The Angel and The Devil

Since we are born, they say that on each of our shoulders reside two entities. On the right we have the Angel with pure white wings of feathers getting tickled by the wind.. and on the left we have the Devil with bat like covered wings of red skin and a pitchfork to pinch us anytime we disagree with him.

In my case, the two culprits treated me like a gluten for punishment!

It all started the moment I was born. They roll my mom in the maternity room where she is in the position and ready to have me spring out of her body, but there was a catch. I was refusing to come out and I was unreachable via prongs…

“Where was I?” – you might ask. Well, that’s a good question without knowing an additional fact. I was a tiny infant. Tiny enough to be compared to the largest Chihuahua…

Thus, C-section was required to bring me into this world. You’re not convinced that I am stubborn yet?

In my city, which goes by the name of Berat there is an old piece of architecture which is composed of mural art and a tall superstructure of a fountain. That is called the Bogova monument. Supposed to commemorate the natural drinking water source of Bogova. Basically there is this big circular water pan made of slick granite and in the middle there is a Greek styled column which extends upwards as much as 70 feet high and which is a key element when it comes to water circulation. For some reason the smart brain that designed the superstructure thought it would look cool to have it polished to the maximum slickness while they forgot that it would spend it’s entire life coexisting with water. The Democratic party took over after the fall of communism and having no idea what to do with a government post, they led the country’s infrastructure towards ruins. The rough hand of the elements did not exclude the Bogova monument, courtesy of the Mother Nature. It began to crack and leak water on the sides. It was that time when my mother and I went in the downtown area for a little summer afternoon stroll. She found a nice bench where she gave me some snacks to enjoy. Then the devil on my shoulder spoke to me.

“Look at the water. Go play,” he said. So I skid off the high bench that we were sitting and I went towards the fountain. I looked back once towards my mother and I exclaimed: “Look mama! Water!”

She looked at me and said: ‘don’t you dare ste…” ‘THUMP!!!’

Ouch! Oi! I fell into a pool of water and my clothes were soaking while my back was wet. It was the Angel standing on my other shoulder that did save me from slamming my head on the polished granite.

If you thought that was a one time incident, my dear reader you are completely wrong. At 9 years old, my neighborhood had a single mountain road. It curved a lot and was barely able to fit two cars side by side. It was that same road where I fractured my clavicle. As soon as I was done playing with little boys and girls in my neighborhood, I started running home. In front of me an unattended horse trotting with joy wherever he wanted to trot. Me trotting after horsey downhill. Around the bend there was this car coming uphill and in these situations I would usually grab the hand of an adult to feel protected. With no one else being around, the Devil on my left shoulder said to me: “Grab the horses tail.. The animal will comfort you.”

I might have pulled hard a little bit, cause the horse felt that. Gave me a double kick backwards. That kick lifted me a foot or two off the ground which made me drop in a hard body slam….

Gets even better. Around the age of 11, I moved in to my cousins’ apartment. It was in the main road and about 20 minutes to my school if I would walk, or 5 minutes if I would catch the public bus. I don’t usually hail a ride, unless it is an emergency, but when I do… disaster strikes.

That was about the time that my granny was still alive and because we had the balcony located into a higher level of the street, she stroke a deal with me.

“I will watch for the traffic from the balcony and you will pass only when I give you the sign,” she said full of grandmotherly love and care.

First day, I make it off the bus. Look at granny; smile and cross! My feet hug the hood of a Mercedes 240D. I walk home with my heart beating fast and blood frozen through my veins… My grandmother scolds me: “you do not cross without me giving you the sign. What would happen if we lose you? Do you think your mamma could take it?”

“I am sorry grandma!” I said as I hung my head and walked into my room sobbing in silence. When you love someone from your immediate family circles, you always break down. All the care and love in the world turns to swords of icicles when they scold you.

Tomorrow was a new day. Rinse and repeat…

Off the bus, smile, run… into the hood of a Fiat Punto this time…

“Listen son,” my grandma said. “Next time you do not cross the road anymore until there is your mother and I with you to pick you up.”

Told you ladies and gents. The Angel and the Devil both, keep using me as a gluten for punishment. Even to this day. Even in the United States.

Around September of the year 2010, I was biking to go to work at the Dedham Stop and Shop when, as I am speeding on the sidewalk and I was trying to merge with the traffic of cars, the Devil spoke.

“Bad asses do not slow down. They look back and merge.” Following the directions of the hot chili pepper representative from hell, I felt the back doors of a stationary truck slam on my face; the bike falls on the ground and my left shoulder did a 90 degrees inward rotation…

It was the Angel who actually advised me to put my helmet on. I had purchased a really cheap Schwinn branded helmet. Rarely put it on because from time to time the airflow would shatter the crap out of my eardrums with a windy whistle which was more like a static. But that day I was like: “I gotta wear this one.”

The grand finale. Well, I prefer to call it that cause it is the last major incident that I had with death so far in my 30 years of roaming this Earth. It was a cold Sunday afternoon on December, 09, 2012. I did my usual morning routine, had some lunch and then boarded the route 34E bus. Just like every millennial, I had the latest smartphone at the time (a piece of shit Virgin Mobile LG entry Android phone) and over head slung headphones. Total blockage of my world around me which led to me having zero to nothing situation awareness. All of a sudden I felt huge blows on top of my head. I punched the attacker blindly and I felt pinches on my left hand. A quick look revealed several cuts on my hand and sliced tendons. Then blood started pumping out of my head as it flowed downwards. It began to cover my eyes and trickle inside my mouth. Watching my own blood pooling on the floor, I was convinced to believe that this was it. There was no turning back, and I was only wishing to have a chance to say my goodbyes to my family and friends. A 15 minute ride in the ambulance later, I found myself in my birth uniform at Brigham and Women’s in Jamaica Plain.

I would like to thank the Angel on my right shoulder for keeping me alive and keeping me convinced that I would make it. Half way in the ambulance ride, an unexplainable calm washed over me. I was fierce and fearless. That feeling continues up to this day, five years later. I do not fear death. I do not fear knives or guns. When you go to the extremities that life has to offer, you become fierce. No fear of death. No fear of knives or guns. These situations release your inner beast. That doesn’t mean you become evil. That animal is your upgraded situation awareness. You smell trouble in the air before it even begins. Hitting the available pressure points on an assailant before the offending weapon comes out.

As a side note, I have been advised too many times to veer off the confrontation so “I can keep myself safe”. If someone gives me a hard time, I should sit and wait for the police to do their thing. They do not know, as they have not experienced what I have. You mind your own business; society is keen to put you down and intimidate you. Thus, I have come to realize that life is so much easier when the opponent is terrified of you. You play the right word game, keep the right stance and attitude and the most hardcore criminal will think twice about messing with you.

As a second side note, when I was accepted at Brigham and Women’s hospital, I noticed a huge gap in staff communication. Unsure if I was up to date with the Tetanus, one of the nurses loaded me up with alcohol. The second nurse then reported me to the Transit Police detective who was interviewing me, until she original nurse asked her if she had read my chart and then ushered her colleague out of the room. That was totally unacceptable!

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