My mother tells me that my younger sister has been beaten nearly to death by her drug-dealer boyfriend and is in the hospital. She goes on describing details [only now in writing this do I realize these details would not be out of place in the show I just watched]. He tried to strangle her three times and she blacked out each time. He tried to shoot her and, wrestling for the gun, she lacerated her hand on the gun-sight and needed 18 stitches. He tried to duct tape her. He broke the orbit of her left eye. Somewhere in the middle of all this he called his mother on his cell phone and said “She’s doing it again! She’s using that voodoo on me!”. He said to my sister, “This is never going to be over until I kill you.” She locked herself in her bathroom, and was able to break out the window and escape before he broke down the bathroom door. Neighbors took her to the hospital.
As my mother tells me these details I have a feeling in my solar plexus, as if I have to vomit, but the feeling is not in my stomach. Guttural, primal noises come out of me and I hold the phone away from mouth to protect my mother from the sounds. I move around the room blindly, not knowing where I want to go, wanting to collapse on the floor but needing to keep moving. I marvel at the purity of what I am feeling. All the while aware that my reaction can only add to my mother’s pain.
In the midst of all this the question comes back to me, but not in words, “Who am I?”. I am aware of my entire body, and of the room and the entire house around me, and the dark night beyond. Of my mother in the phone. I am holding the question, focusing the awareness, looking, looking, in deep inquiry into this eternal question of suffering. Buddha vowed not to get up from his seat until he answered that question.
I realize I have vowed not to stop looking. Because nothing else makes sense.