Fiction Contemporary

I was trying to push back my seat, but it wasn’t moving. Either it was stuck, or the person behind me was blocking it. I gave up and decided to speak to Andy right away. It couldn't wait any longer.

"Andy, I’m sorry, but I’m having doubts."

Andy paused his in-flight movie, took out his earbuds, and slowly turned his unshaven face toward me in disbelief. "Didn't we go over this so many times before?" he said, a bit too loudly, an edge of annoyance entering his voice.

I kept my voice to a whisper to avoid disturbing the other passengers. "Yes, I know. I know, Andy. We discussed how we dislike, for instance… the casual cruelty of our times.”

“And the rat race,” Andy added.

“That too, and the glorification of vulgar things,” I said.

“What about mindless entertainment?” Andy retorted.

“Reality TV,” I countered.

“Tax forms, mortgages, and leases,” Andy shot back.

“The pretentiousness of it all,” I said.

“So, then, why the doubt? Aren’t we on the same page? What gives, Tim?” Andy said, giving me a look of frustration.

“I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t about other things that are silly and fixable, like us not having girlfriends, for instance."

"Damnit, Tim, we went over this before! You know that girls aren’t the reason!" Andy said a bit too loudly.

I motioned for Tim to look behind him. He turned around and saw a short blonde flight attendant looking at us in amusement.

“Will you gentlemen have pretzels or peanuts? And what would you like to drink?” she asked, keeping her expression professional.

“Uh, the first one,” Andy said like a deer in headlights.

Once we had made our choices and the flight attendant had moved on, we continued. We were whispering even more quietly, but we knew everyone around us could hear. And they were interested too. There was a granny who was pretending to sleep, a businessman who hadn’t changed the PowerPoint slide on his laptop in a few minutes, a giggly teenage girl who looked away every time we happened to look in her direction, and a host of others, but we just ignored them. It was a long boring flight, and it wasn’t fair to expect them not to eavesdrop.

"I’m just saying it's not a small thing to give up worldliness and sensual pleasures. I just want to make sure we're doing it for the right reasons, is all," I whispered.

"Dude! You just spent forever convincing your dad. You sat stone-faced in his living room. You didn’t sleep all night. And you wouldn't take no for an answer. You practically forced him to give you his blessing and help you do this. I looked up to you for doing that."

"Does that mean I'm not allowed to have second thoughts now?"

"Yes! Yes, that is exactly what it fucking means, Tim!” Andy said insistently. “And if you keep going down this path, I'm going to start to have second thoughts too. We have to support each other!"

"Fair enough, Andy, but I'm just saying that we have twelve hours before this flight lands. It’s plenty of time for us to ponder and meditate on this one more time."

"All right, here we go again."

“Do it to help me out, Andy. How about I tell you my doubts, and you help convince me?”

“Okay fine, Tim. You helped me out a lot, so now I have to do the same for you,” Andy said grudgingly.

“Tell me again, for you personally, why are you doing this, Andy?”

"I want to find myself, find the source of joy within myself. Everything else is a distraction. I want to focus on the search for truth and help others do the same thing," Andy said, growing animated as he spoke.

"But can't you find true joy in a regular life out in the world?" I asked him pointedly.

"Well, in the end, there are just too many distractions. You either dedicate yourself to something, or it doesn't get done properly."

"Okay, but perhaps the joys of worldly life are enough for most people. Plus, if you get rich, you can have all the time to meditate on your own tropical island with a pretty girl by your side," I said, nudging him in the ribs.

"Why take the indirect and risky route to a meaningful life?" Andy replied.

"There are paths of meditation and Buddhist practice for laypeople, too," I countered.

"Why take the incomplete path if you don’t have to?" Andy asked.

"But it's hard to envision letting go of worldly attachments and pleasures for your entire life. Isn’t it so?"

"Well… it is. I agree, Tim."

"Imagine changing your mind after twenty, thirty, or forty years when few people remember you. It's scary to think how alone you would be in the world."

"I assume that after a while, the community of the monastery becomes your world and that it helps keep you there."

"What about having children? Isn't that one of life's greatest joys?"

“Well, yes… and a wife isn’t bad either,” Andy said, his voice trailing off.

“What are you thinking of doing, Andy?”

“I don’t know, Tim. Why are you doing this? Why are you convincing me not to go through with it? Is it that you’re too scared to go? Well, good job, you’ve succeeded in making me doubt too,” he said in exasperation.

“It’s good to face that doubt head-on, Andy. Otherwise, how can you be sure you've made the right decision?”

“You’re so right, Tim. I do have doubts, just like you, and now I realize how silly this whole thing was,” he said, shaking his head.

“So, you’re not going to go through with it then?”

“No, Tim. I thought I could give up all those things. I really did. But I fooled myself because when I'm really faced with it, I'm just not willing to give up on having a girlfriend, a wife, and someday having children."

"That's great, Andy. I’m glad you’ve made your decision," I said, smiling.

"Oh good, then we’ll tour Thailand together and get our families to buy us return tickets. It’ll be a pain to undo all the things we did."

"I didn't say that, Andy."

"What? You’re still going to do it?” Andy asked, his eyes widening in surprise.

Smiling gently, I nodded my head, and he continued. “You must be kidding me. I thought... I thought we were only able to do this because of each other."

"No. I believe that's why you were doing it, Andy."

"So, this whole thing you were saying about having doubts, then... that was only for me?"

"You should follow what's in your heart, Andy. If you only follow someone else, then how can you find true happiness and enlightenment for yourself?"

Andy stared at me in disbelief for a long time, and I smiled back at him kindly. Then his features softened. "You'll tour the country with me first, won't you, Tim?"

"Of course, Andy."

"I didn't tell you this, but when she heard I was leaving, Clara wanted to speak to me."

"I thought she might have."

“I’m so sorry I won’t be going on this journey with you after all, Tim,” Andy said, looking me in the eyes.

"It’s okay, Andy. I understand completely."

"I know we had talked about it so much, and it's kind of lousy of me to back out right now after all we said and did. I still believe it's an exciting journey: a journey to meet with the innermost part of yourself and find true peace. I just won't be able to do it with you, and I'm truly sorry for that," Andy said, looking down to hide his tears.

“We can still be friends and keep in touch.”

“I’ll always miss you, Tim. I’ll try to visit you at least every five years.”

“I’ll always be happy to see you, Andy.”

There was a long pause, and we just lay back in our seats, lost in thought.

“Well, what do we do for the rest of the flight?” Andy laughed and asked after a while.

“We enjoy the trip, Andy. We enjoy the wandering, wherever it may take us.”

November 09, 2022 04:31

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Edward Latham
21:55 Nov 13, 2022

Great voices in the characters Francois, I liked their arguments and counter-arguments at the start of the story. Interesting that Tim was really the one who knew himself, I was genuinely as surprised as Andy was!


Francois Kosie
23:39 Nov 13, 2022

Thanks, I appreciate the read and the comment, Edward! I tried to make it both surprising but also clear in retrospect that Tim was trying to help his friend all along. Glad that came through.


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AnneMarie Miles
05:29 Nov 09, 2022

I wasn't sure how to approach this prompt but you've managed to do it! A journey to Thailand to become a monk or to give up all worldly attachments is definitely an adventure of a lifetime. I wasn't expecting Andy to be the one to back out!


Francois Kosie
06:44 Nov 09, 2022

Thanks for the read, Anne Marie. Happy to hear you enjoyed it! I couldn't resist the challenge of trying to make something out of this relatively prescriptive prompt. And I thought it would be interesting to have a dialogue between two characters who had doubts about the journey itself.


AnneMarie Miles
15:00 Nov 09, 2022

I think anyone would have doubts about a journey like that, it's a good idea to speculate!


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