I was going home through Tonala Street lined on both sides with century old one - storey adobe houses still of the old kind in one of the ancient barrios of town, the Cerrillo, where my office is. The romanticism of El Cerrillo is once and again disturbed by men lying unconciously drunk in the middle of the sidewalk, sometimes even when it rains and it rains a lot here and the rain is cold, because we are 7000 feet high here in this part of Chiapas. In many of the old houses mostly old and fierce ladies sell Pox, illegal alcohol brewed by the Mayans out in their hidden valleys in between the misty mountains.
This afternoon no drunk obstructed my path, but suddenly a man in rags appeared very closely in front of me. He dared touch my arm. He smelled of alcohol and asked me in broken Spanish for some money.
I never know if to give or not to give. Give until it hurts, says my meditation teacher, Ruth Denison. On the other hand I know that if I give to a drunk he will spend the money on more booze. I had just made up my mind to just give food to begging kids and money to old beggars.
I shook my head and mumbled that I had no change. I walked on. Faster now. The man came after me. Not threatening, but his sandals made a strong slapping sound announcing, he was not letting me go. I started to run and he could not keep up with me.
Around the next corner I started feeling bad. I should have given him money. Maybe he could have had a meal of soup and fresh tortillas in the near - by market. With ten Pesos I could have provided him a meal. Why should I punish him for being a drunk? What did I know what this man had gone through? I was going to meet a friend for a tasty meal now and this man went hungry.
I grabbed my purse, took twenty Pesos out, turned around and went back.
The man was still standing there. Following me for a block had exhausted him. He looked tiny and old and desperate. I ran towards him now and put the twenty Pesos in his hand or that is what I intended to do, but like a flash of lightning the man closed his hand, looked me in the eye and said, "No, no quiero tu dinero - I don`t want your money !"
He turned around and left me alone in the street.
I stood there, deeply ashamed.
I remember that one my sister and I played out in the field behind our house with a neighbor girl. That girl was pale and blond and fragile. She was afraid. So was I: pale and blond and nothing special at all and very afraid. But suddenly there was this moment, where I sensed just - as an animal senses - that she was even more afraid than I was: afraid of others, how they might look at me and judge me. I suddenly hated her for her fear. I wanted to make her suffer. It was a totally instinctive and an animal – feeling.
We took handfuls of very dry hay, which was all over the place, and scratched the girl with it. Not too badly, but we drove her in front of us towards the rotten wall of a fallen down house, where we used to play. We enjoyed seeing the panic in her eyes, we became cruel, we felt the joy of seeing someone weaker than us and feel the power to hurt.
Even though I could not understand what was going on, I was aware of the monster – side in me surfacing. The devil in me. She began to cry and we got scared of ourselves and let her run home...
Maybe I am also guilty of murder.
Once, several decades ago, on a Mexican road we hit a girl with our car. We had not speeded at all; we were going in a VW Combi with our three little boys, one a baby, from Acapulco to Mexico City. In Mexico the roads are lined with houses and children play and suddenly run in front of your car. So this happened. We felt the impact. Not too strong, but there it was. We felt our hearts jump. My husband stepped on the brakes to stop the car, and then we saw men running out of their houses towards the girl. These men screamed and yelled and swung machetes. We remembered so many cases we had read about, where villagers kept drivers who had had accidents like this hostage, tortured and even killed them. They like to drain you in gasoline and burn you alive or they beat you to death.
We got into a panic, my husband switched his foot to the gas pedal and we speeded off. We speeded for a whole day, we thought many times the police was after us. We sweated, we did not stop to eat or drink, even though our oldest, 4 years at the time, cried for food and drink and rest and once and again he asked,” What happened to the girl?” And we did not have any answer. Suddenly I remembered that the night before in a dream I had felt exactly like this: guilty and chased and I had awoken sweating from that night – mare. Now it had become reality!
In Germany running away from an accident is one of the most severe and punished crimes. I felt that weighing on me. My husband grew up in Mexico and he knew about self preservation in these cases. He had a dream about the girl the following night. The girl was hurt, but not dead and she forgave him. He was fine after that.
I fell sick with Hepatitis and afterwards with the most severe clinical depression I had ever suffered so far. I do not believe that this incident was the only trigger for that, but it might have been one. It took me many years to feel peace inside my heart again.
I was maybe six years old and my friend Margret Kruse, who was two years older, said," Let`s squish worms!" And so I did, I did everything Margret asked me to do. We spent the rainy Hamburg afternoon picking rainworms out of the grass in the yard between our houses and took bricks, which were lying around, to smash the poor worms. I remember that I did have a weird feeling inside my chest and it was not disgust with the mass of mashed worms.
At supper my dad asked me what I had done all day long and I spurted out the truth, I guess, I did, because I wanted to know if what I had done was right or wrong.
My dad`s face fell. He looked the saddest I had ever seen him until then and said," That is terrible, Kiki, that you destroyed life just for fun!"
What can I tell you: I never squished a worm again, I even have a hard time killing a mosquito.
Many years later I became a followers of Baghwan Shree Rajneesh, later known as Osho. I went to these long retreats. At one our therapist or facilitator or how you want to call him, asked us to stand up, go in front of the group and confess whatever you felt guilty or ashamed about. We were about 90 people, all naked, all had fasted for 10 days.
I stood up to confess among other shameful things I had done the squishing of the rainworms. Other people stood up and confessed similar minor failures and mishaps and crimes. They stole money to their parents or on a bigger scale later in life, they had been unfaithful and all the usual stuff. It was such a great feeling to stand up and let it out and there it went, this stone or rock of guilt, which had opressed the heart for so long!
Suddenly a woman pulled herself to the front. She had a very hard time to start talking. She was sobbing. Finally she confessed that she had planned to murder her husband. I do not remember why she had wanted to murder him. But she told us every tiny detail of the plan. She shook and trembled and cried and when she was finished she stuttered," Now I do not have to kill him anymore!"
We all sat there very silent and quiet for a very long time. I was surprised to find in my heart that I did not judge her, she was forgiven, I loved her.
Art by Kiki