Mr. Timothy, that was an intense but not fruitless attempt; I was eager, but I did not manage to manage to catch up. For in a short while, I ceased to be attentive, and our conversation gave way to sudden discussions, opportunities, conversations, intrigues, conspiracies, and all manner of thoughts.
“Earthlings!” I shouted.
“Not much we know about those people. Just enough, we think, to spook them and shut them up. With the help of lie detectors, polygraphs, and listening devices, we have no choice but to keep their intentions guarded. The plot has led us to this small town, a place which some people think is a monster, and Mr. Aichiakue [you’re the man with a chip on his shoulder, the eavesdropper] thought it might be dangerous to come.
“I hate Aichiakue,” Tim said, his voice straining to reach me through the windows.
“How do you hate him?” I asked.
“It’s just this complicated business of being human and living in the reality of this strange little world. But I’m afraid you won’t like me,” Tim continued. “And the day before yesterday you were left with this quote I read on the internet. Where’s it from?”
I found a store, down the block from my house, that is frequently used by university students and searched for several reviews about its tires. The shop had only tires for bicycles, therefore I scanned through the catalogues again. One of the tires had a price of three hundred thousand yen (around $28,000), and although I intended to buy it, it was too expensive. I looked around, then when I had considered all the choices I reached my final decision: I would buy it as an anniversary present for my wife.
“Today is the sixth anniversary of our first date,” Tim said.
“I shall make it hard for you,” I said.
“Who said so?”
“You,” he said, “to whom I promise a new engagement ring before the year runs out.”
“So I, the only man I know who truly and passionately desires someone who feels equally for him, will forever love this woman, her perfect face, and all the kind things she’s done for me? That is the bet, am I right?”
Tim’s friend Aichiakue looked strangely unimpressed by the proposition and seemed like he couldn’t understand why it was necessary for me to come up with such a huge sum of money.
“I can give you an answer to that, but I don’t want to rush you,” Tim said. “If it’s just up to me I can give her a job in the government and an apartment in the capital city, but to do both of these things, I’ll need two hundred thousand yen, the equivalent of one hundred million yen. I need two hundred million yen, a sum which I know I will never possess.”
“She’ll love me for that,” I said, explaining to Tim’s friend Aichiakue the consequences of accepting such a huge offer.
“I don’t care about her love,” Aichiakue responded. “Aichiakue isn’t the kind of woman who will accept such an offer. And if I buy the tires, I will need that sum too, so I’ll give the tire to Tim, and in exchange, he’ll be my new fiancé.”
“That’s fair,” Tim said, “and if Aichiakue doesn’t like it, then I won’t be her fiancé. She can do whatever she wants.”
Tim could tell I was excited about my marriage proposal, I wanted him to say yes, and I decided to tell Tim’s friend Aichiakue that Mr. Aichiakue was gay. I imagined him telling me in the dark, and I wanted him to enjoy this moment before I drove him away.
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Sayaka Murata is the Japanese language lecturer at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Her first novel, “Earthlings,” will be published in Japan in December.