By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
He readjusted himself on the cushion and focused his breath, suppressing a smile as the mischievous, deconsecrated image of his old friend Alf bobbed before him. Alf wanted to go to a Golden Globe party at the Medavoys’, but Kit had bailed because he didn’t have a film out and was envious of those who did, jealous of the actors — some unknown, others long forgotten and now rediscovered — whose fates had contrived to cast them in one of those overrated, dark-horse indies that infect hearts and minds each awards season like a designer virus. He felt defunct, used up, ashamed of his body of work. In the middle of his meditations
he returned to his breath, pushing through. He focused on another trapezoidal tile of sun. Insect buzz. His attention flitted from the face of his root guru, Gil, to a page of Rita Julienne Lightfoot’s love letters to the smell of her hospital room to the taste of Viv’s mouth to the little girl who watched as he came in Cela’s mouth on the edge of the playground of Ulysses S. Grant School.
Alf loomed again, the irrepressible jester, trickster. Shapeshifter. He got his kicks by tweaking his more famous friend and knew what buttons to push. Yesterday, he’d made a point of telling him Spike Jonze was up to something big — Spike was about to do a really wild film, “more genius than Adaptation,” about celebrity look-alikes. Alf said he didn’t know much more than that, but did know Spike was supposedly out there looking for a “Kit Lightfoot type.” When he heard that, Kit had laughed out loud, playing it cool. (He’d secretly resolved to phone the director at home and get the friendly lowdown. If there was something for him, he’d most likely have heard. Spike would have called or his people would have approached.) Kit wanted to do challenging work; it haunted him that he hadn’t yet made his bid. He was desperate — so he told himself — to do something magnificent, to work with an art-house hotshot, any hotshot, young or old, step right up. He completely understood Tom’s need to have done the Kubrick thing. Respected it. Admired it. Then the Master went and died, as if in homage to Tom’s great taste and timing, Tom’s great luck. Kit kept telling himself that he wanted to do a film to challenge him in his core the way his practice once had, back in the day. But even if he found the right project, there were obstacles to surmount — he knew that he needed to be empty enough to exceed real or imagined boundaries. Maybe he just didn’t have it in him; never did and never would. Maybe he was just a pretty boy with swagger, gutless and not that bright, the King of People’s Choice. And that was that.
He shivered, straightening his spine.
The zendo had been built by master carpenters from five-hundred-year-old Japanese cedars without benefit of nails or glue. Each morning, the toryos had made offerings of sake and rice to their tools before setting to work. Architectural Digest wanted to put it on their cover, but Kit turned them down in his nobility. He flashed on the whore and the extemporaneous teisho before the shrine of the Buddha: the pornography of hubris. How had the path led him to this? He felt in danger of dying.
Like a warlock, he summoned a Kalachakra invocation to clear the air — “I will achieve complete enlightenment through the four doors of thorough liberation . . . emptiness, sinlessness, wishlessness, and non-activity!” These words he had said in Wisconsin, before his mentor and friend, the Dalai Lama. These words he had said before Prince Siddhartha, before timeless Shakyamuni, before Nothingness. He whispered Om shunyata-jnana-vajra-svabhavatmako ham and bowed deeply to the void, the hum of his words merging with the drone of a faraway leaf blower.
Excerpted and adapted fromStill Holding by Bruce Wagner, published by Simon & Schuster. Copyright Bruce Wagner 2003. Wagner, who is the author of three previous novels as well as the television seriesWild Palms, will read from the book at Dutton’s Brentwood on November 14 and Book Soup on November 20, both at 7 p.m. He’s also reading at Spoken Interludes on November 17, with Harry Shearer, Ricky Jay and Vendela Vida; for information go towww.spokeninterludes.com.