A nice cup of coffee
Eventually I started thinking that it was about time I got my New Zealand trip together. I’d been telling everybody I was almost gone, but I was still in Santa Cruz, waiting for my next chance to see Belle. Okay -- I thought -- time for a decision. I’d heard about a Benedictine monastery down the coast at Big Sur, so I set off to join the monks for a few days and meditate on my future. Before I left I tried to contact Belle to tell her I’d be away for a few days. I left a message at the Whole Earth Restaurant.
I started hitch hiking down the coast. Leaving Monterey, I got a ride from a young German guy. He told me a mind-blowing story. It went something like this:
“I want to tell you this story. This story you won’t believe, maybe. Many people do not believe it, but it is all true. The story has start two years ago. My young sister was blind when she was born. She never see nothing. My mother has try everything she could. She went to many doctors. They all has say to her, ‘Your daughter is blind. You can nothing do. You cannot change.’ But my mother she wanted not to, uh… believe the doctors.
“So she went to natural doctors. She went to priests who put their hands on people, and make them to stand and walk. Everybody she went to. But no change. My sister was eight years old and still she can nothing see.”
The German guy looked about 18-20 years old. His brown hair was slicked back with some kind of greasy stuff. He steered with one hand while he gestured excitedly with the other. He talked very fast, eager to tell his story.
“My mother she do all this by herself. My father is gone away when I was a little boy. I not remember him --- not so much. We were always poor. When my mother save some money, she has spend it on a new doctor. Then someone tell my mother – Go to see Shimada-san. He is a Japanese Buddhist monk. My mother not think he can help. But she want everything to try.
“So, you know what? Shimada-san has teach her a simple chant, just four words. He has tell to her -- say this chant over and over, every day, all day long, and think about what you want. So what has happen?...”
“Yeah, what happened?” I corrected.
The young guy smiled and wagged his pointer finger at me. “You wait, you know…. Yes, my mother every day has chant. Start when she wake up. Stop when she go to sleep. Less than one month later –- my sister can see!”
“How was she able. . .” I started.
“I do not know. Who know? That is a (what is the word; I always forget) a misery.”
“You mean ‘mystery’?”
“That’s the word! Mystery. It is a mystery. No one know. But wait, then I think -- I was only 16 years old age -- I think -- Now I believe this chant is powerful. So what do I want? I want most thing in my life -- I want to go to USA. Remember, I have, uh had, no money, no job, no plane ticket, no visa, no nothing. Not even a passport. But I am saying the chant every day. Within one month I was here in Monterey. This chant have so much power!...”
“Hang on! How did you get here?” I was trying to insist on some detail this time. “I mean, what did you do, beside chant?”
“Okay. What I do. I have hitchhike to Berlin to USA Embassy. I has tell to the secretary: ‘Please I want to talk with Mr. Ambassador.’ She said, ‘Sorry, he is a very busy man.’ But I keep chanting, even when I am talking to her. I will not let a person say no to me.
“So I wait. All day. The next day she let me talk to Mr. Ambassador. I keep chanting all the time when I am with him talking. I tell him my story. He said, ‘I will help you. You are a very persistent young man.’ That what he say to me,” he laughed. “ ’A very persistent young man.’ ”
The German guy taught me the chant and advised me to chant it constantly. He said goodbye and let me out on a lonely stretch of Highway One. I did not doubt the German’s story, but I doubted that the chant was the reason for the miraculous changes in his family’s life.
There were other hitchhikers in front of me and behind me, and no one was getting a ride. I waited for an hour and a half.
Then I thought -- just for fun I’ll try his chant. I repeated the words over and over. After about two minutes, a car that had been driving in the other direction, turned around, came back and pulled up alongside. The driver was a pretty lady. I got in.
She was more than pretty; she was gorgeous. She looked as if she had just stepped out of the company president’s office and should have a dictation pad in her hand. Dark nylon stockings, three-inch high heels, navy blue suit, brown hair that curled at the ends. Not a hair out of place. Soft, timid eyes. She looked a few years older than me.
I was very pleased with the chant so far.
“Hi. Thank you very much for stopping. I’d been there for a really long time.”
“That’s okay.” Her voice was soft and melodious. She looked straight ahead.
I sat and planned how I would phrase the next question. “Did you… were you going the other way when you saw, uh, decided to…”
“Yes,” she grinned slightly. “I turned around. I thought you might have been waiting a long time. I was on my way to Monterey, but I have nothing special to do this afternoon.”
“That’s really good of you… Where do you live?”
“What are you doing up here, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Oh no,” she glanced at me, then slipped on some sunglasses. “I’m on vacation. I’m staying at the Nepenthe. Only for four days… Where are you going?”
“Oh yeah.” I had been pondering my good fortune, and I’d forgotten to tell her. “I’m going to a Benedictine monastery that’s down the coast. It’s about 40 miles from here.”
We drove on quietly for a while. I glanced sideways at her legs. Nice legs. “What’s your job in L.A.?”
“Secretary,” she said.
“Do you like it?”
“Not really. That’s why I’m here. It was really getting me down…. I badly needed a break.”
I waited for her to go on, but she didn’t, so I said, “Well, Big Sur’s a good place to mellow out.”
“Yes,” she said, but she didn’t smile back.
When we got near her hotel, she spoke in a hesitant voice: “Look, do you have to be anywhere in a hurry? I mean, would you like to come to my room and have a cup of coffee… or something?”
I thought. I thought about the monks down the road; I thought about Belle; I thought about this beautiful, lonely lady with the sexy legs. I thought about the “…or something”. I thought about Belle again.
I recognized that this was a rare opportunity. But…
Yes, I said no.
When I told Willy Divina this story, he said, “How could you be so cruel? That poor uptight career girl obviously was crying out for someone to relax her, to massage her on her hotel bed – with the curtains closed, of course… while the coffee was going cold. What a heartless bastard!”
So the pretty lady quickly said, “Oh, that’s fine. No problem. I’ve got some time, so I’ll drive you where you want to go.”
“Oh, that’s too much! It’s another 15 or 20 miles past your hotel!”
“That’s okay,” she smiled, eyes hidden behind her sunglasses.
“Really? That’s very generous of you. Thanks a lot.”
A minute later she asked, “Do you have a girlfriend?”
“Yeah,” I had to admit, while I thought to myself – Why else would I pass up a free cup of coffee? She nodded.
When we arrived at the monastery parking lot, I said thank you again, and got my pack out of the back seat. Then I sat down again and kissed the lady’s hand. That brought a big smile to her face. So I tried what I’d been thinking about. I slowly leaned my head towards hers, searching to see her eyes behind the sunglasses, trying to pick up any message in them. I kept going until my lips were about an inch from hers. Just like in the movies.
Then she grabbed the back of my head and gave me this long, passionate kiss, that knocked me dumb and glowing with joy. I hurriedly tried to think of a reason why now a cup of coffee just might hit the spot after all, but she said goodbye: “It was nice meeting you. Have a good time in the monastery. Good luck in New Zealand, if you decide to go.” She was smiling and warm.
I couldn’t say anything. I just backed out of the car, grinning like the Cheshire Cat, and waved goodbye. I stood there and watched the car turn right and disappear up the road.
By that time I was convinced that that four-word Japanese chant had some special kind of power.
I knew you’d ask that. Yeah, I know it, but I’d rather not tell it to anyone. I’ve never used it since…. Well, because I believe you don’t get something-for-nothing. And if you chant that chant, and get what you want, you run up a debt with some source of power, and you don’t even know who or what you’re indebted to. So I don’t use it. But… I haven’t forgotten it.
Yes, okay, okay. I will teach it to you. On Homecoming Day.
When the cows come home.
However, I can teach you the Death Stare. When I direct my Death Stare at a person, that individual is certain to die. Oh, it might not be immediately; it might take a few minutes or a few weeks.
Or maybe 50 or 60 years, but that person is definitely going to die. Just watch my face carefully and try to copy.
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