This is the boring part: writing history. This is the scary part: writing something new. This is the annoying part where I’m aware of the sound of this keyboard banging away to the detriment of my concentration and that of everyone in this library. But this is also the part where I start to lose my boredom, fear and annoyance and start to just get into the flow of what I’m doing. This is the part that will be deleted from this document later on. This is the part that encourages flow and disassociation from the outside world and catapults me into another realm, one in which the story can start and thrive. This is the part of nothing and everything. This is the part where my procrastination and and inability to start creative work (writer’s block) slip away and leave me with the beginners mind but not the beginner’s page. I have completed the first paragraph.
Mother, Mum, Mom, Ma. She put a coffee down in front of me and sat down on the other side of the kitchen table. I took a sip and grimaced. Still not used to not having sugar. She deadpanned. Didn’t say a word. Didn’t even let the words in her mind cross her face. That’s my mom for you: inside her head with her thoughts. I’m the same, generally, but not today. I’ve something important to tell her.
‘I’ve taken the course,’ I tell her and something strange happens to her face: an expression.
‘No, tell me it’s not so!’ she quipped, and the expression deepened. It slowly took on the semblance of amusement. I say semblance because she was not amused. She’d not been amused since Dad left. Not our house, not town, not the country but the whole world. We missed him.
‘What do you mean?’ I said. Defensive. Aware of the possibility of being mocked. Afraid of potential emotional damage.
‘Nothing,’ she said and, putting her cup down, reached her hand across the table and placed it on my wrist. It was warm and reassuring. I melted a little and dismantled a thin layer of armour. She continued to speak. ‘It’s just that you looked so serious. You reminded me of your dad. He was always one for taking courses and then thinking that they were the best thing he’d ever done and, before you knew it, he would be planning a whole new career or a business start-up. He was a terror for it.’ A wistful expression crossed her face; today was definitely a strange day: that was two expressions in a single minute! Something weird was going off. Was it something I’d done? I became aware that she was speaking again and searched my mind for the echo of her words. ‘Nothing ever came to anything, of course. He’d always move on to another book and the next brilliant idea. Funnily enough, the last book he read was about dying and so I guess he did follow up on something for once in his life.’ She grunted as if she was laughing. ‘Or death. Whatever.’
I didn’t know what to say so I took another sip of my coffee and, as if she was inside a mirror, my mom did the same.
‘Anyway, what’s this course you’ve done?’ she said.
I looked out of the window at the clouds scudding by. Christ on the cross stretched and became a lanky unicorn as I watched. An old game. Distraction winning out over attention to those around me. I considered getting up and leaving the room and never coming back; escaping the gaze of the radar that watched us all the time: people, government, the world. I turned my gaze back to my mom’s face. It felt strange to tell her anything now. After all, what was she going to make of my plans to become a deity. She’d just think that I was just like dad. That I was going to fall in and our of love with another new idea.
‘It’s the seven day course. But it’s not done over seven days, it’s more like once a week over seven weeks.’ I stopped. Suddenly everything I’d learned felt trite and worthless. My mom didn’t say a word. Just looked at me and slowly blinked. Blue eyes, pink eyelids. Rinse and repeat.
‘Seven lessons,’ she said and took a sip from her cup. ‘What’s the subject?’
Well, there’s a different subject every week.’
‘And you’ve done them all?’ she encouraged.
‘Yeah. The first one is about soul consciousness.’
‘Soul consciousness is, like, when you forget that you’re a body and you, ah, be a soul instead. Like, instead of being a body with a soul, you’re a soul in a body. You’re the one in charge. You control what it does.’
‘Isn’t that what normally happens? I mean, it’s not as if your body can make you do anything. It doesn’t have anything that makes decisions. Apart from, you know, the brain; but I guess you’re going to tell me that the soul is in charge of that, right?’
I became aware of someone using a power tool somewhere outside. A high-pitched whine that threw my thoughts out of whack. It carried on for a few seconds, stopped, then started again.
‘Arns?’ She was using her pet name for me. Short for Arnesto. It’s Germanic. Means serious and resolute. Yeah, I know: not surprising everyone calls me Arns, right?’
‘Yeah, Mom?’ I looked at her vaguely.
‘You being soul conscious?’
‘Erm, no, not really. Just got distracted.’ I listened for a few seconds longer but the whining had stopped.
‘Listen, this is really fascinating, but I’ve got something to do?’ She drained her cup in a one go and made as if to stand up.
‘Wait. No. Let me tell you what the rest of the course is about.’ I felt a band of heat pass over my body and became aware of my heart beating quickly.
Mom relaxed back into her chair. ‘Okay, but don’t take seven days about it. Tell me the essence.’
‘Essence. Good idea. Alright, the essence is that you, me and everyone are all souls in bodies and the world is a cycle that lasts for 85 births, one of which is spiritual: this one, and that now is the time of greatest corruption and so God has come to take us all back to, er, the soul world like a swarm of mosquitos. I mean, there’s a lot more detail obviously, but that’s the gist of it.’
‘Oh my god, you’ve joined a cult haven’t you! You’ve gone and joined the sodding Moomins!’
Mom got up so quickly that her chair almost fell over. She twisted around and snatched at the back of the chair before it could reach its tipping point and in the process managed to fling her cup across the kitchen. It hit the wall and broke into several pieces that fell to the floor like a hard rain. ‘Shit,’ she said and abruptly burst into tears.
I stood and sidled around the table to take her into my arms. I was easily a foot taller and a couple of stone heavier than her and she fell against me as if I was a safe harbour. Putting aside how weird it felt I reached up an arm and stroked her shoulder. She shuddered and I could hear that she was still crying. Then she seemed to gather herself up and pushed her arms up between us, levering me away in the process.
‘First I lose your dad, then you to the the Moomins.’
‘Erm, I think you’ll find it’s the Moonies, Mom.’
‘So I was right, you have joined them.’ she said dully.
‘No,’ I said, I didn’t mean that. They’re called the Brahma Kumaris. Nothing to do with the Moonies. Not a cult. It’s just yoga. Just connection to God. Just becoming pure.’
‘Oh, God, you’ve joined the BKs! That’s even worse! Your dad read about them on the internet. They’re the ones that say the world’s going to end!
‘Well, yeah, but it’s not really an end, it’s more like a beginning. You see, the world’s a cycle and so nothing ever really ends. It all just begins again as the golden age.’
‘And what happens to all the people again?’ she said. ‘Gone off like a swarm of mosquitos? That means that everyone dies, right?’
‘Ah, well, when you’re a soul then you can’t really die. You just leave your body and go into another one. And if you’ve made enough effort then you go into the golden age. All you have to do is become completely pure and you become a king or an emperor or something, and go to live in a golden palace.’
‘And you reckon that you’re going to do that? Arns, you couldn’t even keep your room clean, much well that bedsit you insist on calling home now!’ She sounded proper riled up now. which was not the effect I’d been anticipating. I thought that, what with the yoga with god I’d been having, I would be able to just look at her and she’d become really happy. I tried it now. I began to send loving vibrations of peace and contentment into the centre of her forehead, exactly where she, the soul, was living inside that body.
‘Why you staring at me like that? she said. ‘You trying to hypnotise me or something? Your dad tried that too. It didn’t work for him and it’s not going to work for you, young man. Do something useful instead and get me the broom. Got to sweep up this mess before one of us steps on it and does ourselves a mischief!’
I went for the broom. When I came back, she’d already picked up the biggest pieces and was dropping them into the bin.
‘That was his favourite cup. I was only using it because it reminded me of him. Funny, huh? The things we do to cling on.’
I handed her the broom silently and she began to sweep.
‘I’ll need the scoop,’ she said after she’d marshalled everything into a sad, little heap.
I got her the scoop.
There wasn’t much else I felt like saying. Nothing I thought of saying felt like it was appropriate somehow. It was only afterwards that I remembered that I could have told her about the eight powers and all the values and virtues and the meditation and the remembrance of god and all that good stuff. But by then it was too late.