While Lena and Ben were in the plane, several high ranking premies were meeting in a hotel room in Brisbane.
In the meantime several high ranking premies were meeting in a hotel room in Brisbane.
Maharaji had earlier that day given his first interview with a news reporter since the heady days before his marriage. He had agreed to do it on the condition that he could veto any questions and could view the final product before it went to air. Tonight was the night it was showing. The premies waited expectantly.
Maharaji's smiling face came on the screen. The green slopes of the residence were in the background, Maharaji's young children playing on the swings. When asked about his lavish lifestyle, including the personal jet, Maharaji replied that it only appeared to be lavish. In reality he owned very little. All these things were simply provided by the premies so he could use them to spread knowledge. Anyway, he said smiling, it was cheaper to have the 707 and fly it everywhere than to pay for all the commercial flights for he and his family and entourage.
The premies glanced at each other and chuckled with knowing looks. After all, what right did the ordinary people of this world have to know the truth about the life of the Perfect Master?
Back in the plane, Lena was still weeping in front of Maharaji's picture. Ben brought her some champagne in a paper cup. "Lena, come on, talk to me." he said. He shook her shoulder gently. "Don't be so sad."
Lena sat up, wiped her eyes, and took a sip of champagne. She had so many conflicting emotions. While she was prostrating before Maharaji's picture, she hadn't felt devotion, she had just felt afraid. Afraid that Maharaji or the people around him would dump her back in Miami, and then she'd be in the same situation that she'd been in before. Afraid of getting hurt by Ben, the same way that Red had hurt her. Why did she keep on getting in bed with men who were devoted to the Perfect Master?
She had finished the whole cup of champagne. She looked at Ben, and he looked back at her. I can trust him, she decided. He might hurt me, but he won't betray me. And then she began to tell him the whole story.
"They were sending me to San Antonio, because Red and I had broken our vows. I had been the ashram housemother, and they put me on a plane the very next day. I hadn't gotten more than 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night in months - doing laundry, making bread, getting breakfast ready. I guess I was just crazy because I was so tired. I couldn't face going to another ashram in disgrace, and I really couldn't face having to do the housemother thing again."
Lena looked at the carpet. The next part was so hard to tell.
"I ended up sitting next to a guy named Tiny on the plane. He said he was on a business trip, and I believed him. By the time we got to San Antonio, he'd talked me into going to Tulsa with him. I didn't really know what I was getting into but I ended up working as a dancer in his stripper bar. Then there was the other side of his business. Dealing coke."
She told Ben about how Red had appeared, had talked her into moving to Miami.
"Red got me a job in the airplane seat factory. I was gluing fabric onto seats with this glue called "pea soup". I had to wear a respirator, but it must have been the wrong kind or something. It just didn't seem to work. Every night I'd go home to the sleazy motel room we were living in and throw up. Then I'd have a headache the rest of the night."
"Red said I wasn't devoted enough, and that if I really believed in Maharaji's grace, I wouldn't be getting sick. And Red was getting more and more devoted to Maharaji, and less and less attached to me. He used to get guilt attacks after we made love. He accused me of tempting him away from the Lord. God, it was awful - he made me feel like I was damned to hell because I was a woman. He used to sleep on the floor so he wouldn't have to touch me in bed."
"Finally, he decided to move back into the ashram. I guess he felt more pure and holy there, and he wouldn't have to deal with me any more. I don't think he counted on me being a real person, Ben. I couldn't go on working in that damn seat factory, so I took a job as a waitress in Denny's, and that's when Tiny found out I was living in Miami. And I started making business trips for Tiny. The last time, everything got screwed up, and I'm dead meat, Ben, unless I find a way to get out of it." She told him the whole story about Durga Ji, and getting picked for special service.
She looked up at Ben. He was still gazing at her.
"I'm going to be too much damn trouble for you, too, Ben. Aren't I?" Lena said bitterly.
Ben just looked at her, and then reached out and put his hand on her arm. "I don't know what to do, Lena, but I promise I'll help you get out of this. Durga Ji is not going to turn you in, and I don't think Maharaji will either. We'll just have to see what happens. But I promise I'll stick with you." He smiled. "But first, we'd better try and clean up the Lord's airplane."
Ben and Lena started working on cleaning up the mess the customs officials had made. "We're never going to get this back the way Maharaji wants it," Lena cried. "What a mess!"
"Shhh," Ben said. "It's not our fault." He smiled "Well, at least most of it isn't! Anyway, his valet will come and get the rest of it cleaned up. We just need to get the big stuff cleaned up and wait for someone to get us out of here. We might get in trouble, but don't worry about it. I'm always in trouble with the people around Maharaji anyway. I shouldn't even BE here."
They managed to get the plane in reasonable, if not presentable, order, and then sat down to talk.
Lena and Ben started cleaning up the kitchen. It felt good to have confided her crazy story, and Lena was starting to feel peace inside. That was the strange thing about this path--one minute excruciating turmoil, the next, deep peace. Maybe I can get off this crazy merry-go-round, she thought.
Just then the door of the plane slammed shut and the two of them turned to see Guru Maharaji standing right there in the doorway of the kitchen. Ben looked guiltily at his hand which gripped the now empty bottle of champagne.
'What is this, Joe's Bar? What the hell do you think you're doing?' he yelled.
Behind him, Lena could vaguely make out two other figures but her vision was preoccupied by the fact that her heart was pounding so hard she could feel it in her ears. It was her karma all catching up with her, the retribution for the recklessness of the last 3 years. It was all coming back to her in a full body slam. She decided to just take whatever punishment was coming and to take it like a woman.
"Maharaji, we were just trying to clean up the mess that the customs officers left behind", she said bravely. But did he know what else they'd done? Luckily, they had cleaned up the bedroom first.
Maharaji looked at her as if he had never seen her before. "What's your name?" he barked.
"Lena", she said, almost whispering it.
Maharaji looked at her for a minute. Then he nodded. "Yes, Lena. Durga Ji told me about you. But you know I don't usually have women doing security aboard my aircraft. I think you can go back to Miami now. Michael will arrange it." He looked at one of the people behind him.
Lena was frightened, but she felt that she had to speak up. "What about Ben?", she asked.
"Ben? Who is Ben?", Maharaji said. Then he looked at Ben. "Oh, THAT guy! He can go back to Miami too. If he can buy himself a ticket!" Maharaji started laughing. "Maybe he will like it here in Australia!."
Lena looked Maharaji right in the eye. "I think Ben should get a ticket back to Miami too. He has to help me with some things back there."
Maharaji stared at her for a moment. Maybe he was thinking about all the money she'd donated to the plane project. Who could know? "All right, Michael will arrange it." he finally said. "Now, get out of here!"
The long flight back from Brisbane was grueling. But at least we're on it, Lena thought. She hadn't had enough money left to buy them both tickets.
"Ben, you almost got left in Australia." Lena said after a while.
"I would have been all right." Ben said. "If Maharaji wanted me to stay there, I would have. I am glad that he changed his mind though." He looked at Lena. "Thanks for getting me back to Miami.
"You're welcome, Ben. You're always doing things for other people, so I wanted to do something for you." Suddenly she looked at him seriously. "But maybe it would have been better for both of us to stay in Australia. I feel like I'm dragging you into all my problems."
"If Maharaji bought us tickets to Miami, then that's where we're supposed to be. Although you never know what HE has in store for you. One time there was this instructor who worked at the Office of Guru Maharaji. A few times when he kissed guru Maharaji Ji's feet, he begged him to take him on the world tour on the plane. He wasn't on the list to go but he begged at the lotus feet and like Maharaji says 'watch what you ask for because you might get it!'. This instructor kept asking Maharaji to take him on the tour, and so Maharaji took him but dropped him off in Rome and told the higher-up people there to make sure he stayed there."
"The guy finally realized he gave up his close job to pursue his desire, and since he didn't surrender to Maharaji but sullied his lotus feet by making demands at them instead of asking for devotion, he got banished." Ben smiled. "I never heard if the lord ever changed his destination.".
"Oh my god, Ben! I wasn't very surrendered back there in the plane! Do you think you should have stayed in Australia? What if something like that happens to us because I asked Maharaji to buy you a plane ticket?"
"Hey! Who am I to argue with LILA?" Ben said.
Lena settled back in her seat. I don't even know this guy, she thought.
It seemed to take forever to get back to Miami, but finally they were there. They sat on the curb waiting for a bus, which also seemed to take forever. "You know, Ben, you still have never told me anything about yourself." Lena said while they re sitting there.
Ben had to think about this one. He liked her OK. She was great in bed, but her aftermath guilt stuff was grating on his nerves.
But she had bought him the plane ticket.
'Well, Lena, you know all of us are so much alike. I mean, here we are, recognizing the most important thing humans have in common. Everything else kind of pales by comparison.'
Lena thought about this. She knew a brush-off when she heard one. Still he had the right party line, didn't he? And he WAS great in bed but the way he got kind of cold afterwards was grating on her nerves.
Whatever happened to the days when one could order a drink on a goddamned airplane like any normal human being?
"Look, Ben, here's the bus." she said. "I really need some time alone right now. The last couple of weeks have been pretty intense for me. Why don't you just take the bus, and I'll catch the next one. I have to make a couple of phone calls anyway."
Ben stood up. I guess I know a brush-off when I hear one, he thought. I wish I wasn't so damn tired. "Can I see you later?"
"Sure." Lena said. She was on her feet, headed back towards the airport. "Call me or something. Maybe I'll see you at satsang."
Ben started walking towards the bus stop, and then stopped. "Hey, when I said I would help you, I meant it!" he yelled. Lena was halfway across the parking lot, and he couldn't tell if she'd heard him or not. He got on the bus and sat down, still looking out the window at Lena. By the time the bus pulled away, she had almost reached the airport building, but she never turned around.
Inside the airport, Lena headed for the nearest bar, and ordered a double Stolichnaya. I don't know what it is with these premie guys and their foreplay satsang, she thought. Sometimes I almost wish I was back in Tulsa.