Fear Is our First Obstacle

Fear is our first obstacle. It comes from believing that the ego is real, and the supreme consciousness unreal.

Ego is afraid because it does not know truth.

It is okay to be afraid, the important thing is not to mind the fear. Do not act based on fear. Do not listen to the whispers of fear and do not follow its commands. See the fear, as you see everything else.

Fear is in the mind, and behind the fear is ignorance. See the fear. Observe it. It will also unfold and vanish like the shadows of night when the sun rises.

The Great Magician and The Black Sheep

We tell a story of a sheepherder who happened to be a magician, and a very lazy one. He didn’t want to bother to build a fence to keep the sheep inside. The sheep were always escaping and exposing themselves to danger. The magician decided to employ his abilities to keep the sheep inside, hypnotizing them. He made them believe that they were free and safe inside the fence. In fact, he made them believe that whenever he fleeced them, that it was for their benefit. Once in a while, one would disappear, and the sheep were conditioned to believe that she had gone to a better place. In fact, he not only convinced them that he was acting for their benefit, but that they were not sheep at all, that they were human beings. Some thought that they were doctors, lawyers, priests, business people, seekers on a spiritual quest—all approved by the great magician, of course. They thought they were attaining powers and learning secrets. Of course, if they did not know that they were sheep, they would never try to change their situation for real; they would never try to escape; never attempt to evolve. Some even thought that they were magicians and knew the secrets; and all of them had the same fate.

Now, there were a few sheep whose fleece was not as valuable because they were black. Black wool was not as useful as white in the marketplace, so the magician did not pay as much attention to the black sheep, only the white. So, some of the black sheep woke up because the magician wasn’t making sure they remained hypnotized. They realized what they were and what they were doing there. If one black sheep knew the truth and tried to tell the others, the hundreds of white sheep would not listen. Why would they? After all, they were having good lives. They had their problems in their fake realities, but they were fine. Some black sheep managed to escape, and many of those succumbed to predators, but they were free.

Eventually, you had some spotted sheep. With those you could never tell: sometimes they would learn their nature and sometimes not. Of those who knew, some would decide to stay with the white sheep and become completely white.

Most of us are spotted. Part of us wants to be free; part of us wants to be taken care of by the Great Magician. That’s why I say, be careful with your gifts. Some of those are fake, given by the Great Magician. Someone said to me, upon hearing this story, “Be careful with your words because they can get you in trouble.”

I make my words so they get me in trouble. I am at war with the Great Magician. I am the black sheep. I am black, all black. My wool is not for the marketplace. My wool is the obsidian black of the eternal night sky, and its shine is the silence of the endless.

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Kissed by Lightning

She was a bundle of energy with a happy pretty face. I always saw her running, laughing, talking fast, and looking at the world with dark bright eyes full of curiosity. She was twelve years old, like me, but her precocious nature carried experiences beyond our age; experiences of sensual games I had only barely begun to fathom from rumors and books.

Her name was Luz, and with her I shared my first kiss.

I didn’t know her well. I only saw her here and there, played the occasional game of hide and seek, racing, or tag. I also heard that she kissed boys already, and my mom told me that the nurse that helped her during her miscarriage—and tended to her after the subsequent necessary operation to save her life by making sure she didn’t get pregnant for the tenth time—lived in that building, the number 7. She also told me that the kind nurse, who we all thought was always too angry because she never smiled or said “hello,” had a pretty daughter she was trying to keep safe from all the boys that kept hovering near their apartment, some of them too old to be having any good intentions. It took me a minute to realize that the kind and gentle nurse, that had helped my mom, was the same surly woman dressed in white who would always balk at us if we were sitting on the stair-case leading up to the fourth floor; the top floor of the building where she lived with Luz and her younger brother, Rafael.

I understood, then, why she was always angry and frustrated. But I still didn’t understand why, the other day, when she had come home and found me and Rodolfo sitting on the stair-well right above the third floor, she had mumbled a “buenas” when I said “buenas tardes” to her, but started to insult Rodolfo. He said “Muy buenas tardes,” under his breath as she was walking past us. I didn’t understand why she turned around after having gone up a few more steps, and why she started insulting him and hitting him with a rolled up newspaper that was hiding a hammer inside. She called him a hijueputa and a maricón––some of the most common insults in San Salvador. I also didn’t understand why it was an insult to be the son of a prostitute, or to be homosexual. There were many things I didn’t understand yet, but I knew you were supposed to get angry if someone said that to you, and fight. Of course, Rodolfo didn’t fight. He was always nice, kind, and generous. I have always known him to be gentle, and never get into fights. He was 18 years old, and he was with me all the time. He always came to see me after school, and showed me his books of high school math, chemistry, and electronics. He taught me to use the sliding rule to make calculations, because calculators and computers had not been invented yet. I loved learning these things. I couldn’t wait to be in high school, where I could learn these advanced and exciting things, and not the boring things they insisted on teaching in the sixth grade.

I didn’t understand why she was angry at him. Why was she hitting him with a hammer inside a rolled up newspaper? Why was she calling him those names, and “dirty” as well? I thought later that perhaps she thought he had insulted her when she walked past her, or maybe she thought Rodolfo was one of the older boys circling her pretty daughter, Luz. He wasn’t. He didn’t seem interested in girls. Never had a girlfriend. He spent all his time with me. He picked me up at 5:30 a.m., because I liked attending the morning service at the christian church I had just joined when I went to see that strange group of religious people who had taken over an abandoned church in the Colonia Magisterial. It was a neighborhood designed only for teachers and their families, with apartments for sale that they could afford on their salaries. The church had been abandoned two years before, because the priest working with the teachers had been kidnapped by the Mano Blanca, one of the death squads committed to fighting terrorists and communists, and to kidnap and torture everyone who opposed the government or help the poor organize. The church building had been abandoned for a while now, and Rodolfo told me of this group of christians, “evangélicos they call themselves.” He told me they seemed different from Catholics. They really read the Bible, and they didn’t have priests, but called each other “brothers and sisters.” They seemed to have a good community that loved each other and Christ. They loved God so much that they came into the abandoned Catholic Church, after her priest had been kidnapped and his cadaver dumped in some hidden place, and proceeded to destroy all the statues of saints and virgins because they were not God. I wanted to go see this community that talked to God directly, without a priest or mass. So, he took me there. I was already fascinated with the Bible, which my father had taught me to read. They were discussing it and reading it together. They were all praying together, too, with fervor. When the moment came when the pastor asks if “anyone here present wants to take Jesus into his heart,” I raised my hand and everyone was happy for me and prayed for me with all their hands like antennae over me. Since that day, I started going to their service every morning at 5:30, which gave me enough time to get back home for a quick breakfast before going to school. Rodolfo would pick me up in the morning, take me to the service, and wait for me outside. He never went in. In the afternoon, he would come after school and we would spend the afternoon together.

She shouldn’t have hit Rodolfo like that. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Luz was too young for him, and he didn’t even seem interested in getting a girlfriend. He had never had one. He wasn’t one of the older boys circling that pretty girl with the curious eyes and the bundle of precocious energy. Of course, I was interested, but I didn’t think at the time that any girl would want to kiss me. I had seen my face in the mirror while making kissing faces. I looked too comical with my lips pursed, and if I opened my mouth like I saw a guy do in a movie once to kiss a girl by putting his mouth around her lips, I looked even worse. No, there was no way any girl would kiss me if I looked like this. Besides, I was too short. Everyone said that, and I talked too funny and made everyone laugh when I said my name or any other word with the letter “R”. How could I ever kiss a girl, when they are all too tall for me? Even if they didn’t mind how I talked, they would laugh and run away, for sure, if they saw the face I saw in the mirror when trying to see how I’d look if I went for a kiss.

It wasn’t that I had crush on Luz, you see. She was very pretty, however, and she liked to kiss boys. Every one said that. I didn’t feel the pangs in the heart and the void spot in the stomach like I felt with Alba, the girl from Colonia Magisterial I had a crush on last year. Still, Luz was very pretty and it was a lot of fun when I played with her and the other boys. I actually had never seen her kissing anyone, but everyone said she did. I had also never seen her brother, Rafael, kiss any boys, but everyone said that he liked boys too, and that he was gay and that was why he spoke like a girl too.

When I told Rodolfo that I was thinking of asking Luz to be my girlfriend, he laughed at me and said I didn’t have the courage. That angered me, and I said I would prove him wrong. Toñito was there, too. He was a quiet boy who often came to my side of the neighborhood with Rodolfo. He would hang out with us, but was mostly very quiet and shy. I told them both that this day I would ask Luz if she would be my girlfriend. Rodolfo said I would chicken out, like I had chickened out with Alba the year before. I promised to myself I would do it, “no matter if she laughs at me or makes a face of disgust.” I would ask her, and prove to myself that I could do it. So, I went up to the apartment buildings, around building 7 where she often hanged out with her brother and the other kids.

There she was, talking fast next to her bycicle, giving commands to other boys and looking around as she always was, like attempting to drink in all the colors and shapes around her. I walked fast, ahead of Rodolfo and Toñito, and called her to come to me. I had to be assertive, so that the doubt and fear couldn’t crawl in. So that the thought of my kissing face in the mirror wouldn’t come up to remind me of how I never said anything to Alba the year before. I came up to her, and when she heard me call her name, Luz stopped what she was saying and ran to meet me, her curious eyes opening wide and fixating on me for a moment, to see what I had to say with such urgency. I was in the middle of asking her the question, if she wanted to be my girlfriend, when Rodolfo interrupted from behind me, and in a louder voice said: “He wants to make out with you.” A hint of anger or contempt in his voice. I didn’t finish my question. She looked up at Rodolfo, her attention going to the sudden and louder voice. Her mind, quick as her eyes, understood what Rodolfo was saying before I could say what I wanted to say. She then looked back at me, and asked, “Really?” With my mind now confused and scrambled, but the impulse that brought me there still carrying me through, I simply heard myself say, “Yes, I do.” She smiled, and looked to the side. It was a sweet smile. She quickly said, “Okay, meet me at seven on the stair-well.”

At seven, I arrived, and she was there. Her short dark hair fell over and below her ears, emphasizing and framing the features of her face under the dim lights of the evening. Her denim shorts had been replaced with a soft skirt with flowery design. Her freckled face, smiling mischiviously and happy. “Okay, like this…” she said, moving to the landing of the stair, one step below me. She had already calculated the maneuver that puzzled me. This way, she didn’t have to lean over too much to be able to kiss me. We were almost the same height, if I was standing a step above her. She put her arms on my shoulders, and I held her waist. My mind went silent, no more worries. My left hand went behind her light green t-shirt. She pulled me closer, still smiling. I didn’t purse my lips, or opened my mouth wide. She took over, and I absorbed everything. Her small chest pressed agains mine; and this sensation of firm breasts on me, I had never considered. Incredible as that was, even that evaporated when her lips touched mine. She parted my lips with the tip of her tongue, and started playing with mine. My eyes closed, like hers, and my hands went to rest on her back. She held my neck and touched my hair, and breathed into me a life I didn’t know. I smelled fire in her skin, and tasted nature in that kiss: the wet grass after the first rains of May, mixed with the fragrance of the many orchids in the Salvadorean fields. I thought for a moment that I was flying over the green and flowery cloud forests of El Salvador, when the taste of honey combined in our tongues. Electrical fluids coated my senses, and the smell of lighting opened my forehead. The sweet multiplicity of nature expanded the sense of taste and smell for the duration of that kiss. That kiss was no longer lips and tongue, but an expansion of nature itself within my frontal cortex.

I didn’t expect this much from a kiss. After that, it didn’t matter anymore that I was too short or too shy. It didn’t matter that kids and grown ups made fun of my speech. It didn’t matter, at all, that Rafael came downstairs and laughed hard at me standing on a step to reach her lips, or that she turned away embarrassed and laughing too. It didn’t matter that she ran away. It didn’t matter that the next day I found out that Toñito had met with her an hour later to get his first kiss too, a meeting instigated by Rodolfo after I had proven I did have to courage to ask a girl for a kiss. It didn’t matter if I thought we were going to be something couple like, but we weren’t. Yes, it all hurt, but it really did not matter anymore, not really. Just like it didn’t matter that a week later Rodolfo would try to wash the confidence and courage from me, by holding me upside down by my ankles over the railing of the fourth floor of building 7, to make me look at the drop four stories below, to make gravity pull out of me the joy and courage, to hear from me a shriek of terror. None of that mattered in the end, and not because I didn’t scream, and not because I held my terror inside until he put me back on my feet, and not because I summoned the rage and terror of ages within me and punched him hard on his testicles and saw him bend over and lose his breath. No. It all didn’t matter because I had been kissed, not just by a girl named Luz, but by her namesake within the thunderstorm, and the fullness of nature had truly penetrated my mind without regards for how small, insignificant, and petty I and all my people can be. And because in the presence of such a gift from the Goddess, all kisses became, after that, the first kiss into the santo sanctorum of Life; and that undeniable fact melts and and dissolves all other experiences unto the endless fields of Her bosom, eternally impregnated by the Light of the first rains of May.

Of gases, fire balls, and heavenly hearts.

The night before, I had come back from the fair with a bright blue ballon. The helium inside, I was told, was lighter than air and that made the balloon always want to elevate itself. I wondered how far it would go, if I wasn’t holding it down. I was thinking of finding out the next day, to let it go to heaven and see if it would find a resting place, or if it would keep going forever until it reached the stars.

Early in the morning, the routine noises of the house started as planned. First, my aunt Juanita got up to prepare breakfast. I heard all the familiar noises that come from her room and the kitchen, as it happens every morning. Normally, I woke up first, but I’d stay in bed looking at the ceiling and the sun beams that made dust particles dance to the noises outside. Usually, when my aunt got up to prepare breakfast, my little brother, Carlitos, would wake up and follow her into the kitchen. She would sit him on the counter from where, groggily sucking his thumb and twirling his hair with his other hand, he would watch her prepare the food in our old gas oven. That day, however, he stayed in bed for some reason. Later, he would tell me that someone told him to stay in bed sleeping longer. He thought it had been me, or perhaps some woman; the identity of the voice wasn’t clear, but he followed the advice and stayed in bed with my other brothers, my mom, and me.

I was looking at my ballon, now a little deflated. It was no longer resting on the ceiling. It was hanging low, now. What had happened to the gas inside? Why didn’t it make the balloon go up to the sky anymore? What made it happy to just float in the middle of the room? No, it didn’t seem happy. It seemed to just had given up; a blue balloon unable to go up to meet the greater blue sphere of the sky. It was not happy, it was resigned. Maybe I should have done it yesterday, let it go when I got the idea. But I liked feeling the pull from it. It was the first helium balloon I had ever seen in person. Before this, I had only seen them in cartoons. Now, I had one in my hand, in real life. It was really blue and it really floated. I had now a piece of fantasy in my hands, a fantasy I had assumed was only possible in television. This small sphere of blue in my hands had a gentle and steady pull to the sky. It wanted to fly up, just like I wanted to glide up to the heart of the sky. To be precise, it was not the flying that my balloon and I wanted. It was the being home, where the heart of me and the heart of sky are one and the same. Secretly, I wanted to see this little piece of heaven make it there. But I also wanted to feel that magical, gentle pull on my hand a while longer. It made me feel like I was floating a little. Its aspiration met mine, and if a television fantasy was now in my hands, perhaps the secret fantasy of my heart could also become real with this ballon.

This morning, however, it was just a blue ballon floating midway between the floor and the ceiling, and my thoughts contemplating the nature of hellium and gases. My mom woke up, asking me if I smelled gas. I couldn’t smell it, but I told her that perhaps it was the gas that had escaped from the balloon. I was seeing in my mind’s eye the subtle currents of gas fostering through tiny, tiny pores in the ballon. If the gas was lighter than air, then it was perhaps thinner and could pass through microscopic holes the air could not fit through.

Before I could speak this thought to my mother, a loud explosion shook the brick walls of the house. My mother ran out, I followed her. I saw Carlitos sitting up as I ran past him after my mom. Outside the master bedroom, a living room and a family room ended in a door to the right. This door led to the kitchen, which was a small enclosed room to the left, the bathroom in front of the door, and the patio and servant’s room to the right. This door to the back of the house was open now. Pedrito, an older second cousin staying with us was coming out to investigate the explosion. My mother was running towards the back door, screaming “Juanita! Juanita!” And from the frame of the door that led to the back of the house where the kitchen was was emerging a huge ball of fire, with the figure of a woman inside, shrieking and holding her arms out in a torturous plead for help and the end of unimaginable suffering.

My mother was aiming to embrace her, to smother the fire with her own body. Pedrito was moving to intercept my mother, to keep her from getting enflamed too. In a frozen moment of time, all three were heading towards each other. My aunt tripped, saving the other two from her fate when the flames started to subside after she fell and rolled.

Someone had left the kitchen’s gas tank open, and the brick walls of the tiny kitchen room had been holding the gas inside, waiting for a match to strike. I didn’t know then that these were different gases, I only thought that the gas was taking my balloon to the sky and my aunt to a fiery death.

She didn’t die, however. My aunt was a single mom with two daughters. Ever since she was a little girl, her face had some kind of damage that made her mouth be on one side, and not centered like for most people. As a young woman, she saw in this a deformity that would forever impede her finding a partner. She told me once, long after this fire, that she went once to see a brujo, to ask for magic to release her of this deformity. Doctors couldn’t do anything at the time, and the brujo from Usulutan said he had the power to do that, but if he did, my aunt would never be happy. He said that it was better to stay with her face as it was. My aunt reluctantly agreed.

This day, however, and many more to follow were far from any happiness she hoped for her life. The recovery was more painful than anything I could imagine. She had burnt 85% of her skin. When I visited her, she would tell me of the treatment. They had to hang her body on straps, and several times a day a nurse would come in to scrub her body from the burnt and dead skin, until it was all raw flesh. Then, an antiseptic cream would be applied that brought the burning sensation all over, only slower and steadier this time. She would scream each time, of course, because there was nothing else she could do.

The images of that morning are unforgettable, of course. And the lessons of gasses that take blue spheres to heaven or small sparks to fiery explosions are still being assimilated. But the most decisive and everlasting impression was the whisper in my brother’s ear of an intelligence that guides our destiny, and the ferreous tenacity of spirit of my aunt, who showed the mettle of one who endures all and everything. To aspire to the heart of heaven is a good thing, but to make of that aspiration one that survives everything and continues to seek to the heights is indispensable. It is the proper act of a spirit that will never deflate to lie resigned in mediocrity, but will continue to seek––with arms extended through the fiery storm––the proper place of the soul in the silent center of the heart.

My tia Juanita endured. Survived everything. She is now in her 80’s, beautiful and alert, full of curiosity, laughter and kindness. Unknown to most people that know her, she is part of a group of healers in her church dedicated to this service, and her gift of healing is powerful, as is the light that radiates from her beautiful and happy face.

Mama Spider

It is said somewhere that the mother spider, when the hunting has not gone well even after building the perfect tapestry of a thick, sturdy, heavy and sticky cobweb, she still manages to feed her children. They wait, somewhere unseen and protected. She walks towards the center. She lays down. She wraps herself up with her own string. Once she is completely covered, the way she would bind a fly, she taps on her web. She taps a signal designed to tell the children that there is game. The tinny little children come running. They need to feed this night or they won’t survive. They come to the mother and they begin to devour her, not knowing it is their mother. Thinking it is just an insect, just another nurturing bundle, they open her up. They go inside her belly and eat her from the inside out, devouring her completely.

Her sacrifice allows the children to grow into adulthood, to live one more night so they can go and hunt. So they can go and have other little children who would devour their mother.

Mama spider. Mama spider.

Weaving and forming. Teaching and feeding.

Out of your bowels we ate.

Out of your spirit we grew;

to hunt one more day,

and tomorrow.

So was the spirit of my mother, even when I did not see her.

From the depth of her corpse, I grew and came out.

The ladies of fate always seemed to be weaving a strange web around my mother: strange happenings, magical, astonishing and weird. A teacher in a school for poor children, she took it upon herself to help a child who reminded her of my younger brother. She didn’t know why she felt compelled to take him under her wing, to buy him a pair of shoes, to bring groceries to his mother. It was pure compassion, or motherly love springing from unknown currents in her soul. She wanted to take care of him and protect him. She brought this little boy to play with us. We took an instant liking to him. I took him outside to play soccer, to meet my friends, to talk, to be one of us. With his confused eyes full of wonderment and restrained joy, this boy joined us for a moment in our lives. A few months later he disappeared from our lives. He became a ghost, a shadow, a memory––like so many people in El Salvador, never knowing why, where, or when they went.

Years later, my father was in exile. Death squads came after him, and he managed to escape. One day, my mother was coming out of the school for rich kids where she was also teaching (she always worked at a rich school for the money, and at a poor school for the government pension). She was about to get into her car, when two cars with tinted windows blocked her in front and behind, and men with dark glasses came to her with even darker motives. They told her, “Ma’am, you’re coming with us.”

Those simple words filled her spine with a chill. She knew what was coming next. She knew. She could almost experience the ride in the back of their car. She could almost feel the boots on her face. She could predict the raping and the flame. She knew the cutting of the nipples. She knew the breaking of the teeth. She knew of the brutal interrogation of “Where is he?,” “What else do you know?,” and “Where are the others?” She knew the longing for death. She knew it was all coming to an end. She knew what followed. That time line was flowing right in front of her, and she was just about to be carried away in its current.

Her body paralyzed, she couldn’t move. It was just the coldness of certain death for her. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t react.

She only could say, “Me?”

“Yes ma’am, you’re coming with us now.”

Once again she repeated, “Me?” and the “Come with us” was the only answer, with a hand grabbing her by one arm, leading her to a sequence of events that were long ago written, and nothing at this moment––nothing, no one––could come to her rescue.

She was in that space where we found ourselves so many times in that jungle, when reality had become so hard, so heavy, that no escape is possible. No light, no hope, no brilliance seemed to exist, just the pulling into heavy hardness. This was the harshness of reality. And here she was, knowing that all she could do now was to follow this thread.

At this moment, at this exact moment, the driver of the car in front comes out. Dark glasses. From some remote whisper of awareness, she felt she recognized him. One day, a year or two before this, she went to the house of the little boy she had taken under her nurturing love–because he looked like my brother perhaps, or compelled by unknown oceanic depths. She had come to see the mother of the little boy that day, a year or two ago. She brought the child’s mother some food, shoes, shirts, love and compassion. When she was leaving, the father was approaching the house. The father of the illegitimate boy, in a suit and dark glasses said to her “Ma’am, I know what you’ve been doing for my son and I want to thank you for everything. For the love you’ve given him.” It was a brief encounter. She left. He went. And here he was now, again, same dark glasses and suit, driving a car for men of money and death, looking at the woman that was about to die under torture. There he was, telling the other men: “That’s not her. We’ve got the wrong one. Lets go.”

They left, and the specter of death vanished, and the lightness of being filled the flesh of my mother; tears coming out, of pain and joy; but more than anything, tears for having recognized the silver and red threads of the tapestry being woven by fortune.

And, as she tells the tale, the magic of the Kindly Ladies becomes entrenched in our consciousness, and our words. And so the mother spider weaves a thread. A chance meeting one day, a voice heard another day… moving… changing… Creating a knot here, a thread there. And so it went, this tapestry of light. My mother, always silent; always absent; always inside her cocoon of happenings; always surrounding us as we devoured her. Always giving. Always threading. Whispering. Silent. But providing the legs and the thread and the moving.

 

http://thetelling.libsyn.com/the-kindly-ladies-mama-spiders-invisible-story

 

Rage, impotence, and despair.

She was youthful and strong, as her name implies. Her big smile and thick glasses seemed to radiate her mirth all over the lecture hall in our philosophy class. Bright and curious was her intellect, and from the first day of our college days we became part of a small but tight group of friends. Those were the times of fascination with Marx, Jung, Benedetti, and Ramakrishna; the times of walking about in sandals and native cotton shirts; the times of basketball hoops on Saturday morning; the times of beer and a slice of pizza; the times of listening to Silvio Rodriguez when listening to Silvio would get you killed. Those were the times of hope.

We had an intrinsic and thus unspoken trust in our integrity; and surrounded by war and torture, we acted as if we believed the times were changing. We saw the world and history as if we were sure any day now it was going to reflect what we felt in our bones ought to be.

Perhaps drunk with that idealism, she one day pulled Guillermo and me to the side. She did one thing you should never, ever do. She told us of her role in the rebellion. Yes, we were all on the same side, in mind and spirit. But to actually tell someone you were an active agent, that you were connected and knew people and took action, was a death wish. It was to rely too much on the loyalty of those who had not taken an oath. It was to rely on their presence of mind, their integrity, and their ability to keep silence. It was to risk your life to loose lips, fear, torture, and changes of heart.

“I’m putting my life in your hands by telling you this,” she told us. So I did the one thing you should never, ever do if it is not absolutely necessary. I told her what I could never tell anyone, not even friends, family, teachers, or lovers. I told her of my involvement, so that my life would also be in her hands.

It never crossed my mind that she would betray me, or I her. Neither ever thought Guillermo would ever do anything to put anyone else at risk either.

We never did. What I didn’t suspect was the depth of her nobility.

After, came the time of deep peril, and the years of exile. A gulf of time and experiences later, after not seeing any of them for years, I was sitting with Guillermo with pizza and beer between us. He told me then of the time, after I had seemed to dissolve into the obscure exile outside, when he was walking the streets of San Salvador with her and another poet of the old gang. I could only imagine the laughter, the heartfelt joviality in every intellectual reference, the reminiscence and satire about all things current. I imagined in his account more of what I had missed for so long, until the army barricade stopped all. Then came the usual yet dreadful “show me your papers” and “what are you doing here?” and “where do you live?” Maybe they expected to be let go with just remnants of the brutal chill in their hearts, or perhaps they expected to be allowed to leave without a watch or a wallet.

But this time the servants of the oppressors wanted more. My male friends were made to sit on the sidewalk, machine guns pointing at them by men with cold in their eyes. She was taken behind the bushes, and the soldiers took turns raping her. His face was full of tears as he recalled the moment, and his impotence was a cold blade still lodged in his heart. They were both sitting, unable to do anything but cry as they heard one hijueputa after another violate our gentle friend, who had lived so happily for the good of others.

When they were done, they decided not to kill her, or any of them. They left them there, on the sidewalk, with their laughter and curious intellect forgotten. She approached them from the back. She saw them in tears of frustration, rage, and impotence. She knelt beside them and held them both, next to her bosom, and consoled them.

“She consoled us!

And seeing that scene in my minds eye I became awestruck by the force of her, whose love and force are so whole and all pervading that even across time and space continues to heal this heart of mine of all the rage, impotence, and despair.

I still cry. I still rage. Over this and many other things, I cry and rage. But I no longer despair because I always now feel the eternal embrace of Her, who nameless and formless has all names and all forms, and who one day took the form of my brave friend, whose name I swore once not to reveal, to console the hearts of the impotent men who were forced to watch the horror of man over the beauty of the Beloved.

The night was rich with secrets.

My dad gently shook my left shoulder, waking me up from a nice sleep. I was five years old. His face, close to mine.

“Do you want to help me?”

“Yes,” I instantly replied. What could be better? He was my hero. He was the strongest and wisest man in the whole world. When I was five, my father was not afraid of anyone. He could take anyone in a fight and drink with him later. He was always singing and smiling. Everyone I knew wanted to be around him, and everyone respected him. My father had seen the specter of the rivers, the Sihuanaba herself, and survived with his sanity. My father was strong and brave enough to fight a tiger and roll down a ravine in deathly embrace until the cold water of the river below separated them.  My father knew the secrets of the world and could speak with God, when I was five.

My father was fun, and I could be anyone with him. I could be Tarzan, Ultraman, and Batman when my father was home. When my dad was around, I was intelligent and fun. I was brave, because there was nothing to fear. The world was an open book to me, because he was the window to history, music, art, philosophy, poetry and religion. Nothing seemed impossible, and everything was good. When I was five, the world and I were good, noble, brave, and true–-like my father was.

To his question my response was unequivocal, a “yes” that emanates from the heart of everything I am. For the first time, my father was not there just to guide me and play with me. Now, I also felt part of his world. I left for a moment my own, and entered this new universe. In this new and bigger world, he was no longer supreme and invulnerable. In his world, he had to hide, stalk, and hold the secrets of the night to protect them from the ravaging forces of the human world outside.

It was 3:00 a.m., and we got up with a huge ream of papers. We got into the car and drove around Santa Elena with the lights off. He gave clear instructions before opening the passenger’s window to let the chill and the silences of the night in. “Count to ten slowly in your mind, and every time you come to ten, throw a small stack of papers outside the car.” There. That was my job. It was simple, and fun. But more than fun, it was serious. It was deadly. It was my first conspiracy. It was the threshold into a larger world of secrets and intrigue. A world that would have the mayor chase my father out of town with a gun; that would send their army to look for secret rooms in my grandma’s house; that would chase two Cubans jumping out of the window while riding a motorcycle, from a house my father was renting to them; that would bring many, many encounters with death for my entire family.

In this bigger world, my father was running for the office of governor for the progressive party, and while seeking that office was perfectly legal, it would get him killed by the ruling party––a party that never lost any elections because they would cut your fingers, rape your wife, or massacre your priest to stay in power. In this world, my father had to hide in order to do what was right. He was part of a vast conspiracy to subvert the power structures of the world. He was working with the guerrillas, the muchachos, to make a just and sane world.

Later, he would tell me about the struggle and the thirst for justice. He would tell me about the injustices of the holders of economic and political power, and the heroes that gave their lives fighting the good fight. Later, I would see him cry while burning the diary of Che Guevara, and I would listen to the secret history of the world. He, my hero, would tell me of his heroes: Camilo Torres, Fidel Castro, and Jesus of Nazareth. I remember worrying that these stories meant that I was supposed to one day also take arms and kill for this utopia. The fear of death and torture would come much later, many times over. But the fear of killing people became present there, and I knew I never wanted to kill, but I wanted to work for this world. This seed of desire became a life-long answer to his question: “do you want to help me?” Because now it is no longer about helping him pass subversive propaganda, but help clarify his vision by discovering it within myself, and work in this vast conspiracy to make of this world the sacred kingdom we secretly know we can make.

The dark world outside the car brought in hints of future chills of death through the open window. It hid like an invisible wall the human world of conspiracies, power struggles, and crimes. But the shadows outside held much more than that. They held, in this larger world where my father was not God but just a man among many, the mysteries of realities beyond conventional reality. These shadows whispered to my unconscious that my father was vulnerable, and later I would come to understand that while he was a good boxer and outstanding arm wrestler, his real opponents were his thoughts; that the tiger he was fighting was his alcoholism and depression; that his heroic adventures were stories to entertain me, but hid in their shadows a soul struggling with insomnia and suicide, guilt and a clamor for freedom.

These struggles I would see him fight, and win as in his stories to his son. I saw him struggle with the demons of thought, jealousy, and belief. I saw him thoroughly defeat the tiger of despair and meaninglessness. In the end, it was the shadows and phantoms of his mind that proved the harder demons to cast out. True to his word, he proved every single story to be true, and every one of my thoughts about him as a five year old, have become justified now that I am a man in his fifties. The other ones, the ones I feared as a child, the brutal soldiers, I saw my father truly dispel them with one word. It was his own mind that brought the real enemy, and my father prevailed.

I was only five, and I had a full life ahead of me, there, in the darkness of a loud silence outside an open window. There, in the night, the shadows were pregnant with secrets. There would be a time for me to face the dark, a time for me to struggle and face. For now, at the age of five, at the threshold of time, all I have to do is breathe calmly, count to ten, and send printed papers out the window for the secret beings hiding in the shadows of the night.