Battlefield Samadhi

In Juan’s country the bullet was the ballot. In such a country,
an evening stroll could turn into an unsought adventure. He
was twenty then, and spent many hours roaming the streets—
seeking diversions, conversations, pretty girls. To walk
burned the inexhaustible energy and the restlessness of
youth.

The hot evening made the air stagnant. Juan headed for the
bay. There, even on the hottest day, a little breeze stirred
from the sea. Along the wide boulevard girding the shore
flocks of girls sauntered and ice-cream vendors pushed
colorful carts with tiny, merry bells.

As he turned a corner, he saw the wide plaza next to the
Presidential Palace. The sun had dipped behind the building,
but its glare still gave the sky a sultry blush. Idlers sat on
benches or stood among flowers and trees talking in small
groups.

From behind the Palace the sound of a shot came loud and dry,
but people ignored the noise. Then another and another rang.
Idlers stopped talking and looked around. Shots began crackling
like a storm of firecrackers. For anyone still believing the bad
muffler theory, the dry convulsive coughing of machine guns
killed such hope.

People ran, hid behind trees, took cover under benches, but
Juan, gripped by an overwhelming curiosity stood looking
toward the Palace. Flashes of light, followed by smoke puffs
drifted from some second floor windows. From where Juan
stood he didn’t see the attackers. Yet, flying pieces of stone
and dust erupted from the palace’s walls as the rebels fired
back.

His ennui vanished with the first shot. An intense alertness
descended over him. Every detail of the scene unfolding,
jumped at him with blinding vividness. He felt no fear the
thought that he could be struck by a bullet seemed
ridiculous.

The smell of gunpowder intoxicated him; the sound of battle,
like a symphony in which each instrument had its role the.
The crackling of pistols, the drum rolls of rifles, and the
constant rattling of machine guns struck him like an ode to death.

A bullet zipped above his head showering him with leaves,
another whacked the tree trunk next to his ear. The sheer force,
and awesome lethality of the impact sent a surge of joy through
his brain. What’s wrong with me? He asked.

For the first time, it hit him, that it wasn’t really Juan who was
acting this way. Someone else, someone who couldn’t care less
about Juan’s safety was at play here.

A young girl, still in a school uniform, crawled from under a bench
and ran across the plaza. She didn’t get far. Felled by a bullet, she
didn’t move. Only her school necktie stirred a little in the breeze
which now blew from the sea. A woman ran to her and was felled
by a bullet. She began to crawl toward the girl.

Juan walked toward the wounded girl without rushing, with the
flare and bravado of a young man on his way to ask a young
woman for a dance. He picked her up. The girl’s body was limp.
Her closed eyes didn’t flutter, her peaceful face was pale. Her
warm blood soaked his shirt. He gently placed her on the grass
behind a bench. He returned for the woman and she moaned
as he lifted her. He could see she had been shot through the
right knee, a piece of bone, startlingly white, protruded from
her wound.

“Is my daughter all right?” she asked.

Juan tried to answer, but he couldn’t talk. He realized that
whoever acted through him now, didn’t know how. He tried
again , but couldn’t. This should have alarmed him. Somehow
it didn’t. Everything appeared as it should be, just like in
dreams even the most bizarre events seemed normal.

After he lowered the woman next to her daughter, the firing
stopped. The silence struck Juan as odd, almost ominous. He
waited for the firing to resume, but it didn’t. People stood
looking around or ran away, others gathered by the wounded.
Juan felt a hand on his shoulder, “You are a very brave young
man.” said the man.

A woman kissed him on the cheek. “You are a hero.”

Juan didn’t want to hear such nonsense. He didn’t want to be
among them. He walked away fast, heading for the shore. Juan
longing to be alone with the presence. As he sat on a bench
facing the sea, the presence was vanishing, and the more he
tried to focus on it, the faster it faded.

Now, the wailing of ambulances and patrol cars filled the
evening. A military vehicle went by, its loudspeaker ordering
people to go home. Juan realized his blood soaked shirt could
get him arrested. He took it off and dropped it in the water.
The shirt floated, tinting the water pink; then a retreating
wave whisked it away.

Juan didn’t tell anyone about his experience. He felt strange
for days. Things looked odd, beautiful but alien. To be Juan,
also seemed a little odd. Then in a few days all of it faded and
became a memory. But Juan still didn’t tell anyone, until a
year later, when sitting next to a girl, the incense she
burned in her living room and the flicker of candles
brought it all back. Juan told her and she smiled, kissed
him, stood up, went to a bookcase and brought a small
book to him.

“For you. It’ll explain everything!” She handed him the book
with a smile.

He took the book and looked at the title, it read:
“The Bhagavad-Gita.”

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