The shadows came to life as men, women and even children, all ignoring the light rain and oncoming cold as they rattled forearms and ankles overgrown with silver and gold bangles.
“This is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness,” Daniel said in answer to their unspoken question. “Marcia lives in a carriage house in the back. Why? You might ask. It’s cheap and soon you’ll find out why. By the way, don’t look the Krishnas in the eye or say anything to them. Just follow me closely.”
“They’ll latch onto you sweet young things and before you know it you’ll be shaving your heads and panhandling at the airport.” They laughed. But he wasn’t kidding. They were just the sort of recruits the Krishnas loved.
They plunged into the crowd, riding wave after wave of humanity until being washed inside the institute where the light momentarily blinded Daniel. The chanters inside were even more intense. Dozens upon dozens spun mindlessly into each other, so absorbed in the coming rapture that they paid little attention to the four strangers elbowing through their midst like salmon swimming upstream. Men sat on the floor slapping bongo drums and rattling tambourines as the stench of burnt cooking oil and sandalwood incense filled the air. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Vishnu, Hare, Hare — chanted again and again until eyes glazed over.
Daniel had to herd the bewitched girls out of the front room and down a long hall where the god-stoned bounced around like billiard balls on a pool table, in and out of the candlelit rooms where they slept. “We were lucky,” he said as finally they exited the back door. “They’re having some sort of celebration. Once they get started, they’ll keep going until they all fall over from sheer exhaustion. Then they wake up, get on their street clothes and go to their day jobs.”
“I’m really not kidding. I’ve seen people leave that place in the morning in business suits, carrying brief cases. Investment bankers on Wall Street during the day. Krishnas at night.” Daniel joked as they followed him across the cobblestone courtyard separating the Institute from a two-story carriage house. Marcia’s place on the second floor was dark which was worrisome. However, the doors to both the stairwell and to the flat were unlocked. That was a good sign.
“Marcia thinks the Krishnas will protect her,” he chuckled, as they entered the flat. “She never locks her door.”
Looking around he also recognized the sparse furnishings: the two beanbag chairs they’d sewed together over popcorn and beer one night and a wooden coffee table left behind by a previous tenant for obvious reasons. The clincher was good ole Che, still hanging on the wall next to the kitchenette. It was a poster of Guevara that she’d had since college, the dead revolutionary, young, handsome, and dangerous. The only light in the room came through a line of curtain-less windows facing the Krishna Institute. In the distance you could see the lights of the city.
“Marcia?” He called as he flipped on the light over the kitchenette. In response he heard two sets of voices coming from the bedroom. She wasn’t alone. What made him think she would be? She was attractive, young and smart after all. There’d been a brief moment when he thought if she could get past the fact that he was her best friend’s younger brother and that along with him came his mother, well, then maybe. Maybe, they could be more than friends. But who was he kidding. He couldn’t, wouldn’t inflict his mother on someone he cared about.
“It appears we’ve stumbled into something,” he said to the girls who now stood just inside the door dripping on the worn carpet. The Catholic’s daughter caught his meaning. She was the tallest of the three and model-thin. Black hair hung from a perfect widow’s peak to her waist, her skin was milky and her eyes a vivid shade of blue. Compared to her, Venus looked less goddess-like and more like the sturdy tomboy of the neighborhood. The third girl reminded Daniel of a young Eleanor Roosevelt.
The mumbling from the bedroom continued. “Marcia?” He repeated.
“Is that you Daniel?” Was the response.
“No, it’s Che Guevara.”