13 June, Miu Kakiya

文字数 4,930文字

The New Normal


. . . I see you in a new light. You are the savior of our company.
  When I saw this message from the section chief, I couldn’t help but throw my fist into the air.
  Once I began working remotely, my sales performance steadily grew and I made it as the company’s top salesperson. Prior to this, I had pretty much been down at the bottom for fifteen years since joining the company, and my colleagues who started around the same time had all beaten me to a promotion. I would be second to none if it were based on enthusiasm alone, but I have a social anxiety disorder so I’m not very good with my words, and on top of that, I don’t drink, which makes it difficult for me to socialize when we go out in the evenings.
  Online, however, these shortcomings of mine vanish into thin air. When doing video conference calls with clients, I don’t feel nervous because we’re not talking face-to-face. I also created some documents that made excellent use of graphs and illustrations, and when I sent them out in an email, they were surprisingly popular and I received a lot more customer enquiries than I had expected. I was being approached on almost a daily basis with detailed questions about product performance, so I responded sincerely to each and every one of them, and I even offered some friendly advice about financing.
  As I faced the computer, Kento, who is in his second year of elementary school, sat next to me working hard on his Japanese kanji drills. The school had divided his class into smaller groups, staggering their attendance to help with social distancing.
  Dad, your work looks fun.
  I guess so. That’s because it’s rewarding.
  Working remotely means there’s no workplace harassment or mandatory drinking parties after work. In the end, my job is to promote the benefits of our products and have customers buy them. It’s not my job to sacrifice my personal life to go drinking with my boss and our clients until late at night, showering them with compliments in a desperate attempt to be liked and lowering myself in order to gain their sympathy.
  The good news is that even though the declaration of a state of emergency has been lifted, remote work is now an option. Thanks to this, the pains in my head and stomach have disappeared and my health has improved. I have been set free from the crowded trains, and when I feel tired, I can lie down on the tatami mat floor. If I stay there and take a nap, it refreshes my mind and ideas start flowing one after the other. I also have more time to research. It’s very efficient.
  Dad, it’s almost time for our walk.
  Under the clear blue sky of early summer, I chose a quiet street to walk down side by side with Kento. There was less traffic so the air was clear, but above all, I was happy I could talk to Kento about lots of different things. We stopped by a small park and played soccer together, working up a sweat.
  Hey, Kento, is it ok if I just do eggs and rice with some stir-fried vegetables for dinner?
  Sure, sounds good.
  My wife is a public health nurse and has been doing a lot of overtime, coming home from the health care center completely worn out like a ragged cloth. I started doing all the housework instead of her, and for the first time, I’ve been able to understand why she gets grumpy.
  Let’s stop by the convenience store on the way home and buy your mom’s favorite matcha ice cream.
  Kento’s face suddenly lit up when I said this. I want chocolate flavor!
  A work-life balance had always seemed like pie in the sky to me. There was too much overtime without even a second to recover from the fatigue, and I thought the day would never come when I could cherish my family. And yet it only took the novel coronavirus a few months to bring about a world that would have normally taken ten years to achieve.
  I can’t go back to how it was.
  I never want to go back.
  When we get home, let’s fold the laundry together. Will you help me?"
  I’m really good at it, I take both ends like this and then I fold it neatly.
  Kento’s little hands flew through the air and the golden evening sun shone down happily upon them.


Translated by Lauren Barrett/Arranged by TranNet KK

Miu Kakiya
Born in Hyōgo Prefecture, 1959. Graduated from Meiji University’s School of Arts and Letters. Made her literary debut in 2005 with Tatsumaki gāru (Tornado girl) for which she won the Mystery Novel New Face Award. Her works include

Risetto

(Reset),

Kekkon

aite

wa

chūsen

de

(The marriage partner will be decided by lottery),

Nyūtaun

wa

tasogarete

(Dusk falling on the new town),

Otto

no

kanojo

(My husband’s girlfriend),

Anata

no

jinsei

katazukemasu

(I will clean up your life),

Rōgo

no

shikin

ga

arimasen

(There are no funds in old age),

Yonjussai

mikon

shussan

(Unmarried birth at 40), among others.

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