Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Journal #2: “Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl”

In the story “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning,” a man sees a girl who he knows is 100% right for him, and lets her walk past, too tongue-tied to speak with her the words he is meaning to say.

At first, I hated the story with a deep and burning passion. It was too simplistic, I hated the main character since he seemed such a wimp, and I didn’t like the girl either, because of the way she was described; the main character seemed to be astounded that he didn’t objectify her the way he usually did with women. All the characters seemed to be completely shallow characters.

Nor did I like the fairy tale. His assumption seemed to be that there was somebody who is 100% perfect for him and thus would always be always be 100% perfect for him, except that didn’t seem to be the case. If they were still 100% perfect for each other, then why wouldn’t they meet happily because they would love each other 100%? Or was there something more? The title suggested this as it seemed too complex, too mathematically precise for a story as bare as this, so perhaps this story symbolized something else that, for the first reading I didn’t get.

A couple of things of the reading intrigued me: the title and the constant use of the percentage 100%; the repeated sentence where he describes himself as going west to east and her going east to west; and the fairy tale.

The fairy tale was the first thing that I probed into. It seemed too simple, but one sentence stuck out for me: “One winter, both the boy and the girl came down with the season's terrible influenza, and after drifting for weeks between life and death they lost all memory of their earlier years.” This suggests some form of reincarnation, which means that the story turns from what is said to a whole new religious level. Instead of being two people who randomly meet again, they meet again after several lifetimes, which would make the story more realistic and would make their confusion so much more tragic. Instead of embracing each other, realizing that they are meant for each other, they avoid each other, too afraid to speak out, too afraid to recognize the other.

If they are reincarnated, it hints of the divine, which brings the attention to the directions, with him going west to east and her going east to west. The first thing I thought of was the sun and moon. The sun and moon go opposite directions from each other. So according to the story, the girl would be the sun (going east to west) and the narrator would be the moon (going west to east). At first I was confused, because in mythology, usually the woman is the moon goddess and a man is the sun god, but after a quick look at Japanese mythology, I found that it was the other way around--there is the sun goddess, Amaterasu, and the moon god, Tsukuyomi.

This discovery brought forth exciting new prospects, and I, being the scientist I am, immediately thought of astronomy. What if this was a poetic metaphor describing a solar eclipse? The story is set in Japan in April 1981, so I quickly looked for any solar eclipses in that year. It turned out there was a total solar eclipse that occurred on July 31, right over Japan, though it wasn’t the April date I had hoped for. Still, the story was written in 1993, so maybe the author used poetic license instead. After all, in late March, early April, the cherry trees blossom, which is a huge event in Japan. During these months, there are celebrations of Sakura where people simply relax and enjoy each other’s company. The cherry blossom also holds interesting symbolism which Wikipedia describes as, “the transience of life because of their [cherry trees] short blooming times.” So, from being a metaphor of the solar eclipse, this becomes an event where the divine meet each other in a moment of peace and celebration, just briefly, and then fade away, only to have a blurry feeling of disconnect with each other and the world. So the gods can never connect with each other and everything fades away in monotony. The sun disappears into her people, the Earth, and the moon desperately looks after her, aware that he will never catch up with her as she goes from the east to the west. She is disappearing as a sunset. The “cosmic miracle” he has described is never long-lasting.

This symbolism sounded good initially, but it had to connect with other parts of the story to make sense. Already, we can see that numbers place a very important part of this story and they carry a certain weight. In the fairy tale, the narrator describes that it is fourteen years before they will meet up again--so they would have first met in 1967. A quick look at eclipse confirms that there was a total solar eclipse in November 1967, except instead of occurring over Japan, it occurred over Antarctica and could barely be seen by anyone. This gives the fairy tale an even more dreamlike quality. There is a cliché that says, “If a dog barks in a forest, is he making a sound?” Because nobody sees the sun and moon in meeting together in a total eclipse, are they really meeting? And, as they seem to be living in different lifetimes, then it gives their meeting more uncertainty, that quality heightened by the fact that the story is told as a fairy tale.

After all that research, the second rereading seemed much more fuller and I actually liked it. Instead of the story being about a man who loses his perfect girl, the story transforms into a story about a man who has a chance encounter with the divine after he lost it for fourteen years, just as he hit puberty. As he watches it for only a brief instance, he longs for an encounter with the divine, an intangible substance which he can barely recognize, save for the fact that it wasn’t pretty and it burned him so that his chest ached and his mouth grew dry. But as he grows tongue-tied trying to think of the proper words, the divine leaves him, slipping into the world as he stares, trying desperately to find it and wanting it more than ever. A sad story, don’t you think?

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