A Gentle Touch (2)
Jamie soon found he could do all the work he needed to do at the college in a quarter of the time he used to take. He also had at least ten times more energy than he had had before. There was lots of energy left over for his own studies, for his own improvement. Lots.
People were beginning to talk about him. His amazing ability to work hard and never get tired was frequently mentioned. These comments were never unkind and he remained popular with both staff and students, though he was well-known for expecting more work from his students than other members of staff. There had even been a few students leaving the course because they could not take the stress of the work. This was a pity but, after all, standards had to be kept up.
His interest in Eastern matters was no secret, though Jamie did not deliberately draw attention to it. His colleagues admired a man who was enthusiastic about his work, and they liked the fact that a Westerner showed such an interest in Eastern culture.
Jamie was becoming quite well known as somebody who knew about such things. Students would ask him for advice instead of going to their local experts. Jamie never asked for money. Once, after he had successfully treated a student's headache with acupressure, he was called to see the head of the college. He was told, kindly but firmly, that he was to leave treatments to those who had licenses to do such things.
Jamie made sure he never made that mistake again.
It was soon after this that Adrian Tong, the Physics lecturer, asked Jamie if he was interested in the art of Tai Chi. Adrian was a friendly man, about the same age as Jamie, who always dressed smartly. He was a popular member of the college staff, known for his helpful nature. He mentioned it to Jamie as they were preparing to go home.
Jamie was interested. He had heard of Tai Chi, which was made up of slow elegant exercises that developed the chi and made it stronger. Every morning in the park he saw people of all ages performing the exercises, gently moving their arms and legs like trees in a soft wind. Amongst them was a pretty young woman who Jamie thought was very elegant indeed.
Yes, it did look like a good way to relax.
'My uncle is considered to be a master of this art,' Adrian told him. 'I am sure he would welcome such a keen student as yourself.'
And so Jamie became a student of Master Tong.
Master Tong was a slim young-looking man though he was over sixty years old. He was amazed by Jamie's knowledge of Eastern culture and agreed to teach him, though he would have to take his place with the rest of his students, all seventy-three of them, in the park at dawn each day. That suited Jamie. It would be a good start to the day.
The first lesson began the very next morning.
The park was next to the local shops. Many items were delivered to the shops at the start of the day and the roads were already busy with small lorries delivering vegetables, newspapers and all kinds of things needed for the day's business. Master Tong's class had been going through their elegant motions for twenty minutes or so when the loud sound of screaming brakes was heard. A child had run in front of a delivery lorry. The lorry had turned sharply and fallen onto its side, trapping the driver, who had tried to jump clear. He was alive, but his legs were trapped under the lorry door. He was calling out for help and was obviously in great pain.
What happened next amazed Jamie. Master Tong ran to the lorry, took a deep breath and pushed up with both hands against the side of the lorry. What was the old man thinking of? What could he do? The lorry was not large but it was not something to be pushed away like an empty box.
But he lifted it up!
Master Tong held up the lorry while other willing hands pulled the driver away. Only after the driver was safe did he let go. The lorry sank down with a heavy sound of metal.
Master Tong sat down, a little red in the face but not hurt by his efforts. But Jamie had no time to talk to him as he was needed by the injured driver. He used his acupressure skills to reduce the poor man's pain until he could be taken to hospital. Jamie noticed a young woman by his side. It was the pretty woman from the Tai Chi class. She was busy talking to the injured man and helping him to relax. Their eyes met briefly and she smiled at him before she left to get more help.
When the ambulance arrived, Jamie saw that the Tai Chi class had begun again. People were gently moving in the new morning light, all following Master Tong.
The next day Jamie got to his Tai Chi class early. He wanted to speak to Master Tong before the class began.
Jamie saw him already doing his exercises next to a large banyan tree. Master Tong saw him and smiled.
'Always exercise next to a tree,' he said. 'Trees are good for the chi.'
Jamie looked at the slightly built man who was smiling at him. Could he really have moved that lorry by himself? Master Tong saw his face and answered for him.
'You need not be so surprised by what happened yesterday, my friend. You ought to know from your studies that the chi can be a practical tool, a way of finding outer as well as inner strength.'
'Yes, but I never thought...' Jamie began.
Master Tong again seemed to read his mind. 'You never thought that a gentle form of exercise such as Tai Chi could produce such results, yes?'
'Well... er... yes,' answered Jamie.
'Observe,' said Master Tong.
Jamie saw him go through one of the more complicated exercises at the normal speed. The exercise involved movements that looked like elegant kicks and punches.
'Observe again,' Master Tong told him.
This time the exercise was performed much faster. Master Tong moved with a speed and power that took Jamie's breath away. There was nothing gentle about this!
'One side gentle, one side strong. Both are the same, both are part of the chi. You understand now?'
'I think so,' said Jamie.
'You used the gentle side of the chi yourself when you treated the injured man for his pain. That is good. We both use the chi when it is needed. That is balance. That is good. OK?'
Jamie nodded. He had seen something that would stay in his mind forever. He had seen strength as well as elegance.
He had also seen power and it was beautiful in his eyes.
It was a few months after Jamie's talk with Master Tong when Adrian approached Jamie. He and Jamie often talked together after work before they went home.
'My uncle tells me you are one of his best students,' Adrian told him.
'But I've only been with him for a few months!' said Jamie.
'Exactly! He says you've learned more in a few months than most do in a few years! How do you do it, Jamie?'
'Just lucky, I suppose,' said Jamie. They both laughed, but Jamie didn't add any more to explain his answer, though he wasn't sure why.
Adrian was too polite to ask again before he went home.
Jamie spent most of his time on studying and practicing his skills. He would apply acupressure or sometimes needles to his skin in order to increase his chi. He needed more energy if he was to do all the things he wanted. And he wanted a lot.
Most of all he wanted power. He wanted the power of his chi to fill his being. He did not ask himself why he wanted it. He never questioned his desire for it, a desire that seemed to grow as naturally as his power grew.
But as his power grew his wisdom didn't.
Jamie was still doing well at the college. He was now head of the Business Studies department. The three other lecturers who were in the department liked Jamie, but he expected a lot from them. They wondered how he could work so hard. No matter how much they did, he always seemed to be doing more.
Jamie's department was becoming well-known for its excellent examination results. But his students, though they liked and respected Jamie, found that keeping up with all the work he wanted them to do was almost impossible. That is, if they expected to eat and sleep.
Jamie himself knew well enough that his expectations were beginning to be too much for his students and staff. He decided that something needed to be done about it. Of course! They could all join Master Tong's Tai Chi classes! Why not?
Jamie was feeling quite excited at the idea of his staff and students joining in the classes every morning. He never stopped to think that they might have other things to do with their lives; that they might have families to be with, or homes to look after or even other jobs to do.
He had not felt excited by anything in this way for some time. He was usually calm and in control of his feelings. He would speak to Master Tong about it tomorrow. But tonight he decided to walk home by way of the shopping center, past all the bright shops and the colourful lights he had always found so cheerful. It was his way of celebrating.
But there were others who were also celebrating that night. And they were far from being calm. Five men were sitting at an outdoor table in a street cafe next to the pavement. They had been drinking too much beer. One of them saw Jamie walking past and called out to him.
'Hey, mate, do you speak English?'
Jamie looked at the man. He was big and was speaking too loudly.
'Yes,' said Jamie, politely. 'I am English. Can I help you?'
The men all shouted and laughed, repeating 'I am English' in a rude way that was meant to sound like him. Jamie ignored this.
'Yeah, mate, you can have a beer with us. It's my mate's birthday and I'm buying the drinks. You're my guest. You can drink to his health, too.'
'No thanks,' said Jamie. 'I don't drink beer, only water and tea.'
The other men all laughed loudly but the first man got angry.
'I'm not asking you, mate, I'm telling you. Now drink!' The man pushed a beer can in front of Jamie's face. Jamie calmly turned away and began to walk off. He did not want to become involved with these men. The man reached out and roughly grabbed Jamie's shoulder.
Jamie did not even think about his next action. He turned quickly and pushed upwards with both hands against the man's chest. The man went up into the air and landed on another table, knocking over beer cans and breaking glasses. He did not get up.
Jamie could hardly believe what he had done. He had not meant to do anything violent. Now a man was hurt.
The four other men looked at the fallen man in horror. This quickly turned to anger as they got up and attacked Jamie. They were all shouting angrily at him as they did so. Some had bottles in their hands and one had picked up a heavy wooden chair.
Jamie had not asked for this. He had not wanted to hurt anyone. Now four large drunken men were attacking him.
Something seemed to break inside Jamie's mind at that moment. It seemed to him as if the men were moving in slow motion. It was easy to avoid their punches, easy to hit them in places he knew would make them unconscious for a long time. It was just after the fourth man had gone down that he felt a sudden pain in his back. The floor rushed towards him. All the world went black and he knew no more.