The Secret of Life

“You wanna know the secret of life, kid?” an old man asked me as we waited for the train to arrive.

“The what?” I replied, incredulous at the thought of something straight out of Hollywood happening to me. This old man can’t be serious. Do I look like the guy who gives a flying rat about the secret of life? I’ve got more important things to worry about, like whether or not this train is going to actually arrive, whether or not I’ll be on time, whether or not loony bin will piss me off.

The way things were going, I was bound to be very, very late. This wasn’t good.

“The secret of life. Do you want to know it?”

All right, he’s got to be kidding me. If I follow the script, it’s either I tell him to fuck off and get his rocks off jawing someone else, or I nod my head like a mindless idiot and allow him to talk my ear off with whatever secret he does have. Seeing as there’s no train coming and there’s no one I can actually talk to or spend my time with while waiting for the inevitable, I decide to just give Buddhaman my ear. Sure beats being catatonic for the next few minutes.

“The secret of life,” he continued, voice turning to a stage whisper that I was sure everyone could hear anyway, “is numbness.”

How stereotypical. He’s even got that disheveled hermit look with hair (white, of course) that hasn’t seen a proper blade since the first Macapagal administration. He sure has it down pat, all the way through to the cryptic answer.

I gave him a raised eyebrow, unsure of how to assess such a character. Buddhaman took my puzzlement as implicit permission to continue his rantings.

“‘Tis simple, really. The older you are, the more numb you get. Eventually, you stop feeling anything. Joy, Pain, whatever. It’s all a blur to you. Nothing you can do can change this. It’s the law of nature, boy. When that happens, nothing can save you.”

“You mean to say, we’re all fucked and the secret to life is not giving a shit about anything?” I do have to admit this man’s theory was getting a bit interesting.

I know about apathy killing your soul like that, or something. My ex used it as an excuse to create a plaid pattern on her forearm with my shaving kit. I even made the mistake of expecting a sensible answer from her when I found her trying to write her name on the bathroom floor in what looked to be red ink.

“Have you ever felt a point in your life where you feel nothing and you need something, anything to feel alive? When pain will do? That’s what I feel when I cut myself.”

How do you react to that? How do you relate to someone who’s lost all feeling that she feels she has the need to skin herself in order to feel alive? I just threw her a towel. I hoped she still had the decency to clean up after herself. Hey, whatever floats her boat, right?

Let’s get honest here. Bloody towels can really stretch your love for someone. I don’t even have to explain why. Let’s just say that it didn’t take long before I threw in the bloody fucking towel. I just couldn’t care any more.

My soul died that day.

From the distance, I could see the train coming. I smiled to myself at the thought of getting rid of the pot-addled walking loony bin in my ear.

“So Buddhaman,” I turned to him, after telling him about my episode with my bloody fucking ex, “that’s what I think when you say numb to me. Are we on the same plane here?” I wondered if it was alright calling him Buddhaman. It seemed like the insensitive thing to do, seeing as that he was insensitive to my need for space.

“You’re getting there. I hope you didn’t mind our little talk.”

I couldn’t have cared any less.


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