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A Buddish Monk at Home Depot

by Katie Norton

The Buddhist monk appeared a few rows across the crowded Saturday parking lot as I hurried toward the entrance to Home Depot.  I’d met him the week before, but today he was wearing street clothes, so it took me a moment to realize it was the same person.  The previous Sunday morning, I’d crossed paths with two saffron-robed monks from the monastery in the hills, right outside the donut shop, when the donuts were at their peak of freshness. 

We have two Buddhist monasteries.  One is a group of real Chinese Buddhists, part of an official organization from China.  The other is a group of white suburban guys escaping from whatever the hell was bad enough to send them to live in the hills without central heating, meat or sex.  These were two white guys.  I hailed them and started chatting them up like I was at a cocktail party.  I needed some Buddhist tranquility to free my racing mind from you.  One monk was really nice and wanted to talk. The other one acted polite, but frowned his disapproval.  This was not in fact, a cocktail party, it was a Sunday morning and they were on a walk around town, gathering alms.  Idle chit-chat is not in the program. Their Teva sandals revealed clean, well groomed feet, with clipped toenails. 

I judge a man by his toenails.  If you’re not in good enough shape to bend over and clip your toenails, you’re not in good enough shape to have sex with me.  Not that I was planning to have sex with the monks.  I bought them donuts, which the talkative monk put in his alms basket.  He said, “We usually say a blessing for those who contribute.”  I needed a blessing badly.  As they chanted, I prayed to free my mind from wanting you, to make the spinning hamster wheel in my head cease.  Please let my mind be empty and tranquil, like a Buddhist monk’s, not grasping and wanting and ceaselessly yearning for you.

            The nice monk was exiting his pickup truck, wearing street clothes, when our eyes locked across the cars in the parking lot.  I guess even monasteries need stuff from Home Depot.  Do monks get dispensation from wearing robes to the hardware store?  He was wearing jeans and a tee shirt, looking like any other customer.  Why had our paths crossed again?  What was the message I was supposed to receive?  This could not be an accidental meeting. 

            Inside the store, I took less than ten minutes to find and pay cash for a faucet connection.  Walking back to my car, a voice in my head said “turn around!”  You!  There you were, struggling to load one huge window into your pickup bed, where your wife was standing to receive it.  I stood and gazed at your back, at your feet doing a crazy dance to keep your balance, not to drop the window.  Right in front of your wife, I drank you in.  I didn’t want to peel my eyes off you.  You didn’t see me.  When you’re with me you act like you’re not married, you never mention your wife at all, and yet there you were, preparing for a major home renovation project together.  The hypocrisy.  Your wife’s gaze on my back is what caused me to turn around.  She’d been staring at me as I walked toward my car.  She’s so stupid, standing there in the pickup bed watching you struggle with a window bigger than you are, not even making a move to help.  She actually had her mouth open in the catching flies position.  You see something in her, obviously, that I don’t.  You don’t want me.  You’re married to her, renovating your marital home together.  I saw you with clarity for the first time, with a detached Buddhist-like tranquility.

 

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