Guru – E.W. Farris

As to what Guru has done for me: I fail the written word. I become overwhelmed and unable to put it all down and it is like when, riding down the escalator at the mall, I see sunshine from the ceiling window and claim it divine. Joy wrinkles her nose. She does not see what I see — what Guru has taught me to see. She is perhaps cringing as we walk into the food court and I say, “Beautiful.”

Joy: What’s beautiful?

Me: The Food Court.

Joy steps over a leftover burger wrapper which has—next to it—pickles and a single slice of tomato.

Me: It is the meeting ground of culture.

Joy: That’s maybe the worse thing you’ve said.

I tell her to look around.






And we look to the pizzeria and the taco shop and the Chinese chain whose signature is the deep fried dumpling and I say, “Never before in the history of the world,” and what I’m referring to is the pocket-sized piece of culture each place possesses, how incredible it is, that I can get a single slice from the pizzeria—brought to me in a box triangle—and then walk a couple paces over to the taco shop and indulge in a bean burrito; and if I was in the mood for a side dish of rice, well—ha, ha—there is the Chinese chain which would give me the option between brown or white; I am explaining all of this to Joy but she again only wrinkles her nose and shoos it all away and what she fails to realize is how limited of a scope she has for beauty, that her idea of beauty is influenced by a society which believes to discover beauty you must be above the age of thirty, self-actualized, and living in a European country, and what they don’t understand is a tenant from Guru, that we are in heaven already, and I am reminding Joy of this as she speed walks ahead of me and makes open gestures to the people around us like “Can you believe this guy?” and I am smiling like we were in a sitcom and completely unembarrassed (how can I be embarrassed when I have the Truth?) and following Joy and asking her to, please, stop and, please, if she could at least consider what I am saying, if she could entertain a viewpoint which would transform her life, and she turns around and gives me a look like gee whiz mister before decidedly stopping at an Auntie Anne’s for their pretzel.

Her pretzel comes in a cup. It comes in tiny bites. The flavor: cinnamon. We sit on a bench and people watch. We drink coldbrew from Starbucks. I twist my body as to beg for her bites and Joy, with diplomacy, feeds me one. Both our bodies jitter from caffeine. Joy says, “What are your thoughts on goths?”

Me: I love them.

Joy: …all of them?

Me: I think so. They’re cool.

Joy takes a sip from her cold brew and makes a pouty face.

Me: Should I not think that?

Joy: No — I mean, I don’t know.

Me: Tell me.

Joy: It’s about Mark.

And she tells me Mark—who identifies as goth—posted a thread on Twitter detailing how in high school he had fantasized of mowing down his classmates with an AK47 like it were a video game and how she, Joy, was absolutely not okay with this: it was no longer okay to joke about violence given the times and it was especially not okay for a white dude (no offense) as they were known to be lethal. I nod my head. Mark, she explains, has been trying to “hang out” all summer and she’s down to her last excuse. What to do? My mouth makes a noise which pins me as attentive but really it’s because I am biting deep into tongue and holding back another tenement from Guru but this tenement—I’m convinced—will be the one that wins Joy over. I want to drop it like a bomb. She hiccups on her pretzel and I clear my throat loud enough as if to say my turn now, and I—






SELF. . .”


The parking garage smells like piss. “No,” Joy says. “Oh no.” She cannot find her car. I place a hand on her shoulder. Her whole body jerks in motion. She gives me a look that conveys betrayal and I am taken aback and my bottom lip begins to vibrate and she says, “Do you have a philosophical musing that will make my car appear?”

Me: No.

Joy: I was afraid he might kill me. I was confiding to you.

Joy thumbs furiously at her key pad.

Me: But Guru said—

Joy: You mean Kevin? You mean Kevin said that. His name is Kevin, you know?

Me: I know.

A car beeps in the distance.

Joy: There she is.

Me: Joy.

Joy (walking away): I’d say that you have the charm of a wet wipe but—um—my criticism, it’s just a reflection. Right? So I’ll say you’re… quirky, then. Goodbye.

Joy hops in her car and drives away.

And I am left there and I feel a misery which begins in my chest but spreads itself until I feel it up in my head and down in my toes and all over my body, complete. I feel the first waver in faith.

I met Guru when I believed everything to be dead. I needed to bite down: to sink my teeth. Into what? The meat of whatever, any kinda high philosophy, preferably one which I could bludgeon my peers with.

I drove from campus into the city so to foster a nicotine addiction. I smoked and walked on the sidewalk. I passed Guru on a street corner: “There is no cause and effect.”

“What?” I said.

I stopped and looked behind me.

“There is no cause and effect,” Guru said.

And I inhaled and looked to the street and saw nothing new until—exhale—and watched as the world breathed out with me: what I felt was a loss of boundary, my definition of self shattered in under three seconds. I turned to Guru and thought I dreamed him.

“Will you buy me an expresso?”

We went to a place he recommended. I sipped on black coffee while I watched Guru’s leg twitch.

He placed his tiny cup down.

We sat under dim lighting as he explained everything to me. I bobbed my head up-and-down. And I sat close enough, the edge of my seat, that I had placed a cautious hand over my mouth: coffee breath.

And is it not she who had the same breath in the parking garage? the smell of her echo—?
Joy! I think of Joy.






Guru blows out vaporized weed smoke. It collides with the blue glow of the screen. We’re watching his favorite anime.

He wobbles to his feet and, as if in a trance, hands me the vaporizer. He stumbles over to his computer to type out a response on a message board. 

I wonder what the response is to. Louis sits next to me. He is only allowed to bob his head and hum. I like to think he is wondering, too.

Guru: Do you guys like my room?

Me: Yes.

Louis: Have you thought of getting a tapestry—?

Guru puts a single finger to Louis’s lips.

Guru: Shhh…

Louis nods.

Guru: You told me to do this.

Louis closes his eyes in shame. 

(And his name wasn’t even Louis: it was Daniel. Louis was the name Guru assigned him until he completed his vow of silence. Such the ways we tried to prove ourselves in the eyes of Guru.)

Guru returns to his computer. The room is silent, the moment divine. Nothing left to be done, as Guru says. Might as well indulge: anime and weed.

I take a hit.


I toss the vaporizer from one hand to the other.

to me
self checkout:

I twirl it in between my fingers.

the frozen burrito
which she stole—

The anime segues into the outro.

And I thought
she was mine
because she
stole it for me.

Guru says, “Be careful.” He says, “It’s extra strong, that stuff.” It’s as if he has eyes in the back of his head. I take another big boy hit.

I never learned how
to shop for food:
my adult life up
until that point
being dominated
by metaphysics
which I knew now
to be wonky:
Joy teaching
me how: her care
being something
like—oh, no.

The mother appears at the doorway.


The Mother: I was gonna ask what you guys were up to but I think I can smell it.


Guru: We were watching a show.


The Mother: Were you were forcing them to watch—?


Louis squeals like a gimp. That certainly isn’t the case!

…in the mall

The Mother: You know what I like to watch when I’m stoned?

she almost


JoyJoy Joy me

Joy into

Joy Joy the


Guru: No. Joy

I assume the fetal position on the carpet. Joy

The Mother: True Romance [1993]

I put my hands to my face. I’m crying, I think I’m crying.

The Mother: Honey.

I can feel Guru staring me down.

The Mother: Honey, are you okay?

I let out a wet gasp.

Guru: He’s having an ego blacklash. He’s fine.

And I think of the spiritual platitude which claims we are all one and I think of Guru and his mother and Louis in the corner and I think of what lifetime it will be when I get to see me through them and I think of the room in the house in the neighborhood in the suburbs down the street from the mall and I think of this oneness expressing itself in her bare thigh on the bench as she raised a pretzel to my lips and I think—