memoirs-of-a-geisha chapter 29



That night as I lay on my futon, I decided to be like a fisherman who hour after hour takes out fish from his net. Whenever I thought of the Chairman, I took the thought from my mind and then again and again until no thoughts were left. It would have been a good system, I’m sure, if I could have made it work. I even tried to think of Nobu instead of the Chairman, but without success.

I did this for weeks, trying to remake myself. I went to parties as usual, but I knelt in silence with my hands in my lap. Mother told me I looked like a ghost. She’d brought in a newspaper while I was eating lunch. There was an article in it about Iwamura. It was a difficult article to read, full of numbers and business terms. But it was clear that Iwamura could make their heaters and refrigerators again, and in the same week the company had got a big loan from Mitsubishi Bank.

«It’s no wonder we’ve heard so much from Nobu Toshikazu these past few days,» said Mother. «You must know he wants to be your danna. Well, there’s no problem with that now. It’s finally happening. We all know how fond you’ve been of Nobu these past few years.»

Mother followed this with some news. The mistress of the Ichiriki had received a telephone call that morning from Iwamura Electric about a trip to the island of Amami, the following weekend. I’d been asked to go, with Mameha and Pumpkin. We were going by airplane. I’d never been on one — I’d never even seen one. I was terrified.

When Friday morning came, we started for Osaka by tram. In addition to Mr. Bekku, who came as far as the airport to help us with our trunks, the little group consisted of Mameha, Pumpkin, and me.

From Osaka Station we traveled to the airport in a little bus not much larger than a car, which burned coal and was very dirty. At last, after an hour or more, we climbed down beside a silver airplane balanced on tiny wheels; and when we went inside the airplane sloped down so much I thought it was broken.

The men were there already, sitting in seats at the back.

With the Chairman, Nobu, and Minister Sato, there was an elderly man who I later learned was President of the Mitsubishi Bank.

We sat toward the front of the airplane and left the men to their dull conversation. Soon I heard a coughing noise and the airplane shook. Then it started to move. The noise of the engines grew worse, and the airplane began to move forward. Finally the noise grew to a terrifying roar, and we began to rise up into the air.

Mameha had put me in a window seat, thinking the view might calm me, but now she saw the ground disappearing below us and she refused to switch seats with me. Someone finally told me the trip was seven hundred kilometers and would take nearly four hours, but only when the ground was far below us. When I heard this, I’m afraid tears came into my eyes, and everyone began to laugh at me.

I pulled the curtains over the windows and tried to calm myself by reading a magazine. Some time later, after Mameha had fallen asleep in the seat beside me, I looked up and saw Nobu standing over me.

«Sayuri, are you well? he said, speaking quietly so he didn’t wake Mameha.

«I don’t think Nobu-san has ever asked me that before,» I said. «He must be in a very cheerful mood.»

«The future has never looked better!»

Nobu looked at me and then walked away. For a moment I thought he might see in my eyes that I was as worried about my future with him as he was happy about his future with me. But of course he didn’t. Nobu understood me so little. A geisha who expects understanding from her danna is like a mouse expecting sympathy from a snake.

The Chairman was the only man I’d ever entertained as Sayuri the geisha who had also known me as Chiyo. Why couldn’t I stop thinking about the Chairman? If you’d asked me that, I would have answered, «Why does water run downhill?»

«Why do fish taste of fish?»

I looked out of the airplane window at the blue water far below. And then a frightening picture came into my mind of me cutting the cord that tied me to Nobu and watching him fall from the airplane into the ocean.

Of course, I don’t mean that I was really going to throw Nobu out of the airplane, but I did have a sudden understanding of the one thing I could do to end my relationship with him forever. Nobu himself had told me how to do it, just a moment after cutting his hand that night at the Ichiriki Teahouse only a few weeks earlier. If I could agree to give myself to Minister Sato for one night, he’d said, he would never speak to me again.

As we left the airplane, I must still have looked very worried because Mameha kept telling me that I was safe at last.

We arrived at our inn about an hour before sunset. The others admired the room where we would all be staying. I pretended to admire it too, but I wasn’t really interested; I was too worried about what I was going to do. But the room was nice. It was as big as the largest room at the Ichiriki Teahouse, with tatami mats, dark wood and beautiful Japanese furniture.


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