Are the looks from strangers different this morning?
Is there another meaning behind the stares from locals as I stumble on the uneven sidewalk in Leon? Or is it just my imagination after the news this morning. The same courtesy still exists – the slight movement of a stranger to the side as we pass on the narrow sidewalks. The car at the intersection stops and waves me across the busy road. The kind cheesemaker who smiles and offers a taste from her selection. A few weeks ago she let me sample the cheeses in her shop until I found my favorite, queso fresca. Now I buy all our cheese from her.
But then I see the look, the one that sizes me up to see what I, the gringo, might have. I think it is just my imagination.
A BAG OF BLOODY CLOTHES
I’m only walking a few blocks down to the Pali to get ice cream. Vanilla, no chunks, for a man with a swollen face and bloody mouth.
This morning I was making crepes for breakfast when Rome, our kind host, came into the kitchen. In broken English said that there was a problem with Jonas, then she showed me his bloody clothes in a bag. Jonas is the German doctor in the room next to us doing his medical internship here. We have become friends, enjoyed many conversations, a few drinks, walks, and a trip to the beach together.
Roma said that Jonas was taken to the hospital. From her broken English and my limited Spanish, I was desperately trying to understand if Jonas was okay. The last I saw him was around 4 PM the previous day when he was leaving for his internship at the hospital, now it seems that he is a patient there.
From the mix of words in both languages I learned that Jonas got home around 2 AM this morning and paused outside the front door for a smoke. That’s when it happened.
Jonas recounted to us the events as he remembered them. He was sitting on the steps by the deserted street. A man on a bicycle appeared from the darkness. Stopping in front of Jonas the cyclist and asked him if he wanted marijuana.
“No,” said Jonas
The man asked him again. Jonas gave the same reply.
The next thing Jonas remembered was about an hour later, waking up in his bed with blood all over the sheets. The left side of his face was bleeding. He had an idea that he was in his room but somehow did not know that he was in Nicaragua. Things started to come back in bits and pieces but still, he did not know what happened.
Jonas got up and called on the hostel caretaker. Roma reported the incident to the police and accompanied Jonas to the hospital. He had a laceration on his upper lip and in his mouth that required stitches.
Later that morning we all watched the hostel surveillance video. It showed the cyclists stopping in front of Jonas. They appeared to be an exchanging a few words. Jonas was calmly seated while the stranger stood over him gesticulating. Then in one quick motion, he hit Jonas’ face with a right hook (Jonas remembered later that the man seemed to have had something metallic on his knuckles).
Jonas slumped sideways.
The man quickly rummaged through Jonas’ pockets and rode away. An iPhone and wallet were taken. A few seconds later, Jonas slowly got up, staggered around aimlessly, and then went into the hostel.
I have not felt unsafe in this city, but it did make me look around differently this morning.
At mid-day Jonas was back at our hostel but after only a short nap he emerged from his room dripping blood everywhere. Julia our other neighbor rushed him back to the hospital. The hospital put in five more stitches. Trin and I stayed behind to help with the cleanup. We were no longer hungry for lunch.
What drives a man to justify violence? To justify taking what someone else has for himself? I know this could happen in any city and the Nicaraguans here in Leon have been kind and courteous. I still love Leon and all it has to offer but days like today make me pause and think.
Next week is Christmas. May you enjoy your holidays and cherish your loved ones. In seconds things could change, cherish what you have now.