A TEXAN GOES TO NIRVANA
“Welcome to Louisville International Airport. For your convenience, this airport is a smoke-free zone. Please refrain from smoking except in outside, designated areas.” ‘Oh crap,’ thought Wendy Tate, ‘I’m in the frigging Fatherland of smokers and you can’t even light up in Kentucky anymore?’
After collecting her new navy blue suitcase with the white leather piping from baggage claim, Wendy headed straight for the outside-designated smoking area. Her new luggage made her feel like Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She was off on another adventure like Holly, and following the character closely, she was afraid that she was running away just as Holly had done when things seemed too much for her.
Wendy had caught an earlier flight from Boston so she had plenty of time before her escort was to arrive to take her to the ashram. The late summer breeze felt good on her skin. She had time to smoke and time to go back over the conversation she’d had in Boston with the deaf psychiatrist, Dr. Monique Maples, a plump, brunette with a PhD and thick, bushy eyebrows.
“Well, Wendy, tell me a little bit about why you came to me.”
To her surprise, Wendy’s chin began to quiver as she replied, “Well, Dr. Maples…”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t hear you,” said the doctor.
“Well, Dr. Maples, I haven’t really started yet.”
“I’m sorry, did you say you haven’t parted your bet? You’ll have to excuse me, but I am hard of hearing, so you’ll have to speak clearly, slowly and loudly if you don’t mind,” said the doctor.
“I’M MISERABLE! MY MARRIAGE IS IN BIG TROUBLE! CAN YOU HEAR ME?”
“Yes, thank you, Wendy,” replied Dr. Maples. “Is this your first marriage, dear?”
“UM, WELL, NOT EXACTLY.”
“So, you were married once before, correct?”
“ACTUALLY ONCE BEFORE THE ONE BEFORE THIS ONE.”
“I see,” said Dr. Maples.
Wendy had heard every psychiatrist in any movie whose theme was dysfunction say that same thing, two little words filled with judgment and suspicion. It wasn’t Wendy’s fault that her third husband had carried on a flagrant affair with a co-worker and left an evidence trail as long as a wagon track on an endless dirt road.
Wendy thought she’d learned everything there was to know about relationships when Mister Three came along. She was thirty years old, a tall, striking, west Texas beauty. He was a tall, dark, handsome and successful, young man. He was supposed to be the perfect yang to her yin. Everyone said so. He had married her and moved her to Boston, which might as well have been Mars to a native Texan. If Wendy had given herself more than fifteen minutes to decide that her entire future would be intimately intertwined with his, she might have taken pause, instead, she chose to ignore his affinity for blonde twenty-somethings in short, tight skirts.
Her outwardly perfect match with Mister Three had lasted ten years, leaving Wendy a full decade older and wanting out. She realized that the days of running back to her mother and sister had played themselves out long ago with Mister One and Mister Two. Besides, she’d learned most of her dysfunctional behavior from her family, and they weren’t any smarter or better off than she was.
“Please refrain from smoking within fifteen feet of any entrance or exit.” Wendy wanted to tell the Kentucky airport message narrator to go fuck herself, but she lit up a Winston instead, visually counting the twenty-two approximate steps to the entrance. The day was lovely, the sun was shining, she was in the beautiful state of Kentucky, and Wendy already wanted to kill someone. She took a deep three-part yoga breath and remembered why she had come. She was so determined to get a handle on her life that she had signed up at the ashram after her yoga teacher in Boston, Miranda, suggested that she attend a teacher training course there. She had even written a recommendation letter on Wendy’s behalf.
Wendy was damn good at yoga, but never much liked all the cosmic, Sanskrit hooey that went along with it. Boston was a big city that held dangers and stress for even the happily married. As the city and her marriage began to close in on Wendy, her yoga classes had at least kept her sane.
Even though yoga started out as a non-competitive form of exercise, Wendy couldn’t help but try to stretch higher, hold the poses longer and breathe deeper than her yoga peers. Everyone in America did it, but no one ever admitted it. As far as Wendy could determine, the ancient philosophies and traditions of yoga had given way to busy Bostonians who gave cursory shrift to their newly found spiritualism with sayings like Om Shanti, Namaste and Hari Om. Then, it was all about who was better than the next yogi.
Wendy hadn’t known that one had to get an actual certificate to teach yoga, but she was proud to know that upon ditching her third husband, she had a plan and a place to go. She sat on the cold stone bench in front of the Louisville International Airport and tried to make sense of the call she had made to her mother, Mary Ralph on the eve of her departure.
“Mother, I’ve decided what to do when I leave this deadbeat.”
“Well, it’s about time, darlin’, and of course we’d welcome you home again honey, you know that, but…” Mary Ralph had always been a bit competitive with her girls so her pregnant pause to Wendy’s declaration hadn’t been a bit surprising.
“The house might be a bit crowded,” continued Mary Ralph, “because your sister, Margaret, arrived just last week for some much needed R & R after her grueling experience volunteering with those people who build houses for people who can’t afford them.”
“You mean Habitat for Humanity?”
“I suppose so,” said Mary Ralph, “but you’d think that those people would feel badly about allowing other people to build them nice, new houses for FREE! I mean, they all have their own lives and families to attend to. I just don’t understand why they do that.”
“Well, Mother, since I haven’t a clue how to respond to that, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, which probably won’t lighten your mood any either,” said Wendy. “I need a break. I mean, I REALLY need a break from everyone and everything. I wasn’t going to ask if I could come home again. I called to tell you that I am going to what is called an ashram to get a teaching certificate for yoga instruction.
“What in the HELL is an ashram dear?” Mary Ralph asked as she listened with her other ear to The Price is Right on television. Wendy’s eyes rolled as she inhaled her cigarette through her mouth and nose simultaneously, a trick she’d learned from watching her mother smoke. She could hear her mother puffing away on the other end of the line and she knew that Mary Ralph was lounging on her chaise holding her cigarette in a six-inch cigarette holder between two long, skinny fingers lacquered with Chinese red polish.
“An ashram is a place where I can go to change my life,” said Wendy, “I’ve read up on it and people from all walks of life go to these places to find peace and happiness. I need to take an ‘inner’ look at why I fuck up in my relationships and I need to rest. Then I’ll come back to Texas and open a little studio and make my living as a yoga teacher. Besides, I’ll only be gone for a month.”
Mary Ralph said, “Sugar pie, you’ve always done whatever the hell you wanted to do but this sounds a little fishy to me. This place is probably in California, isn’t it?” If it’s anything like that volunteer group of Margaret’s, I hope you know what you’re doing because those people bent Margaret’s mind, and I don’t like it.”
“Don’t worry Mother. This ashram is in Kentucky, and we won’t be doing anything for anyone else, just for ourselves,” said Wendy.
Wendy had already made the call to the ashram earlier that day.
“Hari om, Wendy,” said the ashram office manager, Purnanda, “You have chosen the right place for the rest you seek. We have indeed had a cancellation for the teacher-training course next week, and we welcome your presence. Swami Rom will collect you at the airport and drive you out to the ashram. Any friend of your instructor, Miranda, is always welcome. She gave us a glowing reference for you as well. We very much look forward to eating you.”
“Excuse me?” said Wendy.
“I do beg your pardon, of course I meant to say that we very much look forward to meeting you. Silly slip of the tongue. Please accept my apologies.”
“Of course,” said Wendy. But, she was really thinking, ‘WAIT a friggin’ minute. What in the hell did she mean by that?’
“Tour buses for Louisville’s historic tobacco plantations are located at the southern end of the airport terminal.” Wendy thought briefly about canceling the ashram and touring the tobacco plantations instead when her escort pulled up to the curb. She knew this man had to be her escort because he had a turban wrapped around his head. Her IPod ear buds fell to the ground as she pretended to lift her arms in a yoga-like stretch, dropping the lit cigarette behind her back. She was expelling the last of the smoke as he approached her.
“Hari om. I am swami Rom, and I’ve come to pick you up.”
“Oh, hi,” said Wendy.
“Sorry I was late, but there was much work to do at the ashram which had to be accomplished before my mind was prepared for travel. One must clear the mind from each finished task before one can accept the next experience,” said swami Rom with his eyes looking at Wendy’s enormous suitcase.
“Yeah, I guess so,” responded Wendy with no clue how to converse with a man in a turban. ‘This must be ‘ashramspeak,’ she thought.
“Help you with your bag?”
“Uh, yeah, ok, thanks. It’s kind of heavy.”
“Heaviness is only a product of wrong thinking,” replied the swami.
Wendy knew that the drive out to the ashram would take another hour so she steeled herself for an upcoming lecture about the inner workings of the mind and the universe ‘Should I sit in the front with this guy, or do I sit in the back? Oh hell, here goes nothing.’ She sprayed a quick sprits of Chanel No. 5 on her hair to cover up the smoky smell as she entered the front passenger side of the dilapidated, old station wagon.
Swami Rom was in another zone and was no happier to see Wendy than she to see him. He immediately hand-rolled his window down, coughing and gagging at her perfumed head. She needn’t have worried about any lectures on the universe or anything else, because swami Rom did not utter a single, additional word for the entire drive to the ashram. ‘Great way to start out,’ Wendy thought, ‘Lovely way to welcome your guest, you turban-headed swami asshole.’ Wendy was also a bit paranoid that maybe this was some sort of initiation rite…to see if the yoga tinhorn could keep her pie hole shut for two full hours.
As Wendy and swami Rom rode through the lush, green hills of Kentucky, she leaned her head against the filthy car window and remembered the conversation with her best friend, Sally the night before she left Boston.
Wendy had downed a few glasses of wine when she announced to Sally, “I’ll be damned if any pansy-ass weenie at a yoga ashram is going to brainwash me. I’m from west Texas by God,” said Wendy. “I am a powerful force with whom to be reckoned, but I reckon they fancy themselves a pretty powerful force too. They’re powerful enough to get me to pay an extra grand for a private room over the two grand I already shelled out for the month-long course.”
“And, you’re sure you want to do this, right?” said Sally as she sat alone in a diner on West 61st Street in midtown Manhattan. “I have heard scary stories about cults and stuff and I hope this place isn’t one of ‘em.” Sally continued to eat her pasta as Wendy spoke.
“Well, it’s done, Sally, and as our childhood gal pal, Cynthia sang to me when she watched me swallow my first tab of acid lo those many years ago, “Well, it’s too late, baby, now it’s too late.”
“Then, fuck ’em if they try,” said Sally, “you’ve been through enough.”
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Humor Mystery
Rating – PG