Evil vs. the Angels of Stony Island
by Jim Heaney

I ENTERED SHEN WAH’S TEMPLE and knelt on an orange cushion. This small cement-block building held the key to holiness for me. Open floor-to-ceiling windows allowed sunlight to pour onto the interior walls; on the altar, in the midst of flowers freshly cut from Shen Wah’s own garden, sat a chubby, peaceful Buddha. I sat in a half-lotus and placed my open hands palms up on my thighs. Gazing at the Buddha, I exhaled Luisa’s physical appearance and my cravings, and inhaled the peace of the temple.
Shen Wah entered from rear vestibule, his yellow saffron robe barely touching his sandals. He stopped at the altar, bowed, and knelt facing the Buddha. He stretched his hands outward towards the Buddha, then spoke, his back still to me, his voice echoing slightly in the mostly empty room.
“How was your holiday season?” I inhaled quietly, then exhaled. “Brutal. My father got drunk and fought with me like it was 1967. I couldn’t sleep for days, and I continued the fight in my head for a week after the visit. I went to a psychiatrist, who said I showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress. He said the situation reminded him of what American prisoners of war went through in vietnam. They were abused by their captors but then bonded with them in order to survive. After they were released, they continued to relive the events, enveloped in a depression they couldn’t shake. He prescribed medication.” Shen Wah laughed.
“How did you respond?”
“I said, ‘Doctor, are you suggesting a traumatized memory is rebruised when the prisoner visits the jailer? And if I didn’t return to the prison cell, and replaced the old memories with new, positive ones, that would put me on the road to healing?’” Shen Wah smiled approvingly.
“What did the doctor say?” “He said, ‘But drugs are faster and easier!’ Isn’t that great?” Shen Wah shook his head sideways and walked hastily from the altar towards me.
“Jim, I’m glad you’re back in Acapulco. How long has it been?” We shook hands.
“Too long, my friend, too long,” I said.
“Where have you been? Tell me of your travels.” “I’ve been in the Caribbean.” “Not Jamaica, I hope.” Jamaica and I had a history.
“ya, but it’s too rough. I got in a poker game in Montego Bay. The locals tried to rob me and I, um, protested. It was a glorious brawl and the next morning the cops showed up and escorted me to the airport.” He smiled again.
“Meditate on your future.” I bowed to Shen Wah and faced the ocean down the hill and across the street. A blast of Pacific Gulf air warmed my face. I saw Mayan children in the white sand, jumping over patches of ocean-green seaweed as they threw a cracked yellow Frisbee. The strongest boy hurled it into the air; it swayed side to side as it hovered down to their outstretched hands. vacationers strolled all around them. I settled on this scene for my meditation and closed my eyes. When I opened them a few minutes later, I saw a tourist woman walking towards them. Suddenly a child’s foot snagged in the seaweed. He fell face first in the sand and grabbed his foot in pain. The woman stopped and looked down at the boy. She walked on about twenty feet and then looked back to see if he was okay. She stood still a moment, as if deciding what to do, then slowly walked back to the boy and spoke to the other children. Some of them ran towards the street.
“Shen Wah, do you happen to have a pair of binoculars?” He did. I focused them and saw the woman kneel to stroke the head of the child. She raised her face towards the hillside and gazed intently like a statue, as if looking for help to arrive. She had smooth jet-black hair that the breeze moved softly around her face, and big brown eyes, and red full lips. She wore a stylish black-and-brown one-piece bathing suit; the muscles in her long tanned legs were very well-defined. She stood, hands on hips, to greet a Mexican woman, probably the boy’s mother, who ran down from the street. I could see the Mexican woman helping the boy and profusely thanking the vacationer. The tourist opened her purse and gave the Mexican woman some money and pointed to the child’s feet. The Mexican woman nodded and she and her son hobbled up to the street.

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