Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta uneasy. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta uneasy. Mostrar todas las entradas

viernes, 6 de abril de 2018

No end

   As everyone celebrated on the streets and in their homes, Veronica wandered through the rubble trying to feel as happy as most people around her were. But it wasn’t possible or at least it was very hard to do so. Even smiling felt like a chore, like something you would do only to please people but not because you really felt it inside. There was a feeling of incompletion around, as if all the sacrifices of the war had not been enough to end every single type of hostility that many people harbored against one another.

 As she walked the streets, some lit and others not so much, she realized that the world after the war would be in chaos. Yes, everyone was cheering and celebrating right now, probably drinking stolen articles and launching fireworks that had been banned for so long. But after all of that happiness, a moment of truth and reflection would have to come and the atrocities of war would have to be addressed. For example, not everyone was on the same side, the winning side. Some people were not celebrating.

 Well, some of them were but just because they had to survive and keep on living. It was widely assumed that trials, of sorts, would emerge from the victorious side, condemning the losing side to many years in jail, banishment from the country or even death. Even if the maximum penalty had ever been enforced legally in the country, many of the victors would want the vanquished to be treated just as them treated others during the war. There were lots of executions, on the streets even.

 Veronica was actually just passing a street she knew very well, not only because it used to be a prime shopping spot before the war, but because many people were forced to stand in front of the former storefronts in order to be killed with guns. It was horrible to think about those moments, the images that would never going to leave anyone’s mind. That could never be overlooked, the fact that a large amount of the people now alive had killed at least one person over the last seven years.

 Everyone’s hands were tainted with blood; there wasn’t a single innocent, not even the children. They were used so many times to lure the kindness out of people, that all of their innocence had vanished. Many children were now celebrating the end of the war, just like adults. And the ones that were too small were orphans or just dead. Every single person had done something horrible during the war and now they chose not to remember that because it was a clear image of how disgusting and vile a human could get. So many atrocities in such a relatively short period of time.

 Veronica reached the gates of the Compound just as the night was darkest. She had to use a pocket lantern she had found days earlier, in order to go inside and check out the place for herself. The prison or camp or however you may call it, had been liberated only a few months before the end of the war but it looked as if it had happened many years ago. The place was covered in ash and debris, and the gates, doors and windows had been torn apart or had simply disappeared from sight.

 She walked from the entrance to a large yard area were she knew people had been selected. You see, not everyone was imprisoned in the same place. They had categories and each category had their own building in the premises of the Compound. The differences between each building were in the treatment given by the jailers. For example, former members of state entities and such would receive a better treatment there than homosexuals or blacks. Just the same as it had happened so many years ago, elsewhere.

 The Compound had surprisingly not been built by the losing side, as one would think. It had been built by the so-called winners, by the so-called heroes of the war. In some parts of the country, people were already designing statues for them to be put in every single park, in every single town. They had been the ones fighting for justice and freedom but they clearly didn’t respect their enemies’ rights at all. They were just as vile and vengeful as all the other people. They were not different.

 Veronica walked through the large yard in order to get to the only building that had been kind of spared by the last bombs the “enemy” had dropped from the sky. That was how the prison got its freedom. It hadn’t been an act of kindness. It was just the result of the last desperate attack from the would-be losers of the war. They had sent the few planes they still had and just bombarded the jail were their family members and friends had been imprisoned. They believed it was better to be dead that a prisoner.

 So pride made them act on that last move. And they succeed in destroying the prison and liberating some of their people from it. But only days later they would realize their days were counted and that their fate had already been sealed, well before the attack on the Compound. Veronica saw on the floor of the building some bone fragments, as well as fabric that used to be made into uniforms for the prisoners. There were also several metal plates and bowls, and a large assortment of cutlery. Maybe the prisoners had staged a mutiny as the bombs lit everything on fire.

 After a short time, she decided to leave the Compound through “the back door”, which was actually a large gap in the tall wall of the complex. She didn’t want to stay there too long in case the “winners” were patrolling the premises looking for someone to practice shooting with. She adjusted her backpack and walked on, towards very dark park covered with grand beautiful trees. The place was covered in shadows but even that way it felt like somewhere one would feel at ease.

 The park was one of the largest in the city and it was used to process many of the prisoners of the Compound. But apparently cold heads prevailed and no one ever really destroyed it on purpose or tore the trees down. Some of them had received damage from the bombs that were dropped in the nearby prison, but the building between the two sites had prevented the fire to really destroy the last green place in the city. It had been a miracle that most people were ignoring in that precise moment.

 Veronica walked along the central path of the park, hearing her steps on the stone and the wind blowing through the tree leaves. Everything felt so peaceful, and she was very glad to be there but even then she felt all of that could not be forever. She knew things were going to be bad for a while and she was alone and no one could just come and be with her. Her family had died during the war and those were not times of real friendship, just of convenient relationships that no one knew how long they would last.

 The best thing to do, maybe, was to leave the country altogether. It was a difficult choice to make and also a hard thing to achieve, but Veronica had nothing else to loose. She was carrying everything she owned on the backpack: some pieces of clothing and a couple of objects she had rescued from her former house. She had also stolen some food from a ruined supermarket, but that was it. She could easily walk her way towards the border and attempt to cross it. Or maybe get into a boat and sail away.

 Whatever she did, she had to do it quietly and carefully, as she had no intent of driving attention onto herself. No one was looking for her specifically, but everything around there was going to become very unstable and she knew that’s when unlikely things tend to happen the most.

 She decided to leave the city that night, taking advantage of most people celebrating the end of the war. As they raised glasses, told jokes, remembered family and friends, Veronica would banish into the night and attempt to forever disappear from that other night, one that would never end.

miércoles, 29 de julio de 2015

Blood test

 As far as I could remember, I had never had blood taken from me. I had never been sick and, being a man, I had never being pregnant. So the thing was very new for me and scary. It’s kind of silly to be scared of such a silly thing but aren’t we always scared about the things that we don’t even understand? Because I didn’t even know why they wanted me to give my blood after just a routine check-up. The doctor said it was good, once in a while, to do something like a full scan of the body to be sure nothing was off, nothing was out of place. But taking blood from my body seemed very invasive.

 I am the kind of person that takes days to talk to you, even if I have seen you for a year, at work, at school or wherever. I am the kind of person that always tries to be in relationships were the other person wants more love than sex. I’m the kind of person that would never put on a bathing suit in front of someone else or shower in a public place or something like that. I would die first to be honest. So giving away a sample of blood was just as if someone had forced me to give up something that was only mine and it didn’t felt right. Besides that, I had never done it and felt silly because I knew it was something positive to do. After all, he doctor was right: I needed to get to know what was happening inside my body. I had not being in a doctor’s office for five years or more and if he wanted to know what was going on, he was the doctor after all.

 I woke up really early to give my sample. I tried not to think about it until the moment was imminent. So I just woke up, showered, put on some loose clothes and walk out home. The weather was strange: it seemed that it was going to rain but it didn’t, as if the sky was waiting to make a more dramatic storm later in the day. I just thought the weather sometimes behaved like a moody human. I walked to the bus stop and waited there for the bus that would take me to the hospital. It was such a sad thing, to be going to a hospital. I thought tight there that I pity every single person that has to go to a hospital every single day of his or her lives. All that sadness and stress and just negativity…

 I mean, I’m not the most positive guy you’re going to find, not at all, but I do try to be objective and working in the health sector must not be an easy task, maybe if you are the head of a pharmaceutical company or something. When my bus stopped, I walked inside like a zombie. I hadn’t had anything to eat, as asked by the doctor, so I felt a little like walking on air. The bus was filled with people so early in the day so I just stood up by the exit and waited for my stop. As I did so, I noticed that most of the passengers in the bus were women and then another fact of life hit me in the face: women are so under appreciated. Not because they carry life but because they keep it going. All those ladies in the bus were proof of that and I felt bad as a man.

 One of them was talking about the day she was going to have. I couldn’t hear the whole conversation, but I could guess she was a housekeeper. She was telling another woman that she had asked her boss to give her two days off as she was feeling really tired and had many things to do at home. The other women asked her if her husband helped around the house and she answered that he did but that things were still backing up. She hoped to get those two days to run some errands and just be with her children for some more time that week. That was all I heard before I stepped out of the bus, twenty minutes after I had gotten in. I felt bad for her but I thought that at least she had a steady job. Things could always be worse.

 As it was very early, there were no traffic jams on the streets and no overcrowded sidewalks. The few people around were workers of stores or vendors that were installing their posts in strategic places for the morning rush. People were going to need their coffee, their newspapers and their dose of sugar and they were going to given them all to them. I walked past them and then through a couple of blocks where not a single soul was seen. It was the perfect time of the day to shoot a zombie apocalypse scene. I imagined it and smiled for myself. I finally got to the hospital and went straight to the second floor, where I was charged for my blood test. Then I sat down and looked around.

 Besides me, there were only two other people: a teenager with his mom and an elderly couple. The teenager was obviously checking social media and seemed very focused on it. His mom seemed moved her feet and legs without stopping. By her outfit, it was obvious she worked in some office and that she needed to get there as soon as possible, which was curious because wouldn’t you open up your morning to be with your son? Then there was the elderly couple, two lovely older people that were chatting about their pills and if they had them all in the woman’s purse. She pulled them all out and I was surprised to see at least ten little orange bottles in armrest of the chair. They were saying their properties, as no one ever knew the names.

 The teenager was called first and then the couple and when more people were coming in, I finally got inside too. I got into a small cubicle were a nurse checked my arms for the best vein and the she told me to look the other way, as it may look a bit too scary. I did exactly that, as I was not really looking forward to see my blood spilling out of my arm. As she did her job, she told me that the results would be available in two weeks. I wanted to complain but my arm hurt too bad and she told me, after putting a circular sticking plaster where she had put the needle on.

 When the pain passed, I asked her why it took so long to have the results. I told her it was just a routine procedure for my doctor but she told me that all exams were the same and that they checked the blood for every possible disease I could have: hepatitis and several sexual transmitted diseases includes syphilis and HIV. When she said the last part, I got even more scared that before the needle went through my skin. I didn’t ask anything else or said anything at all. She just gave me a sheet with which I could claim the results in two weeks time. Five minutes later, I was already outside walking home. Somehow, I didn’t want to take the bus back. I had too many things in my head and only wanted to vent a little before freaking out once again. 

 As I stopped to buy something to eat, I thout about the reason why I was freaking out. Exactly five months ago I had gone to a party and, strangely for me, I had gotten really drunk. The friends that had invited me there were just laughing their asses off because they had never seen me drunk and because, strangely enough, I was a very funny drunk guy. I told just, funny stories I didn’t even know I had and I talked to people straight away, even going so far as to ask them if they have had sex that day. Bare in my mind the party was attended by, at least, forty people and only knew a couple of them. I drank a lot and, the next day I was surprised to realize that I hadn’t vomited or anything gross like that all night.

 What was weird was that I woke in one of the bedrooms of the apartment were the party was held and I happened to be only wearing my underwear and with someone besides me. Now, I didn’t know if something happened and to this day I have no idea. It was just as if all memories produced after two in the morning had been erased by the computer that was my brain. I only know I grabbed my clothes, put them on and just got the hell out of there. Days later, I spoke with one of my friends that had been in the party and he just said he found me funny when drunk. But he never said anything about me kissing or talking in a “unique way” to someone. So I didn’t mention it and I had forgotten everything about it until the day of the blood test.

 The following two weeks were torture. Every time I had a moment to think about my life, I found myself wondering if I had sex that night of the party and if it had been unprotected. As I didn’t recall anything, and I didn’t really stayed in the room the next day to see if there was a condom wrapper around, I just didn’t know anything. I just knew I was very nervous and jumpy every time someone was looking to talk to me about anything. Days were long sometimes and I just wanted the hospital to call me and tell me they need me to pick up the results earlier but maybe that wouldn’t have been a very happy call.

 Anyway, I waited as patiently as I could and when it was time, I went to the hospital and asked for my results. It was very frustrating that I had to wait several minutes for them and that I had to go through them with a doctor different that the one who had asked for the damn exam. She must have realized what was going on inside my mind because she just said “You’re fine, honey”. I felt like an elephant had ben lifted from my back and I could finally worry about other things, like my life in general and the fact that I suffered from anemia.

martes, 28 de abril de 2015

Rotten Nation

   It was raining. The small plane taxied for several minutes through the airport until it parked in front of a large hangar, owned by the police. This was very uncommon, as the president had a special building were he always arrived at after national or international tours. It was well know but the media and the public, that he had personally being overlooking the destruction of several drug labs in remote areas. So maybe that was the reason why, stepping out of the plane, he only looked forward, towards the small group waiting for him.

 They walked in silence inside the hangar and then went through a door that led into the building behind it. The president’s assistant was in front, going up some stairs, several corridors and finally arriving at a conference room. The president sat down in the chair in one end of the table as the others sat in the remaining seats. Only one seat was empty. Some mumbled trying to find out why its occupant was missing, others said nothing. The president drank some water and waited until his assistant told him something to the ear and then sat down in a chair in the corner, right after closing the door.

 The president stood up and looked at the eyes of every single one of those men: the chief of police and other men of that entity, generals of all of the military branches and also the head of the secret police. On every single one of them rested the defense of the country, the physical power that it had in order to maintain things as they were. The president inhaled and then looked to the empty seat and sat down again.

-       Do you guys know who occupies that seat?

 One of the generals, visibly eager to participate in order to seem important or smart, shoot his hand up. The president looked at him.

-       That’s where General Arroyo normally seats, the head of the aviation.

 The president nodded, without saying a word. He looked at the seat a little more then announced that General Arroyo had been arrested during the raid against the drug cartels. Every single one of the people present, except for the president’s assistant (the only woman in the room), were baffled at the news. They started asking and demanding and saying it was an outrage and how surprised they were and also hurt. The president asked them, with a gesture of the hand, to end the noise.

 Once the room was calm again, he stared directly at the director of the police. The man was a tall, white and pink skinned man. He looked scared as the president looked at him, with his piercing eyes and soft breathing. None of the military men, all experience in combat and enemies, had ever seen that look on a president or any other person. He looked vicious and hateful.

-       General García.
-       Yes, sir? – Answered the director of the police.
-       How many years have you been head of the police?

The man thought that was a weird question to ask but also felt more fear than before. The president had stopped looking at him and that made him feel even uneasier.

-       I have been in the post for almost ten years.
-       Ten years. – Said the president, in a surprisingly grave voice.
-       Yes…
-       Too many?
-       Sorry?

 Everyone present was surprised at this question. Some of the men tried to reply something but weren’t able to find the words.  No one would ever say that unless they wanted to sack someone. But, then again, what reason did the president have? And, would he only be interested in sacking one man?

 This meeting had been ordered by the president on his flight back and most men had narrowly missed his arrival, as it was imminent. Since he had been elected, almost a year ago, he had proven to be quite and unpredictable man. He had won narrowly in a country that normally hated the likes of men like him but somehow, it had happened. Of course, there had been recounts and lawsuits but nothing had moved him from remaining in power. He had powerful enemies, namely the men that had been in power before, as he was not the typical president.

 Not only he was on the left side of the spectrum, a “soft” left in his words, but also he was interested in preserving culture and encourage the inner growth of the people. Some even said that was precisely why he won: the ones always outside had chosen him in the bigger cities and that had been enough. The military and all public forces had been scared of him but he had went on with the recurrent struggle against the cartels just as the others did so they had all relaxed, to this day.

-       I said, have they been too many?
-       I… I don’t know sir.
-       I think it’s time to clean up, wouldn’t you say misters?

 He said that looking at everyone in the table, and with an annoying smirk on his face. He then turned to his assistant who instantly produced a folder with several sheets of papers. They went through them and took out only six papers. The woman put away the folder and went back to her chair. The president held the sheets on his hand, looking at the men again.

-       Any idea of what that is?

 The same man that had raised his hand before, raised it again:

-       Our resignation letters?

 The president then laughed. It was an obviously fake laugh but it went for so long than people didn’t know how to respond. Some of them smiled and others just trembled in their spots.

-       Not exactly. In here, I have several names, including General Arroyo’s one. All the people listed here have been tracked down by the secret police and we have enough proof to put them in jail. There are some as high profile as the general and others not so much. I need you… Well, I demand of you to clean up your mess.

 He put the papers in front of him, in a way that anyone could have taken them but no one did. They were visibly bothered by what was happening but did not dare to say a word.

-       Any comments, gentlemen?

 The oldest one of the bunch, a general of the navy, looked straight at the president and pointed at him, his hand shaking like mad.

-       You have no right to do that.
-       Excuse me?
-       You cannot tell us what to do, not like this! We’re not children!

 The old men had stood up and raised his voice. The assistant instantly looked to the door, worried people might hear on the other side.

-       We are older than you, more experienced and you should take our advice instead of telling us how to run our entities.

 The president then stood up and smiled weirdly again. It was very unpleasant.

-       First, I have to ask not to raise your voice. Second, what do you mean with “your entities”?
-       I mean we have maintained…
-       Exactly – Said the president, interrupting him. – You have kept them going but those entities belong to the State, to the people. You all took an oath to protect them and you work for me and I for them. Do you understand that?

 The old man sat back down. Everyone was looking at the president as if he had gone insane but he kept his smirk on his face and didn’t sit back down.

-       Gentlemen, I repeat, I demand of you to clean up your entities. They are rotten and you should be grateful you’re not the ones to be sacked first. Your entities are supposed to be the ones protecting us and making the example and that is not the case right now. You know what we found out? Do you?

 Again, no one said anything, only scared faces looked at him.

-       Several policemen involved in bribes and corruption, navy officers helping the cartels, aviation officers bringing whores to the compounds. Even my own personal guard has been known to film pornographic films in State property. Do you understand how bad this is?

 Some nodded, some didn’t. They looked to the ground now, exactly like children after having been grounded.

-       The president’s before me let it all happen, let this country rot from the inside out. I’m not going to tolerate that anymore. If you don’t put this entire people under trial, I will. I have proofs. And if you fail to do it fast, I have many candidates for every single one of your posts.
-       But…
-       But what general Márquez? But what?

 But general Márquez, of the air force, had no idea what to say next. He was as intimidated as the other ones. As men of force, they were already thinking of a way to keep their posts and form an opposition but then the president drew attention back to him by coughing.

-       I have a dinner to attend to with the ambassadors residing in the country. But before that I want to warn you: I’m decreasing the amount of money invested in the military and the police and allocating it to education and health. Tell it to your men, the announcement will be done tonight.

 And then the assistant opened the door and the president left, leaving the country changed and the forces of the past in a state of induced coma.