Easy for us to miss how dangerous he was, given his ability to sit in a state of quiet focus for hours on end. Our realtor had even kinda warned us about him, as we walked through the empty kitchen of the house we were about to purchase. The question seemed innocent enough.
“How do you folks feel about meditation?”
We shrugged a couple of times, which was the only exercise we got that day. She then told us about the guy who lived next door, and how he was, in her words, “Quite the practitioner.”
We laughed, fools that we were. We decided that a guy who sits in a manner of contemplation all day long would be the perfect neighbor, silent and unobtrusive. The realtor then pointed through the window to the other side of the fence. There he was, a wiry man with a shaved head, wrapped in a diaper of sorts, sitting on a little pedestal in his back yard, folded in his lotus position, covered in sweat.
“No problem,” we said. Thus began our descent into madness.
Weeks went by, and it wasn’t long before my neighbor’s serene presence on the other side of the fence began to irritate me. He was there all hours of the day, rain or shine, lost in the peace of his mellow being. He returned none of our casual hellos and friendly waves.
Radiating nothing but tranquility, it was obvious he thought he was better than us, that he was above our family’s petty quarrels and pointless noise.
After a few months of his blissful harassment, our family began to come apart. I was suspended from my job because of a steep decline in productivity, since I’d become completely preoccupied with that zen bastard and his infinite patience. Who the hell did he think he was, flaunting his equanimity? Didn’t he know the modern world was a vicious cage fight between monied savages? What gave him the right to transcend it?
His delicate reflections began to affect my wife, who quickly developed intimacy issues. “He can hear us through the walls,” she whispered, clutching her blanket to her chest and nodding her head toward our neighbor’s yard, where he was no doubt perched in ataraxic disdain over my wilting erection.
Our feud hit a fever pitch during a full-throated shouting match between me and my daughter in the back yard. Accused of being too controlling, she leveled a finger at the meditating monk twenty feet away and yelled, “Why can’t you be more like him!”
So that’s his plan, I decided. The transcendental scumbag wants to drive a wedge between me and my children.
Then my son’s football accidentally landed in his yard after I’d thrown it as hard as I could at the placid yogi, striking him right in his limber neck. He made no move to throw the ball back.
The fucking nerve of some people.
“A little help!” I screamed, but of course his stoic detachment would allow for no such neighborly assistance. I let myself into his back yard to retrieve the football he was trying to steal, and got in his face with some good old-fashioned American fury. Who the hell did he think he was? Where was his anxiety, scorn, paranoia, resentment, fear, generational prejudices, and class hatred? Where was his outrage? In short, what was wrong with him?
It was obvious he was too joyously in tune with the quiet benevolence of the universe to answer me, and so I grabbed him off his little pillar, his body warm and limp like a wet leaf floating in a boiling pot, walked him over to his Koi fishpond and threw the fucker in.
“How’s that for being like water!” I shouted. My satisfaction was brief, like the ephemeral nature of being, as a huge blast erupted from behind me, knocking me into a state of blissful unconsciousness.
I woke up in a hospital bed, scorched and bruised. There was a doctor, a detective, and a reporter standing next to my bed.
“You saved your neighbor’s life,” said the detective.
“Figures,” I muttered.
I got the whole story. Apparently the neighbor who lives on the other side of the meditating monk had gotten so fed up with his arrogant peacefulness that he’d stuffed his little yoga pedestal with dynamite and set it off just as I’d thrown him in the pond.
“Why didn’t I think of that?” I said. “I mean, you know, he would’ve done the same for me.”
“Had it not been for you he would’ve been blown to nirvana,” said the reporter. “You’re a hero. The donations are pouring in. What are you going to do now?”
“Move to a neighborhood full of dysfunctional anarchists,” I said. “A place where I can relax.”