by William Gilmer

“You know why students are required to surrender their worldly possessions before joining a monastery?”

Kyle could see ships floating in Jack’s oceanic eyes, eyes that had appeared out of nowhere and were set on ruining his night of self-loathing.

“I don’t know, so the monks can sell it for themselves and write it off as a donation?”

“Now Kyle,” Jack replied with a smile that could have launched every sail sitting in his iris, “I know we’ve just met, but you’re not always this cynical, are you?”

Kyle sipped the drink Jack had brought over to interrupt the personal wake he was having for himself, his closed casket funeral for feelings.

“Sambuca with the fly” he called it. Three coffee beans sat atop the liquor representing health, happiness, and prosperity. He watched the ouzo effect color the drink until it looked like they were drinking low balls of milk.

“They do it because even the greatest teachers can’t show people how to enjoy something without becoming attached. It’s not material things or even the happiness we get out of them that’s the problem. It’s the attachments we develop to these things that weigh us down. They find it easier to just eliminate the temptation of attachment altogether.”

Kyle thought about the unpacked boxes from his move a year ago, the vintage ’80s theater posters meticulously stored that he hadn’t looked at for years.

Jack took his hand, “Let’s go, I put your name in for karaoke.”

“No you didn’t, I just told you my name ten minutes ago.”

“Fine, I put mine in, but the host doesn’t know who Jack is.  I’ll sing backup, I hope you know Bohemian Rhapsody.”

“Everybody knows Bohemian Rhapsody.”

It could have been the liquor, or Jack’s contagious demeanor, but the stage became Kyle’s apartment shower as he belted out melodies like a teenager discovering the freedom of the open road. It was awful, but the crowd cheered like hell for the truthfulness of the attempt.

The night morphed into a tunnel of neon signs, toothy bartenders, and a mechanical bull. His thighs would be bruised in the morning, but after beating Jack’s time, Kyle relished the grin that swaggered across his face.

Every time Kyle inquired about Jack’s life another glass of Sambuca hit the table deflecting the words out into space. Eventually an inattentive wait staff’s smoke break forced him to respond.

“Does it matter what I do for a living? Who I voted for? What my hobbies are? I live for a living, vote for more living, and practice life every day,” he paused, trying to flag down a waitress to resupply his shield. “There’s nothing wrong here Kyle, no need to break it down into possible flaws. You won’t find a hidden variable to explain why you’re having a good time.”

Jack stuck out his chest in playful false machismo, “Just remember, without me your night would have been complete shit!”

They both started laughing, but neither had the words to say why.

When the Uber pulled up, Jack helped Kyle into the front seat.

“Jack, I need your number, we have to do this again.”

“No my friend, enjoyment without attachments, remember? We’d only end up judging the next night by this night. Don’t kiss if you’re only hoping to make love. Each moment is alone, solitary, and perfect. To open this moment up to all the others would be like exposing the beautiful art of a new tattoo to the infections of the world.”

Jack leaned over into the car and kissed him. He tasted like red Starbursts, Kyle’s least favorite since childhood, although in that moment he could have eaten a casserole of them.

On the ride home Kyle rolled down the window and watched a hundred dollars worth of fried food and alcohol fly from his stomach onto the road. Looking at it fade in the distance he saw moonlight flash off links, chains, tethers, he could see a whole person if he squinted hard enough.

He didn’t overthink, didn’t interpret, letting the moment stand proud and unencumbered. He didn’t know if it had been there in the moments before or if it would remain in the moments to come, but in those seconds he held kenshō-like fire in his hands. He saw Himself, and god-damn if he didn’t love every single inch.