Monday, November 8, 2010

Gonzo Part II

Here's the rest of my "Gonzo" imitation piece:

“How did I know you were done,” Jerri joked. Behind her, a skinny man with thinning brown hair and a crooked smile walked in. “Emily, this is Mike.”

I shook Mike's hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“You too. If you'll follow me, I'll just have you watch a short video while I score your test.”

The video turned out to be about L. Ron Hubbard, the guy who wrote all the books. Apparently, he lived a pretty full life. I had a hard time paying attention. The irony was when my eyes drifted to the books on the bookshelves, saw the name L. Ron Hubbard, and thought, “I wonder what that guy was like,” and then I realized that if I were just watching the video then I would find out. But I still didn't pay too much attention. That's the trouble with people – sometimes we get so caught up in hearing ourselves think that we don't see the answers when they're right in front of us.

After the video was over, Mike returned and brought me back to the office where Jerri had introduced me to scientology. “Here, I'll go over your scores with you.” In his hand was the same kind of chart that had been hanging on the wall in front of me when I had been taking the test. There were even a couple of little clouds around two of the points.

Mike showed me how the chart worked before moving on to my individual answers. “It looks like you think you're pretty stable. Would you agree with that?”

“That sounds about right,” I conceded.

After discussing my answers, we chatted. Apparently, you could be part of just about any religion and also be a scientologist, because it wasn't really a traditional kind of religion.

“It sounds like a self-help book put into practice,” I said.

He chuckled. “Well, it is sort of like that.”

I was really enjoying myself. I realized that I never get to do this. I never get to just sit down and talk with somebody who is completely objective, who doesn't know anything about me except for what I tell him, who won't judge me because he has no reason to.

“Well, I would really like to read one or two of the books,” I said, wrapping up since I knew I had to go. “But there are so many. What would you suggest?” My mind was reeling from seeing so many shiny covers with L. Ron Hubbard on them all over the place. And every book was different. I thought I'd heard in the video that he wrote thousands of books. Literally thousands.

He suggested a shiny cover with the words Scientology: A New Slant on Life before asking, “Are you a big reader?”

“Yes,” I replied readily.

He pulled a thick book out from behind him with DIANETICS written in large letters across the top. “If you can read this, you'll have the key to improve your entire life,” he said reverently.

“Can I find that in the library?”

“Oh, yes, I'm sure you can. You should be able to find it in your school library, too.”

“Okay. I'll look for it.” I stood, and he followed suit. “I'd better go. Thank you very much.”

He walked me to the elevator, and as I stood alone in the silver box, I wondered if I might ever come back here. The doors opened and I passed the receptionist, waving and thanking him as I walked out the glass door into the noisy streets of downtown.

I drove home in silence, turning off the radio. My past few hours were some kind of fable, the kind of story you use to illustrate some Christian idea, ending with “And the moral of the story is...” This was where it was supposed to end, with me feeling free in the knowledge that scientology is not a cult and scientologists are just people looking for truth and happiness, whether or not they've found it. But real life is not a series of episodes that each end with a moral. As something new settled over my heart, I realized that this experience was going to lead into other things, and I was going to have to decide what I was going to do with it.

I watched the pedestrians pass as I heard the scream of an ambulance somewhere in the distance.

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