CHAPTER 1

Meditation in the city…

A black, decrepit spider gazed at him while he rehearsed his monologue for the empty theater. The Southern inflection in his voice impassioned him despite not being from the South. He used it, however, as a phonetic device to lure in his audience. He felt like a zealous preacher, espousing his truth to whoever would listen.

At the present moment, his only patron was an unassuming spider, continuing its gaze from the sprung wood floor. It was somewhat comforting to have a guest, albeit a spider…yet Tristan welcomed it. He enjoyed its presence, its unusual company, so long as there was ample space between them. On top of that, he was twenty years of age, not some childish boy who destroyed insects for his amusement. That was the past. He was above that now — or was he? The spider began to shift toward him.

“Whoa!” he said, startled by its abrupt movement. “Don’t push it little guy.  I’ll squash you if you crawl on me.”

He stomped his foot, hoping the tremor would scare it off. The eight-legged creature instantly recoiled, scampering off into the darkness. Tristan was now alone inside the spotlight, beaming fervently from the high wood ceiling.

As he resumed his rehearsal, the fifty vacant seats in front of him appeared lonely. Only a few had been visited since the opening of his first theatre run. His solo show was struggling to find an audience. No one appeared to care as to what Tristan had to say. Their shunning had plagued him with bewilderment.

Yet despite the modest turnout, he felt intuitively that his show was important. Sluggish ticket sales couldn’t raze his optimism. Tristan had the utmost confidence that his artistry would see him through. It wasn’t bravado, but real conviction. Something special was gradually taking form as Tristan sensed it from the pit of his stomach.

After an hour of intense rehearsal, Tristan needed a respite. He went backstage toward the dressing room to seek replenishment for his weary voice. It had become terribly hoarse as a result of his vigorous delivery. He soothed his throat with bottled water as he stood in front of the mirror. His reflection offered a youthful face enhanced by a well-shaved head. Tristan quietly grinned, excited by the prospect.

Although he was twenty, he felt much older, as if he already knew what made life precious. He wanted to share his acumen, try to educate the people — the adults in particular. Their ignorance had fueled him with much resentment as a child.

To the vast majority, being a child meant zero responsibility. Zero stress. Zero pressure. Yet according to Tristan, being a kid was a lousy period that garnered no respect. It hampered his credence with the grown-ups who didn’t take him seriously. They’d eschew his thoughts with their condescension, fostering a chip on his little shoulder. It appeared to Tristan as if they all preferred to experience life through a tiny window, which exasperated him.

He recalled an instance from his childhood when his auntie ordered him to shower. Tristan politely refused as he viewed the action to be unnecessary. He was seven at the time, which only undermined his argument. He explained to his auntie that he had already showered the previous evening, and as a corollary, bathing so soon would be redundant. As expected, she dismissed his plea and continued to pester. Tristan eventually yielded, but his capitulation was the result of sympathy rather than principle. He pitied her ignorance, and therefore, adhered to her fatuous demand. Yet inwardly he knew that daily showers were superfluous no matter what his auntie said.

Now that he was twenty, he only showered four times a week, but still maintained impeccable hygiene. The key was diligence. Everything he did was carried out with surgical detail. As a result, Tristan was possibly cleaner than most people who bathed daily. Furthermore, the limited quantity of showers conserved the use of water, a significant plus for the environment, which satisfied his civic duty.

Tristan glanced at the clock, which hung above the dressing mirror. Noon had arrived. He grabbed his hooded sweatshirt and exited the theater. Then he scurried through an alley, holding his breath, as a putrid odor pervaded the vicinity. It always smelled foul, akin to urine, but his stomach was grumbling, and the quickest route to the deli shop was knifing down this alley.

Moments afterward, Tristan reached his destination. He purchased a tuna salad sandwich, and then conversed with the cashier. Though her teeth were slightly crooked, the ostensible flaw accentuated her smile, which consistently made his day. He didn’t know her name, but they managed to chitchat every time he frequented. Their brief conversations involved innocent topics like the current weather or Patriots’ football. A conspicuous attraction definitely existed, but Tristan left it at that, disinterested in romance at this juncture in his life.

When he stepped outside the deli shop, Tristan looked above and grinned. The gray sky delighted him. It was quintessential weather for a city stroll. The buoyant drafts of air complemented the ambiance. Though he valued the sun, he invariably favored cloudy skies; but his inclination wasn’t due to broodiness. Instead, it was physical. His body frame was undeniably svelte, so he easily got cold. Tristan wore his hooded sweatshirt as a stylish remedy. However, roaming the city when the sun was out made him awfully hot, pressuring Tristan to remove his hoodie. Trifling perhaps, but city walks were far more pleasurable when he could snuggle his hands inside his muff, a subtle, yet glorious perk of the unadorned hoodie.

He secured a bench at a teeming park and sat to eat his sandwich. He felt hungry today, which gave him a sense of relief and normalcy. For the past two weeks, duress and worry had imprisoned his mind. Today, however, tranquility resided in his heart, renewing his anemic appetite. The sensation of hunger was strangely refreshing. Tristan began to eat, but leisurely. Despite his hunger pains, he made a conscious effort to slowly chew his sandwich. He wanted to enjoy it, experience its pleasure; and man it tasted good! He missed this feeling. The anxiety and stress pertaining to his show had deprived him of the simple joys. He had forced himself to eat with very little appetite, but today was finally different. Eating was a joy again rather than a chore.

Just then, he noticed a carefree squirrel sauntering in front of him. Tristan sat still, resisting his knee-jerk tendency to shoot its photo. He would normally use his smartphone to attain its picture. The outcome, however, was often disappointing. The jaunty rodent usually disappeared by the time he focused the shot, missing the moment entirely. Today, he only observed, capturing each moment without interruption. The live experience was short, yet gratifying as the furry creature scuttled off.

Soon afterward, the excursion commenced as Tristan meandered his way through the downtown labyrinth. In spite of its chaos, he adored the metropolis; its cacophony of noise was music to his ears. The pandemonium provided the adrenaline to attack the future with his lofty ambitions. Tristan viewed the city as a violent river, which he desired to be a part of. Suburban life was much too safe and prone to complacency, devoid of danger and serious risk, which progress ultimately required. Only the city and all of its grandeur could throw Tristan beyond his comfort zone.

As Tristan ambled along the sidewalk with his hands inside his muff, the menagerie of city dwellers inspirited his soul. They appeared alien and separate, but only on the surface. Their disparities were superficial. These so-called individuals were all congruent regardless of their status or position in society. The elite and meager walked side-by-side, sharing the same desire. They yearned for love. They craved acceptance. Tristan could see it from the gleam in their eyes.

The juxtaposition of ramshackle stores and precipitous buildings intrigued his mind. Tristan marveled the skyscraper, acknowledging it as historic art. Its allure was infinite, arousing the flame within his heart to command a revolution. By the same token, he was appreciative to the little stores, which he found more personable, more inviting. They illustrated toil and self-discipline, which he exercised religiously.

The amalgamation of these divergent worlds proved instrumental to social change. Tristan understood this while he sought perfection in his art. He knew his talents were gargantuan. In fact, he aimed to dominate, become a master at his craft as he dreamt of moving mountains — but for the benefit of others. His mother always warned him that talent without conscience was suicidal in the long run. Based on her caveat, Tristan fashioned his talents toward altruistic ends, hoping to assist the pariahs of society. If he truly cared about the commonwealth, he had to be accessible, notwithstanding his abilities.

The promenade concluded at the downtown library, Tristan’s personal asylum. It always supplied him with inward serenity, irrespective of his pain. This cerebral environment had allayed his grief in the wake of his parents’ divorce, accelerating his recovery. In essence, it was his home away from home…his spiritual refuge.

As he climbed the stairs toward the history department, Tristan admired the architecture. It was visibly old, yet regal and majestic. The saintly murals on the walls and ceiling transfixed his eyes, while the vast and spacious building made it impossible to feel confined. It never grew crowded despite the multitude of visitors. The free and open space remained a constant luxury for Tristan.

He approached a vacant carrel adjacent to the window. His favorite wooden chair awaited him. It was plain and rustic, devoid of style. Nevertheless, its firm, wooden structure allowed his mind to stay attentive, unlike the comfort of the office chair, which often made him drowsy.

Tristan sat and nudged his chair toward the direction of the window. He enjoyed the scenery of various folks going about their business. Ordinarily, he would use his time to read and write, or cultivate his philosophy. Today, however, was an exception to that rule. Tristan merely observed as the spectrum of life unfolded around him.

A strident ring tone took hold of his attention, disturbing the communal silence. It continued to resound when the cell phone’s owner finally answered. His voice was boisterous, disregarding his surroundings. Tristan couldn’t see him as a throng of carrels concealed his whereabouts. Nonetheless, he envisioned a loutish brute based upon the ill-bred content of the conversation, which persisted without shame. Before long, a security guard turned up and asked the ill-mannered brute to continue his phone call outside. He refused abrasively, igniting an altercation marred with boorish expletives. After a charged moment, the brute submitted to the guard’s demand; yet he couldn’t help but demonstrate a petty act of insolence, trumpeting his beleaguered voice as it trailed off in the hallway. Harmonious silence returned at last, and as usual, security deserved the glory.

Before he recommenced his rounds, the guard approached a slumbering hobo. He cordially tapped his shoulder, and then informed him that sleeping was prohibited. The fatigued hobo claimed to be awake as the amiable guard just played along, exhibiting his leniency. Following his warning, the security guard resumed his rounds, much to the delight of the enfeebled hobo, who then closed his eyes and returned to sleep while Tristan watched perceptively. The din of snoring soon reverberated, but Tristan didn’t mind, at least not today. The intermittent sound of the poor man’s snore gave Tristan a chance to practice his tolerance.

All of a sudden, endearing laughter ensued. Tristan glanced at the jovial noise to discover a pair of siblings. The gleeful boy entertained his sister while their studious mother perused the book shelves. Though she paused momentarily to admonish their chortle, the giddy twosome continued to giggle, enjoying each other’s company. Tristan smiled at the visual image as he reminisced about his sister. Like these children, he was ten not long ago, while she was only six. Their close-knit friendship had formed a bond that grew and fortified as the years progressed. He wished the same for these little munchkins, who continued their laughter under their breaths.

He switched his gaze back toward the window and studied the happening outside. The assortment of people entering the building gave him a sense of duty. All walks of life came to the library, seeking wisdom and eternal knowledge. Tristan offered the same ministration, sharing his insight through his personal artistry.

Though he still had much to learn, he saw through the pretense and frivolous madness, which afforded him a great deal of clarity. Yet he was neither a saint nor a spiritual guru. He scoffed at the notion of being the “chosen one,” courtesy of his sister. Titles in general turned Tristan off, but self-important names appalled him even more. He wasn’t a savior or a so-called messiah, but a conscientious guy who wanted to help; just contribute his part in the grand scheme of life. The fight for truth was reason enough to motivate this twenty-year-old.

Unfortunately, his noble intention presented a challenge, a formidable test entailed with struggle. He realized the scope of his lofty ambition and pursued his objective as a personal crusade; a life-long assignment stoked by compassion in lieu of security. Tristan knew for certain that in order to help, sacrifice was vital, since the pain was ubiquitous, relenting to no one.

Tristan drew a deep breath, and after a pause, released it slowly, practicing his bit of meditation amid the silence of the library. The hobo’s snore had notably subsided while the siblings’ laughter completely ceased. Tristan sat still. He permitted his mind to flow and wander as the quiet minutes serenely passed. He then reflected upon his journey, upon his parents and their relationship.

They had divorced four years ago while Tristan was in high school. The existential crisis afforded him the chance to witness the breadth and capacity of truth. It was a paradox of sorts. The truth sparked hurt and suffering, yet all the same, it freed his parents. For many years, they had shut their eyes to the schisms and fissures of their ailing marriage, pretending all was well with forced and stilted smiles. Their façade, however, slowly eroded, revealing the truth of their relationship. It was over. They couldn’t run. They couldn’t hide. They had no choice but to face the truth, which obliterated their sanity, torturing their souls with gnawing misery. They cried. They wept. Their tears were uncontrolled. They tumbled into deep depression, afraid of life, afraid of living. The divorce had destroyed them spiritually, but a pinch of hope still existed. Like a forest fire, the seeds of rebirth were set into motion, and Tristan took notice of their renaissance.

Despite the agony that assailed his parents, the aftermath of their divorce invigorated Tristan. With the passage of time, nature took its course and healed their wounds, their resentment and bitterness toward the other. The difficult process of meeting the truth had furnished his parents with intimate knowledge, the most beautiful wisdom of all. The truth empowered them to move forward, evolve, and experience more of this miraculous life. Their separation, or blessing in disguise, helped Tristan ascertain the key to life. He wanted to share it, disseminate it, incorporate it into the global infrastructure.

Alas, human nature worked against him. The predominant mainstream preferred to settle, play it safe, compromise their lives and make concessions. Yet Tristan didn’t fault them since ignorance was bliss. The cultivation of the mind was more or less excruciating. This pain, however, affected the psyche. It was far more intimidating than physical punishment. With that in mind, Tristan relied on patience, his favorite virtue. Though arduous to master, he summoned its prowess to help with his cause, privy to the pitfalls ahead. This wasn’t a sprint, but a mind-bending marathon that would test his will and fortitude…a lesson he learned just two nights prior.

Chapter 2

© Moky Kinh-Quoc Huynh and MokyTiger1, Year 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Moky Kinh-Quoc Huynh and MokyTiger1 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.