Lena sat on the curb in the stifling Miami heat, waiting for the tow truck. Some huge chunk of metal had just removed itself from her car wheel. Fortunately it had happened as she was leaving the parking garage at her apartment building.
She felt vulnerable sitting out in the open, but the guy would never find her car back in the alley. The last few phone calls in the middle of the night had her on edge. A few seconds of silence, then a hangup.
Even the building was conspicuous. In a neighborhood like this in Miami Beach, you don't see many run down tenement buildings. The air was heavy with the sensuous smell of gardenias. They always remind her of darshan, of the trancelike feeling she got moving through the tunnel on the way to a miracle. But today even that euphoric recall of her Guru Maharaji wasn't helping.
Lena leaned against a telephone pole and tried to read from her book. She'd found a volume of Mary Wollstonecraft on the top shelf of one of the closets of her apartment.
No man chooses evil because it is evil;
he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.
Something stirred in her as she read this. Something stifled, wanting to be heard.
God where was that tow truck? Barney came out of the building in jogging clothes. He waved and smiled. He had moved down here from San Francisco to work on the plane. He had been friendly to her, but seemed to have a hard time talking to her. Maybe he was remembering how he had found her the last time he saw her!
A black sports car with heavy-tint windows drove by. Did she just imagine it slowing down? Her heart raced. Had they found her?
Finally the truck arrived. As she got up to go to the driver she wondered. 'How could they know where she was?' She hadn't told anyone back in Tulsa where she was living.
Should she try to talk to someone? Red hadn't really been open to her since he had moved into the Miami ashram. He would certainly not welcome a story like this one.
Could she talk to Barney about what had happened on her last business trip from Miami to Tulsa?
Since telling Red to buzz off, Lena had been living in Miami where she had gotten a dance scholarship. The pull to Maharaji was inevitable in Miami, the premie bastion. One of her old selves, ashram housemother, seemed to be re-surfacing, it didn't seem so urgent anymore, the need for self-definition she had fought for for 3 years...would this strange saga ever end???
The sports car cruised by her again, this time coming to a full stop. The tinted window rolled down and Lean started to see the sweet, yet haggard face of Marolyn (Durga Ji). Marolyn smiled at Lena, and handed her a note, then the car sped away.
As if in a dream, Lena smoothed the note in her hands...the oversweet scent of patchouli emanated from the fine cream-colored stationery....she broke the seal on the back of the note and started to read.
Our dearest Maharaji knows that a lot of premies live here. I saw you and you looked lost. I just wanted you to know, dear sweet sister, that this knowledge, this love, and our Guru Maharaji who brings it, are all that we need in this life. We love you and know what is happening to you.
Rage filled Lena. She actually had a physical reaction. Nausea, sweating. She knew this was supposed to be a great thing. They knew her!! But cynicism fought with her attempt at conjuring up some kind of bliss.
Her face must have been white. The tow truck driver asked, 'Are you OK? You look like you've seen a ghost.'
'It's the heat I think,' Lena said. What else could she say?
That she had followed Red to Miami. That the dancing hadn't worked out. That the scholarship had been a sham. That Red had gotten increasingly more obsessed with the Guru and angry at her for taking away from 'the experience.' That she had followed him for another reason. She wasn't just following she was running from a life that had gotten increasingly dangerous. The week before she left, one of the other dancers had disappeared from the Red Slippers Bar.
But she had gone back to Tulsa. Twice. With several kilos of cocaine and come back with a LOT of cash. She had tried to lose herself in the premie world. Gave most of the money to the plane project, the first time.
That had been the first time she received a personal note and attention from the Guru. Thousands of dollars in donations tend to do that. Getting more into the inner circle or People Around Maharaji hadn't helped her faith. It had added to her doubts.
This last time, after she returned to Miami, she was afraid to do anything with the money. Things had gone terribly wrong in Tulsa. She hadn't intended to rip off Tiny or any of them. But the opportunity presented itself and she ran with it. Back here. She stashed it in her apartment.
That's why the note scared her. Why now, after several months, a note from Durga Ji?
She made the decision to go to satsang that night as she sat in the garage, waiting for a verdict on the car. She wondered if there could possibly be a connection between her recent activities and her guru?
The mechanic came out. He sized her up, she knew the game. She knew how to talk to them, those years in Tulsa paid off in strange ways. She smiled in just the right way. Intelligent, not a victim, but willing to flirt.
'Well, it looks like your axle broke on the driver's side front. It will be at least 2 days'
'OK, any idea how much it will cost?'
'I can't tell right now how much damage has been done, but I personally promise an estimate before we work on it. I am the manager here, so you can count on me'
He looked taken off guard. 'Can I offer you a ride home? We have one driver still here.'
'Yes, please, that would be so good'
Another look, then he went to the back. The driver came out. Thin. Good looking, to her taste anyway. A ponytail. He smiled. 'I hope you don't mind riding in one of those old-fashioned Sedan Deliverys.'
'Any ride is good right now, sweetie.'
He looked at her questioningly when she said that. Then slowly he smiled. She was touched, and in the midst of her concerns she was also attracted.
'Your chariot awaits you'. He grinned.
As they parked next to the 'apartment' building he said,
'Oh, you live here. I've known a lot of people who have come and gone from THIS place. Hey, you can call the garage tomorrow if you need a ride.'
Ah life. Lena felt let down as she got out of his car?/truck? Why are all the good ones so elusive? Yet she felt also some strange curiosity.
Lena decided to show up at satsang that night to see if she could get more clues as to why the special attention from Maharaji. She wondered if Joe Waller, the new community coordinator, would even let her in the hall.
As Lena entered the satsang hall on Biscayne Blvd, Joe, the community coordinator said hi to her. I guess he's not so bad after all, Lena thought. Joe was talking to Ben, a premie that Lena liked. Ben had fled the confines of a hopelessly judgemental and severe community of ashram members in the Northeast when he got a call from an old friend to come to work on the Rainbow Painters Company. They were working on painting the inside of some factory in Miami.
Inside the satsang hall, Lena bumped into Miguel, who she considered to be one of the cutest guys in the premie world and they exhanged greetings. Lena remembered a story that Ben had told her about Miguel. Ben had said that Miguel had just got back from helping to fly some coke back from Columbia, and that while he was there, some guy put a gun to his head and said 'Goodbye, Yankee'. Miquel had said in Spanish, 'I am not a gringo brother, I am from Argentina', and the guy said 'if you hadn't said that you would have been dead in another second.' Then Miguel had actually given the guy satsang and had a drink with him. Maybe Miguel could help her. But Lena didn't say anything just then, because the lights went down and satsang was about to start.
Outside the satsang hall, Maria came running up to Ben, 'Oh my god, did you see HIM? He was out in the helicopter! Nomi and I were walking down Alton road and he went by! It was incredible!'
Joe excused himself and went into the satsang hall. 'Wow, that's great!', Ben said, 'No I missed that. What time was that?'
'Four o clock' said Maria in her operatic voice. 'Do you want to skip satsang and go get Haagen Daz and eat it at the hospital and look at the residence? Chris and Nomi are coming."
Ben said 'Sure!', knowing the drill, that Nomi and Chris would go into the food store and while Chris would wolf down food by the freezer aisle, Nomi would stuff 5 or 6 pints of "Haago" into her huge tropical purse. While getting "drunk on Haago" from the sugar, they would tell the day's darshan stories while looking at the residence from the small hidden beach behind the wave barrier adjoining the hospital.
'So have you seen HIM today?' asked Maria.
'Yeah', said Ben, I had a dream that I saw him and he was turning left. I woke up and didn't change or comb my hair, and didn't wake any of the 5 other people I have let move into my cottage, but I bolted out the door and went to the highway to see if He was coming. In a minute or two his car went by and so I went to the corner by Urrah's rice and bean restaurant and hid behind a telephone pole. Sure enough, His car came down the road and was looking at me at the light and then he turned left and I remembered my dream. Then I saw the security car turn left and the guy in the back seat was pointing at me and laughing and I was leaning against the pole with god knows what clothes on and hair everywhere and unshaven.'
Ben smiled 'It reminds me of the night when I was pushing a shopping cart of dirty clothes to the laundry down the street and here HE comes with the security car trailing and I am out on the streets at 10 pm pushing my shopping cart. I must have been good for a laugh then also.'
At the small beach, water was lapping along the shore as the gopi's voices came piping out of the hidden area by the pine tree near the water. Ben, Maria, Nomi, and Chris joined them.
'Oh god! This is SO good!' 'Let me try that kind!' Giddy laughter rang out from the sugar-mad gopis. They decided to to swim over to the residence for a closer look. The noisy pack of gopis drifted past the residence. There were some kind of algae there that flashed phosphorescent iridescent green when passing over flesh. This was attributed to magic around the residence. Ben was enjoying this era of unemployment and living off the charity of the Rivo Alto pre-ashram brothers house. It stood in sharp contrast to the previous era of working the 707 and to the Hawker-Sidley jet days he knew were soon to follow.
At first, Ben had lived in a mansion in Coconut Grove with a lot of other premies, but the bus ride was too long, so he had rented a cottage across the street from what was soon to known as DECA aviation. Old man Phaffendorf had built these things in the thirties and Ben named the place Phaffendorf Estates. After a flood the water came up almost two feet and was lapping on the undersides of the floor, and he renamed the place Phaffendorf Lakes.
He remembered entering DECA from the west gate, and breezing past the security guard with a blissful smile. He would look towards the sewing area where Maria would be working when she wasn't wandering the place to see if HE was there. She and other sisters were making the seat covers and wall panels for the 707.
To the right as Ben entered was the paint shop and the toluene and naptha fumes wafted out into the hall like some high tech kali yuga incense. The crew sanding at the table would call out to Ben to join them. In the dusty haze they looked like galley slaves chained to their sanding oars. To the left was the offices of the budding Construction Resources of America with their staff of novice premies about to 'wing it' in the construction field. Grace and low cost labor were supposed to save the day when management made bidding errors.
Ben's destination would be the cavernous main shop floor, but there was one last set of hurdles before arriving. He had to pass the young guy who had those anguished eyes from working in the welding shop non-stop with no time off but for satsang and sleep. He disappeared one day and was replaced without a ripple as a reminder that 'although there is only one HIM, there are many of us'.
On the other side of the main shop floor was the plating shop, where cyanide baths steamed under the phlorescent lights and the wizard of the room had a ghostly pale complexion but was happy to talk. All of the plane's fixtures were to be gold plated and that included a replica of the entire interior of the plane set into a flat panel that had all the light and sound control options on it at the same location as the actual jet. The circular shower had gold fixtures, two toilets, two sinks and one bidet. HIS and hers.
Onward into the main shop floor where cabinets were being made and sheet metal was being worked and testing was going on, and many other crafts were being learned, mostly by ashram premies. Ben would stop and enter the cabinet shop where he worked, looking at the ebony trim that was waiting for glueing to the interior 707 moldings and wall trim and tables and the larger than king size master bed for the lord. The cabinet for the tv was remote control retractable and was also made of ebony wood. Cream fabric walls and cream carpet. Luxurious brown fabric on the plane's chairs and, of course, a drawing of shri hans and one drawing of the Buddhist god of mercy. Drawn by Swan, who was also in charge of making the pearl mala and the floral sandals that Maharaji wore occasionally.
Oh my god! He remembered the sound of the chains coming off the gate to the courtyard, the warning signal for all who could hear to discreetly look because HE was driving into the courtyard and straight into the huge garage 50 yards away. Ben turned on his back and floated, lifting his arm to look at the phosphorescenct green light. He wondered if it really was magic.
Meanwhile, Lena was back in the satsang hall, trying to keep meditating.
'You must cling to the feet of our Master,' said the spaced out looking premie in the satsang chair, 'Maharaji needs more money for propogation, show your commitment...I mean what is more important than this experience?'
Lena got a good holy name vibe going and could taste the nectar-boogers going down her throat. Mindless calm filled her. A greasy guy in wrap around shades came up to her and tapped her on the shoulder.
'Lena, we've got some important business to discuss. Why don't we go out to my car?' he commanded.