Inku
Japan Society of Fairfield County

Culture Watch, Society Watch (14)
by Dr. Ikuko Anjo Jassey


     In Akutagawa's short story, "In a Grove," despite the fact that the six characters testify in the same murder case, their testimonies differ. Why does it happen? The possible reason is that all these characters exhibit their egotism in order to show themselves in a better light than what they really are; in other words, their testimonies are contaminated with each character's subjectivity and benefit.
     A few days ago, I encountered an incident that reminded me of this story. I saw from my car a woman, who was in her late thirties, hurriedly approaching her car and pushing herself in. She looked tense and did not look anywhere else but at her car. However, I had never imagined that she would hit my car in the next moment. Apparently she backed up without looking and, as a result, bumped her car against mine.
     "She parked too close to my car," the woman spit out the words in irritation and anger to two valet-parking service men at the Emergency Entrance at Norwalk Hospital. She said, "too close." But it was not true. I have a habit to make too much space between my car and any object, whatever it is, in front of the car. One of the men advised her to call a police officer. On her way back to her car, she threw out a word, "Damn," telling it to my face. So I responded with an intentionally calm tone, "Well, the point is you hit my car." For her benefit, she explained the situation as I had parked my car "too close" to hers and indirectly blamed me for her carelessness.
     In ten minutes or so, a police officer arrived. But I did not notice his presence, because I was too busy looking for my registration certificate and updated insurance card. When I happened to realize that a police car was behind mine, the woman was already standing next to the officer and talking to him. I went out of my car and waited, standing next to my car until she had finished. Before she left, she apologized to me in front of the officer. I sympathized with her situation a little bit, so I said, "That's all right. People coming into or going out from the Emergency Entrance might not be in a normal state of mind. I understand it." I really understood it, because my husband was carried in through the door on the previous day. And I added, "Let's drive safely."
     After she left, the officer did a normal procedure with me, that's what I supposed, and wrote down the case number, his name, and his telephone number on a pad, saying, "If you need a copy of this report, contact this number." What he asked me about the accident was whether my engine was still on when she hit my car. On my way to my husband's room, I wondered why the officer did not ask me further how the accident had happened, and I realized, for the first time, of a possibility that she might have explained the accident in the light of her benefit. I suddenly felt that I was a helpless fool who had failed to learn from my past experience.
     That previous incident happened in Westport five or six years ago. It was a case that a subjective truth was cleverly and ingeniously manipulated. On that day, my husband luckily found a parking space on Main Street, but unluckily the space was a bit too tight. I felt that our car touched--really just touched lightly--a car behind when he parked, but somehow he skillfully managed to squeeze in. One hour later when we came back to our car, a big middle-aged man started shouting at us, claiming that our car damaged his car. We saw his car plate dented and slightly twisted. Instantly, I felt something was not right. That soft touch could not have caused damage to his car in that way. The man was, however, furious and even showed a sign of violence. So my husband told the man to call the police, and we immediately left the site.
     Several hours later, we were called into the Westport Police Department. There we found out that the man had reported that my husband had humiliated him with four-letter words in public and claimed that he had had two witnesses who, according to his report, were his friends. First, nobody was close to us on the street, besides a woman whom I assumed would be his wife. Second, it was a false allegation. My husband did not use any profane words. Actually, although I had been married to him seven or eight years by that time, I had never heard him use a four-letter word even at home. (Off the record, after thirteen years of our marriage, I heard him utter "bull sh-" twice or so and "bitch" twice.) Interestingly and surprisingly, the accuser did not complain at all about the damaged plate, which meant he had had a car accident somewhere else to cause the damage and had already reported it officially. Otherwise, how dare him not to claim the damage. Instead, he fabricated a story of my husband's use of profane words so as to divert his anger resulting from our car's touching his snow-white Porsche. (Neither my husband nor I knew that it was a Porsche! Aaah....) By the way, what is the crime my husband was falsely accused of? Disorderly conduct.
     Thus both the woman who hit my car and the man who owned a Porsche are indeed like the six characters in the story by Akutagawa. They acted for their own benefit by twisting the objective truths. Are you asking me if I am objective? Well, I am also someone who in everyday life falls in her subjectivity, although I am someone who always wants to know the truth and the reality.

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