By on Jul 10, 2017 in Humor

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Meditation class, with overlaid sunset


When I opened the passenger door of Harold’s car, smoke billowed out like in a Cheech and Chong movie. I got in, moved the seat back and shut the door. Harold handed me the lit joint. He turned on the CD player. Led Zeppelin blasted on. I took a big hit.

“It looked like the two of you were just standing there, man,” Harold said.

“Yeah, we pretty much were.” I handed him the joint.

“Might as well get stoned,” he said before taking a hit.

He gave me back the joint.

“Is getting stoned the answer to everything?” I asked.

As I started to take my hit, Harold said, “Naw… Buddhism is.”

He looked at me and raised his eyebrows. Then he burst out laughing, and I burst out laughing and coughing, losing a lot of smoke, but immediately feeling really fucked up.

“Aren’t you worried about cops?” I asked.

“Yeah, but I try not to let it ruin my life.”

I decided that since we weren’t in my car, I wasn’t gonna worry too much, either. We passed the joint back and forth. It was good weed. The music thumped against the inner surfaces of the car, pulsing right up through my feet and into my heart and brain and blood. Mine was the only other car left in the lot.

“What did you think of the talk?” I asked after a while.


“You know, the… uh, the Buddhist… stuff.”

“Oh. I don’t know. It was pretty relaxing, I guess,” Harold said.

He put the roach, out now, into a little black film canister.

“I had trouble relaxing,” I said. “My leg hurt, my eye itched, my chair was too close to the table.”

“Yeah, well, you’ve never been much of a relaxer,” Harold said. “Laid back, you’re not.”

“I also kept thinking about Helene.”

“Yeah, well, that’s a dead end,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, Romeo, pud, first of all, she’s married. And even if she weren’t… or wasn’t… whatever the fuck it is, you’ve got four quadrupeds and a nice wife at home. You’re not about to do anything. And, second of all, you’ve been mooning over Helene since high school. Get over it. I mean, yeah, she’s nice… I wouldn’t mind getting inside those skirts and scarves and whatever the hell else she was wearing… though she does look like she’s getting a little fat to me… but face it. It ain’t gonna happen.”

“I don’t mean just fucking her,” I said.

“Then what the fuck do you mean?”

“I don’t know. I’ve always felt some connection with her. I mean, to have feelings this intense, after all these years, it has to mean something, doesn’t it?”

We sat there, Led Zeppelin banging away.

“I don’t know, man,” Harold said. “It probably just means you want to fuck her.”

“I don’t believe it,” I said. “I don’t believe that’s all it is.”

Harold’s fingers drummed the steering wheel.

“Maybe it’s hunger, then. Wanna go get some tacos or something?”

“Nah, I should go. It’s getting late.”

“All right,” Harold said. “I’m gonna go get a taco.”

He started up the car.

“Thanks for the buzz,” I said as I searched for my door handle.

“No problem.”

I found the handle and got out.

“Later,” Harold said as I swung the door shut.

He backed out and drove away.

I stood there for a few seconds, then started to feel cold. I staggered as I took my first step and worried anew about the cops and the drive home. Helene was probably already home, unless she’d gone shopping or got in an accident or was meeting some guy for a drink…

Perish that thought.

Perish all thought.

The more I think, the worse off I am.

I kind of wished I wasn’t stoned. Then again, I kind of wished Harold had given me a joint. And I kind of wished I was in bed with Helene, parting her thighs. She, newly bathed, welcoming, the culmination of years of longing…

Maybe Harold, in that annoying way of his, was right. Maybe I did just want to fuck her.

I started up my car. I backed up, then coasted down past the darkened, empty temple. Was old Fafafnik still in there, or was there another way out? I hadn’t seen him leave.

I drove up to the parking lot exit. The evening had been more of a trip down memory lane, a sometimes painful trip, bombarded by the endless crap in my head, than an experience of something new. I certainly didn’t feel better for having gone. But then, Lucy Schmaltz had said that meditating wouldn’t always make you feel good.

I definitely did not feel good.

I pulled over to the side of the road, by the sign for the temple. I turned off the ignition and opened my window, then reached over and rolled down the passenger window. (I don’t have automatic doors or windows. Or a sunroof. Or, etc., etc…)

The night air was cool. After a moment, I could hear the crickets. A Led Zeppelin song from Harold’s CD was running through my head. I tried to concentrate on my breath.

My chest expanded, then contracted. And again. I realized I was gripping the steering wheel, so I let my hands drop to my lap. Inhale, exhale. An acorn hit the roof of the car. The engine ticked. Inhale, exhale. Simple. Peaceful. I laughed a little at how ridiculous it all was: What should I have said to Helene? What should I have done? What does it mean? Worried about this, worried about that… Fucking ridiculous. Just breathe. In… out… Yin… Yang… You live… You die… What the fuck does any of it mean… or matter?

I started up the car and headed home to my wife and kindling.



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After receiving degrees in psychology from Wesleyan and Duquesne Universities, and since completing Naropa University’s Creative Writing Program in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2005, Laurence Levey has had short stories published in Cezanne’s Carrot, Art Times, Versal, Ellipsis, The Barcelona Review and The Manhattanville Review; book reviews published in Drunken Boat and Word Riot; and poetry accepted for publication in Fulcrum. He was a semi-finalist in the Summer Literary Seminars-2010 Unified Literary Contest, a runner-up in the Summer Literary Seminars 2017 Contest, a finalist in the 2016 Breakwater Review Fiction Contest, and he writes for The Review Review.