Friday, May 8, 2009

Sleepless in Guatemala

I used to hear gunshots in the night. I lay awake, debating whether I should put my mattress against the wall, as a little extra barrier between the bullets and me. I knew it would have been futile; a mattress is little protection against flying lead. I just lay there and prayed that the cement block walls were impenetrable.

I lived across from a house of prostitution. There was an armed guard posted outside the heavy metal door. I hoped that this would function as some sort of protection. Needless to say, I really didn't go out at night. If I did, I had a whole contingent of people walk me home. My Guatemalan friend walked me home once, and decided to catch a cab from there. He said it wasn't safe to walk alone at night, even for a guy.

I couldn't think about it while I was there. I would have gone crazy. I couldn't think of a truly safe place; I'm sure there was one, but when there are armed guards barring the doors of the banks and police with guns in the grocery stores, it was hard to feel safe anywhere. Here, I at least knew the danger. It was identifiable, avoidable. The unknown danger was much scarier.

Juanes and Rayito blared out from the "bar" next door. It was the one perk of where I lived. Free music.

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