Sunday, November 14, 2010

a prayer

She stood in front of her father's grave.  Evening was falling.  Shadows in the cemetery darken.  The night wind began to gather from somwhere near.  Everywhere was silence except for the tired movements inside the tomb.  She heard them, but could not hear them, so she prayed.  The bundle of incense was more than half burned; its ashes fell to the ground when they became too heavy to bear upon themselves.  She melancholy thought, her prayers must not have made her father happy.

The urn that contained her father's ashes was too small for his body.  He wished he could fly away.  When he was alive, he had believed in wandering souls, ghosts without homes.  He thought that being a ghost without a home was better than imprisonment in this suffocating urn.  The only consolation were the incense sticks she lit for him, even if he knew it was an ironic misrecognition.  He wasn't sure why he had been given the status of a hero, when in fact he had been a deserter.  The dear girl, she came to see him every week.  He truly wanted to help her, but the things that she prayed for were beyond his abilities, even in his unearthly state.

Leaving the cemetery, she got on the Hug-bike, returning to the city.  The driver of the bike was familiar with her cemetery visits.  He drove her to a coffee shop and waited outside.  She chose a corner, lit her cigarette.   "I know I will die early," she thought.  "Yet you don't value your time with me.  You always see me as a burden.  What do I have to live for when my sacrifices have no meaning to you?  I will destroy myself and I will destroy you.  There will be no peace if I am not at peace." 

In the background of her thoughts, the Beatles played.  They were reminiscing.  The shop owner said, "We just found a track belonging to Lennon, the best, do you want to hear it?"  "Yes," she said.  "You seem sad, why are you sad?" he asked her.  "It's my home," she said.  "You are young," he said.  "Don't you know there is a whole generation living through sadness?" "They have passed," he said.  "I am left behind."  "My dear, it is that you have not arrived. Do not try to see what should be left unseen."  She is silent.  She thought, "Why is he talking to me when he should shut up?"  He sensed this thought, so letting out a small disappointed sigh at her stubbornness, at himself for this failed attempt to ply her out of the black vortex that she has hurled herself into, he stood up and walked back to his place behind the counter.  He sat  and stared at her.  The Beatles continued playing.

In a while, she stood up and walked out of the coffee shop.  The Hug-bike driver was outside waiting.  "Where do you want to go now?" he asked.  "Take me to a temple.  Any temple." 

The bike accelerated.  The city fused with lights and people in motion.  He brought her to a rundown temple in the middle of their urban jungle. Built from wood that had survived over a hundred years of hungry moth, it sat cornered between two steely high rises, worn and fading from decades of fighting to stand firm amid the chaos.

"I would like a prayer ceremony for my father's salvation," she told the monk.  The monk, who did not seem to have an age, closed his eyes. "The living also needs salvation," he said.  "To do what, teacher?" she asked him.

"To unchain what needs to be unchained." 

"What do I have to unchain?" 

She thought, "No one can unchain me. I am chained to myself, respected teacher.  No one can undo my restlessness.  I drive myself to madness from despair, from loss of self, from uncertainty.  Life buries me.  I also bury me.  I stagger from loss even if I don't know what I've lost.  I crumble under it."

The monk looked at her with his slow, tired eyes. "What is your chain, daughter?

"Nothing, teacher." she said. 

"Nothing, or everything, it is all misled desire. When you look into the mirror, look past your self, and wait."

"Will you come to conduct the ceremony for my father?"

"Namo-Amitabha, I will come."

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