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Lions Roar : November 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2008 89 by the thought, and feeling suddenly the rocks. Now the priest jabbed a finger into my chest, still talking a mile a minute. “Papa Christos say your right lung is weak. Be careful. Don’t smoke too much.” This priest was getting too close to home, I was thinking, and also thinking I wouldn’t want to be too careful, not wanting to outlive my life, thinking how tired I was then, already, with the prospect getting old. And imagining my future—swollen-veined, arthritically slow moving, slow thinking, quick forgetting, when even the lord of the house has gone awol; of being too frail to do those things that give true pleasure, a time that I can now sadly conjecture will not be too long in coming. Now Papa Christos was pointing toward my groin, making a kind of wavy abracadabra motion with his hand and talking a mile a minute. “Papa Christos say your prostate is three-point-seven-five. That is danger. Watch out.” “I’ll do the best I can,” I said, meaning I would do nothing, but pleased with the idea that, for the time being at least, my charisma factor was higher than my prostate’s. “Papa Christos ask what are your religion?” “Zen.” Papa Christos shook his head. “Papa Christos say that is no religion.” “Tell him that at least on this we can agree. Tell him it’s not God, but life itself that needs worshipping.” Papa Christos sighed heavily. He came to a dead stop and after a brief silence, as if to consider his options, began again. “Papa Christos asks you to come to his church. He wants to bless you. Clean your soul of sin and some curses.” Grace? Give me God’s grace. It couldn’t hurt, I thought, though God has always seemed to me to be a horror, an unpre- dictable psychopath. But then that would explain us, the children He made in His own image. Or Him that we made in ours. “Efkhareesto polee,” I said directly to the priest. Without missing a beat, the priest got up, his chair scraping the floor, and started for the door. I followed him across the square— under a high paling sky with a breeze blowing, through the play of light, the shadows the branches of the almond tree made—to the church. When we got inside, where it was cold as death, there was a family of gypsies waiting for him, six of them. I sat and shivered while he dealt with their needs first. It didn’t take long—praise the lord—a quick blessing, a pat on the head for each of the four children, and they were gone. “OK?” Papa Christos asked. “I’m ready.” Papa Christos—lost in rapture and clairvoyance—waved an ornate gold cross, greasy with lip prints, that he had first pressed to my forehead and then to my mouth to kiss. I was watching his hairy wrists, one of which held the cross, the other of which was held—limp and boneless, swirling and weaving—above his head, exposing an even hairier forearm. His eyes were fixed be- NOV 84-105.indd 89 NOV 84-105.indd 89 9/1/08 12:24:46 PM 9/1/08 12:24:46 PM