The Buddha Who Couldn’t Feel & The Fish on the Floor
You were the buddha who couldn’t feel. They carved you out of the grotto in Henan, dilated and full of stone. Sent you to look after a new mountain. On your journey here, they left your feet behind. They lost every one of your thousand arms and installed your seat too high up from the ground.
You referred to yourself as This Seat, a mistranslation of 本座 out of respect for the myriad of available high-tech employee water closets in the building. You spoke in Title Font your Edicts and Pronouncements. Your new wards quickly followed suit and spoke back in the Title Font of sales: Automatic Self-Cleaning Turbo Flush Bidet Slim Model, Sure To Impress And Wow Your Guests, Available Only For A Limited Time. You would watch over the employees of this toilet company for the next one hundred years, until the day you met me.
I was the fish on the floor trying to ascend. We met on the 57th floor and you thought I had come in through the window. The storm waged on but from inside the building I couldn’t hear it. I hoped you would like me. I brought you a greeting gift of a chipped toilet seat I had come across in the wreckage. I wanted you to like me. I brought you a demolished half wall. A pile of overdue invoices from the 62nd floor, neatly stacked. A moon-white scale from my belly.
I threw myself from floor to floor. I brought other offerings to your altar. Every time I heard Title Font, I knew you were close by and watching. In this vertical place, you were omni-present and seated, but never on a heated toilet seat, as you didn’t take any shits. I liked that about you. You were deity-large and non-explosive.
There could have been clouds. I wasn’t paying much attention to the weather. It shifted outside noiselessly. The waters kept climbing, almost as diligent. I was determined. I told you about the myth I was carrying, instructions from my ancestors about climbing to the highest point, to ascension. You recommended taking the elevator.
In the third week, I saw the ocean in the sky. We observed it together, me sitting by your side. We shared a view of the ocean-sky, and a picnic of bathroom tile chunks in a cracked toilet bowl, infused with ocean-tossed plastic vinaigrette. I fantasized about being held by you in the rain and fog, my skin pH-balanced and hydrated, my cold body in your stone embrace.
The floodwater continued to slip up against the sides of this skyscraper you had inhabited and blessed all these years. I was also very determined. Sometime in the third month, I got to the penthouse peak of this toilet-industry-forsaken place. I flopped out of the elevator and ascended. Struck by the aliveness of the weather, over and underwater, roaring and raging and out of control. It felt like I had finally caught up to the ocean as it leapt into the heavens. You felt nothing, as usual, your feet and feeling stuck to another water-logged continent. With none of your thousand hands you reached me.
Emily Lu is the author of the chapbooks There is no wifi in the afterlife (San Press 2022) and Night Leaves Nothing New (Baseline Press 2019). She lives in Toronto. linktr.ee/yyemilylu.
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