A bit of creative prose this Wednesday
Once upon a time, in the year 2020 precisely, the world went mad. Up was down, left was right, truth became fiction; fiction: truth, and Chicken Little squawked “AWK! The sky is falling!”
At about this time in the streets of Portland, OR, Ray the peaceful protestor, who used a sliver of time each day to carry a banner shouting “Black Lives Matter,” (because even at this point in history those who were born with this particular skin tint did not), pondered the implications of the smoke grenade which had just bonked him on the head and now lay spinning in the street just a few feet away twirling like a hip-hop dancer spewing a putrid cloud of poisonous vile and producing an atmosphere which made it appear as though the sky had indeed, fallen.
Meanwhile, far, far away in a canyon on a southern facing ridge high on the slopes of Mount Escape (pronounced: ess ska pe, much like Dory the vivid blue Paracanthurus Hepatus fish played by Ellen DeGeneres pronounced it in the animated film Finding Nemo), lived a monk in a cave who spent every waking moment in the comforts of his mental kingdom and cold cave striving to attain enlightenment.
As was his custom, the monk would embark in the early morn before the sun had yet alighted on the slopes of Mount Escape, bearing nothing but his “begging bowl” and journey down into the streets of Portland – known unofficially by the slogan “Keep Portland Weird” – fatigued and famished and seeking a kind-hearted person who had worked sufficiently enough to acquire a surplus of food rations and who would also be willing to fill his “begging bowl” with rice and fruit.
As it so happened, Ray the activist, with blood filling his eye sockets and snot running down his nose due to the 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile poison filling his lungs decided enough was enough; he needed a breather, and so headed south down 3rd street past the Multnomah County Justice Center (which currently administered two forms of justice: one for the rich and one for the poor), and the US Immigration Court (rumored to now boast top-of-the-line child-proof cages to keep children in and not out), and ran smack into the monk at SW Jefferson Street in front of one of 31,256 franchises of the iconic Seattle-based coffeehouse chain called Starbucks.
“Excuse me kind, sir. Could you spare a cup of rice?” The monk inquired.
Ray eyed the monk’s sandal wrapped feet, then his bright orange and red robe, then squinted in the shaft of light reflecting off the young monk’s shaven head, which incidentally, still felt warm despite the fact that the sunbeam had been traveling for 8.3 minutes in frozen space for 92.722 million miles. “No. But I’ll buy you a coconut milk cascara latte with a twist of blond espresso and share a Madagascar vanilla almond honey bar with you.”
“Cascara?” the monk inquired.
“Si.” Ray replied. “Spanish for cherry husks.”
Just then a Ford Crown Victoria police squad car sped by, (known for its comfort and roomy backseat presumably to pack in more suspects), its siren scattering a pair of doves grazing on a left over English, poppyseed muffin on the rusting iron table sitting nearby on the sidewalk, and trailing the car were two brand-new Abrams’ M1A2C tanks – sticker price 4.3 million per unit – to which 100 of the top Fortune 500 companies didn’t help purchase because of the of the tax break they got in 2018, and because the governmental officials in charge of fiscal management thought the poor folks should purchase.
“Perhaps we should go inside?” Ray inquired.
“Bless you.” The monk replied.
Upon receiving their order, Ray and the monk took a seat facing each other at a table with a simulated pinewood laminate top where a copy of last month’s People magazine lie spread open featuring an article about how a certain celebrity had been spotted sporting a certain brand of sock which subsequently became all the rage.
All the rage? Ray mused, but before he could wrap his mind around the absurdity the monk interrupted him.
— “Why are you bleeding?” The monk asked.
“Fighting for racial equality,” Ray said, daubing his left eye with a napkin. “Until a smoke grenade hit me in the head. Why do you live in a cave on Mount Escape?”
“To meditate where I can experience peace of mind, and for others to be mindful of peace.” The monk replied.
Ray split the Madagascar vanilla almond honey bar in two and give the monk half. “And how’s that working out for you? He asked.
“I’m always starving, but quite content thank you.” Said the monk. “And you?”
“I have a headache, my heart is racing, but I have plenty to eat.” Ray replied.
To fight or take flight: what works best for you?
“You should come visit me sometime.” The monk asked longingly.
Ray considered the invitation to journey into the sublime … of turning his back on the chaos filling his city streets … of finding comfort in the solitude of nature. “And what would we do?”
“Ponder the mysteries of the universe and send wishful thoughts to those who are suffering.” The monk replied reflectively.
“Wishful thoughts – eh? Perhaps, you should come my way instead? Just to get a visual of where and whom to send all your wishful thoughts too.” Ray suggested with a cock of the head.
The monk sipped away at his coconut milk cascara latte with a twist of blond espresso until its dregs slurped noisily and echoed in the hollow of its plastic cup. The offer to engage in human suffering – instead of merely contemplating it – (with occasional breaks to suckle on the sugary sweets of modernity, of course) were indeed tantalizing. But his devotion to the tenets of his ideals quickly overruled the temptation. “We could meet halfway from time to time.” He pensively suggested.
“You mean, me walk in your robes and you hold my sign?” Ray asked.
“Yes.” The monk replied. “Figuratively speaking, to find balance …”
“Like yin and yang?”
“More like stones in a river.” The monk corrected.
“I could use the occasional break,” Ray said, eyeing a group of protestors with war faces lunging past the adjacent window and heading into the city.
“Likewise, the occasional reality check would do me good.” The monk replied rising.
Back outside, the aroma of 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile slithered with ghostlike tendrils through the air stinging their eyes and filling their lungs. Ray slipped his bandana back over his nose and mouth (an act that would have gotten him arrested just months ago had he done so while walking into a bank), and the monk covered his face with the dangling loop of robe hanging off his arm. More sirens wailed in the distance, their music haunting and alluring amid the “pops” from unknown paroxysms echoing betwixt the buildings lining the street.
“You should head back now. It’s not safe.” Ray said, turning towards the justice center from whence he’d come.
“I’ll be thinking about you,” the monk said offering a silent bow, before heading off towards the Columbia River Gorge and on into the foothills of Mount Escape.