* * *



A very old woman, hardly able to walk in a bathrobe too large for her, stopped me in the hall. Glancing furtively about, looking for nurse's aides or doctors, she felt safe enough to say in a harsh voice which seemed too strong for her withered body, "I will give you...give you...a million...MILLION dollars if you help me to escape from this...this..." She looked down at the floor. She must have meant the nursing home, but she could have meant her body.

I was surprised by my reaction. I felt nothing. At first, there was a surge of greed. What if it were true? What if it were possible? I could get her out...but then reality in the form of doubt and a sense of laughing at myself flooded in.

"No," I said to myself, "what a joke. You and her; both!"

I disengaged her tight fingers from my elbow and whispered, more to be rid of her than to reassure her, "Don't worry. It'll be allright. You'll have visitors soon."

She looked at me as if I were a mad man. "Visitors?" she said. "They never come! No one sees me here! They put me here!"

"Goodbye," I said, and went to my brother's room. He had a slight stubble on his chin. "This place is terrible," he said. "It's new. Someone is making a fortune. But there's no help for anything."

"Yeah, yeah," I said, nodding.

"All the other patients are old and crazy. Their minds are gone. They did not hang on. But, I am aware of everything.

"Ah-huh," I nodded.

"They can't keep their help; ex-coal miners' kids who work here just a short while and leave. And besides," I waited for his further words, "there's no therapy," he said through clenched teeth. "I'll never use my arms and legs this way!"

"But," I pointed out, "I saw the therapy room."

"Just nonsense," he said. "Facade. The therapist comes in once a week. He says, `How are you?' and leaves!"

I could say nothing.

"I've got to get out of here! I've got to get to use my body again!"

From the hall, I could hear the woman again as she strolled closer. Her voice became louder as she approached, quieter as she passed.




* * *

"The guards take everything," he said. "Whatever you left for me never gets to me." I looked across the room. The blue uniformed man was watching us closely. "Even the magazines?" I said, just to say something. "What magazines?" he asked in return. "You know," I whispered, not knowing why I whispered.

"Whisper whisper. The ones with fold-outs. Pictures of beautiful women."

"Damn," he said, looking at the cement floor. "it would be nice to at least see a photo of a girl's body."

Time was up. Visiting hours were over. I left and he must have gone back to his cell. I drove down the white line of the highway, faster and faster. I saw rain clouds gathering, clouds which he did not see. I saw sunlight burst from over them, which he did not see. The autumn maple trees were embroideries of gold. But they were invisible to him. I raced down the white line. Sometimes it was broken. Sometimes it was solid. No vehicles were going in the other direction, his direction. The wind whistled through the partially opened window. Cold air whipped my hair, causing it to dance against my forehead. I knew that he could hear no such sound of speed nor feel such cold air. Did he think about it at all? Ha! What else could he do? All that he could do was that! And when that began to fade, to think about the lines in the palms of his hands.

* * *

I had raced down the line, but it got me nowhere. Pressure had built up and I accomplished nothing. I was still where I had been all along. I had not escaped it after all.

* * *

Ayesha! Ayesha! Before it is too late! Get me out of here! The blue man...

* * *

Ah! I'm surprised. Ah! I don't believe it. And from his expression, he doesn't believe it either. The fire surrounds me. But does nothing. I am amazed. Maybe it is only fake fire. But that can't be true. He had triumphantly declared that I was doomed. That implies something. But, it didn't come. Something happened. He looks disappointed, so he must have expected dire results. But, I'm not disappointed. I'm sill here! The fire--the alleged, ha ha, fire is all around me but I'm safe. I don't know why.

"Aroo!" he shouts, "this is impossible! You should be burnt ashes flying off into the Nd Drwa!"

I decided to mock him. "Sorry about that," I laughed, "but your fireworks are inferior to my powers."

"What powers?" he declared, leaning forward glaring, with his red rimmed blue eyes. "You have no powers!"

In saying this he was quite accurate, but I would be the last one to tell him.

"How did you do it?" His voice softened. He was obviously taking another approach. "Your confession, your truth-revealing, should have made you completely vulnerable," he went on. "Even if you had magical abilities."

"Oho!" I thought, pleasantly surprised to know that my out and out lie about Geshe Thubten Sengey was what had saved me. Imagine that! I sneered and waved my hands towards him in imitation of his previous almost-deadly gesture.

"Would you like some of your own medicine?" I asked.

He scowled. "Don't be disrespectful, you fool! You can't do anything to me!"

"Oh no?" I laughed as the ring of fire about me faded. My fingertips quivered. His intense eyes fixed upon them as they began to glow.

"AH-rrgh!" he growled, and vanished into the darkness.

His retreat was understandable, But I was puzzled by my success. I looked at my fingers which grew hotter and hotter. A little panicked, I tried to cool them off by shaking them and thrashing them in the space around me. Sparks flew in every direction. Showers of miniature meteorites, here and there, making a Chinatown New Year out of the Nd Drwa.

Finally it stopped, and I heard laughter. Turning to my left, I saw Geshe Thubten Sengey.

"You did it?" I asked.

He nodded, smiling.

"And you saved me from the fire?"

His smile vanished. "No," he replied, "you did that yourself."

"I have powers?" I asked incredulously.

"No," he pursed his lips. "Just dumb good fortune. Very dumb. Very good fortune."

I frowned at him, then at my smoking fingers.

* * *

I followed the line. The unbroken line, faster and faster.

* * *

I'll just follow the golden thread! That will lead me back to my body! At last! I'll get out of here.

Geshe Thubten Sengey was watching me. He turned, and followed his own thread in the other direction.

* * *

Ayesha! Listen. Can you read me? What is this place? Look it up in a geography book. Big mountain, very distinctive like a pyramid with a great gouge, a crack. Vertical. Yes, up and down in the middle. Yes. Snow-covered. Near two large lakes. Some adobe-like buildings. Where could this be? Ayesha? You get it?

* * *

It didn't work. Who do you think you were kidding? How could you be so dumb? Even if you followed the thread, it couldn't get you back into your body. You fool! Someone else did it. She did it. So how can you think you can undo it? You fool. Damn. Can she--will she--read this, too?

* * *

Dammit! She couldn't have done it unless you allowed it! You did it yourself! Well then, well then--uh. Uh.

* * *

A crack in the wall. You saw a crack in the wall. Your hand touched it and felt a slight cold breeze. It was like a miracle. Cold air coming into your cell from a lightning-shaped crack. It was almost like escaping. Just the knowledge of the source of the air, vast expanses of sky and wind, clouds and thunderstorms, was akin to escaping. "AH."

* * *

I remember meeting her. It was in the park. Early spring. The trees were just beginning to display a mist of green, as if almost unseen messengers of almost invisible life. Her face, pale skin, startlingly white and smooth, seemed to mark her as a visitor from another place, unnameable. When I stopped, frozen, before her, she looked up from the book she was reading and paralyzed me further with the calm upward glance of her blue eyes. "I..." I started to say, needing to find a way to stay near her, but I could go no further.

A line appeared above her right eyebrow. "Yes?" she asked.

But I wasn't sure it was she who had spoken and not the branches upon the tree above.

"UH. UH," I whispered, not knowing how to breathe and longer.

"Hmmm," she smiled. And that was the beginning.

* * *

"Of course," he said, "I know. I did it myself!" Glancing around the large visiting room. "But it was a mistake. I didn't mean to do it!"

He lit a cigarette and glanced at a nearby inmate holding the hands of his young female visitor who was crying.

"I," he began, "wouldn't do it again. I...damn! Words escape me." Wryly, he smiled. "Maybe time will go fast. But it would be better if I could turn it back and...escape all these things. If it hadn't happened. I wouldn't be here."

He exhaled a white cloud of smoke ;and watched it for a moment. He glanced at the electric clock mounted in the cement block wall.

"Damn! It is later than I thought!" We shook hands and I left through a series of electrically controlled doors and gates. The interior coolness of the prison was replaced by the warmth of a spring afternoon.

Leaving the prison grounds was like driving through a park, with all the young trees wrapped in a mist of green which hovered above their upper branches. "How pretty," I remembered thinking. This was followed by a choking feeling. I drove carefully out the gate, and once on the highway pressed my foot down hard on the accelerator.

* * *

You fool! You damn fool! Don't you realize it's over? Yes it is! Over! Done. Finished. You didn't pay attention, so what did you expect? Gone! She's gone! Dammit. No. That isn't true. It's just...it's just. Ah. You just said the wrong words. Forget it. Fool, you fool.

* * *

"UH. UH. HUM," came the exhalations in the dark. "Whisper. Whisper."

Get them out of here! I can't think about that any more. Out! Out of here! If I can't...well. Then I don't want to think about it any more! Is there no escaping even these thoughts?

* * *

"Why did you save me?" I asked the monk.

"It is my sense of humor," he said, not smiling. "Even though you have maligned me by your confession. I am bound to help you."

It was then I asked him an unexpected question.

"And you wish for Dai Goro Bogdu's death?"

He frowned. "We cannot speak of such things," he said softly.

"Then it is true!" I laughed.

He shook his head, more at my behavior than my words. "We cannot wrap our thoughts in such words." He continued, "Thus those words are untrue."

It was my turn to frown.

* * *


* * *

"One of the other patients," he said, his eyes looking at the nearby empty bed, "had an epileptic seizure. Convulsions!" He looked back at me. "His entire body shook. His arms quivered, his legs thrashed about!"

His eyes softened as if in thought, and he said, "But he could more. This man, twenty years older than me, could move! Quivering and shaking! AH!" And he exhaled.

I looked at the low hills outside of his window. Snow had dusted their blackness, as if a coating of sugar would hide the strip-mined scars. "UH," I said, "I," I said, "better..uh...get going."

He did not look at me. After a silence, he said, still not looking, "Yes. Storm coming. You wouldn't want to get stranded. Goodbye."

"UH. Goodbye," I answered in return, stepping into the hallway, moving quickly towards the exit, (SENOR, SENORITA) starting the car, and going faster and faster. (SENOR, SENORITA).

* * *

Susan's dark hair fell down her back in a long thick braid. Sometimes when she undid it, it fanned open, covering her shoulders, her breasts. Sometimes her eyes would peek through the strands mischievously. Another time her face would be completely hidden.

* * *

"Get me back to my garage!" he insisted. "I'll get help from welfare and I'll exercise and get my legs and arms back."

It seemed farfetched, and you remember, you almost said so. "It'll work!" The paralyzed man insisted. "Just get me out of here!"

* * *

Ayesha! Can you get this? Can you read this? What is happening to my body? Ah! What? Geshe Sengey. What are you saying? I should stop wasting my time? She is not listening! That my body is gone. Dammit, don't say that. The thread is still there, so my body is still there! So what? Then I have a chance to return. Dammit, don't say that. Why are you so negative? The golden thread...Geshe Sengey! He's gone! Ayesha! She's not listening. I wonder if she is all right. What if she is sick, or dead? Ah! RRGH! I, I can't think words like that! Ayesha! Answer me!

* * *

"What did the lawyer say?" he asked hopefully.

"Uh," I said, "Hmmm, uh," I stammered, unable to answer.

"What is it?" he persisted. "The judge give any encouragement for early parole, or work release, you know?"

"AH," I said, "There is a different judge now."

His eyes were open wide in horror. "But that other judge, my judge was sympathetic!" he said, expecting me to correct my words, as if I didn't know what I was saying. But I reluctantly told him, "He's off the bench. He had a heart attack."

"God!" he gasped. "God!" Feeling himself age in a moment, losing the years which he thought he would have. "Now," he gasped, "I'm really caged! Really caught! I can't get out. Oh God...where the hell are you?"

I said nothing, looking at the round clock on the cement wall. A nearby prisoner was hunched over, his head in his wife's lap. His body quivered as if from sobs, but nothing could be heard.

I drove down the highway. The cold air blasted my lungs, and I gasped, as if in short sobs.

* * *

"Ah. Ahrgh!" I wrenched my arm away from the teeth. I did not know whose scream I had heard. "Ah. Ahrrgh!" his or mine? But why would he scream? I was the one who had been bitten, who had the giant jaws clamp down on his forearm. But it might have been the living darkness which was screaming. There were no monks to witness what was happening. They had been left far behind.

"Suzanne! Do you see the blood pouring down my arm?" I cried. But you did not answer. Geshe Sengey did not answer. Ayesha was far away and quiet. Only the great mouth opened again, claws at my throat.

"Dai Goro!" I gasped. "Bogdu! Call off your beast!"

"AH. AHRRGH!" was the only reply.

* * *

"Aum Mani Padme Hum," they mumbled as they spun the metal cylinders held on a central handle in their hands. Each had one, embossed with the very words repeated over and over. Within them were bundles of woodblock prints, all repeating over and over in printed form "Aum Mani Padme Hum". Hundreds of these images went spinning in each of these turns.

* * *

"It's a mantra," said Sue. "It has to be said correctly. From deep inside here," she said, touching her abdomen lightly with her fingers. "Yes?" I smiled, touching her bare skin, sliding the finger below the navel, moving downward. "Is this where mantras are supposed to come from?"

She giggled and whispered, "Don't be silly."

But she spoke no more when my hand reached her moisture. "Ah!" she exhaled, "Ah!" And the breathless breathing continued.

* * *

"It has to be repeated," Suzanne laughed, "More than once, more than twice...to be correct. Ah!"

* * *

Millions of times to be effective. Using prayer wheels and rosaries makes it faster.

Faster! Faster!

* * *

Following the white line, following the golden line, I go faster and faster! The window gives whispers and gasps of sound, over and over again.

"Ah!" I exhaled. "Ah!" Like a sob which soon becomes a true sob. I slam on the brakes, crying at the winter sky. Seated in the car at the side of the road, I shake and quiver.

Ah! What is it? What is wrong? Can no one escape? Can I escape? Ah!

* * *

Snow began to fall, not one, not two flakes. Millions, one after another. I could see nothing before me. But in that apparent void I felt something approaching. Hello! Who is there? Will you help me?

* * *

"I am a god, and you are not respectful!" he snapped, remaining invisible.

"Go to hell!" I returned, squinting into the darkness.

"You cannot always escape me," his voice came from the right.

"Get out of here! Scram!" I shouted.

"I will find your flaw," he said from the left. "Then," he said from the rear, then you will die!"

"Go to hell!" I shouted. "Go to hell!" Ah. Ahrrgh!

* * *

Hang on! Hang on!

Hold fast! Hold fast!

(Senor. Senorita.)

UH. Uh. HUM!

* * *

"Look out! Coming from the left. Look out!"

* * *

What are you thinking?

* * *

"I don't know how she is doing without me," my brother had said. "She hasn't visited me here. She can't get here!"

I nodded, but not too enthusiastically. I did not wish to see his drunken girlfriend. He must have guessed my thoughts.

"She's had a lot of troubles, you know."

I nodded.

He continued. "She was committed once, and is scared silly of being committed again."

"Why such fear?" I asked, just to keep him talking, for I had nothing to say.

His eyes seemed to glaze over, and he did not answer. "Uh, " finally he said, "how they treated her there."

* * *

"Hold her down!" they said, twisting the wires. "Hold...her...uh ...down! Dammit!" Her eyes bulged, and her back arched. Hands held her mouth. Hands quivered. Feet shook.

"UH! UH! AH. AHRRGH!" Quivering.

* * *

"What are you thinking? Don't think that!"

* * *

Whisper. Whisper. (UH. UH. HUM.) Swaying. Shaking. Ahm. Money. Peddle. Hum. AUM. MANI. PADME. HUM.