Once he finished packing, he took out Liszt’s Years of Pilgrimage for the first time in ages. The three-record set performed by Lazar Berman, the set Haida had left behind fifteen years before. He still kept an old-style record player for the sole purpose of playing this record. He placed the first LP on the turntable, B side up, and lowered the needle.
"First Year: Switzerland." He sat down on the sofa, closed his eyes, and focused on the music. "Le mal du pays" was the eighth piece in the suite, the first track on the B side. Usually he started with that piece and listened until the fourth composition in "Second Year: Italy," "Petrarch’s Sonnet 47." At that point, the side ended, and the needle automatically lifted from the record.
"Le mal du pays." The quiet, melancholy music gradually gave shape to the undefined sadness enveloping his heart, as if countless microscopic bits of pollen adhered to an invisible being concealed in the air, ultimately revealing, slowly and silently, its shape. This time the being took on the shape of Sara-Sara in her mint-green short-sleeved dress.
The ache in his heart returned. Not an intense pain, but the memory of intense pain.
What did you expect? Tsukuru asked himself. A basically empty vessel has become empty once again. Who can you complain to about that? People come to him, discover how empty he is, and leave. What’s left is an empty, perhaps even emptier, Tsukuru Tazaki, all alone. Isn’t that all there is to it?
Still, sometimes they leave behind a small memento, like Haida and the boxed set of Years of Pilgrimage. He probably didn’t simply forget it, but intentionally left it behind in Tsukuru’s apartment. And Tsukuru loved that music, for it connected him to Haida, and to Shiro. It was the vein that connected these three scattered people. A fragile, thin vein, but one that still had living, red blood coursing through it. The power of music made it possible. Whenever he listened to that music, particularly “Le mal du pays,” vivid memories of the two of them swept over him. At times it even felt like they were right beside him, quietly breathing.