Silently, the daring clouds arrived like a magnificent fleet that nothing could deter; in a few hours, victorious conquering the whole sky for the next months. Bringing the sky closer to earth, they extended and unified their reigns under the pour down.
Deporting the sun from view, their dark barrier made the days seem shorter, as the light grew dim -- until liquid light started falling from the sky, in the form of thick, shiny raindrops. As with great determination they gathered in puddles on the soil, taken hostage to their own will and purpose of reflecting the mother clouds above, Armand had the impression that the earth itself had liquefied too, becoming part of sky, drenched in one single element.
After days of running wild and free from their obligations, Armand and Dave readily resumed the former monastic discipline of meditating for several hours each session, many sessions a day, with renewed diligence.
Instead of the monastery bells, rolling thunders and the splattering of water marked the steady rhythm of their meditation. Through their half-open eyes they observed as the rain fell continually, sometimes so thick and heavy as to fall in neat vertical curtains, other times lighter and brighter, often carried by gushes of wind, arching through the landscape like wild horses rearing to the menacing strikes of purple lighting that flogged the horizon.
Concentrating on his breathing passing in and out of his nostrils, Armand felt the quality of air change, as it grew heavily humid -- and he started to understand Dave's warnings about how everything about them would grow impossibly moist -- even his lungs, it seemed.
He often felt like he was drowning from breathing the vapour of water that reached him, through the closed curtains even. Since they hadn't put the monastic robes on, staying in their underwear the whole day through, Armand became very aware of how the temperature oscillated several times, too. From a nasty, indolent warmth that made him sleepy, to the chilly breeze agitating the curtains and giving him goose bumps, there no longer was any possible comfortable circumstance to meditate.
And as if his body was trying to become one with the dominant element, Armand sweated profusely. But except for the different odour, it was hard to tell if what covered him, and ran in streams along his muscles, was sweat or raindrops. It seemed pointless to bathe in the lake, once they never were really dry any longer.
Armand started regretting the rain not for having drawn away the silence, nor for ruining the books, the words of the Buddha turned discontinuous as their pages grew thick and glued to one another, or for spoiling the food -- but for making him and Dave grow apart.
They would surely endure the lighter rain without leaving their cushions, but still had often to retreat far back into their precarious rooms to escape the violence of passing storms, when the streams of water could hit them with the force of whips.
After having kept constant company to each other for weeks, Armand hurt as a mere wall stood as a painful obstacle between them. Like before with Carlo, who had occupied the room next to his on the Île du Blanchomme, Armand could not decide whether to venture into Dave's cubicle -- even if it were to start a conversation he should have had weeks ago already.
Suddenly becoming aware to have not reciprocated Dave's confession, he regretted it now -- withholding his own sexuality from his colleague. But Armand had often sensed there was no space -- or need? --, no openness -- or interest? -- indeed, for him to talk about himself to his friend. Dave's confession had versed on his professional sexuality only, with all its torments, which included a guilty pride that ultimately stimulated fantasies from Armand's part. Nothing of a more personal, intimate nature had been hinted -- except, perhaps, for that film crew member who seemed to have taken Dave's virginity and, in the end, recruited him to the porn industry. Perhaps it was Armand's tragic tendency, which had led him into so much frustration, that of separating love and sex, almost opposing the romantic involvement he longed for, and the physical satisfaction he craved for, that made Dave's straightforward, cold and detached openness seem the more mysterious to Armand.
Armand's surrender to Dave's dominance was slow, and so subtle, that it soon became complete. In all everyday aspects, Dave knew better how to organize their retreat. Having learned the sutras by heart, he taught Armand how to correctly recite them while holding the privilege to conduct their religious practices. In practical matters, too, his experience with prior rains seasons had led him to take care even of the cooking, determining the times they ate their meals, imprinting the rhythm of their daily routine. Dave loved tea and prepared it throughout the day for both of them, often adding dried petals or peels of fruits to the leaves -- that Armand drank with pleasure. Naturally, the surfer monk conducted their tea ceremonies, too.
"Drink your cloud", he commanded Armand, with an inviting smile, as he offered him a cup of fragrant -- if oftentimes a bit too bitter -- tea. "Drink your mountain, drink your sun."
Dave could be surprisingly poetic, he could be strikingly philosophical.
But Armand wanted more, needed more, longed for more.
He wanted the surfer monk to be romantic, too.
Instead, as days passed under unceasing rain, and being confined to their rooms, perhaps just a little less wet than everything else around them, and to a monastic routine that demanded hours of immobility, made the tension and discomfort grow between them -- and not peace and camaraderie, that they should be cultivating.
During the brief intervals when the sun shone, in awe Armand observed Dave practice martial arts. With grunts and shouts, he cut the air with sharp punches and powerful kicks in continuous pirouettes, as if he were trying to bring down the bad weather with his violent fighting. When he couldn't, and the rain resumed, in frustration Dave would let out a cry of protest that sent shivers up Armand's spine.
One evening, weeks into their rain season's retreat, Armand had a dream. It was a welcome distraction, for he had been feeling sick -- though he could not precise how, since his stomach functioned normally, and there was neither fever nor any other symptom of any disease --, continually dizzy, tortured by constant headaches.
Not a complete dream, though. There was no action in it. It was just a scene, one that Armand had often fantasized about since Dave had shared with him about his days of hustling. Dressed in a tight tank top and jeans, that left little to imagination, wearing a cowboy hat and boots, Dave stood against a lamppost, waiting for clients. But none appeared, and he grew increasingly impatient and anguished, violent even, stamping his foot on the sidewalk. Until he found out there were no clients anymore, and the reason for that was Armand, who intently observed him from the distance, driving all other men away.
For, in fact, in Thailand, on their floating monastery, they were indeed the only two men, living in enforced chastity.
Armand woke up suffocating, locked against the bottom of the hammock. On top of him, muscles bulging with rage, Dave weighed a ton.