I left the Sailor’s Bar at 11:45. I had gone over there to check some internet and just hang out with some people from the area. Well, it turned out that no one I knew was there (outside of one British guy), and I was tired, so I decided to head back to my bed. I met my friend Grman on the way back...he was heading to the bar, but I still wanted to my bed, so I said I wouldn’t be going back with him.
I walked the 10 minutes back to where I’m staying...it’s more or less a stroll along the ocean the entire way. Nothing like Portugal...this is more industrial, but it’s still nice to have the sea right next door. I actually went swimming in it today! Grman and I did some jumps today from a ledge.
Well, I’m finally at the place where I am staying, and lo and behold, some guys that I know are outside on a bench. It turns out that they are quite frequently here, so over the past eight days, I have talked to a couple a few times. As I’m making my way towards where I’m going, the Lithuanian spots me.
Of course, I return in kind...”Amigo!” And we do the buddy-buddy sideways hand grab. He is out here drinking the night away again...that is just what he does. On the weekends especially, outside where I’m staying there are several benches, and the one right in front of us is filled with guys getting drunk. And high.
As a token of friendship, I was given a small piece of marijuana last week. Needless to say, I didn’t smoke it. Even after numerous repetition of, “No fumo” (I don’t smoke), the guy insisted. How could I not accept his “regalo” (gift), he would say. And his friends insisted. It was quite an awkward position to be in. I later threw it in the ocean.
Well, the guys are all back tonight...some familiar faces, some new ones. And a couple of girls, too. That’s usually how it goes. And they have the alcohol and Sprite...who knows how long they had been here already. But they drink, they smoke, and they talk. To be nice, I sat down (strategically next to the girl, of course) to talk with them. It’s a great opportunity for me to learn/practice my Spanish, and they love the fact that I am an American. Even after telling them my name, they insist on calling me, “Chicago.” Whatever works.
Well, they fill me up a cup of who knows what type of alcohol (friendly people, of course), but I don’t want it. They insist, and so I hold it in my hand. And they continue talking. They ask about the work I am doing, one guy asks me to jump in the water (I thought that was crazy...but you should probably put this in the back of your mind...just helpin’ ya out), and they mention Michael Jordan and Tony Kukoc. I guess that is what they associate Chicago with!
I’m out there for 10 minutes or so, and the girl I sat next to starts helping me out with some of the conversation. All of the above was taking place in Spanish, but she knew some English, so she would be the interpreter at times. She told me she had been to North Carolina and Miami, and I asked her what she thought of them, and she just did the “eh” thing with her hand...you know, the one where you take your hand and move it side to side, as if to say, “Eh, it was alright, but not really that great....” That one.
A guy is sitting between me and the girl, and he keeps on asking me to swim in the water. “No quiero.” That was my response. I simply didn’t want to. “Porque?” Um, because it is very cold, very dark, and quite simply very stupid. But I just told him it was muy frio (very cold). Yet he kept on insisting. He asked me if I knew how to swim, and, of course, I responded by saying yes. We are on a sidewalk overlooking the ocean...it’s a place where some large boats come in to dock. Down the way there was a beautiful yacht...and in front of us was a rather dismal-looking piece of floating metal. But we were on concrete some 10-12 feet above the water.
Some more conversation takes place, some people come up and give me the amigo handshake, and it’s just hanging out on a sidewalk next to the ocean.
The girl leans over to me and asks, “Are you bored?”
“Are you bored?” I thought that is what she said, but it was kind of random. So I asked her again...”What?”
“Estas aburrido?” Ah, yes, that was what she said! Maybe it was because I hadn’t taken a single drink of the cup they poured me. Or maybe she could tell that I was different. Maybe it was because I wasn’t smoking with them. I really don’t know, but she asked!
I told her nah, but then after I thought about it, she may have been asking me if I wanted to go do something else...so a couple of seconds later, I told her that, yeah, this stuff was boring...and stupid. She agreed.
And it was somewhere in there where the guy next to me gets up to leave. After he leaves, the other guys tell me he is a bit crazy. He either smokes or has been smoking cocaine...I couldn’t pick up what tense they were using. Interesting. But he was gone. And I figured I would be able to have a more civilized talk with the girl now. Sweet!
Grman walked up somewhere in here. He had come back from the bar, and he was surprised to see me outside. “What is this?” haha...yeah, I was planning on going to bed, but some amigos wanted to talk! He sat on the bench, too.
And somewhere in there, another guys comes and sits between me and the girl. Grr. I would just have to wait.
And then the coke guy comes back. “I want you to swim,” he said in Spanish. “No gracias. No quiero.” But he insisted. Um, no thanks. Even more. Granted, I did tell him I could swim. But this was gettin’ out of control. He was now grabbing my hand. I was sitting on the back part of the park bench...the part where you rest your back. My feet were sitting on the part where your butt was supposed to go. And he grabbed me again. I was getting serious. NO. And I was still able to pull away from him.
But he came back. And this time his grip was good. He was able to make me lose my balance on the bench since I was on top. His pull brought me off of the bench, the cup that I had spilled, and it was such a commotion that everyone just watched us. I had been pulled from my place, and all eyes were on me to see how I would respond. I could feel all of the glares.
But I played it cool. I had been pulled up pretty close to a guy who was standing, so I just stood next to him. Crossed my arms. And ignored all of the glares. That way they could all go back to their conversations.
And then the guy says something, and the next thing I know, I have several people grabbing at me. “Holy cow, they are going to throw me into the ocean!” I knew exactly what they were going to do. Not cool. Or safe. Or good. So I pull back. I say even more in my strongest language, making the eye contact and everything that I could to tell them I was serious....”NOOO.” It’s not a yell, it’s not a scream, it’s the type of “no” that you give to a kid...or a dog...after they keep insisting on getting something. The one that ends all attempts. It’s the one that says, “Ok, it was all fun and games until now, but I really am serious. I mean, ‘no.’”
And yet I still feel hands all over me. This is not good. I seriously did all I could to fight against them. And I was somewhat able to pull away...at least away from the water. The bench was about 15 feet from the water...giving enough space for people to walk along the ocean. By this time, through the being pulled up, the small scuffle, and the trying to get away from them, we had managed to end up at another bench. I used it as a buffer between me and a couple of them.
But another guy says something. Something serious. Something about me and “nadar” (to swim). He wants to know why I will not jump into the ocean. I tell them, “Es frio. No quiero.” But by this time, it is mob-style. My words meant nothing.
And the next thing I know, I am in the street, staring eyeball-to-eyeball with this guy. It’s the type of stare that only leads to...
BAM! Yup. He jacked me. BAM! Another. Temple. Head. Nose. I was being punched repeatedly. I have only experienced this one other time in life, and it’s a feeling that is incredibly difficult to describe. No other sensation or experience comes anywhere close to being in a fight. Being punched in the face and head with bare hands. Nothing.
But I don’t want to fight. Part of it is just me. I am not a fighter. I take no joy in punching someone in the face. And frankly, the odds were heavily stacked against me. I was very much alone here. One American. Four or five participating Spaniards. I don’t know what would have happened if I would have fought back...would I have had a good match? Or would they have ganged up on me? I don’t know. But I did my best to leave. A couple of guys sort of stepped in. I say sort of because they weren’t really trying to separate us.
I was the one trying to separate myself. And he still wants me. And I glare at him...”PORQUE?!!!! PORQUE???!!! NO ES NECESARIO!” I was hot. I was so mad. I had just been jacked in the face, and this guy still wants to go at me. And there are still several Spanish guys there, too. I needed to leave. I had blood running down my face...my shirt was now hanging on only by the collar...the rest was dangling around my shorts. I was standing there, with my blood, with my anger, with my exposed chest and stomach....all eyes were on me. I needed to leave.
So I just start walking away. Down the sidewalk. Another guy grabs me. “Hey, hey, amigo, ven aqui, ven aqui.” He has grabbed me. “NO,” I say. He still hangs onto me. I know not what his intentions are...if he is going to bring me back to the fight or what he is trying to do. But you don’t grab a guy and tell him what to do. He is using force. I fight myself away.
And I keep walking down the sidewalk. And I can feel them. I am being followed. So I do the half-head turn...keeping them in my peripheral vision. The guy that started punching me is following me again, as are some other guys. All I can think about is...”Away from the water, away from the water.” The ocean was dark, dangerous, and deadly. And to be pushed in or thrown in...after who knows what they would do to me first...I wanted none of that. So I walk into the street. Right in front of a car. I need to just get away, get to light, get to people, get to somewhere. Anywhere than here. I glare down the driver and passenger. What a sight that must have been. Bloody face, torn short, a look of fear and anger.
And so I cross the street.
And then just like that, I was one with my perpetrator. I never saw it coming, but he has bonded himself with me. He has run up behind me and leaped onto me, using his arms to choke me. I can only remember supporting his full weight, his legs kicking me around the groin area, and his ever-pressing arms around my neck. I am literally being choked.
And I so I try to free myself. To no avail. The only other times I can remember being choked is with a fight with my brother. Every brother experiences it. Once he gets you in the sleeper hold or some similar move, you must tap out. It’s the sign of being defeated. If you don’t tap, he keeps choking, and you lose your oxygen. But that never happens. Brothers don’t kill.
I am quickly losing oxygen. I have now thrown myself to the ground, trying to use the force to wrestle this guy off of my back. But he has a full grip around me...legs wrapped around my mid-section, arms securely cutting off my air flow. I can remember seeing guys above me. I remember the bright lights of the parking garage exit where we now were.
And I also remember thinking...”Any time now, the police should be showing up.” At this port, I am told there are several video cameras to protect the boats, and a week ago, a fire took over a small trashcan...probably from a cigarette. Within minutes, police were there putting out the fire.
And I remember thinking...”Grman should be mediating anytime now.”
And yet I was still unable to breathe. And almost instantaneously, I realized I was fighting a losing battle. And I remember thinking...
“I am going to die.”
It was the most helpless feeling I have ever had in my life.
There was no sense of confidence, no sense of anything really. It was just that simple statement. I thought not about God, thought not about anything. I just remember thinking about my dead body lying there on the exit ramp.
And then I saw a boot coming at my face. BAM! Another guy was joining in.
“Ayuda...” That wasn’t even how it came out. Nowhere close. My arms are trying to pull away the other guys arms from around my neck, I am quickly losing oxygen, and I am over. In the scratchiest voice I think I have ever heard, I must the words, “Ayuda...” I was trying to scream for help, but I could barely get anything out. Only a scratchy and quiet muster. The last I had left.
I think I maybe said it twice. I don’t know. I am trying to get these arms off, I am moving around on the ground, and I don’t really remember much else. I think I saw one guy come over to pull this guy off, but I couldn’t really say who ended up doing it. But someone came and pulled him off.
I don’t remember a whole lot about the next part, either. I only know that I ended up in the parking garage, and I saw a window with people in it. I told them to open the door. They would not. I tried to say something, and my blood was flowing...or adrenaline...or lack of oxygen...or wanting to cry...or something. But I had to literally think about and plan my words. And it wasn’t because it was in Spanish. I don’t really know why.
They motioned me over to the other side of the window. This was the parking garage security or something. But they refused to come out. I saw people staring at me. From their cars...as they walked to their cars. They stopped and stared.
I spoke through the little “bank teller” system...don’t really remember what I said, but I remember starting out...”Mi espanol no es bien.” I never start out with that. But I needed to let them know from the get go that I may be hard to understand. I had no time to lose.
They motion me back over to the protected door. And a guy comes out. I don’t remember what I say there, either, but he asks me if I need an ambulancia. What? Was I really that bad? I had no idea. I knew I had blood on my face, my face felt swollen, my throat hurt, and my mouth was rather painful, and I was constantly spitting blood out of my mouth, but that was all I knew. “No se. No puedo a ver...”
I said those words...which in Spanish mean...”I don’t know. I can’t see.” And I used hand motions to tell him what I meant...motioning that I was not able to see my face. I don’t think he thought that I literally couldn’t see. I just meant to say, “I’m not sure. I can’t see how bad it is.”
But he is on the radio calling the ambulancia. And the policia.
There are three guys out there with me now. I felt a little protected. But I was still feeling a bit...I don’t know. I had literally almost died. And I had no power over it.
But though my face hurt, I didn’t feel like it was all that bad. As in needing paramedics. So I walked away (much to the confusion and comments to come back of the security) to look at myself in a motorcycle mirror. Yup, some blood. Coming out of the nose. No shirt...except for a collar and some string. But other than that, I didn’t see any open cuts or lacerations.
I walked over to the guy calling the ambulancia. “No necesito una ambulancia.” He said he already had them called, asked me if I was absolutely sure, and I told him I didn’t need one. As I walked away, I heard him calling the ambulance off.
But they called the police. And they made me walk outside. I definitely did not want to go back out there. I knew not where these guys were, I knew not what they were capable of, and I sure didn’t want to be the nark who tattles on the police. They would surely come back a different time to teach me that lesson.
I make sure to stay back. And three parking lot security officers with radios in hand walk out to the sidewalk. I see some of the guys still around. And so as to let them know that I am not trying to cause any problems, I stay back. I sure didn’t want to be leading the police out there. But I tell them that I was beaten by that boat over there. And so they make me walk over there. Of course, everyone on the bench is watching me. Every move I make.
So I do the small shrug...the one that says, “I have to go through with this...they are making me, but I am not trying to get anyone in trouble here.” But in reality, I wanted these guys found. I wanted a video of the whole thing. I wanted something, anything. Just not with me there. I still had no idea what they were willing to do afterwards. As in tomorrow. Or later. And I was quite concerned about that.
Then the police show up. And neither of the two officers speak English. So I am left to use the security guard to try to explain what has happened. I repeatedly ask for video cameras, but I am told that they have none where we were located. I ask about the exit ramp of the parking garage, and they say the cameras only point inside, not outside. I feel helpless again.
And the whole time the guys that the security officers had brought back over are speaking in Spanish, giving their side of the story. And then they plead with me. “Amigo, amigo, tell them we did not do anything.” Then he shows me that the police want to hand-cuff them if I do not speak up.
“No quiero una problema...” I repeated that phrase cautiously every time I spoke. I was scared to death that once these officers left, something else would happen. Though I wanted justice, I needed to protect myself. So I made sure over and over that they understood I was not out to be a rat...a tattle-tale...or whatever. I just wanted to be safe.
And then I say that I really don’t know what these guys were doing. Frankly, the guy was right. They did do nothing. And that was the problem, too. I was left to myself while these guys watched. But I do vaguely remember one of the two guys coming over when I was being choked. Whether he saved my life or not, I don’t know. I can’t say who pulled the guy off, I can’t say who just sat around and watched. Those things were quite peripheral to me. They didn’t matter at the time. All that mattered was not dying.
But once the police officers found out that these two guys were not ones that beat me, they scrambled. As in I looked at one of the officers, he shrugged his shoulders as if to say that he was helpless to do anything, then looked at this partner, and they hopped in their car and drove off. I was shocked...and quite furious...and helpless again.
And then one of the guys (who had pleaded with me to claim his innocence) looks at me and says, “No worries,” in his mediocre English. No worries. No worries means that you want your hide protected. Don’t “no worries” me.
But again, I was helpless.
The guy grabs my hand, tries to get me to come with him again. I refuse. The security officers say that nothing can really be done...then they start heading back to the parking garage. And I am left there...still bleeding...still shirtless...still incredibly angry and afraid.
I walk across the street, ask the security guards if there is a bathroom nearby. They tell me that there is one, but that I will need to put on a camisa. Right. In order to clean up, I first have to put on a shirt. Shut up. I again ask and this time point exactly to where the choking took place. It was right behind them at this point, and they again say that the cameras only point inside, not outside.
I had nothing.
I walk back, grab a shirt, then head to get cleaned up. And one of the guys has the audacity to ask me...”Why did you fight him?” I was confused out of my mind. “Why did you fight with that guy?”
I had no idea what he was talking about. I didn’t know if he was confusing some words in English with what he wanted to say or what, but I felt like I was being accused of starting this whole mess. “Um, I didn’t fight. I didn’t want to fight.”
“Do you want to fight him?”
This was unbelievable. They wanted to stage an actual match-up between us.
“Manana,” he said. Tomorrow night.
“No thanks.” I wanted nothing to do with the guy. Actually, that is a huge lie. I want to beat him to a bloody pulp, I want to throw him in the water over and over again, I want to gang up on him with my friends and watch him be helpless. Frankly, in my honesty, I really don’t think I would mind killing him. I really don’t think I would bat an eye to the whole thing. I say that with half-reserve, but it’s the feelings I have. This guy had nearly killed me, and I would have no problems returning the favor.
But I have nothing. I have no friends. I have no back-up. I have no one fighting for me in my corner. Even in the best case scenario, I could have beaten the guy up, but who knows what his friends would have done to me. I may be able to hold my own with one guy, but I simply was no match for four or five. Even in victory, I could have very easily been defeated.
Well, I leave the place where I am staying. Some of the people were still there, and I didn’t want to be around. So I walk back across to the parking garage, to the mall, and I head upstairs to the bathroom. Everything else is closed by now, but the bathrooms are still open. And there I assess the damages. Frankly, I was surprised that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I had a bloody nose and large red bumps around my neck, but that was more or less the extent of the external damages. Granted, nearly every part of my face hurt on the inside, and I was a bit swollen, but other than that, I could have passed it off. I cleaned out my nose, touched the areas of my face, and I quickly realized that my cheek was quite swollen and tender. I guess one of the punches or the kick jammed my cheek against my teeth. The inside of my mouth was cut up a bit in this area, but I didn’t need any stitches or anything. All in all, I think I faired pretty well.
I cleaned up, then walked back outside. And the last place I was going to go was back down by those people on my way to my bed. Besides, I was still flowing with adrenaline. I couldn’t sleep if I tried. So I sat in a chair of a now-closing bar and watched from the terrace. Several people were still there. And so I just waited. A rather attractive waitress came over to me, said something beautiful in Spanish, then went back to working.
But I just sat there. For an hour. An hour and a half. Two? I don’t know. And just waited for the people to leave. A couple of times I thought they had spotted me, and I was scared that they would see me. But I tried to remain hidden behind a palm tree. The waitress came back by, said something else, and then rubbed her hand through my face and hair. What in the world was happening?! I didn’t have time for this. But she left and never came back.
I saw the policia go by a couple of times. First with a car, then with two motorcycles. They had obviously been told to heavily patrol the area, as I have been here for over a week, and I rarely see any officers go by. I can’t even remember of one time, come to think of it. I was still a bit nervous, though, about what the people would think. The policia were coming by frequently enough to make their presence known. And for what it mattered, I was the reason for it. Not necessarily a great thing.
Finally, the group disbanded, but I waited some more. I was now the only person outside...having outlasted the vibrant nightlife of the town. It must have been around three o’clock in the morning by now. After waiting another 10-15 minutes, I slowly and cautiously make my way back to where I was staying. I wanted no one to see me, and I wanted to make it quick. I finally made it back.
The guy who I am staying with was surprisingly awake....but you could tell he had just awoken. “Hey.” “Hey.” And with that, I tucked myself away in the kitchen. He probably thought I had come back from a night of drinking or partying. Who knows. I make my way to my room, and I have to pass by the room where Grman is sleeping. He says something, but I was so outrageously angry with him for not doing anything, that I just keep on walking. And don’t say a thing.
Then I head back to the kitchen. I needed to put some ice on my face...on my cheek. So I sit there for about 15-20 minutes. And then I figure it was time to head for bed, though I knew I couldn’t sleep. In another few hours, the sun would be up anyway. I get up, put the ice pack back in the freezer, then make my way towards the door. And I heard someone outside the kitchen. Hmm...no one should be up. I am now right at the door, and I can hear slow footsteps.
Someone is here. Someone is out to get me. And frankly, it has happened before. The owner says that people have come into his property before. I stop. I make absolutely no movements, as I try to figure out who is outside the door. I catch a shadow movement through the crack, and I wait to see if it is really a shadow or not. It is. Someone is outside the door.
I am inches from the door. Not moving. I look to my right. There are the butcher knives. And I just wait...hoping that the body would leave or at least move. And then...
The door swings wide open in an instant. I hadn’t touched it, though. And there in the moonlight, I see a man with a club cocked back ready to hit me. What the hell?! In the quickest of reactions, he realizes it is me, or I realize that it is him, or something. But I am not hit. Grman is there holding the club. He, too, thought that one of the guys had broken in.
And then I just lose it. “WHAT THE HELL?! WHAT THE ******* HELL?!” All of my rage, anger, fear, and confusion just comes billowing out. I am angry at everything. I am angry at having almost been killed, at drugs, at alcohol, at being helpless, at having no one on my side, of having been beaten, of the fear I had, at Grman for doing nothing, of the police not doing anything, of the video cameras not being there, of the people just watching, and of being totally, completely, and utterly helpless. I head the opposite way as Grman and head for my bed. What in the world is going on?
I lay there...far from sleep. My blood is still cooking. The adrenaline is starting to wear off, and I am feeling pain in virtually every part of my body now. It started to fade when I was over on the terrace, and I only then realized that I had a scraped knee and a bloody right ankle. This must have been from when I tried to throw him off my back by lunging to the ground. Or maybe as I tried to wrestle him off when I was on the pavement. Who knows. My neck was obviously painful, and swallowing had a bit of pain to it. I wasn’t spitting out blood anymore, but I had some gritty stuff in my mouth every once in a while. Rocks, maybe? Part of a tooth?
But I couldn’t sleep. And then I heard someone above me. Someone else was up. I heard movements all around, I was panicking. I literally lay there thinking that I was going to be shot. I could only think that someone had come back, and they were looking for me.
I was now laying in bed, in total darkness, and I was trying to figure out where to go. I couldn’t leave, because the hallway would put me right by anyone who would be there. I had no windows in my room. So I thought about hiding under the bed, but there was a bunch of metal there. I thought about hiding out in the bathroom, but I was so afraid to move. Any sound would let them know where I was. And so I just lay silent, unmoving, and deeply afraid on my bed. I wanted to just close my eyes, fall asleep, and never see what killed me. I visualized the gunshot in the darkness, and my mind was just a mess. Just fall asleep. Just fall asleep. Just get it over with. Be done with it all.
It was close to 5:00 A.M. by now.
Nothing ever happened. It is now morning, and I still don’t know who was on the property. I am laying in bed now, not wanting to even see the light of day. I have work to do, but I just can’t describe the feelings I have.
The part that gets me the most is just the total helplessness of it all. I couldn’t wrestle the guy off of my back, and no one was there to do anything. I had no friends stepping up. I had no one on my side. It was helplessness in its most extreme form. I was literally going to be choked to death without some outside intervention. But I myself was powerless.
It is only comparable to being attacked by a shark...or a bear...or being trapped underneath rubble from a tornado or a bomb. I would assume people in these circumstances would feel the same way anyway. You can only hope that the bear leaves...or the shark swims away. Or that someone is outside with cranes and flashlights looking for you. But as it is, there is absolutely nothing that you yourself can do. It is quite possibly the worst feeling in the world. I had always said up until this point that loneliness is the worst feeling in the world. But coupled with helplessness, there is no greater hell on earth.
And the thought of me dying just messes with a guy’s mind. I don’t know if I would have passed out and come back...or if I would have literally been killed. But I was perhaps within seconds of joining those who have gone before me in similar circumstances. The countless individuals who experienced the exact same feelings...but were never helped. The ones that weren’t found. Or were eaten. Or left for dead. We would be bonded only in our feelings, but each with drastically different stories.
Had it not been for someone intervening, and I don’t know who, I would most likely be dead right now. And that just messes me up. I will never forget that horrible thought I had as I fought with my last strength...”I am going to die.” I have never been even remotely close to that place before, and I wish it upon no one. It is a hellish statement and an even worse feeling. And I will probably think about that feeling and this night often, though I just wish to put it all behind me. It only messes me up when I think about it.
My body aches in more ways than I ever thought possible. My neck still hurts. It hurts to swallow, and I’ll soon find out how difficult it is to eat. I can’t smile fully because of my cheek. And I am sore all over...shoulders, legs, head, you name it. The adrenaline is long gone, and I am now at the mercy of a body trying to recover from a beating.
I don’t know where I go from here. I am almost numb to the whole thing. But I will in no way be present out upon the sidewalk tonight. I still fear for what will happen. A few days ago I was saying that this is my favorite place so far. And it has been. But now I am more than ready to move on.