By Fernando Meisenhalter
His Holiness the Dalai Lama takes my twenty dollar bill and smiles at me. I can hardly believe it.
“Is it really him?” I wonder.
Sylvia whispers, “He looks just like the Dalai Lama.”
My skin tingles all over, most likely from the early stages of transcendence or holy illumination.
But we’re at Whole Foods, buying chicken for the poetry reading, and the Dalai Lama is our cashier. “Let’s ask him,” Sylvia says, brave as usual. But the man denies being the Dalai Lama.
“Oh, people ask me that all the time,” he says with a smile that could easily melt the dream world around us. “A friend even told me I should pose for people, then charge for the photographs, that we could make a ton of money. Can you believe that? What kind of friend would say that?” Sylvia laughs, but I can’t. I’m still in awe, wondering if I should become a Buddhist: let mosquitoes bite me instead of killing them.
I moved to the Bay Area just three months ago and I’m already meeting people that look famous. I’m even starting to feel famous myself. I guess this is what happens when you start hanging out in Berkeley.
Sylvia and I walk back to the car. “I’m telling everyone I met the Dalai Lama at Whole Foods,” I say. Sylvia is okay with that. She’s a poet; she understands the need for transcendence.
I place the chicken in the back seat, with reverence. The Dalai Lama placed his hands on it. “It could be blessed,” I say.
Sylvia starts the car, drives out of the parking lot. I wonder about chickens, how they only fly short distances, but living mainly on the ground, a perfect metaphor for the human condition: dreaming of transcendence, yet bound to the earth. Maybe the Dalai Lama was trying to tell me something.
We reach Shattuck Avenue. Sylvia parks and we hop out of the vehicle. A violinist is playing Bach on a corner, an outstanding rendition of his cello suite number one. It’s beautiful, like a perfect ghost, calling us, tempting us with clarity and power, and I wonder how such a good musician could be playing on a street, overlooked by all. But I too walk pass him, ignoring the beauty, just like the rest. One miracle a day is enough for me.
Fernando Meisenhalter is of German ancestry but was raised in Mexico City. He still loves both sauerkraut and guacamole. MFA-free and a full-time immigrant living in Northern California since 1995, he became a US citizen in 2002, and his only regret: his naturalization certificate was signed by then president George W. Bush. He only writes short stories, almost all semi-autobiographical, occasionally delving into magical realism (he grew up in Mexico, so he’s legit). He likes it when readers laugh at his jokes. Mercy chuckles also welcomed.