…about ”Til” (Mathilda) – a kindred to Ardine
Til was dozing behind the counter. The clock was three minutes slow. It was time to close the store. Stupid with fatigue, she did not want to go home to the room she was renting at Sherry`s apartment. Sherry`s mother, father and brother Eric had arrived from the hinterlands late Sunday night and in spite of the hour, started to unpack immediately. Confidently speaking, it was like an invasion. The chest freezer was stuffed with steaks, home- baked bread, and berries. In an instant, the whole place became garrulous and glee. Til didn`t venture from her room. The starry-eyed Mrs. Jones made her feel nervous. As if she displaced some kind of guiltfeelings in her. The Jones`s had a hearty appetite and it was no surprise that Mrs. Jones was standing in the kitchen cooking when Til came home from work next day.
- Hi Til! How are you?
- It sounded like a warcry when mrs. Jones greeted her. The energetic woman had no time to wait for her reply as a bottle with a label puzzled her. Instinctively she held it up towards the light to see if she could figure out what kind of turbid fluid it contained.
- – Some kind of mustarddressing isn`it? she sniffed. Only then did she called for her husband and Eric and they said hello to Til. On closer inspection she wanted him to run down to the neighbourhoods grocery store and buy some more onions and an aubergine. Several bangs and a slam were heard in a rapid succession as they went out the door. The television was on in the livingroom and occasionally Mrs. Jones glanced at the screen, keeping the kitchenwork running.
- – You are eating with us, arent you? she asked Til.
- Til looked into Mrs. Jones´s pastry-white face. The able woman in her late forties, smiled reassuringly at her. It was tempting to say yes for Til, but she made a fast calculation and turned down the offer.
- – I`m sorry, mrs. Jones, but i just had a snack on my way home from the store. Really, I wish I could join you, but I`m full. Til laid her hand on her stomach to convince her.
- You cannot eat books, Mrs. Jone sthought, but without batting an eyelid she said:
- – Yous ee we have these chantarelles…I picked them myself this summer. I took out them from the chestfreezer just before we left. Sherry loves mushroomsauce.
- It sounded sanctimonious to Til. Besides, she didnt know that Sherry had a preference for chantarelles.
- – I see, was all that she said. Mrs. Jones stirred the saucepan.
- Til knew she was unpolite, but she went into her room. She could at least have had a look at the sauce. How stupid she felt. But it didnt last that long because soon enough Sherry, her father and Eric was back from the grocery.
- – Here you go, she heard Mr. Jones say in a loud voice. She could imagine how he almost throewed the onions at his wife who catched them in time with great difficulty.Mr. Jones`s movements were sweeping to say the least.
- -Mm, it smells nice was the next thing she heard him say, and Eric fell in with acklamation. Til pictured next how Mr. Jones after having looked at the sauce and maybe tasted some of it huged her and with the giant armas of his lifted her up and carried her into the livingroom. There he put her down in the sofa in front of the television and said that he would fix the rest. And into the kitchen he went.
- There was a gaiety in the Jones`s family she seldom had come across. Her family certainly lacked it.
- – Lucky Sherry, she thought. She couldnt admit to herself that she was envious. It goes without saying that seeing Sherry`s family made her miss her own. It was like a diffuse ache within.
- Eagerly she followed the kitchenscenes from behind the closed door. It is in the nature of things that she heard everything. Only separated from their bodylanguage. Buit somehow she knew it from their former visits. At least their tendencies. The rest her imagination filled; amplified.
- As she listened she couldnt`t help becoming cynical: Purely a defence. The fact of the matter is that she liked their banal, undramatized way. THe JOnes`s were all so secure with each other. No need to get cynical. She seated herself on the bed and started to write a letter to her mother. After the first line she got stuck. There was nothing to tell. Or as the proverb goes: Nothing new under the sun.
A bell rang as Til entered a Thai restaurant down the street from the apartment. A monk sitting at one of the tables caught her attention. He was surrounden by a group of people, probably his disciples. He was about to give his order to the waitress who was waiting patiently for him.
- Do you have any dumplings?
- Yes, certainly.
- With or without meat?
- – With meat.
- The monk was lean and obviously a vegetarian because he declied the dumplings and ordered a dish with mixed vegetables. He then politely asked for the eggs to be left out. His voice was soft and pleasing, yet distinct. Til guessed that he was a Tibetan; his rob readily revealed that. There was something else to the picture thought. His behaviour indicated that he was a man of great self-composure.
Til seated herself at an empty table a few meters away. His religious status didnt really impress her. She had seen them all, from different sects like John the Cross to ordinary churchgoers. To Til, spiritual people were the same everywhere. When stripped of their paraphernalia and their smooth talk, most are not spiritual at all.
But this monk seemed amazingly different. There was an air about him that she couldnt ideniftý. He was direct, he seemed to reveal the profoundity that concealed behind the red robe camuflaging his body, The dynamic ´s between the monk an dhis students grew intense. He was beset with questions from all sides. Someone brought up President Clintons recent visit to Beijing and the siscussion continued,
- Which year did Nixon visit Beijing? A man with a strong voice interrupted.
- It was during the Kissinger era, a man with spectacles responded. It was his comings and goingd that prepared the way for Nixons visit, It must have been in 1973.
The monk was asked for his opinion about the new Panchen Lama chosen by Beijing, but the question got lost in the discussion. But some of the disciples sensed a hope for the Tibetan cause, that it was not impossible that Tibet would one day become a sovereign nation again. The man who initiated the political discussion started to answer his own question.
- If Tibet becomes independent, it will become a pawn in the struggle between the Great Powers again. The battle of Tibet is older than anyone of us here. The man paused. He didn`t want to sound like a besserwisser. A whole horde of nations will want to patroniz it. Understandably, Muslim countries like Pakistan would be intent on conquering it, in one way or another. Keep in mind that we are talking about the ”roof of the earth”. The Himalayas belong to the most extensive mountain range in the world, the Kun-Lun. It extend far beyond the borders of Afghanistan.”
- The geographical names sounded musical and exotic to Til`s ears. She had never been outside the western world. Countries like India, Tibet and Nepal she knew only from television and magazines like National Geographic. In some respects, she was happy to be sitting by herself. These people would probably find her a small-town bore as they talked about Third World-countries as if they were more familiar to them than places like Key West and the Niagara Fall. More tangible sites and spaces seenmed erased from their minds as they moved in geographies evoked by the presence of the monk. There was no room for slowpokes with the monk as the frontalfigure. He was quick on the uptake, not to say brilliant.
- A lonely woman, drinking wine at a sidetable started to blur. The red wine obviously had a relenting effect on her.
- -I`m feeling like a relic, she said. Her brown, intelligent eyes turned to the people around the monk. I have been sitting here in the spurts of your laughter and I am depressed. You only talk about the face of things. You know that the writer and student of Don Juan died some weeks ago?
- The group knew about Castaneda. Not everyone was updated about his detah though.
- Listen, she said. It takes time to get into things, to shape one`s worldview. It isnt redaymade just because something provides a convinient label, a lifestyle and so on. I mean…I know there is a content to. What I am trying to get at is that life is an anomaly. There is nothing we can do about it really. It has it`s sharp edges whether we want it or not and we have to turn with the road when we come to a curve? Isn`t it so?
- She raised her glass and made a gesture as to make toast in the honour of the monk.
- You will live and see the changes , she said. Maybe you will have an impact on them too.
- The men and women sitting with the monk looked at her with abhorrence, a couple of them tried to disguise their aversion, but failed. None of them wanted to get disturbed by the stranger, the wine obviously had made her tipsy. She stole precious time from their gathering.
- The woman got the feel and said:
- – Dont bother about me. Sit in your ivory-towers and skip the ghettos! Keep your segregation, and live on your buddhist campus – your islands in the sun.
- There was a frozen silence. Everybody waited for the monk to say something.
- To give a comment or whatever, as long as he rescued them all from the tight corner where they suddently found themselves.
- A woman seated next to the monk wanted to get back at the winedrinker, but the monk silenced her.
- – You get what you see, he said. To change the view is like changing a disc.
- – Ecxuse me, a young man finally said. I will withdraw.
(to be cont.)
/ Abdelhamid & Ben Ali Sadi Fetsi och Helena Maria