I stood there, tense and holding my breath... staring directly into the eyes of the biggest of the two men. This situation was surreal, it was impossible. How could I be standing here with a dead cell phone in my pocket that would receive phone calls from the one man in the world that could help me... with my Papaw's knife clutched in my hand... alone and vulnerable on the edge of a steep mountain on a blind curve? Everything I held dear in this world stood behind me.
I was standing with my weight on my right foot with my left foot firmly on the ground between me and Freddie. I was poised for the fight of my life. My demand that he walk away hung in the air between us. I tightened my grip on the knife and rehearsed in my head the sequences I had studied in a martial arts studio years ago. I stared dead into his eyes. Everything in the world seemed to stop. Nothing existed in that moment except the two of us. I could see the air catch in his breath. Finally, he moved...
...he took a step back, turned to the other guy and they began walking away. I watched him closely as they walked down the mountain, the opposite way from which they had came. And then he reached for his cell phone.
I turned to Kellie and said, "he is making a call. Our night is about to head a very specific direction. This could go one of two ways. He is either legitimate and he is calling Edgar to clear this up, or he is calling his buddies, telling them about the stranded gringos... we are an easy target."
He ended his phone call and spoke with his partner. They stood about 50 feet from us and quietly watched us.
For what seemed like hours we stood there, watching each other from a distance. I wanted to run... but we had nowhere to go. All we could do was wait. Things were about to get better, or irrevocably worse. I could feel my jaw aching from the intense expression in my face. My heart was pumping and adrenaline was demanding some sort of action. This waiting was torture!
The phone again rang in my pocket. I didn't want to release the knife, so I shoved the keys into a back pocket and opened my phone. It was Edgar!
"Chad, are there two young men standing near you?" "Yes." "Ok, they are the mechanic. You need to let them help you." "But... Edgar, neither one of them is Arturo... he says his name is Freddie." "Yes, Freddie is Arturo's son. He is there to help you." "You said I was ONLY to take help from a man named Arturo! I nearly stabbed this guy!" "No, let him stand with you until the tow truck and van arrives... he knows the area and will keep you safe."
I looked over to Freddie who was watching my conversation. I moved my right hand in front of me and showed him as I folded the blade and put the knife back into the holster. I showed him my open hands and walked towards him and his friend. "Lo siento mi amigo" (I am sorry my friend). "Necesitamos ayuda" (we need help).
My entire body seemed to deflate as I let myself relax. I felt like I was tingling from head to toe. My legs felt like rubber. I leaned back against the wall and looked up at the night sky. I noticed the cool wind blowing down the mountain and I gave thanks to God. He had answered my prayer and had held my hand still. Things could have gone so badly wrong... but, I realized that we may now have a path home. I started to laugh under my breath... I must have sounded insane.
The night was far from over. I had no idea what else was coming our way, but at least for this moment... I allowed myself to cling to hope.
(continue the story here Breakdown in Solola: (7) Nothing's Ever Easy)
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