great attractorDebra Liebowitz, Astronomy Major, in Transit
Andrew Ramer

The room when empty is a perfect square, its walls painted white. Pine floor urethaned, an altar at the far end. Emotionless Buddha sits, massive, stony gray, carved. On the floor perfect rows of black padded squares. In the center of each, a round black cushion.

We enter. We sit. The silence is thick. A dense but electric energy fills the room. My back hurts. I begin to rock. The teacher, in black, wandering among us on our perfect rows of cushions, the lone electron orbiting, taps me gently on the right shoulder. In his home country, I know, he would slap me with a wooden switch. “Stop moving,” his gesture says. He has told me this before, in words, in our private sessions. I told him my name means bee in Hebrew, that I am always moving. Said with a smile. He didn’t smile back.

I try to stop moving. I try to get it right. But the Jew in this body, wanderer, exile, cannot sit still for long. I try to use the Buddha for a mirror. But he is still, and my woman body is moving, moving, moving, cell by cell. Slowly I begin to sway again. Forward. Back.... Forward. Back. I think of the mantra we all learned in high school, that koan. Einstein’s Psalm. E=MC2. Then I try not to think of it. “Think of nothing, Debra,” I whisper inside myself. Can’t.

He comes again. Taps me again, then slides his lotus hand swiftly down my spine. I stop. I force myself to stop. I contain myself. Stop moving. On his next pass he touches me quickly on the back of my head. This touch whispers “now you’ve got it right.” And now the whole room, white walls, gray stone statue, row after row of us on our black black cushions, in our perfect rows, boxed like elements in the periodic chart, no, like the names of the elements in the periodic chart, sit stony still, eyes open just a slit. While beneath us, in the time we’ve been sitting, the planet has spun nearly 800 miles on its axis. And in its orbit, the planet has sailed over 67,000 miles around the sun. Swept up in it, Earth, sun, and all its planets, have soared more than 490,000 miles around the center of our galaxy. Just while we’ve been sitting. And our galaxy too has been racing, over 2,232,000 miles through space toward a celestial location known as the Great Attractor.

We bow. We stand. The square room empties out. And then the noisy subway rattles me homeward, rocks me, rolls me. And I give myself up to it. Mass, in transit. The mass of me, in mass transit. All of me, all of mass, always, always, energy in motion. And that night, on the pounding dance floor, I tell Rosa about it. Rosa of the dark eyes that sweep over my face, then blink, then shine back. Her right hand is on my left hip. It slips away, grabs my left hand. Swings me away and then pulls me back, so close we’re breathing on each other’s faces. “This is prayer, Deb. This is meditation.” Her lips on the conch of my ear, wet, on top of the insistent music. And the room is spinning. Just like it should. And she spins me out again, then pulls me back, my great attractor.

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