Carne Fresca: C1
“Love, baby.” A bucking, braying, pawing howls outside the door but goes unobserved like preying, incendiary eyes hidden under a child’s bed. If the words were heard, if by anyone at all, they probably sound more similar to ruff raraa, as their upstairs neighbor hushed the ankle-biter.
It was the night of La Guacherna but what the fuck does that mean? Drunks all over town either making their way back home from the parade or over to La Troja in taxis that are gouging prices like a finger slipped in the wrong hole. But Jack isn’t a tourist, hardly put to say he’s a citizen, so it’s just another night in hell. Red in those tiny little tubes measures all the way through 30°C late at night but all he feels is steaming jizz shot from the devil’s dick, oozing down his forehead, neck, and chest. Jack Wagner and his novel blue eyes and blonder hair finishes preparing steak for dinner, washes his hands, and bows to his wife. Inviting her with open arms to the kitchen, sweat falling from a protruding bone above his eyebrows, he kills with kindness.
“I’m going for a walk.” He dries his hands. Undoing the deadbolt and peering around the open door to the kitchen on his right where his wife slices open a plantain, he gulps and acts like he heard María murmur under her breath but there’s only the sliding of a blade along the green plantain. Jack sighs and closes their apartment door a little too loudly for this late at night, especially with their little boy sleeping in his own bed for the first time. His thundering steps march in tune like beating drums of war. Down a short and unlit hallway full of creeping shadows, across from his son’s room and to the right of a guest full bathroom, the office door is flung from its hinges into the wall. Jack grabs a joint from his stash and a lighter, and bounces down the stairs, out the front gate, not even a word to or from María. Before leaving he checked. She stands there in the kitchen at the counter chopping plantain—her dark hair falling like a monstrous formation of ducks down her back to her ass in a perfect formation. Jack walked out thinking, how many months? Whether the portero saw or heard him, and either did nothing because Jack tended to unlock and open the door on his own unlike everyone else or Jorge was sleeping, didn’t matter. Jack left unnoticed and unseen by anyone, into the empty streets where they cling to the old while chanting for the modern.
Here, it was different even though it was still the same forward movement without profess. Like travelling back in time. It’s what terrorized Jack’s nightmares and days Hell, if he wanted without the cultural differences he could’ve stayed home back on the shores of Lake Michigan. But here, any time day or night, he could walk down the middle of the street without looking like a psycho or getting stopped by the police. Here, he saw the beauty—the real, unencumbered beauty—of trees as opposed to the metallic casings they drive down half the street and hides 90% of the view. Here, Jack could walk down the middle of the street and drink in the utter breathlessness of canvassing greenery that blots out the sky. Oh, the blue was there, beyond blue, a color in the bandera. But here, now, this late at night as La Guacherna rages, the sky is dark and there isn’t a visible star. But the trees, the palms, the tendrils and fingers extending toward the gaseous balls are there and they paint the skyline in a way that no Botero, no Dali, nobody could do justice. Even if a mirror is held to the arching canopy, the infinite reflection is but a fragment.
At the end of the road where they live, the road is forced left. Jack follows it—enchanted by the canopy of dark green swallowing and drowning him until the beast is ready to spit him out and drink it all in again. Down toward 90th, herbs louder than his footsteps, Jack hopes tha Venezuelan is hidden in the shadows at the corner. Fuck, how many months? Christ, she couldn’t even slip me some tongue on my birthday? And now a second one’s here in two months? A little love making, that’s all it costs. My birthday last week? Forgeti ti, that was only an awkward tattempt at a French kiss. But fuck, not even wanting to make love with the guy you love? Where the fuck—shadowed in the high-arching trees at the corner, shrieking wails bring Jack to a crashing T-intersection.
“Ayuda!” A woman screams.
Jack scans the dark, empty streets hoping that someone else will handle this. This is the last damn thing he wants to deal with right now. Jack takes a drag, a long slow burn. He looks back down the empty corners behind him. There are no cars on the street but a few are parked outside or behind the gates in driveways. Firs and palms sway in the January brisas.
“Ayuda!” She shrieks. Weighing his options, Jack wonders what the bystander effect would show throughout Colombia. Would she be more likely to find a helping hand if she shouted:
Her voice stammers through sobs.
Jack takes another drag and turns it off. What if it was his daughter? She’ll be here in two months and she’ll be a woman in 15 years or so. Though his heart’s pounding through his chest, Jack keeps a straight, calm face. Focusing all of his attention on the open salida gates, facing the street, Jack doesn’t notice the sleeping portero in the security booth outside el Edificio Mirador, nor does he pauses at the T-intersection. Instead, he buries all his doubts, all his fears, and braves the dark recess where the woman continues bawling.
She goes on screaming for a hand, a good Samaritan, anyone willing to help get this predator in the night off her and out. Pausing around the corner from the exterior stairwell, Jack looks around for something he could use. A branch, a loose brick, anything; but all he sees is a cone blocking off a handicapped parking space He grabs it and gulps.
Jack jumps—actually jumps—into the stairwell holding the cone by the point like a baseball bat. The woman’s bawling echoes deafly down the short corridor, which seems more like a sally port entrance and exit to and from the Colegio Buen Consejo. The night predator has her bent over the stairway railing, her blouse sliding down her bare shoulder, and her skirt brutally rolled up her thighs. There’s a lace bra waveing like a flag over the rail and one of her high heesl is at the bottom while the other is now wehre to be found.
Jack tiptoes through the shadows, cautiously careless with the echoes of his footsteps sounding through the short hallway.
Her screams are weakening, heaving through sobs.
Jack creeps through the darkness, positioning himself directly behind the man with his pants around his ankles. Fuck, he thinks. Not only this but now I gotta wrestle a naked guy? Fuck, he clenches his jaw and sets the cone down, knowing it’s useless. Springing into action, he leaps on the guy’s back, simultaneously wrapping his legs around the man’s waist and his arms around his neck.
The predator reacts instantly, his head pinned in an elbow between a forearm and bicep while another arm pushes forcefully on the back of his neck. Jack holds on for dear life like he’s riding a bucking bull and, in the squirming and wriggling, the predator loses his balance and lands with all his weight on Jack. But Jack refuses to let go. This was his daughter being assaulted, penetrated. This was his gut check, and fuck god if he’ll let loose. Writhing, wriggling, twisting, and thrashing, Jack tightens his grip. The man, no not the man, the worthless excuse of side jizzum that found an egg gags, chocking, suffocating until a few minutes later the lights go out and his body falls limp. Jack throws the dead weight off of him andsprints over to the sobbing woman.
Without hesitation, Jack takes off his shir and wraps it around the woman. He helps her to the ground and sits her upright for a brief second while he recovers her high heels and bra. Clutching the heel, Jack looks at the red-glazed shoe and asks himself why he thought it was so vital to make sure she had her shoes Once he finds the second one at the top of the stairs, he gives the unconscious pedazo a swift kick to the balls and ushers the woman through the shadowed corridor out to the street, wishing and hoping for a uniformed officer passing on a moto. Typical nightmarish fashion as of late, the streets are dead.
<<¿Tiene un cell?>>
He asks the woman, but she’s too gone to respond.
<<¿Alguien que puedo llamar pra ti?>>
Still nothing but sobs. Jack sighs, thinking he’s out of luck before catching sight of the protero across to the street.
Jack repositions her arm around his neck and takes a step off the curb but she’s dead weight and they both crash hard on the road.
Sighing, glancing back down the corridor—the pedazo a dark pile—Jack grabs her right wrist, kneels, and grunts as he jerks her up and around his shoulders. Grunting his way across the street to the glass box where the doorman snores, he pounds on the window and pleads for the guy tot call the police. Too bad though, the huevon just holds up his arms in confusions and says;
<<No te entiendo.>>
“Mother fucker!” Jack shouts, the gatekeeper turning and closing his eyes. He’d been living on the Caribbean coast for three years now and spoke costeño pretty well so it shocks him that his guy would turn a blind eye to a woman in distress and a good Samaritan asking for police assistance. The nightmare continues and Jack double times it down the lonely road back home.
The portero at his building unlocks the gate, frowning at Jack and the woman slung over his shoulders, still sobbing.
<<Todo bien?>> Lo pregunta.
<<Llama la policía, por favor, Carlos.>>
Jack goes to the right, upstairs in Edificio B to their second-floor apartment. Outside his door—it’s locked, go figure—Jack wails on the door with his foot until his María opens it.
“What the hell?” She takes a tone before her thin eyebrows shift drastically. “Who is she? What happened? Why’s she here?” Their son screams in the darkness. María rushes to the hall to block him from coming into the living room where Jack lays the catatonic woman on the couch.
“Listen.” He brushes her brown curls from her face and realizes he’s speaking English.
<<Escucha. La ayuda llegó. Mi esposa se va a quedar contigo.>>
He gets up and goes to his son’s room where the lights are off and María struggles to sit up when he flips the switch.
“What happened?” She asks. “You didn’t do this to her, did you?” María groans. Her husband, knowing the extra weight curving at her frontside, holds out a hand but she still grimaces as she gets to her throbbing feet.
“Listen, I’ll explain after he’s sleeping but for now, please go sit with her. Call the police,, ask if she wasnts water, food, whatever. Just make sure she’s comfortable.”
“Please, just trust me. I promise, I’ll explain once he’s down.” Jack pulls Chris from the crib, kills the AC, and goes to their bedroom. He’s too big to lay in Chris’ crib like María, driven by the fear that the wood planks holding the bed will snap and their son would crash face first on a splintered piece of wood. It takes some doing, yet another nightmare, and despite Chris’ constant crying for mamma, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star was out and the toddlers’ eyes fell shut.
Out in the living room, the woman sits upright with her head in her hands.
Jack finds María in the kitchen making coffee. She shakes her head and sets the pot oer an open flame.
“Are you gonna fill me in? She puts her hands on her hips and Jack spills the beans, continuing through María’s gasps and scoffs.
“Did you call the police?” He opens the freezer and clings to Johnnie Walker for dear life.
“Not yet. I didn’t know what to say.” María cranes her neck and looks around Jack drinking from the bottle at the teary-eyed, broken woman on their sofa.
“Fuck. Probably means Carlos didn’t either. Wait, wait, wait. Why didn’t you just call and sa y you need an officer?” He pulls a glass from the hanging cupboard to the left of the stove and adds ice.
“It doesn’t work like that here.” María waits on the bubbling to finish. Once it does, she opens the lid and kills the flame.
“What the fuck do you mean it doesn’t work like that here?” He drinks.
“This isn’t the US. You can’t just call 911 with any emergency. There are specific numbers depending on the situation.”
What a fucking nightmare. Jack thinks. “Jesus fuck. Well, do you know which number to call now that you’re reporting a rape?”
María pours the coffee, brushing hair behind her ear and gives him a look that could kill. She scoffs and sits beside the woman heaving on the couch. The young lady, definitely not a student at Colegio Buen Consejo, takes her café without loking up or saying a word.
<<Hemos llamado a la policía.>> María le asegura.
The young woman blinks but says no more.
<<¿Está bien un sueter?>> Jack Cierra una puerta y vuelva. Le pasa un sueter gris a María y ella le pone en los hombros de la mujer a su derecha.
<<¿Como te llamas?>> María pregunta.
The woman, gazing at the glimmering concrete floor says nothing.
<< ¿Tienes una cedula? ¿Un cell; hay alguien que le podemos avisar para ti?>> María sigue preguntando, cortándose el aire como un ciego.
She finally gives up on the line of questioning and they await the police arrival in silence. Jack argues with María over whether or not they should just call her parents to come for their son and take this woman to the hospital so a Doctor can administer a rape kit. Coming from the USA, he knows that the first minutes and hours after a rap are the most crucial and givern her silentstate, they’ll get more from DNA than this catatonic victim. María goes back and forth with him, knowing there’s nothing more they can do.
An hour later, ther’es a knock outside their doo. Jack jumps from his chair, glad—for likely the first time in his life—that the police are here. Opening the door widely, he welcomes the two uniformed officers inside. They’re still wearing reflective vests and Jack can’t help but chuckle.
One of the officers watis with Jack at the door while the other squats in front of María and the woman. He explains as best he can, that he went for a walk and heard the woman screaming for help.
The other officer isn’t having much luck but at least got a name; Isabela. María mentions softly to Jack that her accent sounds Paisa but he’s not sure if that works for the woman or against her in a place where if you’re from the wrong city or barrio, La Policía Nacional might turn a blind eye depeneding on the situation.
<<¿Ella vive con ustedes?>> El Policía pregunta a María.
Most questions are addressed to her because Jakc’s bastard accent is clearly not olombian even though he speaks with a Costeño lexicón.
<<No, no la conocemos. Ésta es la primera vez que la hemos vista.>>
She fodls her arms as the tiny woman in her barriga shifts positions.
<<Ay, suave, JJ.>>
The little girl’s name is Jade but both Jack and María decided that they like JJ for short.
<<¿Llegaron en un moto?>>
The office looks at María and she translates his shit grammar into something formative.
<<Sí, por eso les aviso que tenemos que esperar hasta la ambulancia llega.>> El policía mira a su socio y hacen un gesto idéntico.
“What do you mean we gotta wait on a fucking ambulance? You’re the police! This woman was just raped. Get her some fucking help!” Jack storms away to his office, a skunky smell trailing through the apartment shortly after. A few minutes later, still not calmed, still waiting on the ambulance, Jack asks the office with a seriously rebellious tone.
<<¿Les gustan empanadas?>>
After the recent multados that had been given out to men and women for eating empanadas in the streets, Jack knew it was a sensitive question that might land him a subpoena or in jail. He didn’t give a shit though. This whole night’s been one fucking nightmare after another, and now the police can’t even get this woman, this Colombian citizen the help that she needs both physically and mentally.
The officer looks at him with a cold grin.
<<¿Sabes que marijuana es totalmente ilegal aca? Cuidate, atrevido.>>
The one he spoke with advises. Jack grunts, turning back to his office but realizing his glass is empty. He refills it and storms away in a huff.
An hour goes by in wait, and finally the whirring lights pull up outside their building. Iris calls Jack out and he goes down to open the gage. This late at night, since their building started cutting costs, there’s no doorman to open the gate.
<<Buenas.>> Abre la puerta y les invita arriba.
Even though he tells them which apartment, the two medics wait for him to lead the way and follow behind him. Upstairs, the police twiddle their thumbs—not even documenting the report they were called to investigate. The paramedics unload their bags and take out a blood pressure monitor, wrapping it around her bicep. While one of them checks her vitals, the other runs down a checklist of questions, Isabela unresponsive and looking dead on the inside the entire time.
Once the paramedics finish with their questions and vitals sign measurements, they give her a cursory examination. Flashlights shine in her dilated pupils, a stethoscope tells them her heartbeat. Neither the police nor Jack and AMria see the numbers but since when they finish, the paramedics help Isabela to her feet.
María helps her with the coffee mug and they lead her out the door where Jack stands with his arms crossed. For the first time, the violated woman lifts her head. She makes eye contact with Jack and her face contorts and tenses up in a painted picture of horror.
<¡Él! ¡Él me tocó! Él!>>
She screams bloody murder. Her words quickly become incoherent but the police heard her accusation and relish the opportunity to put the smart ass gringo en esposas to the utter disbelief of Jack.
“It wasn’t me! I was fucking helping her!” He pleads. Fighting and squirming against the handcuffs and officers is useless but fortunately María is a cool customer and pacifies the situation with words. She sways the officers’ minds, agreeing to canvass the area where Jack came across Isabela.
With no body available to watch Chris, they buckle him into his stroller and make the short trip down the road to El Colegio Buen Consejo. Jack points out the dark corridor where he left the rapist writhing on the ground after kicking him in the neck.. The police hold out a hand and instruck everyone to wait while they investigate the scene—clearly not protocol under the given circumstances. This was more of a hush-hush, sweep-it-under-the-rug investigation. Isabela has calmed but seeing the black stairwell, she unravels at the seams and the paramedics are forced to load her with morphine and into the meat wagon until they admit her in the clinic.
It doesn’t take long for the policemen to return as they exit the gloomy coordio, Jack grabbing María’s hand.
<<No hay nadie.>> Sánchez dice.
<<Pero, encontremos una cedula.>> Gutiérrez susurra.
He turns to Jack and gestures with his hand for Jack to turn around, cuffing him and handing the ID to María.
She examines the laminated cad in one hand while stoking her belly with the other. Reading in her head, the cedula shows Jack’s picture to the left of his personal data. Apellido, nombres, nacionalidad, fecha de Nacimiento, sexo, blood type, and su índice derecho. All the information is accurate, no question that it’s Jack’s cedula.
“María, you know I didn’t do this, couldn’t have done this. I was gone 15 minutes. A woman was screaming and I asked what if it was JJ?” Jack’s voice trembles but there’s no wavering to his story; nothing’s changed since the first sentence. Typical of his wife, whatever she has to say or wants to say gets buried deeper than a coffin. She offers no words, no consoling affection, and doesn’t confirm if she’ll bail him out. Ten plus years together and this is the first time Jack’s been in legal trouble since he was 18—before he met María—but it’s like she doesn’t believe he did this. She kisses him cheek to cheek and slowly makes her way home with Chris through the silent, dark night and swaying palms.