Escape From the Island
The taxi pulled into the airport terminal. I sat in back, hunched down low as the driver had indicated – putting his hand out palm down towards me when I had sat up during our drive to the airport, making a patting motion. He hadn’t said a word to me since I got in, and I held my bag close to me. He had been on the radio almost the entire drive from Cagua to San Juan; around us I kept seeing cars tracking us, boxing us in. Some were on their cell phones, and one that drove by had a few children in it. The children flipped me a peace sign as they drove by. The driver seemed worried almost – he kept checking his rear view mirrors and looking around as we proceeded down the four lane highway. It wasn’t until we got off on the exit ramp that he seemed relieved. It might have been due to the traffic, but actually the traffic wasn’t that bad, given that this was Puerto Rico.
I was tired and sore from my journey – mostly my feet. They had blistered and bled from my walk around Puerto Rico – trying to escape again – which took three days long before they ‘recaptured’ me – or actually, I just gave in. I was tired of walking in circles with no escape from the valley. The only road out was a freeway – and a big one – and you don’t go walking down one of those things, not if you wanna stay alive. Those Puerto Ricans drive like crazy, and don’t tolerate pedestrians very well. I saw very few of them during my journey over there. It’s dangerous walking on the side of the roads, especially the narrow ones where the ‘jungle’ grows thick and the forest is deep. I should know – I’d seen some.
I got out of the cab, my hat still on. It was straw, based upon those Panama hats they have. It was a comfort and cool and a place to keep my sunglasses when I didn’t have them on. I had them on now, though, looking around.
The terminal was crowded, confusing. I paid my driver and he just said “Good luck” and drove off. Again, I found myself wondering what all that was about. Everywhere strange people had been thanking me or flashing me peace signs for no apparent reason. That or the sign for “number one” – one finger extended up in the air. To me it had taken on a religious meaning. Others had been flipping me the bird, though again, for no discernible reason. They seemed to be the pissed off ones – passing me on the road, and appearing to be ‘monitoring’ on their cell phones. The would shoot me a scowl if they looked at me at all – but everyone was either shooting me a bird, a peace sign, or holding just that one finger – the index one – up in the air. Well – maybe not everyone – but more than what I would call ‘normal’ during any part of the day! (When was the last time someone shot you a peace sign? What would you do if you saw about ten? Twenty? A hundred or more? If I didn’t see at least eighty, I didn’t see none. And I doubt it was some hallucination. For one thing it seemed too real – the heat and the humidity, down to the last detail. And then again – there were those other things. Things I’d done and said, things he’d done and said, and the entire environment around me.
That gas station, for instance. I had taken off just that morning; Papo’s mother had died the evening before. I wrecked his house while leaving – painting crosses with coffee over the doors, throwing a few books about Satan on the floor and spraying them with ketchup to represent blood. Yeah – he had them, or rather his father did. It appears the old man was into more than just literature. One was Dante’s Inferno – a rather good book, and well illustrated perhaps. And I left his Bible – his momma’s bible, actually – out on a table on the front porch. I had had enough right there; doing all this to him. But he had deserved it, I reasoned in my mind. He had tried to attack me when he’d come home after his mother’s death – blaming me for it, I assume. I just smiled to myself right then (the next day). I had gotten my just revenge – given as good as I got in some ways, and then giving him a little bit more.
I’ve no doubt his community was scared of him (a little) – and became even more frightened of – and for – me. We’d argue far into the night, him hollering and then telling me ‘hush – for someone might be listening’. He didn’t even trust his cell phone.
“How do you KNOW that it’s off?” he asked me.
“You can’t know, not for sure,” I replied. “Just because the indicator is off doesn’t mean a thing.”
Papo had gotten quite into telling me about his career and some more. He was frightened of the words “MK” (the old acronym for ‘CIA’) – no need to add the “ultra” – he’d panic and cover his ears and tell me to ‘shut up’ and that ‘they might be listening!’ – and we discussed our military careers and more. I had opened up to him – everything – in the hopes that he’d open to me, and he had. He had exposed his mind to me, though there were still some closed doors. I had “learned” Papo, which was my goal – to get inside his head and ‘see’ and ‘know’ – and I did and it had scared him. But Papo didn’t scare me.
For one, I couldn’t get over how focused he was – or rather, how he could focus on only one thing at a time. Never have I seen a man like this – unable to talk while he was cooking or driving; unable to respond with a gesture or word. Nor his blind hypocritical attitude, nor some of the things he was saying. I rather doubted his connection to the CIA – it was old, I reckon – but he kept waving his phone and saying the numbers where there. Whatever, I thought in my mind. I doubted the CIA was spying on anyone – but this community? This ‘family’ thing? I had grown suspicious during my time there, having seen some ‘things’. One of them was eight satellite dishes on one house roof – what were they for?, I asked him.
“They aren’t just receiving,” he said cryptically. Which automatically means one thing: they were transmitting. What transmissions and what in the hell was he talking about, I wondered. It wasn’t the only odd thing, too.
And then there were his neighbors. The people across the street seemed to keep an eye on me all the time – grumpy and unfriendly looking they were, they’d scowl at my waves. The ones on the corner kept an eye on me two – and the one around the bend. But that may have been due to Papo’s relationship with them. He didn’t fit in here – or anywhere, it seemed. He was (and still is) a man without a home.
Educated by the military, escaping the island, he became what many Puerto Ricans dream of but few ever get. A college education – and with his enlistment with the Army – a way off the island, and he came here. Here he met a tough Sargent or Officer who insisted he speak English, insisted he get an education – insisted on that he become an American – part of the mainland crowd. And Papo got it, and it was really good for him.
However, it made him a foreigner in his own land. There they see things different – both as a Puerto Rican and an American. Half the time they are denying they are Americans – and the other half that they are in Puerto Rico so much as an American land. That’s because the mainland laws apply to them, down to the utilities and water purification standards. They have to obey the same laws as you and I have to. However, their taxes are different, and they get more freedom in their own governance, being a territory and an island, and not a state in the mainland. Things are much different here in some ways – and much the same in others. However, English is not spoken in that land – not much – and when you run across it, it’s usually broken and stumbling with a lot of the vowels mispronounced. That’s okay, though – I was learning Spanish quite readily and quite easily with Papo’s help. He’s quite a good teacher when he gets going and I pushed him some. Like he said: I’m the kind of student teachers come to love – and eager one, eager to please, and quick to get things down. The fact that I memorized all the numbers up to one hundred in just a few hours kind of amazed him. But I was always doing that kind of shit when I was over there.
I think it kind of scared him and awed him, both at the same time, as well as some of his neighbors and ‘friends’ when they heard what was going on. How I, a newcomer, could predict the weather with uncanny accuracy – better than they who had lived their all their lives. How I managed to tell him the lay of the land quite correctly without having seen where the passes through the mountains lay. How I could stalk lizards and animals – though that drove him crazy, because he could not understand my insatiable curiosity about these things. Everything. I became an information ‘sponge’.
I had trouble with my ‘littles’ with him – they kept trying to come out and I let them – not a little bit, but a great bit. Let them ask all their questions, let them follow him around. Imagine a grown man behaving like children in this way: asking questions, wanting to know the ‘why’ in everything; ‘is this good to eat?’, ‘how about that?’, and “look, there’s planes (black painted military ones) in the sky.”
But it was on that last day that I saw him (well, almost the last time; I had seen him off that morning to make arrangements for his deceased mom’s funeral) – that I had cursed him good. Real good, giving it my best effort, for all he’d done. That was four hours before his momma died – healthy, smiling, she said “I’m tired” – went to the bed and died. Right before his eyes; in his arms – with my curse: “I’M GOING TO PUT YOU IN HELL!” still ringing in his ears.
Such a superstitious person . . . or was he? Some events had happened to change a part of my mind. I had ‘died’ a few days earlier – several times. And each time I had come back stronger, roaring ‘from the grave’. It baffled them and strengthened me, what they did. Only they didn’t know it at the time.
For he had kind of ‘kept me there’ – locked up in a ‘cage’; that house that could become a fortress at any time (a rather sad – and typical description of every house in their ‘hood – and all around). I had lost about thirty-five pounds – I could feel it – but I also had gotten more flexible and lean. I had been practicing my martial arts for something to do, giving public demonstrations, and I heard the word “commando” passed around a lot of times, even to me. I didn’t deny anything, just nodded my head and kept on smiling. Let them believe what they want to believe, I thought, for Papo had warned me over and over again:
“They’ll kill you if you leave the yard. Don’t leave the yard. Always lock the gate (the door to the porch) behind you. I don’t want them sneaking in while you are wandering around.”
At first I didn’t believe him, and I believed him even less as time went on. The people I found were mostly friendly – suspicious, of course, but friendly, or just neutral. Some of them were bad-asses, no doubt, including one of my ‘friends’ I made down there – a drug dealer who had plans to escape to the mainland and try to start a new life there. I wholly supported him in his goal. I could see there was no future on this island, not for the likes of him – or anyone, for that matter. I had done my research, asked around. People were too many, jobs too few. Many of them had college educations but nowhere to work at. I met one guy with a degree as a master chef as well as an associates in Business – and the best he could do, given the skills he was given, was get a job at Denny’s, going against his old man’s wishes, and having to do it alone.
For that was something I discovered down there. The sons follow the paths of the fathers, they take the father’s business on, handing it down time after time until you are simply locked in. It becomes a generational thing, and its somewhat expected in that society that they live in (thought that, too, is rapidly changing) – that you will follow in your father’s own footsteps – step by step as father dictates, because this is a paternal society they live in.
That was something else I learned about – living in a paternal society and what that means – and trust me! – it’s not all just ‘bad’. There are some good aspects about it, but you’ve got to be suspicious when a language attaches a male or female gender to everything they own or do. Everything is split up in that way. “It’s either female, or it’s male,” I complained. “That makes the language harder!”
“NO!” Papo screamed at me. “Its MALE then female! MEN always come first! And you always assume it is male until proven otherwise. You got it??” He made a few threatening gestures at me but I dismissed them as part of his normal Puerto Rican temper – and I had learned about that thing.
For the most part, they weren’t pissed off when they’d get to yelling at one another, or even Papo yelling at me. It was their way of ‘having a good time!’, as Papo described it to me, and after awhile I got into the swing and spirit of things. In part that was due to my multiple personality – I was able to start building ‘another’ to take over and live in this foreign land. That is something I either learned or was trained to do: “build” another person inside – taking ‘them’ up from childhood on (necessary to learn the language sometimes – learning as a child does, that is, and a valuable lesson I learned from Papo, whom I still am split between caring for and loving as a brother and friend – and knowing I damaged him, leaving him that way . . . I’m kinda sorry about that, but he deserved it – and more.)
This trip taught several valuable lessons to me, and I won’t go into each one. But in a way Papo fell into the role of ‘trainer’ and ‘handler’ (Mkultra terms), as well as ‘teacher’. I hesitate to add the word ‘friend’. I think he was just using me to achieve some kind of agenda of his, and perhaps one the whole community was involved in. That is one of the things I have to accept that I’ll never know the truth about, nor will I ever know what happened. I can only tell my part of the story . . . so lets give you a brief on hallucinogens.
I was briefed on hallucinogens during my childhood as part of a reading plan. My father, who earned his Masters degree in Psychology (with a minor in Sociology) had more or less forced my hand. I had to study ‘under’ him – reading the books after he does, going through those notes of his, trying to remember everything highlighted and written. Sometimes he would highlight entire pages of those things. I remember being weary, studying into the night, because I still had my school classes in the day – the normal ones, the one any child goes through. And then some. (There were the ‘darker arts’ sort of thing; lessons on making booby traps and all kinds of weapons and war.) Those would come later, though I had some earlier as well (overseas in Germany, during my childhood.)
Part of that study was determining the effects of hallucinogens – and how to ‘know’ or suspect you are on them. For one thing, hallucinations may change; they don’t hold form. They often don’t have smell or tactile touch. You can’t feel them in a very real way. They fall apart or ‘go away’ or fade beneath close scrutiny. Often if you think you are seeing one and you look away – when you look back it might have changed, or not be there. It’s very rare for a hallucination to be so real in form you can touch it, interact with it – talk to it, have a conversation – look away, go for a drink of water – and come back and find it right there, just as you left it. Especially a person.
But that was the thing about it. Even assuming what I saw might have been eighty percent ‘hallucination’ – there’s still a good twenty percent unexplained. “Too real” is one way to put it. And how could I function like that? Moving across a foreign land, adequately function enough to make it to an airport – get a flight back home? How could everything I had seen and gone through be a ‘hallucination’ as some claim? I still have that airline ticket with the time rubbed out on departure – because they kept having to change that thing . . .
Which brings me back to the airport again. (There’s a whole lot more I’ve left out, but that’s for another time)
. . . .to be continued. I am tired of writing and have my own thing to do. It’s called “life” . . . and this is a disturbingly strange one. At least to me anyways . . . .
me anyways . . . .