“What are you,” she asked, staring at the man in the wrap around dress.
“I’m a lama.”
“No you aren’t,” she laughed. “Lama’s are fuzzy, have four legs, long necks and beautiful eyelashes.”
“I’m a different kind of lama…the human kind,” said the man, a smile on his face.
“Then I’m a wolf. If you’re a lama, I’m a big, fierce wolf, the human kind, of course.”
“It seems logical, I suppose,” said the man. “It doesn’t actually work that way but I don’t see why it shouldn’t.”
“So?” said the girl. “What does a lama human do?”
The man thought for a moment, then said, “Well, we think a lot, we meditate and we chant. We work to control out thoughts.”
“Wow, how do you get anything done? Aren’t you bored? You can think while you do other things you know. I think all the time. What do you think about?”
“We think about not thinking and our chanting trains our mind to look inward.”
“And? What do you see inside?”
“We’re looking for our center.”
“It’s right here,” she said, pointing to her bellybutton. “All you had to do was ask and I could have saved you from all that sitting around. When you’re looking for the center of something all you have to do is cut it in half and that’s the middle. If you remember that, you won’t have any trouble find the center of everything.”
“Thank you,” said the man, bowing.
“What’s that?” she asked, pointing to his side.
“It’s a begging bowl.”
“Bowls can’t beg because they don’t have vocal cords and they can’t actually talk. You should know that, since you’re big. So, are you a beggar? Are you homeless?”
“No, I’m a lama and I live in a temple. We go through the villages holding our bowls in our hands and people put food into them so that we can eat.”
“You don’t have your own food but you live in a temple?”
“People are happy to help us.”
“Who helps them?”
“We pray for them and chant for them,” said the man, uncomfortably.
“They can’t eat words, right? They work to get food while you sit around and then you expect them to feed you? Wow, that’s really lame. You should be ashamed of yourself. You’d never get away with that kind of rip off around here. Not in a million years.”
“We serve a purpose.”
“What purpose is that? You can’t even feed yourselves. Don’t you have dirt? Seeds? I mean, get up and do something to help yourselves and leave other people alone. I’m only ten and I know that.”
“We meditate. Besides, feeding us teaches people to be generous.”
“You can’t believe that. Not really. What teaches you to be generous to them? People work so they can give food to you and your friends who just sit around all the time? Is that what your teaching your kids?”
“We live alone in cells and with other men.”
“So, you’re gay lamas?”
“No, we aren’t gay lamas. We’re lamas dedicated to thinking and introspection.”
“So you don’t have to take care of anyone but yourselves and you still can’t figure out how to feed yourselves? How pathetic are you guys? And you take food away from families? From kids? That’s just sad. How can you look at yourself in the mirror?”
“We don’t have mirrors, that’s vanity.”
“How do you know if you have something stuck between your front teeth? Do the other lamas tell you? How do you know what you look like? Do you look into ponds? Do you have to ask someone to tell you the color of your eyes?”
“My eyes are brown,” sighed the man. “I wasn’t always a lama, so I know what color my eyes are.”
“What about taking food from others?”
“You have a point.”
“I know. I have a lot of points. If you’re chanting all the time and looking for you center why are you afraid to look at yourself? How can you look at your inside but not your outside? Good thing you don’t have any hair because you need to see if it’s sticking out in the wrong places when you get up in the morning. I look at myself and I’m not vain. It’s just me. You’re making looking at yourself into something that’s a big deal and that’s why you won’t do it. It’s normal to look at yourself. Your scared of your own face. You’re not very brave, are you.”
“Only because you make it that way. Who’s afraid to look in a mirror? Who can’t feed themselves? Who takes things from others and is okay with that? You don’t do anything but take care of yourself and that’s way worse than looking at your own face. You’re like the government, actually. You expect others to work for your benefit, you’re self absorbed, out of touch and, truthfully, you give animal lamas a bad name because they’re really sweet and friendly. Isolating yourself makes it easy to think you’re something else but really, you’re just another person. The trick is to be in the midst of life and think at the same time. Besides, you have to be able to fight sometimes and you need to grow up and take care of yourself. You should be feeding people not taking their food. I’m a kid and even I know that. I know you’re not from around here and I might not understand how you live but…don’t take food from others who work, when you don’t. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. That’s always wrong.”
“What’s that?” he asked point to her lap.
“A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I’d split it with you but I raked leaves, washed the dog, cleaned my room and took out the trash, so I earned it. What did you do today?”
“I get it.”
“I hope so,” she said. “You can have a cookie, just because I share, but that’s the only reason.”
“Where I come from, lamas are treated with respect and honor.”
“They wouldn’t be treated that way around here.”
“I can see that.”
“You have to earn respect and honor. If you save a cat from a burning building, then people will respect you, until they forget what you did, that is. Actually, we don’t respect many people and we don’t honor others either. Not really. It’s not like that here and I think that’s better.”
“You were taught to think that way.”
“So were you.”
“Do you have a dog or a girlfriend?”
“We don’t have any attachments. Attachments take away from chanting and meditating.”
“Wow, so no important people in your life, unless you hide your feelings or you’re dead inside. Sounds like a group of people who are afraid to live. Can’t join in the circle of life and you wear that,” she said, pointing at him, “to show everyone how you have dropped out. So all you do is try to avoid everything that’s part of living.”
“I can see why you might think that.”
“I don’t see how you can think about it any other way. Why did you bother coming here if you were going to try and avoid living?”
“Why did you want to be born if you had no intention of feeling what life was actually like. I mean that’s what you’re doing isn’t it? Your staying in a place with other guys who are just like you, no women or kids. You’re afraid to see your own reflection and afraid to care for individuals. That’s avoiding life. It’s like reading a book while trying not to see the words on the pages.”
“I have to go,” said the lama, standing up. “Thank you again for the cookies.”
“No problem and you might want to think about the kind of life you’re leading. Next time you walk through a village, try giving something to the people instead of always taking.”
“Have a nice life,” he said bowing again.
“I will,” she said. “I hope you choose to actually live and stop being so afraid of everything.”
“You don’t understand,” said the man.
“Grown-ups always say that to kids because they don’t like the fact that what they say makes sense,” she said, knowingly. “Maybe you’re the one who doesn’t understand. Either way, it was nice meeting you and be sure you look both ways when you cross the street, over there. It’s a really busy street and you seem like you might not know how to do a lot of things.”
“I’ll look both ways before I cross,” he said, bowing again.
“If you ever see a real lama, please say hello from me,” she said, as she got up, threw her lunch bag into the garbage can and started on her way home.