Last night we almost get killed…
It started like any other day. A bit later than usual but nothing out of the ordinary. Weekends are for walking and communing with nature. This time I let him chose the destination and never for one moment glance at the map or interfere with what he was doing. That was probably the first mistake I’ve made that day.
I know from experience that if I don’t hold his hands throughout the whole process (whether it’s choosing the destinations or painting the walls to managing financial aspects of our lives, the drill is the same_ don’t leave him alone) the outcome will be a disaster. But sometimes, I want to give him a chance to prove himself, to show that he already learned something eleven years under my tutelage.
Another mistake. It’s me who never learn that what I hope for will never happen. Not in this lifetime. He will always be a little boy masquerading as a man.
The walk was good. As good as you can expect from this part of the country. Nothing special but not so bad either. Seven kilometres to begin with. Long enough for an evening walk (evening because it took him almost three hours to decide which) but not too long to tire me out that it will be a trouble for me to walk back. It was next to the water, with the hope of coming back through the village. At least that was what he said it was going to be.
We lingered a bit because I took some photographs. The water was so calm it looked like a mirror and indeed mirroring perfectly the autumn foliage on the bank it was a sight to behold. That, coupled with the low sun slanting over the whole scenery, the effect was quite magical.
When he said it was time to leave the waterfront, in my mind I already questioned his alternatives. The road he had chosen is narrow, no lights, no shoulders and people are allowed to drive 70 km per hour which means they will be coming on around 90 if not faster. So far so good. It was not dark yet so we can still find our way. When he told me we had to take the first turn to the right I could not help but voiced out my doubts.
First, there was a sign that said: cul-de-sac. Second, there is a giant wall (meant to minimize sounds from the traffic on the nearby freeway) at the end of the road. Third, there was this odd looking/acting guy few meters ahead of us who was walking deliberately slow dressed in full black from head to toe from toe to head. No, it was not his clothing or manner that alarmed me. It was my instinct telling me the guy was not to be trusted.
I told my companion exactly that but he said he was sure we can pass through because his phone told him so. Which reminded me of those times he followed his GPS to kingdom come despite my protests and we ended up in the middle of a cornfield, other times stuck in the mud someone had to pull us free, or driving three hours around a rotunda. Too many to mention.
I hate to be right but like I thought, there was no way we can go around the wall which to my horror exactly what the strange guy had suggested heartily to my companion and I could see that he was willing to risk that option. So much so that he started walking in that direction. I followed for the benefit of the doubt thinking why this odd guy came here knowing this is a dead end which according to him had been for almost two years now and why he was lingering around instead of turning back watching us with those hawk eyes. He walked back and forth, back and forth with slow deliberation of someone who has a lot of time on his hands. I find it suspicious.
It was dark already and the path next to the wall was kind of boggy my shoes sunk in the mud with every step. I was wearing city shoes because he assured me that there will never be an off-road track in this walk. Another mistake_ believing what he said.
I decided to call it quits. Walking on marshland in the dark is not an option. Not even for a fervent adventurer like me. The guy was still there waiting, said “I’m afraid so” when I told him the path was squashy. He also decided to be chatty and offered some other alternatives. After the first one, I was not interested in any advice he cared to offer. But my companion thought otherwise. He even showed the map on his cell phone to the guy. They stood there side by side like old buddies and I wanted to say to him: Don’t ever do that! Don’t ever let a stranger come to within striking distance of you. You never know what might happen. Especially in a place like this in a middle of nowhere with an over-friendly stranger who was offering us a ride in his car to whatever destination we choose.
Okay, maybe the guy was just friendly, maybe he was just stretching his legs and checking out what machinery was on site so he can steal it after we’re gone, maybe he just escaping a family dinner he didn’t feel at ease with or had a fight with his sweetheart and walking the anger off. I don’t know. But being cautious is not a crime so I dragged my companion away from him and walked away as fast as I could.
The diversion led us to an even bigger sh!t. A busy national road with wide canals full of freezing water on both sides and nowhere to walk but the road itself. It was also devoid of any houses/buildings or lights. For the first time, I was scared. I thought: if we can come out here alive, it will be a miracle. I asked him for any alternatives. Even forest will be a better option, at least there will be no cars coming at us at 120 or more km per hour. But he said no there wasn’t any.
I was fuming mad! I asked him if he studies the whole map and looked for alternatives before we set out. He said no, not the whole map but a portion of it. The alternatives he planned was along the water, that if I get tired we can go back via the other side. But that route was kilometers ago! If we track back it will be the same, busy road and no lights and no shoulders as well. I told him countless of times to have plan B, plan C, the whole alphabet if necessary because the moment you go out the door, anything can happen. Expect the unexpected. You will always need a way out in every situation in every aspect of life. Things can go out of control and you might need an escape route. It always safe to have a backup plan in case. After everything that happened, I taught he learned a thing or tow by now. Apparently not.
Treading on a busy highway in total darkness within an inch of cars from behind and the ones on front blinding me and a wide canal full of freezing water as the only alternative, believe you me it is pretty scary. I am not afraid to die. Never. What I’m afraid of is to live as a crippled for the rest of my life.
A car inched slowly behind us before it came to a full stop. My initial thought was: It’s the guy. He decided to follow us after all. The window rolled down and I saw a woman’s face behind the wheel. Blond, curly, mid-thirties, middle class. She got three adorable kids with her, all of them girls. Two on the front, one at the back. The first thing she said was: “Are you aware how dangerous it is? Walking in the dark like that? You scared me.”
Though she was mad she delivered her words carefully and with respect. And I am totally on her side. I know how it is to be in her position. I will be mad also if it was the other way around.
We explained our situation and she apologized for being angry. I asked if we can ride with her till the church where our car was parked. We must have looked trustworthy because she took us in. I will think twice before I do that if I was her. Especially with three young children with me. I am so grateful she stopped because God knows what might happen if not. I am glad everything turned out alright for us. But I will never forget the experience soon. I hope it finally taught my companion to be cautious at all times and to have a backup plan. I hope that every time…