血の空 / Skies of Blood

Japanese
『十二の遠景』の表紙
高橋睦郎著
横尾忠則装丁

夕焼けのいろ、あれは何と言えばいいのか。根から朱、赤、(くれない)を通って紫まで、微妙に移り変り、果ては夜空の深藍に吸われて失せてしまう変幻自在のそのいろを、私は何よりも血のいろと呼びたい。

むろん、こどもたちにとって、夕焼けはまず賑やかな饗宴である。夕焼け空の下で、こどもたちは蝙蝠(こうもり)を追い、石を蹴り、歌をうたって走りまわる。まるで、空の血管にあふれたよろこばしい血に、こどもたちの血管の感じやすい血が感染して、こどもたちを浮き浮きさせるかのようだ。

しかし、饗宴のよろこばしい血は、同時におそろしい暴虐の血でもある。そして、こどもたちの無防備の肉と魂は、饗宴のよろこばしさに対して全的に開かれていると同時に、暴虐のおそろしさに対してもまったくさらされているのだ。夕焼けこそ幼年時代の空と言い、夕焼け空を指して血の空と言ったのは、この意味なのだ。

幼い私は空の表面にみなぎり集まる血にさらされて、母のことを考えていた。私か祖母の家や他人の家を転転としていた母の不在の期間だけではない。母が帰ってきてからも、私の考えていたのは母のことだった。母の不在のあいだじゅう、祖母や叔母や他人の大人たちの暴力にさらされて、私は優しい母のことを考えた。しかし、帰ってきた母は私の待っていた優しさであるよりも、いまひとつの新しい暴力だった。その暴力は母の奥深い血によって駆り立てられるものだけに、母じしんにもどう圧えようもないものだった。母という名のあらたな暴力にさらされつつ、私は母を、つまりは永遠の優しさを恋いつづけなければならなかったのである。

母が私を連れて門鉄の保線分区長に再嫁し、わすか半年ののちに離婚したつきの初夏だから、あれは私か中学に入ってまもなくのことだろう。その日は門司の港まつりだった。私たち母子は、離婚した義父と、門司のはずれの渡津海大神(わたつみのおおかみ)をまつる和布刈(めかり)神社に遊びに行った。

母と義父だった人の離婚の原因は、私と先方のこどもたちとの不仲だった。お互いに喧嘩別れしたわけでもなかったので、義父だった人は週に一日、二日と、私たちの新居を訪れた。時には、門司港や下関まで連れ出してくれることもあった。

送ってきてくれた義父か帰って、私たちは早目の夕食の膳を挾んでいた。上り据の突当りの板壁を通して、酒くさい唄が流れて来た。

眉毛(まひげ)の殿様
(めかけ)を連れて
花見に()たら
方々(ほうぼ)の人が
ロ々言うて……

唄は、眉、目、鼻、頬、口……と、指し示す右の栂指を移動させてうたう、あまり上品とは言えないはやし唄である。唄の主は明らかに、別れた男がかよってくる母の境涯をはやしているのだった。

ガラスの器を左手に、右手の箸でそうめんを口に運んでいる母のこめかみあたりが、ぴくぴくと動いた。母は音を立てて箸を茶袱台の上に置くと、声にむかって身構えた。

「このドブ亀、もういっぺんうとうて見い!」

母にドブ亀と呼ばれた声の主は、私だちか身を寄せていた安普請の小屋の、粗板壁ひとつで区切られた隣部屋に住んでいた亀次という、酒好きの日雇人夫だった。

亀次の家族は女房の富子と二歳になる伜の鉄次から成っていた。この三人か三畳の部屋に、ほとんど家具らしい家具もなく寝起きしていた。日ごろの亀次はむしろ大人しすぎるほど大人しく、朝など、私だちと出会うと、弁当を腰にこそこそといなくなった。その亀次が給料をもらうと、そのほとんどを酒に変えて飲んでしまい、飲むと女房を蹴り、伜をなぐった。その余波がこんどは私たちを襲ったのだ。

「妾も言うたんが気に入らんそか。何べんでもうとうてやるどォ」

声がして、ステテコ一枚の亀次が、つっかけ下駄でよたよた歩いてきた。母は激昂した。

「妾、妾、ぬかしやがって。いつ妾した」

「妾や。妾や。妾やねえか。何ぼでんが言うてやるど。妾。妾。めかけェ」

憎憎しげに突き出した亀次の顔と母の顔との距離は、五センチとはなかった。焼酎くさい息を吹きかける亀次の頬桁に、母は「西東(にしひがし)」平手打ちを食わせた。

こんどは亀次か激怒する番だった。

「こん女郎(めろ)が!」

と言うと、亀次は下駄のまま一間きりの私たちの部屋に上り込み、母の髪毛をつかんで、板に茣蓙を敷いただけの床の上を引きずりまわした。「放せ、ええ、放しやがれ」と叫びながら、母の叫びは湧きあがる血のあぶくにむせているようだった。

母の血の叫びに感応して、私の中ですべての血がはげしく泡立った。私は自分のあらゆる血管の枝道か、夕焼けのように燃えあがるのを感じた。私は茶袱台の上の食べものの器を取ると、手当り次第、亀次に投げつけた。

亀次の頭からそうめんが垂れ、水が垂れ、亀次の脛からは血が噴き出した。亀次は母の髪を放しで、私に躍りかかってきた。私は裸足で土間へ跳び降り、開いていた戸口から夕焼けの中へ逃げ出した。

私は隣の自江さんと山根さんの間を抜け、堀本さんと木元さんの前を走り、石丸さんと江口さんのあいだを駆けた。走りながらふり返った私は、これも裸足の亀次か(よき)をふり上げて、すぐうしろを追っかけてくるのを、見てとった。

路には人が満ち、家家の窓も、この血なまぐさい鬼ごっこを見る人で鈴なりだった。その窓も、窓から覗く人の顔も、私と亀次の(あしのうら)が踏む土も、そして空気も、夕焼けの反映で悲劇的な(くれない)に沈んでいた。

紅の重い空気のむこうで、富子か黄色い声で叫んでいた。

「睦ちゃああん、逃げてええ」 

天と地の美しい夕焼けの中で、私と亀次は死の追っかけっこを遊んでいるのだと、私は頭のどこかで考えていた。

私はほとんど脳天を割られる寸前だった。(よき)は私の真上にあった。突然、私の前に奇蹟のように、広田さんの畑が、そして、畑の中の小径かあらわれた。私はその小径の中に逃げ込んだ。

しばらく行ってふり返ると、小径の入口のあたりに、斧を持った片手をだらんと垂らした亀次が立っていた。もう()(たれ)の時か半分とりこめたかれの顔は、妙に悲しげに見えた。

家主の白江さんか迎えに来て、私は白江さんの玄関にかくまわれた。夜おそく、母が迎えに来た。母は目の下から頬にかけて、紫いろの大きな痣をつくっていた。足音を殺して家に入ると、板壁のむこうから苦しげないびきが聞えていた。

その夜、母は黙っていた。けれども、母が私の「雄雄しい」行為に満足していたことは、その日から母が私に対って暴力を振わなくなったことにおいて、明らかである。母は、私か母を守るために暴力を振うのを見たとき、私にいままでの弱弱しい男の子ではなく、まだ完全とは言えないか、しかし、まぎれもないひとりの男を見たのだろう。

『十二の遠景』より(1970)

English
Twelve Views from the Distance
BY Mutsuo Takahashi
PHOTOMONTAGE BY Tadanori Yokoo

The colors of the sunset — how can I describe them? The sunset started with orange, then moved through a spectrum of colors — vermillion, red, scarlet, then purple — until they were swallowed up in the dark indigo of the night sky. As the colors went through these transformations, they reminded me of many shades of blood. Like blood — that is how I think of them.

For children, sunsets are first and foremost lively celebrations of fun. Children run about beneath the blazing skies of sunset, chasing bats, kicking bits of gravel, and singing songs. It is as if the joyously flowing blood filling the veins of the sky excites the blood in the veins of the children below and fills them with vigor.

However, the joyous blood of celebration can also be terrifying and cruel as well. Children’s bodies and minds are open to a joyous banquet of pleasures, but they are also exposed and vulnerable. That is what I mean when I say that sunsets are the most fitting skies for my childhood memories, and that the sunsets over the memories of my youth are skies of blood.

As a little boy, whenever I saw the blood swelling and congealing on the surface of the sky, I thought of Mother. I am not just talking about the time during her absence when I lived with Grandmother or when I was being passed from one household to another. Even after my mother had returned, I continued to see sunsets and think about her. She was often away, and every time she left, I was exposed to the violence of my Grandmother, my aunt, and other adults. Meanwhile, that would just make me miss my kind and gentle mother the whole time. When she returned for good, however, I did not find the kindness I had been waiting for. Instead, what confronted me was a new kind of aggression. The violence that she displayed toward me was something that ran deep in her veins and that even she could not control once it had been aroused. This time, when I encountered violence in my own mother, it only made me yearn all the more for what I believed motherhood should be — eternal kindness.

I moved with Mother when she remarried a man who was in charge of track maintenance and divisions at the Moji Railroad, but she divorced him only half a year later. At the beginning of the following summer, I was in middle school. The following memory dates from about that time, I believe. It takes place on the day of the festival at the port of Moji. Mother and I had gone with my former stepfather, the same man she had just divorced, to have some fun at Wakari Shrine, which is dedicated to the deity Watatsumi-no-ōkami and is located at the edge of Moji.

The reason Mother and my former stepfather had decided to get divorced was not because of a fight. It was because his children and I did not get along. In fact, my parents and former stepfather seemed to still like one another. He would still come over to our new house once or twice a week. Sometimes, he would even take us to the port or across the straits to Shimonoseki.

After he had seen us back to our apartment after the shrine, my former stepfather left and went back to his own home. Mother and I decided to have dinner right away. We were holding our food on our trays when we heard the refrains of the following song through the wooden wall that separated our rooms from the front entrance to the building. The song itself seemed to reek of alcohol.

Oh, feudal lord with the eyebrows
If you take your mistress
And go see the cherry blossoms
People everywhere
Will be talking…

When people sing this song, they take their thumb and point first to their eyebrows, then to their eyes, nose, cheeks, and mouth… It was a rather vulgar song, the sort that you might sing to poke fun at someone. It was clear the man who was singing it was poking fun at my former stepfather who was still coming to see Mother even after getting a divorce from her.

Mother was holding a glass dish in her left hand, and in her right, the chopsticks that were transporting the sōmen noodles to her mouth had paused in midair. Her temples throbbed. With a clatter, she put her chopsticks down on the tea table then squared off to go face the man.

“Hey, drunken turtle, just try singing that again!”

The man she was calling “drunken turtle” — the one who had been singing a moment earlier — was Kameji, a day-laborer who lived next to us in the cheaply constructed building. Kame, the first character of his name meant “turtle,” and he drank quite a lot. His apartment was separated from ours by just a thin wall of rough boards, and that was the reason we could hear him even in the privacy of our own home.

Kameji’s family was made up of him, his wife Tomiko, and their son Tetsuji who was about to turn two. All three of them lived in a miniscule three-mat room, and they hardly had a stick of furniture to their name. During the day, Kameji was almost too quiet, and when we ran into him in the morning, he would trudge off quietly, the bentō box containing his lunch held at waist level. When he received his wages, he drank most of it away, and when he was drinking, he would kick his wife and hit his infant son. In the aftermath, he might turn against us.

He shouted, “What? You don’t like being called a mistress? I don’t care. I’ll say it over and over again.” He wobbled over on his wooden clogs to where Mother was standing in the hallway. He was only wearing a loose pair of underpants.

Mother was furious. “‘Mistress, mistress.’ How dare you say such things! When was I ever a mistress?”

“Mistress! Mistress! You’re a mistress, aren’t ‘cha? I’ll say it again and again. Mistress. Mistress. Misss-trrr-esss!”

By this point, there were only three inches or so separating the faces of Mother and Kameji, who had stuck out his chin out at her in provocation. His breath reeked of cheap liquor. Mother gave him two hard slaps with her open hand — one on each side of his face.

Mother’s bloody screams made every last drop of blood in my own body boil in sympathy for her. I could feel every branching vessel and artery in my body burn with the flames of suns.

This time it was Kameji’s turn to fly off the handle. “Fuckin’ whore!” Without removing his wooden clogs, he stormed into our room chasing Mother. He grabbed her hair, and dragged her down onto the floor, which was nothing but hard boards with a single woven straw mat spread over them.

“Let me go! Let me go!” she screamed, but her voice seemed to be choked by the bubbles of hatred and anger rising in her blood.

Mother’s bloody screams made every last drop of blood in my own body boil in sympathy for her. I could feel every branching vessel and artery in my body burn with the flames of sunset. I grabbed the glass dishes on top of the tea table and threw them one after another at Kameji.

Noodles dangled from his head; water dripped from his body, and blood gushed from his neck. Furious, he let go of Mother and lunged for me. Still in my bare feet, I ran over to the entrance, with its dirt floor, and flew into the sunset outside.

I ran between our neighbors, Shirae-san and Yamane-san, dashed past Horimoto-san and Kimoto-san, then between Ishimaru-san and Eguchi-san. I looked over my shoulder and saw that although Kameji was still barefoot, he was now wielding an axe and was chasing close on my heels.

The road filled with people, and whole groups of people peered out of their windows to watch the drunken man who was behaving like a bloody demon. The sunset seemed to bathe everything in a tragic shade of red — the windows, the faces of the people looking out at us, the dirt road down which both I and Kameji were running in our bare feet, and even the air itself.

I was not yet completely grown, but she had seen in me unmistakable signs of becoming a man.

From out in the distance, I could hear our neighbor Tomiko screaming in a shrill voice, “Run for your life, Mut-chan!” Some part of me couldn’t help but realize that there, in the middle of that beautiful sunset which illuminated both heaven and earth, Kameji and I were engaged in a race to the death. I was only seconds away from the moment the axe would split my head open. The axe was hanging right over me.

Suddenly, like a miracle, the Hirota’s field appeared before me. There was a path right down the middle. I rushed down the path as fast as I could go.

A few moments later, I turned to look and saw that Kameji had stopped near the entrance to the path. The axe was dangling limply from his hand. His face, which was already half obscured by twilight, looked strangely sad.

The landlord, Shirae-san, came to get me, and he gave me shelter in the front of his house. Later that night, Mother came to collect me. Below her eye, all the way down her cheek was a big, purple bruise. We tiptoed into the house, trying not to make any sound. From the other side of the wooden wall, we could hear the sound of unencumbered snoring.

That evening, Mother was silent. After that, she no longer engaged in any violence toward me, making it clear that she had been satisfied by my “manly” behavior. I suspect that when I acted aggressively to protect her, she stopped seeing me as the weak, little boy I had been until that point. I was not yet completely grown, but she had seen in me unmistakable signs of becoming a man.

EXCERPT FROM THE MEMOIR Twelve Views from the Distance (1970)

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