A Light In The Jungle

Balas emerged slowly from his bed like every other day. It was about 6am, but no alarm went off. His tall, lean body guided him to the small enclosed shower of brisk cool water on what looked like a hot summer day. He quickly showered and shaved what few whiskers were bold enough to claim residence on his clean and radiant complexion.

His morning routine took little time. A bit of soap, a spot of deodorant, and a spritz of aftershave made him feel fresh and ready to greet the world. Only steps away lay his clothes for the day. Always jeans, and a clean and bright white shirt. Comfortable walking shoes a necessity for someone who lived on his feet all day. One last brush to his hair, an inspection of his dark colombian complexion .. less European than some and not so dark as others. Still his features hinted of a long family history of indigenous inhabitants.

He turned toward the door with a last look at the mirror that was his final inspection. Less a look at the surface, he saw his appearance, picked up the door key, and a little wad of money that was his travel money for the day and he picked up his bag turned to the door to join others in their usual commute to work. He locked the door behind him.

Bolas did not speak much. Not that he was quiet or even private. He enjoyed his friends, lived openly and contentedly at work and at play. But took his work seriously and loved considering his future. He boarded a bus toward the town center and though he worked at the barrio’s hospital, he went only so far as the bus station hub for a day in the hills where he would bring medical treatment to those with neither transport nor insurance. Twice every month he provided this service, alternating with another intern.

The best part of his possessions were stored in his bag. After three years in the hospital, it seemed to be all he needed in life. He was not one to cling to the past. His future was to be a full fledged doctor. Memories? They were meant to reside inside. Things to be divulged when moments called on them. He had very few photos, not even one of himself.

At the bus station he paid his fare for the day trip into the mountains to a small village of 20 homes and 3-4 times that many inhabitants. The needs there he knew would be everything from infected wounds and malnutrition to heart problems that would never be covered in a hospital environment.

Balas carried his bag on the bus with him and stowed it under his seat never far from his sight. Most of the passengers on this bus also boarded here. Few carried much more than himself for their long distance ride to family in mountain towns familiar with a much more rural form of transportation. Most passengers looked like they were returning home from a busy stay in the big city. Perhaps they were here to make official papers to register births or deaths, or a relative abroad had sent them a small token of aid.

The nearly full bus rumbled to a start and began it’s journey out of the tranquility of the beautiful town center of Medellin and after a one mile drive to the edge of the city turned sharply left into the hills and mountains that surrounded it. How close the mountains seemed. And how quickly the roads changed to winding paths known only to familiar travellers.

The bus bumped and rocked around sharp mountain turns. The thickening jungle reached further and further toward the center of the road blocking the greatest part of the natural light of the day. The dark uncertainty of other vehicles lay around every turn. Occasional openings reminded him of the blue skies over Medellin. Shifting bodies and baggage caused Balas to recheck the bag at his feet. Every kilometer further into the jungle the more valuable he felt … he knew he was all that linked rural locales to necessary medical sciences.

He looked around the bus. Small family groups in quiet conversation scattered everywhere. But none like this tranquil modest young man of 24 years. He continued looking out the window and hoped patiently for the final 10 km through the rollicking mountains.

Balas had made this same trip every two weeks for the past two years. It was voluntary work but it made a marked difference in paying his university debts. He lived cheaply. Partied on rare occasions. He loved going to football matches with his work companions. But this voluntary work permitted him to save nearly $4,000 in US money.

The trees of the jungle pressed more densely over the highway. Tree after tree was noticeably different from previous trips, almost making the trip unfamiliar. The jungle canopy, the density and color of the trees all made even the road feel different.

He turned again to the window beside him. “My whole life is changing” he thought. A poor abandoned baby left on the doorstep of a home, he depended on each acquaintance to make something of himself. Nothing lasted. “Who would believe that I could finish school and university!” In reality, he still had four more years of study before he celebrated. Until then, he was confident that he was the doctor to many communities of poor unattended families.

Suddenly with a lurch, the bus abruptly stopped and everyone lurched side to side. He regained his balance and looked about him to see that others were ok. Conversations rose loudly with many shouting to the driver: “What are you doing! You could have injured my daughter!” As calm returned once more to the passengers, the doors of the bus were opened. The barrel of a large guage weapon emerged, then the floppy brim of a camoflaged military hat, and finally, large dirty hands and belts of bullets.

“Everybody off the bus” the leader waved brazenly. Looking up and down the rows of passengers, taking in the possessions and status of each. The second soldier looked up the bus steps as though the lead man was the boss. As passengers disembarked, they referred a few individuals to separate in a different group. With bag in hand, Balas was one of those.

The passengers were guided into lines in the road beside the bus. Three more armed soldiers appeared to secure compliance and order. Naturally those in line grouped by familiarity with fellow passengers. Others formed groups more separate. The added soldiers forced passengers into tighter lines and prevented escape.

When the last of the passengers had left the bus, the two leaders surveyed the mass of people and ordered the three soldiers to search the bus.

Eventually a man emerged who appeared to be the commander. His voice assured and unemotional, he informed the passengers that they would be here several days. “Don’t do anything stupid“ he said and pointed the barrel of his gun directly at the head of young girl.

When the three guerillas had returned with the last of the baggage, the commander ordered that everyone be separated into groups of men and women. As they speedily attacked their task, they collected all objects of interest .. watches, wallets, bags, and small valuables. Everything was closely examined by the amateur jewelers. The jewelry, wallets and money went directly into a separate bag. Obviously, these held more immediate value.

The luggage, sight unseen, was loaded into a truck that had appeared secretly on the dark jungle road. Once all was stored for future consideration, passengers were told “Stay in line. Follow us. Do not be stupid.” With that the three guards pushed and shoved first the men down the isolated road into the dense jungle vegetation.

Balas had been manipulated in some way to the front of the line. The others followed reluctantly. They feared any more of the forest’s secrets as armed guards hit and pushed him forward. It was difficult to imagine the men and life stories that were hidden behind masks. Somehow, at 24 years old he was much younger than his new masters. However, the doctor felt a little responsible for each of the bus passengers, their destinies, their fears, their physical conditions.

It was a long walk. The truck gone ahead had unsuccessfully pressed down most of the overgrowth. It was definitely a road traffic used. When approaching a fork in the road, new guards advanced with guns raised. “Men left, women to the right.” Within seconds, Balas felt a very strong fear for what might happen to women and children unprotected now separated from their stronger husbands, friends or siblings. He realized he could not prevent attacks by armed guerrillas, but could only imagine the utter powerlessness they must be feeling.

The walk was very short now. Only the voices of the fighters now came from both roads. The voices grew quieter but still distinct in the silent forest. As the group came to a clearing, Balas saw how easily his life could be dispersed, and how difficult it would be for help find them. Help. The idea had barely entered his mind. So far he had only thought how they would help themselves.

The camp had several tents of various sizes. And a wooden shed. Passengers were imprisoned in the bigger tent full of cots and blankets. All were in their new home awaiting only to be informed of their fate. The guard who entered the bus, now entered the tent. With just a gesture, other guards moved quickly to each of the men putting plastic pulls on the clenched fists of each person. The zip of the cuffs was heard over and over again until the guards came to the end of the rows of cots.

For the first time it became clear that there were only nine men jailed. Balas estimated their ages 30-50. He figured they were doing local business or traveling between Medellin and Bogota for business. Perhaps some were in search of work. Now he saw that he was the youngest.

“We need to question each of you. We will not tolerate your lies or failure to cooperate with us. You will help us, or be executed. Your freedom depends on your cooperation.” As he spoke the guard at his shoulder looked up and down the lines, and stopped several times at Balas. They were strong men. Their voices intolerant. Not the kind of people Balas frequently met in Medellin or rural hospitals.

The guerrillas left the room for a smaller tent, leaving two men to guard the prisoners. Wallets were opened and examined for money, credit cards, bank cards, identification … anything that would suggest the net worth of a person. Once it has been determined, they returned to the larger tent, where the passengers were sitting on the edges of beds with hands cuffed together behind them.

“You! Come with me!” No doubt that was not a request. The older man in a light colored casual dress hurriedly got up and walked to where the guerrilla captain stood. The captain, his aide and the businessman disappeared almost as fast as the words were spoken. Everyone looked at each other. Some were concerned. Others bewildered. No one spoke. Fear was the only common denominator that everyone shared.

In the quietness one expected only to hear the loud voices of the guerrillas. In contrast, above the soft rustle of the wind and the birds, we heard the screams and sobs of women from somewhere beyond our reach. And then it stopped. Suddenly. The silence was shattered. A bullet barked uncomfortably close. The voice “I will not ask you again!” was definitely the captain. The screams that followed were punctuated by attempts to comply with the voice.

The guerrillas had discovered his employer, his home, his wife’s name and children. Not one of them would be safe unless he gave his bank account pin numbers, and gave U.S. $ 10,000 in Colombian pesos within three days in a specific place. His wife was notified by the businessman’s own cellphone. There was only one moment of interaction between them. And some concern about how he would rescue them.

Pushed into the tent, stumbling and crying, the business man covered his face as he returned to his bed. “Three days! Or this man is dead! “They stopped and examined the tent. “You!” and they selected another that looked like a businessman.

For hours this continued. From the rich to the most unlikely. No one heard the questioning. Only the sound of a gun shot, the roar of a threat. The demand for further information. And a sobbing, humiliated body lying on the floor in front of us.

As the forest grew dark, everyone wondered when would this end. There were three passengers not yet questioned. Balas was one of them. He prayed for morning. The guards arrived. They looked around again, “Balas! Now! “He got up and walked the 2 meters to the guards who seemed to lift him off the ground and take him by the elbows. It was dark. Where were they going. The wooden shed with a faint light that alone shone in the window. The door opened to show the captain and his aide. He was held in the air, and then thrown to the ground.

“Please, I have nothing. I’m just a young student who practices medicine. “You have more! We’ll tell you what you have”, said the still masked captain’s voice. “You have a mother. You have a bank. And you have work.” There was no point looking up, Balas knew there was nothing he could do. “And that is your name, Balas?”

A hand suddenly came down and grabbed his head by the hair. “What else you got?” His head was just inches from the dirt floor, he felt the cold metal silver barrel of a gun. They pressed it hard against the side of the head. He tried to see the gun, but was pushed down again hard against the floor. The weapon was still against him. “What do you think you will see, you stupid boy?” The aide grabbed his arm and rolled him on his back. He pulled Balas up and let him lean against the wall as he watched them dial his mother’s telephone. With the weapon against him, pointed at his forehead, he repeated the words they commanded.

“Mama, They’re going to kill me. We have to give them money mama. U.S. $4,000 in three days.” The Captain snatched the cell, while the aid again forced Balas into the ground. In his typical brusqueness, the captain demanded the money to be delivered to a city not far from her home. He has three days to die. “No, I can not take less. Sell what you must, or he dies!” From the prone position on the floor with the gun to his head, Balas knew that his mother did not have that money. He knew he had no more than three days old. And wept.

The aide was not sympathetic. There was a whispered conversation. Balas did not move. The aide’s rough hands hit his head. “Shut up!” “You are nothing. You are fucking worthless.” Hearing these words, Balas was slowly realizing that the two men were dropping their jeans. They lifted his aching body to a table, his hands still cuffed behind his back. The fear faded from his face. In its place, horror transformed him. An unimaginable torture. An unwanted pain. And then, with a final thrust from behind, a force so hard that the gun hurt his teeth, it was over. “Balas! You have no life! You have three days! You will never see your mother. Then you’re one of us.”

The gun fully accomplished its demand. Their voices certainly expressed their relentless determination. As the gun was removed, the pain did not leave. He slowly turned his head to the side. The two men had done their will. And within minutes, the two were gone. The room was locked. Balas fell asleep on the hard table in a dark shed.

Unable to rub the salt tears from his eyes, he could only continue to sob. He had gone from healer to patient, fearful of the physical terror of guerrilla force. What had he done? His mother would have to sell the house he grew up in to pay a ransom that would never secure his freedom.

Time stopped. Darkness and the continuous crying of women made him feel so numb and helpless that he could not bear the thought of what was happening in the rotten world around him. What time was it? Was it a whole night? The screaming did not stop, just changed pitch.

The chain on the door shook as a key found its way in the lock. The door opened and the guards entered. Once again the door closed. “Your mama says you can not pay!” “We will be paid!” the voice said menacingly.

Balas was grabbed by his shoulders from behind, his hands trapped beneath him. Hands, not his own, opened and dropped his jeans. “Hmmmm. This payment can be better than we thought.” He tore off Balas’ shirt and covered the table with it. With Balas again on his back, the aide grabbed the candle that lit the room. Hot wax burned a path from his stomach to his chest. Then changed direction. Each drop sought to find a more sensitive destination. The pain was unbearable. But a hand on his mouth prevented him from screaming. The intruder enjoyed inflicting such pain that he took off his mask while dropping his jeans.

Was this a vulgar attempt to make him feel naked and helpless before the world because he was the prisoner? There is nothing rational in the mind of an abusive personality he thought. His only salvation was in his acceptance and compliance with the powerful. He surrendered once again to the pain. How could he fight the driving force of the man behind him who would never allow him to forget.

“Tomorrow you will take us to the bank! Do not even think of being stupid!” With these words, the door opened and closed. The chains were locked again. Soon the night settled around him. Naked. In pain. Sick to his stomach.

Despite his discomfort and fear, the morning could not come fast enough. The idea of ​​going to the bank brought a sense of comfort and civil treatment. Well, at least he would be fully clothed and with the other waiting passengers.

The doors opened just as they had closed. With the sound of chains, the sound of the lock, and the creaking of the door. The captain stood there. Tall. Masked. Wide-eyed. “Release his hands! Dress him! Blindfold him! “He looked at his assistant with a look that said:” You!” And in the same breath, “Animal!” This was all Balas could see. And all he was going to see for the next hour. He dressed, nodded consent, and was blindfolded. His hands cuffed in front of him. Only his ears could tell the conditions of others.

It should have been anticipated. There was little heard from the women. Just chattering birds. Quiet commands and comments from the guerrillas, the creaking of invisible branches underfoot, everything was recognized. He imagined that it was early morning. Probably 5am. But, with so little sleep, in conditions so uncomfortable, he could not be sure.

His head was pushed down so he could get into a small car. Probably no more than two others and a driver. The captain’s voice in the front seat said he would only have a chance to withdraw all his money from the ATM. If it failed, there would be no need for him to worry any more about nightmares in the shed.

The conversations soon changed to the other prisoners. He sensed that each would be executed once the banks had been cleared and ransoms paid. He wondered if others had seen the faces of the guerrillas? If the poor had already been executed?

He was aware of being in town only because of the unusual stop and go of the car. The roads were better paved. The turns less dramatic. He remembered his only chance. And then the blindfold was released. Both he and the guard next to him climbed out of the car. A jacket covered his hand to hide his weapon. They were parked in front of the ATM. The walk was short. There was no one on the street. “All of it” murmured the guard. After the guard had inserted bank card, Balas entered his PIN number. He retrieved U.S. $4,000 in Colombian pesos which the happy guard immediately secured. Then he returned to the car with the receipt showing only minimal change was in the bank.

‘You’re a good boy. I’m sure we can work together, doctor!” The certainty in the voice of the tone of the captain, failed to pacify him. “Everything hangs on mama, my boy! If she delivers, you have a lifetime of opportunities.” Then as suddenly, as the car turned back from whence it came, he turned to the guard” Put the damned blinders on him, Maria!”

With the blindfold in place, and the jacket removed from covering his hands, Balas tried to settle in the seat. The guard next to him, a little annoyed at being barked at, shoved the hidden hand gun sharply into his ribs to remind him who was the boss. The weapon remained pressed tightly against him all the way back. Each bounce and turn only more painful.

Apparently they were back in camp. Voices said another prisoner was ready to be escorted to one of the various banks. The same driver and the same car would be used. The only indication that the passenger was there was when he hit his head against the car. It remained an almost impossible task to determine how long his own journey was from the table and back to the floor.

When the car pulled away, Balas knew he was being taken to the wood shed. Why? What made him the person marked for this form of torture, while others, supposedly, still shared each others company. At this point, he could again here crying women. But now the guerrilla harassment could be heard clearly, and it had became more impatient.

Now they were asking for more bank accounts of husbands and telefone numbers. There was no concern for either privacy or security. Only statements of satisfaction now. And the cries of other women later forced to watch the same fate.

The realization that there was a problem was not universally perceived. It was a text message for one to a friend in the United States, to another a friend in Medellin. It slowly became apparent there were no messages today for Balas. While he understood where he was, no one understood why he had not communicated with anyone.

This would soon change. A call to the cell phone of Balas’ mother immediately awakened everyone to the fact that she had been contacted to pay $ 4,000 in ransom. She wept profusely on the phone to please hear the news from his voice, of his fears, and his captors. Within an hour, a plan was conceived. She had already raised half the ransom by selling all the plumbing in her house. A mother of 80 years was willing to live without kitchen and bathroom to save the life of a child of 24 years old. The other 50% would come from the United States. Local police were secretly informed of the meeting. A friend in Medellin would receive the money and deliver it personally by motorcycle. From the moment he received the money, he would be 20 minutes late for delivery. Panic and fear were everywhere. A dark sense of humor was the only thing keeping hope alive in an arena full of impossibilities.

Time marked the distance. Telephone was the only way to close the distance with mama. In the afternoon of the third day she received another call from the guerrillas. “You got the money? We will not hesitate to kill him!” She promised the money and asked an additional 30 minutes for it to arrive. The house was darker than a typical home. No telephone wires or police facilities. There was no direct public access to the town. Again, the police were notified.

The guerrillas call came at 1:00pm. The money would be transferred at 2:00pm at the earliest. The motorcyclist had to get the money to travel from Medellin to Mama’s house (about 1.5 hours on mountain roads) and then go to the location turnover by 4:00pm.

In haste, the motorcycle sped down the road. It was not well marked. No obstructions. But the rise and the curves of the road were treacherous. The forest that constantly lined the road permitted some light. But somehow, this narrow piece of road, turning as it did, always allowed a narrow beam of light to guide the rider to his destination.

It was slow and painful to the rider. Every mile was a question time. What obstacles must still be overcome? Even when he reached his destination, Would mama get to the designated location on time? Will they really release Balas as promised?

Mama sat peacefully in the only chair left in a house of bare bones. The telephone beside her. There were no relatives to call. Nobody could offer any help more than she had already asked. It was not just that every heart feels the pain of a mother pondering the possibilities of all that mattered in life – her son. He was still a child. Still hoping to graduate. Working to bring life and light to others.

She wound the clock that sat by the telephone. The cyclist did not come for another 10 minutes at best. She rose slowly. There was nothing else to do in the room. She walked steadily, but slowly to the door of her son’s bedroom. It had never been changed. His bed waiting his tired body after long bus rides home. Memories flooded the room with distant football games, the gardener he had worked for, the doctor who mentored him, the priest who had supported. All were gone now, but the memories remained.

The metallic sound of coughing rose and fell silent again. Within seconds there was a knock at the door. Lifted by some indefatigable spirit, which led her to the door, she greeted the masked and helmeted cyclist as enthusiastically as her son’s dearest friend. She invited him to her poor home, she offered the only chair that remained, she accepted his warm and friendly words, she even shared a hug that was perhaps a little closer and a little longer than new friends normally share. He joked wryly, but laughter was good.

As she apologized for not having a cold drink for him after his long journey, Juan opened the curtain to allow more light into the room. There was not much light to find in this small community. Still a sliver of light drew its line across the floor. Juan. And mama. They were the only names needed.

Briefly they discussed the instructions and advice they were given. And then, in unison, they agreed it was time to go. Mama turned to close the door. She looked at the picture of the Sacred Heart. She followed the beam of light that led to the naked kitchen. She looked for a moment at the door of the bedroom ajar. And shut the door.

Climbing on the bike behind Juan, she grabbed his waist and pulled him close. Both leaned toward each other as the motorcycle slowly pulled away from the house. Both leaned forward as they drove into the future by an unknown path. While it may have come from any number of different locations, both held within them the hope that Balas was safe.

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A Little Too Much Partying

Every year hundreds of thousands flock there to celebrate the best of food, drink, music, and love. Weeks flow past and new faces arrive to replace the old and re-energize the locales. Not many linger long enough to discover the real secrets of the well-masqueraded streets and long-partied nights.

Joey was born into this party town. By the time he was old enough to express independence and demonstrate memory he was an active part of the town’s story. Five years old and he was already an insider and attraction. Novelty not age was all that mattered. His handler not only had his trust, he had the trust of his parents. There was a lot for an innocent to learn before he could truly be a money earner. His life began with private showings to local certified club members. Once satisfied (or bored) he graduated to one-on-one shows with other similar aged kids. You couldn’t be in the club without being certified, nor without introducing another new child. Some kids were introduced by family. Others had partial families or indebted families and made perfect inductees.

The hardest part of Joey’s life was following instructions. It was so natural for him to befriend the other boys. As he got older, he still felt like he was the survival teacher to each new comer. There was a lot of punishment for this kind of behavior. Members didn’t pay to watch affection. Toughness was key. Contrary to learning survival from the over protective elder, those who failed to show appropriate aggression were met with punishments so severe that only a bullet in the head could maintain the privacy of the club. Sometimes this required the participation of the elder kids.

For years Joey passed test after test humoring the animal in club member after club member with any number of young associates who never actually graduated. For eleven years Joey was groomed by members known and unknown. Once he was too old for the new kids, he was pushed out. But being outside did not mean forgotten.

It did not take long to discover that walking home from school he was not always alone. Older boys walked with him. Befriended him. They seemed to already know the way into his past. They were always tougher. Bigger. Better prepared for trouble. And never afraid to prove it. Joey was safe so long as he went along. But when he bucked them he was inviting the all familiar trouble he grew up knowing.

Even all-state and all-pro heroes were insiders in this outside world. At 16 years old a gun was not unfamiliar to Joey. What was new was being beating with it. Bruised bones, crushed independence, the life of the perpetual victim was not one to be forgotten. For five years Joey knew only how to satisfy every kind of need the local sport icon had. Even when complying he faced harsh punishment before the animal inside Marsh could be tamed.

Life was lived with an eye on staying in public spaces and avoiding privacy places. Watching over your shoulder, listening for specific vehicular sounds or voices. Yet, with every care being taken, private locked doors in public gas stations could not keep violence from catching up. Leaving town, private messages, secret messengers absolutely nothing protected Joey from Marsh knowing all that was necessary to intrude on the most reclusive hideaway.

How many times had Joey been to the hospital with blood stained clothes, a battered body, and internal injuries? How many stitches? How many repaired organs? How many drugs for anxiety? How many suicide watches? Even if Joey had used an alias for every occasion an ambulance driver, a hospital registrar, an emergency room nurse would recall the face, the drugs, and the injuries. Like a tattoo on a rock star Joey’s wounds were like birth marks to every attentive eye. Yet after weeks in the the hospital under suicide watch he would be released only to be back within two weeks more.

How can one not hide in a town with constantly changing faces? With so many potential clients and victims? With so much work and fun to be had? Yet, privacy was non-existent. Even when attempting to live in the hot light of constant company there was no place to hide. In private invitation only Facebook chat rooms Joey’s conversations were not only found, but trashed. His whereabouts, his friends, his confidents, discovered. For each attempt to extract himself he was punished more harshly.

Now with false ID, new address, and long weeks undercover he resurfaced to greet his true friends. Withdrawal from life, from life’s hardest experiences, were worse than drug withdrawal yet just as alive with physical anguish. Life had taught Joey one significant lesson. Those closest to you were your worst threats. Family was to be protected from the truth, yet family was not protecting him. Friends were his deepest need, yet one of them ceaselessly ratted on him, or infiltrated his circle. How do you confide the truth to doctors or psychologists, even to police when any one of them may have been members of the underground club that invented him.

A month had passed and he had avoided Marsh. The illusion of a smile began to cross his tired mouth. He avoided any and every civilized place. He lived in a borrowed truck that moved every day to a new location in the woods. His only friend, his pistol. He finally took the leap to stay with a friend. A huge vulnerable leap but it worked. The friendship and comraderie was a perfect fit. Who knows … was it the constant address? the cellphone? or another rat?

At 8pm while alone in the house, a knock on the door changed his world yet again. This time, because of his own choices, there were no witnesses. He was battered and victimized for hours. Then forced into Marsh’s truck and driven off to an even more secluded and private location. It took days to learn anything more of him. Until in a show of hubris, Marsh permitted Joey to make one email to 5 people. It was short and clear. I am safe. I am abused. I am hidden in the woods. I live with an electric collar on my neck until my daily abuse. Don’t try to find me, or call anyone.

How many days could this go on. Marsh was not unemployed. He was well known. Honored. Respected. Like a story from Criminal Minds those closest searched their minds for clues. An animal with a cabin in the woods, a job in the city. A truck known by all. Could simply come and go without notice.

It was only days, but it seemed like weeks. Joey could be the most ultimate of victims at any moment. All it would take is Marsh needing to go to work and no confidence in the secret arrangements. Once again Joey was beaten nearly senseless. Victimized and sodomized as though for the last time. Dumped into Marsh’s truck and driven to yet a new obscure location, and dumped handcuffed to a tree for the last hazy moments of life.

Only for a psychic who “saw” the truck leave a cabin, and followed the roads to an obscure tree, Marsh would have resolved a life long problem for many. Instead, Joey was found and hospitalized.

So much of Joey’s story is known by video, correspondence, confidents. Yet the failure of the police to recognize a local hero on camera suggests the presence of police in this party town club. The failure of the FBI to even be aroused to interest lays to rest the ability of federal government to intervene in the lives of US citizens. Hospital records and eyewitnesses have done nothing to support mandatory reporting as a functional tool. Alas. Family itself was the ultimate abuser. Knowingly defending the abuser and faulting the abused.

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A Sad Song

Omar was 20 years old when he returned to the family home in Cali. Like the beloved and forgiven prodigal son he was received by some with great happiness and by others with a large amount of uncertainty. The events which had sent him away were gone and forgotten. But not the recollections of the belligerent, aggressive, assertive young man who challenged the family calm. The days that followed were not quite the same, an impending expectation constantly hovered over the house. His warm smile, open heart, and familial affections were valuable tools in pacifying those expectations. But who would say or do what to awaken the dormant lion.

Omar was genuinely happy to be home again. He had no money, no friend had been quick to offer him a night much less a week of refuge. He had lost much weight. Appearance alone suggested he had made attempts to change. But the loss of weight was merely his inability to eat regularly.

His clothes were the same but more ragged. He liked this look. His hair retained the ragged look of his clothes. And the one possession that remained his mark in life was still his guitar. A quick hot meal, an hour of warm welcomes, a shower and new bedroom was all it took for him to return to his old haunt – the 8:30 visit to the park.

Not too brightly polished, he pulled himself up on a rock near the university and began fiddling with the tuning of his guitar. It was not his own guitar. It was only a part of a bargain kit purchased by a friend years ago who could not play guitar. They were a group then. Strong wills prevented them from achieving their dreams of greatness. And soon, the one dream became many dreams and Omar found himself alone miles away in Bogota … strumming and singing for food and drink. Sometimes for a friendly warm night with a new friend.

Amazing how a smile and a joke, a song of life and confession of dreams could make almost anyone your friend. Making new friends had never been difficult for him. Making them last was a much bigger problem. For two years Omar sought to leave behind a life of harsh experiences. The brutal cost of a fouled marriage, a child that no father could resist, a separated wife working in the world of exhibition on camera, sucked all hope and familial aspiration from him. When the two parents were together, he was nothing like the free spirit attached to his guitar. Sullen, angry, and detached only the cuddles of a child of two years old could crack the calloused armor that surrounded him.

Atop his rock, he was a king at home with his court, strumming, humming, smiling, and joking until his audience could provide a burger, a beer, and if lucky one face had signaled a door was open to further opportunities.

Like buskers across the globe, his opening song full of positive hope and possible dreams charmed and lured locals and tourists. He sang of romantic relationships that touched and pulled on the heart strings of many. He told stories of loss. Hardships not his own. Of everyday people turning difficulties into opportunity. When he had enough money accumulated, and his new friends were enticed closer to the experience of life that promised hope and love, he collected all that he had and invited those closest to share his wealth over a simple meal and cheap boxes of red wine. The moments were scripted and flawless. Generosity among those with little was bound to secure friendship at least as long as the minstrel could sustain his charm.

Hard life? Not really. He had learned to give away everything to acquire the one thing he needed. Tomorrow was a new day. He could begin again with the freedom and freshness of new friends and new experiences. His collection of songs would last. His stories and experiences would never fail. And thus he found a way to detach from the disappointments of losing his one love, his daughter.

Some nights never lasted as long as others. Some did not offer the privacy and lasting warmth he had hoped for. On those nights he would retire to the family home. A little late. A little drunk. And a little frustrated. These were memorable nights to the entire family. Late hours with loud noises mixed poorly with the tired and the young. Any attempt at managing or channeling Omar’s energy positively were lost in bold, brazen words that hurt almost as much as his accidentally successful physical assaults.

Omar loved his child. He loved those friends who lasted those few hours. But had a difficult time with the familial expectations of constructive long-term relationships. His years of independence had broken down all sense of obligation to others. Even his humor was very short when he found the way home and wanted only to stumble into bed.

Few children grow up dreaming of mediocrity. Even the poorest hope for work and success. Small steps may be necessary but they never mark the place a child stops dreaming. Omar had dreams beyond imagination. He knew. He knew he was good at his craft. That others wanted his woven stories of song and prose that related to their own lives. He knew he loved music and would be the best, even if he had never studied music.

In truth, he had never studied much. He was not an only child, but thought he should have been. He was the eldest of three children of his mothers second husband. Yet he grew up like the two children of the first husband. Fatherless. A father was free to live and work when, how, and as often as he liked. And when he did not like, he could change every rule and recreate the rules of his world. Church vows enforced nothing. Government aid supported broken families. Fathers simply moved to a new location, found a new wife, and like a man in search of new work he embarked on a new experiment. Mama sought work in any way she could – though she never had the same education. Children left school to do anything conceivable to pay bills and find food. Reaching the age of 18 – 24 never meant adulthood. It meant more responsibilities to the family. Daughters … the first to leave school, thea first to look after siblings … rarely had the opportunity to prepare for any specialized workforce, and never learned anything positive about the men in their lives.

Omar’s eldest sister was the only child in the family of 5 children to receive a university education and a professional vocation. His only older brother had found employment, but without any education it was not going to lead to advancement. And so, with 5 years of work behind him, the only meaningful way to pay household bills was to rent a room to university students. His two younger sisters remained at home, one with her daughter, and one housekeeping. Their lives being spent waiting for any kind of man to support them and their families.

Whatever distinguished Omar and his siblings from the elder children, was clearly profound but never understood. Dreams or achievements? Work or ambition? Does everything come from the father? Does it leave when papa leaves? Why did all of the elder children find lasting if unprofitable employment? Why did none of the younger children ever try? Why did the government not distinguish between each and their potential? Why did the church require a vow that it would not enforce?

Did Omar become the father who preferred drink and independence to daily responsibility. Did he discard values because that were complications to a young life. What ever shaped Omar determined a path with unexplored options. Only his own energy would find a path to the future.

Professional opportunities would never be his fortune. But like everything in his life, opportunity found him. The family home was overcrowded with five siblings and one student renter. Mortgage payments were high on this small outdated home. And only two were working to pay mortgage, utilities, health insurance, motorcycle payments, travel, and food. The student invited a law professor to visit and consult with the family. It was not a long meeting, but one that would change many lives. Not only could a lawyer find new solutions, but an adult could bring new perspectives to family and group expenses.

Within only days Emerson had reconstructed the home mortgage payments with the agreement of the bank and had located a professional work opportunity for Omar that paid very well for a 20 year old with little education. With lower payments and a third income the house was prepared to begin planning on futures for everyone. Emerson had found a connection in the home that welcomed him professionally and personally. As none of the children had truly known a male parental figure in their lives, he represented the first positive role model to desire a place with them.

Omar was excited about the opportunity, though he did not like having to wear clean bright white shirts and hard shoes to work every day. In time, he found he could not work under the oversight of an office manager who observed every second of his routine. Nor did he like the “down-nose” looks of those he worked with. While he never had to work directly with any of these individuals and had a large amount of time outside of the office, the freedoms could not offset the imprisonment of routine.

It was only time that would reveal the dramatic extents of Omar’s discomfort. Although he reported to the Office Manager, he worked with all office management personnel in keeping the work routines of the designers productive. Sometimes delivering documents, other times running office errands. His social skills were his forte, but independence was perceived as nonconformity or noncooperation. Still, even this was not his fatal flaw.

After one month of service, a problem surfaced that was potentially criminal. Emerson was contacted to assist Omar in the problem, but discovered that the office was also contacting lawyers. A large sum of money, an entire payroll for the office had been delivered, marked into ledgers, and then gone missing. There was no evidence to implicate anyone. But only two persons could have been involved. In the waning hours of the night, Omar acknowledged to Emerson that he had indeed stolen the money but that it was now spent. The lack of work ethics, self-respect, and love of family had placed an honorable lawyer in the middle of a criminally prosecutable situation. With only an hour to act, Emerson reached an agreement with the design company to repay the entire sum and terminate Omar immediately with no criminal record.

Omar’s repentance was a quiet one that neither he nor Emerson would have wanted public. Yet the house to whom he was now committed was again left with only two incomes. Although it was a poor time for Omar to rely on his bully nature, it is what came naturally to him when he was frustrated. His siblings were on the verge of evicting him when a new opportunity emerged. A nationwide music competition based on local voting to select the finalists was announced. Not only was it something everyone knew would appeal to Omar, it was the only thing he talked about for weeks.

When Omar came home with an entire band kit of guitars and drums, speakers and microphones, every eye opened. Even Emerson was shocked to guess where the money had come from. Nothing but Omar could stand between himself and the verdict of his dream. The household would be pleased to see him go … for the second time. No one imagined he would be part of a solution even if he was to win the grand prize. But a life without him would be so much more calm.

It’s hard to go from busker to a nationally recognized player. But Omar had spent years doing his apprenticeship. He had learned the songs. The crowd wooing. All he needed was the acknowledgement of the crowds and the approval of the judges. Omar was noticed. He was invited to join the competition to award scholarships in music and recording contracts. Fully paid, the competitions covered 4 widely separated cities in one month. After a rocky start, Omar found his niche and rose to the top by warming the audiences like he had sitting on the rocks around the University. Every night he chose his song and practiced for hours. Every day he took the stage, met with judges, and warmed … no charmed his way to the top.

Omar survived every cut to reach the final three. Proud of his achievement, he telephoned his financial supporter to announce the good news and the nature of the offer made to him. There was no cash prize, no contract, no award of new instruments. But he was to be awarded a year of musical training with free room and board included. This was astounding news. News that should thrill almost anyone. But for some reason it did not thrill Omar.

He seemed to have a new dilemma. Like everything else in his world of dreams come true, there had to be an irrelevant crisis. And now the news that was already weeks old was broken … somewhere in his whirlwind nationwide tour he acquired a sexually transmitted disease. Not only acquired it, but through weeks of neglect now sat a very painful, unexplored distance from death. Blood? Discoloration? Swelling? More swelling? Unimaginable swelling? All of this and not one person was consulted. The telephone was not an opportunity to cheerlead. At long last, it was a plea for help.

Medical testing was not to diagnose the disease, it was to ascertain how vast was the problem. The disease had begun as a sexual one. Ignored, it was now closer to being one of the blood. After that, there would be no need for surgery. Once again the extroverted independent was dependent on others to secure assistance and secrecy. Once more, family was less informed or trusted than wealthy outsiders. Emerson negotiated acceptance of the prize on a deferred basis while securing travel and medical insurance to cover catastrophic surgery.

Not one person knew the whereabouts of Omar for the one month after his victorious adventure. No one heard the good news. And the whole time he was a short bus ride away in a hospital well known and visited by many of the household. The preliminary diagnosis called for the removal of one organ. This would have permitted a normal active life. In the end however, it was realized that the removal of two organs was necessary, and the replacement by false substitutes inevitable. A young man, full of life and frivolity was giving up the opportunity of a normal active future because of poor judgement and discretion.

By the time Omar was bold enough to surface at home he had come to new conclusions in his life. His life of independence was replaced by a life of secrecy. He dropped out of the free classes. But continued his relations with old band members. His success was known, but not rewarding. His secret was medically corrected, but not emotionally satisfying. His wife was remarried. His daughter living permanently beyond his reach. Emerson was outside of his thoughts. Everything in his life was replaced by a small one room apartment with a bed and a television. His band kit was distributed amongst band members to whom he owed money. His guitar survived, but his nights were more filled with gun fights than the Rattle and Hum of U2.

Some would wonder how does this boy of 20 fit into the scenario of an abused child. Many have suffered at the hands of someone like him. Many in fact did suffer at his hands. Yet so many found something in him that welcomed the assistance and support he wanted. For some, he was a user. For many others, he was a deprived child with no paternal role model or education throughout his life. And the only model he understood was exactly the model he replicated. Dreams and success followed by crisis. An utter inability to hold on to a sincere relationship.

There will never be that day when a child deserves to sacrifice his education for the loss of a deserting parent. There will never be a day when institutions of power, the government or the church, can substitute passive acceptance for the resulting problems of a life so inherited. The opportunities of success wasted by Omar were not results of no dream or desire. They were opportunities lost on misguided appetites and unfaithful relationships. Could education have changed this? Perhaps not by classwork. But by class oversight, quite probably.

In the end, we will call Omar abusive. Verbally and physically bullying. Perhaps even his promiscuity abused the dreams, lives, and health of many innocents. His behaviour certainly abused employers, family and friends who went beyond every extreme to create and fulfill his dreams. Perhaps every effort to help went astray. Perhaps they were never going to succeed. But not until we rescue the child can we create the adult. Anything otherwise is to surrender every child to abuses of every kind.

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More Than 2000 Children Are Murdered In The United States Every Single Day

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When All Else Fails …

It was 8 a.m. and already the street was a live and moving canopy of color meandering so slowly down and back. It was constantly pushing, crawling and pausing as if each muscle drew in energy for the next movement. Yet there was no beginning and no end and though Ren was an active participant in the process, it was a force of it’s own making. Bumped and jostled by others constantly, he was still alone in this field of tightly packed, loosely connected people.

At 16 years old Ren already felt like an old man who had witnessed lifetimes in only a couple of years. Although he had only the clothes he wore and the food he could pirate, he worked long night shifts for a place to sleep and the hope to soon rejoin his mother. While the streets were lined with sellers of produce, fish and fruit; while everything was performed tediously by hand by hundreds of laborers; Ren divided the pittance he earned and the few dollars he begged between food for mama and paying for his education. Many of the children in this street were brought into the world in poverty and hunger, Ren was sold into it.

Like the tongue of a patient snake, while two elderly women bartered with a fruit vender, Ren thrust forth his hand, grabbed a papaya and withdrew stealthily back into the crowd. As his fingers peeled away at the fruit, his eyes watched everywhere for both saints and sinners who cared little for his plight. “Was there peace in life?” he wondered. He had long since given up on justice. The money for which he was sold was also his ransom. Ren found his way through the milling crowd to a fountain near the cathedral where he could sit in the dust to finish his dinner.

“How many nights have I slept on these steps” he thought while watching priests and nuns, pilgrims and poor, prayerful and preyed upon disappear into the cathedral only to reappear later unchanged. How many times had he been kicked and prodded by the same visitors to disappear? “Blessed are the poor ..” he recited quietly. He paused. His mind wandered off and came back. “For you are my rock O Lord” he prayed. He knew, better than any, that trusting in men was worse than a proud but brittle reed.

Ren rose and returned to the many-colored robe that sprawled between himself and his employer’s home. She owned many homes. In many names. In each house was one room with computers and cameras every eight feet apart so that Ren and his child co-workers could feed the shallow appetites of the world’s masses. In another there was dorm space for enough for ten boys to sleep in shifts with a toilet off to the corner. A third room had little more than running water and an electric hot plate for the boys to heat what food they found or the employer would provide. The last room was that of the employer or one of her siblings who assisted in managing the family business.

There was nothing in his step that permitted or even suggested a joyful reunion with fond friends. The trek was not long, but slow. The friends were close, but not so friendly. The work was humiliating and the boss a penny-pinching, uncaring woman of callous expectation and brutal physical demeanor. More frequently than not Ren was rewarded with physical punishment sometimes administered by the boss’s brothers. For poor job performance, Ren was made to be the housekeeper and his bed was placed beside the toilet. Even the boys were encouraged to abuse him. “Blessed are the meek …” he recited like a mantra.

As he walked towards home, Ren thought of Thomas. He smiled. A big, endearing, heart-rending smile. His school friends knew nothing of his life and home. Still they helped him, some even fed him and permitted him to sleep in their home. Deprived of facts, they received everything good that resides in the soul of a man. He talked momentarily aloud, as though Thomas was beside him listening. Many nights after sharing a meal, Ren and Thomas went off to bed laughing at the silliest of things. They chatted together or with classmates through a computer belonging to Thomas’ father until weariness or mama drove them to bed.

“Remember the day ..” he began. He stopped midway through his conversation and unknowingly permitted himself the luxury of tears. They were brief and secret. But they burned on his cheeks as they welled in his eyes. “Why did you leave me, Thomas? Why did you take him from me?” He continued walking. Red eyed. He raised his hands and rubbed his eyes, blinked several times and continued quietly. “I am with you always …” he said. And to himself, he continued secretly “A friend is a friend for life.”

It was now 10 a.m. and Ren was growing weary. In only eight hours he would have to go back online or spend the night cleaning house. He turned away from the crowds onto a side street leading out of town into the unpoliced hillside. “They shall rise up with wings like eagles ..” he thought as he followed the road up and up into the hills. The chatter grew more distant, the colors more singularly verdant. Homes were more sparse, many were merely well-constructed straw roofs. “How lucky I am! My mama sacrificed everything to keep me in a good home and close to my school” he thought as he approached a gathering of cement-walled homes.

Faces were growing more familiar and simultaneously more cold. Ren reflected on Thomas and a small smile attempted to emerge. Two boys, age 16 and 19, turned their heads away as they walked past. Ren knew the older boy to be the thief who searched the house daily for savings or valuable purchases any of the boys were hiding. He felt no embarrassment or dismissal since he had learned to feel nothing in the house. A stoic smile remained on his lips as his mind transported him to classrooms and classmates squeezed into his routine when the boss permitted.

Weary and bored after eight numbing hours of pretended affection and pleasure, satisfied by the only meal he would have today, Ren entered the house that served as his home and work. He acknowledged the three boys working and exchanged passing words reassuring one of them he would not oversleep. He passed on to the dorm room and unrolled the mat that served as his bed. It would not take long for sleep to carry him away. The two boys who worked his shift were already asleep. His eyes closed and his mind took one last journey. “Good night mama. I won’t stop till I have the ransom money and prison fees. I miss you and love you so much.” Gradually sleep overcame him. The accumulated stresses of his young life slowed and faded into dreams. Dreams into realities. Realities into hope. And again, there was peace.

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The Mystery of Power

There are no accidents. No one to blame. Each of us has a path unknown to us, with options and crossroads. And always a destination. Like those ever more common graphs of word association, every road has a logical association to that place from whence we started.

As a child I was impressed by a single piece of furniture – a desk, full of power and secrets, with many drawers and hiding places. My imagination played games based on it. Usually, I was a teacher. And so, upon graduating university, I was a teacher.

I never had such a desk in the classroom. Or in my office. I always had students. Each was unique, each had preconceptions and distractions. It took a lot of imagination to understand and communicate to so many different minds. Like my childhood desk, I had to store something is so many secret drawers. And remember how to retrieve it later. But for all of my own work, it was the student who earned the grade.

Just as I had shifted from my imaginary game to teaching, I had shifted also from storing secrets in drawers to sharing them with young minds. No longer was the power in assigning grades, it was in discovering how each mind was locked or unlocked. The power was in the mystery itself.

It was not long before I discovered that there were classrooms and students everywhere. Each on a path like me, but heading in hundreds of new directions. Each was periodically at an intersection puzzling over uncertain destinations.

What is it that makes these intersections in our lives so clear? Why are we so aware of that moment? Of the limited number of choices? Of the destinies before us?

I found in teaching that the secret to learning was listening. Receiving. Welcoming. Questioning. Each student, each individual is on a different path and in a different place. It was never enough to give. To meet them I had to find them. Thus, I became a listener. I had the questions and not the answers. And in return, I found that power indeed lay in the mysteries. Not in my control, but in what others volunteered to me.

Hidden inside each drawer of my childhood desk were many different possibilities. There were soldiers of the chessboard, drawing curves and measuring devices, old letters with interesting handwriting and forgotten stamps, recipes for meals I don’t ever remember eating.

Now I find those drawers in my imagination full of the secrets, the mysteries, of hundreds of students. No longer do I collect the keys of power. I am honored to secure the confidences, the map coordinates, the crossroads of other lives. I still don’t understand why these moments are so clear to us. But at each moment, every student still asks me to listen, welcome, and accept.

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Un rayo de luz en la selva

Balas despertó temprano. Creo que fue 6am. Se lavó y se afeitó. Sus maletas y echó un vistazo alrededor del apartamento. Fue rápido, el apartamento era muy pequeño. Él echó un último vistazo en el espejo junto a la puerta. Su pelo negro bien peinado, su cara redondeada bien afeitado parecía a punto de ir a trabajar. Su ropa, sus jeans siempre, limpia y elegante camisa blanca. En el corto plazo serían cubiertos con hojas de médicos.

De hecho, no había mucho que mirar. La mayor parte de sus pertenencias se encontraban ahora en la bolsa. Después de tres años en el hospital, que había ahorrado bastante. Pero rara vez se lo gastaron en sí mismo. Memories? Ellos fueron almacenados en su interior. No en las fotos. Si hay alguna fotos, pertenecían a mamá. Ni siquiera una foto de ella.

Cuando se volvió desde el espejo hasta la puerta de la reflexión de una persona única en Colombia se volvió con él. Él no tenía esas características, exclusivamente europeo, que hace que cada aspecto ligeramente familiar. Probablemente alguien más familiar de lo que podía decir exactamente dónde en Colombia que nació. Eso es algo que aprendí en Irlanda, así que estoy seguro que hay gente así en Colombia.

Él cerró la puerta detrás de él y cerró con llave. La estación de autobuses de Medellín no estaba lejos, podía caminar esa distancia en el aire fresco de la mañana. No necesitaba ir al hospital hoy. En cambio, en este viernes por la mañana iría a las montañas a nivel local donde las aldeas había muchas necesidades y sin atención médica. Él llevaría al hospital para ellos.

Pagó su pasaje, sus efectos personales almacenados debajo del autobús y abordaron con tan solo su maletín de médico. La mayoría de los pasajeros abordaron también en Medellín. Llevaron a poco. Salvo los pocos que parecía destinado a grandes distancias. Y bajar del autobús se fue. A través de la mañana todavía la tranquilidad de un hermoso centro de Medellín. Fuera de la carretera al sur, hacia las carreteras de montaña, donde a su vez fuertemente este y rápidamente se envolvió en los pases, rebotes y vueltas de la mayoría de las carreteras de Colombia.

El autobús rebotó y se balanceó por la carretera de montaña retorcido. La espesa selva bloquearon una gran parte de la luz natural del día. Izquierda en torno a una vuelta. Ahora bien.Balas echó un vistazo a la bolsa a sus pies. Parecía más valiosa de lo que era. de cuero resistente con bucle maneja bien unidos y un cierre muy fuerte. El contenido … la tarifa estándar de todos los médicos visitando localidades rurales.

Hubo un poco de charla entre los pequeños grupos de familiares en el autobús. Pero no eran de esta tranquila, joven y modesto hombre de 24 años. Miró por la ventana y esperó pacientemente a que la parada todavía 10 km hasta la carretera de montaña.

Balas hubiera hecho este viaje cada segundo fin de semana desde hace dos años. Fue el trabajo voluntario que marcó la diferencia en el pago de sus deudas universitarias. Vivió buen precio. Fiesta en raras ocasiones. Me encantó el futbol los partidos con sus compañeros de trabajo. Pero había conseguido ahorrar 4.000 dólares EEUU por hacer este trabajo voluntario.

Los árboles de la selva espesa pasaba lentamente. Mientras observaba árbol después de árbol, que se quebró por qué nunca me resultaba familiar. Pero tanto iba a cambiar en dos semanas, incluso los rebotes en el camino se sentía distinta. Todo cambia. El pueblo, la densidad y el color de la selva, la sensación y el recodo del camino. Levantó la vista hacia el frente del autobús. Incluso el conductor era diferente.

Se volvió hacia la ventana lateral. “Toda mi vida es el cambio”, pensó. Un pobre huérfano bebé a domicilio, que dependen de cada conexión que podía hacer. Nunca duró. “¡Qué milagro que yo pudiera terminar la escuela y la universidad.” En realidad, él todavía tenía cuatro años más de estudios para ir a todas las bebidas alcohólicas. Sin embargo, se confió a ser el médico en muchas de estas comunidades inalcanzable, empobrecidos.

Dando vueltas a su vez de vuelta después de que volteado de lado a lado. De pronto, él se abalanzó casi cayéndose al suelo. Charla se había detenido brevemente para encender su voz al conductor: “¿Qué te pasa! Has daño a mi hija!” Como los pilotos se retiraron juntos y reiterada una vez más, las puertas del autobús se abrió y dos hombres enmascarados entraron en muy descolorido y desgastado uniforme militar. Lo primero que vieron fue el arma con las vistas de barriles amenaza grande, entonces el brote con montura de sombreros, y, finalmente, las manos sin guantes y revistas bala.

“Todo el mundo del autobús”, el líder empezó a ladrar. Ambos miró a su alrededor en el autobús por todo lo que parecía ser de valor. Se refirió a unas pocas personas y exigió que traen sus bolsas. Balas era uno de ellos.

Fuera de los autobuses de pasajeros se alineaban en el camino jirones delante del autobús. Su orden determinado por su familiaridad con los demás pasajeros. Algunos se pararon a distancia, otros en grupos muy apretados. Había otros tres soldados de mantenimiento de sus armas apuntando hacia los pasajeros asustados garantizar que ninguno corrió y fue nada oculto.

Cuando el último de los pasajeros se baje del autobús, los dos líderes se unieron a las masas y ordenó a los tres guardias para buscar el autobús y seguro todo el equipaje. Se volvió hacia los pasajeros y les informó de que estará aquí durante varios días. -No seas estúpido “, dijo el líder y apuntó con su arma directamente a la cabeza de una niña.

Cuando los tres guerrilleros habían regresado con el último de los equipajes, el líder ordenó que todos los que se separa en grupos de hombres y mujeres. Se mudaron a acelerar el proceso de separación y de tomar los objetos de interés … relojes, carteras, las bolsas de los pocos habían traído con ellos. Cada uno fue examinado como por joyeros formados.

Las joyas, carteras y el dinero fue directamente a una bolsa separada. Obviamente, estas tenían un valor más inmediato. El equipaje, la vista no se ven, se cargó en un camión que había aparecido en espera de un camino de la selva oscura. Una vez que todos se almacenan para su futuro examen, los pasajeros se les dijo “Manténgase en línea. Siga con nosotros. No seas estúpido.” Con que los tres guardias armados empujó y empujó a los primeros hombres por el camino aislado en la selva densa vegetación.

Balas había sido manipulado de alguna manera al frente de la línea. Los otros siguieron su ejemplo. No tenía tanto miedo de los secretos de la selva como lo era de los guardias armados que chocó y lo empujó hacia adelante. Era tan difícil imaginar a estos hombres y sus historias de vida oculta detrás de sus máscaras. De alguna manera, a los 24 años de edad se sentía mucho más joven que sus nuevos amos. Sin embargo, el médico le hizo sentirse un poco responsable de cada uno de los pasajeros, sus destinos, sus miedos, sus condiciones físicas.

No fue una larga caminata. El camión se había ido antes de presionar hacia abajo la mayor parte del crecimiento excesivo. Definitivamente fue un camino acostumbrado a mucho tráfico », pensó. Al acercarse a un tenedor en el camino, los guardias avanzaron con armas de fuego planteadas. “Los hombres a la izquierda, la mujer a la derecha.” En cuestión de segundos, sentí un miedo Balas muy fuerte para lo que pueda acontecer a las mujeres y los niños sin protección que ahora se separan de sus maridos, amigos o hermanos más fuertes. Él comprendió que no podía evitar los ataques de las guerrillas armadas, pero sólo podía imaginar la impotencia absoluta que debe estar sintiendo.

El paseo fue muy corto ahora. Sólo las voces de los guerrilleros se oyó de ambos caminos. Crecieron más tranquila pero todavía diferentes en la selva silenciosa. A medida que el cartel se acercó a un claro, vio lo poco y disperso de su vida sería, y lo difícil que sería para ayudar a encontrarlos. Ayuda. La idea había entrado apenas su mente. Hasta ahora sólo pensaba que iban a ayudarse a sí mismos.

La compensación había varias carpas de distintos tamaños. Y un cobertizo de madera. Los pasajeros fueron encarcelados llevó a la gran carpa llena de catres y cobijas. Cada estaba junto a su nueva casa a la espera de ser informados de sus destinos. El guardia que entró en el bus, ya entró en la tienda. Con sólo un gesto de él, los demás guardias se movieron con rapidez a los pasajeros procedentes de turismos de plástico poner los puños apretados pull-de cada persona. La postal de los puños se escuchó una y otra vez hasta que los guardias llegaron a la final de las filas de catres.

Por primera vez quedó claro que sólo había nueve hombres encarcelados. Balas estima sus edades 30 a 50. Se imaginó que estaban haciendo las empresas locales o de viaje entre Medellín y Bogotá por negocios. Tal vez algunos fueron en busca de trabajo. Ahora veía que él era el más joven.

“Necesitamos a la pregunta de cada uno de ustedes. No vamos a tolerar sus mentiras o falta de cooperación con nosotros. Usted nos ayudará, o si será ejecutado. Su libertad depende únicamente de su cooperación.” Mientras hablaba, la guardia en su hombro miró de arriba abajo las líneas, para luego detenerse varias veces en Balas. Eran hombres robustos. Sus voces intolerantes. ¿No es el tipo de gente Balas se han reunido con frecuencia en Medellín o en los hospitales rurales.

La guerrilla salió de la habitación para una tienda más pequeña, dejando a dos hombres para vigilar la tienda. Carteras fueron abiertos y examinados por el dinero, tarjetas de crédito, tarjetas bancarias, identificación … nada que sugiera que el patrimonio neto de una persona. Una vez que se ha determinado, regresaron a la tienda más grande, con pasajeros de un autobús sentados en los bordes de la cama con las manos esposadas juntas.

“Tú, ven conmigo!” No cabe duda de que no era una petición. El hombre mayor en un traje casual color luz a toda prisa se levantó y se dirigió a la puerta donde el capitán guerrillero estaba de pie. El capitán, su mano derecha, y el hombre de negocios desapareció casi tan rápido como las palabras habían sido pronunciadas. Todos se miraron el uno al otro. Algunos mostraron su preocupación. Otros desconcierto. Nadie hablaba. El miedo era el único denominador común, todos los compartidos.

En la tranquilidad que esperaba oír las voces fuertes de los guerrilleros. En cambio, el aumento por encima de la suave susurro del viento y los pájaros, hemos escuchado los gritos y los sollozos de las mujeres de algún lugar fuera de nuestro alcance. Y luego se detuvo. De repente. El silencio se hizo añicos. Una bala ladró inquietantemente cerca. La siguiente voz: “Yo no te preguntaré de nuevo!” fue sin duda el capitán. Los gritos que siguieron fueron interrumpidos por los intentos de cumplimiento de voz.

La guerrilla había descubierto su empleador, de su domicilio, nombre de su esposa y sus hijos. Ni un solo estaría a salvo a menos que él entregó su cuenta bancaria número de pines, y entregó 10.000 dólares EEUU en pesos colombianos plazo de tres días en un lugar específico. Su esposa fue notificada de una célula del propio hombre de negocios. Sólo hubo un momento de la interacción entre el hombre y su esposa. Y no hubo preocupación por cómo iba a encontrar el rescate.

Empuje en la tienda, tropezando y llorando aún, el hombre de negocios se tapó la cara cuando regresaba a su cuna. “Tres días! O este hombre está muerto!” Se detuvieron y se examinaron las tiendas de campaña. “¡Tú!” dijo que la selección de otro que se parecía a un hombre de negocios.

Durante horas se continúa haciendo. Partiendo de los ricos a los más probable. Nadie escuchó el interrogatorio. Sólo el sonido de un disparo de arma de fuego, el rugido de una amenaza. La demanda de información aún más. Y sollozando, el cuerpo humillado tirado al suelo frente a nosotros.

A medida que la selva se hacía más oscura, nos preguntamos ¿cuándo este fin. Había tres pasajeros dejó de ser interrogada. Balas era uno de ellos. Rezó para mañana. Los guardias llegaron. Miraron a su alrededor una vez más, “Bolas! Ahora!” Se levantó y caminó hacia los 2 metres de los guardias que le parecía de elevación desde el suelo y se lo llevan por los codos. Ya estaba oscuro. Cuando iba. El tinglado de madera, tenía una débil luz de la luz en la ventana solitaria. La puerta se abrió para mostrar el capitán y su ayuda. Estuvo detenido en el aire por momentos, y luego lo arrojaron al suelo.

“Por favor, no tengo nada. Yo sólo soy un joven estudiante que practica la medicina” se rascó. “Tiene más! Le diremos lo que tienes-dijo la voz del capitán todavía enmascarados. “Usted tiene mamá. Tienes banco. Y hay que trabajar”. No tenía sentido mirar hacia arriba, Balas ya sabía que no había nada que ver. “Y que forma nombre es Bolas?”

Una mano bajó y agarró la cabeza por el pelo. “¿Qué más tienes!” Con la cabeza a escasos centímetros del suelo sucio, sintió el cañón de plata metal frío de una pistola. Se presiona con fuerza contra el costado de la cabeza. Trató de ver el arma, pero fue empujado con fuerza contra el suelo. El arma sigue contra él. “¿Qué crees que podrás ver, muchacho estúpido?” La ayuda le agarró del brazo y rodó él a su espalda. Él tiró de él hacia arriba para dejar que apoyarse contra la pared mientras observaba a su mamá marcarlos. El arma sigue contra él, pero ahora visibles sobre la frente, repitió las palabras que le dictan.

“Mamá, me van a matar. Tenemos que darles dinero mamá. 4.000 dólares EEUU en tres días.” El capitán le arrebató el celular, mientras que la ayuda nuevamente impulsado Balas en el suelo. En toda su aspereza practica, el capitán pidió el dinero en una ciudad en autobús desde su casa. Ella tiene tres días o morirá. “No, yo no puede tomar menos Venda lo que debe, o morirá!” Desde la posición boca abajo en el suelo con la pistola a su cabeza, sabía que su mamá Balas no tenía ese dinero. Sabía que no tenía más de tres días de vida. Y lloró.

La ayuda no simpatizaba. Hubo una conversación en voz baja. Balas no se movió. Manos ásperas de estas ayudas se golpeó la cabeza. “Cállate!” “Ustedes no son nada. Estás mierda sin valor.” Al decir estas palabras, fue poco a poco dándose cuenta de que los dos hombres fueron dejando caer sus pantalones vaqueros. Levantaron el cuerpo dolorido sobre una mesa, con las manos esposadas a la espalda. El miedo se desvaneció de su rostro. En su “lugar llegó una realización de horror. Una tortura inimaginable. Un dolor no deseado. Y luego, con la fuerza de empuje que el arma estaba en él. Me dolió dientes llegó con tanta fuerza. “Bolas! Usted no tiene vida! Dispone de tres días! Usted nunca verá a su mamá. Tú eres uno de nosotros.”

La pistola expresa plenamente su demanda. Sus voces, sin duda, expresaron su determinación implacable. A medida que el arma fue retirada, no ha quedado ninguna. Se volvió al lado de su cabeza. Los dos hombres cumplir su voluntad con órdenes concretas en los momentos necesarios. Y en pocos minutos, los dos se habían ido. La habitación estaba cerrada con llave. Balas se quedó a dormir en una mesa dura en un oscuro cobertizo.

No se frote las lágrimas saladas de sus ojos, sólo podía seguir a sollozar. Él había pasado de sanador al paciente, desde temerosos de terror; del médico en la práctica a la guerrilla por la fuerza. ¿Qué había hecho? Su madre tendría que vender la casa que se crió en pagar un rescate que nunca obtendría su libertad.

El tiempo se detuvo. La oscuridad y el llanto continuo de las mujeres lo hizo sentirse tan insensible e impotente que no podía soportar la idea de lo que estaba sucediendo en el mundo podrido que le rodea. ¿Era hora? ¿Era una noche entera? Los gritos no paraban, sólo cambió terreno de juego.

La cadena de la puerta sacudió como una llave a tientas su camino en la cerradura. La puerta se abrió y entró la ayuda. Una vez más la puerta cerrada. -Tu mamá dice que no es posible pagar! ” “Vamos a ser pagado!” dijo amenazadoramente.

Balas se rodó parte de su espalda, sus manos atrapadas debajo de él. Las manos, no es el suyo, se abrió y se bajó los pantalones vaqueros. “Hmmmm. Este pago puede ser mejor de lo que pensamos.” Él rasgó la camisa de Balas “y con él se extiende cubrió e indefenso en la mesa, la ayuda agarró la vela que iluminaba la habitación. La cera caliente quema un sendero hasta el estómago hasta el pecho. Luego cambió de dirección. Cada gota encontrar un lugar más sensible. El dolor era insoportable. Pero la mano en la boca le impedía gritar. El asistente lo disfrutó de la imposición del dolor, se quitó la máscara al mismo tiempo, dejando caer sus pantalones vaqueros.

¿Fue este intento de una vulgar en que parezca ser tan desnudo ante el mundo como el prisionero? No hay nada racional en la mente de una personalidad abusiva », penses. Su única salvación estaba en la aceptación y el cumplimiento de los poderosos. Se entregó al dolor nuevo. Dejó la lucha contra la voluntad de conducción impulsor de una persona que nunca se permitiría a olvidar.

“Mañana nos llevará al banco! No se te ocurra de ser estúpido!” Con estas palabras, la puerta se abre y se cierra. Las cadenas se bloqueado de nuevo. Y la noche se establecieron en torno a él. Desnudo. Dolor. Enfermos.

A pesar de toda incomodidad y el miedo, la mañana no pudo llegar lo suficientemente rápido. La idea de ir al banco trajo consigo una sensación de confort civil y tratamiento. Bueno. Al menos, sería completamente vestido y con los demás pasajeros que esperaba.

Las puertas se abrieron de la misma forma que cerraron. Con el ruido de cadenas, el ruido de la cerradura, y el crujido de la puerta. El capitán se quedó allí. Alto. Enmascarado. Los ojos muy abiertos. “Liberación de las manos! Vístelo! Y le vendan los ojos!” Miró a su ayudante con una mirada que decía: “¡Ya!” y en el mismo tiempo “Uno de los animales!” Todo esto fue Balas podía ver. Y fue todo lo que van a contemplar a la hora siguiente. Se vistió, el consentimiento asintió con la cabeza y los ojos vendados fue. Sus manos esposadas delante de él. Sólo sus oídos le podía decir de las condiciones de los demás.

Debe haber sido anticipada. Había poco que se escucha de las mujeres. Y los pájaros apenas parloteo. Los comandos tranquila y los comentarios de la guerrilla, el crujido de las ramas invisibles bajo los pies, era todo lo que reconoce. Supuso que el tiempo era muy temprano. Probablemente las 5 am. Pero, con el sueño tan poco, en condiciones tan incómodas, que nunca podía estar seguro.

Su cabeza era empujado hacia abajo para que pudiera entrar en un automóvil pequeño.Probablemente no más de otros dos y un conductor. La voz del capitán en el asiento delantero le dijo que sólo tendría una oportunidad de retirar todo su dinero del cajero automático. Si fracasaba, no habría necesidad de preocuparse más acerca de las pesadillas en el cobertizo.

Las conversaciones que cambió de él a los demás pasajeros. Sentía que cada uno de ellos sería ejecutado una vez que sus bancos habían sido vaciados y pagado su rescate. Si los demás visto los rostros de los guerrilleros? Si los pobres ya se han ejecutado?

Él era consciente de estar en la ciudad sólo a causa de la parada inusual e ir del coche. Los caminos fueron mejores pavimentadas. Las vueltas menos dramática. Se acordó de su única oportunidad. Y luego la venda fue puesto en libertad. Tanto él como la guardia junto a él salió del coche. Una chaqueta cubierto por sus manos se escondió sus esposas. Ellos estaban estacionados frente al cajero automático. La caminata fue corta. No había nadie en la calle.”Todo esto” murmuró el guardia. Después de que el guardia se había insertado la tarjeta de banco, Balas entró en su número de PIN. Se retiró 4.000 dólares EEUU en pesos colombianos que la guardia feliz asegurado. Luego volvió al coche con el recibo que demuestra que sólo un cambio mínimo quedó en el banco.

-Eres un buen chico. Estoy seguro de que podemos trabajar juntos, doctor! ” La certeza del tono del capitán, y el conocimiento que la guerrilla tenía de él nunca dejó de despertar el pánico. “Todo cuelga de mama, mi chico! Ella entrega, tienes toda una vida de oportunidades.”Entonces bruscamente, ya que el coche de regresar de donde había venido, se volvió hacia el guardia “Poner los condenados venda en los ojos, María!”

Con la venda en su lugar, la chaqueta de quitar de sus manos cubiertas, trató de resolver en el asiento. El guardia junto a él, un poco molesto por haber sido ladró, metió el arma de la mano oculta en las costillas de forma pronunciada a recordarle que era su jefe. El arma sigue siendo metal duro contra el hueso duro de todo el viaje de vuelta. Cada rebote y vuelta solamente más doloroso.

Al parecer estaban de vuelta en el campamento. Voces indicó que otro pasajero estaba siendo escoltado a una ubicación de los diferentes bancos. El mismo conductor y el mismo coche se utilizaría. El único indicio de que el pasajero se produjo cuando se golpeó la cabeza entrar en el coche. Sin embargo, hace referencia a que para el momento en que fue lanzado inicialmente para el suelo era una tarea casi imposible.

Cuando el coche se alejó, Balas sabía que estaba siendo llevado a la barraca de madera. ¿Por qué? ¿Qué lo hizo la de ser señalado por una forma de tortura, mientras que otros, suponía, todavía compartía cada otros compañía. A estas alturas, podría de nuevo aquí la mujer llora. Pero ahora el acoso de la guerrilla se oía claramente, ya que llegó a ser más impaciente.

Ahora estaban pidiendo cuentas bancarias mucho más que los maridos y los números de telefone. No se refieren ni a la privacidad o la seguridad. Sólo los comandos de satisfacción ahora. Y los lamentos posteriores de otras mujeres ven obligados a contemplar la misma suerte.

La conciencia de que había un problema no era un problema percibido. Pero fue un inmediato.Un mensaje de texto de un amigo en los Estados Unidos a otro amigo en Medellín reveló que no hubo mensaje de Balas por un día. Si bien se entendía dónde estaba, no se entendía por qué no se había comunicado con nadie.

Una llamada a la madre de telefone Balas “inmediatamente despertó a todos al hecho de que ella se había contactado a pagar 4.000 dólares en rescates. Ella lloró profusamente en el fone al pasar la noticia de su voz, sus temores, y sus captores. Dentro de una hora, un plan fue concebido. Ella ya había planteado la mitad del rescate mediante la venta de todas las tuberías de su casa. Una madre de 80 años estaba dispuesto a vivir a la cocina y el baño no a salvar la vida de un hijo de 24 años de edad. El otro 50% vendría de los Estados Unidos. La policía local se informó de la reunión. Y el amigo de Medellín tendría el dinero entregado personalmente por la motocicleta. Desde el momento en que recibió el dinero, sería de 20 minutos tarde a la entrega. El pánico y temores fueron en todas partes. Un oscuro sentido del humor era lo único que mantiene viva la esperanza en un escenario lleno de imposibilidades.

Con el tiempo marcado de distancia. Conexiones telefone fueron la única posibilidad de mantenerse en contacto con mamá. En la tarde del segundo día recibió su segunda convocatoria de la guerrilla. “¿Tienes el dinero? Nosotros no dudará en matar!” Ella prometió que el dinero y ganó el adicional de 30 minutos para que llegue. La ubicación era más oscuro que su propia casa. No hubo conexiones telefone y no las instalaciones de la policía. Sólo podía llegar al lugar por el motociclista de Medellín con la segunda mitad del rescate de su hijo. De nuevo, la policía fue notificada.

La llamada de la guerrilla llegó a la 13:00. El dinero llegó a 14:00 como muy pronto. El motociclista tuvo que recibir el dinero en Medellín y viajar a la casa de Mamá (aproximadamente 1,5 horas por caminos de montaña) y luego vaya a la ubicación volumen de negocio por 16:00.

A toda prisa, aceleró la motocicleta en el camino. No fue bien marcada. No hubo obstrucciones. Pero la subida y las curvas de la carretera hizo traicionero. La selva que se alineaban en el camino siempre poco de luz. Pero de alguna manera, por tan estrecho paso de la carretera, dando vuelta como lo hizo, siempre se permite un rayo delgado de luz para guiar al ciclista a su destino.

Fue lenta y dolorosa para el ciclista. Cada kilómetro se pregunta sobre el tiempo. ¿Qué obstáculos deben todavía superar? Aun cuando llegó a su destino, iba a conseguir Mamá a la ubicación designada a tiempo? ¿Lo realmente liberación Balas como prometieron?

Mamá sentó tranquilamente en la única silla que dejó en su casa de gran tamaño y de huesos pelados. El telefone a su lado. No había parientes a su llamada. Nadie que podría ofrecer alguna ayuda más de lo que había pedido ya. No era sólo que el corazón siente el dolor de una madre anciana ponderando las posibilidades de lo único que importaba en el transcurso de toda su vida – su hijo. Siendo aún niña. Siempre la esperanza. De trabajo para dar vida y luz a los demás.

Ella viento de hasta el reloj se sentó junto al telefone. El ciclista no llegaría por otros 10 minutos en el mejor. Se levantó lentamente. No había nada más que ver en esta sala. Caminó constante, pero lenta a la puerta del dormitorio de su hijo. Nunca había cambiado. Su cama esperando su cuerpo cansado después de autobuses de larga casa paseos. Los momentos había salvado de la lejana juegos futbol, el jardinero que había trabajado, el médico que le había mentor, el sacerdote que la había apoyado. Se habían ido todos ahora, pero los recuerdos se mantuvo.

El sonido metálico de tos se levantó y volvió a guardar silencio. En pocos segundos se produjo un golpe en la puerta. Levantado, por su espíritu incansable, que se llevó a la puerta, donde saludó a los enmascarados y el ciclista con casco con tanto entusiasmo como su amigo más querido. Ella lo invitó a su casa escasa, ella le ofreció su silla solamente, ella aceptó sus palabras y amable y, e incluso para compartir un abrazo que fue tal vez un poco más cerca, y un poco más largo que nuevos amigos se sientan cómodos. Se bromeó con ironía, pero la risa era bueno.

Como ella se disculpó por no haber una bebida fría para él después de su largo viaje, Luis abrió la cortina para permitir más luz en la habitación. Al igual que su unidad no había mucha luz para encontrar allí. Pero una astilla de luz señaló a su línea en el suelo. Luis. Y mamá. Ellos eran los nombres que sea necesario.

Brevemente se discutieron las instrucciones y asesoramiento que les habían dado. Y luego, al unísono, acordaron que era hora de irse. Mamá se volvió a cerrar la puerta. Ella miró la imagen del Sagrado Corazón. Ella siguió el rayo de luz que conduce a la cocina desnuda. Ella miró por un segundo en la puerta de la habitación entreabierta. Y cerró la puerta.

Escalada en la moto detrás de Luis, le cogió de la cintura y tiró de ella cerca. Ambos se inclinó hacia uno al otro como la motocicleta sacó lentamente lejos de la casa. Ambos se inclinó hacia delante mientras se dirigían hacia el futuro por el camino desconocido. Si bien puede haber venido de cualquier número de diferentes lugares, tanto en sí la esperanza de que Balas estaba a salvo.

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