Friday, October 29, 2010

Casey's Story

There are six states of existence in Buddhism. All sentient beings belong to one category or other through the quality of their karma and therefore none of the states is considered permanent.

In order, they are:

-Hell Realm: Torture and Aggression
-Hungry Ghost Realm: Greed and Craving
-Animal Realm: Fear and Ignorance
-Asura Realm: Jealous and Quarrelsome Demi-Gods
-Human Realm: Threshold of Enlightenment
-Deva Realm: Heavenly Beings still subject to suffering

Seven AM is early for arguing thought Anna, as she listened vaguely to her chattering cellphone relaying something about attitude from someone she used to call mother. For longer than she could accurately remember, her mother had become a chronically disappointed and disappointing figure, heaping scorn on the universe to cover up what Anna could only guess was some long buried but still aching trauma. They never got far enough with each other to attempt any emotional archeology. All she could really do was bear out these intermittent storms of abuse with as much compassion as possible and then try to forget them. Like a television show, she told herself. A bad script with no purpose. She hated it.

When the noise from her phone finally ceased, she was running late. Instead of her usual leisurely breakfast of fruit and tea and quiet, she was reduced to scrambling for a banana on her way out the door and cursing the advent of telecommunication. Almost tripping over her feet on the stairs added a pinch of mortal danger to what was becoming a stew of bad feeling in her mind. She tried with some difficulty to recall the advice of her Tuesday evening meditation teacher and calm down by breathing, but her envy of the old woman's proficiency in all things spiritual soured the attempt.

Her phone rang again as she stepped onto the street and she swore in fright, forgetting that she'd turned up the ringer. It was her boss calling and Anna had to inject a smile into her voice or risk another "talk" about attitude, this time from someone whose opinion mattered. "I hope you're downtown, because I need you to stop by and get these files...", he was yammering on as usual. Anna felt like eating the phone. Or burying it. Anything visceral, brutal and satisfying. The sky was filling up with clouds as she listened and it seemed like her body was telling her to run for cover.

In Starbucks now and Anna feels small as the clerk flashes a condescending smile and hands her the coffee she desperately needs. Everyone in the place seems happy and productive on sleek laptops or sitting in attractive intimacy, removed from the mundane indignities of life. A current of anger runs down her spine as she realizes the pettiness of her thoughts. She knows better, and she's lucky. The beggars outside the polished glass doors prove it. She realizes with sudden clarity how many more beggars there are inside the cafe and feels gleefully righteous. Then empty. Then her phone rings again.

It's her mother. Anna almost screams into the phone, but then she hears sobbing on the line. "Hi honey? Are you alright?", her mother sniffles. "Of course I am, but I have a million things to do right now. What's going on?", her voice impatient and inexplicably trembling now. 'If this is another sympathy trip, I'm going to kill you mom' flashes through her mind, but she catches it. "Your father...", crying now, "Your father's gone, Anna. He's gone and I'm here and it's all going to pieces"
This makes sense, Anna thinks. This is what all the bitchiness was about, all the weak anger and empty malice. "I'm coming home. Stay there and don't drink anything. I'm coming now"

Anna's childhood home. She sees the gardens her mother once so proudly nurtured, now overgrown. She sees the swingset her father constructed for her still standing but rusty and dangerous looking under the looming autumn stormclouds rolling overhead. She knocks at the heavy oak doors and steps inside the house, transported back in time by the combined aromas of lavender and cigarette smoke which permeate every room. Her mother calls out through the silence and Anna goes in through the living room to the big kitchen where her mother is sitting up straight and glassy eyed at the huge wooden table Anna would play upon as a child. "Thank you for taking the time to come, dear. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry I kept all this from you." Anna sits across from her and sees what's been missing between them glowing raw in her mother's eyes. "I'll make some coffee, mom. It's gonna be fine." As she turns to the cupboard, sunlight pours into the room.

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