You’re 27 years old, and your life has not turned out as you’d hoped. What do you do? Your heart is telling you that something urgently needs to change. It’s a matter of life and death. At this point, you could keep running into walls, you could lose yourself in drugs, or you could take a leap into another life. The Jump: a short story, powerfully told!
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“Hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo!” A balding, sweaty young man in a dark blue T-shirt and white sweatpants is jumping up and down as though his life depends on it. He’s holding both his arms straight up in the air. Each time his bare feet land on the lino floor, he shouts, “Hoo!” This springing, sweaty young man is 27 years old. I know this better than anyone because the young man is me. As long as I’m jumping, I’m unable to think. I no longer know what has been or what will be. No, dear reader, there are no drugs involved. Nor, according to the ladies and gentlemen of the medical profession, am I suffering from a strange disease. The jumping is accompanied by frenzied drum music blaring from large speakers in the four corners of the hall. Sweat is gushing profusely from the pores on my face. My T-shirt is sopping wet. There’s no time to think about why I’m jumping. I am jumping. And I’m not the only one sweating and jumping here. Anyone who walked in would see three men and four women jumping up and down and shouting, “Hoo!” We could be in a gymnasium, only here, there are plants and Buddha statues instead of climbing frames, mats and cushions instead of wooden benches. They call this hall a meditation space. Location: Munich, Germany. I’m meditating for the very first time in my life. Last night my father, a seasoned practitioner of meditation, gave me instructions on how to do perform dynamic meditation, a form developed by his guru. Both he and his therapist thought it would be a good way to begin the process of unburdening me of my troubles.
I waited in the doorway. Downstairs, I heard him come into the stairwell.
“Yo ho,” he called up cheerily. I was already dreading the overly intimate embrace that was about to come. In his world, they used the English word “hug”. My irritation at those idiots knew no bounds. Dressed in orange with beaded necklaces around their necks, they always embraced each other in such an artificially joyful way. It was pure theatrics. Sanctimonious arseholes! Swami-barmy saps, all of them, thinking they’d found perfect happiness. I heard his flip-flops in the stairwell. Jesus, he was walking slowly. He was doing it to annoy me, no doubt, to provoke me. He had already annoyed me enough by prematurely resigning from his role as my father. I couldn’t help thinking about that each time he bothered to stop by. He needn’t have expected a warm welcome from me, and he knew it, too. But he never gave up. So now, he was here again, this time at my invitation. He beamed at me, eyes wide, and wrapped his arms around me. He seemed genuinely happy to see me. For years, I had wanted nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with him and that Bhagwan, with the orange-frocked spiritual elite who breathlessly did everything their leader told them. I asked if he wanted coffee, an almost redundant question; he was just as fond of coffee as I was. And of smoking. He had never given that up. This, I thought, was actually cool. It wasn’t typical for the Baghwan’s followers to smoke their way through so many cigarettes each day.
This was not the kind of treatment you would expect to get from your GP. In fact, this bordered on madness. However, I had promised myself that I would do everything in my power to transform myself back into what people like to call a functioning member of society. One heart attack was more than enough.
“Now, concentrate, and try to remember where you’ve been injured or operated on.”
I smirked and gave him a look that said, “Are you quite right in the head?” But then I composed myself. Apparently, he was making a serious attempt to give me a spiritual diagnosis. Instead of his stethoscope, he was working with paper and felt-tip pens.
“I did sprain my ankle once,” I said. He looked up in surprise.
“That’s a good start”, he exclaimed with delight.
“Left or right?” he asked.
I thought for a moment.
He took a red pen and drew some lines on my outline’s left ankle. “Fear,” he added, and he gave me a sudden, piercing look, as if this was something he’d also had to deal with.
“And my right knee,” I said. After that, all kinds of past accidents and illnesses sprang to mind. The drawing became a riot of colour annotated with German words like Hass, Angst and Wut.
’Finished,’ he said, and he rolled the drawing up, secured it with a couple of rubber bands, and put it in his bag. We had another cup of coffee, smoked a cigarette, and then he had to be on his way. He promised to call me. We had agreed that I would visit him in Munich for a few days to work with his therapist. I wasn’t to worry about money. He would pay for the flight and any other expenses. I knew that his girlfriend would be funding all of this, but I didn’t care. My life was in the balance here.
Armoured in my black leather jacket and tight black jeans, I entered Schiphol Airport for the very first time. My dagger-toe shoes signalled resistance, rock music, anarchy, and action. But I lacked the last of these, and that was why I was now on my way to see the therapist who would already have closely studied the drawing of my body. In Munich, the customs officers turned me and my luggage inside out. I knew that my appearance was to blame. Furious, I communicated my anger by giving the uniformed Germans an icy glare. This, however, had absolutely no effect. They had singled me out because I was the only passenger not wearing a suit. This relatively expensive KLM flight offered business travellers the opportunity to fly to Munich every day. Such an odd duck dressed all in black was something they rarely saw on this route.
My father picked me up. The first thing we did was get coffee and pump our lungs full of nicotine. Then we stood shoulder to shoulder on the S-Bahn to Munich Central Station. We took the S6 onwards to Gauting, a small German village on the outskirts of the Bavarian metropolis. He lived in a flat on the first floor of a white, detached building near the centre of the village. Below him was a shop that sold bathrooms. Its window was filled with luxurious bathtubs, showers, and sinks. Above him lived the young German businesswoman whom I would eventually meet at a party. My father’s flat was to be my home for the next seven days.
Translation: Hayley Wakenshaw
A short story
A short story powerfully told