I wish this story wasn’t true. I wish I could step aside, forget it, make it go away or somehow fix it. But the world is not always pretty or neat and I’m not going to lie about that.
I’m in San Pedro, Guatemala in a hotel that I’ve stayed at before – been here a week this time. It’s been a couple of years and the staff has changed.
Pedro (irony, yes) seems to run the place now. He’s a friendly guy and we’ve had some rather silly conversations butchering each other’s language. I liked him.
Around five in the evening, he taps on my door. In Spanish he asks “would you like an 8-year-old girl tonight?”
Convinced that I obviously must have misunderstood, I shake my head and say “Sorry — what?” In English he replies –with the ease of obvious practice– “Do you want an 8-year-old girl tonight? Eight.”
Okay, I’m not a ‘tough guy’ — I haven’t been in a physical fight since I was twelve. There’s very little macho in my heart but I immediately want to end him.
We’re on the third floor and there is a very short railing. A kick, a shove or a simple bump of the shoulder would put him over the edge. There is a moment where that seems like the right call and there is a flash of him in my mind sprawled, broken and bleeding on the concrete walkway thirty feet below.
(Okay, it’s more than a ‘moment’. It’s been 24 hours and I still think it was a good idea.)
My jaw clenches, and I go red both in flesh and vision. I wish I could describe the emotions I feel but in a way I’m glad I can’t. Rage and sadness don’t seem adequate.
I look down and see that my hands are already balled into fists. Hard-wired reptilian brain stuff: fight or flight. My body has gone there, but my brain hasn’t caught up.
I look back up and he’s halfway down the stairs trailing “lo sientos”. Sorry, sorry, sorry…
So now I have to admit to myself, as much as I hate to, that I seriously and honestly considered killing a fellow human being.
And that the only thing that stopped me was fear of ending up in a Guatemalan prison…
And that there isn’t a damn thing I can do for her.