Chapter 4 – Nik & Tak

On her walk over to Tak’s office Nik passed some of the college gardens, bursting with plants of all kinds. The mostly Australian native shrubs and trees were interspersed with food plants of all kinds and attracted a wide variety of animal (and human) life, from birds and mammals to marsupials to reptiles. Despite the heat of the lunch hour, several groups of people of all ages were tending to the gardens and mingling together or alone in the different meet and retreat areas.

Nik could never get enough of the campus vibe, it was so pleasant and interesting, there were always interesting people around, new things and ideas to explore. On a sober note she realised that the vivacious college vibe was mostly responsible for her lack of personal life. The campus WAS her life. She had spent many nights on a camp roll in her office when she could just not be bothered going home.

Nik greeted several people as she walked past, made eye contact with a few more and was tempted to stop for a chat with a student before reminding herself that she was en route to meeting her mentor. She was one to make friends – and turn heads – wherever she went, slim and tall, with a natural olive tan and thick blonde hair, Nik raised the spirits of those around her with her hazel brown cat eyes, full-lipped smile, and her genuine, open nature.

Takao’s door was open, he was sitting behind his desk considering the holographic screen in front of him, eyes squinting, brow furrowed. He looked up when she came in, smiled, and got up to kiss her on both cheeks. Nik picked up the concern for her in his eyes and voice when he welcomed her, and a surge of love went through her for this man, her counsellor, teacher and friend of almost 20 years. Takao was family.

He was also a martial artist and his usual look that of a samurai fighter: loose black clothes with intricate stitched-on patterns, precisely-trimmed moustache, and long, raven black hair that he wore in a ponytail. Though not very tall, his aura and physique reflected the power of a respected man in his prime.

‘Have a seat!’ Tak said as he went over to his mini kitchen, set up behind sliding doors in the far corner of the room.

Nik sat back on Takao’s lounge, slipped off her Birkenstocks and propped her feet up on the chaise long. Then she closed her eyes, took some deep breaths, and prepared herself. After a couple of minutes, Takao came back holding a small tray covered in a variety of utensils from which he fixed them two fragrant cups of peppermint and ginger tea. Everything was a ceremony for Takao Suzuki, especially drinking tea.

‘So, what’s going on?’ he asked after he had sat down in his armchair and served up the tea in silence, ‘Any particular reason you are ignoring your holiday warnings? I must admit I only realised today that you have been avoiding me, too.’

Nikola nodded, looking into her cup of tea. She felt defeated, and it wasn’t like Takao was trying to win. His words would have seemed harsh if she did not know him so well.

‘I have, actually,’ she replied, ‘I have been doing what I teach my clients not to do.’

Takao nodded but said nothing.

‘Buried myself in work to forget how lonely I am, to drown out the pain of Ben leaving me and then having a child with his new flame so soon…’ she trailed off, then continued after a moment, ‘You know what it is? I’m getting old! And all around me are these young kids having babies now, and I am married only to my work. And I love my work, don’t get me wrong, it’s my chosen way of life, and I don’t want to give it up. It just seems impossible for me to find someone on my level, that understands and appreciates what I do! Oh Tak…it’s just…I really want children…’

Nik had tears running down her cheeks now.

Takao sighed. He knew how tough it could be to find a partner, even nowadays where dating sites matched not only people’s interests, but also chemical make ups. In the end, getting along was never something that could be pre-programmed. And Nik certainly had tried out many different avenues to find Mr Right, each one more draining than the last.

‘Part of me feels ashamed, like I should be above these worldly, fleshly, mundane desires. Like I should just meditate them away.’

Nik reached for some tissues and blew her nose noisily.

Tak considered for a moment, then said, ‘You will make a great mother one day, Nikola, and your children will be bright lotus flowers in the murky swamps of the mundane.’

Nik’s flow of tears increased and Takao gave her some space while he took a sip of tea and considered.

When Nik had calmed down somewhat, Takao began.

‘It’s hard for us servers. The community is always first. It’s a calling, this work, it dictates much of our lives, and once we’re in it, we can’t escape the call to support those in need, to learn more so that we can understand more, help more. We get richly rewarded, we earn respect, enjoy a special standing in the communities we serve. We earn a lot of goodwill from those we help heal. But the sacrifices can be bitter. Many of us stay alone. Expending so much energy on others often means that we don’t have enough left for a primary partner. But some of us make it work, and you don’t have to work so much, you make yourself into a martyr.’

Nik stirred at that but Takao went on, ‘I have always felt like I was meant to stay solo. I love everyone. I had relationships in my teens and twenties, I knew that sweet love, that sharing between lovers, and then the heartache that went with it. And then, when the transition began, I realised that my energy was best spent on my work, that it really was my calling to perfect myself in service to others. I know the urges you speak of, yes, but I have been able to channel them into that work, into the love of all the people I worked with, the children, the young people like you back then.’

Nik smiled at him and fresh tears welled up. Takao studied her with his usual calm demeanour, compassion and love transponding through his eyes, his being.

She held his gaze and said, ‘Carrying responsibility for my own flesh and blood, that’s what I crave, that’s what the time feels ripe for. I love my work, my students and mentees, especially Leyla of course, but she is growing up fast, and I have cared for other people’s children for more than ten years now. I want to create and shape my own child, contribute a person to our beautiful world, and share my life with a special someone.’

Nik buried her face in her hands.

‘Your manifestation is good, daughter. However, I feel you have become – very tense about this, about your life at the present moment. Your eyes are strained, your breath shallow, your heart contracted, your spirit muddled up…’

Nik kept her face covered with her hands but she nodded, all ears.

‘To the point that the story, your story, doesn’t have the chance, doesn’t have the room, to unfold around you right now.’

Nik shifted her hands, cradling her cheeks and chin, her eyes fixed on her feet on the chaise in front of her. Silence stretched. Nik was resisting the urge to protest, Tak’s words had hit home with almost cruel accuracy. Instead she focused on deepening her breath, on loosening that tension in her face and body, on centering her being.

‘Nik? Why don’t you go have a float, a massage? Maybe a swim? That used to help you in times of darkness. Reconnect with yourself. Be gentle. Think about how to make use of the coming weekend in a way that will serve you. Get out in nature. Remember your tool belt. And remember that this is not the end of your story.’

Nik looked him in the eyes again, stretched out, and nodded.

‘It’s the beginning.’ Tak smiled at her and Nik replied, ‘A swim sounds perfect. I will do that. I will go right now and see you in the group meet.’

They finished their teas, got up and embraced.

‘Thank you, my father.’ Nik whispered, fresh tears welling up, and with them the resolve to take time out and let her story unfold.