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The Dharma Bum

I met him on a grey day, in the early spring, when it was still cold like February, but people were hoping it was June. My life was hanging in between, two worlds separated by the nasty word divorce. I feared the home that I wasn’t allowed to feel at home in any longer, and the streets of downtown made me nervous because I didn’t know when they too would be snatched cruelly away from me without warning. I was hesitant in my movements, in my breathing, in the few minutes every morning before I heaved my body out of bed, warm with sleep and nightmares. Bracing each day with a cold and distant heart, brushing tears away before I even thought to cry. Smiling sternly, encouraging no small talk, or laughter, or jokes. I felt my friends walk around me, slow and uncertain, not sure of how to deal with my moods, with my bouts of unprovoked anger, and the sullen moods that would follow after a fit of shouting and dirty glares at the unsuspecting victim.

My life wouldn’t have fit in with the boy I know now, jubilant and cheerful and optimistic. Sometimes I don’t think it does but I try and chase that part of me away so he’ll embrace me and keep me in his company for just a little bit longer.

When I first saw him, I don’t know where the string of courage was plucked within me, or how. It just happened. Suddenly my oh so horrid life was rainbows and cupcakes. I didn’t even know his name, his situation, the reason for his sadness that echoed across coffee shops and weather worn streets. I saw it and I was attracted to it in a morbid sense, but also in the way of light, where I knew he would be better. Because something in his bowed head, shadowed by exhaustion and long hours, resounded heavy.

He would make it. He would make it farther then me, then my friends, then my parents, and the other despondent people in this town that never leave.

I don’t comprehend the feeling in my gut that told me this. Even to this day, six months or so later, it’s foreign and a feeling I’ve never had about anyone else. It leads me to think that the power rested in him, his aura was reaching out to me, and not the other way around.

I remember my long hair, curled and pinned back with a childlike sweetness. I remember standing in the mirror before leaving my dim and cold house, closing my eyes, and pretending my mother was behind me, tracing her long fingers through the red strands, folding them over one another in braids. I wore an olive green dress, rather simple and resembling something of the ‘50s. My trench coat was beige and I felt like Holly Golightly because that’s the way I wanted to feel like that day.

I remember the beanie he wore. The way it reminded me of the New York boy I thought of too much. The heavy eyelids that hid faint and disturbed eyes. The silent words, the slight irritation at the fact that I was even approaching him while he sat on the bar stool, surrounded by familiarity and attempting to drown himself in the sound of espresso makers and the jingle of the front door. The dorky note that reminded me of a Hallmark card, drawn in careful strokes with thoughtfulness in the black Moleskine that I carried with me everywhere. I still know the place in the journal where I ripped it out from. There are rigid tares across from the messy sketch of a window sill that I had been working on before. My fingers had been shaking as I freed it from the journal.

I thought about him that night when I walked around, hesitating calling my mother because I was afraid of being suffocated in her car with her decisions and the uncertain future that loomed in dark fumes and clouds in front of me. I thought of my problems and the possible problems that may have plagued him. I thought of people who had it worse than both of us. I thought of those that had it better. This was the time in my life when I wasn’t afraid to think, when it didn’t bring me pain and confusion and questions, always questions! always anxiety! always fear! I was feverous in my worry but I wasn’t so deep down in the hole where I shut everything out. Not yet.

When I did leave, when I went home, when I crawled into bed and blocked out the cool air, the shouting, the boxes of old clothes, the stresses of new apartments, I thought of him once more. I thought of his face, fearful yet oddly brave.

And I knew that he would make it.

When I think of the fact that I have a place in his life, however small and insignificant to him, I’m filled with awe. Some force, some spirit breathed the life of courage into my young teenage mouth and filled me with stupidity or bravery. The line is blurry and experts can’t seem to make a distinction. But this act of bravery or stupidity met me once more in the form of a tranquil, sweet, and bright eyed man, standing in front of me at the coffee shop, while I scribbled away, writing about the Great Gatsby. I didn’t recognize him. But his handshake was strong, and then I did. And then that night that was cold came back. And I suddenly felt warm for the first time in ages as he sat across from me with strangers that welcomed me, sweetly drinking his Coke out of a glass bottle, blissful and young and free.

And then I stumbled across this scruffy faced darling on a hot summer day, with books under my arms, and my favourite author in front of him. And we bought cigarettes and jay walked and talked to lovely French girls, and intelligent artists, and this vast array of people that he knew, that he had taken the time to talk to, to welcome, to ask if they wanted to sit with him in the steel black chairs outside the windows of his second home, or first depending on what mood he is in when you ask.

One Friday night we sat with strangers and laughed. And there was a moment when they weren’t there; a glass separated us from them. And his lashes were long and his smile was serene, as his fingers tapped the cigarette against the ashtray and I couldn’t help but admire him and I felt my heart melt and everything good in the world was suddenly sitting in front of me, bottled up in one person.

I spend hours and days staring out my bedroom window in the parking lot below with dumpsters and cars and stray cats and people and children on bikes. And I dream of when I’ll leave, when I won’t have to hear the shouts and fighting from my little brothers, when I’ll live in an apartment miles above the ground. I sketch the skyline of New York behind my fresh eyelids. I fill in the windows of lovers and friends and professors and enemies and Buddhas and Abraxus and Medusas and Hendrix and Dylan.

But there are moments when I leave that little red coffee shop. When I drive away and he’s still sitting there, smoking, legs folded like the little dharma bum he is. I come home and crave the hours before, miss having his attention on me, listening to me, laughing at and with me, smiling wide and open and GENUINELY HAPPY. I sit on my bed and listen to Simon + Garfunkel and think about how much I’ll miss it all when I’m gone, because I miss it right now when I’m two miles away.

I’m pretty sure I could go anywhere with him and I’d always be at home.





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dintandmint This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 2, 2012 at 7:36 am
Wow. That was awsome, I love the beat generation, and was so happy to read a brilliant work that had some of the dharma played into it. It gave me a strange euphoria reading this. Thank-you! :)
 
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