Thoughts and Reflections- II
Here is another story from Paul Coelho’s collection.
The Dead Man Wore Pyjamas
I read in an on-line newspaper on the internet that, on 10 June 2004, in Tokyo, a man was found dead in his pyjamas.
So far, so good. I think that most people who die in their pyjamas (a) either died in their sleep, which is a blessing, or (b) were with their family or in a hospital bed, meaning that death did not arrive suddenly, and they all had time to get used to ‘ the Unwanted Guest’, as the Brazilian poet, Manuel Bandeira, called it.
The news item went on to say that, when he died, the man was in his bedroom. That cancels out the hospital hypothesis, leaving the possibility that he died in his sleep, without suffering, without even realizing that he wouldn’t live to see the morning light again.
However, there remains one other possibility: that he was attacked and killed.
Anyone who knows Tokyo also knows that, although it is a vast city, it is also one of the safest places in the world. I remember once stopping with my Japanese publishers for a meal before driving on into the interior of Japan. All our cases were on the back seat of the car. I immediately said how dangerous this was; someone was bound to pass, see our luggage, and make off with our clothes and documents and everything else. My publisher smiled and told me not to worry; he had never known such a thing to happen in his entire life (and, indeed, nothing did happen to our luggage, although I spent the whole of supper feeling tense).
But let’s go back to our dead man in pyjamas. There was no sign of struggle or violence. An official from the Metropolitan Police, in an interview with the newspaper, stated that the man had almost certainly died of a sudden heart attack. So we can also reject the murder hypothesis. The corpse was found by the employees of a construction company on the second floor of a building in a housing development that was about to be demolished. Everything would lead us to think that our dead man in the pyjamas, having failed to find somewhere to live in one of the most densely populated and most expensive places in the world, had simply decided to live in a building where he wouldn’t have to pay any rent.
Then comes the tragic part of the story. Our dead man was nothing more than a skeleton wearing pyjamas. Beside him, was an open newspaper dated 20 February 1984. On a table nearby, the calendar marked the same day.
He had been there for twenty years.
And no one had noticed his absence.
The man was identified as an ex-employee of the company who had built the housing development, where he had moved at the beginning of the 1980s, immediately after getting divorced. He was just over fifty on the day he was reading the newspaper and suddenly departed this life.
His ex-wife had never tried to get in touch with him. The journalists went to the company where he had worked and discovered that the company had gone bankrupt immediately after the project was finished, because they had failed to sell any of the apartments, which would explain why they did not find it strange when the man stopped turning up for work. The journalists tracked down his friends, who attributed his disappearance to the fact that he had borrowed money from them and hadn’t been able to pay them back.
The new item ended by saying that the men’s mortal remains were returned to his ex-wife. When I finished reading the article, I kept thinking about that final sentence: the ex-wife was still alive; and yet, for twenty years, she had never once tried to contact him. What can have been going on inside her mind? That he cut her out of his life for good? That he met another woman and disappeared? That this is simply what life is like once the divorce proceedings are over, and that there is no point in continuing a relationship once it has been legally terminated? I imagine what she must have felt when she leaned the fare of the man with whom she had shared a large part of her life.
And then I thought about the dead man in pyjamas, about his complete and utter isolation, to the point that, for twenty long years, no one in the whole world had noticed that the had simply vanished without trace. I can only conclude that worse than hunger or thirst, worse than being unemployed, unhappy in love or defeated and in despair, far worse than any or all of those things, is feeling that no one absolutely no one, cares about us. Let us say a silent prayer for that man,and thank him for making us think about how important friends are.
In the upcoming post I will share the difficult words for ‘Like the flowing river’. Go through the book to read other such short stories.