A Fine Day for Kangarooing

The Girl from Ipanema, 1963/1982

The Girl from Ipanema, 1963/1982

by Haruki Murakami
translated by brian wilson

{It begins with the lyrics of the Getz/Gilberto song,}

Tall and tan and young and lovely....? {and continues like this.}

In 1963 the girl from Ipanema watched the sea in this way. And now, the girl from Ipanema in 1982 watches the sea in the same way. She has not got older since then. She is confined in an image and floating in the sea of time. If she had become older, she would now be almost forty years old.

Of course it's possible that she is not so old, but she might not be so slender and so tanned as she used to be. She might have three children. Sunburn is not good for the skin. She might still be called a beauty, but not so youthful as she was twenty years ago.
But in the song she does not get old. She is always an eighteen-years-old cool and kind Ipanema girl on the velvety sound of Stan Getz' tenor saxophone. As soon as I put on the record on the turntable and drop the stylus on the record, she appears.

Every time I listen to this song, I remember the corridor of my high school building. The dark and a little damp high school corridor. The ceiling is high and when I walk on the concrete floor, the sound of my steps echoed. There are some windows on the northside wall, but little sunlight comes in because the building is just at the foot of a steep hill. It is always still in the corridor, at least in my memory.

Why I remember the corridor every time I hear The Girl From Ipanema, I don't know. There's no cause and effect. What kind of pebble did the Girl from Ipanema 1963 dropped into my well of consciousness?

And the corridor of the highschool building reminds me of a salad consisting of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, greenpepper, asparagus, onion, and pink Thousand Island dressing. Of course there's no salad shop at the end of the corridor. At the end of the corridor is a door and outside is an ordinary 25 meter swimming pool.

Why the corridor reminds me of the salad, I don't know. There's no cause and effect here, either. The two connected in my mind by some accident or other. Just like an unlucky lady who sat on a freshly painted bench.

The salad reminds me of a girl I used to know. There's a clear connection here. The girl was always eating salad.

Have you (crunch, crunch) finished (crunch, crunch) the paper for the English class?

(Crunch, crunch) not yet, (crunch, crunch) a little (crunch, crunch) left undone.

I myself liked vegetables and every time we met, we ate salad like this. She was a woman of very strong mind, and believed that everything would go well if she ate various vegetables. If people kept on eating vegetables, the world would be peaceful, beautiful, healthy and full of love. Something like

Strawberry Statement.

Once upon a time, a philosopher wrote there was a time when matters and memories were divided by a metaphysical depth.

The Girl from Ipanema in 1963/1982 is walking on a metapysically hot sandbeach without making any sound. It is a very long beach and slow white waves are washing it. No breeze. Nothing on the horizon. I can smell the sea. The hot sun scorches me.

I lie under the beach umbrella and pull out a canned beer from the coolbox and open it. She is still walking. On her tall and tan body are the bikinis in bright color.

Hi, I pluck up my courage and say to her. Hi, she answers.

How about a beer? I offer.

She hesitates a little. But after walking a lot, she must be tired and thirsty. Good, she says. And we drink beer together under the beach umbrella.

By the way, I say I'm sure I saw you in 1963 in the same place at the same time.

It was a long time ago, wasn't it? she says tilting her head a little.

Yes, it was, I say Must have been a long time ago.

She drinks a half of the beer in one go and looks at the opening. The opening is an ordinary opening of a beer can. But when she looks at it, it seems to me it is something significant. It looks as if it might contain the whole world.

We might have met. In 1963? Umm 1963. Yes, we might have met each other.

You haven't get older since then, haven't you?

That's because I'm a metaphysical girl.

I nodded. Since you were always watching the sea, I'm sure you didn't notice me.

That might have been the case. she said and smiled. A beautiful smile with a little hint of sadness. I might have been always watching the sea. I might have been watching nothing but the sea.

I opened a can of beer for myself, and then offered one to her. But she shook her head and said she couldn't drink so much beer. Thank you. But I have to keep on walking from now on just as I have been, she said.

Don't you feel hot at the sole of your feet walking on the sand for such a long time?

No, because my soles are made very metaphysically. Wanna look at them?


She stretched her slender legs out and showed the soles to me. Yes, they were really metaphysical soles. I softly touched them. They are neither hot nor cold. When I touched her soles, I heard faint sound of waves. Even the sound of waves are very metaphysical.

I kept my eyes closed for a while and opened them and took a sip of cold beer. The sun didn't move at all. Even the time stood still. It's as if I was drawn into a mirror.

Every time I think of you, I always remember the corridors of my high school building. Why do you think I do? I ventured to say.

The essence of humanity lies in its being a compound, she says The human science should not try to explore the object but the subject that is involved in the body,

Hummm. I say.

Anyway, go on living. Live. Live. That's all. It is important that you should go on living. That is all I can say. I'm only a girl with metaphysical soles.

And the Girl From Ipanema in 1963/1982 brushed the sand off her thighs and stood up. Thanks for the beer. she says. And I say, You are welcome.

Only occasionally, I see her in subway trains. I know her and she knows me. Every time we meet, she gives me a thank-you-for-the beer smile. We haven't exchanged words since then, but I feel that we are connected somewhere at our hearts. I don't know where we are connected, but I'm sure the knot is somewhere in a strange distant world.

I imagine the knot. The knot lies silently in the dark corridor where no one walks along. When I am thinking in this way, many dear old memories gradually return to my mind. There must be a knot that connects me and myself. I'm sure someday I will meet myself in the strange distant world. And I wish it was a warm place. And if there was some cold beer, I would have nothing to complain. In the world I am myself and myself is me. The subject is the object and the object is the subject. There is no opening of any kind between the two. They are closely stuck together. Such a strange place must exist somewhere in the world.

The Girl from Ipanema in 1963/1982 is still walking on the hot sand beach. Until the last one of the records is worn out, she keeps on walking without any break.