I hear him before I see him, even over Guatemalan banana vendors insisting diez por cinco quetzales, diez por cinco. I hear him moan and fall down the cement steps of the cantina: an indigenous young man in tattered jeans, with dusty black hair, and bloody gashes on his face and forearms. A curious crowd gathers around the spectacle. He rises from the ground bracing a wall. Women jump back and gasp, the girls giggle. He sways and collides with a pyramid of citrus; limes roll down the street.
I think to myself: He needs help. He is bleeding. I can hire a mototaxi to take us to the local clinic and hope it is open and there are staff. As the man approaches, the crowd steps back, leaving me in the open. I turn to search their faces for a confidant but find only smirks amused with the gringa.
Suddenly I am grabbed from behind in a stronghold. Muscular arms squeeze my body until I can hardly breathe or move. Then I smell liquor, and I see the blood on his arms, blood now smeared on my sweater and skin. He uses my body to support his own weight. I lift my eyes to the crowd to plead for help: some sneer, others are uneasy. I am on my own. My legs quiver.
Then all at once, he releases me, stumbles back, and staggers down the street. I catch my breath, still trembling, and look down at my sweater. I am covered in his blood: it stains my skin, so now I am obligated. But I do not follow him, and I do not move. He disappears into the crowded market.
I wander home past more cantinas, past men lying unconscious near broken glass bottles. I plan to soak my sweater in cold water to remove the blood, and for this I feel ashamed. But when I tell my friend the story, and she remarks perhaps I learned my lesson to not try to help the drunk people. I reply: on the contrary.