NWR Issue 107

My Falling Down House

While we are young and without pain we not only
believe in eternal life, but have it.
Thomas Bernhard, Concrete



My father says I’m an idealist, and that this will be my downfall. I disagree.

The house is abandoned and very dilapidated. It’s a place I fell into about a year ago following a heavy night’s drinking with co-workers. Back then my stay here was nothing more than an accident and only for one night. Strange to think that I ended up seeking the place out. But this is only temporary, and as soon as I recover I’ll move on.

When I arrived here all I had with me was a box. Just a large, ordinary, cardboard box. I knew there was some of my stuff in there, I just didn’t know what exactly, and so far I lacked the curiosity to look inside.

A cat had joined me on my journey from the station. He was black and handsome looking, and I guessed he was still quite young. When I reached the house he peeled off as though he had done his duty for the day.

Getting inside the house was tougher than I expected. I leant against the door to steady myself, the box making me clumsy. I glanced back to check I was alone. As long as no one slid open a door or drew back their shoji, all would be well. This wasn’t my neighbourhood, and taking up residence, however temporarily, in a place that is not yours, is a tricky and potentially dangerous thing to do.

The door felt heavy and fragile and no longer fit quite as it should. Clearly no one had done any work on the place. It was a falling down house, falling apart in stages, and I ought to treat it with care.

By now these traditional old houses were rare in Tokyo, most of them awaiting renovation or demolition, but mostly demolition because land prices are super high. So it was strange to find such a dwelling so close to the city, and in such bad condition, usually they are quickly removed, a pencil tower erected in their place or something very much larger. And it’s hard to know exactly what criteria saves a place and what lines it up for the diggers. — I couldn’t guess how it would go with this one in the long run, but I hoped it would be saved.

I snuck inside and shuffled the door shut. Finally, the world outside was gone. I could breathe again. I set the box down on the tatami...

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