Monk Bodhi Dharma is a tucked away treasure in Balaclava, serving nourishing food and drink. Click to read the short story by set in Melbourne…
Monk Bodhi Dharma
Half asleep, and with red wine still tinting his lips, George made his way out of his house on Nightingale Street towards Monk Bodhi Dharma. He pushed his sunglasses over the little arch of his nose, slowly, as if the 34g frames required all the muscle in his fingers. He walked along Woodstock Street wearing the grey shirt he’d slept in, second hand Levis and his dad’s old brown Birkenstocks. He stopped at various houses along the way, naming the colours of the roofs as he passed them, hoping to spot the 3 cats that lived along the route to Carlisle Street. But none were out that morning. All inside with their owners, eating, sleeping, being taken care of, no one wanting anything from them, except their mere existence. George walked on, planting his headphones in his ears, listening to the music he was brought up on.
He reached the café, and gave the barista a nod of acknowledgement. There were only a couple of people in the café, the morning rush had passed, and lunch was not yet on anyone’s mind. He usually would check which beans they had, but this morning he couldn’t bring himself to care. He’d dreamt about her again, the third time that week.
A waiter walked over with a menu, and a glass of water. He seemed to be rushing, while standing motionless, except for his lips mouthing the words, “start with a coffee George?”
He ordered a long black and wished he’d remembered to brush his teeth before he’d stumbled outside.
There were only two other people in the café, a lady in a moss green jumper and a gentleman in a grey blazer typing away at his laptop. The woman’s jumper was ugly, and clashed with the exposed brick so violently; you could almost hear the colours yelling at each other. George liked colours, well not colours alone, but colours together. He liked contrasts. He liked that three primary colours could be altered in so many ways to create endless possibilities. He liked that people could be gripped by colour, moved by colour, that paintings by Rothko and Newman could sell for over $100 million. He thought this both beautiful and idiotic, reflecting the world as a whole.
His coffee arrived and he stared into the dark brown centre. He didn’t want any food, he rarely wanted food, but today especially he knew he’d go from coffee to alcohol. The lady in the ugly jumper got up, she was wearing an even uglier skirt. She had a nice face but painted her eyelids an odd shade of orange, a shade that did not cooperate with her blue eyes. She left the café leaving behind an empty coffee cup and an empty plate. George went back to staring at his long black.
He’d spent the last 7 months purposely trying to forget her; it was a difficult task, one that required constant effort. It required him to look at Instagram, and then stop looking. It required deleted friend requests, blocks and then 2am decisions to contact her. Followed by 2:05am decisions to never do that again. It required purposeful walks by the café in which she worked, taking 15-minute detours in order to catch glimpses through windows. It required sleeping with other girls, girls with even redder lips. It required lying.
And then a few weeks ago it stopped. He slept with a girl with pink lips, not red. He took his normal route to work. He used his Instagram to post pictures of his marketing portfolio. He stopped purposely trying; trying at all and he enjoyed the way his life felt. He enjoyed that the girl with pink lips cooed when he came. He enjoyed that the guy he met from Leo Burnett liked his posts. He enjoyed the coffee from the café on his usual route to work.
And then 5 nights ago he started dreaming about her. She wasn’t the lead in his dreams; sometimes she was just passing through. In the first dream he wasn’t even sure if it was her; it was just the back of a head with a constant stream of smoke rings sitting in front of him on the train. In the second dream she had been one of several of his friends, on a camping trip to Canada. She hadn’t been more or less involved than anyone else. She’d hitched up her own tent, and wondered off into a forest not long after. And last night, last night she’d been a bank teller telling him that he had no money left in his account. She didn’t even look like her in this dream, she looked like someone else, but it had been her. And so for a week, he’d been drinking red wine and annoyed with his subconscious for undoing all his hard work.
He looked into his now empty coffee cup and began to beat up his already troubled conscious with questions he could now answer.
What if he never stops missing her?
What if the craving never goes away?
What if each time he hears her name, or sees the embrace of red lips around the end of a Dunhill cigarette he thinks of her?
And it’s not just thinking of her, thinking of her is not the problem, it’s more remembering the experience of her. Remembering the way he felt when he was with her, how his body took on new forms. Forms he’d never known; softer, safer, the way he imagined a 64 year old would feel after life had been accomplished, with all trace of uncertainty removed. He hated his body, hated that his body craved her.
For how can a body want something when a mind does not? He tortured himself with this question, as he had done the other three mornings that week. An obsession he knew would only cause another cameo in his dreams. Why must they be so vivid, why must his body remember the feeling, and be forced to withdraw all over again.
George functioned best when his mind and body were in unity, and he often spoke to his body like it was an old friend. He’d learnt this habit from his dad. When he was sick as a child, his dad would speak to his body, as if it were a separate being, separate from his spirit and consciousness. He would say things like, “George’s Body, we both respect you need time to heal, but George wants to jump and play and use the new slippery dip that I bought him, so be as quick in your efforts as you can.” He’d then place his hands on his forehead or belly and say, “let my energy help heal you.”
George was never sure if this worked but for as long as he could remember he spoke to his body. Told it to push harder if he was running, told it to relax when he was nervous, told it that he was grateful for it when it did as he asked and told him he was angry at it when it did not. Years later, he realised that this habit helped him direct less anger towards himself. If he were somehow separate from his body, then any annoyance would be directed outwards, not inwards. If his body failed him, like it so often did, with addictions, illnesses, clumsiness, tiredness, it was not his fault. He did not feel shame, but rather tried to comfort his old friend, George’s Body, and encourage it to try better next time. This saved him part of the anguish of self-hatred he often saw in his friends.
Today, in the café though, he felt little empathy for his body, George’s Body. Because his body was not using any of the logic, shared by his consciousness. He, George, had been the one that decided to end it. He’d been the one that had said that she didn’t fit into his life; didn’t fit in with his friends, the type of career he wanted, the type of lifestyle he wanted to lead. She was the one that would have been happy to stay by his side forever, smoking one Dunhill cigarette after the next until she’d die of lung cancer, or he’d die of lung cancer. He wanted her out and she had listened and now he was stuck with his mind, his body, his subconscious and conscious wanting different things and similar things, asking the same stupid questions over and over again.
He left Monk Bodhi Dharma, leaving one of the new $5 notes on the table and walked back to Nightingale Street. He opened the unlocked door and made a right to his bedroom. He collapsed back down on his bed, seeing a lipstick stain on his pillow. He placed one hand on his forehead and the other on his belly and asked to dream of pink.
– The End –
Image curtesy of Broadsheet Melbourne