Thursday, May 15, 2014

First Pages of Novels That Won't Be Written - 1

I bunked with Tim from Davenport, Iowa, who brushed his teeth compulsively. He’d do it right after waking up, before meditations, after meditations, before prostrations, after prostrations, before and after meals. The bristles of his brush were tangled and curled, rust-hued by the blood that seeped from his lacerated gums. Tim had a haunted look. A lot of us did. But he did worse. Something bad must have happened to him along the line. He didn’t say what. I didn’t ask. We weren’t supposed to talk about that stuff, anyway. We talked about our practice. We talked about our meditation. We talked about Richard. We peered at each other, trying to discern a sign of doubt. We tried to keep each other in line.

“Ijn’t he magnifishent?” Tim asked me through a pink froth of blood and toothpaste one morning, spitting little flecks of fluoridated foam in my direction.

“Yes. He’s magnificent,” I replied, dutifully. But not just dutifully. He was magnificent.

Tim spat into the basin, sipped from his tumbler, gargled, and spat again.

“I mean, the teachings just yesterday. I mean, wow.


“I started to have that feeling I used to get when I still got high, except it was, you know—”

“Yeah, I know—”

Pure. It was pure, like a beam of light, you know.” Tim made funny, wincing faces. From the pain, I guessed.

“I know.”

Most times the women were separated from the men. This was to protect us and to nurture us, to further us along our paths, and who could disagree? Would you disagree? Except during Pairing Time. Pairing Time was when Richard matched members of each sex according to his own beautiful, crazy logic, and we were sent away to fornicate. Then just as soon as we began to fall in love, or in hate, or whatever happens, he’d pair us with someone new. If there were leftover ones he’d pair them with each other—two men, two women, forced to engage each other sexually, to confront themselves, their darkest fears, or perhaps desires. It didn’t matter. This was all a means to an end and we knew it.

In early spring of my second year I began to hear the wails and moans of women