The Murakami equivalent of lol. Gotcha!
What a beautiful look deep into a moment.
It wouldn't surprise me in the least if this was many people's favorite story of Murakami's. It certainly is one of mine. I read everything he wrote up to Kafka on the Shore. After that I've found him a bit repetitive, but lord, if you've never read Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, are you in for a treat.
My favorite story of his is "Barn Burning," which I read in The New Yorker back in the fall of 1992, at my college library. I not only remember that story, but I remember reading it, where I sat, the light in that vast reading room, my utter absorption as I got to the last page, the last sentence, the last word -- and then feeling the shiver down my spine as realization set in.
It was made into a movie a couple of years ago, but that story -- it's the real goods. And only that version in the magazine, translated by Philip Gabriel. The one that's in the collection The Elephant Vanishes is translated by Alfred Birnbaum and not nearly as good. In fact, the endings are different enough that I wonder if the source material changed...
I had an encounter on a dark, rainy night lost in Philadelphia, stopping to ask for directions. It was so innocent, so unexpected and haunted me for years afterwards. An opportunity that represented everything missing in my life at the time. What it came to mean was that change was needed, warranted, coming. I had to become all that that stranger represented.