Going the Distance

Watch out, Murakami, Kashua is on the move

I am writing this column from bed. No, that's not completely accurate. I am actually dictating this column to my wife while lying in bed, in pain.

"That's your lede?"

"Will you please concentrate on the transcription?"

"What do I care? It's your column."

"Fine, so continue, please."

It all started because of Haruki Murakami, the son of a bitch.

Illustration by Amos Biderman
Illustration by Amos Biderman

"I don't write words like that."

"It's called creative license."

"It's called being obscene for no good reason, and I really don't like it when you use swear words. I will not write them. Sorry, find someone else."

"Where are you going? Wait a minute. All right, from the beginning."

It all started because of Haruki Murakami's damned book, "What I Talk about When I Talk about Running." Yesterday I read the musings of the Japanese writer - a marathon runner - about running, and I developed a powerful urge, so powerful as to be uncontrollable, to go out and run. True, I was never an outstanding athlete. "What are you laughing about now?"

"You were never an outstanding athlete?"

"Well, what do you want me to write?"

"The truth: That you once considered having surgery and getting hooked up to a catheter so you wouldn't have to get up to go to the toilet."

"You're distracting me. Please, I don't have the strength to talk, too. I'm asking you, let's just get this done."

"So I was never an outstanding athlete." But reading Murakami's memoir about running, his precise descriptions, his addiction to long-distance runs, his determination, the preservation of his body, his health, the fact that as soon as he started to run seriously he was able to kick the smoking habit easily - all the physical and mental health that bubbles from the book - left me no choice but to take action myself. I was convinced that if a Japanese writer could do it, there was no reason I couldn't succeed, too.

So as soon as I finished the book, around dusk, I looked for my running shoes in the closet and in the storeroom, until I realized that I didn't have any and never did. Still, my spirit remained undaunted. Wearing beat-up Converse All-Stars, a T-shirt from my HMO and faded jeans, I went out for a run through the streets of the neighborhood. Already on my way down the stairs I started to breathe heavily and I knew that if I would have to climb all 10 steps back up I would need a half-hour rest. But I wasn't about to give up, and I am still trying to work out the meaning of that determination, which was never one of my traits - a fanatic determination to run. After all, this was not running for the sake of running, it wasn't a matter of sports or health. I had read the book and knew that running would be my deliverance from all my troubles. After reading the book I was certain beyond any possible doubt that if I were as determined as the Japanese weirdo - "Sorry, erase that and write the talented Japanese author" - my personal and mental life would work themselves out and be in harmony with the discipline of running.

So, despite the unbearable pain that seized my legs within seconds, I ran, stubbornly ignoring my fears, in order to improve the life of the family. Clinging to passages I had read in the book that had impressed me to tears, such as "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional," I decided to suppress the suffering that coursed through me with every step on the steep rise to Kiryat Yovel. I had read the book and knew well that Murakami was my hero, the man who runs and talks about life's priorities, the man who runs with so much love for his wife, for his professional colleagues, for his friends. All I had to do was run and I would be at least as good a person as Murakami, all I had to do was make it up this hill - a feat which seemed impossible at that moment - and I would never drink again.

A little more, I told myself, knowing that the muscles in my legs were slowly burning out. A little more and I will be at the top, a little determination, I told myself, that can never hurt you, on the contrary, do it for the people you love, for the good person you always wanted to be, this is your chance. So I found myself smiling after triumphing over the first hill. I could have turned around and gone home, but my watch showed that less than three minutes had gone by since I'd left the house. I will continue, I decided, recalling for myself Murakami's order of priorities, I will continue, I will go on running a little more, tomorrow it won't hurt anymore, I know, one more kilometer at least, I thought to myself, and maybe I won't be so horny anymore, either.

"I won't write that."

"Hey, you're breaking my line of thought, rabak." "Sorry."

"OK. Correct it."

One more kilometer of running and I'll stop being ... "Sorry, I don't have another word to describe horniness."

"Write it yourself, I don't write words like that."

"Fine, then write that I wanted to run in order to restrain my desire."

After I thought I had achieved the goal I still went on running, the pain became much more bearable, I ignored it, nothing was going to stop me from making this run which was going to be my salvation and transform me into the moral person I'd always wanted to be. Nothing would stop me from running, if this was how I would safeguard my family, heighten my love for my wife and make me stop reflecting day and night on matters of love.

"Will you shut up, please?"

"What, it's not melancholy?"

"No, it's stupid."

"You know what? That's the problem. That's exactly the problem. I don't really need to run in order to be a decent person like Murakami. I can assure you that Murakami has a wife of gold. You can see it between the words."

"What are you saying?"

"What you're hearing. And I want you to know that if Murakami found himself in the kind of situation that I am now in, his wife would transcribe his words with great desire, her eyes filled with admiration, and would intimate to him that every word he wrote was a gem."

"But he really does write well. And if I understand you correctly, he is also a good husband."

"I write better than Murakami, and you will see one day that I will pass him in some New York marathon. Here's the problem: you don't compare to Murakami's wife and that's what made him Murakami and makes me what I am."

"You have no sense of shame. Not a drop of shame. You know what, I don't know if Murakami's wife would have spent the whole night with him when the ambulance picked him up to go to Hadassah because he fainted after 10 minutes of running."

"Where are you going? I haven't finished the column yet. I wanted to add that I also ran to liberate Palestine from the occupation, only I fainted just then and didn't accomplish the goal."

"That's it, I'm not writing another word for you."

"Hey, please, there has to be an ending, two words, okay?"

"Two words."



"Write that I love you."

"Liar. But I don't care, so go ahead."

I love you.