This post refers to events that happened on the morning of 25 July 2011. This places it after the events of The Best Snap Decision Ever, before the events of Carousel! (the blog post) and at approximately the same time as the events of Carousel (the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical).
I’ve had a lovely day. I have earlier smugdated Facebook with the following posts:
Today I showered under a waterfall, had tiny fish nibble my feet and then rode home on the back of a truck with dirt and wind in my hair.
And then tonight I happened upon the local Rasta hang-out, was befriended by a man called Lyrical King and his dog, Lyrical Dog. We talked politics, I ate chicken, and he played music. Lyrical Dog observed.
In a tiny fishing village called Hopkins. The chickens and I walk the dirt road together.
Yes. I am staying in tiny Hopkins. Undeveloped but still friendly enough to travelers that one can get what one needs (mostly: beer, tropical smoothies, food and sometimes the internet, although no ATM). According to many, the safest place in Belize.
It is the evening and I have enjoyed my last day coast side (above smugdates refer) before I head inland to San Ignacio and, possibly, Guatemala. I have arranged with Ingrid, the owner of the guesthouse I am staying in, to get a ride at the crack of dawn the following morning to Belmopan (from whence I can get a bus to San Ignacio), which she will go through on her way to Belize City.
I am staying in a ‘beach apartment’. If this sounds a little beyond my means, it is. I have been upgraded there by Ingrid because she is getting a new palapa roof put on the main guesthouse and it has been a little noisy. The main guesthouse is across and down the road a bit – maybe a two to three minute walk.
It is currently the rainy or hurricane season in Belize – although I have been fortunate to experience little and none of either, respectively. As a consequence, occupancy is low and I have the four apartment block, and the private beach, to myself.
I go up to my apartment on the second floor. I unlock the door and carefully lock it behind me. It’s hot tonight and the usual sea breeze I have relied on is notably absent. The room is stuffy and so I open the door out onto the small balcony, complete with a hammock, a couple of chairs and a small table, accessible only to me and only from my room. I hang out my clothes and shoes, wet from the river escapades. I get ready for bed and I leave the door and windows on the balcony open to get some air circulating. I briefly consider and dismiss sleeping in the hammock or leaving the door open all night. It seems like it would be fine but there’s not much wind and I don’t want to tempt the mosquitos to feast on my flesh. There has been quite enough of that already. Instead, I close and lock the balcony door but leave the large mosquito-netted window ajar.
I also consider and dismiss packing up my bag so that I can be all ready to go at the crack of dawn with Ingrid. I decide I will do it in the morning and leave my possessions scattered about like the teenage delinquent I have never really outgrown.
And with that, I drift off to sleep, exhausted after a long day of hiking, swimming and tubing.
I wake with a start. I am a notoriously deep sleeper but something has woken me. It is probably just the wind. I roll over and settle back to get to sleep.
No. It is not the wind.
Is there some sort of bird out on my balcony? There are some giant pelicans around.
That is a very big bird.
Although it is a moonlit light, I cannot see outside. There is a rechargeable torch plugged into the wall casting a faint blue light around the room. It is faint but enough that it is brighter inside than out.
The giant bird makes more noise.
I don’t think it’s a bird. I think it might be a person.
I freeze. I silently grasp my glasses from beside my bed. I am wearing a very scant nightshirt – enough to retain my decency in front of the prying eyes of the mosquitos, but little more.
I can’t see anything but I can hear noises.
I am positive there is someone out there.
I am alone. I could shout. But then he (I assume it is a he) would know I am a solo female. I briefly consider how my Acting Skills™ could assist me to sound like a Booming Male. I realise my throat is so dry I will probably sound less like a Booming Male and more like the fictional bird that is not on my balcony. Besides, there’s no-one else in the building anyway. I have the apartment block and the private beach all to myself!
It is at that moment, without consciously deciding to do it, that I leap from my bed. I thud with all the flat-footed fearsome desperation I can muster, putting to good use every one of extra kilograms that my two month sojourn around the United States of Cream has bequeathed me. I run at the window. I run at the window heavily.
In a split second I am there. He moves quickly and slinks away cat-like over the balcony. I don’t hear him land on the sand below. He melts into the night.
I move to slam shut the window my hands shaking uncontrollably. It’s jamming!
I see then that he has loosened the window frame and the mosquito net has been sliced. He was moments away from entering.
I finally get the window shut. I rush to the door and double check it is locked. It is. I go to the other window and slam that shut as well.
I grab that stupid light emitting torch and cover its luminescence with my hand, plunging myself into darkness. The tables are now turned and there is enough light from the moon outside that I can see the balcony.
Now what do I do?
I go back to bed and stay very still. What if he comes back?
I am suddenly painfully aware that I have no mobile reception in Belize. There is no land-line in the room. I have no way to contact anyone outside this room other than physically going to them or yelling very, very loudly.
My senses on high-alert, I duck under the sheets and leaf through my Lonely Planet, hoping that there is a hitherto unread section outlining “What to do when a Nightcreeper tries to break into your isolated room in Hopkins and you don’t have mobile reception”. Surprisingly, there is no such section.
I silently get up and get dressed. I put my passport and credit card wallet on under my clothes.
I get back into bed. It’s going to be a long three hours until morning and light.
After twenty minutes of huddling like a fearful rabbit, I suddenly realise that if my Booming Male impression is to be successful I should bang about like I own the place.
With that, I get up and put my contact lenses in with as much noise as that particular activity can generate. Bottles of contact solution are dropped loudly on the floor. Taps are run with gay abandon. Even my glasses case is closed loudly If my Nightcreeper is listening, he must think he is up against the clumsiest target of all time.
I am still scared and unsure but I decide I need to get across the road to the main guesthouse. It will be a two minute brisk walk in the deserted darkness but that is surely better than waiting here for what feels like my certain doom.
I pack up my daypack with my laptop, phone and wallet, gird my courage and make the dash.
I walk with purpose. I convey ‘Alert but not Alarmed‘. Like, you know, I’m just out for an early morning walk with all of my worldly possessions strapped to my back. Nothing to see here, Nightcreepers!
Secretly, I am very alarmed.
I make it to the guesthouse and bang loudly on the door. I hear Ingrid come to the door. She worriedly ask who it is.
It’s Christine. Somebody tried to break into my room.
And I start to sob. Great big non-Booming Male sobs. Ingrid lets me in and I collapse at her kitchen table.
From there, I call and then skype Brendon (using up Ingrid’s entire satellite based web allocation in the process). I decide I don’t want to stay in Belize anymore. I know it is irrational. I can’t bear the thought of being anywhere alone. I make a plan to escape. I would like to say that it was daring and dashing, but all it really took was some cognitive dissonance with my credit card.
Later that morning at the crack of dawn, I go with Ingrid to Belize City, breaking the sound barrier on several occasions. I hallucinate seeing a unicorn during this journey. Ingrid drops me at the airport, just in time to board a flight for Houston and then San Francisco.
Throughout that long day, I flit on and off wifi, catching snatches in airports, trying to arrange to stay with someone in San Francisco. Hostels are booked out. I could stay at a hotel but I really want to be around someone I know tonight.
My hero comes in the form of Rebecca, an improviser I’ve known only since I met her at the conference we both attended in Baltimore a month earlier. She generously offers up what space she has in her studio apartment and greets me at the door with hugs, tea and soup.
From there, everything is okay. I alter flights back to New Zealand, I make plans to stay at Rich’s for the rest of the week – another improv saviour.
Plans made, I sit alone in a nearby diner and have a quiet little cry into my eggs, so happy to be safe and sound and able to order eggs in a diner.
One week in beautiful San Francisco, which I am enjoying immensely.
And then. Then I get to go home.