Original Short Story: "Torrance Dreams of Love"
Torrance lost his job and then his girlfriend. Actually, Shiral hadn't really considered herself his girlfriend for about a month and a half before Torrance lost his job. But Torrance without a job was like a cake without sugar, a ballroom dance without the ballroom, or to put it quite bluntly, as Shiral did, a man without money.
But Torrance knew he could get another job easy enough. His grandmother owned half interest in a pizza parlor on the southside, and Torrance wasn't too proud to slide pies into the oven, so when he asked Granny if she'd hire him, she did, and Torrance was employed again within two weeks of losing his job at the Teeter's Bar. Torrance was a good bartender, but old man Teeter found out that Torrance's father was black, and then it was good-bye Torrance.
Shiral actually wanted an excuse to officially break off with Torrance, so she was the one who told old man Teeter about Torrance's father. Of course, Shiral's parents were both black, but she didn't look it—just slightly tanned maybe a little Italian thrown in, but certainly not like a black woman. And for the most part Shiral didn't acknowledge her black roots. She went to white schools and always had white friends, and her parents didn't object, because they wanted anything for Shiral that made Shiral happy. They claimed they were Greek, and they never seemed to have any disagreement with anybody over that claim.
But Torrance, named after his father who was killed in Vietnam, was raised by his white mother. His childhood was a lot like Shiral's except he never felt the need to appropriate an ancestry other than his own African and Irish, the latter of which his mother was a stereotypical specimen. She had the red hair and the freckles and looked a great deal like Maureen O'Hara. When Torrance first saw Shiral, he thought she was Portuguese; she reminded him of an exchange student he once met in third year Spanish.
The Spanish Department's Exchange Student from Brazil
Torrance's school tried to get a student from Spain but had to settle for one from Brazil, who spoke Portuguese. But to Torrance, Shiral looked a lot like that Portuguese girl. But he never asked her about things like that. He was interested in music, sports, traveling, and going on dates, and he was somewhat desperate to fall in love. He ached to be in love.
At first, after about the third date with Shiral, he thought he might just fall in love with her, but then she said something at a basketball game that made Torrance put a hold on his emotions. Actually, she didn't even say it to him, she said it to Arlene Bennett. She told Arlene Bennett that Torrance had proposed to her, and that they had been having hot sex in his car for about six months. She giggled and said she hoped she wasn't pregnant.
After he first heard the rumor that Shiral was spreading, he felt flattered that she would want Arlene to think she was doing it with him. But then when he found out that Shiral said that about every guy she had dated in high school, he began to have serious doubts. Still they kept seeing each other, and he eventually asked her to go steady.
Torrance and Shiral went steady about four months, and then around spring break, Shiral started to get the roving eye. She even dated several guys from the other high school without Torrance knowing it. When she found out that the rumors that she had started back in the fall were still circulating about Torrance and her, she tried to blame Torrance for talking trash about her. And then Arlene Bennett told Shiral that some people were saying Torrance was black and that Shiral would ruin her reputation if she kept on having sex with him.
Too Busy for Rumors
But Torrance was too busy to notice rumors because he was too busy to spend much time at school except for classes. He had started a rock band, he played on a volleyball team for the city, and until quite recently had worked as a bartender at old man Teeter's. The main thing about Torrance's life that worried him was the legality of an eighteen year old working as a bartender. He was always afraid of losing his job, if the law found out his age. But then he loses that job, not because of his age, but because of his race—or that is, part of his racial make-up.
Shiral began dating a teacher from the other city high school, right after, or probably a little bit before she broke up with Torrance. By graduation in June, she was three months pregnant, and the teacher had left the country to teach in Belgium. Shiral's parents decided that she should just go into hiding until the baby was due, and then they would pretend that the baby was theirs, that it was Shiral's little brother or sister. So that's what she did. They did that three times.
Then Shiral's mother went through menopause, and Shiral was sent to live with her mother's youngest sister in Tallahassee. She increased her aunt's family by a set of twin boys and sister for the twins. The last anybody heard about Shiral was that she was working at an abortion clinic in Maine, having run out of family members who could tolerate family expansion.
Torrance was oblivious to all this, having long forgotten Shiral upon graduation from high school. Torrance went to the University of Pennsylvania and majored in music. He spent a summer in Vienna, and an academic year in Cameroon. He played for the Philadelphia Philharmonic, and finally settled into a teaching job at the University of Madrid. He writes his mother. She always writes back asking him if he's seeing anybody. He always answers wistfully that he isn't but still wishes he had someone to be in love with.
At the Windmill Chapel, SRF Lake Shrine
Life Sketch of Linda Sue Grimes
The following original poem captures the tranquility of my favorite meditation place in Los Angeles, California, the Windmill Chapel at Self-Realization Fellowship's Lake Shrine.
The Windmill Chapel
In the temple of silence
By the lake, we sit
In stillness, meditating
In divine Bliss.
Returning to our daily minds,
We walk out into the sunshine,
And the flowers greet us.
The Literary Life
Born Linda Sue Richardson on January 7, 1946, to Bert and Helen Richardson in Richmond, Indiana, Linda Sue grew up about eight miles south of Richmond in a rustic setting near the Ohio border.
After graduating from Centerville Senior High School in Centerville, Indiana, in 1964, Linda Sue Grimes completed her baccalaureate degree with a major in German at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in 1967. She married Ronald Grimes on March 10, 1973.
As a writer, Grimes focuses on poetry, short fiction, politics, spirituality, and vegan/vegetarian cooking, which results in her original veggie recipes.
Although music was her first love, Grimes considers herself primarily a literary specialist as she creates her own poetry, studies the poetry and literary arts of classic writers, and writes commentaries about classic poems.
However, Grimes does continue to express her love of music by writing her own original songs, which she records, accompanying herself on guitar or keyboard. She shares her musical compositions at SOUNDCLOUD.
After completing the PhD degree in British, American, and World Literature with a cognate in Rhetoric/Composition at Ball State University in 1987, Grimes taught English composition in the English Department at BSU as a contractual assistant professor from 1987 until 1999.
Grimes has published poems in many literary journals, including Sonoma Mandala, Rattle, and The Bellingham Review. She has published three books of poems: Singing in the Silence, Command Performance, and Turtle Woman & Other Poems, and a book of fables titled Jiggery-Jee's Eden Valley Stories.
Grimes published her first cookbook in the spring of 2013, titled The Rustic Veggie-Table: 100 Vegan Recipes. She is working on a second cookbook and her fourth book of poems.
Currently, at Owlcation, Grimes (Maya Shedd Temple) posts her poetry commentaries. On LetterPile, she shares her creative writing of poems and short fiction, along with prose commentaries on each piece. She posts recipes resulting from her experimental cooking of vegan/vegetarian dishes. on Delishably. She posts her politically focused pieces at Soapboxie, and her commentaries focusing on music at Spinditty. Pieces on the writing process appear at Hobbylark.
Linda Sue Grimes has been a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda and a member of his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, since 1978. A Kriyaban since 1979, she has completed the four Kriya Initiations, and she continues to study the teachings and practice the yoga techniques as taught by the great spiritual leader, who is considered to be the "Father of Yoga in the West."
Grimes practices the chants taught by the guru accompanying herself on the harmonium. She serves at her local SRF Meditation Group as one of the chant leaders.
Online Literary Presence
In addition to the contributions of her literary works to Owlcation, LetterPile, and SOUNDCLOUD, Grimes also curates her original creative literary pieces at her literary home, Maya Shedd Temple, on Medium, where she features her creative writing without commentaries. Grimes also maintains an additional online presence on Facebook and Twitter.
My Spiritual Journey: Why I Am a Self-Realization Yogi
"By ignoble whips of pain, man is driven at last into the Infinite Presence, whose beauty alone should lure him." –a wandering sadhu, quoted in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
Introduction: Salvation Is a Personal Responsibility
I am a Self-Realization Yogi because the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, who in 1920 founded Self-Realization Fellowship, make sense to me. Paramahansa Yogananda teaches that we are immortal souls, already connected to the Divine Reality, but we have to "realize" that divine connection. Knowing the Great Spirit (God) is not dependent upon merely claiming to believe in a divine personage, or even merely following the precepts of a religion such as the Ten Commandments.
Knowing the Creator is dependent upon "realizing" that the soul is united with that Creator. To achieve that realization we have to develop our physical, mental, and spiritual bodies through exercise, scientific techniques, and meditation. There are many good theorists who can help us understand why proper behavior is important for our lives and society, but Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings offer definite, scientific techniques that we practice in order to realize our oneness with the Divine Power or God. It makes sense to me that my salvation should be primarily my own responsibility.
No Religious Tradition
I did not grow up with a religious tradition. My mother was a Baptist, who claimed that at one time she felt she was saved, but then she backslid. I learned some hymns from my mother. But she never connected behavior with religion. My father was forced to attend church when he was young, and he complained that his church clothes were uncomfortable as was sitting on the hard pews.
My father disbelieved in the miracles of Jesus, and he poked fun at people who claimed to have seen Jesus "in the bean rows." My mother would not have doubted that a person might see Jesus, because she saw her father after he had died. My mother characterized my father as agnostic, and she lived like an agnostic, but deep down I think she was a believer after the Baptist faith.
Here’s a little story that demonstrates how ignorant about religion I was as a child: When I was in first or second grade, I had a friend named Caroline. At recess one day at the swings, Caroline wanted to confide something to me, and she wanted me to keep it secret. She said I probably wouldn't believe it, but she still wanted to tell me. I encouraged her to tell me; it seemed exciting to be getting some kind of secret information. So she whispered in my ear, "I am a Quaker."
I had no idea what that was. I thought she was saying she was magic like a fairy or an elf or something. So I said, "Well, do something to prove it." It was Caroline's turn to be confused then. She just looked very solemn. So I asked her to do something else to prove it. I can't remember the rest of this, but the point is that I was so ignorant about religion.
The Void in My Life and My First Trauma
Looking back on my life as a child, teenager, young adult, and adult up to the age of 32, I realize that the lack of a religious tradition left a great void in my life. Although my father was on the fence regarding religion, he would listen to Billy Graham preach on TV. I hated it whenever Billy Graham was preaching on TV. His message scared me. Something like the way I felt when my father's mother would come and visit us, and when my father would let out a "Goddam" or other such swear word, she would say he was going to hell for talking that way. I was afraid for my father. And Billy Graham made me afraid for myself and all of us because we did not attend church.
I never believed that things like swearing and masturbation could send a soul to hell. But then back then I had no concept of "soul" or "hell." I believed it was wrong to kill, steal, and to lie. But I'm not sure how these proscripts were taught to me. I guess by example. It seems that I had no real need for God and spirituality until I was around thirty years old.
My life went fairly smoothly except for two major traumas before age thirty. The first trauma was experiencing a broken heart at age eighteen and then undergoing a failed marriage, after which I thought I would never find a mate to love me. But I did meet a wonderful soulmate when I was 27.
Heretofore I had thought finding the proper marriage partner would solve all my problems, but I learned that my difficulties were very personal and at the level where we are all totally alone, despite any outward relationships.
The Second Trauma
A second trauma that added to my confusion was being fired twice from the same job at ages 22 and 27. At age 27 things started to make no sense. And it started to bother me intensely that things made no sense. I had always been a good student in grade school and high school, and I was fairly good in college, graduating from Miami University with a 3.0 average. That grade point average bothered me, because I thought I was better than that.
But then not being able to keep my teaching job and not being able to find another one after I had lost it very much confused me. It seemed that I had lost touch with the world. School had been my world, and my teachers and professors had expected great things from me. But there I was at age 27 and couldn't get connected to school again.
Feminism and Zen
I began reading feminist literature starting with Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, continuing with Ms. Magazine, and many others. The result of taking in the feminist creed led me to believe that I had someone to blame for my failure—men; men had caused the world to be arranged so that women cannot succeed outside the home. I began writing again, an endeavor I have sporadically engaged in most of my life from about age sixteen. I decided to apply for a graduate assistantship in English at Ball State University, feeling that I was ready to get out in the man’s world and show it what a woman could do. I felt confident that I could succeed now that I knew what the problem was. But that didn’t work out either. I finished the year without a master’s degree in English, and then there I was, confused again, and still searching for something that made sense.
I had heard about the Eastern philosophy known as "Zen" at Ball State, and I started reading a lot about that philosophy. Zen helped me realize that men were not the problem, attitude was. I kept on writing, accumulating many poems, some of which I still admire. And I kept reading Zen, especially Alan Watts, but after a while the same ideas just kept reappearing with no real resolution, that is, even though the Zen philosophy did help me understand the world better, it was not really enough. I got the sense that only I could control my life, but just how to control it was still pretty much a mystery.
Autobiography of a Yogi
Then in late 1977 on one of our book shopping trips, I spied a book, Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, and I recommended it to my husband, because he liked biographies. I purchased poetry books, and we purchased the autobiography for him. He did not get around to reading it right away, but I did, and I was totally amazed at what I read. It all made sense to me; it was such a scholarly book, clear and compelling. There was not one claim made in the entire 500 plus pages that made me scratch me hand and say "what?" or even feel an uncertainty that this writer knew exactly whereof he spoke.
Paramahansa Yogananda was speaking directly to me, at my level, where I was in my life, and he was connecting with my mind in a way that no writer had ever done. For example, the book offers copious notes, references, and scientific evidence that academics will recognize as thorough research. This period of time was before I had written a PhD dissertation, but all of my years of schooling had taught me that making claims and backing them up with explanation, analysis, evidence, and authoritative sources were necessary for competent, persuasive, and legitimate exposition.
Paramahansa Yogananda's autobiography contained all that could appeal to an academic and much more because of the topic he was addressing. As the great spiritual leader recounted his own journey to self-realization, he was able to elucidate the meanings of ancient texts whose ideas have remained misunderstood for many decades and even centuries.
The book contained a postcard that invited the reader to send for lessons that teach the techniques for becoming self-realized. I sent for them, studied them, and I have been practicing them since 1978. They do, indeed, hold the answer to every human problem.
I know it is difficult for most educated people to believe that all human problems can be solved, but that’s because they get stuck in the thought that they cannot. If you believe that you can never really know something, then you can’t, because if you believe that you can never really know something, you won’t try to know it.
Yogananda gives a map with directions to reaching God, and realizing that one’s soul is united with God brings about the end of all sorrow and the beginning of all joy. Just knowing the precepts intellectually does not cause this realization, but it goes a long way toward eliminating much suffering. The faith that we can overcome all suffering is a great comfort, even if we are not there yet. I realize that God is knowable, but most important is that I know I am the only one who can connect my soul to God—and that is the spiritual journey I am on.
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes