"We took some cake down to the doorman and Amos got kind of friendly in the elevator on the way back up."
Aihwa just stared at her from enormous dark eyes. She pushed back her bangs, holding them to her temple for a moment.
"What do you mean, 'friendly'?"
Dina smirked, licked her finger, and shook curry powder into the dip.
"Oh, nothing. But you really ought to keep that boy on a tighter leash."
In the bathroom Amos gazed speculatively at the spattered porcelain bowl, steadying himself for the attempt to rise from his knees. He was a bit surprised to find himself here, in this supplicatory posture, even though he had started off the evening energetically with a hearty dose of margaritas.
Particularly disturbing was that he could not make the connection in his memory between the moment, which seemed hours ago, when he'd been in the elevator with Dina, and his present undignified circumstances. He stood up slowly, gingerly.
Not that he had been all that dignified in the elevator, he recalled with a groan. Dina was one of Aihwa's best friends, and he knew he'd find himself trying to answer some awkward questions presently.
But for the moment he felt much better. He rinsed his mouth repeatedly, and squeezed some toothpaste onto his fingers to swab his gums. After splashing a little water into his face he felt ready to rejoin the party, perhaps even to enjoy himself in spite of his false start.
"Well of course, " he drawled, "a pilgrimage is a means of orienting oneself in sacred space. Thus journeying to the holy place is a voyage to the center of the cosmos."
With his long bony nose, close-set eyes and habitual snort, Nelson looked and sounded very much like a cross-eyed horse.
"In the case of a pilgrimage with multiple sites, like the Stations of the Cross, or the Shikoku pilgrimage, there is simply a more complex restructuring of the Center - in essence, the whole journey takes place within the Center."
"But that ignores the whole function of the in-between spaces, the 'ma', the interstices of the pilgrimage!" protested Alice Exum. "The movement from profane space into sacred space and out again constitutes the dynamic, as you move from temple to temple. But you're quite right-the whole journey is a circle. It really doesn't go anywhere."
Alice was an exquisitely plump woman ten year's Amos' senior who favored extravagant plumed hats and diaphanous blouses. She looked outrageously out of place in the bleak seminar room. Unlike the others, largely religion and philosophy majors, she was in literature. It seemed to Amos that she deliberately cultivated an air of world-weariness, of narcissistic melancholy like that which pervaded the atmosphere of the Tale of Genji. She had the jazzy reputation of having been the lover of one or two of the more flamboyant faculty, who apparently used her as a pawn in the incomprehensible professorial power games, gambits which raged beneath the surface, erupting every now and then in a vicious or scandalous incident for the amusement of the students.
Amos found it impossible not to meditate on her well-fleshed upper arms, imagining himself kneading them slowly, murmuring to them.
"It resonates!" cried Ralph Strand, a T'ang dynasty historian and the most excitable of the group. "It's like wave motion between each set of points, between temples. The emptiness resonates! It reverberates!"
"It's rhythmic," ventured Amos.
"That's right," beamed Hakeda. "It's rhythmic!"