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Sunday, May 15, 2011

An Illusory Romance with my Illusory Girlfriend in a Buddhist Monastery

I saw her in the little office of the Monastery, where the few workers will sit on the floor at their computers. The rain was pelting the temple grounds creating this gravelly mud, and this misty haze fell upon the dragon gargoyles on the roofs, fell on the fir trees that ricochets the echoes of Buddhist chants, that falls on enlightenment, whatever that might be.

But I saw her smiling through the doors in between the dripping of the rain. This was not far from a large stone fountain that bubbled up mountain stream water where liberated folk fetch water from the well.

She had a smile that cut mantras in half, that severed ascetics from their starvation, that for a second made us think that life wasn't about suffering. So, as I sauntered by, I peered in, and was met by her gleaming eyes, and she invited me to come in the little room, and sit on the floor with her mother and this monk. She was eating these little cakes that I can't remember what they are called in Korean. I just recall telling everyone that it in Russian, it is what they call "peroshki" I told this to the Templestay worker, a nice kind man that I really wish I could remember his name. And who began to act as a translator, for I quickly saw that this girl and everyone else there didn't speak a bit of English.

There was this monk in full robes sitting on the floor nearby at a little table pouring tea for everyone. His shaven head wanting to shine with the reflection of the sun that wasn't there. He was a young monk, probably younger than me. And I saw that he was entertaining them, or they were entertaining him. Just then, an old man, the father walks in and sits on the ground. The girl speaks something to him, and it was announced to me that she had told her father that I was her boyfriend in jest. All that I could think to respond was a flippant, "Please don't get my hopes up." But I wonder if it was translated properly.

If you understand Korean culture, what little bit I know, you will understand how comical that is. For I know, a handful of foreigners here who have dated Korean girls for years, and all of them contend that the Korean girls never, never introduce them to their parents. As open and affable as Koreans are, I think the older generation is not too keen on the daughters dating foreigners. Especially licentious ambassadors of the anything-goes West.

The old man, this father, sat crossed legged on the floor, his back to us, as though he didn't approve. As though, the situation was serious. Meanwhile, I was trying to converse with this girl, that I couldn't even speak to, that through the gulf of language, of centuries and culture, of ill-fated timing, that I couldn't touch, nor reach.

Through the interpreter she said that it was okay, that she could rely on reading my expressions. But when I tried talking to her, there were just these 2 eyes that scattered light with the confusion, and made understanding impossible.

After that, I saw her around the temple with her family. She knew all the chants precisely. And I liked the way, she shared her umbrella with her mother. But other than that, our interactions were very limited. I learned her English name was Rose. And whenever we were in a meditational ceremony, I could feel her entering the room.
I left the monastery, without saying goodbye, crammed on a bus, as it sloshed through the rain puddles, Even though, the Templestay guy told me that she was interested in me, I couldn't ever think that she was serious. And how could I be serious? I relayed a message to this Templestay guy to tell Rose, yes, like a freaking middleschooler. Something along the lines of, "I really wish you spoke English. You are very beautiful. You distract me and probably all the monks here."

It seems one of the things I found out from that weekend, that I am bent on one illusion after another. Intent on mirage attachments, not just her, which leads as all these monks would agree, to a very addicting sense of suffering. A ridiculous, comic suffering almost. But nevertheless, a suffering.


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