Confessions of a Black Dog

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Chapter 10

Oz was sat on his porch on a cool December evening reading a selection of Buddhist scriptures and enjoying the space of his new home, so different to the cramped polluted hustle and bustle of the Victory Monument area.

The old Sixties band “Cream” was playing at a not unreasonable volume inside the house and there was the waft of the neighbour’s rice cooking in a pot. It was a typical Thai bungalow, with a spacious tiled floor and wooden shutters on the metal barred windows. It had no lawn to speak of and the front of the house was no more than a parking space. A soft wind was blowing the raggedy leaves of the one decrepit crooked tree poking up through the concrete that housed a family of sparrows and a decaying wall marking the house dweller’s territory.

It was the morning and the sun had yet to kill any chance the wind had of cooling the air. Oz closed his eyes feeling the joy of the breeze tickling his moustache.

Oz was wearing an old t-shirt that bore the place name “Perth, W.A.”, a pair of short shorts, Aussie rules style, and his trusty leather sandals that had been around the world with him (they seemed like they were never going to die). The cool breeze in the air was rustling the tree’s leaves playfully and cooling Oz’s damp skin. These simple pleasures made life worth living in the tropics. For a moment he closed his eyes and felt the gentle wind against his body, blowing the minute hairs on his arms and legs and the ever present thin film of sweat on his brow. He immersed himself in it and taking a deep, strong breath felt the element of wind inside his body as well as outside. For an instant, a mere split second, he lost himself.

He opened his eyes again to see a small gang of children, around seven or eight years old, playing in the soi. As he was looking at the children through his house’s thick metal gate he could not see the small prepubescent humans clearly and there appeared to be only three or four of them although they were making enough of a racket for six. They seemed to be taking it in turns being pulled along the ground sitting on a skateboard while holding on to the back of a bicycle. The bicycle rider was an amusing looking little fella with huge radar dish-like ears and a scrawny looking body that when riding the large framed bike could not sit on the seat and pedal the bike or stop it from shaking violently from side to side and so had the impression of always pedalling uphill.

Oz wondered if the size of the boy’s lobes did not create too much air friction and so inhibit the boy’s pedalling power and he began to grin.

He closed his book, stood up and wandered lazily to the fading whitewashed wall surrounding his rented home, placing both elbows on the wall and letting his hands dangle free. There were only three children playing. Big ears and two girls, one a dumpy happy specimen with missing teeth and pigtails, the other the smallest of the three, a delicate featured little angel with the whiter skin and almost mousy coloured hair, that pointed her out to have Chinese or Caucasian blood.

The angel looked up and noticed the unusual looking gentleman and pointed at him, shouting the slang word for Caucasian, a word that even Oz understood as he had been called it everyday since had arrived in Thailand. The three of them stared transfixed at Oz for a second and Oz waved at them. Big Ears and Dumpy picked up their bike and skateboard and ran off with squeals of glee. The angel stopped and with a curious turn of the head beamed a smile of such innocence and joy at him that it sent his heart flying into the atmosphere above and then she turned and ran off screaming and giggling to join her waiting friends.

Suddenly Oz remembered the dead child he found in the bush.

He saw her silently screaming face.

He saw her curled up cold body and a surge of emotion welled up inside him in which he needed every ounce of mental strength to hold back a fit of weeping, almost hysterical in its intensity.

His face was scrunched up tight.

After two minutes that seemed like an eternity, his head was throbbing like a bass speaker at a Dub festival. A single tear had escaped from his eyes and then ran down the life scarred canals of his face, a single tear brought on by remembering the bad things that can happen in a single life. He managed to control his breathing enough to think and he began to wonder why it had hit him so hard today, as he taught kids five days a week.

Why should now be so special?

Then it hit him.

Of course, it was early December, the bad things happened in December.

That was why he enjoyed being in a Buddhist country, people did not really celebrate Christmas here. Shops in Bangkok still tried to influence people to buy gifts but it was not part of the way of life. He did not even get Christmas Day off as a holiday. He had never given it any thought before. It seemed to have happened in another life to him. He thought the wound had already healed, then he realised that a part of his mind must have been aware of the time and had refused to let it go, had refused to let him forget, had still cared. This gave him a sense of being pulled in two directions at once. On one hand he wished to be at peace yet on the other he knew he should never forget the events that had changed his life. The feeling was so intense that it sent his head spinning and he gently allowed himself to collapse onto the floor, dragging his elbow down the wall in the process. He felt numb and did not notice that he had skinned his elbow until a minute or so later when the dull rhythmic pain sent endorphins flying to his brain that acted like caffeine to drowsy man.

He stood up very slowly and found that his hands were shaking.

He went into the security blanket of his house, grabbing a beer from the fridge even though his endlessly aching liver told him not to do it, a part of the body he never believed as most people he knew in Thailand had this complaint at some point in their lives.

He looked around for his book but it was nowhere to be seen, then he poked his head outside and saw it lying on floor. The pages were open in the dust where he had sat minutes before. Picking it up, he noticed it was open at the “The Heart of the Prajnaparamita Sutra”, and he absentmindedly started reading “…form is emptiness, emptiness is form…” he sat and thought about this for a minute. He saw that he had a distorted sense of reality, which if he was wholly ignorant of, could affect him in one brutal burst of energy. Nervous breakdowns, the breakdown of a marriage, a spiral into madness, mid-life crises, all these have an element of ignorance in them, an ignorance that reality plays with to varying degrees of violence. He was beginning to understand something deep inside him. It confused and scared him and yet he accepted it coming. Something changed.

He saw his life, his experiences and memories as even more precious than before. The delicateness of his moments made them important, beautiful. His profound sadness at his wife and child’s demise was important because of the happiness that they had shared, a happiness that had now vanished yet would somehow always be a part of him.

He entered back into his home, took a big long swig of his beer and half smiling shrugged his shoulders, thinking all of a sudden how much he hated plastic flowers.

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