Haruki Murakami sets a story within a story in “The Seventh Man.” In a group meeting, when it is his turn to speak, the titular man tells a story about his childhood. He has spent some 40 years trying to forgive himself for what he did—or rather, did not do—when he was 10 years old. The man blames himself for the death of another boy, referred to as “K,” who was his friend and a talented artist. The children’s innocent but foolish behavior not only cost K his life but severely injured the unnamed protagonist. Despite his physical recovery, he had been burdened by guilt.
The boys lived in a seaside town that was hit by a typhoon. When the storm abated, they went to the beach to see the damage, but soon were engulfed by a tsunami. The boy who survived did not manage to save K, but saw a vision of him in the waves after he was sucked out to sea. The storyteller was seriously injured but finally recovered his physical health. The effects of the trauma not only prevented him from returning to the sea-shore but also made him incapable of sustaining personal relationships.
He relates that after his parents died, he went back to the old hometown and looked at some of K’s old drawings. When he finally returned to the beach, he fell into the water. This visit made him realize that the guilt had emotionally paralyzed him but did not help anyone, and he wishes that he had been able to recover sooner.