From Chapter 1
There was me at my table in Bucci’s, new Italian on Lexington up near the Chrysler Building, been there about
a year and I liked it a lot. Got tired of that place on Sixth and Sullivan, great fuckin Bruschetta but not much
else, with one of those third generation Italians who thought he was straight out of fuckin Tuscany but had
probably never even been there.
Was wearing a white Brioni tux and black bow tie, just been to the theater and my shoes were shined up like
great big black jewels. Face felt a little bloated, cheeks red, like I’d eaten too much friggin cheese. Turned and
looked at my reflection in the mirror. In the low light, features looked hard and threatening, but that was okay
with me, always looked that way.
Smiled as I brought my hand to my mouth and the lump of gold on my finger shined. Put the Cohiba to my
lips – they let me smoke in there, had a special table for me under the skylight, because I spent so much
friggin money – chomped and sucked on its bit, savored that un-burnt taste, so clean and fresh, then drew on
it long and hard, it flared orange as it burned, and as I exhaled the orange became ash, a kind of dull gray.
My fifth wife sat next to me. Jamie, twenty years younger than me, uptown, sensitive and beautiful. But that
night she looked sad and depressed. Watched two waiters scurry back and forth, one serving us food, the other
wine, a Screaming Eagle, second bottle of the night, and Jamie wasn’t drinking, just sipping on friggin water.
And then I started shouting...
From Chapter 2
I opened my eyes at three o’clock in the morning as the temple bell tower sounded: I always woke at the same
time. I no longer required the gong to wake me; rather I simply used it as a prompt to bring me from sleep
back into awareness, into the present moment. I sat up, arched my back and rotated my neck; then slowly ran
my right hand over my shaved head, feeling its texture and shape.
Next I put my hands to the floor, lifted my knees to the ground and leant forward on the hard mat I slept on,
stretching my spine like a cat that has just woken from a deep sleep. I noted the silence, then pulled back the blind of the umbrella-tent and looked out onto the forest, still dark, a black canopy of tropical evergreen.
I reached for the lantern, lit it and watched the flame burn, its orange dance different every morning. Next I carefully extended my right leg, feeling it straighten and tense, until it was outside the tent, then leant forward and ducked my head underneath the blind, allowing my whole body to curve and follow like the passage of a swan’s neck after it has finished grooming and lengthens itself once more, this movement so smooth and graceful, my whole body aligning itself as I brought my left leg parallel with my right.
Standing upright I felt the dirt and leaves underfoot, their texture and dampness. I held the lantern aloft and made my way down to the lake, noting every step, feeling the movement of my long arms and legs and the brush of wild orchids against my ankles and shins, and when I reached the water’s edge I crouched down, sitting on my heels, and set the lantern beside me, which illuminated a small cluster of lotus flowers that added color to the dark murky green of the lake.
I placed my hands on the water’s surface, skimmed the tips of my fingers across it, then moved them in a circular motion – my fingers seeming to dance on water like a water strider – the water swirling then rippling. When I submerged my hands I heard the water swish and as I cupped my hands together and threw water in my face I heard it splash.
This moment always gave me pleasure, the commencement of morning
ablutions; the first touch of cool water on my skin like morning
dew on a blade of grass. I felt it on my forehead, my eyelids, my
cheeks, my jaw – the steady trickle of water down my face; this
face of mine which is uncommon amongst my people, long and narrow
rather than round and flat, and that is typified by my nose which
according to Sunnato appears almost Roman at a certain angle rather