Hotel Ibis

The shower capsule in my room at the Ibis was like a pod that could birth aliens or beam voyagers off planet. It was ovoid, self contained and when you sealed the door a bright white pitiless light illumined that faux and garish interior. It was late on the night of 16 May but I forget the year. I was standing naked in the pod looking at myself in a full length mirror. Blemishes and flaws I had not hitherto realised are mine crawled across the skin of my face and upper body, that bulbous balloon on two stick legs. Where did the skinny boy I was go? The lean adolescent, the cadaverous young man? Who was this aging blimp on the adipose edge of the universe. Well, perhaps ... I was more curious than repelled, scrutinising myself with new or other eyes; as if I'd never really seen exactly who I am before. It is no coincidence - and the fact that I did not know it at the time doesn't matter - that this was also the night I first met Samsara. It was outside the exercise yard of the old prison where we sat and watched a man eviscerate himself before the ghosts of his mother and his father. Starlight shone down through slats in the partially enclosed roof and water from a recent shower of rain pooled on the stone floor. The air full of whispers and oaths. Now the event was over people were crowding out and going but I was hanging around smoking with C, a fellow from the Western Lands I'd just met, when she and her friend R came out of the art opening they had been to and we started talking. She had violet eyes and very white skin. She told me her name and said it was the only one she ever had or ever would. Said she was from the Red River Shore. Looking past the bloody flux of the present into shades of the violent night, past or future, who could say. I wanted her to look at me, wanted to be seen by those violet eyes. Soon all four of us were down in the bar of the Crown Plaza eating antipasto and looking at the tattoos on the insteps of the feet of a young super model whose name I have forgotten: words of wisdom, words of praise that would go with her down the catwalks of this earth. Her party included drag queens and newly weds and old anniversary celebrants but we were somehow remote, already off-world. She gave me her card and it said Da Shealladh. Told me stories of her weapons training and said what that was like. Showed me her own tattoo that she got in the Black Hills out beyond Uch and Ferozepore. Said that firing a gun was exciting in the same way that being tattooed was. I told her what things are like on the planet I come from or at least I tried. When C said he had to go our foursome broke up and she drove me back to the Ibis and then disappeared in her little white podlike car down the long echoing street with its derelict buildings lining the banks of the forgotten river. I went up to my room, stripped, entered the pod and began my self examination. Karma, according to the Jains, does not mean deed or work or invisible mystical force but is material, actual, a complex of very fine matter more or less imperceptible to the senses that interacts with the soul ... what I saw that night was a shadow of that complex of very fine matter, part web, part aura, enclosing my body and entangled with my soul. I saw it and did not know if I want to cast it off or not. Knew that I wanted to entangle this entanglement, soul, body, karma, with Samsara. What I also did not and do not know is if this is a path of wisdom or of folly. Neither. Or both.

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