Lena leaned against the wall of the bar and took a drag of her cigarette. Another night of dancing in front of idiot rednecks. They were such fools. It was such easy money, it was ridiculous.
Fortunately she still had a body to die for. Every muscle was toned. She played it like an instrument.
She could hardly see their faces leering in the crummy barlight, but she could hear their catcalls and smell the stench of beer, the mildewy carpet, and the cigarette smoke as if choked the air.
Later that night, the bouncer walked her to her car. She was $200 richer--she almost had enough money to leave this crummy town and move out west where she planned to finally go to dance school, pursue a serious dance career....you see , dear reader, that night Red had left the ashram, she had too.
'Goodnight, Tex,' she said to the bouncer, a musclebound sweetheart of a guy.
'Goodnight, little heifer' he replied, 'Be safe.'
As she unlocked the car she felt a shadow behind her. She turned around quickly, gasping, readying to protect herself...
'It IS you, Lena,' said a familiar voice that made the adrenalin rush to her head.
'R-Red, how did you find me? Wh-ere did you go that night...I..I've thought about you so much...' she choked.
'Have you, Lena, have you? I've thought about you every day...I'd heard you moved to Tulsa, that you had family here...I've been trying to track you down for weeks. I'm staying at the Tumbleweed Hotel down on Rt. 55.'
Their eyes locked and a torrent of memories flooded through Lena's loins. She ached for his embrace, his turgid mouth on hers.
'Why don't you come back to my apartment with me, Red? We can catch up and I'll fix you a hot meal.'
'How can you do it, Lena, night after night, dancing for a bunch of strangers...my God, you used to bake bread in the ashram, you were the perfect earth mother of grace....what happened?'
Red asked, his face in a tortured spasm of disbelief.
'I got sick of it all, being Maharaji's perfect devotee, his celibate angel,' Lena replied and then downed her fingerfull of Scotch. Her blood-shot, world-weary eyes looked into Red's. There was a hardness there that frightened him. He took Lena's hand.
'I've been living and working off of fishing boats down in the gulf of Florida. I still hang out with a few premies there, but we're all pretty much burned out on Maharaji. I haven't forgotten you though, Lena.'
Lena stroked Red's hand. 'I'm really not as cynical as you think I am, Red. It's just that I wanted to do something really wild and find out that I wouldn't go to hell, or that my mind wouldn't turn to rotten vegetables.'
Red laughed. 'Ah yes, the rotten vegetable satsang.' Then his eyes turned serious. 'I think I've been permanently damaged by this trip, Lena, and I want to tell you about it. ' He cleared his throat. 'I have a sexual dysfunction called dissociative-spirituo-locus-focus. Basically I need a certain type of verbal stimulus in order to become aroused...'
'So? What's so dysfunctional about that?..what kind of verbal stimulus are you talking about? Barry White music perhaps?' Lena teased.
'No Lena, I have to hear satsang in order to ...um...get it up.'
Later that night, Lena's neighbors swore they heard the words 'rotten vegetables' in between the moans coming from Lena's apartment. Red woke up the next morning and heard Lena moving around in the kitchen. He jumped up, wrapped a blanket around himself and went in to join her. She was still wearing the long red flannel nightgown, now torn and faded. She looked so much like the pure, sweet, housemother of his dreams that he felt shy, and didn't enter the kitchen. 'Uh, good morning.' he said from the door.
'Hi Red,' Lena said, smiling.
'That was great last night, Lena.' Red whispered.
Lena laughed and lit a cigarette. 'Yeah, I'd forgotten how inspiring it felt to give satsang.' She smiled and inhaled the cigarette deeply. 'I'm even making you scrambled tofu this morning.'
Red smiled, but the memory was painful. They'd both come so far from that morning in the ashram.
'Where did you go that morning, Red?' Lena was suddenly serious. 'When I woke up, you were gone.'
'They were going to send me to Boston.' Red said. Lena grimaced in sympathy. 'I had to get out of there', he continued 'I jumped out of the ashram window and got a ride to Seattle with this strange guy I met on the street corner. At first, I was afraid he was a premie, because he knew what a baragon was. I didn't answer him, and he didn't ask me any more questions. The whole trip was surreal - I slept most of the way. He was driving one of those old Sedan Deliverys - you know, one of those things that you can't tell if it's a car of a truck. In fact, we got pulled over three times for having truck tags on something that looked like a big old station wagon. We didn't talk much. He finally let me out in front of a big house in the middle of Seattle. And you know what the weirdest thing was, Lena?'
Lena was listening intently. 'Red?' she said softly.
'When I was getting out of the vehicle, I turned to say thanks to him, and couldn't help but ask him how he knew what my baragon was. And do you know what he said? He said 'I'm an ex-premie.''
'An ex-premie!' Lena exclaimed, 'How can you be an ex-premie?'
'I don't know.' Red was whispering again, 'But that's what the guy said. And it turned out that the house he'd let me out in front of was the Seattle ashram.'
Lena's face had turned white, 'You don't think...'
'No, it wasn't Maharaji,' Red said, 'But I think it was...' he paused significantly, 'A SIGN.'
'Oh no...' Lena said.
'Yes.' Red said, 'That's why I've come to find you. I've been thinking about this and trying to find you for almost three years, Lena. He paused 'Lena, I think we have to re-dedicate our lives. I heard that they're actually paying premies to do service in Miami. Something about a plane that they're building for Maharaji. Lena, would you go there with me?' The color drained from Lena's face and her nostrils flared like a bull in the ring. She smashed her cigarette into the ashtray and snuffed out the fire.
'I made love with you last night, Red. I even recited every stupid, vile line of satsang from the weird past out of sympathy for you & your so-called sexual dysfunction. You told me you had become disillusioned with Maharaji and now you tell me you were hanging out in the Seattle ashram all this time and want me to RE-DEDICATE my life????? The answer is HELL NO. I'd rather suck the dicks of all the cowboys in Tulsa at The Red Slipper girlie bar then prostitute myself to the Lard of the Universe ever again. I figured this all out on my own, Red. It's taken me THREE YEARS to figure it out, and sock some money away for dance school...I may be dancing in a sleazy strip joint, but I've got my self-respect and dignity back.'
Lena walked swiftly to the door. She opened it.
'I suggest you leave, Red. Go back to your narrow little fraidy cat sexually frustrated life as a premie. Don't expect me to love you again til you've gotten a spine...Goodbye, Red'
Red stood in the doorway for a long time, searching Lena's face for the soft mushy earth mother he had once known. He could see that she was firm in her resolve....he would think about everything she had just said once he was alone in a place where he could practice light, music and nectar, he'd make all the confusion, and tension go away...he'd figure it all out someday.
'goodbye Lena, I'd better leave now before I reinfect you with the premie trip again. I'll never forget you.' He tried to kiss her but she turned her cheek away from him.
Lena shut the door and leaned against it. A chapter of her life closed irrevocably when that door shut, a new chapter of self-determination and loving herself was beginning. She put on her favorite music and started to dance, danced for the lost years, danced for the beginnings of a self, danced for being able to choose what she wanted out of her life, danced because that's what she loved to do more than anything. She wouldn't look back.
Red walked out to the Tumbleweed Hotel on Rt. 55, got his things, checked out and stuck his thumb out on the open road. His mind stung with Lena's words. 'Satsang,...must have satsang,' he muttered to himself. Above him was a billboard shimmering in the morning light--'Lost Souls Always Find Their Way' it said....and there was a picture of a man who looked as blue as he himself felt.