Close your eyes and make yourself comfortable as we begin our Fall Foliage Guided Meditation, a journey through the majestic autumnal vistas of New England—from the glorious mountains of Maine and Vermont to the storybook towns and covered bridges of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Take a deep breath as you imagine boarding the foliage tour bus. There are other people on this bus, but don’t let them detract from your experience. This is your meditation. Throughout these next ten minutes, I really need you to remember that.
All the window seats are taken. That’s fine. There are no bad views on this bus. You choose a seat next to a middle-aged man with a large camera dangling from his neck. Embroidered on his sweatshirt are the words “Grandpa’s Little Leaf Peeper,” which are confusing but not something to lose your focus over. You nod hello. He raises his camera and snaps a flurry of photos of your face, then turns away. Again, don’t worry about it.
You turn your attention across the aisle to an older couple lovingly leaning on each other and giggling at a movie on their iPad. The woman notices you and smiles. She says something, but too softly to hear. You lean toward her, and she repeats herself, louder now. “Strap in, bitch. We’re gonna see some fucked-up leaves out there today.” You nod politely at her, careful to avoid eye contact. Don’t ever look into her eyes.
You hear the crackle of a microphone turning on—it’s your tour guide, Warren, standing at the front of the bus. Warren is a heavyset man who is recently divorced, but it’s not something that he wanted.
“Vermont!” Warren shouts. “Green Mountain State, here we come!”
Everyone on the bus cheers.
“What are we looking for?” Warren asks, playfully.
“Foliage!” the passengers shout, in unison.
“And what is foliage?”
“Leaves!” they all shout.
You shout, “Trees!”
Everyone cranes their necks to see who said “trees.” A murmur of boos slowly grows louder. Your seatmate turns to you and whispers, with urgency, “You got it wrong!”
You wait, red-faced, for the booing to subside; eventually, the bus pulls off at a lookout point, above a breathtaking crimson canopy of maples and dogwoods. Warren announces that you have fifteen minutes to enjoy the view before hitting the road again.
Everyone spills out of the bus, snapping photos wildly as they go. Amid the chaos, you’re jammed in the doorway between two people, forced to squeeze your way through, landing hard on the asphalt.
“Trees? Ha! You fucking idiot,” a child says as she steps over you.
You slowly get up, brush the dirt from your clothes, and walk through the crowd. You pass a father and his adult son sitting on a bench. The son holds a cider doughnut to his mouth and licks it in a way that doesn’t feel altogether human. Sharp, darting licks, dozens of them. He then hands the wet, unbitten doughnut to his father, who places it into a Ziploc bag with some others. Why?
You walk down a small staircase to a secluded spot. Finally alone, you’re able to breathe and clear your mind of everything, except the doughnut licking, which is still there.
Moments later, two women from the bus, Barb and Carol, stumble upon your little area. They’re British and pleasant, in their late sixties. Barb hands you her phone and asks if you will take a photo of them. She calls you “love.” In order to get the top of the mountains in the frame, you ask them to take one step back. Then one more. Barb trips on some loose shale and tumbles into the canyon. Her fall is eerily silent. Why did you ask her to take that extra step? It doesn’t matter now. She’s dead. You killed Barb, and Carol knows it. But only Carol. Just as she’s about to scream, you take Barb’s phone and drive it into Carol’s temple, then kick her over the edge as if you’ve done it a million times before. Though you only did what you had to do, you will live with this forever. But right now you’re meditating, and the view is magnificent.
Dazed, you make your way back toward the bus, but stop when you catch the sound of muffled sobs from behind a bush. It’s Warren, staring off into the abyss as he injects himself with something. Maybe he’s diabetic, you think. He’s not. It’s meth. You try to sneak off quietly, but a twig snaps under your foot. Warren’s head turns to you, his eyes hot with meth. “Planning on telling anyone about this?” he asks.
“About what?” you reply, trying to ease his mind.
“I’m recently divorced,” Warren says. “It’s not something I wanted.”
He raises his needle to you in a gesture of gratitude. You give him a look, as if to imply, “Thanks, but I don’t do meth,” and turn to walk away, but you can’t shake the image of Barb and Carol’s faces. Their expressions are haunting. Clearly, you still haven’t got over murdering them. You point to your arm and look at Warren, as if to imply, “Let’s get some meth in here.” The rush is indescribable. Needless to say, meth plus foliage is really something.
Back on the bus, a window seat has opened up. Guess you could say you earned it. You pray that Warren is too high to do a head count, and casually kick Barb’s Union Jack purse and Carol’s Beatles backpack under a seat. Boy, were they British.
You walk to the bathroom to splash some cold water on your face in an attempt to get a handle on this high and this meditation. On your way, you pass the older couple from earlier. They’re back to giggling and watching their movie. From this angle, you see that it’s hardcore porn. And that the people in it are them.
Back at your seat, you decide to sleep off the meth. Some time later, you’re awoken by the sound of sirens. Your bus pulls over to the side of the road, and everyone clambers to the windows.
The door opens, and two highway patrolmen walk on. A third follows with a woman in tow, who is struggling to make her way up the steps. That woman is Barb—bloody, and dragging her crushed leg. She reaches the top step, scans the crowd, and points directly at you with what’s left of her arm. “Hello . . . love,” she manages to say before collapsing.