Vulnerable Positions

  
In a strange city and state, I had to get across town to my hotel. Instead of hoofing it to the metro or hailing a cab, I called for an Uber. There is comfort and perhaps an undeserving sense of trust placed in that which is familiar. Uber worked flawlessly at home, and it would work here in this foreign land of six lane roads and sidewalks full of well dressed professionals.

My countrified sensibilities remained in a state of awe as I waited for my ride. Even the people of the streets, pushing a shopping cart of bags or shaking a cup of change at tourists, looked like dressed down professionals in hand-me-down designer jeans and scuffed brand name tennis shoes. They eyed me suspiciously, recognizing an imposter in their city.

When a car with a U in the back window pulled up, I jumped in without hesitation. A sharp smell of body odor mingled with Mexican food. It shocked my senses but I was so relieved to be rescued from the street, it didn’t matter.

Bad smells can be a warning of trouble to come. Like smoke before a fire, an odor that offends or repels can be a wordless message of danger, especially if accompanied with an uneasy gut feeling. However, as a person conditioned not to be rude or inconvenience others, I closed the door behind me and it locked with a click.

I was alone, locked into the backseat of a stranger’s car with a dying cell phone. The man drove silently into traffic and I considered my options. He was either going to take me back to my hotel and drop me off, as requested, or off to a secluded location to kill me. Those were the only possible two scenarios: death or delivery.

A few miles miles later, the man drove past my hotel, and I grew hysterical.

“Let me out!” I demanded.

I took off my seatbelt and prepared to jump and roll at the next stop light. We were on a busy road, but I didn’t care. I desperately regretted my lack of discretion as it led to my current state of kidnap/abduction. My worst fears were in the process of happening.

The man fumbled with the gps on his phone and blanked out the screen. Now, no one knew where we were and my phone was seconds from dying. I hoped it would send out a final signal with our coordinates that the FBI could recover when retracing my steps.

Then the man pulled a u-turn, speaking for the first time to apologize, and dropped me off right in front of the hotel. And that was it, the end of what I thought was to be my last ride. It ended as quickly and unceremoniously as it began.

Could the little voice in my head have been wrong?

I have since returned to the Midwest and had time to reflect. My intuition was not wrong, it warned me that something was wrong. It helped to raise my adrenaline and put me on high alert. Perhaps, the outcome would have been different if I didn’t notice our missed turn or been ready to duck and roll. Road rash was to be a minor sacrifice for the continuation of my life.

The time to be assertive and brave is when that voice speaks. Put trust in that little voice, trust the feeling in your gut, most of all, trust yourself.

Fire doesn’t always have to follow smoke.

Believers: Fiction

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It was early in the still-black morning when I awoke with a shriek. The numbers on my wrist watch floated like a glowing orb above my face as I held my arm up and tried to determine the time. Time was a part of the living world and knowing my place in it meant I belonged. As I made out the numbers, the dream image began to slip from my mind and like smoke, it was gone.

Yet, I still felt it. Long after a fire burns out, the smoke lingers. Likewise, I had a chill and felt a sickness in my stomach, something was wrong. I grabbed for my sleeping husband out of instinct as my lifeline to the living; he would surely ground me. I found his hand and did not feel calm, instead, a slow panic started. It felt strangely cold and stiff.

Then I opened my eyes and screamed for the second time of the morning.

I held the skeleton hand of my husband. His smooth, cool wedding ring slipped off into my hand. The cat, startled from my cry, leapt from the foot of the bed and scrambled to hide behind the curtain. A ray of bright moonlight streamed into the room, illuminating the bones resting on the pillow next to me.

When I stopped screaming, I didn’t wonder long at what happened.

This was vodou.

Earlier the day before, he balked at the cost of admission to the Field Museum which included a pass to a special exhibit. This special exhibit had come straight from Haiti and was an immersion into vodou (also known as voodoo, but not to be confused with Louisiana voodoo).

There was no way for him to have known that the cashier not only practiced vodou but had also mastered the darker side of it.

The cashier looked back and forth between us as we discussed the cost, listening big with her small ears. Large hoop earring swung with each turn of her head, tugging at her brown earlobes, lower and lower. I sensed an ally in her. Female intuition.

“Think of the cultural experience,” I reasoned.

“You will take more away from it than you know,” the cashier added with a nod.

She looked at the line behind us and gave an impatient grunt. She began to drum her long, natural nails on the keyboard of the cash register, clicking against each key. Our connection was wearing thin, quickly.

When we finally decided to check it out and bought the tickets, the cashier gave me a wide smile of forgiveness. We had clearly made the right choice and it didn’t take so long. On handing the tickets over the counter, her face fell into a scowl when my husband reached for them. Silently, she watched us walk away and muttered something when she thought we were out of earshot. Apparently, he was not included in the alliance.

“Next,” she yelled out behind us for the couple behind us to come forward.

I looked back to give farewell wave of appreciation and she was gone. The ticket line remained but the cashier was nowhere in sight. She must have gone on break, I thought. Good for her.

We walked off to explore the museum, forgetting about the cashier and her words, in our shared tourist joy.

It took a few hours, but the cashier delivered on her promise. She conjured up the help of a mischievous skin and organs snatching spirit and sent it over state lines to punish, perhaps, and to send a message.

Point proven, it was worth the admission fee, but I didn’t need to be convinced.

We are all believers, now.

Image:http://theculturetrip.com/caribbean/haiti/articles/vodou-flags-between-the-terrestrial-and-the-spiritual-/

Additional sites about vodou:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haitian_Vodou