“I tell you,” the owner of the bookstore that I manage said, as I shelved zombie books, “It was a near wrath experience.”
“A near wrath experience?” I asked.
“He nearly bit my head off. I thought spiritual seekers were supposed to be peacefully, but this guy … he was … a … surly Buddhist!”
I rolled my eyes and picked up new vegan cookbooks to shelve in the vegetarian section.
“You don’t believe me, do you?” he asked.
“Look, I believe that you believe this man was a surly Buddhist,” I said, pausing to give the sweet potato french toast on the cover of Give Me Vegan, or Give Me Meth a second glance. “But maybe this guy’s just an introvert and he came off a bit terse.”
The owner yanked the feather duster out from under the counter and pointed it at me. “One day, you will believe.” Then he turned his back on me, and proceeded to dust the clearance cart.
I didn’t really give our conversation another thought until several months later. I was alone in the bookstore on a beautiful May afternoon, when a 50ish bald man with glasses entered. He wore long, orange robes that flowed behind him, which reminded me of that scene from Priscilla Queen of the Desert with Guy Pearce riding on top of the bus in the Outback with the silver trane of his gown flapping behind him.
I smiled at him and asked, “How are you?”
The man stopped and jerked his head toward me, then pursed his lips between his ample cheeks. “Do you have books on Buddhism?” he said in demanding tone.
“Right over here,” I said, and led him to our religion section.
The man snatched a book off the shelf and flipped through the pages. He sneered as if were a Tijuana bible and tossed it back on the shelf. “You call these Buddhist books!”
Startled by his outrage, I had to take a deep breath before I answered. “Well, they are books about Buddhism, so, yes, I would call them Buddhist books.” Cringing at slight edge to my tone. I forced myself to smile and asked, “What exactly were you looking for?”
“I don’t have to answer to you,” he said. He swung a piece of his robes that hung down in front of him over his shoulder, stuck his nose in the air, and stormed out.
Suddenly, I heard the owner’s voice in my head: “One day, you will believe.”
Oh my gosh, I thought, I’ve just had a near wrath experience with the Surly Buddhist …
To this day, I often find myself trying to figure out this man’s story. How did such an angry man become so enmeshed in such a religion of peace, going so far as to shave his head and wear the traditional clothing of Buddhist monks. Somehow, my mind kept wandering back to the image of this man bent over a glass coffee table and sucking up lines of coke through a rolled up twenty dollar bill, then going berserk in a mini mansion out in Stone Mountain, destroying the inside with a prayer scroll.
What do you think his story is?