I heard his voice, the deep, deep laughter that made me think of density, of hard, rich wood and the palpable thick air of a forest floor covered in a shaded canopy. I wanted to describe the sound with my hands, I formed a ball shape with my skinny fingers, holding onto the air as though it contained a thick brilliant rock, something I almost couldn’t get my hands around. He laughed again, shaking the earth with his bodily rumble. The content of the conversation was almost irrelevant. Through layers of fatigue and inattention, I barley heard his concern, some young Tibetans were turning to violence to make their struggle heard. Would they become like the Palestinians, hungry and tired and frustrated? Tired of occupation, tired of the old ways that produced no fruit.
But I barely heard that. I was tired from a long day of selling soap at an outdoors farmer’s market and when the music stations became fuzzy going through the metal doorway of the Bay Bridge, I tuned the radio to Heart and Soul, a BBC Christian-slanted show on religion. On the air was the voice of the Dalai Lama. He talked about his possible successor, he wasn’t sure that there was even a need for one. He addressed the speculation of a female taking his place as a political and spiritual leader. He said “why not a woman?” and laughed with every muscle he had.
I pictured the male and female monks on a bed, laying close to each other and not touching, not talking, just moving and sharing in each other’s energy. I saw the cold stone room, they lay on the bed in their robes; from his depths into her, from her void into his, from his presence into her absence, from her love to his attention, …Is it easy for them up there in the cloistered halls of a monastery? Away from soap and markets and ordinary people walking around with strollers and wedding rings and cell phones? Away from this black truck, these tires which take me over a bridge. Away from the skyscrapers which roll out like empty promises on my right.
I forgot so much today. I walked around quickly, looking to the vendors on each side of me while my body continued forward without an instant of attention. I was not a well-honed beam, but rather a spattering light in need of repair. I talked without need to the vendor on my right, I ate ice cream without attention, I looked at my hair in the reflection of my car to check its state.
It’s so easy to forget it all. It’s so easy to think of myself as a girl who drives every Saturday to the market and sells soap. It’s just so easy to forget it all…to look at the couple holding hands and reach out to them with my machine-desire of sticky happiness. If I lived there, out in the mountains and surrounded by a sea of maroon robes who had accepted their lives as something “other”, as different from the world of TVs and magazines and the semi-annual sale at Victoria’s Secret, a sea of maroon robes who had sacrificed the body’s desires for another way, would it then be easier for me? Is it easier for them? How can I learn if I can’t even remember? How many days can I spend on the tight rope? Not quite them, not quite other.
He laughed again. I pictured his round, tan face. A picture of deep lines and clear glow. The picture from the bumper sticker, “Get Stoked!” it said, right next to that beaming face. That face on the bumper of a new station wagon that was always parked on Hwy 9, just a few hundred feet from my house in the Santa Cruz mountains. That car parked a couple feet from the entrance of a little wooden shack, another picture of the Dalai Lama facing the street through a glass window. I drove by a million times, always turning my head to watch the withered prayer flags blowing in the wind, wondering each time what lay inside and then quickly forgetting as my car continued on.
How many things have I let it slip from my mind? I would drive pass the beaming face, wishing I could be stoked, but I had school and bills and a boyfriend on drugs who needed money, lots of money to help his pain. Could I ever be stoked? So I drove on by, letting the whispers of prayers fade from my skin.
He laughed again. Such a deep sound full of curiosity and delight. A sound that has given up on the reason to laugh and just fell through the air like a rock with wings. Did he need a reason to rumble the rocks of the earth, to rattle the fragile speakers of this car? It was as though he was saying, “let me get inside you, take a vibration of me with you.” Maybe then I would finally be stoked. Or maybe I would quickly forget.