my monk

I tell Aleksy I’ve applied for another job.
‘What job?’ he says.
‘Kind of a counsellor. Using CBT. It comes with a year’s post-grad training, so it’d be an amazing opportunity. There’s no way I could afford to do it privately.’
He frowns at me steadily.
‘You want to do this job?’
‘Yeah. I think so.’
‘Isn’t it a bit – how do you call it? – conceited?’
‘How d’you mean, conceited?’
‘Well…’
He puts his head on one side, spreads his hands.
‘You have problem. You come to me with this problem. I tell you how to solve problem. Because I know best.’
‘Maybe. I suppose it’s more that you learn some techniques to help the patient break out of unhelpful thought patterns. That’s the idea, anyway. You work on finding a solution to the problem together.’
‘Hmmm,’ says Aleksy. ‘I’m not so sure.’
‘It’s not for everyone.’
‘No. That’s true. You know – one time – a long time ago now – I was feeling a bit difficult, y’know? So I went to this counsellor. And we sat around in chairs talking. Or at least, I did a lot of talking. Until I thought – what am I doing? Coming here to this place, talking to complete stranger, someone I don’t even know? So I stop going, and I sort problem out myself.’
‘Fair enough. Like I say, it’s not for everyone. It’s just one way of addressing a mental health issue. There are others.’
‘I went to monastery,’ says Aleksy.
‘Did you? Wow! A monastery!’
‘Why you say wow? What so wow about monastery?’
‘Nothing – it’s just – it sounds great.’
He shrugs.
‘Well. It wasn’t like I was there for years. Just one month. I spent long hours going into my head.’
‘Meditation.’
‘Yes. Meditation. Because there was this lot of noise in my head. It took long time to clean it all out.’
‘I’ve been using a meditation app.’
‘An app? What app?’
‘Headspace. You get these guided meditations.’
‘And you do this every day?’
‘Every day. For ten minutes.’
‘Is not enough. Ten minutes is not enough. When do you find the time?’
‘In the lunch break. I put my sunglasses on and sit in the car. People think I’m just zoning out listening to music.’
‘Is not enough. Ten minutes wouldn’t even begin to do it for me.’
‘You can do longer. I just always seem to stick at ten.’
‘I have so much noise in there,’ he says, winding his hand in the space above his head. ‘There is such a lot of fuss. Ten minutes wouldn’t do anything.’
‘Maybe I’ll try longer.’
‘You could join monastery like me.’
‘I’d love to.’
And it’s true. I would.
I can imagine Aleksy as a monk. With his shaven head, steady gaze, deliberate movements, his economy of being. I can imagine the monastery, high in the mountains. Attacked by warriors in the moonlight. Aleksy deflecting spears with balletic moves, bodies falling like leaves from the cell window. Aleksy calmly putting on a cloak, wandering the desert in search of justice.
‘Send me the link,’ I say.

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