I can’t believe we’re almost done with the book! For such a short novel, it feels like we’ve been on such a long whirlwind of a journey with Keiko.
When I started reading about her last day at the store, I was legitimately confused. I had no clue why she was quitting. Then, when she got back home, and Shiraha was looking at jobs, I was confused again. Was he getting a job?! And was he actually HAPPY about it?! Thankfully, the read aloud group helped me to realize that he was actually looking for a new job for Keiko, which honestly made a lot more sense. I assumed he was the one getting the job because it mentioned resumes being on the table, and for some reason I didn’t think about Keiko actually having one. I knew he did, since Izumi and 店長 were roasting his. In any case, it was clarified for me.
I think she ultimately quits because of what happened when her sister visited: as many people pointed out, she wanted someone to give her specific directions to follow. Where her sister was somewhat unable to, Shiraha’s sister-in-law was more than willing to do so. When I was reading that part, I honestly couldn’t help but see her point in some ways. Like, how were they living off her part-time salary? I guess food might be discounted, since she not only works there but buys dented cans and products that didn’t sell well. I really felt it when she brought up whether Keiko had insurance, too. This was the first time someone was bringing up practical reasons to be concerned about their lifestyle choices. Yes, she reiterates some of the points others in the book have made: it’s better to get married; it’s better to have a full-time job. But those extra things…they’re realities of living on your own and for yourself, extending past the themes of expectations in the social world to what’s expected of someone financially (and I suppose medically).
I also think it’s interesting when Keiko says that the sister-in-law seems like a better person than Shiraha’s been saying. I’m still thinking over what to make of that; is it because of how straight-to-the-point she is, whereas everyone else in her life has been harder to understand at some point or another?
This section is also why I still think Shiraha is manipulative. He, naturally, BS’s his way through the conversation with his sister-in-law. This time, though, he unwittingly gives Keiko a directive: quit your job ASAP and find a full-time position. At first, of course, I thought that he was just saying that. His celebratory remarks when the sister-in-law leaves, with him “escaping,” allude to as much. (I’ll leave others to contend with the nasty things he said about his sister-in-law in that moment…) Again, he tries to convince Keiko that up until now, she’s been a societal pariah of sorts, and she’s so lucky that he’s in her life. If you have to continually remind someone of that (or at least, feel the need to), you’re clearly trying to manipulate how they feel. Both he and the sister-in-law mention her “being left for dead.” Similar expressions from two very different people; would love others’ thoughts on that. And as he keeps talking while she showers, what is it that dies away? The sounds of the コンビニ that have been in her head for 18 years.
It’s possible something good for Keiko will come from all this, and if it leads to a better life for her, then I guess she would have Shiraha to thank, among others. The scene of her on the veranda was incredibly striking, with her looking at different parts of her physical form and naming the reasons behind their appearance. It’s very much a moment where the reader sees just how much she is (and I hate to do this) a コンビニ人間. The part about her hair made me think back to when she describes 菅原’s hair; certainly not professional, or even traditionally feminine. How would Keiko style her hair, if looking professional wasn’t a concern? Heck, what did Keiko study at college? What sorts of things interested her before the コンビニ? I hope she gets to (re)discover things about herself, and in that sense no longer be a コンビニ人間, but simply a 人間.
As usual, I got to rambling… I just love how much this book has gotten me to think about the writing, the characters, the themes, pretty much everything. It’s gonna be sad when this week’s reading brings it all to a close…