By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“Just a little,” he said.
Some preteen girls pressed up against the driveway gate and giggled.
“You look great,” said Kit. “You been all right?”
“Oh and hey, thank you for the eight-by-tens. That was a bonanza. People at the swaps go nuts for anything of yours that’s signed. Especially when Burke says he’s your dad — which, to his credit, he doesn’t a lot of the time.”
“Schools never lose that smell, do they?” asked Kit.
“That smells-like-teen-spirit smell?”
He cocked an eye.
“Did we ever fuck anywhere on campus?”
“Hey, mister,” she said. “I held out a long time. Don’t go mixin’ me up with somebody else.”
They sat on a plastic picnic table outside the auditorium. Padlocked vending machines, scratched with graffiti, hibernated against the stained cinder-block wall.
“I wish I could have seen your mama before she died,” she said. “I miss her, I truly do.” She shook her head. “That was a rough time for me — ‘Cela Byrd: The Rehab Years.’ It’s all about me, isn’t it?” she said, sardonically.
“You doing OK now?”
“Still peeing in a bottle. Hey, my birthday’s coming up! AA — six months. Wanna give me a cake?”
“So . . . you gonna marry Viv Wembley?” She smiled as Kit simulated a blush. “Well you should. She’s pretty! And I love that show, it’s hilarious. She’s from L.A., right?”
“Michelle Pfeiffer’s from O.C. too. I read that somewhere.”
A faraway girl approached on a bike. The sight of her summoned a memory.
“Remember when we got loaded at that Christmas party?”
“Yeah,” said Kit.
He fished a roach from his wallet.
“And we went into that room where everybody left their coats and purses and shit? And you, like, stole all the money —”
“I wasn’t the only one! You had some magic fingers.”
“I did, didn’t I?” she said, sex creeping into her voice.
“You surely did.”
“Please don’t call me Shirley. Remember that from Airplane! I loved that movie.” She put her hand on his leg. “We had something special, huh. First loves . . .” She unbuckled his belt. He lit the roach. “You don’t know how fucked up it’s been, Kit. Sitting in rehab, watching you in a movie. Reading about you in People. Or wherever. At the premieres. Always with someone else. There I am thinking: That girl should have been me. I used to tell people we went out, but I stopped. I was in jail once, all like, ‘He was my boyfriend! You don’t understand! He took me to the prom!’ That was a low point. As worsts go, that was a personal best.”
She kissed him lightly once or twice to see how amenable he was, then drifted down and put him in her mouth.
The faraway girl was closer now and stood on her bike, watching.
Kit sat on a cushion in his private zendo, facing the Benedict Canyon hillock that rose up like a ziggurat. A landscape architect had trucked in tons of dirt for the effect.
He stared at an abstract, shifting patch of sun on the teak floor a foot or so beyond his knees.
He thought of going to India for the Kalachakra Tantra, the annual Wheel of Time rite in which thousands of initiates experience rebirth en masse, coming through childhood to visualize themselves as buddhas. Seeing the Gyuto monks had triggered the notion of pilgrimage. The Dalai Lama, his teacher’s teacher, was scheduled to preside over a gathering of some quarter million devotees. Kit had attended such a ceremony before with His Holiness in Madison, Wisconsin, albeit on a far smaller scale.
There, in that unlikely place, the actor had spoken words of promise, before infinity: “O all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, please take heed of me. I, Kit Lightfoot, from this time henceforth until arriving in the essence of enlightenments will generate the excellent unsurpassed mind of intention to become enlightened in just the way the Protectors of the three times become definite toward enlightenment.” A sand mandala representing a palace was created, and the pilgrims were mentally guided through it. After a number of days, the rituals and blessings ended when the Dalai Lama himself swept up the colored sand with a broom, in readiness for dedication to the waters.
It seemed like a lifetime since he’d been to India. He had journeyed there with Gil. They had visited Lumbini, birthplace of Prince Siddhartha Gautama; Bodh Gaya, where Siddhartha was realized beneath the Bodhi Tree; the Deer Park at Sarnath, where he gave sermons on the Four Noble Truths; Sravasti’s great park that hosted the Buddha’s meditation retreats, and where he converted a notorious murderer; and a saal forest in Kushinagar, the final, unglamorous place in which he left the world. The trip saturated him, and he craved India’s sounds, smells, and heart. He craved his teacher too, who had died a year after his mother passed on, to the day — craved the Dharma anew. A few months ago, he’d made vague plans to travel with Meg Ryan at Christmastime to see Ramesh, a disciple of the great sage Nisargadatta Maharaj. But now he was thinking he should make the trip alone, confining his visit to Bodh Gaya, where this year’s Kalachakra would be held.
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