Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Buddhist monks freak me out

I was getting ready to cross the street, and while waiting for the light to change, two Buddhist monks walked up next to me, and I flinched. Why would I flinch as these two friendly looking men in yellow robes stood next to me, you may ask. Well, because I got a PTSD flashback in their presence. The reason for this flashback was an incident that happened to me well over 10 years ago, and I apparently still haven't gotten over. So much so I was just recounting this story to some colleagues at work when I heard the Dalai Lama was in town a few weeks ago, and here I am, telling it again.

I was taking an Amtrak train home from visiting friends/family one weekend – I think it may have been Easter since the weather was spring-like. The train was packed, but I found 2 empty seats. I sat next to the window, and a Buddhist monk who boarded at the same station ended up sitting next to me. A little while after the train departed, the monk started trying to have a conversation with me, something that was complicated by the fact that he didn't speak much English. He had recently arrived to the US and (I think) was visiting some friends or going on a retreat or something. Anyway, after a few minutes of awkward chit-chat in broken English, I turned away and started reading my magazine.

Just as I was starting to get into some article on mascara or whatever the hell I was reading, the monk shifts and starts saying that he’s cold. He repeats it. I ask if he has a blanket or a jacket, but he just had his robes. A moment later, he leans in to snuggle next to me, since apparently he loves the softness of my sweater, and then proceeds to sniff me. I am horrified, but somehow frozen. He sniffs me again. This sweet looking little old man who looks like the Dalai Lama JUST SNIFFED ME??!! He tells me I smell good. I catch the eye of the man sitting across the aisle and look at him in horror, while he just looks on in amusement.  I think, "am I on Candid Camera? Is someone trying to punk me?" I shrug the monk off my arm, press myself up against the window, and say thank you to his compliment. (I’m only good with witty comebacks several days AFTER weird things happen to me. Plus, it's always nice to know the deodorant is working in stressful situations.) The monk kept staring at me, then grabbed my hand and started looking at my palm, then into my face. Internally I was thinking, “is this some gypsy fortune telling monk?” but externally all I did was start to panic and pull my hand away. The monk then proceeded to take a ring off his hand and put it on my finger, telling me it would bring me good fortune. At this point, every self-defense alarm system in my body is going off, and I’m panicking. I was also wondering if I was just an unwitting participant in a marriage ceremony of some sort.

I tried to give the ring back, but the monk said I needed it for hard times ahead. I grabbed my bag, told the monk my station was up next, wished him luck, and walked over to the next car, where I stood for the next 25 minutes until my station stop, all the time looking around for the damn cameras, because surely this had to be a joke. Not having seen Ashton Kutcher or ever having to sign a release form though, it seems the incident with the sniffing /snuggling monk was all too real.

I took off the monk's ring when I got home, and tossed it in the corner of a drawer. I didn't throw it away because I thought I would look up the symbols on it to see what they meant, but then decided I didn't want to know, and then forgot about it. Years later, it didn't make the move up to my condo with me, but I'm not sure if I ended it putting it in the giveaway or trash pile. (I also took off that sweater and washed it twice before wearing it again.)

I hope that ceremony wasn't binding, 'cause he's not getting the ring back in the divorce.

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