-You are so kind to me,- I said, my eyes tearing up a little.
“It’s because I am your friend.” That was all the justification Helinka needed to do these nice things, bringing me extra clothes while I was locked up. More than a year before, I’d been in a bus accident near Tamixco, and when I finally got to Mexico City, Helí had graciously welcomed me into her home and helped me redress my wounds. To her, it seemed a simple thing, but to me, in those delicate moments, it meant everything. I could meditate for months on what the word “friend” meant in such a person’s mouth.
“I couldn’t find any mushroom quesadillas, so I brought you alambre.” She revealed a styrofoam platter of grilled beef, melted cheese, roasted capsicum and onion.
-Thank you Helí… but… I don’t eat meat.-
“Since when? No matter, eat it anyway – it’s a special occasion.”
After three days straight of textured vegetable protein and irregular bowel movements, I figured she had a point, and I may as well take advantage of some real Mexican food while I had the opportunity.
-Helinka, I am very grateful.-
“I know, Kurt.”
In those days, I would sit in the courtyard, waiting and hoping that they would call “Australia” so I could go see the doctor, the legal clerk, get my fingerprints taken – anything to break the monotony of the day. The first couple of times I spoke to the embassy, I told them that things were good, focusing on the positives – at least I had beans and rice, and good company in the kind Sikhs, Muslims and central Americans I had met.
One day, when I got back, I talked to the guy from Medellín. He said that I should tell them that everything was terrible – many people from the US and Canada get out in just a couple of days because of that. The embassy comes by and collects them, he said. I remember looking at this man and wondering if I should take his advice. After a few weeks there, he often seemed quite bitter.
The danger of taking his advice was that if I complained about the state of things, the things I focused on would become more real for me. I thought that I could walk the line – just talking about some of the bad stuff that was happening – no exaggerating, no lies, just clear emphasis.
It took me nearly the entire day thinking about what was really bad to come up with a few things. If I hadn’t exerted so much effort, I’d have taken them in stride.
I told the consulate it wasn’t good – bad food, the TVP causing me to rise in the night to visit Mr. W.C., people unable to access their clothes causing unhygienic conditions, everyone with some minor illness, and the inability to receive phone calls. Of course, things were never perfect, but if you stay grateful you can quickly forget. Within a day, my nose was runny and I had a cough.
Years ago, when a bitcoin was first rushing towards $1.000, I sorely wondered why I hadn’t bought more when I had the opportunity. Why hadn’t I had the foresight to recognise that such a technology, which I knew would disrupt the banking system, would increase in price? Why didn’t I recognise the link between value and price? I calmed my mind, letting go of my regret, my desire, and thought all I have to do is “step” into the reality I deemed more agreeable. Moments passed in this subtle state, and when I opened my eyes, I knew that I had bought my first bitcoin at $10, and that my holdings had pushed my net worth to an all-time high. When I reflected on the shift, I didn’t know if I’d switched realities, or merely gained some valuable perspective, or if the two were indistinguishable.
In my dormitory in the Ixtapalapa Immigration Centre, lying on a thin mattress with a rolled up blanket for a pillow, I again quieted my mind, and I stepped into a new world – this world made anew. I discovered that I would have my freedom, a many-faceted freedom – to travel, to work, communicate, write, share, talk to my friends all over the world and so many other things, and access to whatever wealth for which I will still beneficiary. My payment was a simple thing – three days surroundedby razor wire. This was quite possibly the best deal I’d ever been offered in my life. I accepted.