No one complains, which means he’s alone.
There is comfort in this, and Sage hates that shit.
It’s an odd sensation, one of wanting to be left alone and in his arms at once. But in his arms there are questions The Bodhisattva would rather not answer. In his arms there are questions of a future and how to make that future tenable within the confines of two lives that are, frankly, wildly different.
It makes him chuckle, though. Cliff always makes him smile, not his perpetual mirthful soft curl but genuine, teeth-and-all grins. They’re both so similar, they both reject the premise of capitalist society whole cloth. He taught the Bodhisattva how to address the real-life sickness of inequality head-on–Sage, in turn, taught him something of how that sickness can infect and blacken the spirit. But he had to get out. Had to oil up the camper and book it somewhere remote, somewhere where he could dose himself catatonic and consider the sunsets and get…
God, that bristles him.
“I need space” is something people who drive sensible sedans and go to couples therapy say. It’s not his vibe, or at least he’d like for it to not be. So why is he here, parked up against a body of water, wishing the cocktail of expanded consciousness he’d ingested four hours ago was doing anything other than just buzzing him?
“You bought the ticket, Pontiff. But the ride’s broken down.”
There’s something of a psychic block, a dam in the river of his consciousness, and he knows the questions about what to do with him and Cliff are the particular beavers that put them in place. That’s something else that bristles him, too. He never met a connection with another human that he couldn’t rise above, that he couldn’t scrub from his gray matter with the appropriate combinations of things from the soil. But here Cliff is. There’s that toothy grin and that vantablack mustache. There’s that jaw that he can’t ever seem to shave smooth. Every time he tries to empty his mind to a perfect chrome nothingness, there he is.
Sighing, The Bodhisattva stares across the water.
The drugs offer not their promised cleansing, the isolation does not comfort him as much as it once did.
Time was, when he was blocked like this, he’d find his real drug of choice.
Find yourself the bar closest to an industrial park. Make sure you’re in tie dye, they hate tie dye.
Lock your dilated pupils on the meanest, drunkest motherfucker they can find. Goad him. Bait him. Make him seethe until he does something about it. And then it doesn’t matter who wins, it doesn’t matter what it does to his good looks, it doesn’t matter if he’s got a fight coming up or not–the only thing that matters is it fucking hurts. The only thing that matters is the blood, the vibrations of rage, the…
He shakes his head, our Bodhisattva.
There are options to seal this rift, but a relapse isn’t among them.
No, Sage finds himself entertaining ideas that are so old and unused they feel new again. His life has been one of the solitary traveler, and that life he is well versed at. And maybe if he ran into his problems within that context, he would be able to lick them just as always. Alone, considering the weight of existence.
But what plagues him now is distinct to his coexistence with another.
Maybe what he needs is another’s perspective?
That bristles, too. But not because he isn’t fond of other people–on the contrary, Sage finds delight in any being. But a byproduct of being a spiritual leader to the disaffected is that you’re used to being the one with the answers to the greater mysteries of life. That’s probably what’s gnawing at the base of his skull: he can’t meditate this away. He can’t find some scrap of esoteric Hindu philosophy to make all the pieces fit. All he has are puzzle pieces and none of them are edges and he doesn’t even know what the puzzle is of. But far from being ready to give in to his more morose feelings of helplessness, he is resolving something. He resolved it this exact moment. The only question is how? Miles away from anyone who would welcome him in, and most of those are ex-lovers. Not that he has a concern, necessarily, but they all knew a Sage Pontiff who didn’t really believe in boundaries. And now he has one. There’s that bristle again.
An idea strikes him, the light crawling across his eyes, his bemusement at the fabric of nature turning into a genuine, gobsmacked smile.
Driving into the city with a belly full of vegan butter chicken, 2 caps, one stem, and one capsule of Aquarust is probably not the most advised thing to do, but it’s far from the least advised thing he’s ever done.
Phone, Keys, kangaroo pouch.
Pausing, he fishes his phone out.
It’s true, he doesn’t have a lot of people he can call on, but maybe if he puts up the metaphorical Bat signal…
Where do you go when you need advice that the universe can’t give you through the regular application of heroic doses of psilocybin?
You go to people you know.
But what if you’ve been all but excommunicated from the communes and spirituality festivals and crystal-charging orgies where you’ve spent all your days? Most of the people at your job hate you, but you’ve at least made some inroads with a few of them–there’s at least something approaching an understanding, if not a friendship. So when you put out the call and a couple of your new buddies show up, their arrival is met with so much relief.
Sage Pontiff: Can’t thank you enough for showing up.
Not that he was waiting, Sage doesn’t keep a watch and considers time to be a construct of the modern western form of capitalism. ”A way for actuaries and bank dicks to assign a value to a human life in increments”. So when he rolls up to the coffee shop, his companion is already waiting, and looks angrier for it. Or he’s just pissed in general. Probably a column a/column b situation. Paxton Ray scowls up at Sage, a tiny cup of espresso in his hand.
Paxton Ray: Thank my manager who insisted. Don’t know why the hell I’m here.
The Bodhisattva takes a seat, the sunlight practically making him glow. He hasn’t even bothered to button his shirt that much, but at least he bothered to put one on. Smiling at Paxton, he shrugs.
Sage Pontiff: Because I’m a person who needs help and you’re like…the only individual I know who enjoys a scrap almost as much as me. Almost.
Not waiting for Paxton to retort–and there’s likely one a-brewing, though it may not be verbal–he goes in.
Sage Pontiff: So like my main thing is, I’m trying to grasp where the line is. Or maybe if a line is even needed. My partner certainly thinks there needs to be one, but he doesn’t live for this or make his living from it, so am I crazy or does he just not understand? I mean, we met at a punk show. He doesn’t shy away from a fight. But you know what he said to me, man?
All Pontiff gets is a terse grunt.
Sage Pontiff: He said “You’re in love with the pain. You feel like you fuckin’ deserve it and you feel like everyone else deserves it.” Like how morbid is that? It’s psychically aggressive to even say, its…
At this, Sage trails off. His eyes scan, darting like he’s deciphering Matrix code. He looks to the horizon and takes a slow sip of his tea, mulling things over.
Sage Pontiff: How can I care about someone as much as I do him, and be this infuriated by him, both at once? It sends my mind and my spirit north and south.
Paxton stares at his Wargames teammate with a blank expression. He lifts the tiny espresso cup to his lips and takes a sip, leaving a small bit of coffee in his whiskers.
Paxton Ray: Well I ain’t no therapist, an’ boy howdy do ya fuckin’ need one. But that’s love for ya. They drive ya crazy in more ways’n one. Hell, I got a couple women right now I can’t decide if I wanna punch or kiss, sometimes in the same damn moment. Got to say, though, he’s thinkin’ too high about it. It’s jus’ pain. Fightin’ is fun.
Sage Pontiff: I keep telling him, but does he listen?
The Bodhisattva does a quick, swivel-headed check of the surroundings before drawing a tightly packed cone joint from behind his locs. He fires it up, taking a solid lungful, nodding.
Sage Pontiff: “Fighting with him is exhausting, but not fighting him is worse.” Maybe it’s the tension that creates the spark, man. But it does suck that there’s a part of me, a big one, that fuckin’…
Finally, he exhales.
Sage Pontiff: …you understand better than he does.
There’s an inhale from behind Sage. Incoming snark alert.
Anna Daniels: Of course he does. Paxton is a rabid dog who is still trying to figure himself out. As are most of us, in our own ways.
The Muse takes a seat close…ish to the odd duo, taking a sip of her green tea.
Anna Daniels: And how do you guys keep getting our phone number any–you know what? Nevermind. Have you considered the possibility that maybe your whatever-he-is might be right? Maybe not in the exact way he thinks, but you should at least ponder it over a bit, Sagey. Maybe it’s a bit of both. You are crazy and he doesn’t understand.
Sage Pontiff: You tend to be the vox of many populi, but maybe that means the wisdom you drop into the psychosphere is just that many times multiplied. I know that I’m not “normal”–none of us are, we’re all deviants by the standards of the square community–but maybe there’s some value in trying to be. A little bit. Maybe. For love, right?
Anna Daniels: For some, perhaps.
The vessel combs a hand through her hair. She sighs before speaking her truth.
Anna Daniels: This is based on our own personal knowledge, so take it with a grain of salt. In order for relationships to work, all sides have to love each other regardless of the crazy. Not because of it, people change. Not in spite of it, you may not change fast enough. Regardless of it. If he can’t clear that hurdle for you or you for him…
She takes a sip.
Anna Daniels: Well, we’re not gonna say it won’t work out. But it’s a really hard road.
Paxton Ray: I didn’t really understand any of the shit that came outta their mouth but I think love is dumb and if ya can stand bein’ dumb enough t’let in, then you’ll prob’ly be all right.
We see the service counter of the coffee shop over Paxton’s shoulder, and someone’s receiving an extra large extra-whip-cream syrups-akimbo sugar-coma-in-a-cup, preparing to drink some feelings of his own. He turns.
Oh damn. It’s FLAMBERGE. And he’s coming over with a VERY confused look on his face.
FLAMBERGE: What is happening here?
He scans the assembled trio before checking his phone – he didn’t necessarily plan on running into coworkers today, and – yep, there it is, a bunch of missed texts about a meetup to discuss Sage’s problems, provide advice, perhaps even a shoulder to cry on. Serves you right, you dumb little poodle – ignore the world all you want, it’ll find you anyway.
FLAMBERGE: …oh. We are doing the “pow-wow”? We are giving the Sage the romance peppy talkies? You all do understand that the love must be dead, non?
He takes a big sip out of his caramel chocolate monstrosity that’s maybe 2% actual coffee; blank stares are returned his way.
FLAMBERGE: Non? Bon, allow me to educate. Sage, this man requests that you put a cap on the greatness you can achieve in order to make him happy. This is what we call the “death knell” where I am from. There is only one choice to make, and let me make this abundantly clear to you – if you do not make it yourself, I will help make it for you.
Sage stands at this, not appreciating the Frenchman’s tone. FLAMBO, being in the mood he’s in, responds by poking a finger in Sage’s chest.
FLAMBERGE: At War Games, the violence we will need to achieve to survive will be more than this namby-pamby will tolerate. And if you choose not to oblige in the violence – it will be more than I can tolerate. Alors, only you can make the choice – you cannot half ass the two things, you must whole ass the one thing. Greatness, or a guy that requires a pow-wow to discuss how best to coddle. Cecilworth may be our captain, but I am L’Uni, and I intend to collect a loooooooot of necks that night. And, if you insist that love for this “dude” is above that…you’re on the wrong team, and your neck will be one of them. If not at Culture Shock, then soon after.
He takes another deep sip of his how-can-a-man-with-such-low-body-fat-consume-this-and-stay-so-fit cuppa, turns his heel, and leaves. Paxton watches him go and snorts through another sip of espresso.
Paxton Ray: How ya say diabetes in French?
I’ve been meditating on the word ‘eager.’
It’s kind of loaded, right?
I was told a lot when I was a kid that I was ‘too eager’. Too excitable, too flighty, too distracted. I’d cop to those last three, sure, but too eager?
Does that even exist?
‘We’ve noticed, Mr and Mrs Pontiff, that Sage is always ready and willing and yearns and we don’t value that in our institutions because it really doesn’t make him the best cog.’
I think of eagerness because…you really are.
I am too.
The man I love thinks I’m too eager.
So those echoes from the past are just reverberating in my bones today, if I’m being honest.
Do you know pain? What’s your relationship with it? Is it still something you avoid, something you shy away from? Do you welcome it? Can you dish but not take? You’re an opportunity for me to know someone else’s relationship with what I believe to be one of the greatest sources of transformative energy in the known universe.
See, me and pain?
I accept that about myself.
He wasn’t wrong in saying it. I deserve it. I believe everyone deserves it.
It’s all really…Gurdjieffian, really.
He said something that I think of often.
“You can never awaken using the same system that put you to sleep in the first place.”
Your life. Mine. Everyone’s…all the good things, the warmth, the comfort, they will never awaken anything in you. In any of us! You can’t, like, attempt to evolve if all you want is to be mollycoddled. Gurdjieff believed that we had to suffer to earn our soul, too. Mastery through struggle. Enlightenment through suffering. You have to pay to receive, even in the world of the spirit. Some pay with time and study, others with denial of pleasures, others with devotion to religion or invisible colleges. All of this unseen knowledge lives within us, though. All of these texts and practices and tithing and ritual are merely pathways to understanding one’s own self.
You need none of them.
You just need flesh, Rose. Flesh and pain.
I deserve the pain. Everyone deserves the pain.
Because the pain is what gives us purpose and meaning.
The pain is your only constant.
When the people you love have died and your friends have moved on in their lives and the drugs don’t fuck you up as good and the food doesnt taste as divine and the sex feels rote…pain is there. It asks nothing of you except for what you give unto it. And you are rarely the same as you were before you bathed in its waters. I understand that all of this is…high minded. Esoteric, occult, even. But Rose, look me in my eyes. Look at me. So intently that you start to lose focus, until my face is an impressionistic blur, until all that’s left are my eyes. Ignore my dreadlocks and my piercing and tattoos and beads, ignore the trappings and the accessories. Let it all blur until all that’s left are these eyes.
Are you looking?
Tell me I’m feeding you a line. Tell me I’m selling you a dream. Tell me I’m finding some ridiculous justification for my bloodlust.
But you can’t, can you?
Like me or not, agree with me or not…no one can deny that I’m sincere. I believe this shit. In my bones, in the very veins of life’s experience in my aura, I am committed.
You are eager to prove yourself.
I hope that means you’re eager to teach me some new things about myself. I hope that means you’re eager to do The Work. I can’t make any promises to your own enlightenment, that was the folly of an earlier version of Sage Pontiff. That being was shed with blood and violence, that chrysalis is somewhere on a desolate stretch of highway outside of Amarillo. No, only you can decide to join me in the process of The Work. But I think we both know your mind is a thousand miles away from becoming who you are meant to be, and that’s okay. You will arrive at transcendence when you’re supposed to.
I’m ready to see a new man staring at me once I mop all the blood away from my face.
I deserve the pain.
Everyone deserves the pain.
But it takes an enlightened individual to court the pain.