stories

The Rumors About Me - Chapter3 (all)

"You some kind of celebrity?"
"No. I'm no celebrity. I'm just an office worker."
"Are You on TV a lot?"
"No, I've never been on television."
The driver laughed sourly.
"No reason I should know anybody like that, now, is there?"
"I guess not," I nodded. "You're absolutely right." I thought back to the radio news of a moment ago.
The announcer had even known I was headed toward the Ginza in a taxicab at that very moment. And that meant that somebody must be tailing me and observing my movements. I looked behind us. Once I started feeling suspicious, every car looked suspect.
"There's a good possibility we're being followed," I told the driver."Can you shake them?"
"That's a real hassle." The driver made a sour face. "I don't even know what car they're in, do I? For a start it's so crowded ─ there's no way to lose them."
"It's probably that black Cedric. Look, it's flying a newspaper company flag on the bumper."
"Well, in that case, I'll see what I can do. But if you ask me, you've just got a persecution complex."
I'm perfectly sane," I told him hastily. "Don't take me to a mental hospital or anything like that."
After wobbling here and there as if a sleepwalker was driving, the taxi arrived at Ginza 2-Chome.
"Well, at least I shook the black Cedric," smirked the driver."I hope you'll be giving me a tip."
I had no choice. I gave him just 500-yen more than the meter showed. When I entered our client's office in Ginza 2-Chome, a receptionist I know by sight showed me into a waiting room for special guests, with unusual politeness. Normally I'd just be called to the desk of the clerk in charge, and have to talk standing up while he stayed put in his chair. I sat down on the sofa in the vast reception room. As I was squirming there uneasily, for some unaccountable reason both out client's department director and section chief entered the room and greeted me formally.
"We appreciate all the help you've given our Suzuki," said the director, bowing deeply. Suzuki was the chief clerk who always dealt with me.
"Oh,no. not at all."
I sat there, flustered, as the director and section chief completely ignored the business at hand and extravagantly praised my necktie, lauded my good taste, and finally even began to eulogize my good looks. I winced, and as soon as I'd handed over the papers I'd received from my boss and delivered his message, I hurried from the office.
When I came out of our client's company, the same taxicab was still pulled up at the sidewalk. The young driver stuck his head out the window and called out to me.
"Sir!"
"Hi, you're still here? That's great. Take me back to Shinjuku."
When I got in, the driver shoved back my 500-yen bill.
"Here, I'm giving it back. This is no joke, I tell you."
"Is something wrong?"
"After you get off, I turned on the radio, and right off they started talking about you on the news. According to the announcer, you'd been nabbed by a chearing taxi, and after getting driven all over and taken the long way around, they said you'd been dunned for a ¥500 tip. They even gave my name!"
I finally understood the kind treatment at our client's.
"See, I told you so. I'm being followed."
"Anyway, here's your 500-yen back."
"Don't worry. Hang on to it."
"No way! I'm giving it back."
"I see. I suppose it can't be helped. I'll take it back, then. By the way, are you still going to take me to Shinjuku?"
"Can't hardly say no, can I? Next thing they'll be saying on the news that I wouldn't give you a ride."
The taxi headed off for Shinjuku.
I was slowly beginning to appreciate that the plot to disorient me was on an almost unimaginable scale. After all, hadn't my enemy bought off the entire mass media? Who on earth was really behind it all, and what was his purpose? What would he do a thing like this for?
There was nothing to do but let things take their course. It would be close to impossible to find the ringleader behind it all. Even if I managed to catch one of the guys tailing me, no underling like that could be expected to know the boss's name. Not when the whole mass media had been bought.
"I ain't trying to make excuses, mister," the cabbie said, "But I really did shake that black Cedric. Honest."
"I believe you," I told him. "It looks like they're not using cars or anything trifling like that to tail me. I'm sure there's even a bug in this car someplace."
I was dismayed the moment I'd asid it. That was because I abruptly realized that once I began suspecting people, there was ample reason to suspect the driver. If he wasn't in on it, then how could my shadowers have known the tip was for 500-yen ?
Wupwupwupwupwup
  I suddenly noticed a two-man helicopter circling about the taxi. It was just skimming the building rooftops.
"I'm sure I seen that chopper on our way over," said the driver, glaring op at the sky."want to bet he's the guy that's been tailing you?"
With a thunderous roar, a blood-colored flash raced across one corner of the sky. When I looked up, a ball of flame was spreading legs in every direction. The helicopter had collided with a ten-story building near the roof. Probably they'd been paying so much attention to the ground that the pilot had made a control error.
"Take that, suckers! Heheheheheh!"
The driver laughed hysterically as we hurtled away from the scene of the crash. His eyes were no longer sane and it seemed dangerous to stay in the cab any longer.
"I've just remembered something," I said. "Let me off here, will you?"
I had recalled that there was a private hospital specializing in psychiatric cases nearby.
"Where're you going?" the cabbie asked.
"It's none of your business," I retorted.
I'm going straight home to sleep," he said, white-faced, taking my fare.
"Yes, that's the thing to do."
I got out of the car. It was terribly hot.
I was kept waiting for about 20 minutes in the hospital waiting room. A hysterical-looking middle-aged woman and a young man who appeared to be an epileptic went out, and then it was my turn. When I entered the examination room, the doctor was watching a tabletop television on a desk by the window. The television was reporting the helicopter crash.
"Even the sky's getting crowded," the doctor muttered as he turned to face me. "Naturally my patients are on the increase, too. Even so, they won't go to a hospital until they get really sick. It's a bad habit the Japaness have."
"Yes," I nodded. "Yes indeed."
It seemed a little pushy, but I immediately launched into an explanation of my situation. I didn't have much time; I was still on the job.
"Last night they suddenly started talking about me on television. This morning, the newspapers had articles about me. On the station platform, the loudspeaker broadcast things about me. It was even on the radio. Everyone was gossiping and whispering together about me at work. Somehow or other, my house and even the taxi I was riding in have been bugged. The fact is, I'm being tailed. It's a really huge effort. Even that helicopter on the news just now collided with that building while it was chasing my cab."
The doctor watched me fixedly as I talked during which an expression of the greatest depression seemed to settle itself upon his face. At last he waved his hand as if he could take no more, and started shouting.
"Why didn't you go to a hospital sooner! If you only come when your symptoms are so advanced, what can I do besides hospitalize you, forcibly if need be? It's perfectly clear. Pursuit fantasies. Persecution complex, in short, relational delusions. It's a classic case of schizophrenia. Fortunately, there's still no personality collapse. Check into the university hospital immediately. I'll take care of the paperwork."
"Wait a minute," I shouted hurriedly. "I was in too much of a hurry to make myself clear. No, in fact, even while I was talking I wwas thinking to myself it was no good. but I'm not a very good talker and I couldn't organize my explanation any better. The fact is, what I said just now isn't a delusion; it's all true. Yet I'm just an average white-collar worker. I'm not famous enough for the mass media to gossip about me. No matter how I look at it, a mass media that goes around shadowing, inverstigating and reporting anyone as ordinary as I am must be a little crazy. I came here to ask for your advice on how to cops with this situation. You've written books about the sick tendencies in society and the abnormality of the mass mwdia. I know you've even talked about it on television.....that's exactly why I came to your hospital. To learn how to adjust to an abnormal environment without losing my own sanity."
The doctor shook his head and picked up the telephone.
"What you just said only proves how very sick you are," he said.
The movement of the doctor's hand as he dialed the phone stopped dead. His eyes were nailed to the screen of the tabletop television. It was showing a head and shoulders picture of me. His eyes bulged.
"And now for the latest news about Mr.Morishita," the announcer was saying. "After leaving the office of a client company in Ginza 2-Chome, Kasuyama Electric Industry Ltd. employee, Mr.Tsutomu Morishita, again flagged down a taxi and headed toward Shinjuku to return to his office. However, he appears to have had a sudden change of heart, and has descended his taxi. He has now entered the Takehara Hospital, a psychi-atric-neuropathic clinic in Yotsuya......"
A picture of the front entrance of the hospital appeared on the screen.
"It is still not known why Mr.Morishita dropped by Takehara Hospital."
The doctor looked longingly at my face through moist eyes. His mouth was half open, and his tongue waggled.
"So, you're a famous man."
"No, I'm not." I pointed at the television."Didn't he say so just now? I'm a company employee. I'm an average guy. Yet despite that, all my actions are being observed and broadcast to the entire nation. If this isn't abnormal, then what is it?"
"A few moments ago you asked me to teach you how to cope with an abnormal environment without losing your sanity," said the doctor as he slowly got to this feet and went over to a glass cabinet lined with medicine. "The question is contradictoly. An environment is created by all the people living within it. You yourself are one of the people creating that abnormal environment. Consequently, if your environment is abnormal, it means that you, too, are abnormal."
The doctor took a pile of white tablets from a brown glass bottle labeled "Sedatives." He went on talking as he gobbled them down.
"Therefore if, conversely, you persist in insisting upon your own sanity, that ultimately proves that the environment is normal, and that only you are abnormal. well then, go ahead and be a madman!"
He took a bottle of ink from the desktop and gulped down the blue-black fluid. Then he collapsed onto the sofa beside him and fell asleep.
"On a crazy morning, the two of them, drained down the blue ink......" Humming this to herself, a naked nurse entered the examination room. From one hand she dangled a large bottle of ink. Taking an occasional swig from it, she sprawled on top of the doctor.
Still without any answers, I left the hospital. The sun was starting down, but it was still hot and humid.

As soon as I returned to the office, Akiko Mikawa called my desk from the typists' room.
"I'm sorry I turned you down yesterday after you'd been so nice as to ask me out."
"No," I answered reservedly. "Think nothing of it." Akiko was silent for a few moments. Apparently she was waiting for me to invite her out again. She'd obviously noticed that public opinion was tilting toward sympathy for me, and she was worried that the mass media would turn critical of her. That's way she'd called today with the intention of accepting my invitation.
I was silent for a few moments. So was she.
I sighed, and invited her out.
"By the way, how about this evening?"
"I'd be delighted."
"Then, after work, at the San Jose."
Word of our rendezvous promptly became news and went out on the air. When I entered the San Jose, the inside of the shop was terribly crowded, though it wasn't the kind of place that usually gets that full. All the customers were pretending to be on dates, and I couldn't tell which were reporters and which were gawkers. But whatever they were, it was obvious that they'd come to observe our date from the way they'd sometimes steal a glance in our direction while pretending to take no notice of us.
Naturally, for the hour Akiko and I were in the San Jose, we just sat silently with our tea and cakes in front of us. If we'd said anything unusual it would undoubtably have become a three-column headline story.
I parted with Akiko at Shinjuku Station, and returned to my lodgings. After hesitating for a long time, I switched on the television.