Image from divus.cz/shaman
Based on a true story from 1977, University of California, Berkeley
Continuation of Excerpt One:
“I don't mean to be ungrateful for your advice,” I said, “but how do you know what my life is like?
“It’s written in your face. Your aura is grey and orange with a touch of sulfur. You’re tired and depressed. You desire to control your life, but you can’t. Go and live elsewhere. You must do this for your future.”
Her percipient statements unnerved me. How could she know that I was tired and depressed from riding in silence with hundreds of train commuters twice each day? Had she been following me around campus, as I passed hundreds of cute women in Sproul Plaza, none of whom I had the courage to speak to, while aggressive hawkers shoved flyers at my face at Sather Gate? I looked for another seat. The train was packed.
She started chanting or moaning to herself. I wasn’t sure which. Nevertheless, it was loud enough that other passengers began to stare at her; then at me. I wanted nothing more to do with her. She was probably just another schizophrenic mental patient who roamed the Berkeley city streets.
Even so, as I listened to her chant, I suddenly felt an inner peace. I no longer felt revolted by her presence. On the other hand, why should I believe her? Why should I suspend my skepticism? That’s when I had the vision.
Like a seasick stupor, everything around me stood transfixed and silent as the train moved forward. I could not hear the ambient noise of the wind rushing by the windows or the sound of the train wheels click-clacking on the tracks. All I heard was her chanting like an Indian medicine woman. That’s when I realized the old hag was a shaman. She was giving me a message that in my soul I knew to be true .
But how could she know? Could she really read my bioenergy and feel my unhappiness? Or had she just read my body language and tagged me as a gullible mark as any charlatan fortuneteller or con man could do?
Either way, I was not deterred by her madness. I wanted to believe her because at that moment in my young life, I had nothing else to believe.
“Where should I go?” I asked.
“Cloyne Court. North on the ridge road; in sight of the tower.” She chanted the words like a Nostradamus prophecy.
I acknowledged her advice with a sharp nod and as abruptly as it had appeared, the vision departed. I could hear again the train driver announce the next stop over the intercom as he brought the train to a screeching stop. My shaman stood , walked through the sliding train doors and onto the train platform.
That evening, as I walked the short distance from the bus stop to my parent's house in the dwindling twilight, I decided to heed the shaman’s words and make my first life-changing decision eight hours into my adult life. Time was a-wasting and I wanted to get on with it. Now I had to break the news to my parents. Would they let me move out? How would I pay to live on my own?
“How’s my brilliant University student today?” my mother asked, as she placed my reheated dinner in front of me. My mother’s cooking was full of spices and her years of domestic culinary practice could transform meatloaf into a Chez Panisse main entrée. I’m sure the dinner was up to her usual piquant standard, but tonight I forked the food from one side to the other as I thought of when to tell them of my decision.
“It’s tough, Mama,” I told her. “College is a lot harder than high school. Everyone is smart and experienced. Most of the students have already covered the basics in high school, while I’m learning it for the first time.”
It was a disappointing discovery. My public high school taught to the lowest common denominator. I had been bored. Absolutely, nothing had challenged my mind, and I graduated with straight A’s without exerting myself.
I didn’t want to tell her that I had flunked the University Subject A exam and was now required to take “Bonehead” English (along with half of all incoming freshmen), because I had failed to prove I could write to the University’s standards.
The news would have shattered my mother’s pedestal opinion of me. My acceptance to Cal, the University of California, Berkeley, the most prestigious public University in the country, granted her bragging rights at her weekly coffee klatch of mothers whose children were at lesser-ranked institutions of higher learning.
“And the professors? Are they good?” she asked.
Stay tuned for Excerpt Three!
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