Approximately 3am 29th Novmber 2014
Activity surrounds us, with heads covered we are brought to our feet. There is now no action to take, hope is the only straw to reach for in this desperate scramble. All of the willpower to maintain focus, all of the piecing together of the puzzle now seems trivial. We’re about to be delivered to our well rehearsed fate and nothing in the last however long makes a jot of difference.
I had a hand leading me and now it’s gone. I freeze, I know that sighting faces is a certain pathway to brutality. I have no idea where I am going, face covered I’m temporarily lost. Not sure of the right thing to do I wave my hand calmly in front of me and make small shuffling steps to where I think I am meant to go. I must avoid looking around and yet I can’t appear to be insolent, I attempt a middle ground. It seems to work, I’m gently tugged in the right direction and shoved into a vehicle, this is not the taxi. With Charlie beside me again we pass muted words of encouragement, even chancing a gentle squeeze on the leg. Although this is going along as expected the peak in anxiety is unavoidable. We have been doing so well to maintain focus and we are still, but it’s not an easy task.
This vehicle is bigger, cleaner and has soft new upholstery, we’re in a much nicer machine now, largely gone is the rank smell of violence we experienced earlier. Midway through the trip I feel something stab at my hand, the hand that was slammed into the door. I instantly recoil but am held firm; it doesn’t hurt, I’m being given something. The remaining credit cards, hope swells, confusion swirls and tears nearly well: nearly. The temptation to embrace relief is overwhelming but like the fear, we fight it off, now is not the time for emotion.
The road is bumpy as we travel for a short distance, who knows where in hell we are. The vehicle stops and the battle between control and anxiety rages still, we cannot lose it now. We’re out, we’re walking. This has to be the end, it has to, but what end? We’re going to be free, we must, repeated mantras rolling over inside me, the battering ram at the door is no longer fear but hope yet we must fight it off all the same.
My head still covered I am forced into a walk. I can’t see Charlie, I can’t see a thing, I just walk and focus on not tripping, anything to avoid commotion, we’re going to be ok. We’re going to survive, just make this all go smoothly, nothing to panic about. Insistent thoughts invade before the previous can dissolve, ideas tripping over each other in an exchange of thoughts that is just too fast to put into a coherent string.
“Just keep walking.”
The voice of an angel, my angel. Charlie is ahead of me and all I can think is that his voice is level, he’s not screaming and he’s confident enough to call an instruction quite loudly. Hard up under my arm I feel a jab, a bag is being tucked under my wing, I grasp it not for desire to retain a possession but to make no fuss. If Charlie is ahead and feels as though he can talk then that is where I am going, just don’t trip. My balance is a little hard to gather, the feeling of pressure on the left side of my head is immense but nothing is going to overcome me now, not after all this. In no time I’m beside Charlie and neither of us even need to say it, just keep walking. We chance a look ahead, a gun barrel straight lane flanked by an imposing brick wall on the right side and a trench on the left. Ahead a light, the irony is not lost.
With level strides we cary on for about 50m before we slow, still tight for words we launch into a hug. I await tears but we’re still infuriatingly not able. There is a still emptiness to this night that surrounds us, stillness with an all too sudden absence of smell and chaos. Deep orange incandescent lights dot our existence in mocking faux warmth marring the starry sky beyond, illuminating the dusty dirty tranquility we are delivered into. I now learn that on the march from the car Charlie had the gun to his back, his call coming soon after being pushed to freedom. It upsets me that in this most ebullient of circumstances we enforce restraint, we still have so much to do.
Casting our eyes about we realise that we’re in just about the most dodgy neighbourhood imaginable, dirt, litter and graffiti covered fences more akin to prisons encompass family homes and we are not the big fish in this pond; these walls mockingly remind us that we are on the wrong side of them. A quick discussion determines that we need to walk backwards; the road ahead looks like a path to nowhere and I’m sure a little part of us just needs to make a decision of our own, so backwards we go. Trying to determine the direction of the night time glow, presumably Trujillo, we navigate a few desperate looking streets. In any other time we’d be terrified for just being here but now there’s a sense of invulnerability as if we’ve had taken from us all that can be taken for one night.
Finding a sealed road we set off left, to Trujillo we hope and as it seems, a man, woman and a dog, standing on the second floor of a partially built house. The absurdity is not lost on us, we know how ridiculous we must look, but we really don’t care, they probably have a pretty good idea what has just happened anyway. Gladly the Spanish holds up and we have a fairly fluent conversation, and, Trujillo is exactly the opposite direction. We thank them for their help and set off in the direction of the highway. We realise that we may see police as well, we’ve heard sirens all night and many not far away, none of which seemed to cause any concern whatsoever to our captors, corrupt police? We decide that if we are stopped we must feign tourist ignorance and just get to Trujillo, the elaborateness of our capture well supporting the possibility of corrupt police, who knows who is involved.
Now on the main road we begin to walk. Trujillo is a long way but unsurprisingly a taxi is not an option. We walk, not yet able to entirely rejoice and embrace the atomic bomb of emotions just waiting for its chance to go off. We spy a bus, this will do. We flag it down but it’s not a passenger bus, it’s a corporate bus picking up night shift employees. It could be our pleads but I suspect that the driver took one look at our desperate attempts to look average and calm: we failed and we’re ushered onto the bus. Another passenger can clearly see our distress as I continue to hold a shirt to my head but I insist we’re ok, liberal splatters of blood over my clothing and head deliver the lie to my words. Our positivity is relative if not rational, we all know we’re anything but ok. I do venture to ask him the time, it’s 2:30am.
It shot by us in a confused moment but our raging battle has been for six hours. A sobering moment sweeps over us, the enormity of what we’ve just been through is still a flighty idea that we can’t entirely seize. We’re off the bus and thanking the driver, it’s three blocks to the Plaza de Armas, the main square of Trujillo and hopefully a hotel. In the dead of night we find a few scattered people in the plaza, a source of directions is all these other people are sadly reduced to in our minds. In luck we walk just to the next corner to find a posh hotel. Right now expensive means safe, just what we’re after.
As we pass from a night of dirty, smelly terror into the air conditioned shiny marble encrusted foyer our release is the definition of an endorphin rush. If the pearly gates of heaven were a real thing, they wouldn’t feel this good. There’s a short process of calling banks and changing some passwords, a distraction before the necessary. A shower has never felt so good. The stink, the insult begins to wash away with the scalding heat of purifying water. It’s close to 4am and sleep is not likely to visit us, but the plush pillow becomes not so much a luxury, it’s an anchor to normality, a token step in the journey back to ourselves.
And now, after a journey which seems too big for the time it was squeezed into; we finally allow ourselves an embrace with nothing in this universe to stop us. We have fought it for so long but now indeed is the time for emotion. We drink up the wanted human smell, an unspoken gift to each other to instantly erase the nights memories. Healing has just begun.
Those hours trapped,
In the minute rampant.
On stones scattered reckless,
Minutes build those bowers mighty.
Indeed we are trapped in a minute rampant. Those stones scattered reckless, all the tiny choices that brought us to that taxi, those that were meant to dissolve into nothingness, but they didn’t. That minute rampant has consumed six hours of our life with the many ahead seem just fuel for its inferno. We now have a bower mighty, a bower for two, a shape on our landscape that we will likely carry forever, will it corrupt us or will it be an experience on which we grow? Surely the latter. Rare is it to witness a minute rampant taking shape, so often only entering consciousness long after inception, bower already built for better or for worse. We witness it now in all its intensity just happy to have more hours to feed to the flame.
Special thanks to Ola and Piotr, AKA team Poland who were there for us when a friendly face, a word, a hug and a smile was worth more then they could ever know.