By Sara E. Adkins
Siddhartha tells me he doesn’t have a strong feeling one way or the other
about the happy fat Chinese Buddha. He admits that it doesn’t “accurately represent” his six-feet-tall “earthly form” but smiles lopsided and shrugs his shoulders.
It’s where Kwai Chang Cain got his I-do-not-know-why-you-think-this-is-important-shrug. I’m pretty sure.
Siddhartha wants me to know that being an enlightened teacher isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I could tell him being an unenlightened tutor isn’t a walk in the park, either, but I bite my tongue.
He raises his eyebrows like he knows what I’m thinking.
I wonder if he’s laughing at me on the inside. I take a sudden interest in my All-Star sneakers.
Siddhartha tells me of uncountable assassination and framing attempts.
I think: I would not have lost count of how many times someone tried to kill me; I’m glad no one I know has tried to kill me so far; I’m grateful there’s no chance of me being the twenty-ninth Buddha. My forehead creases and I concentrate harder on the Converse logo.
Siddhartha gets on my nerves when he doesn’t miss a shot at crumpled-up-paper-basketball.
“Jesus,” I exclaim, “Don’t you ever break concentration?”
He raises one eyebrow.
“Siddhartha…” I roll my eyes. “It’s just an expression.”
Siddhartha sinks another three-pointer. I breathe deep.
Siddhartha digs “Come as You Are,” but has some reservations about “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
I can never tell when he’s joking.
“Nirvana is beyond suffering”, he says.
His speech is so matter-of-fact, I don’t ask what he meant by that. My brain hurts by the time he leaves for the night.
I scratch my head. “Are you coming back?” I ask. It comes out more like a plea than an inquiry.
Siddhartha’s uneven smile and shoulder shrug answer me.
I should have known. I miss a free throw to the recycle bin.
“I’ll be here,” I call after him.
Siddhartha shrugs into the sunset.
First published in the chapbook, Prolonged Exposure (Finishing Line Press in 2015).