SANTIAGO, Chile- I am going to be missing that $250 I lost in the park in Santiago. I knew that walking home to my hotel through that park at the middle of the night was a bad idea. My Chilean friend, JessieAnne, suggested that I go that way, and my pride was too much to seem afraid.
“There are people there who will give you smokes of marijuana,” she informed me.
Another warning sign, for sure, but pride and machismo is often larger than mere warnings.
In the park I watched as two guys down the side of the highway in front of me stumbled around in long stretching arches on and off of the sidewalk. On guy would stumble over to the drainage ditch to the right an then return to join his friend on the sidewalk.
I thought they were just drunk university students. I thought wrong.
[adsense]When I walked past the one who was waiting on the sidewalk for his companion to return from his loop to the drainage ditch, he asked me a question:
“Tiene un cigerillo?” as he coolly lean up against a lamp post. I knew that this guy was not after a smoke, he was after me. I was in trouble. As I tried to break free from his grasp, the accomplice returned. I saw a large kitchen knife glittering in the street lights move from his hand to my throat. I was beat.
I dug out some money. I had way too much on me — $250 in US currency. They took my shoulder bag as well.
As my assailants began walking away into the night it occurred to me that they were making off with my notebook, which was inside my bag which was now firmly in their possession. A thought jumped through my head- getting stabbed or losing my notebook? I took my chances.
“To loose a passport, fine, to loose a notebook, unthinkable,” once wrote Bruce Chatwin.
I took off running after them yelling, “Nessisito mi libro! Nessisito mi libro!”
The two muggers paused their descent into the dark, and slowly turned to stared at me. I am unsure if I ever gazed upon a couple men looking more bewildered. It was here that I was able to get a good look at them for the first time. The one who asked for the cigarette was skinny and rather small — I could have taken him. The other was big and dressed in blue jeans and a denim jacket — I had no shot. The garb of both men was new and clean. The muggers did not seem to fit their part. They stood there staring at me in the night, completely puzzled.
“Yo escribo! Yo escribo!” I stammered trying to convey my attachment to the contents of my bag. I tried to explain that my words were worth nothing to them.
They seemed to understand. They walked back up to me with my bag in the big guys out stretched hand. He returned my bag and I removed my book and proclaimed that it was devoid of money. I shook it and loose pages feel out over the empty sidewalk. The two muggers then stooped down and collected the paper for me and gently placed them in my hand. We stood there under a street light, where only a moment before they had me in a headlock with a knife poised ready to slice my throat, and remove me from life.
We just look at each other silently for a moment. Then, suddenly, spooked by a passing car or something, they gave each other a quick glance and ran off at full sped across the street and into the night. I watched them go and just stood for a few moments in the brutal streets of Santiago laughing to myself alone.
I continued on my walk through the park in the direction of my hotel, but then thought better of it: what would I give the next group of muggers? An explanation that they already got me this night? No, I do not believe that there are any can’t get mugged twice in the same night rules in Santiago. I flagged down a cab. From the backseat I assembled together the fare from loose change and pocket lint. I somehow came up with enough, and returned to the Hotel Caribe a little poorer but provisioned with a story.