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爱学习   In the six years I went to elementary school, I met just one other only child. So I rememberher (yes, it was a girl) very well. I got to know her well, and we talked about all sorts of things.We understood each other. You could even say I loved her.

爱学习   Her last name was Shimamoto. Soon after she was born, she came down with polio, whichmade her drag her left leg. On top of that, she’d transferred to our school at the end of fifthgrade. Compared to me, then, she had a terrible load of psychological baggage to strugglewith. This baggage, though, only made her a tougher, more self-possessed only child than Icould ever have been. She never whined or complained, never gave any indication of theannoyance she must have felt at times. No matter what happened, she’d manage a smile. Theworse things got, in fact, the broader her smile became. I loved her smile. It soothed me,encouraged me. It’ll be all right her smile told me. Just hang in there, and everything will turnout okay. Years later, whenever I thought of her, it was her smile that came to mind first.

爱学习   小学六年时间我只遇上一个独生子,所以对她(是的,是女孩儿)记得十分真切。我和她成了好朋友,两人无话不谈,说是息息相通也未尝不可。我甚至对她怀有了爱情。


爱学习   Shimamoto always got good grades and was kind to everyone. People respected her. We wereboth only children, but in this sense she and I were different. This doesn’t mean, though, thatall our classmates liked her. No one teased her or made fun of her, but except for me, she hadno real friends.


爱学习   She was probably too cool, too self-possessed. Some of our classmates must have thought hercold and haughty. But I detected something else- something warm and fragile just below thesurface. Something very much like a child playing hide-and-seek, hidden deep within her, yethoping to be found.

爱学习   想必对他们来说,她是过于冷静而又自律了,可能有人还视之为冷淡和傲慢。但是我可以感觉出岛本在外表下潜伏的某种温情和脆弱——如同藏猫猫的小孩子,尽管躲在深处,却又希求迟早给人瞧见。有时我可以从她的话语和表情中一晃儿认出这样的影子。

  Because her father was transferred a lot, Shimamoto had attended quite a few schools. I can’trecall what her father did. Once, she explained to me in detail what he did, but as with mostkids, it went in one ear and out the other. I seem to recall some professional job connectedwith a bank or tax office or something. She lived in company housing, but the house was largerthan normal, a Western-style house with a low solid stone wall surrounding it. Above the wallwas an evergreen hedge, and through gaps in the hedge you could catch a glimpse of agarden with a lawn.


爱学习   Shimamoto was a large girl, about as tall as I was, with striking features. I was certain that ina few years she would be gorgeous. But when I first met her, she hadn’t developed an outerlook to match her inner qualities. Something about her was unbalanced, and not many peoplefelt she was much to look at. There was an adult part of her and a part that was still a child-andthey were out of sync. And this out-of-sync quality made people uneasy.

爱学习   岛本是个眉目清秀的高个子女孩,个头同我不相上下,几年后必定出落成十分引人注目的绝对漂亮的姑娘。但我遇见她的当时,她还没获得同其自身资质相称的外观。当时的她总好像有些地方还不够谐调,因此多数人并不认为她的容貌有多大魅力。我猜想大概是因为在她身上大人应有的部分同仍然是孩子的部分未能协调发展的缘故,这种不均衡有时会使人陷入不安。

  Probably because our houses were so close, literally a stone’s throw from each other, the firstmonth after she came to our school she was assigned to the seat next to mine. I brought herup to speed on what texts she’d need, what the weekly tests were like, how much we’d coveredin each book, how the cleaning and the dishing-out-lunch assignments were handled. Ourschool’s policy was for the child who lived nearest any transfer student to help him or her out;my teacher took me aside to let me know that he expected me to take special care ofShimamoto, with her lame leg.


爱学习   As with all kids of eleven or twelve talking with a member of the opposite sex for the first time,for a couple of days our conversations were strained. When we found out we were both onlychildren, though, we relaxed. It was the first time either of us had met a fellow only child. Wehad so much we’d held inside about being only children. Often we’d walk home together. Slowly,because of her leg, we’d walk the three quarters of a mile home, talking about all kinds ofthings. The more we talked, the more we realized we had in common: our love of books andmusic; not to mention cats. We both had a hard time explaining our feelings to others. Weboth had a long list of foods we didn’t want to eat. When it came to subjects at school, theones we liked we had no trouble concentrating on; the ones we disliked we hated to death. Butthere was one major difference between us – more than I did, Shimamoto consciouslywrapped herself inside a protective shell. Unlike me, she made an effort to study the subjectsshe hated, and she got good grades. When the school lunch contained food she hated, shestill ate it. In other words, she constructed a much taller defensive wall around herself than Iever built. What remained behind that wall, though, was pretty much what lay behind mine.

  就像一般初次见面的十一二岁异性孩子表现出的那样,最初几天我们的交谈总有些别扭发涩,但在得知对方也是独生子之后,两人的交谈迅速变得生动融洽起来。无论对她还是对我,遇到自己以外的独生子都是头一遭。这样,我们就独生子是怎么回事谈得相当投入,想说的话足有几大堆。一见面——虽然算不上每天—— 两人就一起从学校走路回家,而且这一公里路走得很慢(她腿不好只能慢走),边走边说这说那。说话之间,我们发现两人的共同点相当不少。我们都喜欢看书,喜欢听音乐,都最喜欢猫,都不擅长向别人表达自己的感受。不能吃的食物都能列出长长一串,中意的科目都全然不觉得难受,讨厌的科目学起来都深恶痛绝。如果说我和她之间有不同之处,那就是她远比我有意识地努力保护自己。讨厌的科目她也能用心学且取得很不错的成绩,而我则不是那样。不喜欢的食物端上来她也能忍着全部吃下,而我则做不到。换个说法,她在自己周围修筑的防体比我的高得多牢固得多,可是要保护的东西都惊人地相似。

爱学习   Unlike times when I was with other girls, I could relax with Shimamoto. I loved walking homewith her. Her left leg limped slightly as she walked. We sometimes took a breather on a parkbench halfway home, but I didn’t mind. Rather the opposite-I was glad to have the extra time.


  Soon we began to spend a lot of time together, but I don’t recall anyone kidding us about itThis didn’t strike me at the time, though now it seems strange. After all, kids that age naturallytease and make fun of any couple who seem close. It might have been because of the kind ofperson Shimamoto was. Something about her made other people a bit tense. She had an airabout her that made people think: Whoa-better not say anything too stupid in front of this girl.Even our teachers were somewhat on edge when dealing with her. Her lameness might havehad something to do with it. At any rate, most people thought Shimamoto was not the kind ofperson you teased, which was just fine by me.


爱学习   During phys. ed. she sat on the sidelines, and when our class went hiking or mountain climbing,she stayed home. Same with summer swim camp. On our annual sports day, she did seem alittle out of sorts. But other than this, her school life was typical. Hardly ever did she mentionher leg. If memory serves, not even once. Whenever we walked home from school together, shenever once apologized for holding me back or let this thought graze her expression. I knew,though, that it was precisely because her leg bothered her that she refrained from mentioningit. She didn’t like to go to other kids’ homes much, since she’d have to remove her shoes,Japanese style, at the entrance. The heels of her shoes were different heights, and the shoesthemselves were shaped differently – something she wanted at all costs to conceal. Must havebeen custom-made shoes. When she arrived at her own home, the first thing she did was tossher shoes in the closet as fast as she could.


爱学习   Shimamoto’s house had a brand-new stereo in the living room, and I used to go over to herplace to listen to music. It was a pretty nice stereo. Her father’s LP collection, though, didn’tdo it justice. At most he had fifteen records, chiefly collections of light classics. We listened tothose fifteen records a thousand times, and even today I can recall the music-every single note.


爱学习   Shimamoto was in charge of the records. She’d take one from its jacket place it carefully on theturntable without touching the grooves with her fingers, and, after making sure to brush thecartridge free of any dust with a tiny brush, lower the needle ever so gently onto the record.When the record was finished, she’d spray it and wipe it with a felt cloth. Finally she’d returnthe record to its jacket and its proper place on the shelf. Her father had taught her thisprocedure, and she followed his instructions with a terribly serious look on her face, her eyesnarrowed, her breath held in check. Meanwhile, I was on the sofa, watching her every move.Only when the record was safely back on the shelf did she turn to me and give a little smile.And every time, this thought hit me: It wasn’t a record she was handling. It was a fragile soulinside a glass bottle.


  In my house we didn’t have records or a record player. My parents didn’t care much for music.So I was always listening to music on a small plastic AM radio. Rock and roll was my favorite,but before long I grew to enjoy Shimamoto’s brand of classical music. This was music fromanother world, which had its appeal, but more than that I loved it because she was a part ofthat world. Once or twice a week, she and I would sit on the sofa, drinking the tea her mothermade for us, and spend the afternoon listening to Rossini overtures, Beethoven’s Pastorale,and the Peer Gynt Suite. Her mother was happy to have me over. She was pleased herdaughter had a friend so soon after transferring to a new school, and I guess it helped that Iwas a neat dresser. Honestly, I couldn’t bring myself to like her mother very much. Noparticular reason. I felt that way. She was always nice to me. But I could detect a hint ofirritation in her voice, and it put me on edge.


爱学习   Of all her father’s records, the one I liked best was a recording of the Liszt piano concertos:one concerto on each side. There were two reasons I liked this record. First of all, the recordjacket was beautiful. Second, no one around me – with the exception of Shimamoto, ofcourse-ever listened to Liszt’s piano concertos. The very idea excited me. I’d found a world thatno one around me knew – a secret garden only I was allowed to enter. I felt elevated, lifted toanother plane of existence.


爱学习   And the music itself was wonderful. At first it struck me as exaggerated, artificial, evenincomprehensible. Little by little, though, with repeated listenings, a vague image formed in mymind – an image that had meaning. When I closed my eyes and concentrated, the music cameto me as a series of whirlpools. One whirlpool would form, and out of it another would takeshape. And the second whirlpool would connect up with a third. Those whirlpools, I realizenow, had a conceptual, abstract quality to them. More than anything, I wanted to tellShimamoto about them. But they were beyond ordinary language. An entirely different set ofwords was needed, but I had no idea what these were. What’s more, I didn’t know if what I wasfeeling was worth putting into words. Unfortunately, I no longer remember the name of thepianist. All I recall are the colorful, vivid record jacket and the weight of the record itself. Therecord was hefty and thick in a mysterious way.


爱学习   The collection in her house included one record each by Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby. Welistened to those two a lot. The Crosby disc featured Christmas songs, which we enjoyedregardless of the season. It’s funny how we could enjoy something like that over and over.


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