God in Drag About the Author Excerpt Poetry
Read the first chapter of God in Drag below…
Varanasi, India, 1998
Raj taught me three things before he returned to India. First, everything is an illusion. From the fingers we
use to pinch our skin, to the pain of the pinch, to the body that experiences the pain. That sage tidbit made perfect sense when he said it, or at least I trusted it was true because it came from Raj. Since then, it’s grown into a puzzle with too many missing pieces to complete, but the idea stayed pinned on the back wall of my brain nonetheless.
The second was that we choose our illusions. Raj’s was being born Indian and Hindu, living for a time as resident guru of the Berkeley commune where I grew up. Mine, he’d said, was living in the Eden of that same commune, blissfully unaware of how the disparity between Eden and the ordinary world can suck dry a life and leave a person ravenous for something—anything—of substance. That nugget made no sense to my 10-year-old self, but it wouldn’t have with Raj’s protective aura enveloping me in its golden glow. I sure got it now, the desertification of my life testament to its truth.
The third he whispered when we were alone.
“You are wise beyond your years,” he’d said in the same voice he used when revealing the hidden lessons beneath the parables he told at the commune.
I swallowed the bait whole because he never joked with that tone. I knew that even if I didn’t understand it, Raj believed it, and so should I.
It remained our secret until I blurted it to my mom one day, part of my defense as the ringleader of pint-sized paratroopers who used the clean sheets off the clothesline to slow our jump from the barn window to the soft pile of hay below.
When I said it, Mom tensed. She threaded her fingers through a necklace Raj had given her and clacked the beads together, studying me.
“Well, you’re a wise guy beyond your years for sure,” she’d said once she found her breath.
The next week, Raj was gone. Severed from my life so completely that I declared him dead, and labeled anything he’d said as suspect. He left me shipwrecked on a desolate island with nothing of substance to sustain me.
Twenty-one years later, I was still stranded there.