Morning 朝

There is nothing quite like a night out drinking. Translator Hirotoshi Kimura manages to capture the intoxication of legendary author Osamu Dazai perfectly. A must read for anyone who hates being sober!

Osamu Dazai
Translated by Hirotoshi Kimura

With a playful disposition, I, even at the writing desk at home, am
somewhere else, adrift, abiding, with eagerness, the coming of some faraway
friend of mine; but at the sound of the front door being slid open, my brows
pucker, the mouth turning awry. And yet, at the same time, a frisson of
anticipation flares up in the bosom. Then I gather up my half-written draft
and go answer him.
“Oh, have I interrupted your work?”
“Nah.”
With it, I go out with him.
Which, however, significantly detracts from my concentration. So I have
set up a secret study in some place, which, for this present occasion,
I will refrain from specifying; none of my family has any idea as to
its location. Around nine every morning, I ask my wife to make lunch for
me, and with it, commute to the secret study. Of course, no one visits me
there, so I can get things done with briskness. But around three in the
afternoon, I start to get tired, to feel lonely, itching to go out, and
having finished enough work, head back home. But this homeward trip may be
interrupted by a whimsical stop at an oden place and such.
A “study”—it is really the room of a young lady, who commutes to a
bank in Nihonbashi early in the morning. After that, I go there, work for
four or five hours and then leave, before she comes back again.
She is no lover or anything like that. I know her mother, who, for
whatever reason, now lives in Tohoku, separated from her daughter. She
would occasionally send me a letter asking about her daughter’s potential
husband; I would actually meet some of the candidates and reply to her
saying,
“Yes, he would be nice. I agree with you,” as if I were some honor
alumnus of the school of hard knocks.
But these days it has seemed to me that this lady reposes more trust in
me than in her mother.
“Hey, Kiku-chan, I met your future hubby the other day.”
“Is that so? What did you think? A bit foppish, was he not?”
“Well, yeah, but, you know, every man looks silly next to me, so gotta
compromise there.”
“You may be right.”
It seemed like she was seriously mulling over a potential marriage to
this man.
The other night, I drank prodigiously, which I do every night, so
nothing out of the ordinary there, but on that night, I bumped into a
long-lost friend on the way home, so I took him to my favorite oden place,
and swigged, swigged and swigged, until my body had started to refuse any
more alcohol, when my magazine editor, taking a wild guess at where I might
be, strolled in, with a bottle of whiskey in tow, so I partook of it to the
last drop, confabulating. By then I had started to fear lest I should heave
up, so I wanted to stop there, but then, the friend came back, offered to
treat me to another drinking bout at—this time—his favorite place—a
few stations away—and dragged me there, where we drank Japanese sake,
until at last we called it a night; I was totally wasted, all wobbly.
****
“I’m sleeping over here tonight, can’t walk anymore, I am going to
sleep, OK?”
I snuggled my legs inside the kotatsu and fell asleep, mantled in my
Inverness.
My slumber broke in the middle of the night. It was dark all around. For
a few fleeting seconds, I felt as if I was sleeping at home. I wiggled my
feet around to realize I was still wearing tabi. Not again!—I had come to
myself.
How many hundreds—or thousands—of times I have repeated this same
foolishness!
I heaved out a groan.
“You’re not cold?”
Kiku asked in the darkness.
She was, as it appeared, lying crosswise to me in the kotatsu.
“No.”
I raised my torso and said, “Can I take a leak from the window?”
“Sure, it would be easier that way.”
“Ha ha, I didn’t expect that from you!”
I heaved myself up, twisting the switch of the lamp, but no light.
“A power outage,” Kiku murmured.
I fumbled my way toward the window, tripping over her body. But she
didn’t stir.
“Come on…”
I mumbled to myself, and then finally caught at the curtain, drew it,
and whisked open the window.
Then ensued the trickling sound.
****
““The Princess of Cleves” was on your table, wasn’t it?”
I said, lying on the side again as before.
“Back in those days, there wasn’t anything gauche at all about urinating
in the palace yard or in the shade of a corridor stairway. So a nobleman
would have unashamedly peed from a window if he’d had to.”
“I got sake if you want. A nobleman drinks, lying, no?”
I wanted to drink, but thought it would be risky.
“No, actually, noblemen abhor darkness, they are born cowards, you know.
They quail in the dark.
You got a candle? If so, then I could.”
Kiku arose without a word.
Then a candle lit up, I was relieved—I would not be tempted to do
anything inappropriate.
“Where shall I put this?”
“The Bible says to place a candlestick on a high place, so somewhere
high, what about on that bookcase?”
“What about your sake? In a glass?”
“The Bible says a midnight drink is to be poured in a glass.”
I lied.
Kiku brought in a tall glass, filled to the brim, with a grin.
“I still got enough for another one.”
“No, thanks.”
I received the glass, downed it and lowered myself down, face-up.
“Now, time for a little more sleep. Good night.”
Kiku lay down, facing up, again crosswise to me, but it didn’t look like
she was falling into sleep anytime soon, her long-browed eyes blinking
constantly.
I silently glanced aside to the candlelight on the bookcase. It was
moving, like some creature, now getting taller, now getting shorter. After
a while, a certain thought slipped into my consciousness, which terrified
me.
“This candle is too short, it’ll be soon gone. Got a much longer one?”
“No, that is the last one.”
I retired into myself. I wanted to pray to the heavens. Kiku was in
danger unless I fell asleep before that light went out, or else I sobered
up again from that sake.
The candlelight flickered, getting shorter and shorter, while I was
helplessly awake, the sake’s influence not loosening its grip on my system,
but rather heating up my whole body, making me bolder and bolder.
I let out a sigh.
“Why don’t you take off your tabi?”
“Why?”
“You would feel warmer.”
So I did as she said.
No! I’m finished with the death of the light!
I braced myself for the worst.
The light dimmed, then as if thrashing, quivered from side to side,
when, suddenly, just for an instant, it burst into life again, and then,
with a tenuous, fizzling noise, got smaller and smaller, finally vanishing
into thin air.
But I found it was already morning.
The room was, if dimly, lit, not pitchy dark.
I got up and prepared myself for a walk home?

Original work was taken from the Aozora Bunko and is in the public domain

http://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/000035/files/1562_14860.htm
English translation © 2014 Hirotoshi Kimura. All rights reserved.