the library

The Buddhists meditate by sitting and looking to the stars, watching the sun rise and set, the rain fall and the clouds pass. And by watching their breath, it is said. And here – in this pocket of the world that is filled with diamonds, and people who do not eat enough, and women who are raped by lines of the same men or other men who have eaten more than their fill, and visitors who come with briefcases – the old men, the grandfathers and great uncles, the chieftains and their cousins sit in lines or loose circles and they do not speak for many hours. They sit in silence and breath out the heat of the day. They do not drink beneath the sun, or eat. They simply sit in simple plastic chairs and observe the passing of the day. The visitors and others say they are doing nothing, that people in this part of the world are inherently lazy which is why, say the same people, it is so backward. But this is to misunderstand what it is to be backwards or forwards. They sit and observe, breathing in and breathing out, in and out, in and out etc.. Until a particular point in the day. Then, one by one, they rise up and walk very slowly, watching each step, feeling each placing of each toe inside the soul of each long shoe, up the concrete path. Step by step, foot by foot, toe by toe by toe by toe by toe, and then the other five toes, lifting each heel and pushing forward up the concrete path to a long cool room. At the doorway, each knocks his fist on a heavy bookshelf to raise the attention of the young visitor sitting at the desk against the far wall who looks up straight away into the eyes of whichever old man it is who is standing in the entrance. And the old man announces, as slowly as his footsteps fell and his toes curled, The hour has already come. The old man waits but the visitor says nothing for he does not know what this could mean and he is sure there is a meaning. So the old man says again, even more slowly than before, the same words – The Hour Has Already Come – then turns and walks back down the path as steady and slow as the sun. He sits back down in his simple plastic chair, whereupon another old man stands up and steps to the concrete path. And so on and so on until all the old men have visited the visitor in the long narrow room and uttered the same words. Whereupon they rise from their chairs in a synchronized lift and as slowly as the caged eagle blinks at the governor’s palace, they disappear from view. The visitor gazes at the desk, flips the pages in the book, stands up, moves to the light, to the doorway, utters something to himself about the empty chairs, then returns to the desk, opens another book, looks up, looks back down, looks up, flicks the flies off, utters something else to himself, and closes the book, agitation in his fingers and his face. What on earth to do?

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