stories

Standing Woman - Chapter 1 - page 3

He nodded while scratching the dogpillar's jaw. "Not only the old names, but you can't give them new names, either. That's because there are no proper nouns for plants."
Why, of course, I thought.
He Looked at my envelope with MANUSCRIPT ENCLOSED written on it.
"Excuse me," he said. "Are you a writer?"
I was a little embarrassed.
"Well. yes. Just trivial little things."
"So that's it." After looking at me closely, the man returned to stroking the dogpillar's head. "I also used to write things."
He managed to suppress a smile.
"How many years is it now since I stopped writing? It feels like a long time."
I stared at the man's profile. Now that he said so, it was a face I seemed to have seen somewhere before. I started to ask his name, hesitated, and fell silent.
The elderly man said abruptly, "It's become a hard world to write in."
I lowered my eyes, ashamed of myself, who still continued to write in such a world. "It certainly has..."
The man apologized in a bit of a flurry discerning my sudden depression.
"That was rude. I'm not criticizing you. I'm the one who should feel ashamed."
"No," I told him, after looking quickly around us, "I can't give up writing because I haven't the courage. Giving up writing! Why, after all, that would be a gesture against society."
The elderly man continued stroking the dogpillar. After a long while he spoke.
"It's painful, suddenly giving up writing. Now that it's come to this, I would have been better off if I'd gone on boldly writing social criticism and had been arrested. There are even times when I think that.
But I was just a dilettante, never knowing poverty, craving peaceful dreams. I wanted to live a comfortable life. As a person strong in self- respect, I couldn't endure being exposed to the eyes of the world, ridiculed. So I quit writing, A sorry tale."
He smiled and shook his head. "No no, let's not talk about it. You never know where someone might be listening."
"You're right." I changed the subject. "Do you live near here?"