Day 6

I am sick. Congested.  Saturated with mucus. I hope it is not something more than the common cold. Is this how malaria starts?


I need to find a different rhythm in this place. The mornings are full of promise. The nights are lonely and I drown my emotions in alcohol. In the morning, at Mother House, there are two candles burning in the courtyard, stuck to the concrete in a large pool of wax. I stare at the flames and think about my wavering life. Zombies pray in low, trance-like unison above me in the church.


I am adding Italians to the list of the naturally authentic, along with the Spanish and French. Although Pierre is certainly an outlier but I believe his awkwardness comes from being in the closet.


Many people have purchased Mehndi kits and try to paint their hands and feet in eccentric patterns. It looks awful. I’m surly again and I’m judging others with a blunt scalpel. The honeymoon in India is over.


During breakfast I tell my story to Maria and her newly arrived friend from Mexico. I am confessing novels of transgressions to strangers. Not sure if this is the wisest move in a place as religious as Mother House. Am I too comfortable with my own depraved history? Maybe I am baiting sympathy and clemency? Does anyone else maneuver for attention in this bizarre manner?


On the bus ride this morning Ashley gives me her theory on why women aren’t allowed to be priests. Not the strongest argument I’ve heard from this bright spirit.


Washing clothes at Nrmal Hriday and we are in easy conversation; jokes a plenty. As usual, I take it too far with the comfort level. Amongst a group of devoted young Christians I, in all my pompous grandeur, question the existence of God. I state that no one can know for sure if God does exist; the gap is filled by faith. Brilliant move. Not one of my more radical points but still enough to make some smiling faces turn disenchanted. Only the crunchy hippie, the one who volunteers in the red-light district, seems to willingly banter with me on the topic.


I massage and I small talk with the patients and change a few bed sheets. Boring and repetitive. I see now why the veterans find work upstairs and skip the normal routine. There is only so much massaging one can do before it becomes awkward. Although the few smiles I have managed to generate feel wonderful. I walk around silly, with a wide smile, trying my best to brighten the mood and hide my own feelings of melancholy. One patient, whom I believe to be well within the definition of deranged, points to me with one hand and with the other he spins his pointer finger by his temple – indicating his prognosis of my insanity. I nod in agreement.


Break time is spent with the hippie. She seems to have found a decent balance between work and passion. I am always inquisitive when I stumble upon the theory. I tell her how much I hated my job back home. I quit and have no idea what to do in life. There is an inherent distance I feel when someone refers to their lover as a partner, and I don’t know why.


Jelle asks me about my food-vice / binge-eating reference and I do my best to explain to him the origins, and evolution, as I understand them now. Then I realize he was only aiming for pleasant conversation, so my dissertation of darkness thwarts his attempt at bonding. Having a glimpse of the details at this level of neurosis catches him off guard. I realize my own frailty.


After work I hurry back to the hotel. Moving day. The new guesthouse will cut my housing expenses 4x. Once I arrive at BMS I collapse on the bed. After a brief nap my mind is fluttering. Go to the store for snacks and junk food. I pass emaciated beggars with humiliation and shame knowing inside of my backpack are thousands of calories that could feed them for days.  I have come back to destructive patterns once again; emotional eating being at the top of the list.


Inside my hotel room I devour rows of cookies while trying to allow my mind relief. I dive into the perilous jungles of Peru with Herzog and his Conquest Of The Useless. What a riveting mind. I want to read Plato next but I doubt I will have the patience and focus to spin with him as he delineates into twenty point tangents.


No writing and no meditating lately; might as well give mass a try later tonight. No sense in being childish about the situation.  One more run to the store for tea and more snacks in the mean time. Feel sprinkles on my head as I walk but I cant tell if it is rain or some vile excrement of the city herself.


I feel disgusting. Sinuses are completely plugged now so I resort to mouth breathing. The city is impossibly void of hope. The streets siphon any drops of joy left in me.


Back at the guesthouse there is a group of thirty children playing on the lawn. I sit on a bench across the courtyard and observe. A man dressed in western attire comes to the group, quiets them down, then leads them in song and dance. He seems to be a teacher pacifying the children before lessons. I am lost in trance, watching innocence in a city of misery. Around the courtyard, hundreds of crows perch in the trees and caw. They must be trying to warn the children. One child, a slightly older and taller girl, walks around the group and enforces inexplicable rules of conduct that I strain to decipher. She smacks kids across the face with severe force, using an open palm and a grin of barbarism, then scolds them for their offense. She is merciless with her discipline. The teacher does nothing while each new child pleads for mercy – their voices drowned by the group singing. The young girl slaps each victim with enough force to bring tears to their eyes and freeze them in a complete lack of resistance if she chooses to dish out another strike. A new generation learns abuse of power as a right of passage. She reminds me of the prison guards described by Frankl. Maybe that comparison is a bit too far reaching? Skip evening mass, again.


Anto LjoljicComment