by Maria Espinosa
He was a tall and handsome man. His
voice was mellifluous as he talked about
vibrations of energy and chakra balancing as well as the benefits of a
regular yoga practice. In the pulpit of
the Methodist Church in a prim San Francisco neighborhood (rented for the occasion
by the East-West Meditation Center, which still lacked a home base) he spoke
for forty minutes, after which he strummed on his guitar, sang a khirtan, and
asked the audience to join. “Sri ram, jai ram, jai ram ram om,”
Marcia sang, along with the rest of the audience, comprised mostly of women.
Afterwards she came up to him, dressed
in her new turquoise summer dress with the tight-fitting bodice and low
neckline, and she asked where she might study yoga. Did he give classes? No,
he said, not yet, although that was in
the offing. But he did teach privately.
The next day she showed up at his
apartment. Because she had just been
fired from her last job, she had free time.
What would she wear for the lesson?
Her unflattering shorts? Leotard
tights? It was June, and the day was hot
and sunny. She decided on her bikini. It
was a soft shade of orange. Later, when she entered his apartment, she saw that
the loincloth he wore was the same shade. What a coincidence! They were attuned
on some level, she decided. And how well
muscled he was. Even more handsome with fewer clothes—as she, too, was also
more attractive scantily clad. Thank God for her firm body. At twenty-five,
she religiously practiced her
modern dance exercises each morning.
They had helped her through child birth and now they helped keep her
limber, keep her slender despite the heavy commute driving and work schedule
she’d had until last week.
She felt blissfully unconcerned about
the firing. Unemployment would kick in!
Vacation time! Her baby daughter at the sitter’s, a saintly woman who
took Carmelita in at 6:00 a.m. and sometimes even kept her overnight when
Marcia would be out late or entertaining a lover.
It was 1965. Free love. The Pill. “Let’s
do it in the road,” sang the
Beatles. Marcia had many lovers, after evenings of parties which featured brown
rice and marijuana. Or the No Name Bar in Sausalito, which she thought of as
her own special private club. There she
might weep on a stranger’s shoulder—and after a while they all knew each other
more or less, the black sheep who received monthly remittances from families
hoping to keep them at bay, the artists, the semi-legal French immigrants, the
small-time and big-time drug dealers, the attorneys who considered themselves
creative or laid back or liberal. There
she could sip Irish coffees (usually some kind stranger would end up footing
the bill) and talk with her friends, which included a few women who were adrift
like her. Mimi, the charming New Orleans
tarot reader was one. Adriana, from
Cuba, sincere, searching, disillusioned with the Church, was another. Then there
was Joyce, who claimed that she
had gone home with a different man each night…until she found The One.
Now Marcia had
free time. And she planned to enjoy it.
His apartment was
somewhat luxurious with its rich deep blue carpet, its beige sofas, and a tiger
skin rug from India. Translucent white curtains fluttered in the breeze which
blew through opened windows. Light traffic sounded from Clement Street below.
A polished antique dining table and sideboard in an alcove off
the living room. His bedroom, with its
large bed, a purple satin comforter. The
sunny kitchen. The bathroom with its small black and white tiles of decades ago,
and a lingering scent of incense.
In the bedroom –
door closed for privacy—she slipped off her dress and underwear, put on her
bikini, and then stepped barefoot into the living room. He, too, was barefoot,
in his orange loin cloth. Around his
upper right arm he wore thick metal coils of gold, silver, and copper.
Let us begin, he
He started with
the Tree Pose and took her through some basic asanas. She was thrilled.
This was her very first exposure to yoga, and in 1965 it was still
considered somewhat exotic.
How limber you
are, he said. His azure blue eyes beamed
She asked about
his arm bracelets.
protective, he said. Yogananda suggested that I wear them.
Yogananda was his guru, his guide.
Yogananda, he said, had given direction and blessing and purpose to his life.
sat silently in meditation, he on the tiger skin, and she on the carpet. Then
he made her breakfast of chappatis, Indian wheatcakes, which he
flipped skillfully in a frying pan. I use only ghee or clarified butter, he
She had brought him an offering of
canned pineapple juice. He regarded it
with contempt. Canned, he said. I never eat anything out of cans.
His parents, he said, paid for the
apartment, and in return, they came to stay overnight once or twice a month.
They lived in the south bay in Atherton. His father was a retired oil
executive, and he himself was a monk. He had taken vows of abstinence, at
After breakfast, he asked if she would
massage his shoulders, which had been stiff lately.
How smooth his skin felt beneath her
Sex, he said, diverts the energy flow.
With kriya—a technique I will show
you when you are ready—the energy flows upwards from the lower chakras, and
sexual energy is transformed, alchemized.
And yet how smooth he felt beneath her
And after she had massaged his
shoulders, his neck, his upper arms, he drew her to him and kissed her lightly
on the lips.
Of course, after several yoga sessions, they
ended up in his bed.
Sometimes, he said, it is better to
release sexual energy. Frustration and
inhibition can create harm within the body.
But he was still a monk.
His parents were coming to visit, he announced
one afternoon after a tryst in bed. You must leave. She was tempted to drop
a few bobby pins on
the floor of the guest bathroom, leave her panties wedged beneath the sofa
cushions. Yet she simply left, taking
with her all traces of her presence, leaving nothing behind except for a faint
aroma of Jean Nate.
Maria Espinosa managed to get expelled
from Harvard, and has lived most of her life
in the San Francisco Bay Area. A recent
transplant to New Mexico, she feels that her roots are finally beginning
to penetrate the hard, dry desert earth. Maria has published two several
award-winning novels. They include Longing, Dying Unfinished, Incognito:
Journey of a Secret Jew, and an earlier novel, of which she rarely
speaks, Dark Plums, about a Manhattan prostitute. Since then, she has completed another novel, not yet
published, and has begun a sixth.