What do you do before you do?
This is a zen koan. I invented it. I was masturbating or was about to masturbate when I invented it. Actually, it is preposterously wrong to say I invented it. Nobody invents a koan, it just pops into your head. For more than an hour I grappled with mine, forgetting my sleepy dick, until I fell off the bed laughing so hard, so bodily, that all that was in my head got sucked up and dumped into my solar plexus like a sock into the pit of a heavy vacuum cleaner. Swoosh! Klop! A something that I understand only by the sound and sensation of it and even with that I can’t really put it down (and maybe that something happened just before the laughter and in effect caused it, I am not sure). There are things that the mind cannot come to terms with. Paradoxes, absurdities, loopholes in the plots of Nolan movies…love and bliss. That’s what koans exploit, I think. But then again, I think.
Today is different though, one of those days. I am slumped on a bean bag, I am watching Alok in the trancelike light of the laptop, Alok emptying two Goldflakes (trancelike is not the laptop light in itself but the light reflecting his slow, precise procedures) and me trying to bring myself to contemplate on the koan or slow down my shallow breathing or ease the tensions in the neck and shoulders with some simple PT – the usual drills – but no can’t do that. Just can’t. Why? There is a serious, suicidal longing for consumption. For escape. For smoking the mixture as much and for as long as it takes to just get there. Is this is an early sign of addiction? Nope. I am good, I know that. But I also know that Alok’s insane rituals aren’t helping.
Here’s where we are right now: at two empty rolls, one roll stashed with a 25-75 of tobacco and marijuana, a separate portion of unadulterated marijuana that will fill all of the third joint – an exclusive for me -, an extra filter from a discarded cigarette that will be put to some use later on, and some spared seeds heaped on the face of a sports star who hit the headline on today’s front page for some sexual assault (it could be a wrestler, a badminton player or a cricketer – I wouldn’t know. I don’t follow sports and I don’t trust newspapers. Sometimes I read the glossy ones to get excited but that’s that). Unmindful as ever of me, Alok probes a match stick to gauge and tighten the fillings, fiddles with his playlist on Youtube (he plays political debates or expert commentaries or anything from ‘civil services + tips for preparation’ before he is baked enough to play psychedelic rock) and moves on to the next roll like an expert himself. I observe all this with a forced calmness. There is edginess, horniness in me. It could take as many as 15 minutes of the debate on the Gaza Strip crisis before the ceremony get started and I don’t have it in me to sit through this patience-test. So I break my rule. I consider the subject of today’s contemplation, one who might later be subjected to coital and post-coital temptations: Amy from foreign exchange. Pussy on a Pennsylvanian platter. What do I do before I do her?
I go to the toilet. I soap my hand. I sit on the commode. I stare at the ceiling and consider the koan. Potty isn’t the sexiest place to find answers, less so when you don’t know if you are or are not going to poop in the process. But in case you don’t and find an answer and give in to it, fantasies do play out in a most relaxed and vivid fashion here.
What do I do to her? Do I do her?
What do I do before I do her?
A hardening. Amy’s tongue is like a lizard’s. Her long cylindrical mouth has taken this shape from a lifetime of fellatios. She is a white porn star. She once said, “I am so fucked up, literally,” and, “Yum. I’d like to do that professor”, and, “How come you don’t have a girlfriend?” We once crashed into each other head-on or chest-on and she once slapped my ass in the classroom jokingly. If we were alone, in this room, on this potty, she would say “Fuck me!”
I get out of the toilet.
The final rites demands an extra pair of hands so I hold the lighter still while Alok heats up the joint. His hand moves like the roller of a seismograph, left to right, return carriage, left to right, never hurrying, never overstaying, the paper never showing any marks of the volcano of energies it is exposed to. This is mindboggling. Especially if you watch it up close. Especially if you watch it up close in the trancelike light of a laptop which is playing the erratic Zero 7’s In the Waiting Line for some reason. How does this guy accomplish this feat every single time? And why? Why such madness to methods? The stuff kicks, works, serves with obedience as a means to an end no matter how it is prepared – the phenomena occurs between lungs and artilleries, between RBCs and neurons, so the density and the tightness and the creaselessness of the joint shouldn’t matter at all. But, well, we are talking here about innocuous plants growing in the hostel backyard whose leaves give off smoke that trigger specific regions in the brain that allegedly show cracks in the operational state of consciousness. So – respect the mores. If you have arrived at the dargah for mannat, why the fuck do you care if they ask you to cover your head with a kerchief?
The wu-uhuh-uld is at your comma-and la la la la la.
Hands lifting. Lifting on their own. They drop.
Hands lifting. Lifting on their own.
There is an orbit prescribed for them and they are tracing that orbit. Pre-scribed orbit. I can sense the orbit with my eyes closed, visualize it if I allow myself to (I don’t). What brings this orbit to existence when I am smoked up? Or is the orbit always there…just unfelt? Is it some sort of surrender that allows forces other than the mind to interact with the body and show it what it is supposed to do? Do I – we – all of us human beings- break the rules of the universe’s How to Behave manual all the time in our preconditioned ignorance?
My hands meet over my head in a Namaste, stay, and go for a second lap.
My head is swirling. My mother calls this motion dhun. As in: a hrishi dhuns his head while in a trance. Or: the toothless old hag is dhunning her head because she has gone completely nuts. She used to make these jokes when my little sister would play around with her wet hair after Sunday bath. I wonder where they are now, in what alternate universes. I hope they are happy, simple, as they were.
Amy enters the room. She is here because Alok invited her. Alok invited her because I told him to. And I told him to because she is Amy from foreign exchange. Pussy on the proverbial Pennsylvanian platter.
“Does anything make sense? Sometimes when I listen to myself I am like….it’s cray-zy!”
Amy laughs. I am staring at her, waiting for our eyes to meet, for the game to officially begin. Predator and prey. Both to win? She did not come here just to smoke pot, of course. I say, “Yes, life is absurd. Camus…”
“No, not life. Who knows about life? But the brain! How do you trust this organ so imperfect? It is flawed, the whole evolution thing made it the way it is, onion like. There is simply no reason to trust the way it works… and it is what we are using to make sense of things. All that we study in universities, all subjects, books, theories – all knowledge and thinking and beliefs… a product of an utterly imperfect organ. Imagine that!”
She talks without looking at me or Alok but she is not avoiding us. If I force myself to recall, this is how she talks always. Is this an insight?
“Good point. Makes perfect sense.”
She doesn’t acknowledge the joke.
Alok says, “Trimming nails is therapeutic, man.” He flashes the nail cutter as if it is a key to some Door of All Answers. “And shaping nails is even more therapeutic.” Laughter.
Alok is done. He knows he has reached the peripheries of his sensibility. Suddenly. It always happens suddenly.
I am a human carcass with alligator jaws swimming in a blue blue ocean. My breaststrokes alternate me between suffocating silences under the ocean’s surface, where there is the constant pull of depths but also the upward push that renders me weightless, and the chaos of the breathable world. I come up because I have to. Amy is humming a song and her sharp voice I see as a volley of stings bombarded from an army helicopter on whose chassis the word Army Helicopter is painted like a graffiti art I saw in a documentary I can’t recall. Alok is a tiny shadow on a lighthouse directing large searching lights on the ocean’s surface: a steady, disturbing presence. In this image, in this moment, it is absolutely clear what I am and what I want. I am an escaped convict dangerous to them. Deep deep deep down is freedom. But they know I won’t get there. They have exhausted me. I will have to stay up and slow down and give in to the fishing net they will shoot at me from the chopper.
Capture me, torture me, imprison me in your landlocked cellars but please make me forget the sensations of brine entering my ear holes and plugging out the world. Do that and I will talk myself out of adventures.
“He – left.”
There is a tune in her reply; a shyness in her tune. Some suggestions in her shyness. I could be wrong but there is a cleavage now where there was only a promise.
A realization: the woman-on-top position is a tribal invention. Look at it! With its ridiculous pelvic thrusts and chest heaves doesn’t it seem like one of those primitive tribal dances performed to awaken some haughty male gods out of slumber? A snake dance.
A sorry dance.
“Wait,” I whisper. I remove my hands from behind my head and signal in the manner of a traffic cop. “Amy. Wait. Stop.”
I take it all in: her confusion, her dwindling passion, her nudity, her everything. She has had a horrible time in high school. She has aborted a baby in teenage. She has abusive parents or divorced parents or dead parents or parents who care for her but can’t see her as an individual. She has been diagnosed with dyslexia and schizophrenia and asthma and will die of breast cancer in middle age or of Alzheimer’s in old age.
I want to save her, from herself and myself and others. What is vulnerable can’t it be kept from breaking?
“I think the condom broke.”
“I don’t have another.”
We listen to her favourite bands. I listen to her heart beat. She tells me stories from her trip to Japan when she was seven or nine or eleven, she can’t remember exactly but she is sure she was odd years old and less than thirteen because she was still wearing vests. She tells me she recognizes me as if from a past life. I tell her I am a wicked man but she says I don’t know who I am, nobody knows what they are. She takes my hand in hers and kisses it.
“Everything is fine. Don’t worry.”