Thursday, February 22, 2007

"It Was a Backwater Beach"

By Cecele Kraus

It was a backwater beach in a backwater country, before the drug trade in Colombia; it was festival time in the beach towns of the Caribbean, festival time in Cartegena. Peace Corps volunteers, we traveled by bus from the inland city of Barranquilla to dance the cumbia, drink rum and coke. Foreigners with no advantage in this night of music and rum, Dan could pass for Colombian, but my red hair and freckles allowed no chance for passing.

Dan and I left the throngs to sit on the beach and as we listened to the distant steel drums, a man came upon us. Methodically, he unwrapped a gun from tissue paper, but spoke so rapidly, I could not understand. Dan understood and his words to me were firm:

You get up and walk back to the hotel. Do not look back. Do not run. Just keep walking unless I tell you to stop.

As he talked steadily to the stranger, I walked into the night, slipping down the beach toward the hotel. As I passed the revelers, the music dropped away, the dancers blurred. I steadied my eyes on the lights of the hotel, taking strength in Dan’s voice sounding over the beach, Keep going!

Now memory fails me. I arrived at the hotel safely. Dan joined me, we drank rum at the bar, but I do not remember what he said to the stranger with the gun.

A few weeks later, Dan said he could not give me what I needed and we stopped trying to fall in love. He could not give me a future. Maybe he gave me my life.

Writer Cecele Kraus works as a psychotherapist in Chatham, New York. She is working on a collection of poems and short fiction.

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