all the terrible things that might happen

The baby gorilla was going to be mine. I remember the sunlight streaming through the grass, catching the light in the eyes of this tiny new friend. The next thing I knew he was reaching out his arms to envelop me and I, overjoyed, embraced him and savored the warmth of his soft, leathery body. And then, to my dismay, I woke up.


I immediately wanted to return to that sleep, that beautiful place of respite, but I was awake -groggy- and was already reviewing the facts: The baby gorilla was not going to be mine. The baby gorilla did not exist. The tender hug hadn’t happened.


This was upsetting to me. I had needed that baby gorilla hug, and it wasn’t fair.


In the previous weeks my Facebook newsfeed had become increasingly vortex-like. Seventeen different articles, videos, and statuses reviewed the latest speeches of Donald Trump. Silent videos showed an audience clapping as he jabs his finger in the air, probably saying something like “that guy’s a loser!”.


He was a puzzle I couldn’t wrap my head around because he is so vile, so clearly manipulative and cruel and un-leader like, yet continued to be successful. In the past six months I had seen more Donald Trump news than I could handle, and I was simultaneously fascinated, baffled, and repulsed. Who are his supporters? How is it possible for a human to be so blatantly bad?


I was three weeks into managing a small private Spanish school and the responsibility haunted me every waking moment. I would awake thinking of all the terrible things that might happen while I wasn’t paying attention.


It was in this state of emotional weakness that I became incapable of clicking away from articles; I lost all self control, trapped in a doomsday cycle of circus-like politicians and opinions on them.

In between the Trump  articles came other news, more distressing still. Forty nine people were killed in a nightclub. A baby was dragged to his murky death-by-alligator. The news reviews all other alligator attacks in recent history (few) and mass shootings in America (many).


I couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything about it,  the information just scrolled before my eyes like movie credits on repeat, only much worse. What is happening to the families of those murdered in Florida? The parents of that child dragged away by the alligator? I thought of how close death lurks beneath the surface of our lives and my stomach churned.


Paranoia crept off the screen and into a permanent corner in my head. I thought of the lives of employees I was ruining by micromanaging them, or being negligent, or doing something else unintentional but irreversible. Soon students began to die in my imagination, one by one they would get run over by cars, murdered, and fall victim to deadly tropical viruses.


Another article I read once said that after a tragedy, we as a society develop an obsessive need to analyze every aspect of what happened as if time had stopped.  I wondered what happens to us, psychologically, now that there is a tragedy every day? Now that the daily horrors of life on earth are neatly packaged and delivered to our home page? What is the socially responsible amount of paying attention to what’s going on in the world?


One day I came down with a fever, and exhausted, returned home from work to fall into a delirious sleep at 7pm, fully clothed, open mouth drooling into my pillow. That night the Baby Gorilla Dream came to me, and I couldn’t get it out of my head ever since. The memory of holding his small leathery body haunted me like the ghost of a long lost friend.


After some reflection, I deduced that this was my psyche’s reincarnation of Harambe, the 400-pound gorilla from the Cincinnati Zoo that was killed by Zoo staff after a child fell into his enclosure. In my dream, Harambe got a second chance to be small and innocent and give hugs. This interpretation pleased me.


And so, when the weekend came and my fever subsided,  I decided to go outside.  I noticed an old woman carrying a bundle of flowers over her shoulder up the street. I sat in a panadería drinking coffee, the smell of hot bread wafting through the shop into the streets, where a young man walked with his mother towards church. It was a beautiful day.


At night Colombia won the soccer match against Peru, the city erupting in noise and light, and the night sky was illuminated  by multi-colored explosions of fireworks and men howling like monkeys in ecstasy.
I was alone in the darkness of my bedroom, trying to make peace with the noise to be able to sleep, looking up at the sky and concocting sweet dreams.


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