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Lions Roar : November 2019
here. Some of the country’s most venerable monks have lain their heads on this pillow. I touch the bed with my finger. It feels fancy, feels like a bed not made in Thailand, not board hard, but rather meant to cushion and cradle the body. In my loneliness, I suddenly relax, and all my usual patterns of mind upturn. I sit on the bed. My bottom is electrified with comfort. My mind says, Stand on it. I put one foot on the bed. Then the other. I like the feeling of the bed underneath my feet—memory foam, like soft, sinking sand. My mind says, Jump. I jump. Once. Tentatively. I look around, lean my ear toward the door. My mind says, Do it again. I do it again. I smile. Keep doing it. I keep doing it, the air billowing my monk robes, like Mari- lyn Monroe and LA air vents, my feet sinking and rising, my stomach heaving up and down, the sheets crumpling and twisting under my weight. It doesn’t matter that the last time I jumped on a bed was when I was eight. It doesn’t matter that I’m not eight but thirty. It doesn’t matter that I’m thirty and overweight. What matters is that I’m jumping on a bed. There’s nothing more important than this moment. It’s pure sensation. It’s action. It’s body responding to mind. Loneliness, I realize, is not the enemy. My breath quickens and I collapse, laying there, looking at the white expansive ceiling, as if it’s the sky of some alien world. once inadvertently starting a four-alarm fire in her parents’ home (a Sabbath candle had fallen unnoticed onto a tablecloth while we were dancing to full-volume Duran Duran). In middle school, we compared our budding adolescent bodies, tried smoking madrone leaves, and inked homemade tattoos on each other with the names of bands we barely listened to but we knew were cool. We were there for each other’s first period and first whispered crushes (hers Dolly Parton, mine John Travolta). We shared a growing awareness of the wild possibilities of a world that always included the other. Then, in our first month of high school, Naomi began to dis- appear at lunchtime, sneaking off when I was in the bathroom or leaving math class early, before I could catch up. While the other kids were all outside in clumps eating lunch, I would wander the halls, checking my watch and pretending I had somewhere else to be. Eventually, Naomi wrote me a breakup letter and slipped it into my backpack. When I got home, out it fell, a single hand- written page explaining that we had grown apart and she was moving on. She wished me well. I crumpled up the letter and threw it in the kitchen trash along with my uneaten lunch. I hadn’t known that friends could leave each other like that. I spent the rest of that fall in a daze. Eventually, I bumped into a group of kind misfits who congregated at the bottom of the courtyard steps, out of the way of the popular kids and the drama. They welcomed me in, and though I was demoted in the school hierarchy, I was happy to have a place to sit. The best part of what I have learned from over fifteen years of studying Buddhism is the same thing I have learned from science: at a cellular level, we are not alone. We are made of iron and carbon, oxygen and saline, indistinguishable on the particulate level from the ocean and the stars. Nothing exists separately from everything. The moments I feel most unmoored are not the moments I am physically alone, but when, in gatherings reminiscent of that high school lunch yard, I feel most separate from other people and from this wild, pulsing earth. I have lost other friends since that day in ninth grade, though none of these losses has cut so deeply. When I am lost, when I am lonely, it is that first lost friendship that I remem- ber, a stump that is now mostly healed but, when jolted, throbs like a phantom limb. That is why the truth of our interdepen- dence is as much a sorrow as a balm. After all, if we are con- nected to everything and everyone in the world, we are also connected to those we have lost, and that loss stays with us as much as the connection. Naomi and I don’t keep in touch. We don’t follow each other on social media. Sometimes, I bump into old acquaintances who never heard about our breakup and they share details about her life. I know that she has two children with her ex-wife, and IRA SUKRUNGRUANG’s books include the memoir Southside Buddhist, the short-story collection The Melting Season, and the poetry collection In Thailand It Is Night. A Phantom Pain We’re all inextricably connected, even to those we’ve lost. RACHEL NEUMANN gives voice to an experience we’ve all had, of being ghosted—and haunted. IN THE FALL OF NINTH GRADE, my best friend in the world dumped me for other friends who were more popular. Naomi and I had spent thousands of hours together since elementary school, roller-skating around town, stealing Jolly Ranchers and nail polish from the local convenience store, and PHOTO©SVETASH/STOCKSYUNITED LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2019 43