March 13th 2012
I have been wriggling away from this for years. There are a thousand reasons…all valid. But this time I said yes. No one really knows why.
Someone else chose the train, someone else booked the ticket, someone else organized the whole thing. I didn’t even think about it, just yes, and we go. The day before we were supposed to go I woke up panic stricken…I don’t think I can do this.
We were headed down to Guruji’s in Saoneer to do another sadhana. Because air sign boys booked the tickets we left at 4am and arrived the following day at 5am. Which, to clarify, means TWO nights without sleep. That’s how we show up to a house notorious for not letting anyone sleep. Somewhere around 3am of the second night on the train, with the tinny shitty music being played on someone’s mobile and the nice lady with an armful of bangles who decided to fold everything in the known universe (and every time she moves her arm a millimeter its plink plink plink) in anticipation of no one knows what I, formally a human being, was converted into the personification of murder. This is what I do…whenever things are not the way that I want them, whenever I feel vulnerable, or sad, or lost, or hurt, I automatically convert myself into rage. It keeps me safe, it keeps people away from me, and it let’s me not feel vulnerable, or sad, or lost, or hurt, or in this case sick and exhausted because when I magically convert myself into a rage-monster I feel somehow ok again. Anger. Now there’s a thing I can deal with.
And so I converted, even though I had sat myself down and had a talk about not doing that this time. Me and I discussed the option of a new way, of trying different thing, but as the second sleepless night came to a close I started to crumble and want to lash out again. Patterns are hard to change. Who knew?
Guruji’s presents all of my biggest challenges; lack of personal space, lack of enough sleep, lack of quiet, lack of privacy in the toilet, lack of food that doesn’t burn your face off, to name a few. Put on top of that early morning sadhana, and the directive that we not use soap for four days and it’s quite a cocktail. We had grace though, Guruji let my best friend and I sleep in the temple. The nine other bodies were strewn about on mats in one room stewing in one another’s incessant chatter and gasses.
The temple, on the other hand smelled of fresh flowers and ghee lamps and was swept and cool and quiet. It was, most importantly, devoid of the others. I slotted myself into a small corner between the altar and the wall to sleep, the compact s of my body coiled toward the garlanded statue of Ma Kali. She was the last thing I saw before falling off to sleep, when I woke in the night to re-arrange limbs I became conscious of only her. The perfume and soft light from her altar permeated my consciousness even during dreams. It was a privilege to be able to sleep there, not only because of the space and solitude, but also because of how much sadhana had been done in that temple, of how charged it was.
There was a certain perfection to it; me and the closest woman to me on the planet sleeping with the Goddess. Kali is one of the major forces in my life, she is close to me always, but since the pilgrimage the intimacy increases and I see how this time is hers, she is the ruler of this present, it’s her moment. Sleeping in the temple was only deepening this, bringing me closer to her.
The sadhana was intense, three hours in a crowded temple with an impossibly long mantra. Eyes burned, backs ached and sleep beckoned.
I struggled, I won’t lie. I’ll spare you the details of how, but I was mostly ok. Mostly. Somehow I survived with much less sleep than I actually need, and with no alone time, and with food which was spicy enough to fall under the category of violent…but I could see that it started to chip away a bit.
I was on the computer sat on the floor basking in one of the rare moments of quiet when everyone was out getting chai when she came in. She dragged me into the temple to tell me something…and I couldn’t quite comprehend what was happening, I still can’t.
She told me that my ex, who I knew was sick, had only a few days left to live.
There is a huge difference between sick and dying. There is a huge difference between dying and dead. “I don’t understand.” I told her. And it was true. I didn’t.
My phone doesn’t work here, it doesn’t call, it doesn’t text, it turns on and tells me time, that’s about it. I couldn’t even call him. The first thing that came into my head was ‘I need to get to Sweden’
I remember the first time I saw him. I remember those eyes. More than anything I remember his voice. He was my teacher and I was hopelessly infatuated. I do that. It’s kind of my thing. I really like to have crushes and I almost always do, even if they are more imaginary to give me something to do when I’m pretending to meditate than anything else. I am still unabashedly boy crazy. So he was my target, but this time there was little embellishment needed, I nearly fainted every time he looked at me.
There have been a few men in my life who I simply knew upon first sight that I was supposed to be with, and he was one of them. When we finally connected it gave me increased faith in my intuition, because holy shit, were we good together. Holy shit, were we in love. Things were whirlwind and story book; flying across continents to spend a week together, long distance phone calls, impeccably thoughtful and heartfelt care packages, burned dvds with music and movies, love letters, and airport reunions.
We laughed a lot. We had stupid dances we did to Milli Vanilli LP’s we dug out of the attic of his mom’s place. We cooked a lot of pasta. We made love for outrageous amounts of hours. We had a secret code, references to old jokes, words that meant something to only us. We went for long drives.
He loved me. I’m kind of love-deaf; you could be standing next to me, loving the living hell out of me and I won’t hear it…but with him I heard. He loved me with an intensity that even I didn’t have the balls to ignore. He represented a shift in my life, when I managed to move from half-assed flings and outright assholes to an actual adult relationship with stability, depth and authenticity. He took impeccable care of me, supported me, saw me and was present with me. He was my person, the one I called when I was sad, the one I recounted my day to, the one who would nag me when I was lazy, the one who would celebrate my victories with me.
I loved him. I loved the way he moved through the world, his jokes, the way his clothes hung off his body, his smell. I loved his curiosity and his humility. I loved how optimistic and full of gratitude he always was. I loved his darkness. I loved his sarcasm. I loved his shitty pop music fetish. I loved his devotion and openness.
The day that he died was a day off from satsang and I woke up and started cleaning and doing buckets of laundry. I scrubbed everything and sang, moving as slowly as I pleased (which, believe you me is slow) I spent the day alone. In the afternoon I got the news and felt nothing. What should one feel?
That day in the temple when I was told he was dying I kept trying to figure out what I was supposed to feel. I sat for some time, breathing and finally went back to the computer because I couldn’t find any feeling, so why not just go on with it. It hit me some hours later like a brick to the face, the sorrow. It’s funny, it doesn’t make me cry so much as it makes me breathe. It hits me and I can’t find enough air, I gasp and gasp and nothing can put enough oxygen in my lungs. I needed to cry and there was no place. People in the living area, people in the kitchen, even someone mediating in the temple. I needed to be sad and there was no place with no people and I started to freak.
I went outside and it was India…full of people. And I shoved myself in between a wall and a telephone pole and I filled with hate. Fucking people, they don’t even let you live, you need to be sad and they are there. I imagined someone trying to console me and managed to find some corners of me not yet full of hate and poured more in until that’s all I was and I didn’t even feel sad anymore. I stood in that corner, blind with rage because he was dying and there was no place to be sad about it.
The same story, how vulnerability is intolerable, how rage is the only emotion I am able to sit in.
The next day I managed to speak to him. I stood on a side street encircled by four children and a goat, on a borrowed telephone and listened to his labored breathing. His voice was so weak and the words got stuck because of the heavy morphine and it was hard for me to know how much he understood. He asked me questions about India; where was I and who was there and what kind of practice and where did we sleep. He loved India more than anywhere and hadn’t been back in years. When we were first together I sent him a package from Rishikesh with Ganga water and sandalwood, a cd of the Gayatri Mantra that they played incessantly in the shops in Laxmanjhula, one of the motorboats that they sell in Ramjhula and a horrible whistle with other quintessential Rishi artifacts. Here we were again, me managing to be in India and he not.
We chit-chatted and I tried not to cry. When I told him how much I loved him the credit on the phone ran out and I don’t know if he heard. I walked back to Guruji’s and wondered what I was supposed to feel.
After I heard that he died I walked to Maharaji’s Samadhi to meditate. I walked slowly. I was very awake. When I tried to feel something there was only space, so much space and peace. I wondered where he was. I sat and talked to Maharaji a bit “….so…you’re dead, and my friend’s dead, so if you see him…maybe you can help him?” or something equally eloquent. When I sat the feeling of peace and bliss was absolute. It was only when the story in the head about ME and how I never get to look into those eyes again starts up that the sorrow again consumes.
There is nothing to be done, I guess that there isn’t even any particular way to feel. I’ve called Kali and she’s come. Sometimes I think I’ll break in two from the sadness and sometimes it’s not there at all. And there is not that much of a chance that Karma won’t bring he and I together again at some point, there’s no doubt of that…so I ponder my attachment to those eyes and that voice and I wonder if the next time I see him I’ll remember to thank him.