Earlier tonight, I visited a pharma’s market inside an unmarked park just west of Vallejo, California. I was innocently waltzing along to the musical vibrations of swarming city streets, carting home a dozen eggs and a bottle of rum, when distant chants and nectared fragrances floated through me in the thick summer air. I stopped still, assumed the facial demeanour of a confused chien, and, checking into my mindfulness, found I was running low. I let go of my weekly supply of sustenance and headed toward the rainbow of sounds and smells with the hope of cleansing my dusty soul.
With every advancing step, the sensual trail grew so vivid that the trip began to feel mystical. And then, emerging ahead, was a wide, dense and dark forest panting heavily with dharmic bliss. I tussled past its hard headed trees, generously trading my blood for its mud, and emerged into the light. I was gifted a panoramic view of countless conestraw huts, depending on the counter. Immediately I was greeted by a dark skinned, rusty haired woman draped into what looked like a long, loose tablecloth. As she approached, the details of her tablecloth appeared and I recognized it as a chic Forever 21 dress from last season’s summer collection. She introduced herself as a spiritual healer, and led me inside the large community. The huts, each occupied by their own energy therapist, were identical save for their displays, which were inscribed with the names of varying oils and crystals — no prices.
I entered her hut salivating with anticipation for a bohemian-retreat-toward-inner-peace. To my pique, I was struck strictly with dull vibrations of strip-mall commerce: brash fluorescent lights reflecting onto locked glass cases; cold, clean ceramic floors; fuzzed out vocal acrobatics blasting too loudly from speakers too cheap to amplify clearly. “Where’s the enlightenment?” I asked, slouching dejectedly.
“Just over there.” With a set of keys she motioned toward a thick, metal door labeled ‘Kundalini Suite’, and with her free hand she motioned toward my wallet. This relieved me greatly; true enlightenment requires a closed door and the exchange of cash.
Inside there was warm pine, loose hay, shelves with expensive crystals, and glass, littered here and there. Like all good litter, some of the glass was buried beyond sight. Some could be heard crushing under my feet, unleashing their healing scents into the tight room. I was a clumsy cow in a Manila nursery. With every crunch she ordered, “You’ve got to pay for that,” followed with prices whose fluctuations made the bitcoin seem stable.
When we were seated, she rubbed peppermint oil onto my timid pulses, explaining its benefits; cleanses the pores, clears the sinuses, conjures the spirits, frightens the spirits. Before I could ask the difference between the latter two, she had already reached for the next oil, which apparently — and this was the case for every successive oil — was more essential than the last. “Cinnamon ignites the third eye,” she matter-of-facted, while reaching for the next bottle, “Smell this, it’s meditation.” By the time she applied Rosemary, the oil of reverie, the odours had melded together into a terrible cloud of confusion and I drifted into a dream state of animated projections.
When this aurora fog lifted, I found myself waist deep in a conversation whose subject I could not catch. Among the differences spotted on my return: a stack of papers, a suited man blocking the exit, and the mystic’s eyes — locked onto mine, now green as a lusting viper.
“…which means you could save up to eighty percent of your purchase just by becoming a member.”
“Becoming a member?”
“Yes. Simply sign these forms along with our non-disclosure agreement, and you’ll become a partially-licensed seller of oils and crystals. You keep ten percent of your earnings, I get forty, the head mystic gets fift—”
I regained my dejected tone.
“I have to sign a contract to be enlightened?”
“No. I guess not — only you wouldn’t get a discount.”
“How much do I owe you?”
“I haven’t counted up yet, some thousands.”
“Thousands! What, am I getting wishes, too?”
I was badly off balance; I had spent the last of my money on the rum. I was going to have to rely on my suaveness to emerge unscathed. Slickly, I shouted, “Leave me ALONE!” as tears ran down my cheeks, and I paced towards the exit.
“Block him!” she ordered.
“You’re harshing my enlightenment,” I was damn suave, “sorry to say, I think you just lost yourself a cust—”
While uttering the threat, I slipped on Chekov’s Gun and violently laid my head onto a shelf. I was awoken with a bucket of cold water and the gloating gaze of the healer. My blurry vision shifted from the stack of papers, which had grown double, to the door, now blocked by three suited men.
“What’s all this?”
“Legal documents?” I repeated weakly.
“You knocked over a shelf on your fall; broke Chekov’s Other Gun. It’s worth your mortgage ten times over, easy.”
I began to grasp at the loose hay around me.
“But I don’t own! I rent a small apartment ever since the bubble burst!”
“Eww… so it will be credit?”
“But the floor — I couldn’t find my footing!”
Searching for mercy, I looked up at her, my eyes finally coming into focus.
“Hey… your face…” my confused chien demeanour returned, “your complexion is dripping!”
She touched her hands to her face and looked at her fingers, which had lifted her faux-foundation.
“Ah! No, look away! Look AWAY!”
She squawked like a cocktail-hour Los Angelite after a bad haircut and melted on the spot. The suits looked at each other, shrugged, and disappeared in embarrassment. Left alone, I looked around, slid handfuls of oils and crystals into a tote bag made wholly of recycled fig trees and headed home, fantasizing about running a warm, cleansing bath complete with Rose Seed Oil, for relaxation.
Caine Tailor has never been arrested.