This is the second chapter of the story “Memoirs of a Traveller” which I am translating from Japanese to English. As you might guess from the name, this is a fictional story about someone’s travels throughout various cities and places. You can see my review of this story here, and the translation of the prologue here and chapter 1 here. I highly recommend reading both of these before you read this chapter, but if you are short on time you could potentially skip chapter 1.
Each of the chapters of this novel I liked for different reasons. In this chapter, I really enjoyed the intelligent dialogue and the way it ends.
I hope you enjoy it! You can see the original chapter 2 in Japanese here if you are interested.
Chapter 2: Car Conversation
My car was a two-seater.
It wasn’t a very big car.
Or maybe I should say it was pretty small.
That’s why this sort of thing doesn’t happen very often.
Right now, at my side…
In the passenger seat…
Sits a man.
So how does this sort of thing happen?
Perhaps I should explain how I ended up like this.
However, it might suffice to simply say that
sometimes things just happen, and there’s no use talking about it.
I’m giving this man a ride to somewhere in the mountains, about a one hour’s drive from here.
The man shifted his body in the tight space.
“I probably shouldn’t say this since you’re giving me a ride and all, but your car sure is small.”
I’m sure the passenger seat was way too small for this bulky guy.
To make things worse, he was holding a big bag in his lap.
As soon as he’d got in the car, he used his left hand to rummage around in his pocket for a cigarette lighter,
but the bag got in the way and made it difficult.
When he finally managed to retrieve it, I expected him to light his cigarette with one fluid motion,
but he just dropped it right on the floor.
But, as a non-smoker, I couldn’t be happier.
By the way, my car happened to be a convertible, but opening the roof was just extra work for me.
Why should I go out of my way to tell him about the roof just so he could get a little more headroom?
“So, why is it?”
Either from a lack of tobacco, or because of his inborn personality,
the man kept persistently talking to me.
“Why is what?”
“I’m asking you why the heck would you ever go on a trip by yourself.”
“Do I need a reason?”
“You’re going on a trip yourself with no destination, right? Doing something crazy like that surely requires a reason or two.”
“I will admit it’s crazy, but there’s no particular reason.”
“I not sure you’re telling the truth.”
“I’m telling the truth.”
The conversation went dead.
Now this was a little awkward.
But at least it was quiet.
The road had just begun to slope upwards.
Perhaps we had entered the mountains.
Worried about wild animals jumping out in front of the car, I instinctively switched to a more defensive driving style.
No offense to this guy, but he was going to let me focus on driving.
“Alright, I’ll ask a different question then.”
“Why are you still travelling?”
“I thought you were going to change the question.”
“I did. Before I asked about why you decided to start travelling. Now I’m asking why you are continuing to travel.”
I could say that I’m driven from place to place by the beautiful scenery, meaningful encounters with people, and wonderful memories I make.”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Ok, you got me.”
“Those things are just the results of your travelling, not the reason you travel.”
“That’s one point that I do agree with you on.”
“Which means I can’t think of a particular reason why I am still traveling.”
“Just a gut feeling, huh.”
“Yes, just a gut feeling.”
And so I continued.
“I don’t think there is a reason required to do anything. However, nor do I think it is required that there is no reason. I think people will do things whether there is a reason or not.
It’s an overused example, but I think this is similar to the question ‘Why do we exist?’ Some people say that a reason is necessary and others say it isn’t. Others say if there isn’t a reason they will make up their own.
There are no wrong answers.
So this is my answer to your question.
Without a reason, one can’t go on a trip, or continue a trip. Without a reason, we can’t go on living. I feel that this type of logic is a little suffocating.
I also think some people are just too well behaved for their own good. Maybe it would be better if we all did more things that we truly wanted to do.
That’s the kind of stuff I’m thinking about.
And yet, I feel that as I debate this with you, my argument is starting to become increasingly more far-fetched. But this is what I’m going with.”
“Did I convince you?”
The man laughed scornfully.
“Not one bit.”
“But you know, you’re one of those annoying argumentative types.”
“That’s what everyone tells me.”
“Even though there is no reason you are going on a trip, there is a reason that there isn’t a reason.”
“While I don’t dislike such fancy wordplay, I must admit that makes you one of those annoying argumentative types too.”
“Yeah, that’s what everyone tells me.”
“Here is fine. Stop the car.”
“This seems far from the place I thought we were going to.”
“This is close enough. Park the car on the side of the road there.”
There was a place where the road widened a little, so I parked the car there.
The man opened the door and placed one leg outside, stretching his body.
“Yeah, it was pretty tight in there. Of all places, I never thought I’d end up in a car like this.”
After he said this with a yawn, he withdrew his right hand that had been holding a knife to my throat.
“Listen closely. When I leave, I want you to make a U turn right away and go back down the mountain. After that, you can go wherever you like.”
Go ahead and continue your reason-less trip.”
“To be honest, I didn’t think you would release me unharmed like this.”
“Then I’m surprised you conversed so fluently with me.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. Honestly I have no memory of what I blabbered on about. My shirt is completely drenched with sweat.”
“Sorry about that. By the way, further up this road my friends are waiting. To tell the truth, I was originally planning to let them do what they want with you.”
“Why did you change your mind?”
The man got out of my car, carrying with him the heavy-looking bag that contained the money he stole from the bank. He took out a lighter from his pocket. I guess he’d retrieved his lighter from my car’s floor without me realizing it. He slowly lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply, and exhaled even slower.
“Do I need a reason?”
He said this and began to walk up the mountain road without waiting for my answer.