Tucked in my desk drawer, or somewhere, encased in a plastic sandwich bag and carefully dated, is a note. It is a note about anatta.
The night the note was dated I was shooting pool with an old friend, and being beaten, again and again. The hall cleared up and the people cleared out, walking into the dry early morning air that was rain-slick so recently. I walked back to my car and, pinned under my windshield wiper, was the note:
THANKS FOR PARKING SO CLOSE ASSHOLE
Written in purple ink, with big loopy letters.
I’m sure I did park close – I don’t remember it. It was the kind of carelessness that forms cruelty so often. But, someone wanted me to remember, so they left a note.
I am an asshole.
I would never meet this person, but I would be, forever and ever amen, a closeparking asshole. Of course, I wasn’t an asshole, not all the time anyway. It was a moment, a bubble rising and fading in this soda pop of a human being.
I saved this person’s note, and dated it so I could remember this ignorant accusation. The poor sap was attaching and constructing! The simple sod!
It climbed to the bottom of some stack of papers. When I had to move, I would find it again and take it with me. “This was the day I learned about non-self,” I would remember, “the day I was not an asshole.”
Years later, unearthing it again, I thought back to that night. The detail that bothered me the most, why I had saved it in the first place, was the audacity of it. It wasn’t enough that I parked close, the note taker had to make sure I knew it, that I feel bad about it long after the fact. Who is this person who goes around, ruining people days, spreading grief, and just generally being a jerk?
Then I realized, the funny thing about not having a self is that no one else gets to have one either.
I took out a pen and dated it a second time.
What an asshole I am.