Friday, August 19, 2011



I left
for the West
from whence I came
so unexpectedly
the gathering
made sweeter by the surprise

I am chasing the setting sun
with every step
my heart falters
my breath comes short
What will I then carry
to the west of the ocean?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

nails in the wall

I am mere human, and I have erred many times.
Of those countless mistakes, two have haunted me particularly viciously, injecting my oft strong heart with so much guilt so vile that life stops whenever the memories fleet back into my mind.
I understood perfectly why I committed those mistakes, and I believe that it would have taken a person much much more compassionate and patient than me to have avoided those mistakes.
Yet, the guilt has ebbed little in the years gone by, despite all the joys that I have shared with others, and my utmost effort to not repeat those mistakes again.

Some mistakes, once done, are tattooed into your skin, etched into your bones, burned into your heart and molded in the many slippery folds of your brains. You live most of your life without noticing them again, but every now and then you do, and you wish you never did.

Today I committed a mistake of such magnitude, and my only solace is that he might forget it a lot sooner than I will. My guilt however, is born of the realization that he was hurt, that it wasn't the first time he was hurt that way, and that it will bear on him for some time. A seemingly small nail can break a stone wall, for the narrow crack gives space to a small devilish seed that would soon grow into a monster and trample the wall.

I was typing a text while walking to the ATM to deposit a cheque. I was jovial in the cool night air. A black truck suddenly pulled up slowly next to me, and then stopped in front of me. The truck was now between the ATM and me. The driver talked to me.

"Hey brother..."
"Hey, yes?"
"Can I ask you for some help?"
"What? You thought I was asking you for money?" He started to reverse his truck.
"Oh, oh sorry! So how may I help you?"
"I want to ask for the directions to Oakland."
"Not sure myself, but I believe you take I-80 west and you will see signs for Oakland."
"Okay thanks."
"So sorry about that."
"Not all black people would ask you for money..." He reversed his truck and was going to drive away.
"No, that wasn't what I meant."
"But you didn't give me a chance." And then he drove away.

He was right, I didn't give him a chance to explain what help he wanted from me.
He was right, I presumed that he wanted money.

He was wrong that my presumption was because of his skin colour.
I wanted to tell him that even if he was white, I would have responded the same because I was startled by his truck driving in front of me, by his opening line of asking for help, and that I have had more white people asking me for money than black. Almost all the people who stopped me on the street and asked for money used the same line "Hey sir/mister/brother/man, can you help me?"

Yet, those were all excuses on my part. I should have known better than to jump to conclusions. Rationale lost to reflex reaction. He was obviously hurt by my response, yet he needn't be because his skin colour wasn't in my mind. If he was hurt that I judged him by his truck-driving or his opening line, then I wouldn't feel bad--but he was hurt because of something that wasn't there--colour discrimination.

I wanted to explain...but I wasn't sure if it would have eased the situation. I let him go. After I deposited my cheque, I looked for his truck. I really wanted to apologize, I really wanted to treat him to a bubble tea. He had left of course, and I was left with a guilt that I couldn't shake off, that I can't shake off, that I know will haunt me for a very long time.

For the shame that he had to suffer and the guilt that gnaws me from within, I wish that I will never ever commit such a mistake again.

On the other hand, I think he and I must have had some really bad experiences in our past lives. I mean, so much bad karma that the first time we met, and it lasted a mere 15 seconds max, and we have hammered a nail into each other's heart. I will pray for him tonight, in what is a helpless attempt to ease my guilt.