Where Gringos Don’t Belong

Posted on April 12, 2015


“Amor! They’re attacking..! Kill-..!” Pati’s voice broke off and “No!” she screamed, not to him but to someone around her. Through the receiver he could hear shouts and blasts that sounded like explosions. Again, “No!” and then her voice, briefly, anguished, “They won’t..! They won’t…!” then a scream again, piercing, a laser through his mind.

“Pati! Pati! What’s happening?”

“Quién?” a coarse male voice reverberated in his ear.

“Pati! Where’s Pati?”


The silence smashed against his ears. His entire body was trembling and his mouth suddenly was so dry he couldn’t swallow. Pati! Pati! echoed through the void as he punched her number into his phone. Ringing! Ringing! Then a click! But no voice, just hurried, heavy breathing. And behind it roars, shouts, explosions.

I’ve got to go find her!

The central part of the city was dark. Only in the suburbs that spread eastward could he see streetlights. But he could detect oily smoke shoving its way skyward and smell fumes so acrid they made his eyes water. As he started down the hill he could make out a few swirling lights and hear sirens, the roar of helicopters, horns, screams, shouts, thuds as though vehicles were crashing into each other.

Then ahead of him forms bumping and stumbling out of the smoke. He started to shout to the nearest of them but his toe clipped the edge of a speed bump and he plunged forward, outthrust hands plowing the asphalt and glasses twisting and cracking. For a moment he lay stunned, then coughing up fumes and groping for pieces of his glasses he pushed himself to his knees. Hands grabbed his shoulders, “Ven! Da prisa!” Come on! Hurry! For a moment, disoriented, he sensed soldiers around him, maneuvers, canisters of exploding tear gas as he groped for his Special Forces gas mask then realized this was in Oaxaca not Afghanistan; the tear gas was here and people were plunging through it, coughing, crying.

Pati! What’s happened to Pati!