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The night was a mixture of red and blue, and the light of the small fire in the backyard flickered softly. It was the end of October, and the nights were cold here.
I was trying to flick pieces of coal into the fire. Continuing to do this, I noticed that the embers had consumed the coal and now nothing remained but an empty, blackened grate.
I had no desire at that moment to cross even beyond the boundary of the backyard, much less to start a strict new life forced upon me, somewhere far away. But that was exactly what my father had in mind.
It all completely clashed with the life I wanted to lead, a normal life. I was a 19 year old who had just finished up my first year at university, and I’d had big plans.
But those plans were suddenly over. My father had decided that it was time for me to join a monastery, in order to save my soul.
It completely threw me for a loop, but I knew that I had to go along with it. My father was a strangely powerful man, and even now at 19 he could always make me do what he wanted. Greatly pained, I had to go along with what he had in mind, whatever it was.
I wondered if every event in my life had been so utterly out of my control. But I knew that wasn’t the case. If it was, I would have long since given up on life and gone to some dark place.
My father had gotten this monastery idea after he met a man at a bar. He never told me exactly what had happened, but he did say that the man convinced him to pledge his youngest son to the monastery and then somehow bought me an airplane ticket.
Of course, I didn’t have a clue what was going on. All I knew was that I was supposed to go to a monastery in the north of France, leave all my possessions behind, and start my life as a monk.
The embers grew brighter and I could see my breath in the cold air. It occurred to me then that it might be nice to exchange my empty soda bottle for a glass of wine.
As I walked over to the kitchen, I heard the sound of the garage door opening. My father was home.
I quickly finished pouring the wine and went to see him. I found him still in the garage, tinkering with a motorcycle.
“Hey, Dad,” I said, greeting him quietly.
He looked up at me and said, “You’re drinking wine the night before you leave for the monastery. That’s a first. Well, I will too, since it’s a Friday. I thought I’d have a drink before bed. And before your big day.
“Might be the last time I get to have a drink with my son,” he continued, shaking his head wistfully.
I paused, not knowing what to say. I had always thought of my father as a powerful man. Now, I was starting to see that he was more than just that. He was someone who could always make me do what he wanted, even if it meant leaving everything behind.
The taste of the wine was sweet on my tongue, the smell of pine mixed with the smell of gasoline and oil. My father had been a car mechanic back when he was my age, and he loved motorcycles.
“It’s good to work on your bike every once in a while,” he was saying, “keeps the adrenaline going.”
He stopped talking and looked at me, his face blank and without emotion.
“I’ve got to head upstairs now,” I said quickly, before he could say anything else.
I walked up the stairs as quickly as I could, still feeling the cool breeze in the air. I was very much looking forward to hitting the hay.
I stepped into the room and looked around. My entire life had happened in this room. I had never felt a need to leave it, to start over in the world.
I looked in the mirror on the back of my bedroom door. My scruffy young man’s beard was a little unkempt, but my eyes clear and focused. My shoulders were broad, and popping out from my shirt collar was a thick splash of chest hair, frankly a lot for a guy of my age.
My hands were a little rough from a few days of helping my dad with bike maintenance, and I had a slight smell of grease. I knew I didn’t look positioned for a monastery, but that was something I didn’t let myself think about.
I had to stay focused and keep my mind on the task ahead. I had to leave behind everything here and start a new life. It was like a prison sentence. You run from it as long as you can, but eventually it catches up to you and you have no choice but to go inside.
I had this vision of being in the monastery for the rest of my years, getting old and decrepit and disappearing from the world.
I took off my shirt and turned away from the mirror. Outside in the yard, the embers had burned down to orange glowing coals and smoke was rising from the burned-out fire.
Through the window, it was a beautiful night. The stars were bright and the moon majestic and full. I could see the silhouette of the mini-skirted houses in the distance and the outlines of their roofs.
I closed my eyes and thought of my father sitting on the couch downstairs, drinking wine. The thought of him drinking alone, now for every night forever, made me feel so terrible inside.
My father turned off the motorcycle engine istanbul travesti in the garage and I could hear his footsteps as he came up to the bedroom door. He hesitated for a few seconds and I sensed that this was a very special, important moment.
I opened my eyes and found my father standing there, holding a wine bottle in his hand. I looked at him as he slowly stepped toward me.
“Force of habit, Adam,” he said.
He clenched the bottle tightly, his lips curled into a smile, and as I looked at his face I saw in his eyes the same look I had seen every time he was about to give me an order.
“I’m going to miss you,” he said. “But I have no choice.”
It was impossible to give in to tears. I realized that my father was probably the only one who truly understood what the morning would be like. He had given me countless orders, but never one that made me cry.
My father walked to the closet and quickly opened it. He took out the clothes I would be wearing.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “I can choose my own clothes.”
“Hands off,” he said. “I saw you wearing this the other day and thought it was very nice.”
I looked at the clothes. A soft dark blue button-up shirt, a pair of dark chinos and brown loafers.
“I really think that I should be able to choose my own clothes,” I said, but I knew how futile it was to argue with my father.
I looked back at my father. He stared at me, his eyes at once soft and stern.
“I’m going to miss you,” he said again. “I wouldn’t be able to do it, if I didn’t think you were doing something good for your soul. I know how you feel, but I also know that it’s for the best. I’m very proud of you.”
I looked back at my father. He had picked up my shirt and barely could hold it in his hands.
“I’m going to miss you, too,” I said.
“I love you, son.”
“I love you, too, Dad.”
He let go of the shirt and I could see the tears in his eyes. He reached out and hugged me tightly. I could tell that his hands were trembling.
I hugged him back. I knew that both of us were holding back the tears, but I was going to give in at last.
“No more crying,” he said softly. “I won’t let you.”
And with that, he released me and turned away.
“I’m going to go downstairs and drink to your journey,” he said. “It will be all right. You go to sleep.”
I sat down on the bed as he left the room. I wiped my face, feeling the hot tears course down my cheeks.
The morning called to me from outside. It was still dark, but I felt the cold giving way to imminent sunrise, and I was struck by the pang of leaving the warm house I had been living in for the past nine years.
I got up and looked out my window. My dad’s car was parked in front of the house. This was all happening so suddenly, but this was usually the time when we would get up and have breakfast together, when we would talk about the plans for the day.
We had always tried to be a very close family, even though my mom had left us years ago and my brothers moved out to go to college back east. We still answered to each other and still took care of each other when we needed help.
I took a shower and dressed in the clothes that my father had gotten for me. There was a brown leather messenger bag hanging from my shoulder. I looked at myself in the mirror and examined my face. I looked tired and a little disheveled, but I knew that it was going to be okay.
The embers still glowed in the yard. I walked out into the morning, the cool air a delight on my face. I took in the smell of the morning, the drunken scent of the wine from the night before, and the smell of the burning embers.
I stopped and looked down at the ashes.
“Goodbye, my friends,” I said softly. “I’m going on a journey now, and I probably won’t ever be able to come back. But I’ll miss you all the same.”
I took a deep breath and walked away from the ashes, towards a future completely unknown.
The plane touched down in Amiens, France, and I lowered my luggage as I got off the plane. I walked through the crowd of passengers, knowing that this was it.
My hands were cold from the long flight, as were my feet, and I pulled up my sweater to shield myself from the cold.
I had always been keen to learn about new cultures and customs, and despite my angst over the sudden monastery decision, I was interested in discovering the world.
And now, on a cold morning in Amiens, France, I was about to do just that.
There was a line of people waiting to collect their bags, and I stood in line patiently. I had wondered what the customs and cultures would be like in France, but I assumed that I would be greeted warmly by the French.
As soon as I reached the end of the line, I was greeted by a man who looked to be a few years older than me, with dark hair and a dark beard. He was wearing a black chino suit, thick glasses with thick, black lenses, and a beige sweater vest over a white shirt.
“Welcome to France, sir,” he said.
“Thanks,” istanbul travestileri I said, smiling. “I’m Adam Delgado.”
“I’m Benjamin,” he said.
Benjamin held out his hand to me and I shook it. It was a very warm, firm handshake.
“I was sent here to see you assigned to a new monastery,” he said. “You will not actually be at the main abbey here in Amiens. Instead, you will be at a smaller monastery further north. It is in the community of Les Mouettes, and the monks there are more advanced in their understanding of the path of God. They are experts in the art of contemplation.”
“I see,” I said.
“Doing something good for your soul is the most important thing,” Benjamin said. “You will be away from the public eye, but you will be able to study and learn at your own pace. Are you ready for this?”
I took a deep breath and nodded. I was ready for anything.
Les Mouettes was a further hour and a half journey northwest along the coast. I got off the small train at a station alongside a surprising number of trees. The station itself was a wooden building, a simple structure built of rough wood, but the surrounding area was like a forest. As soon as I exited the train and walked out onto the platform I was greeted on all sides by the trees.
I looked up at the leaves, the way they rustled in the wind, and felt a sense of peace wash over me. I may not have wanted it, I thought to myself, but this was my new home now.
I’d been told by Benjamin that I’d be met at the station by a man named Claude. I walked outside, and as I did, there was a call from the trees ahead.
I turned and saw Claude walking towards me. He was shorter than Benjamin, but very broad in the shoulders. He looked to be in his twenties, with sharp features, his nose protruding and his jaw square. He was wearing a bright red shirt, the sleeves rolled up to just below his elbows, a deep V-neck that showed his tanned collarbone, and dark brown cargo pants. He had a gun strapped to his side and a pack over his shoulder.
I did a double-take at the sight of the weaponry.
“Welcome to France, my friend,” Claude said. “The hum of the trees is very nice, is it not? And the ocean, the way it calls out to you. I have learned to feel the call of the ocean.”
“It’s beautiful,” I replied.
Claude leaned forward and held out his hand to shake mine. I took it in my own and felt the strength in his hand.
I flinched subconsciously as my arm brushed near Claude’s gun, and he noticed.
“Yes, I’m a bit of a weapons enthusiast,” he said, letting go of my hand. “I don’t know what they teach you today, but we used to learn the art of knives, swords, and other such weaponry as children. It was a useful skill, as you well know.”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be so… scared.”
“It’s okay,” he said. “You’re safe with me. Benjamin has told me all about you. A good boy, Benjamin thought, and I agree with him. Now come, let’s show you to the monastery and find your room.”
Claude turned and walked down the path. I followed, keeping my eyes glued to his back.
The monastery, it turned out, was a very large complex, with buildings built on top of each other, reflecting the history of how the monastery had grown as it had been built upon. There was a central building, with many small cell buildings in between. It looked like a military compound of sorts.
Claude led me to the south building, which looked like the administrative office, and knocked on the door.
I looked up at the ivy that covered the building, and then down to the path that lead to the monastery.
The whole thing was so surreal. Concentrating on the ivy, I could feel a sense of connection to it, and it made me feel calm.
The door opened after a few minutes and a man in his early thirties appeared. He was wearing a green button-up shirt, with a tie, and khakis, and had a pair of glasses on his nose.
“Hello,” he said, smiling. “So you are Adam Delgado. Welcome to Les Mouettes.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“I am Puccio,” he said. “Deep inside, I am like you, and I understand that you have a difficult decision to make. But once you have done that, I am certain that you will come to find that our path is one you can follow.”
I wasn’t sure I understood what he meant by that.
“Come, I will show you to your room,” Puccio said. “You will be assigned to a small cell near the south tower. It is just an empty room for now, but you will be able to decorate it with whatever you want.”
“Claude let me know I would be getting one of these rooms, sir,” I said. “Thank you very much.”
“You are most welcome,” Puccio said.
I followed Puccio through the building, up a flight of stairs, and into a little room. In the center was a bed and a single desk.
“I need to concentrate on another thing,” Puccio said, “but I will be back in a few hours. If you need anything, just please knock on the door and I will come to you.”
He travesti istanbul left the room and I moved to the corner of the room and looked at the desk. It had a small lamp and a few books.
“Hello,” someone said.
I turned around and saw a guy around my age, wearing a simple shirt, jeans, and a pair of brown boots.
“I’m Adam,” I said.
“I’m Paul,” he said.
We shook hands. Paul was compact and had a strong grip.
“So, this is your room,” Paul said. “What do you think?”
“It’s nice,” I said. “I’m not sure what to do with it.”
“I have some ideas,” Paul said. “But I have to shower and then go to the dining room. I suppose I could show you the area, but of course we are supposed to be meeting with the head monk, Benedict, in an hour. Shall I meet you there?”
“I’d like that,” I said.
Paul nodded and left. I sat at the desk and looked around the small window. I was amazed at how large the monastery was. It felt larger than any monastery I’d read about in my textbooks. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, it was like a small city all its own.
At the horizon line, I realized that I was looking out across the water at a lighthouse. It was a dark, narrow shape, poking out of the ocean.
I felt like I was beginning to understand why Benjamin had been so insistent on me coming here. He’d said it was quiet, far from civilization, but this place was like a city. It was quiet, sure, but it was loud in its own way.
I opened a book on the desk, and found it to be a text on art appreciation. I looked at the small images and paragraphs describing the work and began to read.
After a while, fully engrossed, I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“Hi,” Paul said.
I turned around and saw him holding a basket.
“A gift,” he said, handing it to me.
Paul’s compact, muscular body was something I noticed again when I stood up. His appearance was somehow strangely voluptuous. As I was watching him I realized that I was starting to have some kind of strange feeling that I didn’t recognize.
“Thank you,” I said.
Paul walked across the room and sat on the bed, leaning on his knees.
“Raging ocean, forever calling to me,” he said, his voice flat and slow. “Raging sea I shall sail, forever casting my dreams to the horizon.”
“Raging sea?” I asked.
“Yes, I wrote a song about it,” he said. “It’s quite good. I have a fresh batch of songs, actually.”
“Really,” I said, sitting beside him. “I’m looking forward to hearing them.”
I took the basket and looked inside. I found some fruit and some bread, and a couple of bottles of water.
“Fingers of the sea,” Paul said, taking a bottle and drinking it. “So sweet and tender they are, trembly and quivering.”
I smiled at him.
“Are you French?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m from a small village in the south of France,” Paul said. “I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it, but it’s quite well-known for its wine.”
“Learning about wine is one of my hobbies,” I said. “My dad and I love to go on the weekends and check out new vineyards.”
“I can see why,” Paul said, looking at me. “What do you like to drink?”
“I like anything with a bite. Nebbiolo, Malbec, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay,” I said.
“I certainly hope you haven’t been gifted with the same taste as me,” Paul said, smiling. “I’m afraid I’m a wine connoisseur, and cannot handle anything else.”
“It’s nice to meet an expert,” I said, smiling.
I felt another tap on my shoulder, and turned around. It was Claude. He was holding my bag.
“Sorry,” he said. “I lost track of time. Are you hungry?”
“I’ve got a mandarin and some bread,” I said.
Claude walked across the room and sat on the bed beside Paul.
“I’ve stretched the limits of my to-do list so far today,” he said. “I’m afraid I’ve had to neglect you for a bit. We’ll have to make it up to you.”
“Sounds good,” I said.
“I’ll go get something nice for you,” Claude said. “Cigars, perhaps?”
I was surprised that any of these items were allowed at the monastery. Wine, but now cigars of all things?
“The first time I came here, I was given a small vial of nicotine,” Claude said. “It is supposed to be very soothing. Or at least I find it is.”
Claude walked across the room and fully opened a drawer, pulling out a small glass bottle with a glass stopper.
“It’s local, but strong,” Claude said. “If you don’t like it, don’t worry about it. It won’t hurt you.”
The bottle’s glass was hard and clear. It was the color of old blood and had a red tinge to it.
Claude walked back across the room and handed it to me. I unscrewed the top and sniffed it, then I took a drink.
It tasted like an old antique dry wine, sweet and dark. I got a small taste of it in my mouth, and then another drink, before finally, I stopped drinking and handed it back to Claude.
“That’s fine, I think,” I said. “It’s very strong.”
“I suppose,” Claude said, smiling. “I don’t know if it will be as much of a treat for you as it was for me.”
“Before I get too comfortable here, I think I should take a look around,” I said.
“I think that would be a good idea,” Paul said, getting up from the bed. “We need to meet with Benedict anyhow, as he’s the head monk.”
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