“I think you are on the spectrum, boo,” said Luna.
Maliyan laughed and thought, Always the joker.
Luna wasn’t smiling and continued sympathetically, “Lots of people are. I mean, I like people on the spectrum. I find them interesting.”
Maliyan wasn’t sure what was worse—Luna’s diagnosis of her mental state or his trying to make it better by kindly reassuring her that, regardless, it was fine with him. It made it all the funnier or all the more disturbing.
Being in the middle of making a sandwich, he didn’t look up but said, “That’s why you don’t get jokes. You take things literally. Your brain is wired differently.”
He had a point—about jokes and her mental wiring. However, Maliyan felt it was more of an unwillingness to go along with conventional thought and conversation patterns rather than an inability to. Not knowing what to say to Luna’s latest announcement, she screwed up her nose, patted Iggy on the head, left Luna to his sandwich, and went to her bedroom.
It wasn’t exactly a bedroom. It was more of a verandah that had been covered in a makeshift way at some stage in the shop’s history. Luna’s “house” was two rooms at the back of the shop. One was his bedroom. The other was the kitchen, lounge, and dining room rolled into one. It suited Luna and Iggy perfectly. When Luna moved to Nanima, it was a lifestyle change more than a business decision. He didn’t want to invest in a proper house as he wasn’t sure if the cafe would sink or swim. Maliyan had been living in the shophouse since late spring when Euroka returned from Uluru and took back his hut. After some teething problems, she, Luna, and Iggy adjusted to each other’s fairly constant company in a small space.
At first, Maliyan thought that Luna suggested she move in because Euroka was back and her own house was rented until the end of summer. However, after a while, she suspected that he had other motives. Sometimes, she thought it was because he felt she was strange enough without getting more so down on the Bell all by herself. This morning’s conversation about her mental state seemed to support that hypothesis. Sometimes, she wondered if he just wanted her in the shophouse and found a reason to justify asking her. Either way, it was sweet. Luna was one of the few people Maliyan could tolerate in such close proximity. She assumed that he must have felt the same or, given his nature, he certainly would not have suggested the move. Regardless, summer was moving along, and so was her stay.
Fortunately, the summer had been relatively mild so far. Otherwise, the verandah bedroom would have been a hothouse. Maliyan remembered sleeping in her grandmother’s veranda bed in Yan Yan Gurt (the tiny town twenty minutes out of Nanima where Maliyan’s family came from). Although there were plenty of bedrooms in the farmhouse, her grandmother liked to sleep outside on the verandah. It had mosquito netting nailed to the verandah roof, but it was so old that it was useless. Maliyan would watch the glowing mass of stars from the bed as a young child. The biting winter air was cold, and the oppressive summer heat was hot, but one got used to it. In retrospect, Maliyan felt that her grandmother’s sleeping habits contributed significantly to her longevity and health.
In the yogic tradition, such things are referred to as Bhuta Shuddhi. The words translate as cleansing of the five elements. Our bodies are made of water, earth, wind, fire, and ether (emptiness). If the elements are organised and managed well, there will be health and balance. The body will not complain and will be a valuable tool for the hopefully hundred years we are here. Element cleansing happens naturally when the body is connected with nature. When people are divorced from nature, particularly in high-rise buildings with climate-controlled artificial environments, they lose touch with their bodies. As a result, they become weak and prone to many illnesses and afflictions. Most people do not put much effort into maintaining their bodies properly, but the body is the easiest and most elemental aspect of life to manage and master. Mastery of the physical elements leads to mastery of the mental and energetic elements.
Although Maliyan loved sleeping in her grandmother’s verandah bed, she only loved it when her grandmother was in the bed. Naturally, the grandmother went to sleep much later than her, so Maliyan had to go out on the veranda alone. It was very dark. Most children have some fear of the dark, but Maliyan was intensely afraid of it. And she was afraid of it for much longer than usual for a child. She was well into her teen years before the fear lessened. Even then, it was still significant.
She saw things in the dark, and they weren’t good. Usually, it was some manner of black flying thing that wished harm to her and anyone else it came into contact with. Most of it would have been imagined but maybe not all, as she was both extra-sensitive and extra-sensory. She couldn’t tell anyone about it. It would have been too embarrassing to say that she was terrified of the dark, particularly to farmers (who are tough and brave and walk around in the dark all the time). Anyway, no one would have known what to say other than, Don’t be silly. It’s not real. Go to bed. And that wouldn’t have helped.
In the end, her fear of the dark was greater than her love of sleeping with her grandmother. So, she told her grandmother that she wanted to sleep in the house. Her grandmother looked confused and sad but never asked why. She would have assumed that Maliyan had simply outgrown the enjoyment of sleeping with her. The sad look in her grandmother’s eyes was still imprinted on Maliyan’s consciousness. As she lay on her verandah bed in the shophouse, she thought that the moral of the story was:
If you love sleeping with someone but are scared, you should just say so instead of abandoning ship and sheets.