Approximately Midnight 28th November 2014
And I thought whirlpools spiralled to the centre. Not this one, the chaotic mess we find ourselves in seems to be a constant, moving in some ways but the direction remains unknown, we’re just passengers here. The confusingly hopeful developments continue, we are brought some water, it looks to be our water bottle, a welcome generosity, our mouths are as dry as we can ever remember. As Charlie pulls a long drink a flash of concern floods me, drugging is all too common in South America so I refuse the water reluctantly. Paranoia is rife, I’m not urged to drink so we feel its safe, however I eye the bottle that has been left behind with some suspicion.
Another visit, another patchy interaction with our captors, they’re carrying the iPad and we can’t get anything of what they’re saying in rapid Spanish. These interactions are always frightening, the deliberately ever present handgun displayed with juvenile bravado as unsettling as it is infuriating. With our heads forced bowed we talk to the ground desperate to communicate correctly as I protect my very tender head fearful of another blow I might not be able to take. We regretfully say that we don’t understand, but this time we do. The demand echoes deeper than words can usually reach, this time in English.
“Are you gay?”
Punctuated by a disdainful jab of the knee into Charlie’s back we’re taut with a sudden paranoia that the relative peace we’ve discovered could be shattered into violence once more. We play dumb pretending to agree that we are just friends, it’s unclear how they have connected the dots but given access to all of our worldly possessions it wouldn’t be that hard, right now it’s also not important. With a small conversation between the captors it seems to be more of an opportunity to indulge in some fun than a risk to the civility; they’re definitely operating to a rehearsed plan. Through the hard fought clarity we have gained it seems that we are always just a breath away from a rapid descent into despair.
Another scare precedes another agonising wait, this yo-yo of uncertainty is as disorienting as it is distressing, the battle to stay focused is relentless in its presence. And on, the cycle continues; another visit, another wave of uncertainty. This incarnation lays out another development though, this time the Spanish being delivered is slower and meant for our understanding, the credit cards are ok. The wave of relief is physical, our bodies release the barest amount of tension as a hand is presented for us to shake. Reluctantly, tentatively we shake hands uncertain that this most universal of gestures is in fact what it appears to be, an agreement.
Comforted? No. Maybe it takes longer but Stockholm syndrome is visiting another victim tonight, there is no relief, there is no empathy, I think repeatedly about sadistic physical abuse with any one of these guys. Thoughts that would usually sicken me are now morbidly delicious, a fantasy circumstance of granted control as tasty as it is distant.
Alone again we cling to each others words for shared comfort. I should keep it to myself but I need consolation, I share with Charlie that the next half-hour is crunch time. They have all passwords, the cards work, we are no longer necessary. We both believe that we’re going to be ok but it is truly clear now that if something’s going to happen, it’s going to happen now. I didn’t think I could breath so little in thirty minutes. In this tense wait the open skies beam light inordinately at us. It’s a mockingly clear night, open space and escape extend mockingly overhead, celestial beauty pouring light down upon us.
With the wave of optimism gaining momentum we also connect another few layers to the story. The walls we’re in are open to the world, we suspect three or four guys are standing guard, a huge waste of manpower: eager to believe, we declare that we’re getting out tonight, this is not a long term location to hold someone. It’s clear also that they are waiting well outside, nearly ten metres away gauging from the voices. With the clear change in behaviour once we have arrived here it seems that they don’t personally like this, torment is not fun for them, maybe it is only about money after-all. This constant painting of a picture is not only a desperately needed point of focus, it’s a crucial weapon for us to navigate the murky waters of supportive behaviour. We’re playing a game and that game is to get out as uninjured as possible, and wits are the only asset we have.
With the well of positivity growing we’re thrown another surprising tid-bit, we’re out in thirty minutes. I hesitantly dare to confirm in Spanish that in thirty minutes we can walk? ‘One hour’ is the reply but who cares as any mention of freedom is a saviour; our conclusions seems to be running in parallel with the unfolding events and for the first time our realisations are happening before the outcome. The etherial hope takes shape, we are getting out of this. I peek outside at the silhouetted tree branched swaying so lethargically carefree, it’s a beautiful night outside.
This surreal nightmare appears to be condensing to a finite now, we’re given some local money and for about the fifth time we’re reminded, ‘No police, no hospital, no Huanchaco, go to Lima’ a routine we now know all too well. Always punctuated by that gun, that reminder, the confusion of positivity and nerves simultaneously assail us. Our face are held up to a light and we have our photos taken with the gun in front of our faces, ‘No police, no hospital, no Huanchaco, go to Lima’. This we can do. I reiterate, as I have all night that our only need is to return to Australia, a seemingly obvious acquiescence to the wishes. Does what we say really even matter?
Alone again the emotion is welling up, we both confide in each other our first slivers of relief. Charlie is sure that we’ll be taken somewhere else for release, right now I’m not so sure. With slowly clearing minds we are sure it’s approaching an hour from when we were informed that we’d be released. Our ragged nerves are well smothered by adrenaline at this point, we’re so awake it’s unbearable. Early in the night I had managed to shift my position to see the doorway and a large gap in the wall behind Charlie, a window to someones home was going to be there. I fear being moved and I fear that Charlie might be right, with time ticking I’m certain that we’re getting away, I just want them to leave, being moved again has so many variables, if they take us, where are they taking us?
I deny the inevitable and cling to fantasies of just being left behind, but deep down I know it’s not true. We are going back into that taxi and I know it, that scene of the melee, I steel myself for it, I await it, just one more spike in stress to bare. After running it through my mind and preparing for the mental battle the twilight delivers me a surprise, I hear a car. From the corner of my eye the window cavity I look up to slowly suffers an eclipse to blackness. It’s not the taxi, it’s a big vehicle, a truck? I was so steeled for one last trip, this development strips my preparation and throws me to the lions of exposed distress. Why not the cab, what does this mean, have all of our assumptions been wrong? After seemingly winning the battle against that unthinkable question for so long, it now hovers over us smiling the wicked grimace of a spiteful victor.
Part 4/4 published at 6pm (AEST)