Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Waiting for A Bus - 6/15/11

I pulled out my water bottle about fifteen minutes after we'd left Tegucigalpa and offered him a sip. He'd looked kinda tense, distracted, and then took the bottle, drank, handed it back and pulled me in for a long kiss.
"Honey, you know, if anything ever happens - you know, with all this - you should totally pretend that you can't speak Spanish, and head for the U.S. Embassy, okay?
I laughed, waving the Spanish verb primer that I'd been perusing at him - "So, I shouldn't put this in the outer pocket of my pack?"
He leaned over and hugged me, staring out the window over my shoulder at the thick foliage passing by. "Nope, you should put that away! Really, we should be looking for blue macaws, they're all over the place around here!" He kissed me again for emphasis, so I giggled and shoved the little book in my daypack, down near the protein bars and the flotsam that doesn't get pulled out very often. We commenced staring out the window together, holding hands. The back seat of the old bus wasn't very comfortable, but at least we weren't sharing it with a bunch of chickens, school kids, or market produce, like some of the other passengers.

Then the bus stopped. Tree in the road. And the tree had been cut on purpose, I could tell. My heart lurched as a line of men in green uniforms - no insignia, I saw that too - stepped out of the trees with sub-automatics. I felt him stiffen next to me, take a shaky breath. Out of the corner of my eye, I could have sworn he was smiling for a second, just for a second.
Then raised voices in Spanish, a man on the bus ordering us out. Hands in the air. Men herded to one side of the bus, women to the other. Orders to produce passports. Shouting from the men's side of the bus, and then a shot, then more shouting that quickly stopped. Dear god, we were the only gringos there - were they after us? We were being kidnapped? My hands started shaking as I handed over my passport to the armed teenager standing in front of me, and I looked at the ground and shook my head when he asked me my name in Spanish.
"I'm sorry - I don't speak Spanish", I whispered. Then louder, "No espanol".
I was surprised when he handed the passport back to me, but took it quickly and put it in my shirt pocket.
The women around me remained silent. I kept shaking, wondering what I'd see next, when I looked up from all those deliberately unpolished black leather boots lined in front of me.

Finally, our luggage was thrown off the bus into a pile, the tree was removed, the soldiers got on, and the bus took off. My boyfriend was gone. I listened to the Hondurans and Nicaraguans talking disgustedly as they sorted through the pile and started to disperse in ones and twos in every direction. One or two of the women came up to me and put their hands on my shoulder as I stared down the road, thinking furiously.....I made replies that I don't remember, thanks, I'm, really, I'm okay. Eventually, they all left, and I was still standing in the middle of the road, with my bright-red backpack. I tugged it over to the ditch, finally, and sat on it, still thinking.

We spent the last few weeks with Nicaraguan rebels. Campesinos, with patched, mismatched, pseudo-military uniforms and soft upland voices. Polite Spanish, almost old-fashioned. Corey was a stringer for the Tico Times in Costa Rica, and we were purportedly taking a vacation while he wrote a Pulitzer-worthy piece about the rebels. We'd only been dating for six months, but Corey convinced me to come along, as his cover for the trip.
Now he was gone, and all I could think about was his prescience beforehand. That fleeting smile. The fact that the soldiers all wore identical uniforms and new boots, and that teenager with the gun said his "s's" like "th's", and the other men had shouted and used ghetto slang. American ghetto slang. The guns were new.

Goddammit, somehow I knew that fucker was working for the CIA! I couldn't believe they'd left me behind, alive. Like hell I was going to an embassy.....I heard another diesel engine grinding down the road towards me through the thick trees. Stood up, pushed back my sleeve, stuck my thumb out, and waited.

No comments: