NIRVANA CITY MADNESS
by Mikhail Branski
copyright Mikhail Branski, all rights reserved
Davida predicted some apocalyptic tragedy and then proceeded to discuss his latest plan to save up enough money to purchase land and live in exile, fed up as he was with the general public stupification. He now was preparing for what he termed `The Coming Great Collapse’, the economic and political calamity he predicted was coming to America and the world.
Mikhail listened to his friend’s latest rave and stared at him wondering why he refused to cut his nose-hairs and how his girl friend tolerated that. I mean how could one be so oblivious to those hairs stretching down reaching for that upper lip?
And then he thought, `Here I am once more, in this damn coffee shop, looking for companionship if not what might pass for a social life?
Coffee shops being Mikhail’s place of refuge whenever a crisis entered his life, the latest being his second divorce which had left him despondent. Seeking out some social contact which might mollify his own disgust and morbidity at all things normal, the local coffee house was his preferred destiny. He couldn’t abide bars.
Besides, he liked flirting with the manager whom he had wrongly convinced himself, had been giving him the eye.
So, this is what passed for socializing, listening to the rants of his friend, Davida, as he vituperated about the current state of the world. Mikhail had heard it all before but that was okay as he didn’t mind hearing Davida vent, and in any case, it got him out of his drab apartment.
‘Ah, that’s just your negativity being reflected,’ Mikhail thought but blurted out, “Oh yeah, everything is screwed up but probably always has been, y’know.” This made Davida pause and reflect before he continued in the same vein harping about the decadent state of American society.
Mikhail had long ago given up trying to make sense of any of it, it being reality in all of its manifestations. His circumstances in life compelled him to see injustice and unfairness everywhere and yet, luck and circumstance determined that some were treated well by life. Why? Maybe it was karma…..fate, predestination. Who could comprehend?
Mikhail’s only true sanctuary resided in reading and re-reading favorite books. He would read a book ten and fifteen times gleaning every last morsel from the writer, for it was his assumption that if a book was the sum total of of the author’s experiences and thoughts, and took maybe years to write, that, to do the author justice, he should really attempt to digest it which required several readings at least.
Mikhail stared at Davida once more and realized how dissimilar they were but how alike in their alienation from American society. Granted, they found solace in the misery of each other’s lives, a misery-loves-company typical kind of dynamic, but they didn’t really have much in common beyond a cynicism and alienation to modern life.
It was a friendship of chance. Years ago, Mikhail had met Davida professionally, had needed his design skills for a little literary publication he had been fashioning and was introduced to Davida by a mutual friend.
The friendship had been professional for some time but had grown into a deeper bond out of sheer loneliness. For Mikhail was not someone who sought out blasé or banal company. In any case, he had nearly convinced himself that he was meant to be more of a loner.
Not that he did not like the companionship of peers or others but that the stress of two divorces and the resulting cynicism had made him more anti-social than anyone might suspect. Besides, he had no time he often told himself, what with a struggling publishing business which required six days a week of work and the other obligations in his life taking up most of the rest of his other free time.
Davida spoke again, “Anyway, Melinda really wants to get some land and move away from all this….shit! I’m getting some money together from my family and she’s looking at some land in Plumas.”
“Plumas?” Mikhail interjected. “Shit, there’s nothing much up there. Why Plumas?”
“Hell, you can’t get land anywhere in California cheap anymore but land in Plumas is still reasonable. You can buy 20 acres relatively cheaply.”
“But that’s red-neck country.”
Davida added, “Well, I don’t plan on talking politics with my neighbors if we have any. Chances are we won’t. Or at least, won’t be close enough to encounter them regularly. Melinda just wants a garden, a big space for a garden. That’s all I want as well.”
Mikhail looked at his friend for a minute without speaking. `Well, he`s finally going to do it,’ he mused. He spoke again, “Well, look, I can come up and visit you after ‘The Collapse’.”
“Sure,” Davida encouraged, not catching the sarcasm. “You’d be welcome. You’d have to have your own cabin or yurt. It’s community that we want. Four or five other people to share in a vision.”
Mikhail’s eyes wandered toward the manager again, a slightly stocky blonde with a gorgeously enticing smile. He had convinced himself that she had a crush on him but he was too cautious to act on it. Nonetheless, whenever he caught her eye, he smiled back at her. He liked her coyness and her demure style. But he was not ready to ask her out since he had not persuaded himself that the age difference was not a huge matter. `How old is she,’ he wondered. `Thirty? Thirty-five.’
“Look Mikhail, I’ve got to go meet Melinda and take her to work. See you later in theweek, maybe. I’ll give you a call.”
“Yeah, or I’ll get in contact with you. I have a busy schedule this week. But I’ll try to call you on Saturday if not before. Maybe we can go for a hike.”
“Okay.” Davida grabbed his helmet and headed out the door towards his motorcycle which he had parked in a yellow zone out front.
Mikhail finished his coffee and read the paper, particularly the political and economic news. “Shit, he thought, it’s all coming to an end. And everybody is too numbed out and dumbed-down to see it. Either that or they are too busy consuming. How did we ever arrive at this state of affairs?”
He glanced at the clock. “Crap. It’s time to go to work.”
He left, bidding goodbye to the coffeehouse manager. She smiled as usual. He proceeded down the street when he remembered that a client owed him money, so he stopped in at his business, a store that sold secondhand goods, mostly records, tapes and jeans.
Mikhail peered in the front window first, looking for the owner Nick but didn’t see him. So, he opened the door and looked around to see Nick’s woman whom he had seen many times but never actually talked to.
Mikhail scrutinized her lithe body. She was thin but her pose made her alluring. That was until one paid attention to her face which was pockmarked but heavily doused with powder in an effort to hide the fact. The woman seemed to possess an eerie quality, something undefined. He concluded that she must have had a hard life, probably plenty of drugs and God-knows-what-else.
She was looking down into her purse, barely aware of him.
Mikhail looked at her and caught her attention and asked, “Is Nick in?”
The blonde took a moment to think about it and then blurted out, “I used to work for the FBI and the CIA.”
“Yeah, and I’m the Pope!” Mikhail retorted.
This seem to throw her off balance and she hesitated before, once again, asserting that she had once been hired by the FBI and CIA to do undercover work.
Mikhal didn’t call her a liar but simply repeated that he was the Pope. She looked askance as if she was seriously considering what Tom had just said. Then she fidgeted and put her hands on her hips, and twisted her body into a seductive pose.
“Look,” Mikhail said, “I just want to talk to Nick. I have some business to talk over with him.”
“Well, he ain’t here. He’ll probably be back tomorrow.”
“Okay, I’ll try again then if I’m in the area.”
“You do that,” she sneered, obviously not meaning it. Mikhail exited quickly not wishing to sustain a conversation with someone he deemed ‘off her rocker.’ He had had enough conversations with eccentric persons to last a lifetime. ‘Yeah, yeah,’ he thought. ‘they can be interesting and good fodder for storytelling, but this woman was just a tad too bizarre.’
Two days later, Mikhail encountered Nick in his place of business, his girl friend no where to be seen. After talking business a few minutes, he ventured a comment which, in retrospect, seemed quite ballsy.
“Nick, that lady of yours is something else.”
“Why do you say that?” he looked at Mikhail inquiringly.
“Well, she told me that, once upon a time she worked for the CIA and FBI.”
“Yeah, I know. She also knows who killed Kennedy.” He spoke and looked at Tom knowingly. Then he smiled and chuckled.
Mikhail chortled and inquired, “Where is she today?”
“I sent her back down to Hollywood for a spell. She wants to break up with me.”
“Oh, too bad,” Mikhail said, not really meaning it. Actually, he thought it was the best thing that could happen to Nick.
“Actually, my girl friend is schizophrenic,” Nick suddenly admitted.
‘My thoughts exactly,’ Mikhail thought.
Nick continued, “Yeah, the other night, we decided to eat dinner at Lyons Restaurant but when I saw the wait, I suggested to Amber that we leave.
“But, of course, she decides she has to eat at Lyons. So, I told her, ‘Fine, you eat here. I’m going across the street to eat at Sizzler.’
“I left her there and when I returned, nearly an hour later, there’s Amber talking to some Highway Patrolmen. I said to myself, ‘Oh shit.’
“I knew she was feeding them some fantastic tale so I got in my car which was parked about just ten feet from them. I could hear their whole conversation.
“Just like I suspected, she was telling them some wild, crazy story. But like the dunces they were, they were writing it all down. Seems like she had them convinced that she had witnessed a murder and she knew where the body were. You remember, the girl who disappeared last week?”
Mikhal nodded. He was thoroughly enjoying the story.
Nick continued, “I took out a cigarette and waited till she was mostly done talking. Then, I got out of my car and waltzed up to the Patrolmen. They looked at me at me with blank faces, typical highway patrolmen.”
” ‘Look, officers,'” I say to them.” ‘That’s my girl friend you’re talking to and she’s just telling you a pack of lies.’ ”
The Patrolmen looked at me blankly. Their brains must have been parked in their car. So, I told them that my girl friend knows the Unabomber, Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Elvis Presley.
“They both looked at me finally like they knew what the hell was really going on. Anyway, I got her into my car over her hysterical protestations that I was an incarnation of the Devil.
“I finally had my fill of her, schizophrenic or not. I told her to get the hell out of here and she took a bus to L.A.”
Mikhail looked at Nick who began to chuckle. Mikhail joined in, enjoying how Nick could make light of the situation.
“Nick, what the Hell are you doing with such a crazy chick?”
“Well, hell, she needs me,” he said sheepishly.
“Yeah, but isn’t that hard on your sanity?”
“Well, if I leave her, she’ll probably commit suicide.”
“Look, Nick, I got to ‘fess up.” Mikhail insisted, “that chick of yours is loose. Y’know what I mean? I’ve seen her in the store with guys. Hell, she’s humping them in the dressing room. I know this isn’t any of my business but I just think you ought to know.”
Nick stared at Mikhail open-mouthed. Mikhail didn’t know what to expect. At first, he thought Nick was going to get mad. But the next thing he knew, Nick was crying. Mikhail felt terrible. ‘Gawd, this is what I get for being a blabbermouth.’ Mikhail tried to rectify his error but it was too late.
“Look, I may be wrong about her humping guys. It’s just that I thought…,” Mikhail paused,…” thought you ought to know if something was going awry.”
“Look, man,” Nick spoke through tears.” Get the hell out of here!”
Mikhail split, thinking to himself that he had been a big jerk. ‘Typical of my tendency to get involved in other people’s business. Oh well, I won’t visit his store for a while.’ He traipsed up the hill back towards his house.
Mikhail lived just six blocks from the downtown section of this quaint historic gold-mining town nestled, as they say, in the Sierra foothills. Grass Valley was in Nevada County in northeastern California, about an hour northeast of Sacramento. The area was a mix of mostly retirees, your standard American rednecks, and a contingent of hippies who had moved here in the late 1960s, attracting a following of like-minded new age types over the years.
His first wife had dragged him up here nearly twenty-five years ago as she had wanted to join a spiritual community that had been established in the area. Founded by a disciple of a famous yogi, the community had attracted thousands of visitors over the years and, ultimately, established legitimacy as the small towns appreciated the increase in business from those associated with the community as well as those who had left but remained in the area.
Lots of the visitors ended up staying as well, attracted by the rural character, the great recreational opportunities, not to mention the opportunity to make money growing marijuana which had become a major crutch to the community when the economy suffered.
And in the hinterlands, secreted away down old unpaved, rain-gutted roads, were a matrix of pot farms and meth labs. Occasionally, someone was busted, the pot or drugs confiscated and then life went on.
The community itself was an odd mixture of New Age types, lots of racists emigrating away from the increasing multi-ethnic cities, many of them transplants from the Bay Area as well as SoCal. Over the years, the old gold town had acquired a new look, a sort of hipness that allowed many tourist shops to proliferate along with bars, some nice restaurants and a number of businesses catering to the outstanding recreational activities of the area which included hiking, mountain biking, fishing, kayaking and more. Gold panning was even on the menu and the local river, the Yuba, was a huge draw from people all over, not to mention many of the local reservoirs that people called lakes.
At the higher elevations in the Sierra were lots of lakes and opportunities for camping. Lake Tahoe was only one hour and half away. Sacramento a mere hour. San Francisco two or so.
Mikhail’s stay in the community had been, more or less, an unmitigated personal disaster. After living at the spiritual community for less than a year with his wife, it became clear to Mikhail that the spiritual community was more of a cult than anything. During that time, he had to endure the mindless affection devotees had for their Swami, who was a very astute businessman besides being a charlatan, not unlike the Televangelists pandering for money .
Besides, he discovered that his wife was having an affair with the so-called Swami that had founded the community. And if that wasn’t enough, she had got pregnant by another guy, probably a one-night stand, as she later admitted. Ultimately, she had had an abortion.
Mikhail would tell this story to anyone who would listen. Most thought he was exaggerating. For some reason, his stories often did not have the ring of truth to them for many listeners and, of course, no one liked to hear the truth in any case, besides which they felt that Mikhail should not be sharing this personal information and were uncomfortable hearing about it. Or, they regarded it as judgmentalism which the New Age horde abhorred since criticism of others was a sin and a projection of one’s own self according to the tenets of the dogma they imbibed on an almost daily basis. Psycho babble that sells like hot dogs at baseball games.
In fact, if anything, Mikhail was honest to a fault. Blabbering about this and that matter, he would reveal the most intimate details of his life as if he were confessing to a priest. This confessional mode had often made him attractive to women who found his vulnerability charming but that was once upon a time before he turned cynical.
Nowadays, women regarded his cold demeanor and negativity as a reason to avoid him. Or, maybe, it was his reputation that preceded him, to quote Twain.
After returning home and exercising at the gym, Mikhail made dinner, a simple one of rice and vegetables, one of his favorites. Afterwards, he worked at his computer and before going to bed, read from one of his favorite books, Don Quixote.
Mikhail woke up the next morning, got dressed and headed down to another coffeeshop for his morning `shot’ as he put it. The downtown had five different coffeeshops and Mikhail had two favorites. While he appreciated the strong coffee that had become popular over the years, he also detested the `yuppie-scum’ as he delicately put it, who ordered coffee drinks with five ingredients. `These concoctions are the work of retired chemists in the C.I.A.,’ Mikhail jokingly mused to those who might listen, ‘meant to derange and re-arrange brain cells.’
Each drink took minutes to prepare and Mikhail was the most impatient of persons. But he was aware of his foible and had been working to improve, practicing mindfulness as his Buddhist friends called it.
Mikhail repeated the mantra he always used especially when waiting in lines, “Patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue…”
He would do this until it was his time to place an order.
Mikhail walked in and saw another of his dream-dolls, fashioning specialty drinks behind the counter. ‘I don’t know why I drive myself crazy with fantasies of young chicks.’ he pondered. ‘I mean….what are my chances of scoring?’ Nonetheless, this ‘hot babe’ as he referred to her, was his current fantasy. She wore a short tight blouse which revealed her ample bosom and enough skin to draw his eyes to her round, supple figure. ‘Gawd, what I would give to lay with her.’
She looked at Mikhail and smiled. ‘Did she smile like this at everyone?’ he wondered. As it turned out, she did.
“Yeah, I’ll take a cup of your dark French Roast,” Mikhail responded, affecting disinterest. She smiled again and poured him a cup, taking his money. Surreptitiously, he perused her nimble body. He desperately wanted to say something but resisted the temptation. ‘She’d probably think I was a horny old guy,’ he worried.
Of course, this had been the story for Mikhail his whole pathetic life: a lack confidence, at least with women who were really attractive. His puritanical training has got the better of his instincts. He always ended up convincing himself that few woman would find him attractive, talking himself out of chances to engage the opposite sex.
But he knew where this trait had originated. It seemed as if his parents were asexual. Till this day, Tom could not imagine how they managed to have kids. His mother had told her sister that she thought she had become pregnant when, on a date, her boyfriend had kissed her. She had giggled openly at her own naivete. Mikhail’s aunt told that story. His mother later confirmed it much later in life.
On another occasion, she revealed that his father, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor during World War II, had gone out one night with some army buddies to what they referred to as a ‘cathouse,’ and his father had thought they were going to get milkshakes.
His military buddies had had a good laugh at that. Mikhail’s mother had told Mikhail all this in an embarrassing moment of honesty, while decrying her submissive relationship with his father, when her son was in his forties.
And then again, having three brothers didn’t exactly acquaint Tom with the female of the species. One brother was somewhere on the Aspergers syndrome, another was driven by an anxiety disorder to crazed fits of manic behavior and a third had joined a cult founded by another Indian fakir.
He and his brothers were so naive compared to their friends and mostly socially inept with women. When he thought back to all the opportunities he had missed with women, it killed him. He still fantasized about dozens of lost opportunities.
Mikhail sat down with his coffee in hand, browsing through a local paper someone had left behind. He brushed the flies away and looked up as Jerry walked through the door. Mikhail nodded his head in recognition and Jerry sat down.
Mikhail had met Jerry years earlier at a spiritual retreat, the same one his wife had joined before he left her. At the time, Jerry had broken up with his wife and was seeking solace.
Years later, he became a motorcycle aficionado, and claimed riding his chopper was the best way to attract women in this area.
“How have you been?” Jerry asked in his typical stiff fashion.
“Okay,” Mikhail said. “What’s going on with you?”
“Oh, the same old shit. Riding my motorcycle. Talking. Hanging out.”
“Not working at all?” Mikhail ventured.
“Work? Of course not. I avoid it. I’m not fit by disposition to work. I get a monthly disability check and that’s all I need to get by. Vietnam Veteran, y’know. I can’t work or else I get crazy. Work would kill me. I’m just lucky that I recognized that fact years ago else I’d be dead by now.”
Jerry said this all with conviction but seemed a bit embarrassed about this outburst. He paused, then added, “It’s not that I don’t like work. I just can’t work. I’d die. My constitution is such that I can’t handle work, psychologically. I know I sound like I’m apologizing or rationalizing but I’m just explaining what you may not know.”
Actually, Mikhail took Jerry at face value. He seemed like an honest guy. If he said work would kill him, he believed him. Work has killed a lot of people, he mused. “Hell, it’s probably killing me,’ Mikhail admitted. He sipped his coffee and thought of all the lazy people he had known. “Laziness has its merits.”
“Hell yes!” Jerry confirmed.
Suddenly, Amber, the crazy chick walked in. Mikhail saw her as did Jerry and they exchanged a quick glance, rolling their eyes. Here was this sexily dressed wild nymph, burned out on life, but looking good enough to catch the eye of any guy. She strolled up to the counter and ordered a cappuccino. Mikhail couldn’t take his eyes off her. She was dressed in a black leather skirt, tight as could be with black net stockings and a bluish blouse worn loose so that her bosom could be seen as she bent forward.
Mikhail had to admit that he was so horny these days, he could have pounced on her right then and there.
Suddenly, Amber turned and interrogated Mikhail, “Still looking for Nick?”
“No, I already talked to him.”
“Yeah, I know,” she said with some irritation. “Mind if I join you?”
Jerry looked at Mikhail like, ‘Oh shit.’ Apparently, he knew this lady also.
The muscles in Mikhail’s face tightened a little. He noticed he was thirsty.
“Sure, why not?” Mikhail said. ‘Boy, I’m going to have to put on a great show now,’ he reflected.
Amber sat down, seemingly quite poised Mikhail was thinking to myself, ‘Wasn’t she suppose to be on her way to L.A.?’
“Why’d you tell Nick I was humping other guys?” she interrogated.
‘Well, at least she got straight to the point,’ Mikhail thought and then quickly considered. ‘What are my options. I could bluff her, ask her what the hell she was talking about. Or, I could admit it and confront her about it. Or, I could apologize.’ Mikhail chose the second course.
“Look, Amber. I like Nick. But I don’t like the fact that you’re fucking guys behind his back. I know it’s none of my business but the fact is, I told Nick and I guess he told you what I said. It probably was the wrong thing to tell him and I regret it, but it’s over and done and there isn’t a thing I can do about it.”
‘There,’ Mikhail thought. ‘I did it.’
Amber stared at Mikhail as if considering what to say. Suddenly, she started to laugh. But it wasn’t your normal laugh. It was a laugh of complete disdain.
“You think I give a shit what Nick thinks?” she said venomously.
“Apparently not. Maybe that’s good enough reason to tell him.” Mikhail responded quickly, not a little shocked.
“Look, you don’t know Nick. And you don’t know what you’re getting into. So if I was you, I’d butt out.”
‘Hm?’ Mikhail thought to himself. Probably a good idea. “Yeah, Psycho-Babe, I agree. I should refrain from pushing your schizoid brain too far.”
Mikhail didn’t know what made him say that. It just came out. He couldn’t help myself. Not very tactful, he admitted but no one ever accused him of being less than blunt. He had always wondered why people said honesty was the best policy. Shit, honesty had gotten him in so much trouble his whole life. In fact, the whole thing about being honest was the biggest bunch of bullshit ever pushed by the virtuous, Mikhail thought.
“What do you mean? Are you saying I’m crazy.” Amber stared at Mikhail with bewitched eyes. She could have turned into a lizard and Mikhail would have thought it within her power.
“Lady,” Mikhail intoned, “you’re crazier than a loon. I’ll call a spade a spade. If you don’tlike it, don’t get in my face. You’re a space-chick if I ever saw one. You’re probably a Venusian or Martian. I don’t know which but if you bother me again, I’ll call the military.”
Oh, man! That did it. She freaked out so bad that Mikhail had to flee. After she stood up and started screaming, upsetting the table and spilling the drinks, Mikhail decided that he’d had enough.
After exiting, he walked up the street pausing to look back. No Amber. At the corner Mikhail took out a cigarette and lit it, enjoying a drag as he continued walking up the hill. Out of breath, he rested upon a wall on a property where an empty Victorian House stood. He took a drag and sat, casually taking in the small town activity.
Across the way, an old lady worked in her garden. She must have been eighty. A few kids played outside too near the street. A girl of eleven or twelve held a baby no more than ayear or so while two other kids scampered along behind her.
He continued to watch and was concerned about the younger kids safety for some reason. Maybe it was because the cars descending the hill were traveling too fast. That and the fact that the two kids scampering about weren’t being supervised very well by the other girl who had her hands full caring for the baby.
Suddenly, Mikhail noticed Amber walking up the sidewalk on the other side. She just walked up the street then she stopped in front of the kids, being really friendly and all. Meanwhile, Mikhail started to get this nervous feeling and he thought, ‘something ain’t right here!’ Suddenly, Amber took the eleven year old girl by the hand and led her with her the baby back down the street. The two other children tagged along behind.
‘Wow! Mikhail thought to himself, ‘What the hell is going on here? Does Amber know this kid? I better tag along to see that all is on the up and up.’
So he followed back down the street watching as Amber turned the corner with all four kids following her. She continued down the street and suddenly stopped. Watching from across the street, Mikhail saw her reaching in her pocket for something. Then she bent down and began drawing on the ground.
Mikhail was a bit relieved. ‘Oh, she’s just doing some drawings. He finished his cigarette and watched for a while. The kids seemed fascinated while Amber continued to draw.
Mikhail decided he’d had enough, that he was just being a bit paranoid and returned back up the hill toward his apartment. When he got back in, the phone rang, but he let it. He didn’t feel like talking to anyone at the moment. He couldn’t get his mind off of Amber. He found himself going back down the street toward town.
Mikhail had decided there was a moral obligation to check back on those children. He ran down the street, huffing and puffing. stopping a few times to catch his breath. Somebody in a car whizzed by and shouted “Hi, Tom!’ But he didn’t pay any attention, wrong name in any case.
Finally, he got back to the corner and saw no trace of Amber or the kids. He walked to where he had seen Amber drawing on the sidewalk. Mikhail looked down. He couldn’t believe it. Amber had drawn, in chalk, absolutely gorgeous drawings of each of thechildren. Tom studied them a few minutes before he remembered his mission.
He looked around and thought he’d better check the coffee shop first. Maybe someone in there had seen them. He entered the coffee shop and saw all four kids seated around a table and Amber talking to them. She had her back to him so he quickly moved to theside so she couldn’t see him.
“So always listen to your Mom and do what she says. Your Mommy knows best.”
All the kids were eating cookies and drinking chocolate milk.
Again he heard Amber’s voice. “I’ll see all of you tomorrow, okay. I’ve got to get you back to your Mom’s. Come on, finish up and let’s go.”
Mikhail hid around the corner and watched as they all got up and left. He didn’t follow. It was obvious that Amber knew the kids quite well.
Suddenly, Amber reentered the coffee shop, caught sight of Mikhail, laughed contemptuously, grabbed her sweater from the chair where she had left it, and exited, her ass swishing so close to Tom’s face that he felt her skirt brush his cheek.
Mikhail felt exhausted and slightly ill. He sat down, closed his eyes and took some deep breaths and when he reopened them, he was staring at a painting on the wall of the coffeehouse, some kind of mandala, very colorful, very complex.