Aomame pressed an ear against his chest. “I’ve been lonely for so long. And I’ve been hurt so deeply. If only I could have met you again a long time ago, then I wouldn’t have had to take all these detours to get here.”
Tengo shook his head. “I don’t think so. This way is just fine. This is exactly the right time. For both of us.”
Aomame started to cry. The tears she had been holding back spilled down her cheeks and there was nothing she could do to stop them. Large teardrops fell audibly onto the sheets like rain. With Tengo buried deep inside her, she trembled slightly as she went on crying. Tengo put his arms around her and held her. He would be holding her close from now on, a thought that made him happier than he could imagine.
"We needed that much time," Tengo said, "to understand how lonely we really were."
Sumire especially liked this part:
No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.
"Don’t you just love it?" she said. "Every day you stand on top of a mountain, make a three-hundred-sixty-degree sweep, checking to see if they’re any fires. And that’s it. You’re done for the day. The rest of the time you can read, write, whatever you want. At night scruffy bears hang around your cabin. That’s the life! Compared with that, studying literature in college is like chomping down on the bitter end of a cucumber."
"OK," I said, "but someday you’ll have to come down off the mountain." As usual, my practical, humdrum opinions didn’t faze her.
Sumire wanted to be like a character in a Kerouac novel — wild, cool, dissolute. She’d stand around, hands shoved deep in her coat pockets, her hair an uncombed mess, staring vacantly at the sky through her black plastic-frame Dizzy Gillespie glasses, which she wore despite her twenty-twenty vision. She was invariably decked out in an oversize herringbone coat from a secondhand store and a pair of rough work boots. If she’d been able to grow a beard, I’m sure she would have.
1. The Loner
Typically the male protagonist, a recluse who prefers the solitude and labyrinth of his own thoughts. Employed as a teacher at a cram school. Detached from family, has few, if any, close friends, but still attracts the attention of curious women. Often involved in an affair with a married, much older woman, who he does not love, but simply continues the relationship as a means to satisfy his sexual needs.
Bonus: An obsession with ears.
2. The Older Woman
Despite the years, she continues to carry herself with elegance and grace. Like fine wine, she has aged wonderfully, maintaining her youthful figure and beauty. An integral supporting character, she is of high social standing and influence, yet cultured, with refined tastes in fashion, food, wine and music.
Bonus: Uses her wealth to fund travel expenses, fancy dinners, and other extravagant living expenses for the characters, solving any potential logistical plot holes.
3. The Mysterious Girl
The (or a, possible) love interest, who is thrown suddenly (or back) into the loner, male protagonist’s life, totally shaking his world. She is attractive in her own way, with a distinct, quirky personality or unique history that makes her stand out. She takes interest in literature and loves to read. May be borderline crazy.
Bonus: Gets sucked into a parallel universe.
Cats, cats, and more CATS. They are everywhere.
“Every book I publish,” he noted, “even before it is promoted or reviewed, it sells three hundred thousand copies in Japan. Those are my readers. If you’re a writer and you have readers, you have everything. You don’t need critics or reviews.” When I asked him about the possibility of being awarded the Nobel Prize, he laughed. “No, I don’t want prizes. That means you’re finished.”
…The man I joined onstage the next night was a brilliant performer. “I should be watching Akinori Iwamura win his first World Series with the Tampa Bay Rays in a bar tonight,” he began. “Or I could be hanging out with Thom Yorke of Radiohead in Tokyo. Instead I am here with you in Berkeley. You’re very lucky, you know.” His irony, grace, and pleasantries were applauded in California. For here was Haruki Murakami, a Japanese author greeting his American readers on their terms, improbably, with their sense of humor.
"I’ll come get you."
"I’d like that. I’ll find out where I am and call you back. I’m running out of change, anyway. Wait for a while, OK?"
"I really wanted to see you," I said.
"And I really wanted to see you, too," she said. "When I couldn’t see you anymore, I realized that. It was as clear as if the planets all of a sudden lined up in a row for me. I really need you. You’re a part of me; I’m a part of you. You know, somewhere — I’m not at all sure where — I think I cut something’s throat. Sharpening my knife, my heart a stone. Symbolically, like making a gate in China. Do you understand what I’m saying?"
"I think so."
"Then come and get me."
Sumire wasn’t exactly a beauty. Her cheeks were sunken, her mouth a little too wide. Her nose was on the small side and upturned. She had an expressive face and a great sense of humor, though she hardly ever laughed out loud. She was short, and even in a good mood she talked like she was half a step away from picking a fight. I never knew her to use lipstick or eyebrow pencil, and I have my doubts that she even knew bras came in different sizes. Still, Sumire had something special about her, something that drew people to her. Defining that special something isn’t easy, but when you gazed into her eyes, you could always find it, reflected deep down inside.
I might as well just come right out and say it. I was in love with Sumire. I was attracted to her from the first time we talked, and soon there was no turning back. For a long time she was the only thing I could think about. I tried to tell her how I felt, but somehow the feelings and the right words couldn’t connect. Maybe it was for the best. If I had been able to tell her my feelings, she would have just laughed at me.