"Guru to One" by Rebecca Monroe
“Thank you,” he raised his voice to override the applause. “Thank you very much,”
So many faces, some solemn, most smiling, a few wet with tears of realization. It was the last he worked for. They reminded him he was only a conduit and the real work was done through him, not by him.
He waved himself off the stage though the applause hadn’t subsided any. There would be another hour signing autographs – a change made by his new assistant, Marlene. She’d been aghast when he’d told her he normally just signed for whoever was at the door on the way out.
“You don’t reach nearly as many and it’s, rock starish.”
The last reference had bothered him so much he’d agreed to try it her way. Now the idea of sitting for yet another hour sounded exhausting. At least his way he was on the move toward an evening of rest. Her way he was stuck. He would try it. He needed to be open. Then he’d kill the idea. He grinned. Ego was alive and well, thank you.
He paused as Marlene hurried over to him from her makeshift desk behind the stage. She was a bit too heavy – though not fat. Her makeup was more apparent then he cared for. He kept himself in good shape because of the image he wanted to promote. At 6’3, in his mid 50’s, he was physically fit. His face was longer than he liked. He had blue eyes, was going bald and so admired Marlene’s glorious head of auburn hair – past shoulder length, full and shiny. “Brian,” he corrected yet again.
She flashed him a smile of acknowledgment. “I’ve a place set up for you to relax for a moment. There’s juice and some light snacks.”
It was nine p.m. already. He set his jaw, the good feeling he’d had from tonight’s talk fading. “Let’s get started, shall we? I don’t need to relax.”
Her pleasant smile vanished. He read the look on her face because it was one of the reasons he’d hired her. A reference for her had said ‘you have to be careful because she injures easily. She cares about doing her job to the heart.’
“Marlene,” he kept his tone gentle. “This is our second seminar. We have to grow together. I learn from you, you from me and we adjust – that includes guessing wrong once in a while.”
She nodded but her smile didn’t return. “I’ll bring in the first group.”
It was an intense hour over and above the two-hour talk he’d given. Ten minutes with groups ranging anywhere from two to six autographs. Mostly it was people who wanted to meet, the autographs a way to do so. Some had honest questions, some wanted to exhibit how developed ‘they’ were – baggage stories of overcoming.
Marlene shut the door behind the last group. She looked at him for a moment. “Rock star has its advantages?”
He nodded wearily.
“I had Ted clear the area so you can go straight to your car. We won’t do it this way anymore. Thank you for letting me try.”
This time she wasn’t injured. This time she had been wrong, knew it, and moved on. He liked her for that. As he rose, he reminded himself to stay open to her ideas.
* * *
“And so, you, with the power, ARE in charge of your life. And the Power’s only desire is for you to be happy and at peace. Thank you,”
The applause started and he acknowledged it as he moved off stage. Marlene was waiting for him.
“Did you want me to get dinner ordered for you at the motel?”
“No. I want to stay and watch.”
Marlene raised an eyebrow. “I thought we were tired after our talks,”
“We saw how she bubbled at the results and wanted to see for ourselves.” He rubbed a hand over his bald head.
She’d waited a while before presenting a new idea and she incorporated the learning from the old. “Stay hidden then. Otherwise, it will be expected next time.”
Stage design was perfect for staying hidden while watching so it was easy to find a comfortable place to be while Marlene went out onto the stage. “Those of you who have purchased special tickets, please remain seated while the stadium clears.”
Marlene had gotten her idea from a man’s comment during the question and answer sessions. ‘We come here, get all pumped up, go home and fall right back into the same patterns,’
The auditorium cleared of all but about twenty people. The tickets were expensive for the added session. It paid for the actresses and actors and made sure those who stayed were serious. “The rest of you, please move up to the front so you can hear.” The twenty people did, suddenly looking small in the large old fashioned theatre.
“Our players have reviewed your data sheets and are prepared to help you. The more information you included, the better the quality of acting they can do. They will be taking cues from your responses. If at any time you think they have gotten too far from what you want, let us know and we’ll start over.”
Brian thought her a bit bold. The impression Marlene gave was their issues and the desire to help were important enough to be here all night if necessary.
“Who wants to go first?”
There were glances exchanged until one woman finally raised her hand. “I will.” She rose and made her way to the stage. Everything about her said ‘money spent’. Hair a perfect frosted cap of style, nails professional, new-looking suit, matching shoes, gold glittering on wrists, fingers, and ears. She stepped onto the stage, looking expectantly at Marlene.
“You are here to practice a new way of approaching your issue. You don’t have to share what your issue is to the group. This is for you, no one else.”
“Later, maybe,” the woman replied.
An older actor came on stage. He was stout, face soft with a hint of jowls. Gray hair styled, a huge watch twinkling beneath the cuff of his business suit. The woman took a deep breath of preparation and it began.
Brian watched. At first, it did, indeed, seem to center around the money she spent until she made it clear she was very willing to work for her money. The husband didn’t want her to. She thought it was to keep his free housekeeper and errand girl. As they circled, attacked, and retreated, more issues came up – taxes, his schedule, then suddenly she blurted “You don’t have to be afraid of me being independent…” The look of shock on her face opened her mouth, widened her eyes. “You think the only reason I stay is because of security?” The actor stayed silent. It was obvious she didn’t even see him. “You think I think so little of you I only stay for the comfort? You have to keep me needy? My god, no wonder you get so upset.” She came back to herself and turned to Marlene, eyes over bright. “Thank you. I wish he’d come. Of course, he wouldn’t…I think it’ll be all right. Thank you,”
“No instant fixes,” Marlene warned, shifting in her seat.
“I know,” the woman hesitated, “it’s seeing beyond the blame to the real person who does care about me. That’s a huge step up.”
Someone in the remaining group whispered ‘yes’.
Brian felt a shiver circle up his spine. This was ten times better than any talk he gave. He needed to be out there, be a part of this! It was his process, after all. ‘Learn’ an inner voice whispered. It was Marlene’s idea, let her run it. If she deviated from the process, he’d go out. In the meantime, he’d let her continue.
Marlene was inviting the next one onto the stage.
Each participant acted out the issue causing the most grief in their relationship, voices echoing out over the empty seats. Most knew the process, worked hard at using it. A few needed Marlene’s prodding to stay on track. Two were more concerned about proving how right and abused they were than learning. Marlene gently ended the session. One left, smugly satisfied.
The other hesitated, looked at Marlene and said, “But I don’t feel any different, any better.”
Marlene didn’t respond. Though she was smiling, there was a finality about the way she sat. Brian tried to figure out how she was signaling ‘it’s over’.
“I paid good money for this. I’m still mad. I didn’t learn…” a blush rose up the woman’s face, suffusing the hard lines about her mouth, the scowl between her eyes. “I haven’t learned anything,”
Marlene’s smile grew a fraction. “I think you have.”
The woman looked at the actor who had sat down on the floor, weary from the evening. “I need to do it again.”
“All we do is provide a safe setting for you. A place to play. You can do it every day at home. All it takes is willingness.”
“All?” The woman gave a hard laugh. “Thanks. I hear what you aren’t saying.” She left.
She was the last one. For a long moment, Marlene sat still, as if relaxing, letting go was what Brian felt radiating from her. Slowly she turned her head toward the actor. “Thank you.”
The actor rose. “I’m pretty sure I should be thanking you. We fight over this opportunity,” he said. “My wife says I come home much improved.” He flashed a grin. “I’m putting in an advance bid for the next performance.”
Marlene smiled back, “I’ll do my best.”
The actor left and Brian pushed himself out of his chair, stepped around the small wall he’d been seated behind.
“What did you think?” Marlene twisted to look at him.
“It was, fascinating. I’m buzzing, there is so much energy flying around here.”
“I know. I’m exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.”
“This is a good thing you’re onto here.” It sounded brassy and he saw Marlene’s slight withdrawal. “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.
“I know. We have a plane to catch tomorrow.”
“Did you want to stop somewhere for dinner?”
Brian was disappointed. He wanted to keep talking. Then he realized the intensity of concentration he’d see her using must have drained her. “I will order your dinner in.”
Marlene hesitated. “That would be lovely, thank you.”
* * *
Marlene’s side of his talks continued to grow. The number who wanted to attend finally bumped against how many could be done after a talk. Nine to eleven in the evening was no longer adequate.
“Why not have a session the next day? “ Brian asked during the morning briefing when she snapped at her assistant, Kim, who’d insisted they increase the number of participants. “Some of these people travel anyway. They might enjoy something to do the next day.”
Marlene sat back in her chair. They were in his motel suite – seated around the small table with coffee in hand, sun streaming in. “I’m sorry, Kim. You mean well, I know.” To Brian she said. “I ride on the power of your talk. It gives me cold shivers to imagine those people walking in, blinking sleep from their eyes and trying to jazz them up enough to be open.”
Truth, though he hadn’t thought of it. He could offer to give a mini talk though the idea was nauseating. He had too little time as it was. “So many people, so little time.”
Marlene shrugged. “I’m happy the idea is a success. However, it needs to stay within the realm of reality. We have a good, overall program and there is no reason to change it.”
Kim’s lips moved to form the word ‘money’.
“You know better. Start grabbing and the next thing you know, you’re selling Walmart help.”
“So, no changes in schedule, no changes in anything?” Marlene poured herself more coffee from the pitcher on the table between them.
“There is another issue,” said Brian, pulling his planner closer.
“What?” Marlene looked too, leaning close.
For some reason, it hit him how her perfume had become such a part of his life, in the car, next to him in the airplane, here in his motel room. He was surprised by his own reaction to it. “Vacation? Downtime? R and R?”
“Oh.” Marlene looked down at her own planner. “I hadn’t thought so far ahead yet.”
Brian kept his voice gentle as he rubbed his head. “It’s been a while