Daniel knew it from the moment he woke up. The texture of his sheets - clammy from too many strange dreams and begging for a wash - felt different, as if they weren't there. The weather - cloudy and oppressive - didn't bother him. His cat - that greedy nuisance - was looking at him differently, like it suddenly felt ashamed of its impotence to feed itself. Even the silence of his flat felt different, as if it had been tuned to a different key.
Daniel, my friends, was enlightened.
A few weeks before this glorious and divine day, a particularly suggestible mood found Daniel subscribing to a meditation app that had been following him around the internet long enough to make it look worthwhile. The app - neatly designed and reassuring - promised an easy path to enlightenment. The guy behind it - a jacked-up baldie with a piercing look and a perfectly trimmed beard - gave a believable and at times emotional speech about his journey. He too had suffered, but he had found a secret shortcut out and wanted to share it with as many people as possible.
And what a shortcut indeed. The app didn't ask of its clients to sell their belongings and relocate to a mountaintop monastery for the unforeseeable future. It's actually all about the here and now, the man declared, as if those words were being uttered for the first time, while an image of a misty Tibetan sunrise morphed into a photo of a tiny living room. His meditation plan would propel you to the top of the spiritual mountain from the comfort of your home, in small chunks of forty minutes for forty days- like a modern-day Moses, Daniel giggled . All you needed was a cushion, and if you didn't have one, you could get yourself a branded one for only £89.
Daniel was in. There was nothing he wanted more than enlightenment. Well, other than the things he really wanted - a bigger house, a 20k raise, his ex-girlfriend back, a long holiday on their favourite island in the Caribbean where they'd get pregnant with their first child. But the pandemic had other plans for him. His boss had to cut his pay in half, as the car dealership wasn't doing well. And Michelle seemed really happy isolating with her new boyfriend Will, who didn't need enlightenment because he was loved by the best woman and had a three-bedroom house with a garden and a rescue dog.
Whatever whatever whatever, Daniel thought as he unboxed his new cushion, already feeling lighter.
So, on his first day of the program, Daniel disabled all social media - not before posting a long soliloqui on his intention to rip the bandaid of reality and merge with higher frequencies beyond the suffering of materialistic fakeness. It felt fantastic, like a suicide letter when one gets to come back and rub their spiritual makeover in everyone's unenlightened faces. And the meditation was a breeze, which Daniel celebrated with two beers and a cheeky McDonald's delivery - the wise bald man hadn't said anything against it after all.
The following days were more of a challenge. Without social media, Daniel's brain took over the task of producing the infinite scroll of content he was so addicted to. This was especially tough in meditations, where his affirmations and mantras often echoed over little square pictures of Michelle kissing Will across the kitchen table, Michelle baking Will heart-shaped biscuits, or, on worse days, Michelle and Will chasing three small children on a Caribbean beach. The meditations exhausted him, which he took as a sign of progress - always rewarded with a couple of beers and the frozen pizza he'd stashed his freezer with, so he wouldn't have his vibrations mix with the obvious lower vibrating dudes from the off-license, who had to work through lockdown.
And then a miracle happened. On day thirty-four, Daniel woke up feeling... different. He made it through his forty minutes of meditation without thinking about Michelle once. And when he did bring her up, afterwards, the memory of her face - her smooth mediterranean skin, the dreamy blue eyes, the smile lines around them - left him indifferent. Later, when he went into the kitchen to heat up his daily frozen pizza, he found himself indifferent to the small L-shaped poop the cat had left by the door. Indifferent to the lukewarm pepperoni pizza. Indifferent to the sudden lack of ketchup. Indifferent to the error preventing Netflix from loading. He went to bed at 9PM, and slept peacefully, without dreaming.
On day thirty-five the feeling persisted, as it did on day thirty-six, seven, eight and nine. So when Daniel woke up on day forty still indifferent, he knew the jacked-up baldie was a bloody genius. The thought of having reached enlightenment gave him a small jolt of excitement that propelled him towards his phone to call the only friend he didn't share with Michelle, Chris. He said it all in one breath, the affirmations, the mantras, the here and nows, and his newfound feeling of indifference regarding not just Michelle, but the entirety of life in general. And when, minutes later, he stopped, leaving space for Chris to express his awe and admiration (and perhaps a tinge of jealousy), he was surprised to hear prolonged silence, followed by a deep sigh at the other end of the line.
"Danny, sweetheart, I think you're depressed."