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Friday, July 25, 2008

Stuff and Vedana

All four of us sit around a circular, fold-up table on the house's garage roof-top, which was designed as a large balcony. B chose this spot to dine in the open air as it is the coolest part of the house in the summer.

"B," I say touching my stomach, "that was amazing. Your culinary skills are top notch Missy."

"It was nearly spoiled because a certain someone decided to go for a drink, but it wasn't bad at all, even if I say so myself."

Mr X's daughter laughs. "Well I cut the tomatoes in that cup shape and filled them with that paste. Do I get a mention?"

"Pâté, it's my home-made recipe," B corrects with a snort, standing up to collect the empty dishes. "What do want? A round of applause for using a knife and spoon?"

The young girl's fiancé gives a small burp. "What's for dessert?"

I close my eyes, and B is quick to respond. "How about a slap in the mouth Mr Uninvited Guest. One more word out of you and you'll be doing the dishes. In fact, maybe you should be doing the dishes."

Opening my eyes, I see he is about to say something and I indicate for him to stay silent. "Forgive him B, he's still a boy."

"Yeah, well you better make a man out of him real soon, or I know a real good place to kick him that'll make him grow up real quick." Mr X's daughter giggles at B's tirade, but B isn't amused. "And I wouldn't smirk either. You're stuck with him, so maybe you should teach him some table manners. Or just manners period."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean anything," the boy says apologetically. "Thanks for letting us stay for dinner. You're a great cook."

"Hmmph," responds B, a little mollified by the boy's response. "Well get up and help me clear away the dishes. Do some work for your supper!"

"Yes, Miss B," he replies respectfully, standing up quickly. He waves at the young girl to get up, too. "Why don't you sit down? We'll do it together." Mr X's daughter readily nods in agreement, moving to take the plates from B.

B smiles, handing them over. "Now, that's more like it."

The young girl starts to gather the rest of the plates and utensils with her fiancé as B sits back down. "Would you both like some Turkish coffee?" she asks me and B.

"Yes," B replies, "I've laid out everything anyway. You'll find it all there." She turns round me. "Well, they're quick learners, I'll give that for them!"

"B," I whisper, as the boy and girl make their way down into the kitchen, "aren't you being a bit hard on them?"

"Tonight was meant to be a thank you dinner for the other day and to treat you while your mum's away, not to feed these babies!"

"Not so loud B, they'll hear you." I look up at the sky. It is well into the evening, yet the sky is still a bluish-red. I lean back a little in my seat to enjoy the cooling effect of the wind on my sticky skin. Even though I showered before dinner, it is so hot you can work up a sweat by just eating.

"Are you okay, Ali?"

"Not much escapes you does it, Missy?"

"Not where you're concerned."

"Am I that much of an open book?"

"Actually you're a bloody dark horse! But I know you too well for you to hide everything. It's just there's this unreachable part of you inside, that gets frustrating sometimes."

I give a small grin. "Only sometimes?"

She punches my arm lightly. "Oh alright! All of the time!"

"Don't start at the ten questions again though, for goodness sake."

B gives a light snort. "Okay, okay. You're safe on that score. We keep getting interrupted anyhow. Maybe it's karma."

I lean back slightly on my chair, and place my hands behind my back. The air is warm, but as it breezes past its movement on the skin still manages to cool enough to bring some respite from the heat. "Maybe," I reply.

"But there is one thing I can do," B says, crooking her nose at me with a sly glance.

I perk up. "Oh-o. What scheme are you cooking up now? Lay me on the table and cut me up inside, or just have me for dessert?"

"Don't give me any ideas! No, but turn your coffee cup over on your plate after you're finished."

"Ah I see. You want to tell my fortune Missy, is that it?"

"Hmmm. Or maybe work out what's bothering you."

"Nothing's bothering me really. Just stuff."

"Just stuff, huh? Now that's the second time I've heard that from you today."

I reiterate, "Just stuff, Missy."

"Well there's stuff, and then there's stuff y'know? It's kind of vague."

"The devil's in the details. So let's keep him there."

"Here's the coffee!" Mr X's daughter calls from the stairs.

"Just in time!" B calls back. "Bring it on up!"

The girl appears with a tray and four small glasses of Turkish coffee, with her fiancé trailing behind her. "You take no sugar, right?"

B nods. "Right. Put them here. Are they all the same?"

"Yeah. I made them all in one go, so none have any sugar in them."

I take my cup and notice B eyeing me. "Are you going to watch me the entire time I drink my coffee?"

B sticks her tongue out at me, and takes her own coffee as the girl and boy sit down. "So," B says, giving me a sideways glance, "what did you two boys talk about all that time. And if I hear the word stuff one more time I'll scream!"

"Stuff?" The girl's fiancé asks. "I don't get it."

"Like most things sweetie," B replies in a low growl. "Don't worry about it. Just spill the beans."

The boy looks at me. I wave a hand in the air. Do as you like.

He clears his throat with a small cough. "We spoke about sex."

B laughs. "Getting tips from the master were you?"

It's my turn to clear my own throat. "I think he meant that we were talking about the opposite sex. Not sex, sex."

B takes a sip of her coffee, and looks at me with a flutter of her long eyelids. "Can't he say what he means?"

"You've frightened him so much I'd be thankful he's still got the faculty of speech," I say, smiling back at her and taking a sip from my own coffee.

"Well instead of dessert, sex seems a good way to sweeten our after dinner coffee," the young girl says.

All three of us stare at her. She splutters when she realises what she has said. "I mean talking about sex. That's what I meant."

B makes a dramatic show of expressively rolling her eyes. "Can't anyone say what they mean this evening?"

"That's the B effect," I say. "What can you do?"

"We can talk about sex," B quips back.

I move in my seat. "Let's not," I respond.

B gives me a small smile. "We'll keep it innocent, I promise."

"You and innocent make strange bedfellows," I say, "but go ahead. Just no one ask for any physical demonstrations."

"Just theory? No practice?" B laughs loud. "What a shame."

I take a final sip of my coffee, and before I can place the cup down B has swiped it from my hand to turn it over in its plate. "So ask away," I say.

B pretends to think as she places my over turned coffee cup to her side farthest from me. "What do you aim for in a kiss?"

"Oh good one," the girl says, but the boy looks disappointed at the question.

I think for a moment, as B taps two fingers on the table to imitate a drumroll. "Here it comes," she says, "wait for it. The great mind thinks."

"Vedana," I say finally.

"Vaydunna? What's that?" B says.

"The Pali term Vedana means a raw physical sensation, the objective observation of which can provide insight into the impermanent nature of all things. That's what a kiss should be like. That's how a kiss should feel like. It should knock out your world."

"Fucking good answer," B looks at me. "How is it you can still surprise me? After all this time?"

The young girl leans towards me. "And can you kiss like that?"

B arcs an eyebrow at her. "Aren't you asking the wrong person?"

Silence falls amongst us, and I prod B with a finger. "Has my coffee cup cooled enough for you to predict some hearty doom and gloom?"

She picks up the cup and looks inside. Her face changes from one of minor indignation to that of genuine surprise. It's an infectious look, which has all of us wondering what she has seen.

"Well?" I ask.

She looks up and smiles at me. "See for yourself."

The sediment at the bottom of the Turkish coffee cup has shifted to one side of the cup, and lies in the shape of a large heartI take the offered cup and look inside. The sediment at the bottom has shifted to one side of the cup, and lies in the shape of a large heart.

The young girl tries to peer over my arm. "What is it?"

"Oh," B sniffs with meaning. "Just stuff."

I say nothing.

Main Index | Part one | Part two | End of part three

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