I sat at the back table today. At the table nearest the edge, where the cliff drops away to the river far below, Hippie Number 1 was at it again. This is the same guy that goes shirtless every day, and curses The Man for deeming it necessary to wear clothes at all. He smokes endlessly, and talks without pause. He frequently refers to “His Guru” and judging from the smell that wafts across the table, he showers rarely. He is American, and because the culture in America was “stifling his being”, he came to India. Even though he was “free” in the States, growing pot and selling it en masse, he had to engage with kids that “just didn’t get it.” So here he is, in this tiny town in Northern India, expounding on spirituality and “the matrix of life, man.” I hear about it all the time, and I’ve only had a formal conversation with him once. He talks very loudly, all the time.
This morning I watched him at his usual routine. His favorite Girl Du Jour (he hasn’t told me this, I have just deduced it by watching) is a European named Sarah. He was speaking to her intensely this morning. Strangely, he was talking in quieter tones than usual, so I didn’t catch all of what he was saying. But his body language was impossible to miss. He would lean forward on his elbows, chain-smoking cigarettes, and jab a finger in her face repeatedly to prove a point. Then he would sit back, satisfied, and puff on his cigarette for a moment. Just as she started to respond, he would sit up quickly and cut her off, racing ahead with a new juicy point for her to ponder, or a paradox to stump her with. She was a good sport, nodding philosophically and seeming to be interested. But after some time, I noticed her eyes beginning to glaze over. I remembered my conversation with him several days before, and wondered if I had looked the same way. Something about the mechanical nodding of her head was so familiar. I remember acting interested for awhile, too.
Before she can get a word in edgewise, he is at it again. “So do you see what I’m saying, Sarah?” he asks, his head tilted to the side in what appears to be a gesture of great earnestness. “It’s really important that you understand this.” His eyes are wide, and he allows the gravity of his statement to sink in. He is watching her reaction, and he can hardly contain the self-satisfied smile that wants to creep across his face. A breeze blows through the restaurant. Sarah sits up straight, and begins to respond. I cannot hear what she is saying, because she speaks in much quieter tones than he does. As she talks, her red scarf fluttering around her neck, he adopts a very sincere expression, leaning forward and resting his chin on his palms. But he is like a panther ready to pounce. He is waiting for his in. He has allowed her perhaps thirty seconds of free speech, and he is itching to break in. She pauses, thinking about how she might best continue to illustrate her point. He jumps.
“Ah ah ah…” I hear him say, wagging his fingers back and forth, the cigarette still burning between them. “That’s where you’re wrong! My guru says…” And he’s off again. I have almost finished breakfast, and when I look up again, I see that Sarah is now fiddling with the jam jar, not even looking at him anymore. But this doesn’t slow him down in the least. It seems to fuel his fire. Now he must have her attention. I take my last bite of yogurt, and push the plate away. I am about to gather my things together when I see that Sarah is doing the same thing several tables away. She is standing up, preparing to leave. Suddenly the hippie’s body language changes entirely. Now, instead of All Wise Teacher, he is her humble servant, taking her hand and kissing it with deep feeling. She begins to straighten up, but he has pulled her down again and is embracing her, a long, intense embrace that, for once, is conducted in silence. And yet the silence is so deep, so meaningful, it is almost uncomfortable to watch. The hippie clearly wants to impart as much feeling and depth to this moment as possible. As he presses her body to him, his head tilted piously to the side, his motives, which have been clear all along, come into perfect, undisguised focus: he desperately wants to get laid.