Dan speaks to me in Zen koans. A line, two at most, flung at me like a wannabe philosopher’s frisbee.
He has been taking classes at the Buddhist Centre. At the end of week one, he came home with a pink lotus-shaped meditation cushion. Week two, he walked around the yard barefoot. He switched from coffee to green tea the next week, following the path set by his guru, Maya. When Dan takes Maya’s name, the rush of desire leaves him breathless, leaves him helpless.
Maya has an athlete’s body and an assassin’s stealth. Her voice is smoky, with a trace of a Slavic accent. She moved from her lonely Latvian town to London three years ago.
Maya meditates. Maya levitates. Maya’s lips caress koans all day.
“If you know candlelight is fire, the meal is already cooked,” Dan says, staring intently at a slice of buttered toast.
“What is the most precious thing in the world?” he mutters while I draw the curtains and let in the lukewarm light.
“The giver must be thankful,” he says, when I surprise him with an expensive bottle of Chablis.
The wine is an invitation he declines. A sip or two may have loosened his tongue, a glass pried open his secrets. Sober, he falls asleep in seconds, drifting away like a fluffy cloud. I stay awake, alone in the dark, listening to the sound of his breathing. The sky swallows the moon. The night speaks to me in koans I can’t solve.
Vineetha Mokkil is the author of the short story collection, A Happy Place and Other Stories (HarperCollins). She received an honorary mention in the Anton Chekhov Prize for Very Short Fiction 2020 and was shortlisted for the Bath Flash Award in 2018. She was a nominee for Best Small Fictions 2019. Twitter: @VineethaMokkil | Website: amazon.com/author/vineethamokkil