It happened at a freezing night. My father had a dinner at a cantina with familiar friends. He forgot about time as always while he was fully engaged talking to them. When he noticed, it was after two o’clock in the middle of the night. He went outside to find the snowy rain that had started at early evening turned to snow. He got in the car, started driving homeward. As soon as he started, he sensed something awkward. He recognized he was surrounded by something that he didn’t normally feel. Is it so called bad feeling? He thought he had to tell himself to stay sharp, and drove a little more carefully than usual. There were neither pedestrians nor cars on the street. He drove slowly in the snow that kept falling silently. At the usual crossing, he stopped the car for a red light. At the direction he took a brief look, he saw a woman standing with long hair, clad in a white cloth. He was startled. He wondered whether he was looking at a ghost for the first time in his life or just experiencing hallucination. Fear and astonishment lasted just for a moment; he was rather curious about what it really was. He stared hard at the woman, but he couldn’t see her face very well. She looked down and walked toward his car at a slug’s pace. The traffic light had already turned green. Spontaneously, he honked a horn. However, the woman kept walking toward the car without flinching.
It seemed like it was really a human but not a ghost. At the same moment my father recognized her as a human, she flopped down in front of the car. “Oh my god! Are you ok? What’s wrong?” She didn’t reply to my father at all. He didn’t have any choice but putting her in his car. She gazed into nothing, without batting an eyelid. “Can you tell me how to get to your place?” There was still no answer. He decided to take her to his home for now. Until they arrived, she didn’t say any single word. In fact, she didn’t even try to look at him. When they arrived home and my father tried to take her out of the car, she finally resisted. Seemed like she decided not to get out of the car by all means. She stubbornly rejected. Not knowing what to do, my father called my mother.
“Give me a hand! I found a woman.” My mother was woken up suddenly in the middle of the night and told an incoherent explanation by my father. Although she didn’t get a clear picture of the situation, she talked to the strange woman in the car. “Please don’t worry and just come in.” The woman reacted to my mother and stepped out of the car without any resistance. As soon as my mother put a futon in the drawing room, the woman threw herself on it. Even though my mother heard it was an accident, she couldn’t help but looking at my father with suspicious eyes. However, Back in those days, my father used to bring various strangers to our home suddenly, and put my mother in awkward situation. Although it was first time to accept a strange YOUNG WOMAN, once it happen, my mother had little choice but to trust my father’s explanation.
At that time, five of us— three little kids, my father and my mother, slept together, lining up futons, in the Tatami room downstairs. The drawing room my mother had showed the woman into was right next to the Tatami room. My parents expected the woman to fall asleep immediately, but seemed like she was crying. Although she was weeping, the noise was heard through the thin wall. My mother asked my father automatically, “You’ve done something to her, haven’t you?” He was startled more than when he saw the woman in the snow at first. “No, I haven’t.” He was innocent. If anything, he was the victim to get involved in the woman’s tragedy. He didn’t help her with hypocrisy or a hidden agenda; there was indeed only him to help her at that time. The lady fell over in front of him, as if she had been waiting for him. Saying in an exaggerated manner, he was the one who was thrown into the woman’s destiny. Even if it were not a young woman but a drunken middle-aged man, he would have done the same thing. Actually, if it were a middle-aged man, the story must have been very simple. However, it was a young woman, and she was obviously wounded by something emotionally. Her helplessness hinted at extra possibilities of this story, therefore he was suspected by his wife. Of course he couldn’t ask the complete stranger what had happened; he didn’t want to know it in the first stage. However, the woman’s sad whining gave depth into her impression and, willingly or not, made him to imagine her burden that she had brought to our home. At that night she cried for a while.
The next day, my mother woke the woman up early in the morning before her children found her. The woman got up surprisingly easy and hurriedly got ready to leave. She apologized my mother shyly over and over with the drastically different attitude to the last night. My father was still asleep, so my mother decided to drive her. They exchanged a few conversations in the car, but she didn’t say her name in the end. About five minutes later, she said, “I’ll excuse myself here,” and left the car near the cake shop in front of the station.
If the woman had fallen asleep in the snow carrying something tragic at that night, she might have ended up becoming a Snow Woman, a Japanese specter. Or perhaps, she had been already turning into it, when my father saw her in the snow at first. Fortunately, she found my father, or my father found her. Because they met on that day, at that time, and at that place, she was able to see another morning. Today, she might talk about that night as one of her failure stories. “Why was she there alone at midnight in the snow?” My father is still wondering. He never met her again since then; this story became one of his mysterious anecdotes. And he is still not sure whether his wife’s suspicion has been cleared or not. It is another mysterious anecdotes of my father.
text & illustration by Sayuri Amano
English translation by Megumu Ogata