Are the looks different this morning from others on the street as I pass?
Are the locals looking at me differently this morning as I walk the streets of Leon? Or is it just my imagination after the news this morning. The same courtesy still exists – the slight move of a stranger to the side on narrow sidewalks to allow me to pass without stepping into the road. The car at the intersection that stops and waves me across the busy road. The kind cheese maker who waves and smiles. She let me sample the cheese in her shop until I found my favorite, queso fresca, so we now 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.
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 as I was making crepes for breakfast when Roma, our kind host, came into the kitchen and in broken English said that there was a problem with Jonas, then she showed me his bloody clothes in a bag. He is the German doctor in the room next to us doing his medical internship here. We have become friends and enjoyed many conversations, a few drinks, walks, and a trip to the beach together.
She said he was taken to the hospital. The last I saw him was around 4PM the previous day when he was leaving for the hospital. She said he got home around 2AM 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 it. He was sitting on the steps by the front door. From the deserted streets came a man on a bicycle. The man stopped in front of Jonas and asked him if he wanted marijuana. Jonas said no. 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.
He got up and called on the hostel caretaker. They reported the incident to the police and also went to the hospital. He had a laceration on his upper lip and in his mouth they had to put in stitches to close it up. Later that morning they watched the hostel surveillance video. It showed the man on the bicycle stopping in front of Jonas and there appeared to be an exchange of words. The man was standing in front of the seated Jonas, gesticulating, and then in a very quick motion he hit Jonas’ face with a right hook (Jonas remembered later that the man seemed to have had something metallic in 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 emerged from his room dripping blood everywhere. Julia our other neighbor rushed him back to the hospital. It turned out that there were not enough stitches so they had to put in five more stitches. We stayed behind to help with the clean up. 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 Nicas 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.
Merry Christmas!! May you all cherish your loved ones and know the reason we celebrate.