It seemed the world was committed to have us learn that lesson this night. It wasn't enough to be smart... we had to commit to working hard at getting home.
The night sky darkened as the day became a memory. It seemed like an impossibility that just a few hours earlier we were eating quesadillas on the lakeshore. The brightness of that memory had been painted over by the near misses and dark moments of the day.
We stood there with Freddie and his friend, trying to make awkward small talk. This was difficult because they spoke no English, and my Spanish is terrible. It was made even more tedious because every time he looked at me, his eyes seemed to glance down to the knife on my belt. I felt bad about that, but the truth was I really didn't know this guy, and there was no way I trusted him.
Hours went by as we stood there illuminated by the stark high beams of trucks and buses that blasted past us and swerved around the dead Terracan. Each time a van came down the hill, I expected that it was for us... and they just kept passing us by. Everyone was tired. We hadn't eaten since lunch and it was way past dinner time. The girls had to pee. Sharon took them across the street where they hid behind some trees and overgrown weeds.
It started to feel like help was never coming. Another group of men started lingering around the top of the hill, eyeballing us and talking to each other with laughter. I saw Freddie watching them and saw him begin to tense. They started walking our way. Not again. I want away from here.
The tow-truck suddenly came around the bend. He saw us and turned around in the middle of the road, blocking traffic. Everything changed. With his spinning lights and hulking mass, cars yielded and drivers stopped honking and fist shaking. The crowd of young men turned and walk away.
I was looking for the van and instead noticed a small white car. Apparently that was our van. Edgar called me again on the the dead-phone and after a discussion we decided the ladies would ride in the car while Caleb, Remus, and I rode in the tow-truck. They went ahead and took the welcomed relief of sitting in the car. It took about 30 minutes to hook up the Terracan and load it in the flat-bed and the driver started to pull away. He was leaving us!
I ran up to the truck, grabbed the mirror and swung myself up to the chrome step. I opened the door, tossed in the dog, and pulled up Caleb. The driving started fussing at me. I couldn't understand the words, but the meaning was clear. He did not want us riding in his truck. I wasn't getting out. I told him as best I could that it was necessary that we ride with him. He was ordering us out and I kept saying "NO." If he wanted us out, he was going to have to drag us out.
Suddenly Freddie appeared at the driver's window. I reached into my pocket, grabbed a 100 Quetzales bill out of my pocket, hid it in my hand and reached that hand out to Freddie... reaching across the drivers chest.
Surprised and bewildered, Freddie took my handshake as I thanked him and pressed the money into his hand. I gripped his hand tightly and said, "ayuder" (which translates as "to help" but meant... help us please).
Somehow he got the message as he looked down at the money in his hand. At that moment he became our advocate with the driver, leaning in and arguing with a furry of words I wouldn't be able to understand if I lived here 100 years. The driver threw up his hands, spat out some foul list of words, threw the lever into "D" and up the mountain we shot.
We were going home!
The car with the girls went on ahead of us and out of sight. The big truck with my Terracan in the back lurched up the mountain as the driver ground through the gears. About half a mile up the steep grade, the tow-truck broke down.
Stranded again. Stranded in the absolute thick-darkness, mountain region, middle of no-where in central America with my 12 year old son, my cute little rich dog, a cell phone that only works when Edgar calls me... and a very angry driver. An angry driver who doesn't want us in his truck.
He shut off the engine and was motionless. I slowly rolled my eyes his direction, not wanting him to see me turn my head... and he was staring straight at me through the darkness.
(the story concludes here Breakdown in Solola: (8) Peeing in the Dark)