Ophelia wasn't planning to attend Hans Jayanti in Kissimmee; not after the previous year when her husband left her to join the ashram. His moment of clarity had brought her the pain and suffering of a woman betrayed and left for another lover. But this was worse. Ophelia's rage surfaced only long enough for her to recognize it and suppress it quickly with guilt. She could not allow herself to feel angry toward Maharaji -- twice she had spoken with initiators who urged her to understand that her feelings were invalid and kept her from the true experience of peace and bliss.
One week prior to the festival, Big John sat down beside the softly weeping Ophelia during Satsang. He took her hand in his and guided it to rest in his lap atop his bulging woody. She lifted her red eyes to behold his blue eyes upon her. Big John leaned over and whispered, 'Come with me to Florida.' He shifted his weight and stuck his hand in his pocket. Ophelia gasped, fearing the worst. But Big John pulled out a small picture of Maharaji and said, 'Ophelia, he wants you to come.'
A few days later, Ophelia met up with Big John at a gas station and the chance encounter convinced her that, by His grace, Maharaji was calling her to Kissimmee. She accepted a ride in Big John's old VW bus, unaware that seven other devotees were also planning to make the 3,000-mile trip in 3 days. Big John's motivation for asking Ophelia along became apparent after the first rest stop: no one else had any money.
The tight quarters, along with the standard vegetarian diet, soon created an intolerable breathing environment. Ophelia studied the others, wishing she could surrender and experience the bliss they were evidently experiencing (since no one else seemed to notice the stench). Two of the female passengers were ashramites and spent almost the entire trip sitting in a lotus position with their eyes closed. Nothing so unusual in that, except that one of them was not wearing panties and no one but Ophelia seemed to notice. (Secretly Ophelia nicknamed the panty-less sister, 'Beaver.') Repeatedly, one of the brothers strummed a guitar and sang all the songs he knew until someone would ask him to play Arti. Everyone except Ophelia would join in eagerly. Ophelia looked out the window and wondered why she was here in this van on this planet with these crazy people. Whenever she started crying, the others mistook her tears for joy.
One morning, Ophelia awoke to find Big John's arm around her shoulders, his hand groping her breast as he steered with his other hand. 'I have a special gift for you, sweetie,' he purred.
'And I have something for you, too.' Ophelia elbowed Big John in the ribs hard and pulled her shawl closer around her. Fortunately, the sun was rising over the Atlantic Ocean, and soon they'd be out of this damn van.
Arriving at the festival site, Ophelia experienced mild panic as memories of the previous year rushed through her mindless mind. All around her devotees were smiling peacefully, busily engaged in various forms of service. Ophelia felt like a fish out of water, a sore thumb, a bad cliché. She gave the brother at the front gate her last $100 and, carefully avoiding Big John, wandered off to see if the Grace had brought her to this cow pasture for a purpose. Deep down, she wanted Maharaji to be real. She wanted the Knowledge to manifest in her life. If only her husband hadn't left her for that fat, greasy... Ophelia stopped herself short of finishing her blasphemous thoughts. 'So Hung,' she repeated in her head as she attempted to attach the syllables to her breathing. 'So Hung.' What a stupid mantra, Ophelia thought to herself. I doubt whether Maharaji is 'So...' Stopping herself again before completing her thought, Ophelia decided to focus on something external since she was apparently going to lose the current battle with her mind.
Service! Ophelia decided to help out in the kitchen. Unfortunately, her husband was there in charge of the yogurt. 'So Timothy,' Ophelia began, 'How is life in the ashram? How's Miami?' Immediately the vibe became weird; Ophelia was afraid of his response.
'Listen, Ophie, I have something to tell you.' Timothy stared at the ground, unable to meet Ophelia eye to eye. 'I've, we've... er, I'm leaving the ashram. One of the sisters and I fell in love, and one thing led to another, and now she's pregnant...' His voice trailed off. Timothy glanced at Ophelia out of the corner of his eye. Ophelia dropped the crate of yogurt on the ground, turned, and walked away.
She came to her senses when a friend called to her as she meandered through the field where Satsang would start very soon. Ophelia sat stunned through several hours of blithering nonsense, registering nothing. When the Guru arrived on stage, his devotees went crazy. Ophelia remained seated in a catatonic state. It wasn't until the Guru left the stage that Ophelia let out her blood-curling scream. A whole year's worth of anguish escaped her lips, and she could no longer hold it in. Devotees nearby mistook her outburst for some sort of spiritual experience brought on by the Darshan of the Lord. When it became apparent that she was not going to stop screaming after a number of minutes, Ophelia was escorted by security to the tent where the social workers and psychologists were on duty to assist with freaked out devotees. A doctor administered a shot of valium, and Ophelia fell asleep quickly.
On the second day, Ophelia awoke with a dry mouth and a strong urge for a drink. Although she hadn't used alcohol, tobacco, or drugs for a couple of years, the desire she felt was strangely reminiscent of the days before Maharaji when she would hang out down at the beach every day and find guys who would help her get high. After receiving Knowledge, Ophelia took for granted that she would never, ever drink or use drugs again. After all, she was told that the Knowledge was the source of the satisfaction she was searching for in drugs. And if she would only practice it correctly, she'd never need anything else again.
The day shift premies serving in the mental ward tent were over in the corner having Satsang to prepare for their Service. Ophelia had no trouble sneaking out of the tent. She traveled directly to the front gate and saw a devotee smoking a cigarette. She bummed one from him, and walked off slowly down the path toward the shuttles to the city of Kissimmee. A brother approached her and reproached her for smoking on sacred land where the Lord was likely to show up at any time. Ophelia was crushed. Her spirit, held hostage by Maharaji, was easily tamed into submission. Freedom was not hers; not yet. First, she would learn to recognize evil and burn in hell before rising as a Phoenix and reclaiming her soul.
She hopped on the shuttle that stopped at various hotels. She got off in front of a 7-11 and realized that she had no more money. At first, she considered whether this was a 'sign.' Perhaps the Guru's Grace caused her to be broke and hungry. Her programmed mind said, 'Go back to the sacred land. Eat the yogurt.' Her natural mind told her programmed mind to 'eat shit.' Ophelia stuffed a bottle of cheap wine and a muffin in her jeans and left the store. Fortunately there were so many other devotees in the process of getting busted for the same offense that Ophelia was able to walk away and drink her wine in a hotel parking lot.
After she got a fairly decent buzz on, Ophelia decided she really needed coffee instead of wine at 7:00 in the morning. She walked around the side of the hotel restaurant and noticed it was filled with devotees. She assumed these must be the brothers and sisters who knew better than to camp in the cow pasture, eat Divine Groceries yogurt, and use port-o-potties for 7 days. While gazing in the window, Ophelia noticed a young girl, seated alone, who appeared to be talking to herself. The perfect breakfast companion.
Ophelia approached the young girl and asked if she might join her. The girl was actually in her 30's, but wore her hair long and kept braiding and unbraiding a strand of it. She introduced herself as Lil, and invited Ophelia to sit with her. Lil easily fell into a monologue, and Ophelia listened with a mind as clear as an Etch-A-Sketch that had just been shaken upside down. She ate her stolen muffin and Lil bought her a coffee and the morning seemed promising.
As it turned out, Lil was a devotee from Miami. Her boyfriend was also a devotee, but his cocaine habit caused Lil to worry because his behavior became wild and extraordinary when he was strung out. Once, Lil told Ophelia, he threw her across a room and broke her nose. A few times he butt fucked her and really hurt her. (Ophelia noticed that conversations around them died down as Lil told her tale.) Lil explained that she had learned some spiritual lessons from the abuse she suffered. For instance, she learned how to find pleasure within pain. She recognized that it's all the same and that 'through changing her perceptions of what was happening,' she was able to rise above anything negative in her life.
Ophelia was hypnotized by Lil's story, mesmerized by her style and her confidence. She only wished that she could have Lil's clarity and understanding. Then again, she wondered if perhaps Lil might have taken a few too many acid trips. Lil's boyfriend showed up, smiled quickly at Ophelia, and told Lil it was time to go. Although they never met again, Ophelia often thought of Lil fondly-never considering that rather than achieving sainthood, Lil was probably suffering from Dissociative Disorder. Ophelia decided to hop back on the shuttle and give the Guru one more chance to cure her misery. But first, she used the restroom in the hotel. It turned out to be the highlight of her day.
You know you are having fun at a festival, Opehelia thought, when happiness is a bathroom with flush toilets and only one other person in the other stall.
But what was that noise? Ophelia thought it was someone crying. The other woman ended up outside her stall at the same time as Ophelia. The woman had definitely been crying. She also had no problems pulling out a vial of coke and doing a line right in front of Ophelia. Lena looked over at Ophelia, and smiled, 'Well I figure if someone smells like cheap wine at 8 a.m., they don't have a lot of room to judge' She then offered her a line.
As they left the restaurant they both expressed a desire to stay away from the cow patch a little longer. They went back to the parking lot and finished the wine. Lena laughed till tears ran down her face as Ophelia recounted her breakfast conversation with Lil. She felt so close to this person she had just met.
Lena asked Ophelia if she had heard the rumors that Maharaji was going to be spending more and more time in Malibu, and that Miami was not the hot spot it had been. Ophelia looked at the sky for a moment, and then turned a dazzled face to Lena. "I'm channeling something here." And then she started to talk.
The Last Days of DECA, as prophesized by Ophelia, would actually happen sometime in 1981. She predicted that families would be split apart so that work on the plane renovation could be accomplished by monastic devotees, money would be tight, and several followers would be overcome by toluene fumes and report seeing the Guru levitating above them while a strong odor of burnt popcorn lingered in the air. Ophelia cried as she channeled the future sadness and the outrage experienced by followers who were left without anything after the project was over. She got in touch with one such soul who, upon leaving Miami and the ashram, hiked his way across the United States barefoot and in shock. Lena recognized the description of the follower and became sober rather quickly.
'NO. Please don't let it happen!' pleaded Lena. Ophelia put her arm around Lena and said, 'Don't worry about that now. Pass the bottle and cut us up some more lines, will ya?'
Ophelia lost track of Lena as she boarded the shuttle back to the festival site. She wondered if Lena had given her the slip on purpose, and while she sat musing and staring out the window, a brother plopped down in the seat beside her. He grinned moronically at Ophelia, breathed deeply and loudly, closed his eyes, and placed his hands-palms up-on his thighs: index fingers meeting their respective thumbs at the tips. Never had Ophelia experienced meditation harassment such as this. The brother's energy was filling her space, forcing her to shrink back toward the window. His breath, which he exhaled with gusto, wreaked of the fresh wheat grass/garlic/onion juice he had recently drunk. Ophelia feared she might faint and got up to leave, but the shuttle bus lurched forward and she landed on the lap of the surprised meditator.
'Excuse me.' Ophelia meekly scooted herself back to her seat. The brother quickly recovered his serenity and said, 'That's quite all right. My name is Jon. What's yours?' Ophelia introduced herself as best she could considering her state: she smelled of cheap wine and tobacco and a white powder distinctly outlined her left nostril. 'Isn't this wonderful?' Jon continued. 'Five full days with the Lord of the Universe!'
Although quite loaded, Ophelia was able to ooze into another trance state and connect with John on the level of Holy Name. As he praised Maharaji, Ophelia felt herself drifting into a state of bliss where she accepted everything John said without question. He droned on all the way to the cow pasture. In a hyper-sensitive and extremely suggestible state, Ophelia suddenly felt loving toward everyone around her and particularly John. In her eyes, he became exquisite, sexy, and highly desirable. But before she could express her feelings to him, the bus stopped, and the devotees disembarked in a very orderly fashion. However, when Ophelia began to step off the steps of the bus, she tripped and fell face first into mud. Two brothers assisted her in standing and escorted her to the first aid tent where she immediately passed out and slept all morning.
Ophelia awoke when she heard loud cries and squeals all around her. Sitting up quickly proved to be a mistake-the headache was intense. All of a sudden, right before her on the road, Maharaji drove by slowly in a jeep. He gazed intently at Ophelia who immediately began to cry and fell off the cot into a clumsy pranam. After he was gone, devotees gathered around Ophelia and confirmed that the Lord of the Universe had paid particular attention to Ophelia, and she should feel quite fortunate. Ophelia, confused and hung over, asked the doctor for some aspirin. She tried to meditate, tried to feel the grace, tried to experience anything but this horrible isolation and depression. Fortunately she slept again and was spared the torture of the evening program.
Veteran premies like Lena and Ophelia, women of the world, women who had had Knowledge for years, knew how to negotiate their way through the multi-leveled and many-faced universe of Maharaji's world. They knew how to unplug from the occasional madness, hell, they had gone through so many truly strange and twisted experiences that they now accepted madness as part of the path... But in that Kissimmee cow pasture there were those who were the rookie premies, green as Ophelia's face on that hungover morn. Hell, these innocent ones weren't even premies at all (and they were constantly reminded of their deficiency)...they were the aspirants. Dear reader, we will tell you the story of one such aspirant, a woman named Gabrielle Dawes, whom everyone called Gaby.
Gaby wandered through the strange village that was premie-land feeling as at home as a fish in the desert. The sun beat down on her, burning her face and shoulders, but she barely noticed since she had been out of touch with her body for about 3 years now. So much had happened on her strange spiritual path. She had followed a Swami for a year, who told her she was a 'stubborn child.' His path had been so difficult: yoga, fasting, meditation, seriousness. So she had decided 'what the hell, the premies look like they're having fun,' and had decided to receive knowledge. It wasn't really a case of 'when the student is ready, the guru will come.' It was more a case of 'if I'm gonna have a guru, please make him fun.'
But it hadn't been easy...she had too many 'concepts,' knew too much about spirituality. She'd read 'Autobiography of a Yogi,' and 'Be Here Now,' had been initiated into TM, taken the EST training, taken every psychedelic known to humankind, lived in a spiritual commune and communed with spirits, visited psychics, had an out of body experience, been rebirthed, and followed the Grateful Dead around the Midwest. She had been into Christian Science for a while. Prior to that she had grown up in a rather rarefied home on the east coast, even attending a girl's finishing school for a short time where she had organized protests against the school's administration and had had a lesbian love affair. In short, Gaby had experienced a lot. She already had several mantras, which she chanted regularly, and she knew all about grace and effort and how to surrender to God.
Someone had told her that other Gurus will get you to God in a dune buggy, Maharaji will get you there in a Concorde. She didn't want to waste time -- she wanted 'the express flight to God.' Her friends worried and fretted about her. One woman said, 'If there is a Lord, I don't think he's that little fat guy.' Another friend said 'What about the other kind of knowledge-knowledge you put into your BRAIN??'
But Gaby had caught a strange sort of fever. She had disconnected from her family, and was going for the gold. Or so she thought. But so far getting knowledge was proving to be more difficult that she had imagined.
Gaby had been an aspirant for a long time now and it was getting old. She couldn't understand why every time an initiator came through DesMoines, she was told 'you're not ready, you're not surrendered, you have too many concepts, Maharaji's going to make you nice & real' and other such obtuse statements. What did these things mean?. She already meditated twice a day, did yoga postures every day, read only books of a spiritual nature, and ate a pure vegetarian diet. What the hell more did they want? Couldn't they see how pure and spiritual she was??
'Ah me' she thought to herself as she wandered up to some friends, Phyllis and Pat, from her DesMoines community. They were talking excitedly about Maharaji's upcoming satsang that night.
'Oh hello, Gaby' said her friend Pat. 'Are you having fun? Maharaji might dance tonight.' Pat's face had a blissed out, spaced out demeanor as if she were having some internal experience. Little did Gaby know that she was drinking nectar. Her other friend, Phyllis, giggled and swooned 'You haven't seen anything 'til you've seen him dance.'
Gaby thought Phyllis would have an orgasm right then and there. Phyllis' unabashed love and devotion for Maharaji was kind of embarrassing to witness. But it also was sweet and genuine. All the ashram premies were like that (except for two of the men who were fucking nutcases). Gaby figured this was as exciting as it got for ashram premies since of course they adhered very strictly to their celibacy vows. Phyllis turned to Gaby, cocked her head to one side, and said in her most sisterly and saccharine voice, 'Gaby you should go listen to satsang.' Gaby had listened to enough satsang to choke a horse but she started to walk towards the stage where people were giving satsang. She figured if she was ever going to receive knowledge she had better get her butt to more satsang.
The initiator at the microphone closed his eyes and focused on his meditation until his face took on a blissful glow. When he opened his eyes, he looked like the baby sun in the Teletubbies show. 'Dear premies,' he began, ' it is just so beautiful to be here, and you know there is only one reason why we're here-Guru Maharaji's grace. It's just so beautiful to have that experience.' He went on and on in the same vein. After some time, Gaby started to feel a little faint. The sun beating down on her head was cooking her brains. The next thing she knew everything went black.
Red held the strange woman in his arms. My God, she was gorgeous.
He smoothed her Indian print skirt down over her legs so as not
to be tempted by the sight of her bare thighs. The thoughts that
flooded his mind, dear reader, were very far away from holy name.
Red couldn't help but stare at her sensual mouth, auburn hair,
and the voluptuous breasts that filled her peasant blouse nicely.
Gaby's eyes opened. She saw but did not comprehend her vision--a
man's face looking down at her. Then her brain filled in the details.
She was lying on the ground, she was at the festival, the man
looking at her was holding her. 'Oh God, I must have fainted,'
she thought with horror.
'I was just getting ready to take you to the first aid tent,'
Red explained. 'Are you all right?' My God, he thought, her eyes
are beautiful too!
'I think I'm all right. Thank you for helping me. I need to sit
in the shade, get something to drink,' Gaby said. God, I need
to take better care of myself, she thought to herself. This is
'Let me walk with you to the food line...just in case you pass
They exchanged names and began sharing the details of one another's
lives as they sat in the shade, drinking and eating. 'So to make
a long story short, I've been living in Miami doing a lot of service,
and trying to live a life that's pure and simple, by Maharaji's
grace.' Red took a bite of his tofu, bean sprout and bee pollen
sandwich. 'You know you're so lucky, Gaby. There's so much grace
when you first become a premie. But I have to tell you a secret,
the Perfect Master makes it a little more difficult when you become
an old-timer premie like me. The mind gets tougher. I probably
shouldn't tell you that, though.' Red smiled.
'I know all about that,' said Gaby, 'It's a common phenomenon
in all spiritual paths that the stronger the pull to God, the
stronger the ego fights to maintain control.' This woman was really
too intellectual and analytical to be an aspirant, Red thought.
No wonder she hadn't received knowledge yet. But she was still
'Gaby, you have to let go of all those spiritual concepts, Maharaji's
going to blow all those concepts to smithereens. Man, there is
nothing, nothing like this experience. You have to forget all
that spiritual stuff you've read. It will only get in the way
of your pure experience'
Red had a wiry intensity that was very compelling. He obviously
loved his guru, and Gaby appreciated his honesty. He was the first
person to admit to her that the premie path was not always an
easy one. 'I've been doing service working on the stage. I'm running
on fumes at this point.' He smiled and his eyes met hers. Gaby's
Later that night Gaby went to Red's tent, as he had asked.
He heard her questioning voice outside the tent. 'Red?' she asked.
Thank god he'd been able to get the tent to himself that night,
'Come in, Gabrielle,' Red said softly, his voice choking in his
throat. He could see the moon lighting up the blue-blackness of
the sky, and feel the softness of the night air. Oh God, he was
experiencing so much tonight, he thought he would leave his body.
Gaby looked even more desirable than she had earlier as she slipped
into the tent and sat next to him on the canvas floor.
'Hi,' she said shyly. 'I told the folks in my community I wouldn't
be coming back to the hotel tonight and one of them winked at
me but the others scowled. Iowa's a bit conservative,'
'I hope they don't think I'm going to eat you alive,' Red joked.
Suddenly, he froze with guilt. My God, what am I doing here, seducing
one of Maharaji's innocent aspirants? He took her hand. 'Listen,
Gaby, I didn't mean for this to happen, this is so unlike me.
I mean, I have desires just like every other guy, but, uh, what
I mean is , you're very special. I'd never want to hurt you.'
Gaby looked deep into his soulful eyes. Their lips touched and
then he tentatively tasted thenectar just inside her lips. Her
tongue issued an invitation to his and he slid his hungry tongue
eagerly into her sweet mouth. Sweet God, but she tasted good.
She moved closer to him and he could feel the warm outline of
her breast against his arm. They eased down to his sleeping bag
and she wrapped her childlike arms around his neck. She arched
towards him and he needed no further invitation to slide his inquisitive
fingers up her blouse. Her ample breast more than filled his hand,
making his cock ache with need.
Her hand caressed his back, his butt, and finally --oh yes--his throbbing member under his jeans. His long neglected cock leapt to attention -- at last, an oasis in his self-inflicted celibacy.
His fingers gently slid into her panties and found the wet soft
treasure of her sex. He buried his face in her hair.
Gaby arched more and more, giving herself over to the pleasure
that she could never deny herself. God, he was sweet and he smelled
like pineapple and jasmine and sand and salt and MAN. She kissed
him passionately. I think I'm in love, she thought.
At the height of Red's passion, as he was coming, a long locked up, terrifyingly haunting
image came to his mind. 'There is no other woman in the world
but Lena, there is no one I will ever love the way I love her.'
This thought both shocked and aroused him somehow, but it ruined
the rest of his night with Gaby. As beautiful as she was, Gaby
was just a child, where Lena was a WOMAN. While Gaby slept in
his arms, Red thought 'Tomorrow I'm going to find Lena.'
Dear readers, the Mind is a strange thing. What was it that derailed Red from the exquisite beauty of his time with Gaby? It was a thought, one minuscule thought, that thought of Lena that damned him. He could have dismissed the thought as if it were an annoying mosquito, which would have allowed him to enjoy the ample delights of his night with Gabrielle, possibly giving way to a lifelong relationship with the sweet girl. But no, he mulled the one thought over and over, picking it apart like a scab, until it ignited in his mind like a forest blaze that soon raged out of control. How tragic that one thought had this power, one memory of the unattainable, untamable Lena, a woman who had scorned him many times over, someone whose name had branded tragedy in his heart.
But let's be honest with ourselves, dear readers. Isn't this human nature that our thoughts so often betray us? Wasn't there a grain of truth in what Maharaji told us about our minds? Are our thoughts really reliable? Are our minds really comprehensible to us? Even though we may not be premies anymore, is it not true that our minds commit treachery against us on occasion, throwing us off the steady sure course we've fought so hard to gain?? Still, we are better off being exes than being premies....back then our minds were like foreign objects that we felt we had no mastery over whatsoever. But I digress...
During that Kissimmee time, the time of Maharaji's hold on the minds of thousands, premies did desperate things and thought desperate thoughts. Having been told their minds would work against them, their minds DID work against them: a self-fulfilling prophecy. So this thought of Lena raged out of Red's control, and grew into OBSESSION.
Red woke Gaby up very early the next morning. 'I've got to go
and do service.'
Gaby smiled up at him, and embraced him. But something was wrong.
He felt unyielding and stiff in her arms. Oh no, she thought,
what happened? 'Can I see you again tonight?' she asked.
'Uh, Gaby, I'm going to be really busy for the rest of the festival.'
Red said, 'And, you know, I shouldn't be doing this...I do live
in the ashram.'
'But, Red?' Gaby cried. 'I thought...'
'Oh, hell, Gaby, there's something I have to tell you.' Red looked
out of the door of the tent. 'There's somebody else.'
'Maharaji?' Gaby whispered.
'Well, him too.' Red grimaced. 'But there's also another somebody
else. It's this woman, Lena. She was the housemother when I lived
in San Francisco. She was so beautiful, so wonderful, so devoted.
We fell in love, but I had to leave her. Later, I found her again,
and she had stopped practicing knowledge. I brought her to Miami
with me, but she never seemed to get back on track. I had to choose
between her and Maharaji, and I chose Maharaji. But I can't get
her out of my head.' He turned to Gaby. 'She's just...I don't
know how to say it, unforgettable. She's a real woman, Gaby. The
most beautiful woman I've ever been with. Last night, I realized
that I can love Maharaji and Lena too. I've got to get her back,
Gaby's heart sank. Why does this always happen to me? One night
of sex, I think the guy really likes me, and then he starts telling
me about the woman he's been obsessed with for years. She's always
more beautiful, more exciting, more devoted, more everything,
than I am. What is the matter with me!
Red suddenly seemed to remember who Gaby was and what they had
done the night before. 'Gaby, last night was great. You're a really
sweet person. But, well, you're only an aspirant. We really can't
get involved like this.'
Yeah, I know I'm sweet, Gaby thought. That's why these guys always take advantage of
me like this. And the worst part that I really liked him, and I thought this could be the start of the real thing. She started to cry.
'Oh, Gaby.' Red said. 'Don't get in your mind about this. Don't be so attached. If only you had knowledge... You'll feel better once you hear some satsang. You know, the things of this life are transitory, and Maharaji and Knowledge are the only things that remain the same.'
'I thought you really liked me, Red!' Gaby cried.
'I do like you, Gaby. You're my sister in His love. But I realized last night that Lena is my soul mate. She's the one that Maharaji meant for me. You know, I really appreciate you helping me come to that realization.'
Gaby was speechless. Red made her feel so inadequate, so inexperienced, so unspiritual. I've got to act detached. I can't show him how I feel, she thought. I have got to get out of here. 'All right, Red.' she said, choking back her sobs and quickly getting dressed. 'I need to go now.'
She stepped out of the tent and looked blindly around her. Very few people were awake. She saw an orange grove near her. Some people were camping in it, but no one was stirring yet. She ran far into the orange grove, as far as she could from the festival grounds, and burst into tears.
Unbeknownst to Gaby, Lena and Ben had also retreated to the orange grove to talk, and Lena's cocaine and wine breakfast was making her talkative indeed.
'Ben, listen.. I think it's time for me to leave Miami. I just met the most amazing person. It's a sign. She said DECA is corrupt and going down fast. She predicted the whole thing will fold in a couple years. I know it sounds crazy but she was the real thing. She scared the shit out of me, I had to get away from her, so I could think about what she had said. Ben, listen, Ophelia, that's her name, she's moving to Santa Monica. She says Maharaji is going to be spending more time there, at his Malibu residence. I want to go there. Maybe I can straighten out my life, finally.'
Ben was dead on his feet after a night spent doing service, but his mind raced for a possible way out. 'Lena, listen to me. You are just feeling paranoid because you have been doing coke, and at a festival no less! Have you even TRIED to meditate?'
'No Ben, it's more than that. Listen, you said you'd help me.'
Ben sighed. 'OK, Lena, I didn't want to tell you this, but there is something we can do. Miguel told me that there's this premie couple that owns a music store in Tucson who might be interested in buying the coke. I can take you there, but I am flying back to Miami afterwards. You have to understand that I am committed to the DECA project. If things work out like you say, maybe in a few years I'll be coming out west too.'
Gaby sat hidden a few yards away. She was astonished! Was this THE Lena? THIS was the woman Red thought so wonderful? God she will never understand men. And what about their conversation? She couldn't believe they were premies. Premies using and selling cocaine? It couldn't be. This aspirant process was becoming harder by the minute. 'It must all be a test. Maharaji is doing all this so I can become stronger' Gaby decided. But Lena really was a beautiful woman, just like Red had said..
Ben's words cut deep. Lena realized that she had a lot of feelings for this man. Once again an old familiar hatred of the Guru surfaced. But she put it down quickly. After all, the lifestyle and friends and community were all that were keeping her from a life of addiction, or worse.
She had to get away from this. 'OK Ben. Let's do it. You drive me to Tucson. I only need to take a few things. I'll have enough money when I leave Tucson to do whatever I need to do in Santa Monica.'
Ben found himself shaken as well. He couldn't express what he was feeling. Years of blocking emotions, being told they were just a distraction, had taken their toll.
He got up and helped Lena to her feet. Suddenly he did the only thing he could to show her he cared. He hugged her and started to stroke her breast, her hair. When he kissed her, he knew for the first time what missing her would be like.
She responded immediately. Knowing the days were numbered for them made her passion accelerate. She pulled down his zipper, bent down.
Gaby couldn't leave. She was terrified they would hear her. And also, her own compulsions were keeping her eyes glued to the scene.
When they had finished, Lena got up and started to walk away. Nothing more to say. But something caught her eye. A beautiful young girl was sitting among the orange trees. She had her eyes closed. Meditating probably.
Suddenly the girl opened her eyes. The look of utter despair that she sent out to Lena was so strong that it felt like a physical blow.
'What the fuck is that about?' Lena wondered. 'Maybe Ben is screwing around.'