Christmas Eve, Puzzle began to shake, knowing the customary fireworks were beginning. I knew these would build and build until midnight. I lay under my tree as darkness began to fall.
I realized that this grassy area had been lawmowered for a reason. This wasn’t truly an empty field. It was a parking lot! An unpaved one. In fact, I was camping right at the back of a beachside parking lot, a small one, but only tonight cars had begun to use it. A car parked very close to us. I knew I could be seen, but not well. Apparently word had gotten out. A strange girl with a dog on la playa. Sleeping there. How odd, but why?
A couple came to me early on. They brought me pizza and meat for Puzzle. Miss Fussy Eater didn’t like the meat, maybe it was the way it was prepared, but I’m not sure. I ate some pizza and gave the pieces I wasn’t fond of to Puzzle. I was so tired I forgot to dispose of the leftovers. I left them outside mostly inside the bucket. Another kind couple gave us kibble that Puzzle actually liked. Imagine that. She has become quite the princess!
Puzzle was tired. She was able to sleep through the firecrackers even as they got worse and worse toward midnight. We cuddled together. It gets cold at night, but that I never experienced in the oven casa where I live. I tried to cover us as best as possible. I didn’t want to put jeans on. I hadn’t showered. Jeans feel gross when you are filthy.
You get to stinking fast on the road. You have no bathroom. Don’t expect one, and don’t expect anyone to be understanding. They don’t want to hear your problems either. Most are uncaring people who don’t want to lift a finger. However, some do give a shit.
That night, I had visitors. Rats, I think, or a rat, who made his presence known by the clanging sound I heard as he walked across my metal dishes. I thought it might be a local dog. But that would get Puzzle alarmed. I couldn’t see without my glasses. I finally located them and peeked. It was small, but I had no clue. Probably a rat. He was feasting on what didn’t make it into the bucket. I figured since he was nocturnal, shining my flashlight on him might scare him away. It worked. I had to scare him away once more that night. In the morning I reminded myself to always dispose of leftovers. Actually, Puzzle enjoyed what the rat never reached, a few more pieces of pizza.
Christmas day was rather silent. Then, people started coming to the playa again. I knew no stores were open. I thought maybe the farmacia might be open, but I didn’t need anything.
I have a battery that recharges my devices. It was losing power and I needed to figure out how to get that, or my devices, charged. Plus I hadn’t gone poop. I needed a real toilet for that.
That evening, i had more visitors. Three big cops. I have no clue what type. Maybe these were departmento cops. I couldn’t see a thing really but they looked official. They were not local dudes, as the local cops look more “local.” They came with a big car, asked me one question that I tried to answer, and then they very quickly decided I was not harmful nor had any criminal intent, so they left. They didn’t ask for ID nor my name. I thought that was odd, but I was so tired that I went off to sleep, or at least lay down cuddling with Puzzle, under our tree.
The 26th, honestly I thought it was Friday, but it was Saturday in fact. This was a three day weekend. I had lost track. I didn’t care. Today I wanted to go poop and get a charge somehow for at least my cell. A man came by. I learned his name was Alejandro. Or so he said. He seemed friendly. A young dude working nearby. I asked him where I could find a toilet para damas. He told me the hotel and pointed. I took note of this. I asked if the mercadito was open. Apparently that’s the big one in town, so he corrected me, the “supermercado.” Oh wow, if that’s super, this is one tiny but loud party town. Actually, I didn’t mind at this point. Anything to get away from the oven I live in and the neighbors. Beyond that, I was sure glad not to be in the USA.
So Alejandro asked me if I was headed over to the hotel. I told him I was planning to go later. He asked if he could sit down. I noticed that upon doing so, he moved my red jacket (I think it’s made by Adidas) out of the way and also he moved my shoes (these are Nike). He said he would get me water but oddly, when he returned, he didn’t return with any. He came and asked me again some questions I didn’t understand. Again I said maybe I would go later to the hotel and wondered why he was so curious. I figured any other questions I could ask at the hotel since maybe the hotel dudes speak English.
I went, leaving Puzzle behind and taking with me a bag with essentials including valuables and my belt pack. I was so glad they had a bathroom I could use. They even agreed to charge my phone. Suddenly, while searching for the charger, I noticed something: My entire wallet was gone.
My belt pack had dumped itself a number of times and I hadn’t given it a thought. I assumed the wallet was back at the campo. I told the hotel dude I would be right back. The wallet was not at the campo. I knew now I was in trouble. I grabbed Puzzle and my big pack and came back to the hotel. The manager was getting on the nice hotel guy’s back for allowing me there. The nice hotel guy told me he’d allow me to stay there for free seeing my predicament. No cash, no way to get cash. No way out of town, running out of drinking water, sleeping in the streets.
Meanwhile, down the street from the hotel live a couple of Expats. The lady came and told me, “If you need to call the States, just come knock on our door anytime.” She described her house. The hotel dude told me maybe I could store my pack there for a few minutes while went back to the campo to get the rest of my stuff. Meanwhile, I’d already canceled two cards and was trying to phone one more bank. I had to leave the hotel. Boss’s orders. The nice hotel dude told me the following very true statement after he heard my story about the casa being uninhabitable:
“Some people are just shit.”
I keep this in mind as I continue to write these words. I went to knock on the Expat’s door. Oh, so nice and cushy, their lives together, happy Christmas in their cozy home where they have all the fixings and have no clue how the other half lives. I spent my Christmas alone hugging my dog, which was better than being in a hospital and better than psych threats in the USA, but not cozy since it’s tough holding piss until no one’s in the parking lot. Oh, and also, underneath me was a bed of prickly aloe. How was your Christmas? Did you spend it in a manger? Tell me that one.
The woman and a dog answered. And behind her, a husband or boyfriend. Immediately, they said, “You can’t come in. We’re leaving town right now.”
That was interesting. Changed plans that fast? Ha ha.
So the man started berating me. “You have no plan.”
How could I have a plan? Plan? No, I save my life. What’s to plan? Plan what? When you do CPR, are you planning or saving a life? When you run from abusive husband, do you make retirement plans and do your taxes, or do you RUN? You’d better run! There was no sense in talking to these rich snobs. If anyone’s in the area, s0tay away from them. They are the shit that guy was talking about. Just because they were from USA does not mean they take care of their own kind. They didn’t see me as such.
It’s complete baloney that the members of the expat community take care of each other. I have only seen the opposite. I have seen a lot of deceit and dishonesty. I have seen people who came to escape the law in their original country. People who owed taxes they didn’t feel like paying. I’ve seen outright criminals and drug dealers and people doing shady business. I stopped calling myself Expat early on. I am a refugee. A grateful one.
I headed to the police station. I do have the law on my side in this one. They were kind. They even got meat for Puzzle. They phoned the consulate. The consulate wasn’t much help. This woman actually offered me a “loaner” of a free one-way ticket to USA. Are you kidding? I didn’t say that.
No way. No way. No way. I know here, I have no label, and in USA, with the worsening of the laws, and HIPAA eroding, sharing of medical records is going to be the norm with or without permission for the diagnosed. You see, we are not considered human, so we don’t deserve human rights. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence are terrific, but these didn’t apply to the slaves. So why go back where I would be seen as subhuman all over again? You have no rights. Even my shrink said it, and I wish I had this gem on tape:
“Human rights are trivial.” Dear Dr. Kimberly Pearson, I hope you eat those words and get very sick from their poison. If human rights are trivial, then someday when your own rights are violated and you can do nothing (since rights are trivial) then I think you might regret saying it.
I said nothing. I said, “Oh, I’ll consider it but probably not.”
She wanted to call me back so I gave her a number. She said she’d try to find a homeless shelter in the area but I know they’re all in Montevideo. How would I get there? I didn’t even have bus fare, and too much stuff to carry on a bus anyway. Clearly no one would store my stuff.
I count on myself these days. I seem to be mighty reliable, and I’m proud of that. Hmm…so those docs claimed I was needy and dependent. I beg to differ.
I kept trying to tell the cops I needed to get back to the rest of my stuff. I knew it could get pilfered staying there without me. By now, it had been an hour.
Finally, the cop walked me back, noting where I was staying. I figured that until I got myself to elsewhere, they’d keep an eye on me.
Funny, that red jacket was missing. Nothing else. Inside the pockets were sanitary supplies and a working flashlight. I can replace both. When I get cash. You know…stuff is just stuff, but that was an expensive jacket. If you see a guy named Alejandro wearing a red Adidas jacket, tell him off, will you? I’d say the sleeves were long on me, maybe it would fit a skinny guy up to 5 foot 5 inches tall. No, five foot four. Maybe his kid or girlfriend is wearing it. I wish I had USED sanitary supplies in that pocket. For his benefit. Ha ha. You stink bad when you are homeless so that would be my Christmas gift to him. I don’t know if he’s the one who took my wallet or not. Possibly. I could have just dropped it.
I will be receiving some money soon. It will not cover rent. I’ll need more. We’ll see. I walked to the office to receive the money but the office was closed since it wasn’t Friday at all. It was Saturday. I headed back to the police station. They gave me tons of water and showed me where I could refill the bottles for free. They also gave Puzzle more meat. She got new amigos!
Hours passed. Several hours before dark, some more cops came, not the local ones. They were dressed differently. One spoke good English. He explained they were from the Army. I told him much of the story.
Now listen: There are shit people in this world. I’m not saying it’s all black and white and some are shit and some aren’t. I’m just saying that some act like shit sometimes. They don’t know what they are saying or doing. They are ignorant. Lack of knowledge or refusal to learn brings fear, hatred, and hostility.
We are all shit people sometimes. We hope we are shitty the minimum. Some act like angels and you want to kiss them when they surprise you with pizza on Christmas Eve, or a bone for your thirsty dog when others have shut the door on you. We wish we could be kind and generous souls. We are not always that way. We screw up sometimes, this cannot be helped. We get scared and make mistakes. We can only apologize and hope for understanding.
The army dudes didn’t take long. This wasn’t some long debate between them. They saw my plight, knowing I was honest and meant no harm. The one who spoke English told me most likely I was better off back at my casa where I had water and electricity and adequate food until I could get the needed cash to tie me over till my replacement plastic arrived. This was true. They had some work to do, but told me that in two hours, they would return. I packed.
They came like clockwork. Of course, they’re the Army. They got all my stuff into the pickup. At the last minute, a lovely local woman came to me with a gracious smile and handed me a package of crackers. I thanked her, from the bottom of my heart.
God bless my new country. God bless these people who understand and are so helpful and kind. True, you will see crooks wherever you go. But here it is the most democratic country in Latin America. The crime rate is low. There isn’t danger for a woman traveling alone. That kind of attitude is old-fashioned maybe. The funny think is that many women I have known have enjoyed solo travel, and almost all of them are writers.
So there I was, going first class in an air conditioned vehicle. I felt like royalty, me and Puzzle.
We came home to a loud party next door, another two doors down, and right after I arrived, the noisy ones on the other side came rumbling in with their motorcycles. I fear they’ve purchased AC and are running on my electric account, so I have as many outlets as possible switched off. The most important are the outside ones where I think they have drawn current. The parties lasted well into the morning hours. It also reeked of garbage in here. Remind me next time I am fleeing to empty the trash first, eh?
I need to get so much work done. I’m covered with bug bites. Other than that, fairly okay. My spirits are good. Funny, if you can survive psych labeling and all the nonsense I endured in the USA, all this is a piece of cake.
It’s 100 degrees in here. It’s been 100 for several hours now. I need to do something. Who knows. Maybe some other brilliant idea will pop up. If it is called help I will turn it down. Help is a four-letter word full of lies. Help comes from within, folks. You are the most reliable source of strength. Go there and find it.