Haruki Murakami, Star-Crossed Lovers And Me

He's the greatest modern writer by a long shot, and regularly stops me in my tracks with stark yet brilliant lines. It's the only thing I have to thank one of my exes for...
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He's the greatest modern writer by a long shot, and regularly stops me in my tracks with stark yet brilliant lines. It's the only thing I have to thank one of my exes for...


I'm a Haruki Murakami obsessive, having been introduced to him by a girl I was briefly seeing. We fell out, over, among other things, a two-bar electric radiator she leant me for my freezing cold Stockwell flat. But I owe her. Not for the radiator - it was a little ineffective for what was a poorly-insulated flat - but for introducing Murakami to my life at a time when I really needed Murakami in my life. I've never been a huge fan of modern writers, much like some of the memorable characters in Murukami's fiction, but I was quickly won over by the Japanese master.

I totally got his world of loners and their losses, their battle to make sense of those heavy defeats. His minor character, "The Rat", a troubled, introspective soul who appears in "The trilogy of the Rat", three loosely-connected books that culminate in the totally unexpected "A Wild Sheep Chase", one of the greatest books I've ever read, rivals Jay Gatsby as one of my favourite fictional creations. Though from what I recall, none of Murakami's characters have had the same issues I've had in terms of heating their flats, I felt a natural kinship with them.

I've almost run out of Murakami books, which is a worry. You see, I'm an easily addicted guy - in 2010 alone, I developed overnight addictions to semi-skimmed Cravendale and Hot Chocolate - this at the age of 38, while holed up in a tiny hotel room for 5 months, an eye mask fashioned from the tired gusset of a pair of pants worn at night to block out the neon Christmas lights the hotel manager had fixed to my balcony at the end of that October.

This addictive side of my personality, most recently manifesting itself in the form of Coffee Mate, is why I'm a teetotaller, and never got into drugs, though I’ve consumed enough prescription drugs to leave me confident I won’t be around for the care home years, closing my life out being smacked about by care workers not even born yet. I've never made enough money to be able to finance the inevitably huge recreational drugs habit I'm absolutely certain I'd end up with very quickly, and I'm too low key and lacking in energy to be going up and down South Lambeth Road, SW8 all day hassling people for money. In addition to that, all the best begging spots in Stockwell are already taken.

The mad rasta and his battered out of tune guitar and the urinating dwarf of SW8 continue to fight over the prime spot outside the Natwest next to Stockwell Station, which is stained with the dwarf's urine. I don't know why the rasta, who urinates over by the war memorial just across from Natwest, just doesn't give the urine-soaked spot up. Meantime, there are three or four locals who have already established themselves on South Lambeth Road as the area’s crack head hustlers, one of whom I'm sure was my supervisor when I was a Saturday boy at Woolies in Clapham Junction in the late eighties, perhaps my happiest days. She still ties her hair back in the chav-bun style heavily favoured on the local estates, and to be fair to her, her hairline shows no discernible trace of the traction alopecia that affects many who scrape their hair back in similar fashion. I don't think my admiration for her hairline would make my hustling on these same streets any more welcomed.


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Anyway, to get back to Murakami, I've just finished his "South of the Border, West of the sun", a story about two star-crossed lovers and I was brought to a halt, as I so often am by this magnificent writer, by the simple, yet stark line, "A person can, just by living, damage another human being beyond repair." It resonated. I've probably been that person for one or two people, and I can certainly think of a couple of women I’d rather didn’t exist. Women I loved that marked me. In this situation, a man has to accept their erstwhile partners are out there getting banged by other guys totally lacking the balls to experiment with facial hair or nose redesign in the way that you might have. Even in a city of just over 8 million people like London - the current birth rate in SW8 is likely to push that figure closer to the 8.5m mark in the next few months - you always fear bumping into the person that scarred you. It's as if the city contracts, leaving you with nowhere to hide.

It is hard thinking about women you once loved getting penetrated by another guy. And that is essentially what it comes down to. It’s humiliating, as well as heartbreaking.You think of them in your darkest moments, pulling all sorts of bedroom faces, faces they once pulled for you, while they are, in the words of Salt n Pepa, working up a sweat. Those men are doing all sorts of things to them that you’ll never get the opportunity to do to them again. They’ll be persuading those ladies to try out those positions you never quite persuaded them to try with you. You laid the groundwork. You were the Claudio Ranieri to their Jose Mourinho, buying the Petr Cechs and Claude Makeleles, developing John Terry and Frank Lampard, but then along come those men to take the glory. History will not remember your part in those ambitious sexual positions eventually coming off. These women who you were eventually able to eat in front of are forever lost to you, taking it hard from other guys.

"Are they using contraceptives with these new guys and going bareback," you wonder, torturing yourself in the evenings, rather than savouring the serenity that comes with knowing you've charged your electricity key with £2. Are your ex-lovers struggling to shoot their load with your successors, and if so, do they use their memory of sex with you as a fallback to get to the finishing post? The questions are endless. Personally, I’d place the hurt of this type of agonising alongside bereavement for its intensity. You deal with that hurt because you have to. You deal with it because those people are still out there getting on with their lives, and you have to find a way of doing the same. You have to overcome the fact they left you perhaps because they thought you were a loser, and remind yourself that was just the opinion of one person, albeit one person with thunderous thighs and a big ass that won't be easy to replace. Forget the ass. Forget the legs. Focus on the things you hated about them and learn to love yourself.

Create this gatekeeper in your head to block out those images that beset you of some bloke committing an explicit act on those you loved. You've got to shut those images down, eliminate them in the same way for instance, that Dentyl was quietly and efficiently removed by its makers from supermarket shelves in the spring of 2009 during the Dentyl scare. Getting that gatekeeper in place will help you to get up in the mornings and face another new day. Deal with that, and you can deal with anything. And it was through Murakami I realised something about myself just recently. Something that made me a little uncomfortable. Whenever I played football, park football, school football, whatever football, I always preferred losing 1-0 to winning 5-0. I wasn’t a win at all costs kind of guy. I don’t have that competitive edge. I think I’m someone who can lose and still keep going, albeit not as effectively as I once could. It’s not that I like losing. I don’t. Particularly losing people I love. But I can somehow function with those narrow 1-0 defeats. Especially with the gatekeeper in place to shut down all those images.

Writer and comedian Daniel Ruiz Tizon, South London's most disappointed man and former presenter of "Please Don't Hug Me", "The Daniel Ruiz Tizon Podcast" and "Nowhere Has Everything You Need", returns with a brand new comedy podcast in which he dissects the minutiae of everyday life. 

And do remember, Daniel Ruiz Tizon is Available. He is so available.

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