Almost Transparent Blue (1976)

Drugs, sex, black American soldiers, orgies, body fluids, saliva, gastric juices, and vomit. “Almost Transparent Blue” was a very difficult book for me to understand. This time, while rereading it for the first time in about 30 years, I realized that there was already a flute in this novel.

“Almost Transparent Blue” translated by Nancy Andrew

“It’s not different, you just don’t know it because you’re so much younger than me. Hey, you should play the flute, playing the flute’s what you’re supposed to do, try and do it right without running around with shit like Yoshiyama, hey, remember how you played on my birthday?

“It was over at Reiko’s place, I really felt great then. That was when somehow my chest felt all crawly, like, I can’t really say how I felt, but it was really good. I don’t know how to say it but I felt, you know, like trying to make up with this guy I’d been fighting with. That’s when I thought what a lucky guy you are, you know, I envied you, you could make people feel that way. I mean, I don’t know, but because I can’t do anything myself, I’ve never felt that way again—you can’t know unless you really do it yourself. I’m nothing but a junkie, yeah, and when I run out of smack, there’re times when I just can’t stand it, wanting to shoot up, just wanting to shoot up, times when I’d kill someone if I could get it that way, but there’s something I’ve thought about then. I’ve felt there was something, yeah, should be something between me and the smack. I mean, I’m shaking, rattling, I want to shoot up so bad I could go crazy, but I’ve felt just me and the White Lady aren’t enough, somehow. When I finally do get to shoot up, I don’t think about anything, but it’s not Reiko or my mom or anything, it’s the flute you played that time. I thought I’d talk with you about it sometime. I don’t know how you felt when you were playing, Ryu, but you know I felt really great? I’m always thinking I want something like you had then, I think about it when I’m sucking the smack up into the shooter. I’m finished, you know, because my body’s already rotten. And look, my face, gone all flabby like this, I’m sure I’m going to kick off pretty soon now. I don’t give a shit when I die, it doesn’t matter, I’m not going to feel sorry about a thing.

“It’s just, well, I’d like to know more about that feeling I had that time I heard your flute. That’s all I feel, I want to know what that was. Maybe if I knew, I’d go off smack, well, maybe not. I’m not saying that’s why you should, just you go play the flute, I’ll sell some smack and buy you a good flute with the money.”

Okinawa’s eyes were bloodshot. He’d stained his pants with coffee as he talked.

“Hey, please, a Muramatsu would be great.”
“A Muramatsu, you know, it’s a kind of flute. I’d want a Muramatsu.”
“A Muramatsu, huh? O.K. I’ll get it for your birthday, and then you’ll play for me again.”

Okinawa doesn’t really understand it himself, but he felt that “music” (the sound of Ryu’s flute) was a kind of hope.

I wanted José Luis to play a flute that could produce good sounds, and the thought of this genius continuing to play on the instrument I gave him made me feel like I had hope for survival. (notes from  “The Man” who called “TOSCO”

“Okinawa” may have become “Ryu Murakami,” and “Ryu” may have become “Tosco.”