugita/Arranged by TranNet KK


Maru Ayase
Born in Chiba Prefecture, 1986. Made her literary debut in 2010 with

Hana

ni

kuramu

(Dazzled by the flowers) for which she won Reader’s Prize of the 9th R-18 Literature for Women By Women Award. Nominated for the 38th Noma Literature Prize for New Writers in 2016 for

Yagate

umi

e

to

todoku

(Eventually delivered to the sea). Was also nominated for the 158th Naoki Prize in 2017 and won the 5th High-Schooler Naoki Prize in 2018 for

Kuchinashi

(Common gardenia). Her other works include

Saihate

no

ie

(Furthest house),

Mori

ga

afureru

(Overflowing forest),

Shugyoku

(Gem),

Fuzai

(Absence), among others.

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