So, Tuesday morning I learned to bow. I thought I knew before, but I was wrong.
I found myself kneeling in front of a vaguely lit pyre, hastily constructed in a warehouse on the south side of the river. The smell of leaky petrol tanks, muddy cement, and illegally imported products permeated the air.
“Sorry man, I know he was like a father to you,” said a Joe next to me.
People say they have people who were like a father to them. My question is, isn’t your own real father better than someone who is like a father? What does that mean, like a father? I would never call the guy laying on the sawhorse pyre someone who was like a father to me.
If I did, he’d’ve boxed me in the ears.
Bow three times. That’s what you are taught. Three times, deep and slow.
The first bow. When my forehead touched the cement, I let go of all the sense-memories I had with him in it. I let go of his smile. I let go of the smell of his awful aftershave that was mingled with whiskey. I let go of the feel of the cracked leather in the passenger seat of his dark saloon car. I let go of the taste of his omelets.
As I rose up I noticed that the sun had started to glint through a cracked window high above the pyre. The Slims and Joes were starting to leave.
The second bow. When my forehead touched the cement, I let go of all of his teachings. I let go of his lesson on how to dodge bullets. (It starts with making sure no one is pointing at gun at you.) I let go of his explicit instructions on making an omelet. (Sorry, this is too important to share with just anyone, especially You.) I let go of his endless droning on about how to fight hand to hand. (It starts with a strong mind and a fast waist.)
As I righted myself of the second time, I realized that all of his teachings were now mine to reteach.
The third bow. The third bow was slower. It was harder to reach the cement. And when my forehead just kissed the cold cement, my whole body when limp and I lay, chest heaving. On the third bow, I let go of my teacher.
I listened to my last sob bounce drunkenly around the warehouse and land dead, cold, in a dank corner.
I righted myself. Stood. Pressed the button on the remote in my left hand. The back of the warehouse exploded pulling air out of my lungs. I turned and headed out to a waiting rickshaw.
So Tuesday I learned to bow. Wednesday I may learn grovel.