Despite having written my goodbye note to Guru, I had no concrete plan in place to leave the Center when he and many of the disciples left town for the Christmas trip (1988). So, the note remained on my shrine.
Though I had no plans to leave the Center just then, I did fly back to my dad's place in Morgan Hill, California for the holidays. I arrived a few days before Christmas and would stay for a few days past New Years.
My dad gave me the use of one of his cars for my stay and on a lark, I called my old friend Dave Moretti. Later that day, we met at a local mall to do some Christmas shopping. Dave was then managing a fitness center and had been bodybuilding for the last few years. He was huge and it was great to see him. We caught up over lunch and he invited me to a New Year's Eve party planned for the following week.
I don't remember spending much time with Jeevan or Nirbachita, who by then were living in San Francisco and attending the Center there. As I recall, they were going through their own period of allergy to the parents at that time, but did make it down for Christmas day. In any event, I was free New Year's Eve to go to the party.
Held at the childhood home of one of our old schoolmates, the party turned out to be an impromptu five-year reunion of our high school graduating class. It struck me as surreal. Out of the blue, it seemed, all these characters from my pre-disciple days -- jocks, burnouts, and even some nerds -- were there in front of me, excited to catch up and hear what I'd been up to.
I lied a little by omission. I'd been working at a restaurant in New York, I'd told them, and training for triathlons. Some who knew me better than others, like Dave and some of the other jocks, remembered my affiliation with Guru. As a bodybuilder, Dave wanted to know about Guru's feats of strength, which were getting a lot of bad press in bodybuilding circles. I told Dave, truthfully but with little conviction, that Guru was just trying to inspire people to push the envelope, to do more than they thought possible.
Another friend from my football days told me that what he always remembered about me was that when I got into something, I went all the way. He said it admiringly and for brief moment that comment reminded me of all I'd done since I'd seen these old friends last. While most of them had remained right there in San Jose and got blue collar jobs, I had seen much of the United States, travelled to Japan, and was living in New York, regularly exposed to disciples from all over the world. San Jose seemed provincial to me, almost quaint.
Those inward looking moments were brief, though. It was a party after all. Classic rock was on the stereo and there were two kegs on the back porch. And there were girls, most of whom I did not recognize. As the New Year rang in, however, I was talking to a girl I had remembered when she leaned into me and kissed me on the mouth.
"Happy New Years," she said smiling. It was 1989, and for that moment, I was happy.