sides.....Then they start to close in.
On one side, hundreds of police are roaming the streets. All have these
long sticks. A guide tells me "those sticks are for striking, nothing
else." Black Toyota pick up trucks zip up and down the boulevards. They are
filled with police all holding the long striking sticks. Sticks poke off the trucks in random ways, giving the pickup a spiky, porcupine appearance.
The other side a pocket full of worthless money, an empty stomach and
platters full of delicious street food in the French speaking Capitol
Yesterday the hostel proprietor showed me the safe room. A cage that
locks on the inside. "The last time Togo had elections, there were
riots, many were killed. We don't suspect we will be targeted." As I start to regret my timing of this
visit to Togo, West Africa, the other side starts to pull in close.
While standing in an empty bank with a machine gunned guard, and a
slick dude with a big toothy smile who entered a minute after I did. I
wait for the teller to arrive at the window. I never have this much
cash on me unless I am changing it, and I feel the walls start to close in
on me. Just one knowing glance between the slick looking dude and the
machine gunner and I know the trap it set.
CLICK is the sound you hear in those Vietnam movies when the soldier
steps on a land mine. In the movie, all soldiers freeze on the spot, a trickle of sweat runs down the unlucky victim. After that knowing glance, my body freezes, the sound in my head was a precise and tightly wound CLICK.
I stand there motionless. I feel as though I am stuck in a box. The
bank teller at this point is telling me about money transfer
restrictions around election day, but my mind is racing to get out. My
body shoves blood to my legs, which I feel in a warm rush. My body's way
of preparing me to run. However, my mind knows that I can't outrun
If you have a thick piece of rope that is tied in a knot, sometimes
you can just push against the rope to loosen it. So I pushed.
As the smooth talker, with the toothy smile, tried to weave a story, I
shook his hand in one of those long West African handshake kind of
ways. Except, I applied pressure to the handshake in a dominate
American type of way.
Absolute Confidence is my to push out of whatever plan this guy has with
the machine gunner, my money and himself.
I caught his eyes and locked in an unbreaking gaze. "I'm so glad to
meet you. And think we will meet again" The warmth of my words were
frozen by the strength of my shake and cut of my stare.
I turned and walked out of the bank and straight towards the porcupine.