On Thursday, January 24th at 6:20pm (EST) I was in Cali, Colombia walking with my maternal grandmother and cousin to my aunt and uncle’s little restaurant. We had just stepped out of the house and turned left towards the end of the street and 3-/+ meters from the corner a guy on a bike wearing a helmet, backpack, and looking the part of the average Colombian young adult coming home from work, parked his bike, we locked eyes, I saw him reach with his right hand his left front pocket, I looked away thinking he was going to take the keys to the garage in front of him, but as my grandmother and I walked past him, he took a gun out of the waistband of his jeans (not his keys) and pointed it at my cousin, who was a couple of steps behind us, and he said “give me the cellphone”. My poor cousin was stunned, I stopped and looked at the gun pointing somewhere at her midriff… there was something off about it and the guy’s body language did not look confident, he seemed like a rookie ‘atracador’. Frustrated, he asked her again “give me your cellphone or I will kill you” so my cousin obliged and he got on his bike and took off. Several neighbors watched but only approached us when the guy was out of sight. My grandmother only noticed when she noted we were not walking by her side and when my cousin asked her to keep walking because she’d just been robbed, my grandmother had to be restrained by my cousin because she wanted to see who the guy was… which was too late anyway. At that moment I noticed my cousin’s complexion turn very pale and I knew what was coming, so I grabbed her wrist to monitor her pulse but she collapsed a few steps later. The recovery was fast, people were helpful, and we ended up going to the restaurant about 20 minutes later than planned but this became just another armed robbery story in this family, community, society, culture.
Except this was the first time I witnessed a robbery so close and I had never been considered a target (‘cause when everyone calmed down, they mentioned how he was originally going for me but switched targets). Even though I lived in Colombia during my childhood during a terrible time (1990s) I had never been attacked, robbed, or even seen an act of violence. I did watch the results of such things (dead people, mutilated bodies) and family and friends were fatal victims of these violent times, too… but there was always a bit of personal distance.
You know how people say that when they think they’re going to die or when something tragic happens around them, all their memories come rushing by? well, that’s never happened to me. I’ve been close to drowning twice, been in car and bike accidents, even one very recent plane ride that got me questioning why the first officer and captain were not requesting a different altitude because the turbulence was getting a bit out of hand (and I know about aerodynamics, planes, and meteorology)… people in those same situations say that the trauma made them reconsider their job, life path, relationships, etc. Nothing like that happens with me and I wondered for some time if this meant there is something wrong. My current theory is that I have no regrets, because even the more terrible and painful mistakes I’ve committed have gotten me to a better place, so I am ready to die in peace. Not only that, but I know in my heart and soul that everything, absolutely everything, is temporary — so living day by day is best for the kind of person that I am.
Having said that, the past few weeks have been trying (the robbery was just one part, there were two earthquakes, and a couple of other incidents, too) and recognizing how fragile I make my tomorrow because of the life I lead has me thinking — there is nothing defined yet, just the swirl of thoughts in the back of my head nagging me to reconsider something but I do not know what. I love adventure and conscientious risk, life doesn’t seem to be asking me to reconsider that but to bring that same quality onto other parts of my life… but if it is the parts I am suspecting, it’s gonna be a while ‘cause I am lily-livered when it comes to them things. Life is easy to live but only if we are willing to lose all our fears. And, I am not sure if I’m ready to confront that lot.