Where did our poverty go?

by Murakami Haruki, from Murakami Haruki asahido, Hai ho!, 1989.

N

ot that I’m bragging, but there was a time long ago when I was quite poor. Around the time we had just gotten married, we lived quietly in a room with no furniture or anything. We didn’t even have a heater, and on cold nights we would hug the cat and steal some of its warmth. Even the cat was cold and so it clung to us humans with all earnest. When it gets to this point, it’s something like symbiosis. When we walked around town, we never had occasion to step into a coffee shop even if we were thirsty. We didn’t travel, and didn’t buy clothes. All we did was just work.

However, not once did we think we were unfortunate. Of course, I would think, “Ah, if only I had money,” but you don’t have what you don’t have, so I would just think, “Oh well, can’t be helped.” Once, when we were helplessly troubled for money, we were walking on the streets in the middle of the night with our heads down and came across three 10,000 yen bills. We thought is was wrong, but we didn’t turn it into the police, but instead paid back a loan. I thought at that moment, “Life ain’t something to thrown away…”

We were young, fairly naive, in love with each other, and had no fear of poverty at all. I graduated from college, but didn’t want to be employed somewhere, so I lived just as I pleased. An objective view would have pegged us as society’s losers, but for us there was nothing that even approached a sense of anxiety.

But man, were we poor.

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