Flash Fiction: A man unchanged

(Tomorrow the 6th continues.)

A man unchanged

I knew someone, once, briefly. We lived together for some months. I would go out with this man and people would ask,  “What’s he drinking? Soda water?” and I would say yes. That’s all he ever drank. They’d ask “Hey, why does he always wear the same thing? Doesn’t he own other clothes?” No, he does not. They couldn’t believe it. They wondered- what does he do for fun? Nothing really. All he ever did was read this book. The same book, over and over again. Some book on philosophy, in Greek. I cannot read Greek. They thought my friend was the absolute definition of boring. I disagreed.

I admired his rigor and wondered at what forces were at work behind those unchanging eyes. He always woke up at the same time, every day, without an alarm. He always went to work on time, never missing a day. I never saw him get angry or hear him raise his voice. He even ate the same three things for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, day after day. I once went into his room and examined his wardrobe on a suspicion. Copies and copies of the same set of clothes. I noticed how he never spent his money on anything for himself, no little indulgences whatsoever. He did not change.

I tried all those months to figure out what it was that made him so disciplined. How could he not get bored? How did he not yearn for more? In contrast to him I wasted all my time and money on failed relationships, mistakes, clothes and food. I spent my earnings on variety, always seeking something. Never finding it.  The unchanging man was fine in comparison.

When I finally moved away and resolved to enter the monastery I explained to my new master why I wished to join. How I had already glimpsed enlightenment, in the form of the most boring man on earth.

Years later, when I was much older, my hair grey and chin wrinkled, I visited the old city and chanced to spot a familiar face. It had been half a century, but still I recognized him. His clothes were different. The food he ate at the cafe were manifold and varied. His habits and manners all changed. Everything different except for one crucial thing. He had not aged a day. He saw me then, and I proceeded over to him, crushed by the embrace of revelation.

He said to me “On your path to enlightenment, did you find what you’re looking for?”

“No.” I said.

There was a pause.

I asked him “And you, did you succeed on your path to eternal…”

“…Clearly.”

Signed Arjuna 

(Transcription of the suicide note of the head abbot of Yaatra Ashram )

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