I was fifteen years old when I was recruited. Like most teenagers, even in the worst conditions, I was trying to find my own identity. Regardless of the situation, I had grown up in a stable and loving home, though still aware of my surroundings. When I turned twelve, the regime passed a new decree expropriating my parent’s assets and bank accounts. My parents had been targeted for years, as they had helped hide activists and were suspected of operating an underground network assisting those who were fighting for freedom of speech and democracy. The regime did not want them dead, it wanted to humiliate them, and to use them as an example for those still rebelling. One day, they were brought in for questioning, and sent directly to prison, no charges, and no right to an attorney. Although I was a minor, I was left to fend for myself as the system had collapsed and resources were nonexistent. Plus, I was a walking reminder of what would happen to those who dared to fight the regime. I became a pariah.
I do not wish upon anyone what I went through during the first few months of my forced freedom. I had only been allowed to keep a backpack of things, which I quickly filled with some clothes, medicine, a few tampons, documents, and a couple of photos. I was smart enough to get some food and a Swiss Army knife that belonged to my dad. It was so surreal that I felt dumb thinking I might need all this, but at the same time I was facing a new life I had never known before, and I was scared. The streets are no place for a girl, let alone in a situation of chaos, where everything has a price and where morals belong to a different era.
The first few nights were so cold I thought I wouldn’t survive. I had to stop myself from crying because the tears would nearly freeze, which felt like a stinging reminder of everything that was wrong with this situation. But the cold offered protection. I was able to disguise myself as a scroungy boy and to hide the backpack with my few belongings under an already filthy blanket. I did odd jobs and begged for food or money when I couldn’t get anything, but I was able to survive. After the first few weeks, I felt comfortable enough to think that I would make it after all, despite the pain, despite the anger, and despite the hunger. Little did I know, I would only feel that for a few more hours.
It was around 10 pm when I got settled in my usual spot, under a bench in a poorly lit square. The bench was rather good at shielding me from the wind and, though dark, was still close enough to pedestrians and a place with food, in case I needed help. I still believed in humankind, you see.
And then, I saw it. Suddenly, I felt the hairs on my neck prickle and I was much more aware of my surroundings. Where there had been bushes two minutes ago, there were shadows, slowly moving to my spot. It all went so fast I can barely remember. A few seconds later, someone was grabbing me from behind and putting a knife to my throat. I remember the sharpness of the blade, but I didn’t care. They started searching my stuff, my backpack, my pockets, and the little money I had hidden in my shoe. I fought, I screamed, I asked for help. No one came. I could see the passersby staring, and then turning their heads or leaving. And it hit me, I was alone in the world, no one was coming. I fought with everything I had, my nails, my teeth, my rage. I didn’t care whether I lived or not, because there was nothing left to live for. Although I caught them by surprise, they were three against one; it was over. Not only did I lose my belongings that night, but I also lost my innocence, my hope, and any faith in humanity. I started pick-pocketing and stealing. I wandered around the streets like those who have nothing and don’t owe anything. Occasionally some looked at me with pity, but I would just sneer at them. I didn’t want to rely on anybody, let myself feel that someone may want to help me.
Without having my essentials, life got tougher. I was still begging and stealing but the food was getting scarcer as the situation in the country deteriorated. There were talks of liberation, a new beginning, but I couldn’t care less. My new beginning had started already, and it was worse than I could have imagined.
A few weeks after the incident, I thought I recognized one of the robbers with other kids. I wasn’t sure at first, so I decided to follow them. They were older than me and very cocky. They walked like they owned the street and terrified those who stared at them too long. I did not care anymore; I wanted my things back. I wanted to recover the only reminder that I had had a happy life.
So I followed. I looked like a skinny weasel, sneaking behind them between the dumpsters and trying to go undetected. I didn’t dare to get too close to them, but I was desperate to know where they slept, and most importantly, where they kept my stuff.
I became cockier and careless. I didn´t know any better and didn’t bother to look after myself. I would steal in plain sight and from the most dangerous people in the neighborhood. After a while, following the three kids that had stolen from me became boring, but I was intrigued by them, who they were, and how they had come to know each other. They were, for street standards, affectionate among themselves and seemed to share a sense of community I longed for. I wanted to be a part of their group, but I did not want to risk infuriating them. Also, I started to notice a pattern. They would hang out at a specific spot for a few days, until they targeted someone and stole everything from them, very violently. It was like they would suddenly feel bloodthirsty; their expressions would change; their body language turned rigid and their whole act of affection and jokes was replaced by pure sadism. It was not friendship that united them, but viciousness. Looking back, I realized that I should’ve noticed the signs, the changes in their behavior. But I wanted a pack, and I did not feel like the world had been fair to me, so why should I care?
(…to be continued…)
January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)
February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)
March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)
April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)
May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)
June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)
July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)
August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)
September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)
October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)
November: Remember – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)
December: I Can’t Breathe – Veronica Cordido (Venezuela)
Background – Context
In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)
Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)
The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)
L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)
From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)
Emblems and stories on the international community
Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world
Cover photo: Montevideo, Uruguay – Locked out – Guzman Barquin (Unsplash)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed