Here is chapter 2.
Please feel free to do anything you want with this story. I invoke no special rights over it and place it in the public domain.
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This chapter Is longer than the first and it has more pace and I think you'll start to see where some of the story is going.
There's no sex (there never will be any graphical sexual descriptions of any kind) so no warning is needed - this is suitable for younger readers.
Dhamma-Vinaya Bums Chapter 2
David drove us the few miles through the city in his beaten up old Volvo estate. I enjoyed through the city; it seemed to me like another country. The houses we passed in the residential areas all sat low and spread wide with porches and verandahs. Lawns were scattered with toys and bikes; kids were running round in swim suits; there was smoke from a thousand barbecues rising in columns into the air.
As I did some people watching I found it difficult to understand how I could be any help here. The plan for this summer – my coming here to Florida with the Bhikkus to live in the sangha – was that I would help out with the homesless support program co-ordinated by the local vihara. Looking out of the car window the prosperity around me made me doubt that there was much homelessness here. I knew, on reflection, that part of the appearance of prosperity was simply the climate: in the sunshine life looked easy. But I could also see that the kids were healthy and happy; the houses were sizeable and kempt; the cars in the drives were all new gaz guzzlers. How would poverty find its way here?
To get to the vihara we drove through a state park towards the system of creeks and bays that eventually lead to the gulf of Mexico. We came out of the wooded park and as we did we could see the stupa the local Bhuddists had built and beyond it the vihara itself.
The house was timber framed and weatherboarded, painted white. It sat a couple of hundred yards from the road on a grass flat and just beyond I could see a creek. I knew that there were eight Bhikkus currently living in the vihara. Bhikkus Arjun and Thanissario would make that ten and I’d be staying in the lay guest quarters. The house looked big even for eleven people.
David pulled the Volvo into a carport at the side of the house and we climbed out. David opened the back and together we got the three back packs out. The bhikkus made to take their packs but David and I between us kept them and carried them across a wide verandah and into the vihara that was going to be my home for the coming weeks.
“This way,” David guided us and we followed him into a large hall way or lobby. From somewhere close by I could hear the lilt of chanting in Pali and saw against a wall directly opposite the door we’d come in through an almost life size seated figure of the Lord Buddha in meditation. The hands of the statue lay one on the other palms up in its lap.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see David behind me.
“Shoes here and you can grab a pakome from the pile there”, he gestured, directing my attention to a rattan mat to one side of the door and a basket beside it. The pakome is the Thai sarong – a wrap around skirt that both men and women can wear. It's not considered appropriate to wear shorts in temples and monastery's. The bhikkus had already shed their sandals and I followed their example adding my battered nikes to the collection of footwear and then wrapping a checkered length of cloth around my waist covering my shorts. “Ajahn Ariyesako said to show you your rooms and he’ll come and say hello after puja. If you don’t mind Jakob I’ll show Bhikku Arjun and Bhikku Thanissario to their rooms in the monks quarters first. Make yourself at home in the kitchen if you like. Right through that corridor.” He pointed the way to me.
“Sure, I’m fine waiting. It’s ok if I get myself some water?”
Bhikku Thanissario responded quietly as he always did.
“Jakob, you live here now. For the summer this is your home. Make yourself at home as David says. We’ll all meet the Abbot after the service is over”.
“Thank you bhante,” I smiled and made the anjali mudra. David I noticed made the same gesture towards the statue of Buddha before he picked up two of the three packs on the floor and the monks repeated his gesture of respect before following him up the stairs.
I allowed my gaze to follow them up the stairs, though more truthfully it was David I was watching. I paid my own respects to the Buddha and turned down the corridor towards where David had indicated I would find the kitchen. It was a big fitted out room with a large wooden table and glazed doors that opened onto a lawn. I looked around until I found a glass and poured myself a glass of tap water. The bhikkus probably wouldn't have bottled water. I made a mental note to buy a crate for myself as soon as I could go shopping.
It occurred to me as I sat at the table gathering my thoughts that we were a way out of town and shopping or anything else that required going to town might take some planning. I thought about the distance and wondered whether I could try running or jogging that far regularly. After all I'd have to do something to keep fit here – though I fully expected there'd be physical work to do around the place. Then again, my mind followed its own course, maybe David would be visiting often enough that I could get rides. I allowed myself a few moments pleasant daydreaming, enjoying the thought of riding around with David in his old car, until the boy himself appeared in the doorway.
“Let's get you to your room now,” he proposed smiling. I picked up my pack and followed him out of the kitchen and then, instead of returning to the entrance hall, further along the corridor that had lead me to the kitchen until we came to a rather narrow stair case. “There's a guest room up here that has the advantage of its own bathroom and it's a bit more remote from the bhikkus' quarters. We thought you'd prefer it even though it means sharing. But it's a big room.” I took a second to think about what he'd said – sharing? I hadn't thought about it. It's not unusual for a vihara to have dorm style accomodation for visitors who attend retreats and so on so I wasn't very surprised. But it occurred to me that David was saying that there was the possibility of rooming alone.
I followed him without comment up the stairs onto a wide wooden landing with three doors. David opened one of them and standing back waved me in with a mock bow. The room was more than pleasant enough. It was wide and long and set under the eaves so that the ceiling was vaulted. The floor was polished wood and there were two large dormer windows on each side and in each of two of the four corners there stood a bed with a bedside cabinet and bookshelves. One of the two was obviously occupied since there were books on the shelves, clothes strewn on the bed and posters on the ceiling above it. A football lay on the floor and at a small desk nearby I saw a laptop computer and a pile of papers.
“Er, you get second choice I'm afraid since I was here first,” David broke my contemplation. “But,” he continued before his first remark sunk in, “I don't think there's much too choose between.” I felt my own awkwardness as I realised what might have been obvious if I weren't so slow: I was going to be sharing with David.
“You're staying here?” I asked as casually as I coud.
“For the summer, like you I guess. I'm volunteering too. It was this or a McJob and this seemed more worthwhile even if it doesn't pay as well.” He laughed at his own comment and so did I.
“Sorry, I kind of assumed you were local. I didn't know there'd be any more volunteers living in.”
“Hey, if you really prefer not to share, we can ask Ajan Ariyesako to put you in one of the empty dorms instead. He already said that it would be possible if you prefered that.”
“Oh, no, no! This will be fine. I just hadn't thought about accomodation much.” David smiled his big bright smile at me and I was caught directly in the headlights again.
“I'm glad. I prefer to share. We're a way out of town and the bhikkus are great but they can be a bit, erm, quiet.” This time he smiled more shyly obviously concerned to seem to criticise the sangha.
“Tell me about it”, I said turning away from the occasion of temptation that I found his face to be, “I've been travelling with Arjun and Thanissario for four days. I love those guys but the silence got to me.”
“You probably have time to unpack before we meet Ajahn Ariyesako if you want to and I should show you the bathroom.”
“The bathroom needs a tour guide?” I joked weakly. David snorted and shot me a grin.
“No, it's big but not that big,” he replied. “Come and have a look” and he set off out of what was now our bedroom back to the landing. He lead me to the door furthest from our room and I found myself in a large white painted bathroom with a free standing enamelled bath with a shower head above it. There was a sink and toilet and rather oddly I thought a bidet. What had inspired the sangha to have a bidet installed. As though he'd caught my question on the wind David answered me.
“This part of the house is exactly as it was when the sangha first moved in. Since the space isn't much needed they've left it as is which is pretty good for us don't you think?” I kept my thoughts on that to myself since as he said it I had a lightening fast vision of just how good this could be for me to be staying with someone as attractive as him in what might as well be our own appartment for the summer. I began to realise I was going to have to watch myself. If I kept thinking in that direction I'd end up fawning over him making him feel awkward. “Come on,” he caught my arm “let's get you unpacked. The puja will be over soon enough and we can meet the rest of the sangha.”
I followed him back to our room (“our room”: it sounded good, it sounded very nice) and as I unpacked he asked me about myself. He sat on the floor his back against my bed as we talked. How did I come to be volunteering here? How long had I been pracising the dhamma? What grade was I in at school? What did I like at school? He didn't ask anything too personal and I found myself at ease telling him simple things about me. While we talked I found out about him as he returned the favour of each of my answers with details about himself. His parents had become Buddhists here in Crystal River a few years back after they left their church after becoming more and more uncomfortable with what they were hearing – especially the approach to 'social problmems' which he didn't specificy any further. They'd since moved to St Petersburg for career reasons and volunteering here was a good way for David to see his old friends over the summer as well as doing something worthwhile. He was 17, in high school and confessed to being something of a math and science geek.
It took no time really to unpack my clothes and books, my few CDs and my walkman with minispeakers and soon enough David was leading me back down again along the corridor to the entrance hall where, as we arrived, we found he sangha making their way in as well. Bhikkus Thanissario and Arjun were in quiet conversation with a tall Asian monk that I guessed to be the abbot – Ajahn Ariyesako.
As we reached the bottom of the stairs Ajahn Ariyesako turned to words us smiling.
“Welcome Jakob!” He boomed across the hall at me. “Welcome to Crystal River Vihara and thank you for coming to help us”. Feeling myself blushing for no reason I could warrant to myself, I made the anjali gesture of respect and returned his greeting.
“Thank you bhante. I'm very pleased to be here. Thanks for putting me up for the summer.”
“Nonsense! Nonsense! We're putting you up and to work!” The monks all laughed quietly. If you had hung around Thai and other asians long enough you would realise that it was a quite sophisticated use of English that was. I remembered idly that it was a zeugma: the use of a single verb in two constructions. I even recalled without any effort the exampel from my last semester English class 'She went off in a huff in a taxi'. I brought my attention back to the Abbot. I pressed my palms together and kept my gaze dropped. With the bhikkus I knew well from home, I was fairly relaxed but I wanted to be careful not to offend anyone here. Ajahn Ariyesako surprised me by putting a finger under my chin and lifting my head so that I was looking directly at him. “No formality, Jakob, not while you're living with us – you'd be constantly bowing and scraping!” This started off another fit of tittering from the monks and I was surprised and relieved. In general the bhikkus of the vihara we attended back in Waukegan were a relaxed bunch but I had half expected a more traditional attitude down here or at least I'd been prepared for one. Buddhist monks are treated with enormous respect by lay practitioners and traditionally this is a quite formal affair but it was obviousl that Ajahn Ariyesako was going to be pretty laid back about it.
“David,” the Abbot called out, “have you shown Jakob his room?”
“Yes bhante, he's all unpacked.”
“Then perhaps you'd do us all a favour and show him round the rest of the house and maybe some of the grounds. I want to talk to bhikkus Thanissario and Arjun.”
“My pleasure. I want to drive back into town too but perhaps Jakob won't mind coming with me. Is there anything I can get for you while I'm there bhante?”
“No”, Ariyesako shook his head. “Give Jakob one of the spare keys as well would you, he's going to need it.”
“Cool,” David replied and then grabbed my arm. “Come on I'll show you round.”
He led me off through one of the doors leading off the entrace hall and into a large room almost empty of furniture. At one end was a large statue covered in gold-leaf of the meditating Buddha. Around it were vases of flowers. To one side was a low covered bench on which sat a few cloth bound books.
“This is our shrine room,” David explained just a little unnecessarily. I chided myself mentally for the uncharitable observation. So he was explaining the obvious? It hardly could hurt me.
“It's nice,” I said twice as stupidly. “Do lay devotees come here for puja?”
“Not much on weekdays but Sunday evenings there's quite a few.” He surprised me by approaching the statue and making the triple protestation, honouring the triratna – the Buddha, the dhamma and the sangha. I felt a moments awkwardness before I joined him on my knees bowing my head three times to the floor. For some reason I hadn't expected him to be so obviously devout. I need to have a word with myself about right thinking. Here I was assuming that an all American boy would find the ritual aspects of Buddhism uncool – an attitude whose flip side was an ugly assumption of my own superior attitude. In short it was a jerk-off thing to think.
I followed him out of the shrine room through another door into a larger room with one wall consisting entirely of glass doors. There was as little furniture here as in the shrine room but for cushions of various sizes scattered here and there on the floor.
“Meditation hall,” David named the room and led me straight away across it and through yet another door in to a slightly smaller room this time with three large tables in the center surrounded by chairs and book lined walls.
“The library,” I pre-empted his explanation. As I looked at him he blushed slightly and smiled.
“I'm sorry, I suppose you could work all this out for yourself. I'm so used to explaining everything about the vihara to people.”
“It's ok. I have a bit of a gift for stating the obvious myself,” I replied failing to add the very obvious to me that when he smiled I felt weak. I'd known this boy for two hours and I was beginning to worry that I'd become obsessed. Everytime I looked at him I was shocked by how beautiful he was. His hair and eyes were out of the ordinary and out of anyone's control (unless of course I misjudged and the hair was bottled and the green eyes were coloured contacts). But he had a great body. He was as tall as me give or take a centimetre but his shoulders were broader than mine and so was his waist. His skin was that rare kind that seemed to be bronzed from with in; it had an almost golden glow that I was sure would outlast any tanning.
I dragged myself out of my reverie of admiration just in time to catch up with David's commentary on the library.
“Two of the bhikkus teach at U of F and bhikku Paisan is a student there, so the local community decided to build them a really good library. We have Pali classes here and we get visitors who want to study Buddhist texts”. He carried on without pausing through a set of glazed doors in the south wall of the library and I followed him. We stopped outside on a paved patio that looked out over a wide lawn dotted with trees and pampas grass that barely sloped at all to a creek about five hundred metres distant. “I'll show you the creek tomorrow,” David told me. “There's a dinghy down there that I take out sometimes”. I was prepared to stand admiring the view for a moment when disconcertingly David grabbed my arm again and I turned to seem him smiling broadly at me again (a cheerful disposition is a virtue I suppose). “Let's get into town. I need to do get a few things from the supermarket and drop some stuff at the shelter.”
“Suits me,” I replied and with that David took off racing down the side of the house. It seemed I had no option really but to run after him. I laughed caught up suddenly in the fun of chasing him and forgetting for a moment just where I was and that I hardly knew him I threw my self at him and tackled him from behind rugby style. David hit the grass with a thud and I suddenly wondered what the hell I thought I was doing.
“Oh my god! I am so sorry! I don't know what the hell came over me!” I sat up on the grass allowing the full horror of my impetuous stupidity to wash over me. David sat up and turned to look at me.
“Dude, you should see your face!” He laughed loudly and seemingly uncontrollably for a few seconds. “What the hell was that? Oh man you are one funny guy!” Still laughing he stood up and bent to pull my up by the arm.
“David, I really am sorry man I just really didn't plan that or anything it was total impulse.”
“Hey, Jakob, that's OK. Impulse is OK man. It's about the funniest thing I've ever seen though the look on your face as you sat there. You looked like you were expecting divine retribution!”
“Oh lord no. I just hope none of the bhikkus saw that. How one earth would I explain that one?”
“Don't sweat it. It was nothing – just messing around. I just wasn't expecting it. Until now I figured you for the quiet kind.” He turned his dazzling smile on me again. “But until I know you have your impulses under control you can go ahead of me to the car.”
I blushed and had to laugh at that. I started to walk towards the front of the house and then felt David throw his arm across my shoulder so that we were walking side by side. It was such a natural and ordinary thing to do but if you're 16 and gay then you'll know how shy it can make you feel when boys do things like that. Still, I can't deny I liked it.
We reached the Volvo and we both got in, me riding shotgun.
“I have to get a CD player for this tank. Do you mind the radio while we drive?”
“No man not at all: your car your rules anyway.”
“Nah we'll probably be riding together a lot so don't let me bore you with stuff that drives you nuts. Spin the dial and find something you like.” I switched on the radio immedately David gunned the ignition and sent it seeking along the FM band. I stopped it immediately I heard KD on a local channel. I didn't think for a moment about how it looked, me settling on such a sentimental love song but I obviously didn't have to worry. KD barely got out 'I was alright for a while' before David joined in with her.
“I could smile for a while,” he sang along. “This song rips my heart out man. Have you heard 49th Parallel yet?” he asked as KD poured her heart out.
“I just ordered it from Amazon the day we left. It should be here soon. You like KD, that's amazing. And, well, fortunate.” I found myself smiling at him. “I'd likely drive you mad with my music otherwise.”
“Hey, I can't wait to get back and see what CDs you have! I've been listening on 'phones because I didn't want to disturb the sangha but you know we should test it out. We probably can't be heard from our room in the rest of the house anyway.”
“Oh great, we can turn the vihara guest room into party central,” I laughed. “You think Ajahn Ariyesako will be up for that?” David laughed in return.
“I think even he might be a bit challenged by that. But you know he told me I should have a TV. I just don't really think it's worth driving down to St Petersburg to bring one back here.”
“But why would you have to? Man, you've got your laptop – buy a TV card if you want TV.” David looked at me briefly, a frown of concentration on his face.
“So that's what they brought you down here for! You're gonna be the brains of the operation. But watching TV on the laptop screen will work for me but it's not gonna be any good for us to watch together – we'd need something bigger.”
“I don't watch much TV but I'll miss not being able to watch DVDs,” I replied. “It's my fave escape activity, watching movies.”
“Woah!” David exclaimed. “I am so dumb. Look, how much do you think a TV card for the laptop would cost?” He asked.
“USB cheap model – somewhere just under $100.”
“Right well Kelmart has TVs with built-in DVD for like $150. OK, only a 19 inch screen but that's fine for our room.” I was sizing up the idea in my head. I could spend seventy-five bucks for a share of a TV no problem and then it hit me.
“Yeah, Kelmart. Big chain store. Biggest in the world maybe? You remember?” David was giving me an are-you-an-alien look. 'Great I thought to myself, he probably wants to drink Coors beer while we watch. OK, this was going to be a pain but there's no point no being straight (did I say 'straight'?) about things from the start.
“Well,” I hedged, “I don't usually shop at Kelmart, guy.” David took his attention from the road to look at me a gain briefly, puzzlement written across his cute face.
“You don't have Kelmart in Waukegan?” I sighed inwardly and resigned myself to explaining my lameness.
“We have Kelmart, David, but my family don't shop there. Walmart is a union busting company and we don't give them our money.” OK, I thought to my self, if he laughs at least it means he's not a rabid Republican. He didn't laugh.
“Hey, way cool! You boycott Kelmart? We'll look somewhere else. But the plan is a good one right? We buy a cheap TV and DVD combo for our room.”
“Sure, it's a great idea. Why don't we go look over the weekend?”
By this time I realised that we were cruising down some road in the town center more or less and David's attention was fully back on the road. He didn't reply and a moment or two as he scanned the traffic. Eventually I realised he was looking for parking because he pulled over smoothly, parking in a boy outside a small supermaket. I read the sign over the store 'Wild Oats' and hoped the innuendo was intentional.
“Come on, I need to get some shopping quickly then I want to drop some stuff at the shelter. But if we can do this quick we can at least window shop for a TV this evening.” He was clearly a man on a mission. I got out of the Volvo and followed him as he strode purposefully into the store. No sooner where we through the door then a voice called out across the shop floor.
“Hola! David, chico! Quetal?” I followed the voice to the speaker a black haired coffee skinned kid somewhere around our age wearing a green apron over boardies and t-shirt.
“Hola Martin, bastante bien, gracies. Y tu? Que pasa?” David spoke Spanish without any hesitation and seemingly effortlessly. I was momentarily jealous but it also made me pleased. I mean, I knew the guy was a Buddhist but it's kind of nice to see first hand that he wasn't a bigot or a xenophobe. “Martin, this is my friend Jakob. He's staying out at the vihara for the summer like me.” He turned to me “Jakob, meet Martin the guy who saves my life daily.” Martin laughed aloud as he held out a fist for skater style props.
“Yeah, I save his life by selling him organic junk food.” Martin grinned.
“Listen, hermano, we gotta really jet coz we have shopping to do but I'll be in again Monday and we have to hang out sometime.”
“Sure, David, entendido. Go get your stuff and I'll see ya Monday for sure.” Martin gave a mock salute and went back to work restacking vegetables.
“OK, here you get to find out my shameful secret: junk food.” David was grinning again and I was suddenly feeling that the pace of getting to know him was accelerating wildly. “To the freezer section dude and I'll show you my weakness.” With that he grabbed my arm again and set off into the back section of the store where there was a row of three large freezer cabinets. He pulled me right up to one. “Feast your eyes. The awesomeness of organic junk food.”
I looked into the cabinet and there they were. Packs of soy protein wieners and burgers and nochicken nuggets. All one hundred percent vegan and organic certified. David opened the the cabinet and grabbed a half dozen assorted packs.
“Just so you know,” he turned to me to explain, “this isn't because the food at the vihara isn't good. It's good, well, at least most of the time it's better than good. It's just that I am a total loser at being vegetarian.”
“You're a vegetarian?” I asked, underlining my tendancy to ask dumb questions.
“Well, I wasn't. We've been thinking about it at home but the vihara kitchen is vegetarian so I decided to stick with it while I'm here anyway just to see how it feels. And on the whole it's ok, it even feels healthy. But I just have to have burgers, franks and nuggets sometimes.” It was my turn to laugh.
“David man, I've been a vegetarian all my life and I still have to have the junk. But wait, there's something you haven't got there. Hold on a sec.” I turned my attention to the freezer cabinets and scanned them quickly. “Here, they have them. This is superior vegan junk food.” I picked out a packet of my favourite soy protein schnitzels. “These are the vegan junk of the gourmet Buddhist boy.” David took the packet from me and turned back to the front of the shop.
“Come on Jakob, let's get out of here and go be consumers. We have a TV to find.” I followed him back to the check out where we had a brief tussle over paying for stuff. “No, no. We can share this stuff J but I'll pay this time. We can take turns or have a kitty or something if we need to”. 'J'? Where did that come from. I didn't mind it, in fact the familiarity of it added to my growing sense of contentment that we seemed to have become friends in just a few hours. I decided to respond in kind.
“OK, D, you get to pay out this time. I'll get the next load.” A thought suddenly made its way to the front of my consciousness. “Hold on though, bro, there's something else I need to grab. I looked round the store quickly and found what I wanted. I set off to a shelf near the freezer section and came back with a 12 pack of litre bottles of Evian water.
“I'll get these though,” I told him as I lifted the pack on to the counter.
David looked at the bottles his eyebrows raised skywards.
“Evian water? J, dude, that is so gay!”
I was so shocked I felt it immediately register on my face.
“What did you say?” I snapped with more tension in my voice than I meant. I realised from the look on his face that I must have looked tempestuous.
“I just said...J, come on, guy, I just said it's so gay,” his face fell and his eyes widened. “Wait, you think that expression is offensive? Oh shit Jakob. I didn't mean it to be, trust me on that one bro.”
I looked at him for a second but my mind was polluted by anger and resentment. Somewhere inside me I could hear the verses from the Dhammapadda
He insulted me,
-- for those who brood on this,
(trans. Bhikku Thanisarrio, from www.accesstoinsight.org)
But I wasn't listening to the dhamma voice in my head. I'd allowed myself to be taken in by this guy. I'd started to like him and I knew that until that moment I wanted him for a friend – I told myself that's what I wanted anyway. And then he pulls this casual homophobia out of the hat.
“Whatever David.” I turned away from him to try to calm myself and found myself walking out of the store. I already hated myself for being such a drama queen but my actions were having their reactions and I wasn't able yet to rein them in and get them under control.
I set off walking aimlessly down the street. I was brooding and hostility wasn't stilled. It was over nothing. I already knew it. But my wounded dignity and vanity got in the way.