I hear one of the company’s partners hitting his desk, his ritual when he erupts in laughter or anger, but the banging strengthens, closing in from all directions. Construction perhaps? Perplexed and indifferent, I am too intent on satisfying my afternoon coffee cravings.
“Attainingme, Attainingme …..get….. get out here.” My colleague’s sputtered screams. The words spit, distraught, terrified, fumes coming out of a broken muffler. Simultaneously, the building shook. The banging besieging our banal office. Chaos. An altercation, a fight? Between who?
I turn the corner from the dark server room that doubles as a faux kitchen– a safe serves as the table for splenda, sugar and that horrible powdered milk constantly hardened by San Juan’s humidity. His hands are up. He staggers backward. Unmistakable aggression in unintelligible words. My steps lead me and I expect to see two strangers pummeling each other on the ground of our second floor foyer.
One more step. And no one is on the ground.
One more step and the hallway’s surprise awaits me. The barrels shine. Three guns point at me. The closest, within a foot.Two remain pointed at my colleagues. I hate that hallway.
“Who else is in the building??” the five of them demand. “No . . one. No one,” we stammer.
Our hands up. My coffee, left somewhere … I don’t recall.
Confusion. Death. Moments. They are all fleeting. I am no stranger to guns. Yet, I have never been confronted with one three staring at me with intention. In moments like these, an aesthetic detail to focus on doesn’t exist. The chambers, the barrel, a small dark one way tunnel–a game of chicken, with no competition. The bullet wins.
Theses moments are chaos. Dreamlike images only remain. A blur. I don’t remember much. The American in the red finally said to put our hands down. I looked to my right and noticed my hands in surrender position. Embarrassed, I was. Their vests, continued action and commotion. The building reverberated as they attempted to clear the five floors. Dismayed to find just us. As if the closed streets, helmuts, two federal agencies were not so carefully orchestrated to find an empty building with four employees.
The fifth floor is locked. Their excitement mounts as they demand the keys… Which none of us have. We reach for our phones, our blackberries. Drop them. We are sequestered to a couch. The air conditioner does not breathe. And we sit. They run our ID’s. Our socials. Local and Federal. Where is the search warrant? “With the case agent,” said the one who later pulled it out.
Tactics. Procedure. Intimidation.
Venezuela was safer.
A circus. Agents everywhere as I peer through the second floor windows.
Three hours. Jokes. Laughter for what else can you do. “You are strippers right?” It was our receptionist birthday. No such luck.
“Thank you for providing some entertainment,” the very attractive, earlier dictator, commented as he checked my laptop, clearing me to finally leave, finally have water. Wahoo. Not quite. He walked me down to my car. I don’t give him my number. It is not the time. It is not the day. I am sure he can find me should he want. He is an agent, right?
Adrenaline. These moments. They linger. Your blood changes directions. Your cells change shapes. Something remains. Even should it be nothing, you are now different. Knocks. Bangs. Hallways. Take a different light.
My body. My mind. Caffeinated. Drugged without substance.
The evening was later drowned in Margaritas. We laughed. A company happy hour, we never have. The laughs are forced. There is a fear. A concern.
I search my phone. My address book stares at me blankly. I send a text to Caballito. It goes unreturned.
That morning, I had noted my gratitude for my drug’s week quiescence. But, the late hours of the evening stretch. My thoughts turn to anger as I notice Caballito’s evasion. I comfort myself. With the only way I know how.