This is story number forty-two in a weekly series of fifty-two one-page stories that I have posted and will post to this site. Thanks for reading.
Chet disliked his guru. He’d been visiting the man once a week for six and a half years and paying him a hundred dollars per visit. Another more senior guru had referred Chet to this guru in a phone call that lasted three minutes. Chet had known nothing about the senior guru except that a few friends who were into this sort of thing had said, “Oh, Sheldon’s definitely the one to go to, he’ll set you up with one of his disciples, they’re all amazing.” Chet felt people overused the word amazing. Chet’s guru, Joel, was not amazing. He seemed uptight. His white robes would have looked more natural on a tuna fish. His remarks and pronouncements had a tinny, pre-fabricated sound. “Whenever you’re ready.” “Whenever you feel comfortable.” “Take your time.” “Breathe into that.” “Breathe and just allow that.” “How does that make you feel?” “Where in your body do you feel that?” “Can you see your father as wounded and trying to love, just as you are wounded and trying to love?” Chet began their 293rd session by saying, “Most of what you’ve said to me is a lie. Your whole system is a lie. Your white robes are a lie. The groovy woven cushion you’re sitting on is a lie. Why is it so much nicer than the cushion I’m sitting on? What kind of message does that send? How can you afford this huge loft space anyway? Do you have family money? You don’t seem to have any other disciples than me. Have you ever worked a day in your life? This is my last session. I won’t even stay for the whole hour. I’ll pay you for today even though I don’t want to and can’t afford it. I’ve spent more than twenty-nine thousand dollars on you. Do you want to say anything to me before I go?” Joel looked miserable—Chet could smell the acrid odor of his fear sweat. “It’s very hard to hear all this,” Joel said. “I didn’t really think we were making much progress but I’ve been hopeful that we would. You should come back at least one more time so we can have closure.” “Do you have any disciples other than me?” “I’m going to breathe into my distress. Breathe with me.” “I’m getting out of here.” Chet stood up from his cushion and Joel stood up from his. Joel held out his hand for a shake. Chet reluctantly took it. It was wet. “My parting advice to you is—” “Let go of my hand.” “—is to walk around the city every day and let it affect you. Don’t be so closed off.” “I am not closed off.” “Just so.” “Just so” was Joel’s go-to pronouncement. Chet was stuck with it going down in the elevator, “Just so,” “Just so,” “Just so,” “Just so,” once per floor for eighteen floors. As Chet raced through the lobby the doorman called after him, “Got a plane to catch?” The pleasantries of strangers often contained an implied criticism. He stood on the sidewalk in front of Joel’s building trying to figure out where to go and what to do. A downtown bus was arriving across the street. “I am not walking around the city,” Chet said, and stepped off the curb to cross the street and catch the bus. His foot landed at the edge of a pothole and he twisted his ankle and fell down. He stood up and tried to walk but fell down again, his ankle hurting like hell. He sat down on the curb. “I was worried about you so I followed you out,” Joel said behind him. “Let me help you up.” Chet allowed himself to be helped to his feet by Joel and could smell Joel’s b.o. combined with his lightly perfumed laundry detergent. “Hold onto my shoulder and hop,” Joel said. He helped Chet back into the elevator. In his loft, he eased Chet down onto the second-rate disciple cushion and sat down across from him on the deluxe guru cushion. “I’ll call 911,” he said, removing his phone from a pocket of his robes, “and we’ll have some time to talk about this before the paramedics arrive. I’m glad you’ve come back.” Chet saw the happiness on Joel’s face. He sank into a familiar depression.