Where will you go, weary traveler?
It’s been days, weeks. The win came and went, and it felt like music entering the Bodhisattva’s veins directly, the notes traveling across his chakras and gaining more and more strength until he felt light emerging from his crown like a fog lamp. He hoped the light reached people like those who took care of him. He hoped that it shined on their faces and burned away the crust of deadened cells that they needed to face the evils of the modern world. Sure, his body ached in new and interesting ways–Rezin made sure of that–but the high of his fight could swallow the pain of a broken bone and spit out nothing but rainbows and chromatic lotus flowers in the sky.
But, of course, what goes up? What gets elevated? That must surely succumb to gravity just as well. And that’s where Sage found himself. Uncertainly coping with his own special brand of withdrawal.
Bleary eyed, he faces the sunrise. Unlike many of his people, he sees the value in getting up early, and he considers the first rays of sunshine that his hemisphere gets to be especially important in waking him from his slumbers. Those slumbers have been, as of late, particularly enhanced, his daily intake of sativa leading to an afternoon of hybrids before he takes in enough indica to put Ganesha to rest. He reminds himself that it’s necessary, that going out to fight random shitkickers and reactionaries is not the activity of an elevated man. Especially one who swore he would step back a little bit.
Then again, he considers this as a coping mechanism as he fires up his breakfast joint, the rays of the sun making him seem all the more like a golden god. He’s an Abercombie catalog on a steady diet of festival hash and transcendental meditation–he could go through his life as a hot idiot and probably never work an honest day. But he was tapped for something greater.
“But is that something greater numbing myself until my next fight?”
There’s no one to answer this raspy croak.
But he worries all the same.
He’s firing up and taking the first hit off a raw cone. Ghost Train is good for pain management and stimulating the creative mind, a quality Sativa for the start of the day. Perhaps he’ll paint or write or just make patterns in the dirt. What he knows though, is this: A week ago, he had one before lunch. Now he’s taken to two, his dawn smoke and then one at around 10am, a prolonging of a specific type of high that he can dovetail into something like White Widow at around the 2pm mark. This works until about 7, when he unloads the big gun. The nuclear option. The one that makes that nagging voice in the back of his head and that particular itch in his knuckles, the one that says “we haven’t bled in far too long, boss”, all shut up. Nine Pound Hammer is Cannabis Indica the way a Concussion Grenade is a firework–sure, it’s not entirely untrue, but it fails to capture the totality. Sage has tried many blends and strains in his day and is practically eidetic with it, and he can’t find anything that slaps him into the dreaming quite like it.
How long until he needs two hammers to commune with the dead on the other side of the veil?
He shakes his head. No reason to entertain such thoughts, because the drought is almost over. The knuckles practically sing in joy, because Sage knows what he knows and the punch-flattened knobs where his fingers meet his palm know what Sage knows. There’s going to be a fight.
Thank the universal creator.
As he slowly puffs away, a worry crosses his gaze.
He’s been bailed out by being booked. That’s a good thing. But as the Zen master said, “We’ll see.” Maybe he beats Cross, maybe Cross is a man of far weaker conviction and commitment to the violence necessary to achieve enlightenment. Maybe Sage is just on the ascent and gathering more and more power. Accolades all around, and that specific high that he’s been numbing himself from craving. That delicious high, delirious exhaustion and the pain in your body intermingling with the memories, physical and intangible, of what you did to another human being. It’s a hard feeling to describe, hard one to put words to. Imagine the exhaustion and endorphins of a workout combined with the dopamine and oxytocin of an orgasm, and then settled into a hammock of pure Ayahuasca. That gets some of it but not the whole form. That’s what people can’t seem to grasp, that’s what none of them are open to knowing.
So he gets that.
Back to the same? Driving across the states, avoiding Joshua Tree like it’s the exclusion zone, getting so fucked up you can’t think about how badly you want to pull over and start a fight with whoever looks like they might hit you hard enough to wake up those same engines of exquisite enlightenment? Give in and beat that same person so badly that they don’t recognize themselves the next day? How long, Pontiff has to consider, until those one-on-one bouts fail to feel the same? Does that day ever come? Is the upcoming show that day?
“Slow down, Bodhisattva. Those days will come or they will not, and nothing you can do can stop that. To focus on the future is to live the life of a hungry ghost, damned to walk the world in monochrome. Focus on the now. This sacrament. This sunrise. The blades of grass. When you see the next thing in your path, you’ll deal with it then.”
This pep talk seems to clear the stormclouds from those magnetic eyes. He takes another hit and smiles as he lazily makes smoke rings into the emerging sunlight.
Soon this won’t be necessary, because the sacred act of combat will be here. Why rush to a destination that is already so etched in stone?
What will you see, weary traveler?
Listen, you court attention with this life. Sage wouldn’t hardly admit it publicly, but that kind of attention is something he lives for, be it good or bad. Fine children of the rainbow sweating your every move, eyes tracing every crevice of your body from face to gutters to the webbing of your toes, ravenous for even the smallest taste? Members of the square community facing you with their corporate disdain and more than a little jealousy? The pigs fingering their nightsticks and pepper spray with an almost sexual desire, practically drooling at the prospect of beating you bloody and locking you away until you beg for the mercy of the state?
The Bodhisattva welcomes them all. Enjoys them all.
Which makes the act of laying low a dicier thing, y’know? Because Sage has been this since his early teen years, so much so that he hardly even registers that he’s courting that attention anymore. And certainly that he really isn’t sure of even the meaning of “lay low”, much less doing it successfully. His very existence is an invitation, all the trappings of who he is–the dreads, the piercings, the ink, the camper van, the clothes that perpetually smell like sticky fauna–all commanding the attention that he craves, in normal circumstances.
But right now he just needs snacks.
But the gas station he’s arrived at is crawling with people–it is the summertime, after all. Sedans and hatchbacks loaded for bear, trucks pulling boats and trailers with ATVs, families giggling, navigators navigating. Sage is pursuing a powerful hunger, and he’s trying his best to ignore the looks he’s getting–looks that turn into calls.
“Look at this fuckin’ guy.”
“You lost, buddy?”
“Maybe you’d feel more at home up in Portland?”
Sage doesn’t pay them any mind, though this is a struggle. But struggle, he reasons, is part of the spiritual path he walks. In another time he’d pick a fight with one of them, get bloodied up, but that became so…comfortable. When it’s a comfortable mode, no growth can come from it. That’s true of education, weightlifting, and spiritual growth. So Sage doesn’t say a word, doesn’t throw them a look. Eternal calm. Buddha calm. Gathers his snacks, gathers his canned coffees, everything a professional athlete needs, really. Pays the cashier’s look of hate no mind, your money is green just like everyone else’s. One exit, another round of insults, and you’re back on the road.
Except now, when he exits the building…no one has words. He registers a few snickers and whispers, but no antagonism. No one baiting him for a fight.
The sound of an aluminum can leaving a hand at speed is immediately overtaken by the rapport and sensation of it hitting the back of the Bodhisattva’s head. He pauses his walk, maybe halfway to his van, closing his eyes. There’s no pain, of course. And he’s a man above pride and the concept of such a thing being wounded. But as he hears the cackles of laughter from one of the more powerfully built of a group of men huddled around a truck bed, he can’t help but think. The Bodhisattva sees the arc of this man’s life, of repeatedly being shown that might is right and that he is just so strong and so powerful that he can get away with whatever he likes. He can insult who he likes, assault who he likes, and until someone shows him any different, that behavior is just going to feed itself until it’s the size of a titan. And when he does evil deeds, as he most assuredly will, people in his community will say that they saw the signs. That if they had only paid more attention. That if somebody just did something…
He turns. Before he’s even thought of it he’s dropped his bags and, with a cocky smirk, retrieves the can. He idly considers it before throwing it into a nearby trash bin, then he trains his eyes on the pitcher. Every bit the guy he assumed he would be–arms and neck thick as tree trunks, his gaze narrowing in incredulation–is this guy actually standing up for himself?–his stance turning from relaxed to aggressive. Sage’s very existence is a challenge, but just to seal the deal, he breaks into a pretty boy grin and raises his eyebrows just enough.
The man rushes him, followed by his entire crew. They all want to hold him back, but it’s turning into a group effort. Sage’s smile fades. Because he realizes it. This is his same pattern. He shakes his head, looking…well, mortified. His hands in tight, fight-ready fists without him even registering the muscle movement. The would-be combatant isn’t to him yet, so he…bends down. Grabs his bag. Runs, for maybe the first time in a long while, from an easy fight. He has the rush of a man who has seen a ghost, the gait of a teen in a horror film being stalked. Into the van. The man is screaming things at him, hate speech. There’s nothing in this world the Bodhisattva wants more than to make him eat them.
But…he fires up the van and peels out.
And all you can hear over the engine is his scream of frustration.
What will you do, fellow traveler?
I know my own charge, my own quest, my own fated existence, right? So I know the road that I’m on, and I also know that the road will diverge into places that are unknown to me.
That’s where I am now.
And that’s where I feel a real pity for you, man.
I’ve been going into this sort of extender torpor punctuated by people in the world deciding that they can insult me. Take advantage of me. Threaten me. Try to hurt me. And there was a time, Cross, when that would have been beautiful music to my ears. Where that would have seemed to me like the universe placing it’s golden hand on my shoulders and guiding me to a new stage of enlightenment, personally.
But then the music got more rote.
The hands of the universe seemed cold–the stages of enlightenment less profound.
So I did the most radical act I could think of.
I stopped! Just like that.
But now…now, man, things are getting difficult.
Because I’m getting steady enough work, but not steady enough work, you feel me? I’m still out of balance, still wrapped up in this spiritual oscillation, unable to arrive at my stasis point.
That’s bad news for me.
It’s terrible news for you.
And it’s nothing personal, I need to make that clear. Because when I look at you across the ring, it won’t just be you I’m bashing bloody and beating into pulp. It’ll be every pig I’ve been harassed by, every fascist I’ve had to swallow my words in front of, every agent of the state I resisted my natural urges towards. When I look at you, it will not be your face. It’s gonna be a door with a lock on it. And the magic that forged the key is long lost, so I have to punch through the wood until it finally gives way and a new understanding emerges to heal the world.
It’s not your fault, it’s not personal, and you can’t stop it.
So I ask again, what will you do, my traveler brother?
Will you run? A lot of dudes I’ve faced recently ran. Which isn’t to say they avoided the match, just that they had mentally put it into their rearview before the first bell.
Will you dig into this and take it not as the confession of a man who is telling you certainties, but as the words of an enemy who is threatening you? Will you take it personal, and attempt to snuff out the brilliance of my sunrise?
Will you do both? Will you accept that this is our fate and join me in the sacred act of bloodletting and pain, sacrifice that has been our conduit to the unknown since before we even had language to speak it?
I’m expecting the first. I’m hoping for the third.
I think we both know the second is a mistake.
But in any direction, Eddie, I will have my connection with the divine.
I’ve been in the cold for far too long.
And they have invited me in, but I must pay for the pleasure of their company.
That price is you. That price is me. That price is our health and our safety, temporary things lashed to a temporary housing.
You’re on this journey with me now, whether you like it or not. And we can’t just stop, not now, not after so much growth and learning. Remember the mantra. “I must embrace the void, I must embrace that I am powerless against it.” This is your time, Cross. We’re at the wheel of eternity, together, and will be until our business is done.
You aren’t strong enough to fight this.
No one is.
But don’t fret, man.
Because we will reach the mountaintop. We will be blessed. We will understand one another not in terms of two separate beings but in terms of our part is the vast quilt of existence.
Even if I have to make you see.
Even if I have to drag you there.
Even if I have to smash your skull until enough of your preconceived notions fall out that there’s room enough for the new truth of unity.