Buddhism, and the Cosmic Cockroach of Divine Retribution…

img_0545Hollywood is not the glamour capital of the world, as many people imagine. In fact, it’s pretty slummy, though a vast improvement over a decade or two ago. Remember Kramer’s apartment building during his trip out west (actually just right across town) in the old Seinfeld TV show? Yep, like that (that dive goes for $100 a night, now, BTW, a sure sign of impending gentrification)…

So to see a cockroach or two in the Metro station at Hollywood and Vine is no surprise, especially considering the amount of fast food that gets tossed by the wayside by the area’s homeless, who are apparently equally bin-less, in mind if not in fact. But the elderly lady on the mezzanine level seems particularly entranced by the one she’s found trying to make a run for it, far out of his comfort zone down by the tracks, big and juicy, and slow on the getaway. Actually the lady’s probably younger than I, but you know…

So she’s got the sucker cockroach in her sights, and starts moving in for the kill, almost unhealthily obsessed, I’d say, foot dangling in mid-air like the Karate Kid in his signature swan song. But I may be over-sensitive since self-declaring myself as Buddhist and now foregoing the usual insect-slaps and toe-jam bug-splats that pass for normalcy in this life in this species in this world of patchwork cruelty and proxy game-work…

Why she sees this as her duty, rather than just picking up a piece of trash, and throwing it away, to assuage whatever vestigial guilt, is the stuff of psychoanalysis, so I just observe, lacking the motivation to intervene on this day of record-breaking heat. So she slams her foot down for the coup de grace, and I turn my head in disgust, and scurry away. I think I can even hear the juicy squuush of final execution, but that may just be my mind’s ear, hearing what it’s feeling, substituting imagination for the lack of investigation.

I do look back, though, for closure, I guess, and what I see is beyond belief. The old lady’s down! She’s down on the ground! She’s on the floor, that is, splayed out like a prize-fighter without a prize, and reputation at serious risk. I almost burst out laughing! The cockroach won! He slimed her! This is huge! What beautiful cosmic symmetry! There is some justice in the universe, after all…

Then I catch myself in mid-thought. My God, what am I thinking? There’s a lady, in pain, on the floor, a human being, and I’m skee-daddling away with a sh*t-eating grin on my chinny-chin-chin, like nobody’s bizniz and a head-start to elsewhere. So I turn around and go back. The roach is beyond help, at the center of a puddle, but the lady seems to be recovering, and nearly upright…

“Are you good?” No answer. “Is everything okay?” Still no answer. Maybe she’s Mexican. “Esta bien?” She’s walking toward me now…

“Wait a minute,” and I point to a cell-phone on the floor behind her and a plastic card behind that. So I pick up the card for her, while she fumbles with the phone, barely able to bend over, much less to get back up. But get back up she does, finally, and gives me my leave.

“Thank you, thank you, and God bless you for your help.”

So I give a brief nod and go on my merry way. But still I can’t help but take another look back. She’s bending her wracked frame over again, one more time, to pick up a dime, that apparently got lost in the shuffle—a dime. And that says more than I probably can, that this woman needs something so badly that she’ll risk what little remains of her precious health for such minuscule gains as a dime for her time, or the killing of a roach for the benefit of mankind…

It goes without saying that the roach was hurting no one, and had not invaded the nice lady’s space. If anything, it was HIS space. He was merely in the wrong time, and the wrong path, and so the world progresses, in fits and starts, small cruelties and major snafus, waiting for a better day and a down payment on the future…

But the moral of the story is that sometimes it’s better to just do nothing than to do the wrong thing, a fact most obvious with the faculty of human speech, talking sh*t, and scoring hits, and awaiting the repercussions. But if it’s not worth doing, then simply don’t do it. Or better yet, grab the cockroach gently by one of his hind legs (yes, he’ll squirm a bit, no problem), then take him to the nearest safe haven, probably down by the tracks, where his family awaits him, mouths open wide, out of sight, and out of mind…

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