Sunday, March 17, 2013

Paying Dues

I've been taking a yijin class since November in the city of pearl milk tea (or I should say quality pearl milk tea), basically stretching tendons and muscles.  A TJ brother recommended it to me as he knew it helped someone with rheumatoid arthritis.  He told me this guy teaches out of his home during the day so it's mostly housewives and retired folks.

I do not know why but I did something I have never done before which is go into a strange man's house alone for the first introductory free private lesson.  I did do my Internet background search beforehand and scoped out the house.  It's a nice house in an upper middle class neighborhood with big windows viewable to the street.  One of the first things I noticed when he opened the door was that he was wearing a prominent cross around his neck.  The other impression was that he looked like a "lower class" Chinese person than I usually encounter in these settings but I did not feel at risk.  He has children including a fourteen year old daughter who has advanced math textbooks on the dining table and looks like your average high-achieving Asian kid.

Last week, he shared that he had been in prison for four years when he was "young" for getting in a fight and beating up another guy who eventually died of his injuries.  So this is the only person I know who has killed a person.  Of all the times, this is the one time for some reason I had gone alone to a strange man's house and it turns out he had killed a person violently.  He said he did not get convicted of murder, he was "not proud" of what he had done and has to live with it for the rest of his life, and he had paid his dues.

The news was strangely nonreactive for me and I just continued doing the exercises with the class while peacefully wondering if I would have to quit over this.  Suddenly the current TJ drama with my TJ teacher paled in comparison.  The teacher was the same person he was a minute ago.  Some of his students probably already knew but nobody seemed shocked.  Some go to the same church.  Others go to different churches.  The old Chinese ladies, people who could be my mom's friends, seem like they accept it and him, but I really doubt my mom would.  One lady commented that his demeanor and the way he speaks is so soft now.

He said he was "young", in his late twenties, I think.  Where I come from, I expect anyone older than five years old to understand the consequences of killing someone and anyone younger than five years old to be incapable of killing someone.  Someone in his late twenties has been an adult for a long time already.

He said he had "paid his dues".  When he got out of prison after four years, he really liked open space.  I thought, he lived a much better life during those four years than I have during the last seven.  I suffered a lot physically and mentally especially during the first several years, beyond the comprehension and imagination of anyone reading this blog and I haven't even written about the worst parts, and I don't think what I went through would be enough to "pay dues" for killing someone.  With the exception perhaps of guilt and prison abuse, being able to watch TV, read, take correspondence courses, and whatever one can do in prison sounds a hell of a lot nicer than how I spent the last seven years and I'm not paying dues for anything.

This coincidence makes it seem like the cosmos is presenting me with some sort of lesson.  What does it mean to forgive?  I'm not sure what, and I'm not sure what to think, but never go into a strange man's house alone is the simplest, and never meaning never.