The strangest thing is that I was thinking, right before it happened, that I should have tried harder to convince my parents to come to dinner with me. They should probably eat again, and it’s dangerous to be out alone at night. So here I recount a tale of something that happened to me exactly six months ago, while my parents were visiting me in Ecuador.
From The Archives
“I was just almost robbed, but I wasn’t actually robbed, because for some reason my instinct was to kick the guy and try to pull my purse back. I was successful, if you can call it that, though I’d rather not have to call it anything at all. I was halfway to the restaurant, just a block or so from my hotel when I heard footsteps coming from behind me, running, and I saw two Ecuadorian women sprinting down the other side of the street, along with a black Ecuadorean man, and I actually thought ‘Damn, they shouldn’t run like that here; they’re going to scare somebody.’ Oh, the irony.
As they passed, I even looked behind me to make sure that nobody was taking advantage of the dank atmosphere and strange situation and running up behind me to rob me, or worse. I saw nobody, so I kept walking, until the guy changed paths and crossed the street, yelling at me “Dáme la bolsa!” He grabbed for it, but I held fast, despite the sheer idiocy of that choice.
My blood was pumping fast and my lungs were burning through and through, gearing up to push him down in just a matter of milliseconds. I just kept thinking, “No, that is my everything in there; you cannot have it!” I’m pretty sure I screeched What the fuck at him a few times. I’ll never forget his face, and I finally understand that phrase. Once I had gotten his hands off my bag, I ran all-out in the direction I had been going, as he stalked off at who-knows-what-pace in the other.
I saw the girls who had been running (from him, little did I know) in the doorway of a well-lit nearby restaurant, waving me towards them like a lighthouse does a boat. I gratefully fully continued to run their way, once I got close enough yelling ‘porqué no me lo aviso,’ broken Spanish for why didn’t you warn me?! We conversed for a second, while I caught my breath and realized that my lungs were on fire and I was sweating up a storm. Ecuador has never been known for their mild summers.
Behind my eyes was the slightest hint of tears, but it dissipated quickly enough. I hid my purse under my sweater, and walked with the other two women for the next half block, until we parted ways with a ‘buena suerte,’ me hoping that nobody in the next block would dare rob a (maybe) pregnant-looking woman.
I realized when I reached the restaurant and took off my sweatshirt that, for the first time in months, I had slipped on the FEARLESS key that my sister gave me right before I left. It’s as if somehow I knew this would happen, and that I just had to follow my sister’s unspoken advice in order to survive another day.
I was still terrified, and my lungs still burned, but I took a taxi the three-ish blocks home from the restaurant. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite have the vocabulary to explain the whole tale to my server at the restaurant, but he got the gist of it, and certainly told the cab driver why he was called for such a short fare. Looking back, I’m hugely grateful that my parents decided not to go to dinner with me that night. It means they didn’t have to go through it, but again they also don’t know exactly what happened and may freak out over it as a result.
I mean seriously, how do you tell your parents that in the middle of their vacation? Just knock on their door and lean on their door frame saying ‘Hey Mom, Dad, the restaurant was great and by the way, I almost got robbed. Sleep well!’ No. That just doesn’t quite work. So Mom, if you’re reading this, sorry for never telling you to your face. Dad, if you’re reading this, ¡Que milagro! Thanks for reading my blog!
Honestly, the thing I’m most mad about is the fact that this man made a choice to try to rob people, bringing a horrible reputation to both black men and his country because of it. What if this were my first time stepping foot out of my hometown, as poor a destination choice as central Quito would have made)? I realize logically that my cringeing at the few black men I saw as I walked the rest of the way to the restaurant (not wanting to walk back to the hotel for fear of running into him again) was simply a reaction to my all-too-recent trauma.
However this doesn’t mean that I don’t hate myself a bit, every second, for that instinctual shrink back into myself. It’s a horrible experience and was theoretically avoidable, but there will always be people of every creed and color willing to rob people, truly desperate enough to rob people, in the hopes that someone’s loss will be their gain. I hope I am get over this Had this guy had access to a weapon, this could have gone horribly, but luckily he didn’t, so it didn’t, and I’m not dead now.
The most surprising part of it all is probably that when I got to the restaurant and was pulling my purse out from under my sweatshirt, likely very red and decidedly out-of-breath, the server knew almost immediately what had happened. My attempt at an explanation probably just cemented it in. He asked in Spanish a couple of times before I actually understood his question, but I have to say that he was the shining star of the night; what a sweetheart.
I have now decided to wait exactly 6 months before I post this on my blog, in the hopes that I won’t scare the shit out of my poor parents. I hope to never go through such an experience anywhere, ever again. I also hope that I don’t regret recording my thoughts at this Cuban restaurant for the past 20 minutes.“
So that was my recollection of the events six months ago, and I still think I was an idiot, looking back at my trip. Actually, someone did end up stealing that bag from me in Ecuador, about a week later, off the back of my chair in the cafe. I still wonder who thought to rob that cheap-looking tote. The joke was on them that time, though, because all it had in it was a worn paperback and a Spanish-English dictionary. But then again, at least maybe they learned something, too.