I stalked the lonely city streets into the wee small hours. The only faces I encountered were the working girls on Commercial Street. One of those girls knew me and offered a blow job for a half quarter – I reminded her that I dealt on a cash only basis – her business and mine were the same in that particular stipulation. I walked on and eventually found myself at Buddha’s place, but there seemed to be little succour there.
“There’s plenty more fish in the sea – all you have to do is cast your net.”
“I’m not attracted to fish Buddha, I just want her back.”
“I know you Johnny – next week you’ll have another lovely dangling from your arm and you’ll be swearing that she is the one.”
“No Buddha, this one was special; at least I thought she was.”
“They are all special John Boy – they are all special – here drop a bomb and cheer yourself up.”
He dropped a little packet of speed rapped in a cigarette paper on the table in front of me. Speed was Buddha’s universal panacea and an answer to every ill. His attention was rapt on the benefits books before him – his was altering the details with a putty rubber and sheets of letterset. He bought the order books from local junkies at two grams a pop and doctored them so that he could cash them himself under assumed identities at various post offices throughout the city. It was a profitable piece of business. The junkies reported the books lost and were issued new ones and since the lost order books never turned up everyone was a winner except the Department of Health and Social Security.
It wasn’t long before Buddha’s speed bomb took effect and the dawn found me rabbiting ten to the dozen about my lost love and how badly I had fucked up. Buddha was very patient and let me ramble on for some time before he interrupted.
“Did you ever wonder why I’m called Buddha?”
“I always figured it was because you quote him so often” I replied.
“No, it’s a bit more complicated than that and it all starts with a woman. She was the love of my life – though I was only a boy really. Do you know Yvonne McClelland?”
“You mean Yo Yo?” I enquired, she was called Yo Yo because her knickers were allegedly up and down like a yo yo.
“I’m the one who gave her that name” replied Buddha.
“You and Yo Yo?” I exclaimed “I can’t picture that.”
“We were going steady for two years” explained Buddha, “It was serious shit. Thing is, all we ever did was fight. She was a pernicious little dwarf, but I couldn’t see it because I was so much in love. She had a best friend – his name was Toots. I knew in my heart that there was more than just friendship between her and Toots, but couldn’t bear to face the truth. Anyway, my suspicions all came out one day when we had a huge bust up and I accused her of sleeping with Toots behind my back. She denied this of course and to prove it brought Toots round so that they could lie through their teeth together.
They were pretty convincing liars, I understand that they still are. We made up and I apologised to them both. We cemented the reconciliation with a cup of tea and a joint. Toots made the tea and I remember how his hand trembled as he handed me my cup. He’d put sugar and too much milk in it – so I only took a couple of sips. They were off to a Run Rig concert and I stayed home. I never could stand that teuchter shit.
They were only gone ten minutes when it hit me in an almighty wave – a tsunami of psychedelic paralysis. It was so strong I couldn’t stand up – I just laid there on the floor with surges of emotional torment washing through my consciousness. I was tripping out of my skull. Those two weasels had spiked my tea with a massive dose of acid – thank God I only took a couple of sips – if that wee shite Toots had made a decent cuppa I don’t know where I’d be today, probably in on the locked ward of the loony bin!”
Buddha paused to light the joint he had been rolling and released a thick plume of fragrant smoke into the air; the familiar perfume of Marrakesh.
“It was Alan Watts that saved me,” he pronounced.
“Alan Watts?” I enquired.
“He was a priest who took to Zen Buddhism. I was reading his book ‘The Way of Zen’ when this took place. You see I was totally consumed by the power of the hallucinations that were crashing in to me in waves when I heard – or should I say felt – this voice coming from within. You know what it said?”
I shook my head in response as I accepted the joint from Buddha who immediately set about rolling another. I wasn’t at all sure I’d feel anything of the hash over the powerful high of the speed, but it was a pleasant smoke nonetheless.
“The voice was overwhelming and it said over and over; ‘You are the Buddha’ there was no room for anything but the voice and it guided me to my clear spot – the centre of my being. I began to chant along with the voice ‘I am the Buddha – I am the Buddha’ It cleared my mind and produced an enormous sense of well being. I was still sitting on the floor, chanting my head off, when Yo Yo returned in the morning hoping to help herself to my cash. She was too late I had been busy packing my bags and my cash away. I told her I forgave her and left – I have never spoken to the bitch again.
Thing is I had quite an acid hangover and for the next six months or so went around telling folks that I was the Buddha – I couldn’t help myself, I’d blurt it out at the most inopportune moments. Soon everybody was calling me Buddha – at first in a mocking way, but later it was just my name.
That experience has stayed with me Johnny. In breaking my heart and poisoning me with LSD Yo Yo did me a huge favour. I overcame adversity to find my true self. Alan Watts himself said that you have to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, instead you relax, and float. Well, I learned to swim that night and have been buoyant ever since. You see it’s all karma Johnny and what is for you won’t pass you by. Sometimes what seems like bad karma is actually good and vice versa; I am constantly surprised by the machinations of karma – nothing is ever quite what it seems.”
We talked all day; I did a fair bit of pacing in that time while Buddha sat impassively waiting to get a word in here and there. We discussed love, politics, religion, philosophy and football. Which were all the same thing – more or less – to Buddha.
“Everybody is looking for answers in all the wrong places. Religion, philosophy – even love will not furnish the meaning they seek in their lives. You won’t find the answer out there in the big wide world, or up there in the sky – you’ll find it within.”
It was four o clock and already growing dark when Buddha started to gather his gear for an outside excursion. He threw me a hold all and said;
“Time for a wee chore Johnny – want to chum me?”
Chore was Leith speak for stealing – a chore, a job of work. I nodded my assent, although I was a little reticent as I did not know exactly what we’d be choring. I was soon to find out. Buddha had a magic key which fitted every parking meter in Edinburgh. We simply went along making withdrawals from every meter we came across. We didn’t empty them we simply ‘skimmed’ them.
“You don’t take everything,” said Buddha, “You simply skim off the cream – that way no-one notices and suspicions lay dormant.”
By seven we were hefting great weights of coins in our holdalls and we decided to call it a night. Buddha said he’d take the coins to the bank in the morning and he’d give me my cut then. I said he need not cut me in, but he insisted.
“We did twice as many meters as I usually do simply cause you were here to carry the extra coinage – besides you could get busted same as me if the busies happened along. Rule number one out here in the shady regions – make sure you get your cut – especially when there is the risk of prosecution involved.”
We made for the amusement arcade on Leith Walk to spend some of our pennies. I made for the shoot ‘em ups and Buddha went for the slots. I believe he left with more coins than he came in with. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had some scam for fruit machines too.
“Life is like playing the slots Johnny – everybody is out for the big score – but I just skim the cream off the top. I like to leave little ripples – not the big splash. You can’t control karma, but you can improve your odds by spreading those ripples real thin.”
I met a girl at the arcade. Her name was Elspeth and she was gorgeous. I got her number and called her the next day. Buddha was right – if you want to catch fish you have to cast your net...