An excerpt removed from my current book project...
I returned from Nepal. The night was swept swiftly away, and the following day disappeared into oblivion. With thoughts of home, I walked from the marina and into the city: wandering steps, a ghost-like search in Venice and Abbot Kinney.
There was the beat from distant lands. It carried me down Lincoln Boulevard, leaving the Niligiri Himal in my wake, the expansive, white peaks biting at the blanket above. I heard the music: the ceremonial horns and chanting. My ears and spirit were still filled with the twenty-four, colorful, oscillating scales, opposed to the diminished, western eight.
But the sound of the East and of the Nyingma monks was soon swallowed, drowned out by the urban streets and chaos of Los Angeles. There was a familiar buzzing all around: the old life, the noise of industry and the rumble of sport utility vehicles: shining metal boxes filled with men, women, and children; all of them wore sunglasses and played on their cellular phones.
I saw a young boy through one Suburban window. He was caught in some sort of cyber fight, afraid to use his real fists and authentic voice, the voice that existed in the warm belly, before the artificial lights and first beep of the sterile incubator. The boy was trapped in a digital world and he knew no other. His was a pixelated existence. He was transmitted, fragmented, and lagging behind the flow of a much more natural, primeval system. He was bound to economy and to greed, and to the desire to be independent and to make a dollar like his mother.
Electronics were the repression of something yet labeled: an erosion of subtlety, quality, and communication. It stemmed from a deep fear of death, and the need to stay connected whilst, paradoxically, slipping from ourselves. The modern age and the whirlpool of society was a current that tugged at my own self-identified ego, which was returning and now in full flow, drifting down a river of distraction.
I reached Washington Boulevard and headed towards the sea. Cars honked and tires screeched. Who was I but another one of these? There was nothing different. I was just another breathing being now walking down the streets of California. I was no longer a recluse in the mountains, nor was I an artist.
No, I was just another millennial who had stretched his wings and caught the fever of adventure. I had been lifted by the winds of pride and want; lifted by the wings of disenchantment and entitlement. I was critical because of grandiose experience and afraid because of past betrayal; unwilling to smile, unwilling to reveal myself or be revealed. Most of all, I was afraid of inevitability. I was afraid of having returned to the States and to the gross expectations of others; those who demand others’ conformation in order to feel themselves confirmed.
As I walked from the marina that day, and the many days to follow, I repeated the same pattern over and over again. I basked in the modern world, repetitively and in spite of my lingering pain, and in spite of my unconscious clinging to a spiritual world I knew existed. But I took a flame to that awareness.
I let the mountains and the dreams disappear. I let the Himalayan eagle, with its eight-foot wingspan, fade away over the ridge. Thoughts of a free life dissipated as I shackled myself to constant diversion. For everywhere I turned was another release. In every door was a happy or sorrowful face; each a new distraction. And it did not matter what we felt. Truly, our feelings could be pushed deeper inside, all of us, our sadness repressed. We looked at each other but we closed our eyes.
My need to return home and start anew was sunk in $5 cups of coffee. My past and future were both arbitrary memories and trajectories, all a waste and yet the secret burning impetus behind my every move. My father danced at the back of my mind like a loner at the back of a club. And, for days, monotony filled the void. I thought of my mother and what she would think. How could I have lost so much weight? How could I have survived off of rice and vegetables and nothing more? Did I want a steak? Did I want to go to a ballgame and have a hot dog?
It was ceaseless materialism, the more beautiful meanings of life drowned in a pretend world of stuff. And I hopped from place to place, waiting. Yes, always waiting, but waiting for what? For love perhaps, or a second chance? I did not know, and I did not care. I was numb, at least that’s what I told myself those days when lost in the labyrinthine mind. Everyone had his or her fear, I knew. Each ran from some emotional or spiritual responsibility, just like me. Mine, of course, was wrapped together in that thing called home and that other thing called work. Having come all the way back to America, I could not go the final steps. I could not handle death, nor accept the subsequent change that would follow in that endless limbo, in the 9-5, where we all attempt to be productive for a paycheck.
It was all too soon: the pain of losing my soul, that beautiful world. The loss of the vision in the mountains tore me apart, and I felt the earth shake. There was decay all around. Techtonic plates pressed against each other: mountains rose and fell; islands formed and submerged. Fires burned. It was the only surety in a fictitious life. Daunting, haunting, all of it, everywhere. I held onto it like air, decomposition, wondering whether other people saw that the things they held onto were slowly crumbling, and that what gave them value was nothing in the end, nothing at all.
Slowly, the streets became my meditation. My eyes cast downward like the sadhu on Mother Ganga, staring at the corrugated steps. I was like him, the monk all in white, Maharaji, the Beloved Great King. I passed away a petty existence; yes, this drab reincarnated life. I counted the cracks in the road, looking up occasionally to assess the random face and the probing question in another stranger’s eye.
Looking around, hearing the mumble of their conversations, I saw it was naught but dust. People talked about promotions at work and new brands. Students talked about this application, and that unsuccessful date, “about the guy who didn’t know how to profanity.” And the further I sunk back into that mentality, the deeper into that hopeless contemplation, that pretend renunciation, the more hope I lost. It was my own slow decay, and every step into that reality was a step deeper into the very misery that drove me away in the first place: the ambition, and the pretend optimism. But I knew nothing better, nor what I could do besides joining the game. And, as the days wore on, I secretly gave up my revelation and my spiritual purpose, yet all the while daring to feign an understanding of greater love and an enlightened desire to capitalize on opportunity and “seize the day.”
Growing in numbness and in ever greater insignificance, I felt I journeyed ever farther from facing the only thing that could bring me freedom. But that denial was my peace for the time being: letting hours slip away: the shining, teasing, desert sun floating, always low across the sky, lingering days in an autumn haze; it’s shallow zenith like the quality of my superficial life. Yes, I raised my hand and pointed as it coasted onward towards a dark horizon, towards the coming winter chill. That was all the love I had left, for that was all I was: a star fading. I was the certainty of dawn diminished, and the rising and setting sun no more.
Slowly, material existence became my daily lie. From door to door, my wandering steps in Venice and Abbot Kinney perpetuated an endless hell, what I accepted as my reality. I flirted with women passing in the street. I made eye contact and smiled. I stared at items in windows and at gadgets behind glass walls. There were globes in one escape; and miniature, model airplanes, ropes, and hiking boots in another. It was all mockery, a strong slap in the face. And when I saw the distant Himalayas flash before my eyes on a poster, I spat on the ground beside me. That world was dead now; that life a dream, a forgotten memory far behind. No one would ever understand; nor would I deduce the significance.
I pushed forward, trying to smile, to laugh, to enjoy it. I stepped inside Toms Cafe on Abbot Kinney. I heard the mumble of a hundred voices, the clinking glasses and phones beeping. I listened to steam sputtering in milk, the hum of a shiny espresso machine, the grind of so called free trade, shade grown beans. It was familiar music to my ears and an old, familiar picture: young adults, hip hobos (but rich), still unsure of their place in the world. They grew beards and played.
Observing them was a hobby to drown my life, my passing of the twenty-first century; seeing them hang onto the fading wonder of their childhood, grasping for the doom of their emerging and successful adulthood. I felt it in my bones; the sad state of a greedy society and misguided dreams. And it was because of a promise, I was sure, all because of the carrot dangling on the pink foldouts of their freshly printed outdoor magazine and private university transcript.
That was me in a nutshell, seen in a mirror. What dreams I once had were gone. Yes, I was a circuit, another processor of information, another consumer of data, another fraud and monger trying to believe in something. And death itself, once more, called to me to tear me away. It was the brink of my maturity. But I shook my head and pushed death deeper inside. I refused to face it because I refused to let my anger go. I refused to let go of my regret of having been born and bred.
Yes, while walking onto the back porch of Tom's Cafe, I realized that ignoring my childhood was my holding onto it. For if I were to accept its completion, there was no longer the hindrance of its unfinished grasp. There was only open roads and inevitability’s twin – my potential. But how could I want to face potential? How could I want to die to innocence and gain the freedom of being a slave? It was the ironic plot: to let go of childish dreams and become something I'm not.
I looked around me, ignoring the voices sounding deep inside: the tears of past lives, the old souls wailing. I stared at the patrons at Tom’s Café: all of them in their twenties and thirties, each weighing his or her talent in pampered hands. They looked around, judging each other's appearance, evaluating the worth of everything, skewed by the weight of the books they tried to read. They were unaware of the literary subtleties shaping the fabric of their soft and mushy minds. Childish, they feigned to be growing, to be smart and educated, especially when they failed to understand what was inside the books, and thoughts therein.
It was the same scene as any other cafe in America, though this one was in Los Angeles and cooler than the rest. These were the people paving new roads, blazing the trails for future generations to come: men and women, boys and girls, working on laptops, reading the capitalistic poison of Ayn Rand and the Mere Christianity of C.S. Lewis. They were all stuck in upright individualism. And so was I. Having been abroad and having seen the other side. It was a delusion remedied only by the inevitable swing of Pendulum. And that was the term I came up with that day on the back porch. I was killing time, literally, and thought of Pendulum like one might think of Muerte in Spanish culture: the personification of Death.
Pendulum was the new beast of my self-transformation. That expletive rocked the corners of my heart and my egotistical grandfather clock at every God Damn, tick of the sweep hand. With insurmountable force it shook the darker and lighter moments of my once steady, level life – the one I forged. And it reminded me, like clockwork, that no matter what I did, the inevitable would never cease to beckon. Pendulum taught me that I truly had no control; that, despite my belief in freewill, I was caught in a destiny greater than my own, captive to God, planets, and stars.
Yes, I sipped slowly on my $5 cup of coffee. I was in the cage of naivete, sitting behind Toms Cafe, above a fake, green lawn, the realest thing in a shop that shone with student loans, scarves, and Apple iBooks. I was thinking of my father and my mother. I was forcing myself to read Paulo Coelho. And then I saw her, what promised to pull me from the misery that marked my day, and from the charlatan that entertained me. Our heads turned towards each other. We locked eyes. It was a momentary release from our shared idling: the promise of escape.
She wore a loose, maroon sweater and a silver necklace. It held an indiscernible pendent, what clung to a pale neck that stretched smooth and long beneath her folded hand. She smiled, and the vision was enough to pull me from myself; and, in an instant, I felt my mind captivated, but not by her astounding beauty, but by the idea of her and me becoming something; rather, her giving me some love to replace the love I had lost. And that was certainly the most disillusioned thought in that entire cafe, the most farfetched project or dream. But the thought burned in me and I felt alive. I wanted to talk to her, and I thought I might try. But truth was I was hesitant, and I fought off my fear by telling myself the woman was not worth it; that she, like everyone else, would not understand me or my needs.
I told myself that we would simply go our own ways. Life would continue on. She would return to her friends and I would return to mine, the few I thought I had. My family was this and that, and she would not care. She had problems of her own. That was the way it was and, the saddest part was, I guessed I wanted it that way. I thought I was not ready to be a normal, social human being. For no matter how much I put myself back into the material world, my mind and my heart were as numb and sensitive as they were before. And talk of abortion at a table beside me did not help the cause. It reminded of that girl and of her trip to New York. I felt my hatred for love and relationships return. It was just down the street where she told me she had slept with someone else in the Big Apple.
Oh, the suffering of humanity. I watched the woman slide her hand up her leg. Oh, the suffering of me. Every little thing was an excuse, a deceit. I chose to get up, to leave, to retreat. I would not give her a chance, nor the world. What was in it for me? My experiences taught me well enough. Bury the hatchet for good. Crawl back into a hole and drink. Let what light still lingered be drowned in the Pacific. Forfeit God, for He had forfeited me; and forfeit her, and let love be done.