Black Marie, cont’d

I made it to Pondicherry where I found that there were several ashrams for me to search. The third one I went to was it. The woman at the entrance desk said that Amisha had been there. The woman looked closely at me, “You are Ray?” When I nodded and smiled, she turned away, began to cry so hard, she shook. “I am sorry. I am so sorry, “ she said between sobs. “Amisha, she caught a bad fever two months ago . . . we couldn’t, the hospital, the doctors . . . we couldn’t save her. She died six weeks ago. I am so sorry, Ray. I am so sorry . . . sorry . . . sorry. I am so sorry.”

And she put her face into her hands and continued to sob.

Stunned and in shock, I stood there in disbelief, dizzy, finally turning, wandering the streets of Pondicherry, not eating, lost, angry, sad, confused, heart broken, sleeping in a cheap guesthouse for two weeks. Eventually, not knowing what else to do, I decided to return to the ashram, maybe just to be around where she was and the people who knew her, maybe find some solace.

A few weeks later of coming to grips with the realization of her death, some rest and a lot of comfort from the folks that knew her, I finally found enough courage and went to meet my son. I was so scared and anxious I could barely breath. Amisha’s parents lived on a tree lined street in a small house with flowers everywhere.  A woman who looked exactly like an older version of Amisha answered the door, looked at me and said, “Welcome Ray. We knew you were here. Please come in”.

The house was immaculate with flowers and the sweet smell of incense and tea. Her mother introduced herself as Amma.

She said, “He is outside in the yard”.

I felt weak, was trembling so bad I could hardly walk. I went outside and this beautiful little boy looked up at me with Amisha’s eyes, his skin like light brown, blond hair like mine. A smile lit his little face and he asked, “Are you my father?”

“Yes,” was all that could come out of my lump filled throat.

“I have been waiting for you,” he said and ran to me.

I picked him up in my arms and I broke into sobs and fell onto my knees clutching our son. Amma came out a moment later, helped me up toe a nearby bench and sat beside us, put her arm around me and whispered, “she loved you both so much.”

I met Amish’s father when he came home a while later, He shook my hand and welcomed me with great warmth. Her two brothers and their families joined us all for a mini celebration that night. I never felt more at home.

I stayed with these lovely people for two weeks, sleeping on a cot in Ravi’s room. I felt so happy and alive during the day, but the nightmares that had started a while back in Nam now started to be every night, each night with more intensity. Nightmares of wounded and dead bodies, fire, blood everywhere. I was waking up, shaking, in cold sweats, not knowing where I was. Then the insomnia, whether from fear of my dreams, from war fatigue, from lack of adrenaline, I didn’t know. I just could not sleep. Amma noticed something was wrong and aired her concern. I told her what was happening and she told me to go back to the ashram, to talk to the people there. They would help.

“Please stay as long as you need. Ravi will be here until you can return.”

I took her advice and left the next day and was welcomed into residency at the Ashram. The next day I met with a meditation instructor, Rakesh, to whom I spent the rest of the day unloading my life. The more I talked, the more questions he had. It went on until I was raw and empty and sobbing.

There was Tristan, Amisha, my love, my loss, my heartache, our son.

Then there was the  war. While I embraced it as a youthful adventure and served in, essentially, a noncombat role, I was there. I saw it. I felt it. I  heard it. I participated in it. I saw the horror: the blood, the torn shattered bloody bodies, the caskets piled on the tarmac waiting for their final ride, home to America. Constant noise from screams, curses, guns, exploding shells, bombs, choppers, jet aircraft; the stench of burnt gunpowder, raw sewage, latrines, diesel fuel, burning gas, marijuana, vomit, testosterone. The war was a sensual overload, a constant adrenaline rush. I had left, but the war was inside me like devouring dragon that never rested.


It all came rushing out like a spring flood. There was so much.

After the deluge, we sat in silence for, what seemed like a long time. Finally, Rakesh began to talk to me about meditation and gave me a specific practice for trauma and loss. He explained what a mantra is and how to use it in meditation. After this teaching, he reached over with his finger and touched me above and to the center of my eyes. It was like a bolt of white light passed through me and it was like everything inside my mind suddenly left. My mind was empty. He left me and I sat in a state of empty bliss, like I was stoned on the weed that was so plentiful in Nam. That evening, I ate a light dinner and slept a dreamless sleep.

I met with Rakesh every day for several weeks. We talked further about Amisha and my experience in the war. He always listened intently, smiling and nodding. He taught me several other meditation practices and mantras for healing. He also taught me yoga, specifically, restorative asanas (or poses). This went on for over two months. One day Rakesh took my hands in his, smiled his big smile and announced that he thought tat I was I was ready to be on my own.

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