The motorcycle driver gave me a knowing wink. We raced like thunder, dodging traffic. I hoped that the adrenaline of the ride would make me feel alive, but it was not happening. Suddenly, the infernal traffic noise started to melt down into a long and serene om mantra. What the fuck? Was it a bug inside my ear? I was tightly holding to the driver with my left arm and clutching the yaa baa in my right hand.
“Remember Baba?” What the fuck? Is Pak talking inside my head, or is it a flashback? Baba? Yes, Baba Ram Dass. We drove at light speed by the Hindu temple on Silom Road, the multicolored pyramid clad with sculptures that looked like Disneyland on acid. And then time and space disassociated. We were still racing like a thunderbolt, but the temple stayed with us, and it became alive. The carved lions, monkeys, cows, the gods, the Hindus chanting and lighting candles: I could see it all in slow motion. Baba Ram Dass. In these few years we had gotten over the feeling that one experience was going to make you enlightened forever. We saw that it wasn’t going to be that simple.
Pak was reciting from Ram Dass’ Be Here Now inside my head while the whole world around me was coming to a standstill, with the exception of us on the motorcycle, still racing like vajra the thunderbolt. What the fuck? And for five years I dealt with the matter of “coming down.” The coming down matter is what led me to the next chapter of this drama. The yaa baa was glowing like embers in the palm of my hand. I breathed in. My nostrils widened to their maximum width. I breathed in the whole Mariamman temple, the entire Hindu cosmogony, thousands of years of pujas, the burning gaths, and my fever as a lonely kid in Kolkata. I have a new heart that I must learn to use. As I breathed out, I stretched my fingers and let the five pills fall from my hand into a turmoil of street vendors, heat, rain, and a flash of lightning from heaven.
Where had I left this? Oh yes, I said that I was Awake, before jumping from the motorcycle. So I jumped. I let go of the driver and extended my arms. I felt my soles against the footrests and sprang upward. I could fly.
From Shaman Express, Beretta Rousseau, 2018, Chap. 3 “Awake”