My Life as a Murakami Novel

At the start of the pandemic I was immersed in Murakami’s mid-90’s novel The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. I had recently signed a lease on a small commercial space and fixed it up with a fresh coat of pale grey paint, dark blue velvet curtains and dimmable incandescent ceiling lights. It was to be my new yoga studio, but the pandemic put the brakes on inviting students to practice. A few times each week, I’d bike up to the space and sit alone in the quiet darkness. It reminded me of being at the bottom of a well, like Toru Okada in the book.

As more elements of normalcy were removed from the passing days, life in general began to feel like it was being lived at the bottom of a well.

As the eerie silence descended over the city and the world, one block away from my house the oldest Moonlight Tower in Austin was dissembled, adding darkness to the silence. I appreciated the extra starlight, though I missed the comfort of the landmark lattice punctuating the familiar street corner sky.

Because I wasn’t in a hurry to do so, I took a long time to finish the novel. The cinematically haunting sequences that unfolded in that odd dark space behind the well walls confused me the way a dream might.

My own dreams were growing more and more psychedelic; lucid only in the sense of that self-awareness that the dreamer has within the dream.

When I finally surrendered my yoga studio space at the end of August, I told a friend it had felt like I’d knitted an elaborate sweater, only to unravel it before completing the final stitch. A sweater that never got worn and that only “exists” as the memory of an idea. She reminded me that Penelope in The Odyssey had woven, unraveled, rewoven the same garment over and over while waiting for Odysseus’ return.

A year has passed. A week or so ago, workers blocked the street with traffic cones and unspooled long cables. Large trucks brought back hefty chunks of the refurbished structure, to be reassembled and re-erected/resurrected. It only took them a couple of days to get it put back together, as if it never left.

Even as restaurants fill and people begin to get dressed again, my dreams remain dangerous, beautiful, strange. Like the street corner sky with the missing tower, like the space behind the well walls: evanescent evidence of a different reality.

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