She stepped out of the shower and, after drying herself, dropped the towel and inspected herself in the mirror. Anne hated looking at herself. Neal’s death had unexpected consequences in her life. She was far too thin for her liking. “I’ve completely lost my tits,” she said to the mirror. She turned around and inspected herself from behind. “And my ass is going too. I’m just a spindly pale thing that’s getting older every day.” Anne ran her hands across her belly. “I’m just wasting the fuck away.”
Anne dyed her hair the day before. A dark brown she knew Ben would like. It was many years since she was brave enough to see her own hair color. She knew there were plenty of grays mixed in with the dark blonde that was her natural color. The thought horrified her.
She went into the bedroom and tried to pick out what outfit she would wear to the lecture. A friend had been trying to get her to go for some time. She did not care for religious talk, but she also knew her life could not continue as it was. Even her therapist told her to consider a different approach to her life. This all has to end, she thought. Pretty soon, no one’s going to want to spend time with me. I’m such a fucking mess. Ben was good to her and understanding of her moods, but there was a limit to what he could do. She thought, No one wants a lover who cries all day.
Anne arrived late for the lecture and fumbled with her boots outside the door, cursing the whole time under her breath while prying them off her feet. She scanned the room when she walked in, but did not see her friend anywhere. She felt she had been tricked. She thought, What the hell am I even doing here? She paused to check her phone before sitting down and saw the text Lisa had left. “Family emergency. Can’t make it.” Goddammit Lisa, she thought.
At the front of the room sat an older man with a shaved head and a broad grin on his face while he talked. Anne disliked him immediately. He’s going to see me a bunch of easy answers, she thought. And I know better. Life fucking sucks and there’s nothing you can do about it.
The man waited until Anne found a cushion to sit on in the back. “If everyone is seated,” said the strange man in front of the room, “we’ll get started. I’d like to start with the Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma.”
Anne did not pay much attention at first. Her eyes wandered around to the statues and the pictures on the wall. There were a lot of seated Buddhas in gold or bronze or ceramic. But there were other images as well. She saw strange figures with many arms and legs. One picture had a Buddha with a woman on his lap licking at his ear. I think that’s a picture of people fucking, she thought. I’m not in Sunday School anymore.
The speaker interrupted her thoughts. “All life is suffering,” the man said. “And we can never get away from this. Old age is inevitable. Sickness is inevitable. Death is inevitable. And we will always end up separated from people and things that we love.”
She thought, What the fuck is this? I came to be uplifted, but this is depressing. She settled into her cushion. She was entranced. It was not the message she expected. But it sounded like the truth.
Anne kept listening. The man continued. “What causes this suffering, this dissatisfaction we have? If we are going to grow old, get sick, and inevitably die, then what can we do about it? Is there a way to find happiness in the midst of these unalterable facts?
“The truth is that it isn’t these problems that cause our grief. It’s our relationship to them. We want things to stay the same. Even though they won’t. We want things to be perfect when it’s in the nature of things to decay. Can we make peace with the way things are, or are we going to insist things be a way they never were and never will be?
“Why do people die? It’s their nature to die. It’s just that simple.”
Shortly after saying all of this, the group sat in silence for a long time. Everyone except Anne who found herself sobbing uncontrollably until she finally left the room.