A Buddhist Game of Truth or Dare
an interlude with the characters of Light, Bright and Sparkling
by Elizabeth Famous
The electricity was out, and Annabelle and Warren were held up in Bhutan for the night. Shooting for her scenes in the movie had finished, but Warren insisted they stay on a couple extra days to hike to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, which defied gravity as it was built into the side of a mountain.
Success! They’d made it all the way up the narrow, rocky trail to the four interconnected temples, and hung out, enjoying the views, with a family from Quebec that was making the trek with two tween girls. Warren was supposed to be on call at the hospital back home in LA by tomorrow, but with the storm raging, their return flight was cancelled, and no planes were taking off until morning.
The lobby of the palace hotel, with it’s towering four-story open-frame wood beam structure, was a mess. Luggage was stacked precariously on trolleys parked near rows of tea light candles set up especially for power outages. Soaking coats strewn over the back of boxy wooden chairs dripped onto the floor, creating oblong puddles on the planked floor. Broken umbrellas discarded by the ornate front door formed a skeleton-like pile. The tigers and flower motifs painted on panels surrounding the grand entryway looked eerie under the black gray sky that showed through narrow arched windows.
Annabelle watched as one by one weary looking travelers approached the front desk, asking for “any room available,” then turned away with a frown. She and Warren were lucky. One of the movie’s producers, a guy comically named Bobby Rocks, had promised to let the two of them share his room on the top floor of the hotel as soon as he retrieved the keys from his girlfriend.
After being caught in a downpour at the flower market and making a one-hundred-yard dash back to the hotel, Warren and Annabelle were relatively dry. They’d found a seat on a rug, leaning against an inside wall, protected from the wind. The life-size fireplace nearby was mobbed by damp hotel guests but it let off enough heat to be felt where they sat.
Annabelle: Wanna play truth or dare?
Warren: No, it wouldn’t be much of a competition. I can’t win because there’s nothing you won’t do.
Annabelle: Wait, how do you win truth or dare – get the other person to wuss out?
Warren: I believe so.
Annabelle: Yeah, in that case, I’m definitely going to kick your ass. Truth or Dare?
Warren: You go first. I dare you to lead this room full of Buddhists in singing Christmas carols.
Annabelle: You didn’t ask me truth or dare? What if I choose truth?
Warren: You’re always truthful anyway, or rather more truthful than you ought to be – what in the world did you tell that reporter the other day about your preference for bidets?
Annabelle: So you insist I do a dare?
Warren: No. Same dilemma. You’ll do anything—particularly when you’re on screen.
Annabelle: No. I won’t have sex on film – only pretend to.
Warren: Doesn’t your character kill someone in this film you’ve been working on?
Annabelle: Pretending to kill someone is nothing like actually killing someone, which I wouldn’t do, unless we’re talking about that guy who shot up a school full of kids. I’d kill him without a second thought, no need to dare me to do it.
Warren: I didn’t realize you had a violent streak. Are there any questions you wouldn’t answer truthfully, Calamity Jane?
Annabelle: Hmm. There must be something.
She rubbed her denim-clad thighs, still chilled from the icy wind that caught them outside. A toddler nearby complained loudly to his parents about being hungry. She and Warren should probably try to convince Bobby Rocks to give up his room to a family in need of shelter. They could sleep on the floor in the lobby.
Annabelle: Okay. I can think of a question I wouldn’t want to answer. I don’t want to be asked to make a list of the top ten best looking people I know. That would involve insulting one or more of my sisters, at the very least.
Warren: That’s a cop out. You have already made your rankings abundantly clear to me on numerous occasions. Your childhood crush on your sister Samantha’s husband, Delaney, would win for the men; there’s no new information there. And I think you’d rate your sister Stephanie number one for women, although you’d be wrong there.
Annabelle: Really? Who beats her? Tell the truth!
Annabelle: And who’s number two in my family in terms of looks – females only?
Warren: This was supposed to be a challenging question for you to answer honestly, not me.
Annabelle: Okay, answer and this will count as your turn. I’ll go next, although I’m starting to worry about what you’re going to dare me to do in this room full of exhausted people.
Warren: I’d pick your mom or Samantha; I can’t divorce a woman from her personality.
Annabelle: No, this is a ranking based on looks only, as if you saw them in a silent film or still photos.
Warren: From body language alone, I’d score Stephanie low.
He had good reason for disliking Stephanie. When they first met, Stephanie accused him of 1) cheating on his ex fiancé and 2) lusting after Annabelle when they first met and she was his patient.
Annabelle: Okay. Okay. You’re so argumentative. Still photos only. You know my mom can’t win unless you’re talking about what she looked like at an age closer to my sister’s.
Warren: So, the question is Who’s currently the best-looking woman in your immediate family?
Annabelle: Yes. Answer 100% truthfully. Who’d you be more physically attracted to if you were single?
Warren: This is turning into the incestuous version of truth or dare.
Annabelle: Don’t stall. As they are today, my sisters and my mom, who is most your type, physically speaking?
Warren: I’m not sure if she’s my type, so to speak, but I think Samantha would be the most physically attractive to me.
Annabelle: Wow, I’m thinking Stephanie or smarty-pants Gretchen all the way. Aren’t blondes your type?
Warren: I don’t know about that. This past week I’ve seen a lot of beautiful Asian women who outshine typical LA blondes.
Annabelle: I didn’t realize you were rating women in your head this past week.
Warren: That’s your assumption in asking me the question, Annabelle. When you bring it up, I can make the comparisons immediately and tell you my preference.
Annabelle: My preference, as a blonde, is to change the subject. Ask me truth or dare.
Warren: Truth or dare?
Warren (pointing to a couple kids dressed in traditional Bhutanese robes): Walk over to those kids and ask them to play hide and seek with you.
She did just that and was turned down with a huge smile by their mom, who spoke for them, saying they didn’t speak English and were too sleepy after traveling back and forth to visit relatives in Paro.
Warren (after her return): My turn again already?
Annabelle: No, I didn’t do the dare. I think you win.
Warren: Can I ask you a truth question?
Annabelle: Yeah, but I have a feeling it’s not going to be about somebody’s looks.
Warren: No. I’ve got a truly tough question for you. If you were pregnant and found out the child had a serious disability, would you go through with the pregnancy?
Annabelle: Wow, you definitely got a hang of this game now, haven’t you?
The two of them had been talking a lot about having kids recently, but he always touched upon the subject with wariness, not wanting to pressure her—she knew he’d been dead set on fatherhood for many years now.
Annabelle: I guess I’d say, yes, in my case. I can handle a lot emotionally and would be able to make the best of the situation, but for another woman who couldn’t handle the struggles and stress, I can understand why she wouldn’t go through with it, and I’d totally support her. You answer the same question! Would you want me to go through with the pregnancy?
Warren: You didn’t ask me truth or dare?
Annabelle: Come on! Truth or Dare?
Warren: I’m going to go with dare.
Annabelle: No! First you have to answer your own question! It’s too important.
Warren: Well, if I must. In accordance with your sweet, thoughtful answer, I’d support whatever decision you make.
Annabelle: Good answer. And now you get a truth question of my choosing: What could I do that would make you think of breaking up with me?
Warren: Break up with you? You mean—
Annabelle: Yes. Done. Finito. Over.
He looked around the room, his strong fingers tapping the floor, his brows wrinkled, like he was about to enter the operating room.
Warren: Does this have to be something I believe you’d be capable of doing? I don’t believe you’re capable of abusing a child, but that would be grounds for permanently ending a relationship.
Annabelle: Huh? Yes, it has to be something you believe I might do in some possible circumstances.
Warren: I’d seriously consider breaking up with you if you slept with Anton, or your former crush Delaney, or some other guy connected with one of the women in your family. Unlike some causal hook up with an actor I’ve never met, the ramifications would be severe and permanent, you’d be breaking up marriages and hurting our entire family in the process.
Annabelle: Anton? Really? You think that’s possible? Me banging my mom’s ex?
Warren: I’m not certain either way, but I’m also not certain I wouldn’t try to mend things between us even if you did something like that.
Annabelle: Props for the candid answer. I like it. It’s as if you’ve achieved Buddhist equanimity. You’re a truth or dare pro now. My turn? Go ahead and ask me a question, or dare me to do something.
Warren: Do you ever have painful sexual experiences with me, something that goes over the line, but don’t say anything?
Annabelle: I scraped my knee and it hurt but I didn’t want to stop that thing we did on the rocks yesterday.
Warren: That’s not a sexual act causing you pain, which was my question.
Annabelle: The answer is still no. I don’t agree to anything that causes me more pain than pleasure, even if I have a slight BDSM bent.
Warren: You never do anything just to make me happy or give me what I want?
Annabelle: No. I don’t even think that would make you happy.
Warren (smiling): Good point.
He kissed her behind the shawl she’d pulled from her bag and was using as a scarf. The spices on his breath reminded her of their private detour on an uncharted path after lunch the day before. He led her to a rocky stream where she scraped her knee as he yanked at her clothing.
Warren: This has been fun but we haven’t come up with any good dares.
Annabelle: I dare you to have sex with me under the covers while Bobby Rocks and his girlfriend are in the bed next to ours.
Warren: Sure. I doubt they’d notice. Not with both of them on their phones half the night.
His prediction was on target. When he finally showed up, Bobby was in a rush to get to his room, where pressing business matters had him thoroughly occupied by phone calls. His girlfriend was in the bathroom, door open, texting her friends and taking photos of herself. Annabelle and Warren ate packaged snacks they’d originally planned to transport home as gifts for friends and continued their conversation about having kids before conceiving one on the second double bed in the spacious penthouse hotel room.
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