for Diane and Paul
We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.
— Thich Nhat Hanh
I was inside the MRI, the claustrophobic tube, its inner surface a few inches from my face. My body entirely surrounded by the smooth metal cylinder that held me not like a bean in its pod, but — as one inevitably thinks — like this body, one day, in its coffin in the earth, I felt the strange transitoriness of all things. I tried to become a quick Buddhist because Diane had reminded me to focus on my breathing, and as I closed my eyes and began, I saw you, Paul, speaking with your teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. You walked in a garden, and I heard his gentle, sparkling voice. He spoke of how to chew the brown rice: slowly, tasting the earthy nectar of each grain — our gift from the marshlands. And then I went into myself, far back, and saw us again, in your living room, forty-five years ago, before I knew this body could not carry everything; before you knew the endings it would be your lot to endure; and I realized I could never practice true nonattachment. I would love too many things for too long and mourn too much, tears slipping over my cheeks as the machine whirred on, searching for the disorder.