Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lao Tsu, part 2

Part 1

(Part 2 of 3)

I wanted to ask him a hundred questions all at once, but I was able to keep them to one or two at a time. “Well who is he?”

Derek answered, "He told me to call him 'Lao Tsu' ".


“No, he's white.

“Why Lao Tsu?”

“I don't know; he would always answer my questions sensibly and honestly unless they were about him in any way. Who he was. Why he visited me. Whether he visited anyone else . . . I never figured any of those things out. Even though in time I came to look forward to his visits and appreciate them, I was always a little frustrated. Why does he get to know everything about me but I don't even know his real name? Sometimes I even see him spying on me. While I was walking home from school, while I was on a date, while I was grocery shopping. Once he looked in the window while I was watching TV.”

“Well did you ever confront him about it?” I asked.

“Yeah, but it didn't matter. One time I thought I would chase him down, but as I ran toward him he didn't budge. He just kept writing in his little notebook and casually said “Hi Derek” without even looking up. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was following me, watching me so he could plan our next session. From then on, he seemed less concerned with remaining hidden whenever he spied again.”

“This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard!” I said, but then, noticing Derek's expression, I rephrased. “No, I believe you of course, but it is just so strange.

“But anyway, he has helped me immensely. I can trace most of my best decisions, my achievements, my optimism, and my insight right back to our sessions, as he calls them.”

“Tell me more about him.” I said. “What does he look like?”

“Well his face is hard to see. He has a beard that started to go gray while I was in sixth grade. He wears dark sungless, and has never been without them, so I have no idea what color his eyes are. And he always wears a fedora. He's about as tall as you or me, a bit heavier. I asked him to take off his glasses once, but he wouldn't.”

We played another two holes in silence, until I was ready to say what I had been thinking. “The whole thing just seems kind of creepy. I know you said that he has helped you a lot, and that you owe a lot to him, but don't you think it's a little creepy?”

Derek seemed annoyed. “Not really. He's like a father to me. I trust him. He has only ever helped me, and has never asked for anything in return except my attention, trust, and discretion . . . discretion that I betrayed today.”

I apologized, told him I wouldn't tell anyone what he had told me, and changed the subject. The rest of the game was pleasant, and we went home. But Derek called at about nine o'clock, and told me he wanted to talk some more. When he arrived he seemed more disturbed than I had ever seen before.

Derek looked out my windows before drawing the blinds. “I thought about what we talked about earlier today, and what you said. I mean, I do trust Lao Tsu and everything, and most of the good decisions I have made – and even who I am – I owe to him. But why won't he tell me who he is? What could his motivation possibly be for our sessions? It's a simple question: What is it about our sessions that makes it worth his while? Of course I've always wondered this before, but after we spoke today, and we were finishing up our game . . . I saw him standing in the forest on the last hole. It's nothing new, him spying on me. But this time I had chills and I couldn't ignore the fact that he was there like I normally can. I was afraid to tell you, to point him out in case you would look over at him and he would know I had told you. The rest of the day I have been thinking about it. I have tried some of the meditation techniques that Lao Tsu taught me, but each one just reminds me of the time he taught them to me. I replay the memory and instead of seeing him as a guru or guide, I seem him as some kind of con-man, and the meditation just one of his tools that will help him use me for some evil purpose.”

Derek was getting more and more anxious. I could see that talking about it was only stressing him out more. “Alright! I said. Calm down. We'll figure this out. What do you want to drink?”

Derek nodded and let his breath out, and made a visible effort to breathe more slowly. “Do you have ginger ale?”


“Anything then.”

It was raining now, and I heard the wind start up again outside. We discussed all options, from doing nothing, to hiring a private investigator, to refusing any further contact with Lao Tsu until he answered our questions, to drugging him, tying him up in the basement, and interrogating him.

Shhh!”, said Derek. He was listening to something. I noticed that the wind was blowing loudly now, to the point of howling. A moment later, it died down.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Shit!!” whispered Derek. A few long seconds passed, and someone was knocking on the door.

Neither of us moved. I whispered, “I better answer it.”

“No! It's him! That's the sound I always hear before he comes!”

“You said he never comes when there are other people around. You're just on edge. I'm going to answer it.”

“No!” said Derek, straining his whisper. He was too paralyzed with fear to physically try and stop me.

I switched on the porch light and took a deep breath. I was sure that it wasn't Lao Tsu, but Derek's paranoia had made me uneasy. I turned the doorknob, and before I could change my mind, pulled the door open.

Part 3 to be posted on 3/19/2008

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