Approximately 10pm, November 27 2014.
Emotions this acute should not be drawn out this long, they simply can’t it seems. But sadly they can, an entire existence can be squeezed into the space of a knife edge. That’s how we feel right now, as our bodies become a rubbish tip picked over by opportunists the air reeks of it, these vermin posing as people stink, a dusty unwashed smell is unavoidable and invasive. Are we going to die tonight? It’s that question that haunts us now, we can’t seem to get far enough away from it. What keeps this impossible feeling so alive and relevant is the numbing procession of codes, PINS and passwords we’re pouring forth in a procession of dehumanisation; it’s unavoidable, are we only alive to keep this flow of information going? In being pushed to the ground Charlie is hit in the head, the gun being the weapon of choice here delivering a judiciously chosen and unmistakable message. With wedding rings unceremoniously parted from our fingers we accept that nothing is sacred, not tonight.
Pushing aside the terror of that lingering question we are forced to think rapidly, in this whirlpool we banish fatalism to somehow embrace cooperation. Fighting trembling hands, insufficient light and language barriers we fumble our information out, retention of possessions loses all relevance, in truth, a numbness washes over the both of us. With time joining a long list of other usually basic perceptions in a distant unreachable ether, the activity around us subsides, was it five minutes or twenty? I really can’t say. We are thinking a little more clearly now, is it because we’re gaining some emotional control or was holding onto that haunting question for such a duration just impossible?
As the panting breaths squeezed out through a kind of muted moaning squeal gradually ebb to nothingness we are delivered into a slowly developing passivity. We’re left alone for the first time to slump cautiously into the small spaces of dirt that we now claim ownership over, leaves gather in all corners to begin the slow descent to compost. For the first time we are able to truly rationalise and think about the worst possibility and embrace a warmth that the possibility is now possibilities, a blessed plural. For now though this box is our home, crumbling brick encompasses our lives, a huge crack running floor to ceiling sits to my left with jagged exposed incompleteness all around telling a depressing tale.
Thinking about dying is a dread we are unable to retain for very long, it’s too severe. Of course it’s never far away, it hides around the dark corner of every thought we have, successfully forced away but never far enough to be forgotten. As we hear a car take off I’m strangely encouraged, it’s some type of development, we guess that they’re going to raid ATM’s. I have a sudden spike in my already peaking anxiety, one of my cards hadn’t been used on this whole trip, what if it doesn’t work here? What if they think I lied about the PIN? I wrestle with my panic, it feels like there’s only so much stress that can be felt leaving me more resigned than nervous. Emotions now seem irrational, forcing clarity through our clutching fingers faster than we can grab at it.
In the passing of time we are left alone more and more, we even chance small snippets of conversation, an anchor of sanity that we both cling to like life rafts of the Titanic. My head is swimming from the hits incurred but I keep it to myself, I can’t bare the thought of Charlie worrying for me right now. Charlie also apologises for driving the decision to take this trip, a guilt undeserved which I fear I fail to quell adequately. With exchanges of ‘I love you’ carrying the weight of solemn wedding vows and cautious assurances that we are physically ok we wrap ourselves in a verbal embrace. We’re emboldened by this communication and there’s never too desperate a time for comedy.
“The next sex we have is going to be the best ever”
To borrow from the great Thomas Jafferson: May we have the opportunity to hold this truth to be self evident. This one small line speaks as much for our more controlled mood as it does for the germinating seed of hope: simple uncomplicated hope. For the first time in the eternity of a small moment the struggle to keep calm and focus is pulled back from the brink, we are permitted the relief of thought. We even chance a touch, Charlie reaches out to touch my leg, this blissful act like fireworks is incomprehensibly immense. It’s also horrifying, thinking more clearly I fear that displayed affection cannot help us here, Peru is a strongly conservative society and being gay is not overly celebrated. As comforting as touch is we can’t risk it; sparing words and sound I whisper ‘don’t touch me’ a little too harshly. I instantly regret it. I quickly follow up with my explanation and hope for the world that Charlie understands. All I really want is to feel contact again, but comfort is for other people, not for us right now.
“Those who get kidnapped together, stay together”
I can’t help trying to lighten to mood. Letting go of any sense that we can really affect an outcome here, it’s into a quasi palliative mentality: be as comfortable as possible. We hear a phone ring, and through partial understanding we think that the money retrieval is going ok, further reason for optimism, the voices sound casual and happy. Having no idea or sense of time we conclude that we are here till midnight at least to allow for a second round of ATM withdrawals, we become those criminal profilers off crime shows. This exercise of ‘work out whats going on’ is a welcome focus, we allow ourselves to engage in short whispered discussions, piecing together a picture of what’s happening to us.
Although the unthinkable question is still in the air we manage to successfully banish it to a forgettable place for the most part. We have noticed a drastic change in approach to us, the unrestrained violence of before is replaced by a quite calculated kindness, blocks are even brought in for us to sit on. This can only be good, there’s no reason to extend kindness to dead people. Throughout this period we both begin to truly believe that we are more likely to get out of this than we are not, a tipping point in this trauma, another life raft in the churning ocean. The more we observe the more the image is painted that we’re going to get through this. But that question cannot be truly banished until we’re free, positivity comes with a catch it seems, generosity could be simply gaining passivity and it’s just impossible to know. Hope is such a strong emotion.
We are given our passports back, this is as puzzling as it is exciting. Our conversations take on a future tense, we now talk of what we’re going to do afterwards. Through relative calm two guys enter back into the room, this is not uncommon, they’re checking on us quite regularly, but this time Charlie is pulled to his feet. In an instant all of the calm I have managed to maintain threatens to crumble, ‘they’re taking him away’. In truth they’re just checking if he has anything more on him but I cannot help but think that he’s being taken away, and here I thought I was getting hold of myself. Control is mockingly shown as the thinnest of veils, possible isolation from Charlie is enough to create waves in my vision from stress I struggle to contain. It’s only for an instant but it’s enough to impart a grim reminder of my delicate vulnerability as we are held dangling from the precipice of sanity.
This story unfolds in uncatchable time, eternity in a moment, the universe drawn to a point. By the barest of margins we’re winning this battle, but what battle are we winning? We’re keeping our heads straight, the only battle we can perceive: we just hope that we’re playing the right game.
Part 3/4 published at 3pm (AEST)