avoiding shocks and disappointments

March 22, 2020

Please forgive me for writing to you like this, but it was such a great and unexpected pleasure to speak with you on Sunday afternoon in the waiting room at the dock. At my age, few things are unexpected, and one spends considerable effort avoiding shocks and disappointments. I don’t suppose you would understand, but it is the sort of mental habit you develop when you reach old age.

But this past Sunday was different. Time seemed to have stopped, and I found myself being led to a place I had never even imagined.

It would be only natural that you despise me for the disgusting incident I provoked at the hotel, and I had been hoping even before we met to make a proper apology. But the open and completely unguarded way you looked at me left me bewildered that I was unable to say anything to the point. Thus, I wish to offer you my apologies in this letter.

I have lived alone for a long time now, and I spend my days locked away on the island with my translations. I have very few friends, and I have never known a beautiful girl like you. It has been decades since anyone waved good-bye to me the way you did. I have walked along that dock countless times, but always alone, never once having cause to turn back to look for anyone.

You waved to me as if I were an old friend, and that gesture – insignificant to you – was enormously important to me. I want to thank you … and thank you again.

I come into town every Sunday to do my shopping, and I will be in front of the flower clock in the plaza about two o’clock in the afternoon. I wonder whether I shall have the good fortune to see you there again. I have no intention of trying to extract a promise from you – think of my request as simply an old man’s ramblings. Don’t give it a second thought.

The days seem to grow steadily warmer, and I suspect you will be busier at the hotel. Please take care of yourself.

PS. I know it was rude of me, but I took the liberty of finding out your name. By coincidence, the heroine of the novel I am translating now is named Marie.

Yoko Ogawa
Hotel Iris
Trans: Stephen Snyder

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