POSTCARD #190: DELHI Hospital OPD: First time here, looking for room number twenty-four in a sea of people. There it is – and a seat near the door is vacating itself as I approach, a hair’s breadth thing, musical chairs. Reverse into place; beeb-beeb-beeb, lower body in sitting posture: ‘This seat has been taken folks, thank you’. Possession, identity, this is ‘me’, head upright, but easy behaviour, no fast moves, no eyes looking out… an averted watching through peripheral vision. I’ll not interrupt your eye-beams folks, go right ahead… and I’m looked at with a few fast head-to-toe glances, visual-sweeps I can feel coming from different parts of the room. The only white guy here, probably the whole building; pale, bleached-out, transparent, old, colourless. White hair, white beard, white shirt; a totality of whiteness, OMG! how white can you get?
Yep, it hurts the eyes, sorry about that but you’ll not notice me after a while, merge with background patterns, disappear before your very eyes; it’ll seem like I’ve always been here, neutrality, nothing remarkable, neither too much, nor too little. Trying to blend chamelion-like with skin tones of chestnut brown, volcanic ochre, oatmeal-compexioned, golden people. Gold-bangled, gold-ear-ringed, nose-ringed women – toe-ringed too, open sandals swish-swoosh footwear, soft-shoe shuffle: swish swoosh through the standing crowds, magical beings in vivid costumes of all kinds.
I can close my eyes now and drop back into the inner world, a kind of circus-clown backwards tumble into the darkness of that inner space. Neutrality; I can find it straight away sometimes, just the action of letting the mind go; a sense of opening in receptivity to nothing in particular – the space between things. The neutral feeling that’s neither one thing nor the other, not really noticeable – of course, you could be looking straight at neutrality and not see it. It’s that space, the gap that comes before any action takes place. Finding my centre in that space.
There’s a childhood memory of a face looking down at me, mouth articulating words I can understand but somehow said too slowly and I’m already wondering if I missed something: “Now, are you listenin to me? Just think about what you’re doing before you do it okay?” and for an instant I’d get stuck with that… maybe I could see what was needed to make it work – I think. Or maybe it’s taken me all this time, right up to the present moment, writing this post; it’s taken me decades to understand that it’s neither this nor that, neither coming or going. Touch base with neutrality.
Somebody calls my name; it’s my turn I’m led into a small room and a small doctor aged 60 maybe with tightly groomed bristly grey beard that grows all round his mouth right up to the edge of a dark purple lip line, original front teeth one larger than the other. Other than that, hardly any eyes, no ears seen, baldness with a few brave hairs blowing in the breeze from the ceiling fan. So his central feature is this island of mouth in a field of grey beard, but a nice man, kind, smiles a lot. I tell him about these headaches all the time, show him the diagnoses by other docs: PHN and a really yuk photo in my phone-camera of the Herpes Zoster in full bloom. He spins around the cranium (a mouth in a head) something insectoid? Says, as he is writing, Tegrital 200mg, Tryptomer 25mg, (Carbamazepine), and it’s scribbled in unreadable writing, same as all doctors do, gives it to me and I’m gone.
So that’s it, back into neutrality, wondering if these new meds are going to end up in another crash course in how to avoid dependency… or not.
“There is that dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support. This, just this, is the end of stress.” [Udana, third book of the Khuddaka Nikaya 8.1]