by Kung Fu Zu 1/23/15
The alarm blared on the bedside table. It was a cheap electric clock, which produced a loud irritating noise akin to a bleating sheep in heat. Half asleep, he reached over and swatted the clock’s button to stop the racket. Through bleary eyes he saw the red numerals 5:30. A glance at the window confirmed it was still pitch black outside.
He lay still for a few minutes with no desire to rise. Not a morning person, he was drifting back to sleep when an inner voice commanded, “Get up! You have a flight to catch.” This roused him from the bed since, if he didn’t move, he might be stuck in the miserable place for another day.
Throwing back the sheets, he switched on the bedside lamp. The harsh light hurt his eyes. Closing them quickly, he covered his face with a pillow to block the glare. After a few seconds, he lifted the pillow slightly, and re-opened his eyes letting them adjust to the light. Conceding defeat, he tossed the pillow onto a chair and sat up. The room was freezing, which further confirmed his experience that every building in the tropics was either an ice box or a sauna.
Stumbling out of bed, he walked to the balcony door, opened it and stepped outside. It was humid, but not yet hot, a relief from the ice box inside. A light breeze stirred the air. He looked down over a small inlet where fishermen and amateur sailors moored their small vessels. Since there was no moon, it was too dark to see the boats clearly, but he could make out their mooring lights. The tide, washing gently against the shore, rocked the boats, causing their bells to softly clang out an odd sort of gamelan song. Their lights, moved back and forth, in rhythm with the bells.
He left the balcony and went into the bathroom to brush his teeth and shave. This took about fifteen minutes. Now fully awake, he went back outside to have a cigarette. The sky was no longer black, but it was still too dusky to see anything in the distance. He could, however, make out the outline of boats anchored in the cove. Swaying back and forth they brought to mind cradles. The thought made him smile. Warm air carried up the smell of the ocean mixed with a tropical perfume, part frangipani. He leaned back and enjoyed the quiet.
After a couple of puffs, he put out the cigarette and went back into the room to shower and pack. It took less than twenty minutes to finish both, so he still had thirty minutes before he had to catch a taxi for the airport. Once again, he was drawn to the balcony.
He stepped out at that moment, just before the dawn, when the sky is neither dark nor light. He could see clearly, but the harsh outlines encountered during daytime were muted. The effect reminded him of silk-screening as seen in films.
Looking up from the water, he gazed out toward the East and was awed by the sight before him. Directly across from his balcony loomed the silhouetted of a gigantic mountain. Only twenty minutes earlier it had been too dark to notice, but now the contrast between the brightening sky and the black monolith was stunning. Although he had seen it before, this was the first time he had truly studied the mount. It was an almost perfect cone soaring into the heavens. Jagged fingers jutted out around the top giving it the look of a crown. Twenty or thirty miles distant, it seemed close enough for him to touch. He wondered what trick of optics was at work.
Out of nowhere, he felt an electric, yet, calming sensation spread throughout his body. This was followed by a sense of peace and well being, such as he had never experienced. It engulfed him like a wave. The view of his mind’s eye narrowed, framing in sharp focus only the moment and place. The usual cacophony of plans worries and ideas, which normally cluttered his mind, disappeared. No single sense or perception overpowered another, all functioned together in perfect balance.
The muted view of the mountain, the gentle wind caressing his face, the fragrance of the flowers and ocean, the music of the surf and ships’ bells were no longer discrete phenomena. All coalesced into a unified whole and he was part of it. He didn’t act. He didn’t think; about past or future, how or why, the meaning of life. It simply was.
Almost imperceptibly, a distant sound began to intrude upon this bliss. The dissonance steadily grew and finally a loud ringing broke the spell. Brought back to world, he blinked several times before realizing it was the telephone.
Reluctantly, he stepped back into his room, picked up the receiver and said, “Yes? No I’m up. I’ll be down in a minute or two.” Hanging up, he walked back and stared, wistfully, out the balcony door. The sun was up and the day would be a bright one. Across the cove, he could hear people, most likely fishermen, yelling at each other as if they were in different cities instead of three feet from one another. Things were back to normal.
Gazing at the mountain, he sighed. He tried to understand what had happened, find some rational explanation, but couldn’t. The experience had been real but fragile, like a wisp of smoke in a breeze. Impossible to grasp.
Turning his back on the scene outside, he picked up his bags, walked into the hall and closed the door behind him. • (991 views)