The Buddhist Short Story Game: you give me a Buddhist-themed noun, an action, and a location, and I create the story. Today, I was given the noun “Dukkha” (Pāli for suffering), the action “to ride a bike,” and a location “barbershop.” Hope you enjoy the read!
Wayne closed his front door behind him, shutting out the light that had been coming through his apartment window. The hallway was dim and empty, with no other tenants in sight. He let out a deep sigh and stood still for a few moments. He was only heading out for a few hours, but each day he became wearier of leaving Soyoung by herself. Today she had awoken as he reached for his checkered raincoat, and when he asked her how she was she had given him the same response as always: “Dukkha.” He knew what the word meant literally, suffering, and this made him feel uneasy. But he also knew that she was trying to appease him, because she said it with her eyes half shut and a sly grin on her face, which translated to: “Yes, I suffer from this illness, but such is the human condition. Where there is suffering, there is also light.”
Theirs was a love born out of necessity. As neighbors they had known of each other for years, but only when her condition declined did they truly start taking each other into consideration. Every time a new ailment was added to Soyoung’s diagnosis, Wayne’s financial situation also deteriorated. When Soyoung received the news that she could no longer leave the housing projects due to her compromised immune system, Wayne found out that his veteran benefits were being reduced by half. And when Soyoung lost the use of her legs, making her completely bed-bound, Wayne’s associate for years fled the state with the last of Wayne’s meager savings. Bit by bit, he had started running errands for his sick neighbor, and she was more than happy to foot the bill. Over time they had moved into the same apartment and the extra money they saved meant that Wayne could cook them up one decent meal every day. Now he was about to get his hair trimmed, and best of all, he had a companion to go home to. This was a time of plenty
As he made his way down the stairs Wayne noticed two of his former cronies hanging around the main lobby like vultures. He would avoid them and go out the back way; he did not feel like fending off their taunting today. He had put his days of petty theft and scheming behind him, and he had Soyoung to thank for this. While Soyoung’s religion initially struck him as strange and exotic, her faith had brought him closer to God than any church ever had. It was the small things she did that had so impacted him: like the humble bow she made in front of her shrine, and the delicate way she fondled the rose beads between her fingers. As he hoped on his bike, Wayne recognized that his awe for Soyoung’s faith was also impacted by the way she readily accepted her condition. He had been outraged every time he was faced with financial ruin; meanwhile Soyoung accepted every single misery that came her way with grace. He didn’t know how she did it, but he sure was glad he had met her, he thought, as he started riding towards the barber shop.