Excerpt from Monk's love
"Monk's Love" Chapter 4
The rain that had flooded the city’s streets during the days leading up to Saturday was pretty much dried up. I was ecstatically glad for the fact that the streets were mostly cleared of any dirt that had splashed onto the concrete pathways. My mom bought me new black shoes and I did not want to be stepping on the wet ground with footwear that looked like something that was stitched together in a remote village in Italy. I did not ask her the price of the shoes, but it was a little small so I kept stretching it by maneuvering my feet unorthodoxly inside of the shoe. I wore a well pressed dress shirt and grey slacks that were given as a gift from my distance uncle as a high school graduation present. My head was still cleanly shaven. By that time, I had gotten so used to looking at myself in the mirror with no hair that I could not imagine what I would look like with countless bristles on my head. The party was to start at 5pm, but I got ready two hours prior to the faithful event. My mom called me from her work to instruct me not be overcome with fear because the fear was only of the possible future events, not the actual happenings. I did not comprehend what she meant, but I took her advisement and got on the bus that would take me to the main bus station in Bangkok and subsequently to the transfer bus just outside the city limits.
I looked at my foreign watch and it was still far away from the appointed time when my participation in the party would be tested-whether I would succumbed to hiding from the crowd or vocally expressed my thoughts openly. I wandered around the neighborhood, but I realized later that I should not have been walking around in that exclusive quarter of Bangkok where I might have been stopped by a cop for loitering. It was exactly five and I figured I should not be late to the Madam’s daughter’s graduation celebration. I started to shake ferociously all over my body as I approached the entrance to the house. There was a huge, metal, black fence that separated the private property from the public. I rang the bell and waited for several seconds before I was buzzed in. The distance to the front door of the house from the gate was a stretch for me because I had to use every fiber of my muscles to walk up a slight incline. I was thinking in the privacy of my thoughts, ‘this place is such a waste of available resources’. Then I reassessed my conclusion because when there were unlimited funds available for expenditures, then there could no limit how much money could be wasted indiscriminately. Even at the temple, I had first hand knowledge of how much money was going waste. Instead of using the donations to our temple for helping the poor, we had used the money to improve the exterior of the temple in order to make the temple surroundings more appealing to the visitors. I disagreed with my superiors how the temple’s finances were being budgeted, but I did not have the leverage to recommend how the temple’s resources ought to be utilized. I was just an insignificant, baldheaded young man then, and I was feeling same way when I entered the Madam’s mansion.
A butler greeted me with a bright smile and cordially welcomed me. I did not think he knew who I was. He brought me to the back yard and after stepping my feet on the grass, it felt somewhat wet. The reason why I said kind of was because it should have been soaked with water, but I think they had placed a plastic cover to prevent the rain from seeping into the grass. How the rich enjoyed the benefits of excessive resources. To my great surprise, I was the first person to arrive at the party, which really shocked me. I did not know that the privileged kids were not in the habit of practicing punctuality. I wandered around the area where they had the tables set up for the guests. There were about a dozen round tables close to the back entrance to the family room where my mom and I had the meeting with the Madam. No one from the family came out and welcomed me for about half an hour. I was sure that the butler had informed them of my presence. I sat down on one of the plastic chairs and let my eyes wander around the open space that was beyond my comprehension of measuring. It was late in March and the temperature was slowly becoming distracting. I stared at the field again, unfathomable conception was instilling my mind by the vastness of flourishing green blades. I tilted my head down and then brought it back up, without any purpose other than waiting for someone to come and greet me. And then a very young girl, about age 13 years old, came outside of the house and officially welcomed me.
“Hi, welcome to our home. Sorry for making you wait for so long. I think you already know the reasons. Please do not mind our family’s disrespect toward you.”
The little girl was very pleasant for someone at such a young age. She was wearing a white dress that looked like it was made from imported fabric. She smiled broadly and was very cordial, unlike her mother and her older sister.
“Thank you. Yes, I expected that. I was not formally invited to your sister’s graduation party. I think your mother just invited me as a whim. Anyway, where are all the guests? More than half hour had passed since the start time of the party?”
I inquired her out of curiosity, which was not strange to ask.
“Yeah. Well this is how it is here. It’s not cool to come to a party early or even in a timely manner. Most likely, many of the guests will not be arriving until eight ‘o clock. The party is schedule to be adjourned right before the midnight but it will probably last until way past that time.”
I was really surprised by her explanation. ‘It’s not cool to come to a party on time?’ I had no idea what that meant. I guessed I had a lot to learn on the intriguing social etiquette of the rich, or I should reiterate, the lack there of.
As the time was ensuing with every passing moment, people were making their presence known in droves. The moon was fully in view. The sky was clear of any clouds after a couple of days of continuous rain. The remaining precipitation that had encircled this region made an exodus to the Gulf of Thailand. The noise was echoing throughout the place as the guests were making many vocal sounds to the beat of jubilations. The Madam and her older daughter finally greeted me although it was done in reluctance. I was not sure exactly why Madam had suggested to me to come to her daughter’s gathering when the young girl was not pleased with my being there. I spoke with the elder daughter for a few minutes before she excused herself after she realized she did not have much in common with me. I felt utterly alone in the place where money was soaked in vinegar. I was able to witness how wealth was displayed so openly as I was able to perceived without much critical eyes. There was a girl who wore a leather skirt to the party. I did not quite understand the logic in wearing anything that was made out of leather in Thailand. The clothing, the jewelry, the shoes-all of those things showcased the ostentatious flaunting that I was not exposed to when I was living in the monastery and even in the neighborhood I grew up in. What a contrast it was for me, in a span of less than a month, to be transposed from one particular environment to another. It was self evident that I stood out like a sore thumb. I was able to be distinguished from the others, even from far away, as someone who was at the aristocratic gathering uninvited. I had no choice but to succumb to my worst fear. I hid from everyone by staying in the corner of the mansion, chewing down chicken kebab endlessly while washing it down with a diet coke. I missed drinking diet coke. Diet coke was my favorite soft drink, and it was considered a luxury when I was living in the monastery. When I inherited that money, I planned to buy a warehouse filled with cases of diet coke. My drinking diet coke continuously must have looked odd because almost everyone else drank cocktails or wines. A few of them drank beer, but I think all of them had alcohol. I had never gotten drunk in my life. I did not know how that felt, but by observing these people, I think they were pros at it. Then, within a span of couple of hours of me being at the party, my life changed forever permanently.
“Hey what’s with your shaved head?”
A girl wearing a short sleeve shirt and jean shorts approached me with a smile that was not forced.
“Uhhhh…….Well, I decided to cut if off because the weather is getting hot.”
“It was due to the weather? It’s always hot in Thailand. Come on you can tell me why.”
The girl was pressing me to answer her honestly. The reality was that I was too afraid to tell her who I was before I wore a button down shirt.
“Well it seems you are not going to go away unless you obtained the answer you desire. I was inside of a cloister for four years until recently. Something really most unexpected happened to me suddenly, and now I am enjoying an exquisite meal and my favorite soft drink.”
“I like your honesty. Well, I knew you were a monk. It’s not like boys in our country like to have their heads shaven. I guess you don’t like to drink alcohol. I would not mock you for behaving like an adolescent. I figured your extended confinement had shaped a mentality that is not conducive for you to enjoy your freedom so openly.”
“What do you mean by that?”
I was a little confused by her analysis. The fact that she had already mentioned my drinking a soft drink had imposed on her mind that I was still childish.
“I think you know what I am attempting to convey to you. I am sure you did not wake up one day and simply decide upon you quest for solitary enlightenment. You must have developed both the personality and mind, which dictated your life’s course. I am not surprised by your innocence in certain aspects of your personality. But in other facets of your life, you may be wiser than any of the immature, spoiled kids who are amusing themselves silly here in this place.”
“You sound so insightful in an opinionated way. Have you been observing me for an extended period?”
I was very perturbed with the girl imposing her description of me without any wavering in her thoughts. I could not decipher her purpose to have a conversation with the odd ball of the party.
“No, I have not stared at you extensively as you might think but I would state that you do stick out like a weed in a flower bed. It’s not too difficult for anyone to become aware of you standing here alone, at this particular area, away from the crowd. You plod along in your lonely movements, indicate you have come here reluctantly.”
“How do you know me so well? Are you this observant with everyone or most of the people who are gathered here? Yes, I have come here alone and I am not too thrilled that I am here to celebrate some girl’s graduation when I don’t even know her. I don’t want to explain to you exactly why I had brought myself to this juncture. Maybe some other time I may be less opaque in my explanation”
“I was right about you. You are in a way not so mature in your thoughts, but in other aspects you have given me an indication that your thinking is not superficially self-absorbed.”
I started to get more confused by her. She was providing me with an insight into myself that I had difficulty processing. ‘What does she want from me’ I wondered. ‘Did she know that I may have inherited a large sum of money?’
“You are conveying to me an obscure analysis that I am not familiar with, since I don’t know you well enough to decipher your hidden meaning. How do you constitute what it means to be wisely eloquent instead of meaninglessly verbose?”
“I was only trying to start a conversation with you. As I have stated before, your caution in dealing with people is well founded. What I mean is that you have an ability to see through people’s intentions. How do I know this? It is because you have decided not to join the masses to prolonged your selfish ways. I know I am getting ahead of myself because without knowing your past experiences, I won’t be able to understand completely why you had chosen your particular path. But as you have stated, something drastic must happened in your life because you look shell shocked by the place you are in at this moment.”
“I must say your words are very indisputable in the way you are twisting your tongue to sound so intelligent in your opinionated proclamations. I can not even imagine what other characteristics would be revealed about me if we continue our conversation.”
I was startled and could not come up with a concrete understanding what purpose she had. She seemed to be having a good time expressing her views to me so openly. She smiled unwaveringly, unperturbed by whether any other person was curiously pondering the content of the incessant discussion she was having with a shaved head guy. I looked around to see if any wondering people who might be staring at us. I became extremely self-conscious, I did not know why. The truth of the matter was that she should have been the one who ought to have been frightened. But I could not be discreet with hiding myself. Because I had not developed my mind to be pretentious, when the time came for me to be role-playing; I could not pretend to not be myself. I knew these individuals had many skeletons they did not want exposed, and they had great help in hiding them. Not only were they induced by a mind altering chemical compound to stay numb-alcohol, but they had their parents’ money to back them up when in trouble. But I started to reprocess my deciphering who I was. I was also the son of a deceased rich man- a rich bastard.
“Ah, you are well aware of yourself. Which is good because most of these people in this place have no knowledge who they are if you take their parents’ money away. They were raise by their parents to live according to a particular standard. The reality is that their personas are manufactured by the class they are from. It is so refreshing to be in a conversation with a person who is on the outside.”
“So you are admitting that you are part of the society whom you had just criticized?”
“Yes. I know it may sound like self-hatred. Well isn’t that how it is with everyone? In certain aspects, we don’t really like ourselves, where we came from, and whom we have become. Many people are unappreciative of the fortunes they had accumulated even though they would never be able to give up that fortune permanently. How ironic! How despicable! I am so tired of being around individuals who are so pretentious and not genuine. But the most alarming thing is that, in actuality, we like to be lied to. We all know who we really are, many of our friends are lying their undergarments off but we still like their company. This is the sorry state of our existence in this circle. And you, you are not one of us, and I like that.”
She provided a very interesting perspective that I had not heard before. I stared at her for a few seconds, and then I asked her a question.
“So you are going to the extreme opposite end. You want to be around those who are normal, unimportant and expedient. And when you have your fill, you will realize you miss your two faced friends. Sorry I had scrutinized you so openly”
I did not know what came over me, but I became wired up for an unknown reason. I waited for her response to see whether she would reprimand me for my emotional outburst. I waited silently for a time that seemed liked it was moving slower than I was used to. Then, she gave me a quirky smile.
“I like you. You speak your mind. I was right about you. Since you had not been nurtured by an over indulgent, over demanding, over image conscious and overcautious parent, you had developed your own sense of identity apart from the demands from your nurturer.”
I had no reply to her comment. I had criticized her and she came back with applauding acceptance of my ridiculing her. I had nothing to say and planned to just wait until she had gotten bored with our witty conversation. The night was getting late and I started to get worried if I were going to miss the bus back to the city’s central bus station. I turned my head in a twisting motion in order to signal to her my time with her was over. Or at least to provide definite hints that I did not want to engaged in any more discussion with her. I was a little scared of her. She expressed herself audaciously, which I was not used to.
“So where do you live?”
She requested this particular information of me, which I did not have any inclination to provide her. I did not believe her inquiry had any effect to prolong our conversation whatsoever. I wanted to stop making my tongue twirled in repeated sequences of manufactured words and form these sentences. I had enough. ‘Enough is enough’, I thought in my head. I wanted to be relieved from the situation I was forced to be in. Not by my choice. But I reanalyzed the position I was in. I was not forced but sucked into a conversation with a stranger. One sentence would have sufficed for my released-‘excuse me’. But I did not state those words to escape from her verbal grip. I just had to vibrate my throat, move my jawbone, close and open my mouth, but the reality was that I liked her talking to me. The night had been progressing without any appeal and this girl’s appearance and her willingness to have a charming conversation brought me something that I was looking for before the night began. I was so afraid whether I would be accepted by these individuals, and this young girl in front of me, as matter of fact a very attractive person and pugnacious creature, lit up a spark and brightened the darkness that was around me before she entered my space. I could only smile at her, offering an approving nod; however I wondered whether she had a hidden motive for her friendliness.
“Hey, Simla? What are you doing there? We are going inside for the cutting of the cake!”
A very stocky looking girl yelled at the person who was in front of me. ‘ Her name is Simla’ I thought silently in my head.
“Hey, nice talking to you. We ought to resume our conversation at a later date. Since you heard my name, what is yours?”
“My name is Vitaya.”
“Interesting name. Sounds very wise. Take care.”
Simla walked away from me in a flash. She separated from me instantaneously, like a passing automobile’s flashing light that was traveling at an excessive speed. Suddenly, I felt like I was in the dark again. This time there was even silence. A few individuals who were standing around me had disappeared into the fluorescent light. Everyone who was making his or her presence known had gone inside the house. I did not have any intent to prolong my brief interlocution to inside of the huge family room. I began to feel shy again, out of place. I did not wanted to see the person who was not thrilled at my participation at her party, Phailin. She had treated me like I had crashed her celebratory gathering uninvited. Even though her mother had asked me to come, I should have rebuffed the invitation. ‘What would she think of me if she saw me staring at her when she was cutting the cake?’ But I had found a new hope, a new perspective of who I was. There was a rich, privileged girl who had a fondness for me, not because I held a valuable card but because I did not have any cards to play with. How reassuring to know someone’s acceptance of me was not the result of my birth, but for my evolving personality. The time was getting late and I wanted to be home before my mom fell asleep on the couch. I wanted to say goodbye to Simla, but the time was not right for that cordiality. I saw the back of Simla’s head; she was busy making her rounds, dialoging with various people. I did not want to intrude her greetings to her friends. However, I started to wonder, ‘when am I going to see Simla again?’ ‘Or will I ever see her again?’ I was not in a position to make that event come true. I started to feel greedy. Greedy for the money I was entitled to. Even though she expressed her interest in me, knowing that I did not have the resources that she was accustomed to, I needed insurance, a high hand card if it was necessary for me to take out, because in the end, my future with her was predicated by what I would be able to offer to her materially.
I walked to the bus stop, which was about a kilometer away from Phailin’s house. I stopped by a convenient store to purchase a bottle of soda. I must have drunk one liter of soda in several hours during my boredom. Except my brief time that was spent in the front of a gorgeous girl, I was filling my stomach with excessive carbonation. The bus arrived shortly after I stepped inside of the tiny open booth. I began to feel the pressure rising from my belly. I had to pee urgently. The ride to the main bus stop was still 30 minutes from where I was departing from. I got on the bus tentatively, lowering my body with care onto the seat, and then I crossed my legs in order to squeeze the pressure that was about to explode. How pitiful was I that I was too afraid to ask someone at the party where the bathroom was. I looked out through the bus window and just stared at the various landmarks passing before my empty stare. The scene was nothing to admired, just ordinary buildings and natural wonders that would not attract any attention from the tourists, but for me, it was different. It was the first time since I left the monastery that I came to a resounding understanding that I belonged to a different world. I had been chanting continuously for a period that was now unfathomable-four years exactly. Looking back at those times when my glorification was dependent upon my holy pontificating on supernatural wonders, which I did not have a definite knowledge of whether I was on the path of religious greatness, seemed so out of touch with my reality now. My glorification did not ensued from my religious duties anymore but from material possessions and more importantly from the girl whom I had encountered. She had awakened me to an unknown sphere that I have never known I had. All my senses were raised by the presence of a young girl. Her demeanor was captivating and her personal style of speaking gave me the kind of assurance that I had never received from anyone. For the first time, I felt I belonged with the elite group of individuals. The complement she offered to me, that I was wiser than anyone whom she had encountered, affirmed that my wisdom was my treasured asset and that I had earned it by my willing effort. She liked me, although my pockets were not deep with money. And then I thought over what I was feeling, that my spiritual sensibilities were softening. I was indeed weak. I had just met a person for the first time for a very short period, and I had lost a part of my ability to control my emotions. I could not deny or manufacture false pretenses, but needed to accept what the nature had brought to me. I wanted female affection.