The Fear of Being Alone

I just finished reading a marvelous short story Tony Takitani by Haruki Murakami in the Summer 2006 issue of Zoetrope All Story.

I’ve read some other Murakami stories in other magazines and have liked what I’ve read.  The titles of those escape me for the moment; I don’t think the title of this one, however, will.

The title character is a successful Japanese businessman, the son of a jazz musician who survived the war in a Chinese prison. Much of the story is about loss and one of the strongest moments comes when Tony gets married. It’s telling that the wife is never named.

He marries not so much from love, but from the fear of being alone.  And yet, even after he marries, he never relinquishes the fear: "The very fact that he ceased to be lonely caused him to fear the possibility of becoming lonely again."

At that line I wrote in the margin, "That’s such a familiar feeling."  How strange to know Tony Takitani’s fear so well. Has anyone else ever felt the same? You can meet someone, cease to be lonely, and yet you become afraid of being lonely again.

Maybe this is why we cling to relationships, whether they’re good or bad: We don’t want to be lonely again. And yet, ultimately, everyone disappears, because of death.  This is what Tony Takitani discovers at the end.

I once had a former friend callously tell me ultimately we are alone. She was particularly annoyed by me still longing for a woman I loved several months after the breakup. 

Back then I couldn’t believe we were alone.  I’m not sure I want to believe it still. I don’t want to discover what Tony Takitani discovers.


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