For Yama Is the Lord of Death

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A: Because I guess my overall numbers are not where they should be? That’s what Rhimst said. He had the numbers all printed out. Numbers for the month, the quarter, the year, and then the projections. The projections, I think, did not look good. At least that was the feeling I got from Rhimst.

B: Do you ever feel like you are more of a human doing than a human being? I think we might start there. Get to the bottom of your numbers. Because you have the numbers within you. We just need to release them, get the right ones out. I bring up the doing/being breakdown, because my therapist has been discussing this with me. I go three times a week. We really break down the trauma of sales in there. I don’t speak about my mommy and daddy, even against my shrink’s wishes, because I want to focus on how best to approach the business at hand, units moved, not something that may or may not have happened at an invite-only birthday party when I was five. Are you with me?

A: I think so, yes. Well, I don’t know. Maybe? I’m definitely with you in part. The part about having the numbers within me is very encouraging. Nobody has ever said that to me before. The being and doing stuff confuses me, though. I’m not good at abstract thinking. My mind doesn’t work that way. Personality tests bear this out. I’m happiest when working alone, they say. I like hand tools and freshly cut lumber. I’m goal-oriented but only up to a point. I need to see an immediate connection between my efforts and the result. If I don’t get what I want, I tend to a) sit in my car for hours, or b) blame external circumstances. I’m better at the practical stuff? Like if my fingernails are long, I just clip them already.

B: Let me put it to you in another way, perhaps in a way that you will more easily understand, where the mists of the vapor blinding you will disperse. Not that I consider you soft in the head. I do not. I am aware of the various modalities of instruction—we are all teachers, teachers to one another, and back to ourselves. Some of us are also self-taught. I might point to myself, in this regard. Nevertheless, at some point, we must ask ourselves, Do I have perfect information? That is what I put to you, Do you think you have perfect information? That is, information that fully takes into consideration all of the possibilities of why you are not performing to the satisfaction of Rhimst, but more assuredly, more importantly, to you yourself? Can we assume you do? Are we walking multiple planes of existence? If I shout my name into my hand and close it up, catch it, do I think I know what may come out of that hand? It reminds me very much of a story I once heard, and which bears repeating here to you. Perhaps you will take comfort in it. Perhaps it will be the key to that golden unknown opening inside of you—I sometimes use the term inknown—and you will henceforth proceed from the unfragrant axis of your dribbling life onto more adventurous roads. The story goes that a man was in a boat and he was angry at another boat, because it kept getting into his way, kept knocking against the hull and causing him trouble on the path he was setting for himself. He screamed with rage at times. He wanted to kill, so great was his anger. Finally, the boat that knocked on his boat came to rest at the side, and the angry man jumped off of his own boat and stomped onto the boat of the one causing him so much distress. He shouted and stormed, calling out for the boat’s owner to show himself. But no one came. Eventually, the man came to see that there was no one on the boat, and the boat was not doing anything to him on purpose, and that it was just listing. His anger was misplaced, was based on nothing. It was a misperception of reality. Do you see the point here? Are you causing your own agony, your own misfortune? Are we looking in the right direction? Should we look in all directions at once? We know from our schoolwork that it was the black sun that gave birth to us, and so we must go in search of this black light always. In the black light, the answers will be. But they may need deciphering.

Turn around and see Yama’s crown of skulls, the wild red hair, the flaring nostrils, the bulging eyes.

A: I like that story. And I think I do see the point of it. Well, I mean, is one of your points that the man should’ve seized control of the problem boat from the get-go? No use getting worked up. Just board the vessel and search it from stem to stern, if those are the right words. I never learned nautical terminology. There was little need for it where I grew up. My family has been landlocked going back several generations. Nobody ever taught us about the black sun that I recall. In the summers, we vacationed in the mountains. Hiking, biking, sometimes Frisbee. I didn’t see the ocean until I was—god, in my early twenties maybe? At least. One thing about your story confuses me, incidentally. In the beginning, I pictured two simple boats. Like rowboats or canoes. So I felt some surprise when the boat became more elaborate, and the man had to look around and call to the owner. It was as if suddenly the boat in my mind had rooms, and all along the man had been on a yacht or a racing clipper and he was getting tormented by another yacht or racing clipper. But again, my terminology may be way off here, and I do take your main point, which maybe is, if I were going to boil it down, something like, “Don’t take any guff, not from anybody.” Speaking of this, where do you stand on self-talk? Have you ever employed it in your sales? Reason I ask is I recently met with a purchasing agent representing the government of Pakistan. Everything was going fine. Lunch was fine, though I hadn’t touched my grouper fillet, I was talking so much. The purchasing agent was very interested in obtaining several hundred large units. I don’t need to tell you how great a sale this would have been, not just for me but for the company. The only potential hang-up being I wasn’t one-hundred-percent positive we could sell the large units to Pakistan under current laws, but I was telling the purchasing agent not to worry, there is always a way. They could form domestic shell companies, for instance. Have nested leasing agreements. So I mentioned all this and then I said, using my quiet voice, “Focus, Gerald. Now it’s time to close.” I should explain that when I self-talk, I employ a quiet voice rather than my head voice, because I’ve found the head voice is too easy to ignore. My head voice—I don’t know about yours, but mine is always blabbing on about something. Often it’s incidental or contradictory to my purposes, too. My quiet voice spurs me on. Also, when I self-talk, I do use the name Gerald. That is my intrapersonal name. No one but my self-talk voice uses it. Anyhow, the purchasing agent put down his fork then and looked at his dish. “Who is Gerald?” he said. I tried to play it off with a little shrug, my best smile, but the purchasing agent wouldn’t let up. “You’ve been talking to Gerald all through lunch,” he said. I asked if maybe he hadn’t overheard someone at the table beside us. A large party was seated there, and they had been carrying on. Someone’s secretary was having a birthday, I think. Or a baby. The purchasing agent shook his head. “I wasn’t sure at first,” he said, “but that last time, you clearly said Gerald.” I excused myself then and went to the men’s room. I tried to flag our waiter down, to get the check, but I guess I was standing in the doorway of the john and he didn’t see me? The purchasing agent waited awhile. I could see him looking at his phone and whatnot. Then he just paid up and left. Later that afternoon, I shot him an email to finalize things and tell him what I’d learned from talking to legal, but I never heard back. It’s been several days.

B: As you were speaking of the voices in your head, I happened to look over your shoulder—no, your other one—and take another good look at my bullish Yama mask, in the style of the Janjin Choir Monastery, as it were. I created it myself, using papier-mâché and some insect-based dyes. Carmine, principally. In any event, why I drifted to the mask, apart from my satisfaction and my memories of being on the big island of Hawai‘i when I created it, was the sense that it is possibly a good omen for you: for Yama is the Lord of Death to the Mongol people, the god who dances after the comics have left the stage. He is the one who can remove—nay, destroy—mental obstacles on the road to enlightenment. I see you nodding along, patiently. Like you understand. It will take more than simple decency, social customs of civility, to get you out of your rut. I am not here to coddle you, let’s be clear, nor to speak directly to your Jerry or Gerald, or whatever it was. You must speak to him yourself, and get him to take your lead. I am here in front of you, like Yama behind you, to get you to investigate your plan, your purpose. I mean, your real plan. How are you going to move forward in our company, in our sales force, if you haven’t defined the problems, analyzed the problems, established criteria for solutions? Will we need you to don a moon mask? Will we need to talk about pantheons, of snake meals, of why the Buddha wasn’t originally a figure, but depicted as an empty throne? Do we really need to go through all of this, or are you on a path now? I still hear my father thundering over the dinner table: Let’s try something different this time! Let’s try doing it the right way! We all shook in our seats. My mother may have taken to seeing less threatening men on the side, out of her own cowardice, but I can tell you that he was right. My father was right. You don’t get through this life without a plan, without a constant set of plans, perhaps negating the others in the process, but no matter. The point is to simply make them. You said you are a bachelor, or were a bachelor, or are again, or never were. I forget, but this too doesn’t matter. You are all of these things. Visions, mistakes, misperceptions. We are mirages, advancing and retreating. Turn around and see Yama’s crown of skulls, the wild red hair, the flaring nostrils, the bulging eyes. Can you meet that gaze? Can you look through him?

A: Does this stuff really help with sales? The masks, Yama there, these journeys we’re on, that black sun. Which you never did tell me what that was, by the way. And then the planning, too? Does it help you? In terms of your numbers, I mean. You can see this reflected in the numbers? Because what I need, I think, are results. Rhimst wants to see real results out of me. You seem to have a lot of masks. That Yama one is pretty intense. Are the skulls—what are those? Like dead children or something? I can’t believe you look at that every day. I guess it’s your hobby, though. Maybe I need a hobby. Is that what you’re saying? I like to watch TV. I like the reality shows. I got a lot of programs right now. But I suppose that doesn’t count, right? Or does it? Nobody gives TV its due. Have you noticed that? How nobody says they like television, yet everyone watches? I used to collect rocks, but that was when I was a kid. I liked this chunk of tourmaline. I liked saying tourmaline. I think it must have been the biggest word I knew. It’s a pretty rock too. Pinks and blues all mixed together. Sort of like ice cream maybe, in a way. Then for a while I was into coins, but I got tired of them pretty fast. Never could get into stamps. Too many of them, I guess, and too small. Why not collect scraps of paper? I mean, that’s what they are. Am I right? You seem to know a lot of stuff. Different stuff, too. I bet you have a lot of books in your house. I kind of like knowing things. Like what you said about Buddha? How he was just a throne and then somehow he became that big guy we’ve all seen. The jolly guy. Is that right? That’s interesting to me. Reading makes me sleepy, though. There was a guy in college, this real hippie dude. He used to stay up all night in the common area, just talking to whoever passed by, and we’d all come back from some party, stinking drunk, you know, and this hippie dude would be sitting there, and he’d always have some new thought to lay on us, and I remember once he said to us—to me, I think, because I was alone that particular night, now that I think about it—he said, “What if when Jesus was arrested by the Romans, when he was in prison and waiting to go before Pontius Pilate, what if he took his own life then? And he left a letter to the apostles saying that every day felt hollow, pointless, and false to him and this had all been a long while in coming but he’d had some time to think in here and he’d decided he didn’t want to go on living. They could do what they like, but he was done.” I think about that. I don’t know what to make of it, so I just repeat it to myself. I’ll be driving and just start thinking of Jesus in his cell, hurting, and trying to hang himself. If that’s what he would do, I mean. That’s what I picture him doing, I don’t know why. Hanging himself with his clothes, wrapping them around his neck and then tightening them until he can no longer breathe. I’d want to save him if I could. If I were a guard, say. If I were on duty that night. I’d try anyway. I guess I don’t really know much about saving people, though. What you’re supposed to do and all. Or what you’re supposed to say and not say to someone who is depressed. I wonder whatever happened to that hippie guy. What he’s doing now. He was onto something, I think. Wasn’t he? I mean, sometimes deaths are complicated. I have trouble picturing them. But maybe it wouldn’t have mattered how Jesus died. Maybe church would just be church still. The same basically. Right? Everything how it is? Things have a way of evening out over time, or maybe they only seem to. But what if instead Jesus had died in a freeway pileup? A random accident. Nobody’s fault, just one of those freaky things. Cars strewn across the road. Overturned, on fire. Some jack-knifed tractor trailer there. Sometimes I feel like I’m still in college. I know I’m not, but I feel like that same person. On the inside, I mean. All confused, like I’m back there trying to figure it all out. I’m nine credits shy of my degree, and I don’t know what I’m taking in the spring. Do you know any good classes for me? I’d ask people that. Friends, strangers, girls I couldn’t otherwise talk to. I’m that person now, I think. Still. But I’m also trying to appear as if I’m not confused, you know what I mean? Because I did that too, back then, pretending. I pretended all the time. I don’t know if this is of any use to you, hearing this stuff. To know about me. Anyhow, I think when people see me, they see that college kid. I’m talking like at meetings? That customers maybe get the impression I’m not like them. I’m not grown-up or not grown-up enough anyway. I know it’s not true. I know how old I am. I can check my license for verification. It’s like, do you ever parallel park your car? Sometimes I’m in the zone, right? And I can park just about anywhere. Like with my eyes closed? It’s like I’m being guided in by some advanced instinct. An uncanny feel for space and motion. But other times I get it into my head that my car is larger than it is, that I can’t possibly fit in between the black SUV and that Honda Odyssey or whatever. I get flustered, you know? And I’m taking too long. Turning the wheel back and forth. Backing up, inching forward. And then all these cars are behind me, honking. Or it feels like they are anyway. I get that sense. And I can’t do it, I can’t park. Except I know I should be able to park. Any other day, I could park, no problem, but not today. I don’t know why that is. It’s like my car is, you know, different.

B: We are all Buddhas, so we all die in different ways, and yet the different ways are all the same. You see? It is an important thing to think of when doing sales: death, I mean. Is my death noticeable to others? Do I use a facial scrub, mints, foot deodorizer? Will the client sense that I am dying? Is this why he or she turns from me, or turns toward me? We are selling death, to be sure, dying things, while we ourselves are dying. We do not like to discuss this, do we? That everyone around us is dying, a little bit every day, or some suddenly. I see my customers come in, and my coworkers, my wife, and they are all dying. We’re dying just looking at each other. But as Yama informs us, you must be accepting of death. You must look death in the face and say, “I knew you were coming. I am beyond you already.” I was on a vacation in the Midwest with my son, who is not as gifted as I’d like, but who I feel will prove to be a valuable asset to this country. I told him to look me in the face and smell my death. He looked taken aback, and a bit scared at first, but I got right in his face like any man should do to a young male, and I yelled at him, put him down as a young male, and by so doing, I emboldened him. I brought out his intact manhood. He gritted his teeth, and I gritted mine back, and he said, “Fuck your death, Dad! Fuck your smelling death.” I truly beamed. I was so proud of him in that moment. I hugged him. Do you see the lesson? We must walk toward the thing that frightens us. We must not cower, we must not flinch. You were talking about your problems with women briefly. Have you ever tried the direct approach? Have you ever just told a woman you were interested in that she will be your girlfriend? You don’t ask her like all of the other schmucks out there, these nutless Aldas, if she would like to go out. That puts things too much in her court. That’s an unmanly position to be in. No, you just tell her straight out, that this is your decision, and that there is no reason for her to disagree. You just remove her options from the table. Or, if you want to be a gentleman, you give her two choices to choose from. Both of which are suitable to you. Without speaking to Rhimst, I am certain that this is what he wants to hear from you. To take charge like this. To stop this mewling. Do you see? All this said, yes, Jesus was a born salesman. You know well enough that story of the fishes and loaves. Of how he fed five hundred people with a couple of fish and a couple pieces of bread. He had inventory control. He had figured out ingredient loss. Do you think you can find apostles, and tell them your stories, and get them hooked on your jazz? I may have lost you. Let me go back. The apostles are your clients, who you’re selling to. Think of them as your sheep. We need the sheep to start fucking. We need more sheep, in other words. More sheep, more money. I think you follow me.

A: These parables of yours are very exciting to me. I don’t know if you call them parables, I was just thinking they are. Though I sometimes like them better than whatever they’re supposed to refer to. Does that ever happen to you? Like with the sheep, I felt myself wanting to hear more about them—and more about Jesus too. But then it’s just over, and the sheep aren’t sheep anymore, they are clients wearing sheep masks, and we’re back to talking about sales again. Sorry. I think I’m maybe not cut out for this or something. I mean, you say I need to go out and find some apostles to sell stuff to. Except the apostles were salesmen too. Right? Weren’t they? Because didn’t they actually work with Jesus as his regional sales team in a way? And so that would make Jesus like the head salesman or maybe senior VP of sales. But either way, if I’m supposed to be looking for these apostles, that would mean I have to be Jesus, and I can’t be Jesus here. I’m not even sure I’m apostle material, or anything really. I mean, did Rhimst tell you about my depression I guess you’d maybe call it? The thoughts I’ve been having. I assume you don’t get like this. Why would you, right? Everything you got here. As for my love life, not sure what to say there. I appreciate your advice on how to take charge in that realm. I really do. Are you positive we have to delve into all this right now, though? Rhimst warned me you would range freely, that you take a multidisciplinary approach, I believe he said. And that’s fine, if that’s what works for you. I suppose it must. Rhimst said it does. But I guess I just don’t see why it matters if I premature ejaculate, you know? I’ve done it for years, all right? Off and on, I mean. It depends. But it started long before I came to work here, I want to be clear about that. And long before I even got into sales, okay? I went through a period—this was a few years ago—where I was premature ejaculating before my date arrived to pick me up. I didn’t have a car then, because the woman I’d moved in with, my ex-, said what we should do is sell my car, which was the newer of our two cars, in order to buy a silk-covered sofa, and I did that, sure, without any question or hesitation or anything, because we were in love or whatever, you know? And the sofa did pull the living room together, design-wise, she was right about that. But then after New Year’s, we broke up and she moved out and that was that. I got to keep the sofa, though. She said I could. Anyway, I don’t think that sort of premature ejaculating is so unusual. Is it? Sometimes it happens several hours before my date arrives. It does still happen from time to time, I guess. I don’t know. It’s not like I keep track of this stuff. Other times it’s right when my date is due to get there, which does create a little panic, but it’s fine, no big deal, just clean it up later. Or it can be the night before my date, and I’ll be lying in bed, watching TV or maybe paying some bills. It did happen once that I premature ejaculated while I was paying bills, but that was just that one time, or maybe one other time in addition to that time, I can’t remember. Anyhow, I’ll just be lying there and I’ll feel myself start to go off. I don’t want to be gross, but it’s like I’ve sprung a leak. First time it happened, I thought something was really seriously wrong with me. I called this emergency number. Where you can talk to a nurse? Any time of the day or night, you can call and a nurse talks back to you. They’re very helpful there? And soothing. Have got me out of quite a few scrapes over the years. I mean, I must call them up, I don’t know, every other week? Maybe more. So anyhow, this nice woman on the other end just asked me some questions and eventually said I would be okay if I rested and drank a lot of water. Also, I got used to the premature ejaculating. And what I found? It just depends on how much I’m thinking about the date beforehand. All that anticipation, you know. For me, I mean. Looking forward to hearing her knocking at the door and wondering what she’ll be wearing and trying to guess will it be a dress or some cute jeans or what. That sort of thing. I also kind of told myself a long time ago that it was okay, to premature ejaculate, I mean, because at least I’d gotten that part, the sex part, out of the way. So then I could just change my pants and my undershorts and, you know, enjoy the date or whatever. And not stress about the whole would-we-or-wouldn’t-we of it so much, which terrifies me a little, or can, if I let it. I suppose the only time I don’t premature ejaculate—I’m talking during the sex act itself now—is when we do the lovemaking at my desk, with me sitting in my office chair and my date or whoever kind of on top of me, you know. Like straddling me? I don’t know why that is. Just one thing I’ve noticed is all.

My son said, “Fuck your death, Dad! Fuck your smelling death.” I truly beamed. I was so proud of him in that moment.

B: Rhimst is basically a mired wreck, a pulsating annoyance. My practice is not scattershot, as he said, but bricolage. From the French, which means . . . oh never mind. I don’t expect him to understand. It’s a West Coast idea, where play is treated seriously. It may seem like play, but it isn’t. We must trust the process. Play will get us to the path. My therapist agrees with this process; many in the field of information science, particularly, agree with this process. Rhimst cannot handle me. He cannot follow my brain patterns. It’s always been a source of frustration for him, and so, not being talented enough to focus or to ask questions, or to develop some sort of self-starter ability, he mocks. This is a well-grooved pattern of his. Everyone is aware of his personal deficiencies, and we work around them, him. In my early years here, I did do some undercover internal investigation into seeing how he might be ousted, but he is related to the boss’s wife, so there’s nothing to be done. Your untimely emitting, la petite mort, does, however, conjoin with the secret history of Jesus, and his dealings with Mary Magdalene. It’s been suggested that he may have had previous dealings with her, of the debauched but needed variety, and that this is why she showed up at the end. The story then continues that there are descendants of Jesus and Mary today, through that line. I personally don’t believe this, because I believe it’s been proven authoritatively that Jesus was a prematurer as well. From this we can easily deduce that nothing happened in the realms of penetration, and that his story should remain as it is, though we also know that the stories are certainly specious. However, though they are almost certainly falsified, we understand them to be the truth, and so we treat them this way. The truth is born from the false. Ergo sum. Do you see? This is why sales is the noblest profession. It is directly a consequence of biblical history. You know how they always say, The truth shall set you free. Well, that’s just it, when you tell the truth, which is a combination of falsifications, you are removing the outer lie, which is that truth, and so the bottom-dwelling falsity can shine more fully through. People want the falsity. They believe in that. The unvarnished, truth-erased falsity. Again, this is why sales is so noble. It is all falsity. People know this going in, and they like it. Why do you think people like buying all of this crap that they have? Because they like it, they enjoy living in the falseness, or moments of it at least. I met my wife at a convention in Dallas, a national sales meeting, and we both saw that we had understood that the falseness was in us, and that this is what drew us to one another. We fell, of course, easily in love, and were later married. On Martha’s Vineyard, as I had arranged. The great ocean, the renewer, near to us. So, you see how Jesus foretold this in his teachings, transmogrified by church elders, and which come to us in the Bible. The Bible is our sales book. Learn to become more false. That’s the advice I give to everyone. Please take this to heart.

A: Rhimst wasn’t mocking you, I don’t think. He just wanted to let me know that when it came to your teachings, I should expect the unexpected maybe? But I really didn’t get the impression he was in any way mocking you. I think he has a lot of respect for you actually? And he reveres your numbers. He told me that himself. I mean, if anything, he’s just thrown up his hands over what to do with me. I guess he thinks you can help? Rhimst has a bit of a different approach to sales. You’ve heard. Or know. You probably know. His approach is more, I think, based on teaching children? He told me he used to work at a summer camp for difficult kids. He didn’t call them that. I don’t think you’re supposed to call them difficult. But they’re like, you know, the fighters or whatever. Perpetually in trouble and so forth? Kids that call in bomb threats because they don’t want to take some algebra test or they bring their gun to school or bite some teacher’s finger off for no good reason. Anyhow, Rhimst was like a camp counselor at this place. Which I think is in the Pacific Northwest maybe? Then he became this big advisor at the camp and taught the other counselors mediation and conflict resolution. Or something like that. When he was working on me, on helping me, he’d always be taking some of that stuff for kids and applying it to my problems. The idea was, I guess, there’s these few simple lessons and they can really be like your guide through life in a way? And help in the workplace too, I think he would say. Does that sound right to you? I mean, from what you know? That’s where his idea for the attentoscope comes in. Which he uses every day, he says, and he’s got me using now as well. The attentoscope, I’m sure you know, is a focusing tool. You make like a pair of glasses out of your fingers. Like this. No, with your index finger. That’s right. And then your thumb. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. That’s fine. I’ll just show you, okay? The other fingers kind of come in behind them and make like a hood. Like binoculars, you know? And then what you do is you fit them over your eyes. Like so. With your glasses, you’d have to put the attentoscope on over them, but it still works. I’ve tried it with sunglasses, and it even works with them. The thing to do is just get the attentoscope in place, okay? And let it focus your attention. Imagine what you want to achieve. That’s what Rhimst always says. Name what you want to do. Describe your dream. And then all you do is you sit like that, real still, for a good minute or two, with the attentoscope in position, and you try not to blink. Because I think blinking is like a break in your concentration? And you have to start over then? Rhimst says you should control your blinking and your heart rate if you can, but those’re advanced attentoscope techniques, which we only just touched on a little before he suggested maybe I ought to come see you. Anyhow, after you’re focused, you can put your attentoscope down. Slowly, Rhimst says to do it slowly. I’m probably doing it too fast still. The point is just you take your fingers away from your face, but you keep them in that attentoscope formation. Like you don’t want to break the attentoscope, right? And then you just set it down in your lap. Gently, as gently as can be. At this point, you should have your heightened focus. If you’ve done everything correctly. My focus is—I don’t have it right now. It’s just, you know, normal or whatever? Because of the talking. I shouldn’t have been talking. If I was doing it for real, I mean. But so the idea, I guess, is when you got your focus, you can march into that big meeting and achieve what it is you want to achieve. The heightened focus’ll last for a good hour or so, or until you blink. That’s the one catch. Rhimst says even after you put the attentoscope down, you can’t blink. Between us, I’m finding the no-blinking thing hard, but I’m just getting started really? Rhimst says his heightened focus lasts five or six hours and that’s on the conservative side. If he does it at night, sometimes he wakes up the next morning and still has his heightened focus. But he’s been using the attentoscope for years. So he’s much further along with it? I’ve only done it this one time in the field. I was meeting a client at my fish place, and I got there early and so I was sitting in the car with my attentoscope on and I was just trying to focus it out the windshield, looking at the restaurant but not really thinking about the restaurant or what I wanted to eat or whatever, because the other thing is you’re not really supposed to think about anything, Rhimst says, except your focus itself, and so I was trying to do that part, when there was a tap at my window, and I looked, you know, and it was my client standing there. He was early too, I guess? I still had my attentoscope on, looking at him through the window. So I rolled the window down using my elbow on the window button, and the client said if I wanted to meet inside, he’d go in and, you know, grab us a table? If I was ready, that is? He looked at me then, and I put my attentoscope down nice and slow, because it was time and because I had my focus on full-power, I could feel it, and I said, “Super, I’ll be right in.” Later, I told Rhimst all this and he said it sounded like I did everything just perfect? Except I should have parked down the street or done what he does, which is always park around back, where the dumpster is and everybody smokes, and then you do your attentoscope work there, and he knew he should have mentioned this but it slipped his mind is all, so this was on him, definitely his bad, he said.

B: It seems you think highly of Rhimst. Rhimst says, Rhimst says, Rhimst says. If I wanted to hear what Rhimst said, I’d bring him in here. I want to know what you think, not Rhimst. You’re not going to get anywhere following someone else’s path. For christ’s sake, nut up. Did you ever ask yourself why you believe Rhimst is right and you’re not? I bet you haven’t. Let me see your tongue for a second. Yes, I mean it. Stick it out. Okay, all right. There, you see. Any person with any Qi training will tell you from the coloring of your tongue that your liver system is all shot to shit. There’s a blandness to it, like you’re stuck. It’s like a milky film on it. This is the sign of disorganization. I mention it to people like you, who seem adrift, or easily duped by others, others like Rhimst. Do you know the Coyote figure from Indian lore? The trickster, the shape-shifter in other cultures. That’s what I’m talking about. Hard to pin down. A sort of anthropomorphic representation of breaking the binary mind. I can speak this way to you, I believe. You had some schooling. We need to break you out of thinking up is up and that this table is solid, or that it’s even here. Are we dreaming each other’s presence? Those voices in your head you mentioned—are these vestiges of your Coyote spirit coming through? Or babble? And which one is the babble, really: your outward speech, like what we’re doing here, or your inner Jerry, as I believe you called it? But this is putzing around the issue. We must act. Time’s a-wastin’. Do not waste your time, as the Thai forest monks will tell you. Well, they’ll probably say it in Thai or Pali, but you know what I mean. It’s all I can do to not get out of my chair here and just hit you. I don’t have this impulse often, but it’s like you need your ears boxed. To wake up. I know this isn’t the current way of doing things, but I go to a group my therapist recommended, a group for men only, where we get down to the basics. I’ll bring you next time. This isn’t some place where we sob about our daddies not loving us. Fuck our fathers. No, we try to bring forth that dark male essence, that root of the bruise, and to gird ourselves in our natural stoic strength. Ours is a private group. There is a fee, sure. Lights cost money, someone has to bring food, toiletries. But we have a wide array of courses and functions, including things like “How to field dress deer to appreciate opera.” This is a transformative class. We have men who don’t know the right end of a knife. Others have never heard of Osipova. They come together there, these brave men. In the class. The brain just connects us in a million ways, like what we’re doing here, talking about attentoscopes and Yama. We are not ourselves, is what I want to impress upon you. We are more than ourselves. Who we think of as ourselves. Do you follow me? Some people think if we are just jolted with a little electricity we may start weaving Kashan hunting carpets or speaking a dialect of an extinct language. Now you might ask, Why would I want to speak an extinct language, though? And I would say to that, Why not?

Paul Malisewski is the author of Fakers, a book of essays, and Prayer and Parable, a collection of stories. "Bcc: Dridge," a story written with J. Wagner, appeared in The Baffler no. 24.

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 August 3

I was wandering in a smoldering landscape, knowing that nothing could be done. The decisions had been made.