Ruby says nothing.
Ruby cuts a tube of penne in half with the side of her fork, a slow-motion blade stooping to kiss the back of my neck. A warning. Eat, before it gets cold; before you forget how to do it. Until now, I jigsawed her exposition to find the best fit.
Satisfied, I clean my plate.
I haven’t seen a wasp in years, but there are wasps here, larger than the ones I remember. Padma, our retreat leader, climbs the bunk bed, removes a hornet from the room with a cup.
Evan is a sixty-five year old retired father, just like Dad. You remind me of my dad, I tell him, the only difference being, of course, that you’re white.
Everybody has bought and is studying one of the many dharma books on sale here, except Alastair, 84, who reads Alistair Cooke, instead.
I am in the shrine room, closest to Buddha, when Evan is crying. We two are the last ones left, but the room – though vacant – is loud with her, humming Susan, Susan, between each caught breath.
The week begins when I turn off my phone. I delete the world as an infant does. I keep my palms flush over my eyes, until I realise I do not own a watch or an alarm clock.
Brother, may you be well. May you be happy. May you be free from suffering.
On the last evening, a sunset. My turn in the kitchen. Ruby offers to take my shift, so that I can walk with the others. It is the first time she’s volunteered to speak to me, and when she calls me, I hear it like a song, and begin to love my name.
Barbora waves until my rear view mirror swings her face and wind-up hand out of sight. I will see her again, several times. I don’t know this. Or, too, that she will even visit my house, sit with me on the floor of my parents’ room, where it is quiet. Or that whenever I picture her, no matter how much in the future, she will always be waving goodbye.
© Victoria Adukwei Bulley
With kind permission of the poet