Chapter 4 – The Message.
I dreamed about Demitri and this was very odd because usually I could understand my dreams, well not completely. What I mean is, that I could put them in context, they would be about recent events that had happened or that I thought might happen. If not concerning things that were happening now, then they would be one of those recurring dreams that came to me from time to time.
I could never work out the exact significance of these recurring dreams, except they were always frustrating, always more or less the same theme, travelling. I would have to get somewhere, I knew I needed to arrive at my destination, but my journey was interrupted by wrong turns and bad directions, I never arrived or even managed to be going in the right direction. Insurmountable objects blocked my path and should I ever manage to find transport going the right way, it wouldn’t stop where I wanted it to, but took me on past my destination.
I had never dreamed about Demitri before, I don’t think I had even remembered him, a boy I knew when we were 9 years old, one of my best friends. Why would he come into my head now, why dream about him? We used to play together, I liked him a lot, but I only knew him for three years before we grew older and moved apart. He was best friends with Georgio, they had the same religion and were from the same country, but Demitri was different to Georgio. Now, looking back, I think Demitri was like me, although I can’t be certain, because at the time, when I was 9 years old, I didn’t know who I was.
I kept the thought of Demitri in my head, somehow it was comforting to think of him. I pictured him in my mind as he was at 9 years old and it made me smile. The more I thought about him, the stronger his image became, his curly black hair, tanned skin, little round cheeks on a small round face with perfect tiny lips. He was a small boy, smaller than me and Georgio, but he was strong, energetic and skilful. We shared secrets together without words, we did things I would not have done with other boys, thinking about him still makes me smile.
The sunlight piercing through the window woke us up. I stood up getting out of bed and looking at Jabez who at that instant opened his eyes. He smiled, a beautiful smile, white teeth accentuated by his brown skin, tanned by the sun. You know, one of the things I found particularly attractive about this boy was that his whole body was tanned, except his ass.
I followed his gaze and realised he was staring at my hard on which I had not paid any attention to, until now. I needed to relieve myself and grabbed my shorts to exit the bedroom, even in this seedy hotel or perhaps because it was a seedy hotel, you wouldn’t want to walk naked down the hall.
I was thinking to myself about how I would manage to take the boy with me. The barman I was sure let nothing go unnoticed and would never want to give up his little side line and the money it brought in. It was ridiculously simply, but the idea popped right into my head to hide Jabez in one of the shipment crates. I could let him out once we were well away from Aramberri and whilst it might get some odd reactions from other passengers, nobody is likely to do anything.
I explained everything to Jabez and although he looked worried and not at all convinced about my plan, he said nothing. Essentially Jabez was strong, he was no ordinary boy, he was, I was sure, a messenger. Where was his true reality, here or in the Palacio de los Sueños, I couldn’t say for sure, because I didn’t know.
The sun was already blistering the dry earth and it was still early. Even the wind that was blowing clouds of dust everywhere in billowing gusts, gave no relief, it was as hot as the baked dirt. Just as the barman had told me the truck that arrived late last night was ready to leave and it seemed like there were no passengers for Chiapas except me. The driver helped me load the crate into the back, it crashed down, but remained intact, I only hoped Jebez was OK inside.
I jumped in the back after the crate. My head scarf was wrapped around my face trying to keep the dust out, it was difficult to keep your eyes open, it really was blowing up a storm. The driver climbed in the cab and started up the motor, a loud roar and the smell of diesel signalled our imminent departure.
Suddenly the barman came rushing out, running waving to attract the driver’s attention, my heart was beating fast, I was sweating, I think I was trembling. ‘That’s it,’ I thought. Game over! I imagined the driver getting down from his cab and dragging off the crate as the barman smashed it open and hauled out John. What could I do alone?
I peeked out through the dust, but could see nothing only hear voices, but I didn’t know what they were saying. Instinctively, without even thinking about what I was doing I sat down on the crate facing the back of the truck. It was as if I was ready to take on the world or anyone who was about to climb in the back to remove the crate.
Nothing happened, I turned to try to see what was going on. The barman had moved halfway back to the building he’d emerged from and was helping a hunched figure in a hooded cape. The cabin door on the other side to the driver opened and slammed shut, the engine revved and with a jolt as the gears were engaged, we pulled away.
The figure of the barman bent with his arm over his head, fighting the dust storm into the hotel, faded into the gloom and disappeared from view. I sighed with relief, grabbed a hammer and wrenched open the crate. I peered inside, ready to drag Jabez out. It was empty!
What could I do now? The plan had worked, Jabez was inside the crate, it got loaded on the truck. The dust storm had helped by hiding everything, it was perfect. What the hell happened?
The journey was endless, the dust storm finally subsided only to let the sun beat down more intensely. There was little protection from the heat, just an old tarpaulin attached to the back of the cab, which I crawled under to get out of the dust and sun.
I went over and over everything that had happened, my head was hurting with trying to figure things out. Around midday we pulled up at a tiny truck stop, it was really just a hut and shed with a pump and barrels of fuel stock piled under a huge open tent. Next to the barrels was the only shade and the three of us made our way over there. For the first time I got a good look at the figure in the cape who had caught the truck at the last minute and was travelling in the cab with the driver.
Usually the price to ride in the cab of the truck was double that of a place in the back. The passenger introduced himself as Absolam and he was, like me on his way to Chiapas, he said no more, polite, but not forthcoming. The driver was a rugged, unshaven, well built guy of I guessed about 30 years of age. He had a small scar on the left side of his chin and a broken front tooth.
We didn’t stay long under the shade of the tent, just the time to fuel up the truck. Anyway, with no wind now the air was filled with the stink of diesel, the ground was stained black in places where fuel had been spilled. When the guy pumping fuel into the truck signalled it was full, we got up and made our way back to the truck. The driver went into the shack to pay for the fuel and I climbed up into the back of the truck.
To my surprise Absolam came to the back of the truck and handed me a tiny scrap of paper. I leant over to take it from his outstretched hand and at the same time looked him straight in the eyes. He had amazing deep blue eyes that appeared like deeps pools in a rugged weathered visage. He smiled a tiny gesture of his mouth as if he was reluctant to use any energy, reluctant to waste his force. He was gone the very instant I had the paper.
I climbed back under the tarpaulin as the driver climbed into the cab. The motor roared into life and the truck jarred into movement complaining with odd metallic noises as it bounced over the rough ground.
It was light enough under the tarpaulin to read what was written on the paper. I unfolded it and read the message, ‘Will meet you in Chiapas, J.’ I still had no idea what had gone wrong back in Aramberri, or who Absolam was, how he had been given the note from Jabez, but I was at least reassured.
That night was spent under the stars at a sort of oasis in the midst of the desert landscape. There were no buildings, just one tent, three trees that looked old and wizened, their trunks twisted into weird shapes, they would give little shade in the day. There was a round wall built out of dried mud bricks and a pump attached to a rusty looking machine with a belt. The driver assured me the well water was clean and the pump worked, but the water was for drinking and for the truck, no washing here.
He gave Absolam and I a blanket each and the dried earth or the back of the truck was our choice for a bed. I preferred the back of the truck, somehow it felt safer, but sleep was a long time coming. I would have liked to talk to Absolam, to find out what he knew, but this was neither the time nor the place for such a conversation.