On seeing the 100% perfect girl by H. Murakami

by Haruki Murakami

One beautiful April morning, on a narrow side street in Tokyo’s fashionable Harujuku neighborhood, I walked past the 100% perfect girl.

Tell you the truth, she’s not that good-looking. She doesn’t stand out in any way. Her clothes are nothing special. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn’t young, either - must be near thirty, not even close to a “girl,” properly speaking. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She’s the 100% perfect girl for me. The moment I see her, there’s a rumbling in my chest, and my mouth is as dry as a desert.

Maybe you have your own particular favorite type of girl - one with slim ankles, say, or big eyes, or graceful fingers, or you’re drawn for no good reason to girls who take their time with every meal. I have my own preferences, of course. Sometimes in a restaurant I’ll catch myself staring at the girl at the next table to mine because I like the shape of her nose.

But no one can insist that his 100% perfect girl correspond to some preconceived type. Much as I like noses, I can’t recall the shape of hers - or even if she had one. All I can remember for sure is that she was no great beauty. It’s weird.

“Yesterday on the street I passed the 100% girl,” I tell someone.

“Yeah?” he says. “Good-looking?”

“Not really.”

“Your favorite type, then?”

“I don’t know. I can’t seem to remember anything about her - the shape of her eyes or the size of her breasts.”

“Strange.”

“Yeah. Strange.”

“So anyhow,” he says, already bored, “what did you do? Talk to her? Follow her?”

“Nah. Just passed her on the street.”

She’s walking east to west, and I west to east. It’s a really nice April morning.

Wish I could talk to her. Half an hour would be plenty: just ask her about herself, tell her about myself, and - what I’d really like to do - explain to her the complexities of fate that have led to our passing each other on a side street in Harajuku on a beautiful April morning in 1981. This was something sure to be crammed full of warm secrets, like an antique clock build when peace filled the world.

After talking, we’d have lunch somewhere, maybe see a Woody Allen movie, stop by a hotel bar for cocktails. With any kind of luck, we might end up in bed.

Potentiality knocks on the door of my heart.

Now the distance between us has narrowed to fifteen yards.

How can I approach her? What should I say?

“Good morning, miss. Do you think you could spare half an hour for a little conversation?”

Ridiculous. I’d sound like an insurance salesman.

“Pardon me, but would you happen to know if there is an all-night cleaners in the neighborhood?”

No, this is just as ridiculous. I’m not carrying any laundry, for one thing. Who’s going to buy a line like that?

Maybe the simple truth would do. “Good morning. You are the 100% perfect girl for me.”

No, she wouldn’t believe it. Or even if she did, she might not want to talk to me. Sorry, she could say, I might be the 100% perfect girl for you, but you’re not the 100% boy for me. It could happen. And if I found myself in that situation, I’d probably go to pieces. I’d never recover from the shock. I’m thirty-two, and that’s what growing older is all about.

We pass in front of a flower shop. A small, warm air mass touches my skin. The asphalt is damp, and I catch the scent of roses. I can’t bring myself to speak to her. She wears a white sweater, and in her right hand she holds a crisp white envelope lacking only a stamp. So: She’s written somebody a letter, maybe spent the whole night writing, to judge from the sleepy look in her eyes. The envelope could contain every secret she’s ever had.

I take a few more strides and turn: She’s lost in the crowd.

Now, of course, I know exactly what I should have said to her. It would have been a long speech, though, far too long for me to have delivered it properly. The ideas I come up with are never very practical.

Oh, well. It would have started “Once upon a time” and ended “A sad story, don’t you think?”

Once upon a time, there lived a boy and a girl. The boy was eighteen and the girl sixteen. He was not unusually handsome, and she was not especially beautiful. They were just an ordinary lonely boy and an ordinary lonely girl, like all the others. But they believed with their whole hearts that somewhere in the world there lived the 100% perfect boy and the 100% perfect girl for them. Yes, they believed in a miracle. And that miracle actually happened.

One day the two came upon each other on the corner of a street.

“This is amazing,” he said. “I’ve been looking for you all my life. You may not believe this, but you’re the 100% perfect girl for me.”

“And you,” she said to him, “are the 100% perfect boy for me, exactly as I’d pictured you in every detail. It’s like a dream.”

They sat on a park bench, held hands, and told each other their stories hour after hour. They were not lonely anymore. They had found and been found by their 100% perfect other. What a wonderful thing it is to find and be found by your 100% perfect other. It’s a miracle, a cosmic miracle.

As they sat and talked, however, a tiny, tiny sliver of doubt took root in their hearts: Was it really all right for one’s dreams to come true so easily?

And so, when there came a momentary lull in their conversation, the boy said to the girl, “Let’s test ourselves - just once. If we really are each other’s 100% perfect lovers, then sometime, somewhere, we will meet again without fail. And when that happens, and we know that we are the 100% perfect ones, we’ll marry then and there. What do you think?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is exactly what we should do.”

And so they parted, she to the east, and he to the west.

The test they had agreed upon, however, was utterly unnecessary. They should never have undertaken it, because they really and truly were each other’s 100% perfect lovers, and it was a miracle that they had ever met. But it was impossible for them to know this, young as they were. The cold, indifferent waves of fate proceeded to toss them unmercifully.

One winter, both the boy and the girl came down with the season’s terrible inluenza, and after drifting for weeks between life and death they lost all memory of their earlier years. When they awoke, their heads were as empty as the young D. H. Lawrence’s piggy bank.

They were two bright, determined young people, however, and through their unremitting efforts they were able to acquire once again the knowledge and feeling that qualified them to return as full-fledged members of society. Heaven be praised, they became truly upstanding citizens who knew how to transfer from one subway line to another, who were fully capable of sending a special-delivery letter at the post office. Indeed, they even experienced love again, sometimes as much as 75% or even 85% love.

Time passed with shocking swiftness, and soon the boy was thirty-two, the girl thirty.

One beautiful April morning, in search of a cup of coffee to start the day, the boy was walking from west to east, while the girl, intending to send a special-delivery letter, was walking from east to west, but along the same narrow street in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo. They passed each other in the very center of the street. The faintest gleam of their lost memories glimmered for the briefest moment in their hearts. Each felt a rumbling in their chest. And they knew:

She is the 100% perfect girl for me.

He is the 100% perfect boy for me.

But the glow of their memories was far too weak, and their thoughts no longer had the clarity of fouteen years earlier. Without a word, they passed each other, disappearing into the crowd. Forever.

A sad story, don’t you think?

Yes, that’s it, that is what I should have said to her.

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  • Kleitia

    Une nuk e kisha lexuar Jora! Blogu eshte aq interesant sa qe edhe une qe te njoh shume mire pres per materialet qe do vesh ti cdo jave.

    • joravaso

      Disa gjera mund t’i ndash vetem ne kete menyre, e cila funksionon per njerez te afert edhe te panjohur por ne menyra te ndryshme

  • Yiannis

    This is just sad..
    “Was it really all right for one’s dreams to come true so easily?” This is were it all goes wrong. The perfect 100% is always either in the past, or lingering somewhere in the future…but never in the present! You almost always end up with the 85%!:)

    • Kleitia

      Yiannis I love your comment and I miss you. 85% is very optimistic but it will never be 100% because we are destructive creatures. But at least we keep trying and are not dead inside.

      • joravaso

        Avoiding internal death is an important thing here 🙂

      • Yiannis

        Moi koci! Finally active on the internet somewhere…;) I miss you too. I agree with jora. I dont remember where i heard this quote but it said something like “Of course i have regrets. A life without regrets is a boring one”:)

        • joravaso

          Life without tests is boring..regrets, especially if they are big, can be damaging. But I guess they are always big 😉

    • joravaso

      This topic brought out the poet in you;)

      Yes, it is sad and the saddest part is that it is also what some people need to keep living…without a certain amount of nostalgia or regret about the past or hopefulness and anxiety about the future, life would be monotonous. Sacrificing a “100%” for this might be too high a price, but otherwise how would you know?

  • Ilir Limaj

    Sa e bukur dhe e trishte! Me kujton thenien do u ever wish u had a second chance to meet someone again for the first time? A lot of regret also:) por me ket post e kuptova qe duhet te behem nje vizitor i rregullt i blogut tend!;)

    • joravaso

      Me kete te fundit me kujtove thenien “Me mire vone se kurre” :p
      Sa per thenien qe permende, ka shume kuptim ne lidhje me tregimin. Njerezve ju pelqen deri diku te jetojne me pak regret por edhe me hope, keshtu qe rrjedhimisht i pelqen te mendojne dicka si kjo qe the ti, e cila ne nje menyre te cuditshme i permban te dyja. Eshte dicka krejtesisht e pamundur. Per me teper, e njejta gje do ndodhte sipas precedentit!

      • Ilir

        joooo 🙂 mos harro qe une jam dhe pioner ne blogun tend 😛 nuk e di nese u pelqen apo jo, por fundja kam pershtypjen qe njeriu nuk ben dot pa ndonjeren prej tyre… pastaj, pa regret what life would have been?!:) ndersa per hope, sme kujtohet ku kam lexuar, por ndonjehere losing hope sets u free:P

        • joravaso

          Ti je pioneri i blogut tim dhe kete titull nuk t’a heq asgje dhe asnjeri 🙂
          “Nuk ben dot” eshte akoma me e vertete, pra me e rende! S’e di ku e ke lexuar kete per losing hope, po qenka gjeniale :p Ne disa raste eshte me mire kurre, se vone

        • joravaso

          Pa lidhje me komentet, po thjesht per kuriozitet dhe ne fakt je pioner, cfare te pelqeu me shume nga tregimi?

          • ilir

            I gjithi ne fakt ishte i bukur… por pjesa qe me pelqeu me shume eshte momenti qe fillon imagjinata e tij ku mund te fliste per gjys ore…. dhe pastaj she’s lost in the crowd…

  • Irena Xhafa

    E thjeshte si jeta dhe e verteta!Jemi ne njerzit qe e komplikojme dhe i japim ngjyrat qe duam kur jemi perballe ksaj “pasqyre”! Me kujton nje post tendin per jeans-et Jora:Because they are so simple,they can be too boring! Per mua me shume se second chance is carpe diem…;)

    • Ilir

      kap momentin Irena 😛

      • Irena Xhafa

        hahaha,easily said than done…:P

    • joravaso

      Carpe diem eshte gjeja me e pakapshme, aq e pakapshme sa mbase nuk ekziston! Dhe ne thjesht cmendemi duke menduar se nuk e kemi kapur gjate gjithe jetes 😉

  • WWH

    thone se realiteti eshte thjesht nje iluzion i qendrueshem, dhe mbase duhet me pas kujdes kur thua “she is the perfect 100%”, mbase pas pak minutash mund te kale nje tjeter qe eshte “100%” varet se ku rri :). Per mua kjo z’duket edhe aq e trishte, mbase ky cuni ka menduar “mos ajo e testit, ik” ; nese do e donte s’do e kishte bere testin.

    • joravaso

      Arsyet qe e bejne te trishte si tregim jane keto:
      Pjesen qe nuk mund te kete nje tjeter 100% Murakami e shpjegon aty ku flet per 75-85% love…Pra, ai thote se ka nje menyre ku njerezit injorojne 100%en duke patur 85% pa e kuptuar ose pranuar qe nuk eshte 100%…Pra, keto te dyja jane shume afer njera tjetres por, sipas Murakamit, aspak e njejta gje!

      Sa per testin – Zakonisht njerezit bejne teste kur jane shume te sigurte ne dashurine e tyre..kjo me duket shume e vertete. Nuk mendoj se niveli i dashurise ka te beje me rezultatin e testit. Rezultati vjen nga besimi i tepert dhe pamundesia per te parashikuar te ardhmen, pra pengesat e jetes, etj