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Lions Roar : March 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2011 67 “oh, no!” she said. unlike Nova, she did talk back to me. “ They’re just kids. We were kids once, remember?” Then suddenly her lips pouted and she looked hurt. “Why are you shouting at me?” “Was I shouting?” “Yes,” she said. “You were yelling at me.” I didn’t realize how much I’d raised my voice in order to be heard over the mind-blinding music blaring outside—she was, after all, only two feet away from me. or that the noise, despite all my decades of spiritual practice, could so quickly make me feel spent and flammable and reveal an irascible side of me to my wife neither of us had seen in forty years of marriage. I was no longer myself, though I suspected this was a teachable mo- ment, as politicians say, and there was a lesson to be learned here but, so help me, I just wasn’t getting it. I apologized to my wife. I knew she was right, as usual. We shouldn’t call the police. This was a difficult situation that had to be handled with delicacy, but I was confident that I could be as magnanimous and civi- lized as any post-enlightenment, Western man who had control over himself after thirty years of meditation on his mushroom- shaped cushion. but that didn’t mean I couldn’t try to escape for awhile. I decided this was a good time to go shopping. I stepped outside, where the rough, pounding sound almost knocked me to my knees. The traumatizing waves were so thick I felt I was moving through a haze of heat, or underwater. I wondered, who are these rude people? These invaders? I strapped Nova into my Jeep Wrangler and, with my wife’s list of groceries in the hip pocket of my jeans—milk, canned vegetables, paper towels, a chocolate cake to celebrate the birthday of one of her friends at Mount Zion baptist Church, and dog treats— we fled into the night, or more precisely, to the QFC on 35th avenue. as the doppler effect kicked in, as I put half a mile between myself and ground zero, as the pitch declined, I felt less agitated, though there was a slight ringing and seashell sound in my ears, lingering like a low-grade fever. For all the discomfort I was feel- ing, I also felt something else: namely, how sound and silence, so universal in our lives as to normally be ignored, were profound mysteries I’d never properly understood or respected until now when the absence of one and the presence of the other was so badly disrupting my life. Compared to my street, the supermarket, surrounded by eat- eries and ale houses, was mercifully quiet. I went down the aisles, collecting items we needed, remembering that just one month ago a QFC employee charged with domestic violence for choking his mother unconscious was killed in this supermarket when he fought the police who came to arrest him. I kept thinking, as I picked items off the shelves, Are those vibes still in this store? ( Yo u can probably tell I came of age in the sixties.) I dismissed that thought, and then stood patiently in the checkout line behind five other customers, one being a plump, elderly woman with frosted hair who, of course, had to pay by writing a check, which seemed to take forever. I swear, I think she was balancing her checking account or calculating her quarterly taxes, there at the front of the line. I could imagine her drinking a hot cup of ovaltine be- fore going to bed and having ninety-seven cats in her midcentury Wedgwood home. I kept wondering why someone didn’t call for another cashier—or even better, two—to handle this line of people backed up into the aisles. Finally, after ten minutes it was my turn. The cashier was a genial young man whose eyes behind his wire- framed glasses looked glazed from ringing up so many customers, but he was trying to be cheerful. he took my QFC advantage card, and said, “so how is your day going?” usually, I enjoy chatting with people behind the cash register, finding out a little about their lives, letting them know they’re people in my community I care about and not just faceless ob- jects to me. I try to be patient, reciting my mantra if I have a long wait in a public place. but right then I said, in spite of myself, “What the hell do you care?” That reply shocked him as much as it did me. I tried to recover. I said, “sorry! I didn’t mean that. I think I’m vibrating too fast.” he cut his eyes my way. “excuse me?”