Wednesday, December 7

Eightfold Path

There are too many people in this world. People everywhere, cars spewing out a thick coat of invisible poison, factories and furnaces, killing the skin of the world we inhabit. They're everywhere, hemming us in on all sides with squalling infants and trash and terrible little clouds of germs. Particles. Maybe spores. You never can tell.

It's mostly the noise, the clashing and creaking, the wails and grunting that play marimba on my spine. I creep around in my apartment because, upstairs, the man who plays bass in some terrible cover band never takes off his shoes. I hear him thumping around every hour of the day. It doesn't bother me as much now that I don't sleep.

I hear voices through the walls, whispers and murmurs of people who might be alive or dead or somewhere in between. I never see my neighbors if I can help it. Everything I need can be delivered, except the gun. I had to buy that from a wizened little man in a bad part of town. His eyes were shark-cold and black, blacker than the hole in the muzzle of my new handgun. He never asked why I wanted such a thing, of course. I imagine someone in that line of work would rather not know his customers too well.

There are footsteps outside my door again, people running up and down the stairs. I think they tread as heavily as they can on purpose, hooting like monkeys who have finally discovered acoustics. There are people everywhere.

Before, I practiced avoiding notice. I tried as hard as I could to become invisible. I think it's worked; cabs don't stop for me, but then again, in this city it would be more of a surprise if I managed to catch one. At night I meditate instead of sleeping, holding a full clip in my loosely cupped hands, waiting to look into the void of empty mind. Without desire, I can achieve anything. The trick in that, though, is that I long to accomplish something great. I have not reconciled these emotions, and I will not reach nirvana in this way. Of course, I can't believe I will reach nirvana with all this noise around me.

Sometimes, in the holy hush of three in the morning, I walk down to the river and watch the lights in the water. Sometimes, yes, even then, there are people in my way. The people in my way at such an hour are never, ever missed.

I wish everyone would disappear, everyone in this city, leave me alone and let me meditate under the wide window, open to the sky. I would never become a bodhisattva and that is okay. Let them all vanish into smoke and dust and ash like the girls in the incinerator.

I could go out into the world and sit under a tree until another homeless man stands too close to me, offering drugs and requesting things I don't have to give. I could walk to the park, if another thoughtless young woman with a stroller too wide for the sidewalk wouldn't simply shove me aside with its nearly-armored sides. I am running out of places to put the loud, the rude, the hapless, and the damned.

I will stay in here with the candles and the bits of unburned bone until I hear silence out there, or until another knock on my door signals the loss of my invisibility. Or I will go out and remove another piece of trash from my city, one bullet at a time, one more splinter of annoyance pulled from under the nailbed of my soul.

The incinerator is the only quiet thing in this building. Sometimes I go into the dark and lie in front of its iron mouth, whispering sutras into its heat. Sometimes I see the faces in the fire and I am so grateful they are silenced forever. Sometimes when I blow out the candles on my windowsill, I make a wish, but then I remember that desire is the enemy. Is a wish the same as desire?

I cannot escape the prayer for silence, the great and sacred responsibility that has been laid upon me. I wished to be of use, I wished to remove obstacles from my destiny. I wished to live in an empty place, for an empty mind, for the peace of perfect enlightenment. If I could just quiet the voices, I could get there, but people are everywhere. So, one person at a time, I strive. When all is silent I will reach again for the truth, set out upon the eightfold path that promises detachment from these earthly desires.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Tobie challenged me with "Make a wish and blow out the candles." and I challenged Wintervixen86 with "Pierrot and Columbine".