The Perfect Time to Escape
This is it!
I have been anxiously waiting for this moment during three excessively long years. This is the scenario that I have vividly played and replayed in my mind as the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months and the months into years. This is the miracle that I have been praying for! He is not here; he is more than five hours away. He left to Santo Domingo this morning to run errands with his mother and is not expected to return until tomorrow night. That gives me 36 hours to put together a plan, execute it, and get home with my babies before he returns. Finally, the end of exile is here; finally the end of this nightmare, from where I thought that I would never wake up, seems to have arrived. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel; a light that for the last three years I thought that I would never see. By the time he returns my babies and I will be home. I must do it! I must take courage from where there might not be any; create some if I have to, and achieve my goal. I must take my babies and run from this Third World Country, where we have been against our will during three extremely long years, and go home; home to the United States, my family, my friends, and my teenage daughter who desperately needs me. I cannot believe it, after three years he finally left us alone! Why? Has he forgotten my ardent desire to go home because I have not mentioned it since I returned last November? Did he leave someone watching the house? Did he assign someone to keep an eye on me? I went outside and looked around but could not see anyone. Could it be that he suddenly developed a heart? Could it be that he finally came to his senses and realized that it is better not to have someone beside him, than to have someone there against their will? Could it be that he finally does not care if I grab my kids and go home to the United States, as he knows that I have longed to during these three long years. Part of me is walking around dazed and amazed at God’s mercy, grace, and faithfulness; he answered the prayers that I have been constantly making since November. The other part of me, the part being fed by my adrenaline, knows that there is not a moment to waste because a wasted moment could make my escape plan crumble. A moment could signify the difference between failure and success. A moment could be the difference between grabbing my babies and making it home to the United States and my awaiting daughter, or remaining here in this Third World Country, against my will, for the rest of my life. My adrenaline is on high gear so that part of me wins. I will continue being in awe of God’s graciousness later, when I get home to my daughter with my babies. Now I must move. I cannot sit, I cannot procrastinate; I cannot waste one single minute. I must think! I must plan! I must execute! For someone who has been dreaming about this for three years, suddenly I am lost; I do not know where to begin. During my first month of exile, when I realized that he was not going to allow me to take my babies home, in my mind I put together a plan of escape so thorough that throughout the years I could visualize it with my eyes opened or closed. Today I stand here not being able to think at all, today I cannot remember the first thing that I should do or where to begin. It is one thing to have it in your mind so vivid that you could smell it, and another to execute it under tension, stress, and duress. Today I stand here frozen stiff without an inkling of what I should do first. Where do I begin? First things first, who can I trust? Here, nobody! I must keep in mind that here I am completely alone; here I have no family or friends to assist me. Everyone that I know here I met through him; they are his family and friends. I know that although they have treated me civilly throughout the years, they will not help me. Reality sets in; I am in a Third World Country with the first opportunity to escape in three years, with only 36 hours to plan and execute an escape plan, and I have no one that I can trust; that is my reality. For a moment I feel as if I am deflating and loosing my courage, but suddenly I hear the three voices that have kept me going throughout the three years of exile and the five years of this hellish marriage. Yes, I can hear them; there they are! Physically I am alone but spiritually, mentally, and emotionally I have three beings giving me courage and reminding me that I can do anything and everything that I set my mind to. I grab a paper and a pencil to start a list of the things that I need to do, in order of priority. I call the American Consulate in Santo Domingo and a nice young man answers. After greeting him I tell him that my children and I have been here for a few years, we are going home to the United States tomorrow, and I want to make sure that I will not have a problem at the airport. He took my name, my children’s names, my telephone number, and told me that he would call me back within a few minutes. After 23 minutes the young man calls me back and tells me that I will have no problem getting on an airplane and coming home. My heart rejoices, sings, dances, and bubbles, if only for a brief moment. The young man then proceeds to tell me that someone had placed an ‘Impediment of Exit’ on my children, and they cannot leave the country. My singing, dancing, bubbling heart falls to my feet, my knees buckle, and I slump to the floor movie-style. With my heart at my throat I ask the young man if they could do that; if they could keep my babies, who are natural born Americans, prisoners in this country. He explains that they can only prevent someone from leaving the country if that person has broken the law, and he does not see how three and four-year-old children could have broken any law. He explains that he cannot understand how they were able to place that impediment, but they had. I guess that he does not know, as I do, that in this country everything could be acquired for a price. The price could be a couple of bucks, a pack of cigarettes, a beer, or sexual favors, but everything could be purchased. He proceeds to tell me that the American Consulate would fight it and get them home, but at the pace that things are done in this country, it could take 18 to 36 months. I thank him and say good-bye as he tells me that their Attorneys would be calling me. I tell him, “No thanks, by the time they call me I will be home with my babies.” I quickly hang up, not giving him the opportunity to ask me anything else. I knelt where I had fallen, with my face on the floor, and sob uncontrollably. After a few precious yet desperate moments I resolutely lift my face off the floor. During those few precious minutes that I sob uncontrollably I hear the three voices again, and what they say is factual: I am not only a survivor, I am an over-comer and a conqueror; I have been made and placed on this earth to conquer! With that reaffirmation comes mental clarity and I know exactly what I have to do to take my babies home, and rescue my teenage daughter, who was in a hell of her own. My mother-in-law and her contacts, acquired God knows how, had placed an ‘Impediment of Exit’ on my children for no reason whatsoever. Her nieces and nephews work at the airport in Santo Domingo, and my husband is in Santo Domingo or almost getting there. One call from his cousins would have him at the airport promptly, waiting to take my children when Security takes them off of my hands, impeding their exit. I know that I cannot go to Santo Domingo expecting to make it home with my babies. I also know, with certainty, that my saintly mother, who spends her days on her knees, is praying for me. I know that every single prayer that she has made, asking her God to protect me, is being kept in that ‘cup’ that John 'the Revelator' saw. I know that at the right time, His time, He will respond to her prayers. I feel that this is it; this is His time because he knows that my teenage daughter is in danger and needs me. It has to be; circumstances are presenting themselves as they never had before. Believing that it is His time I take courage, get up, and go forth with my escape plan. A few minutes prior, as I lay with my face on the floor desperately asking God to help me, an idea came to my mind; there is another way out of this Third World Country, besides the airport in Santo Domingo! The Island ‘Hispanola’ is shared by two countries; Dominican Republic and Haiti. That is it! That is what I will do! I will not risk going east to Santo Domingo, where my chances of getting out of the country are slim-to-none; I will go westward towards Haiti! Today I know that a year-and-a-half prior to that day God had already been preparing the way for my escape. Haiti was at war and the United States had intervened. I lived in the last town in Dominican Republic and just a mile from the borderline between Dominican Republic and Haiti. When the United States intervened in the Haitian Civil War they placed American Military Bases in various parts of that country. One of those Military Bases had been placed in the last town in Haiti, before the borderline between Haiti and Dominican Republic; Veladero. Every Wednesday and Sunday afternoon the American Soldiers came to the Dominican town that I lived at, to purchase necessities that could not wait for the next shipment from home. As they passed by my house I used to think, “There they go, my people.” Every Wednesday and Sunday afternoon for a year, I watched them come in and out of town and, for the brief seconds that they were in my sight, I did not feel so alone and lonely. One Sunday afternoon as they drove by I waved and said, “Good afternoon, gentlemen.” Habitually they replied, “Good afternoon” but a couple of seconds later the tires screeched as their car suddenly stopped and reversed. They looked at me amazed and asked, “You speak English?” I laughed and answered, “Of course I do, I am an American, just like you!” Excited, they asked if they could stop in for a few minutes after they completed their errands, and joyously I told them that they would always be welcomed in my house. An hour later they returned and we sat around chatting for a while. We were getting to know each other, telling each other about the places that we each called ‘home’ and reminiscing, when my husband arrived. I quickly introduced him to my new-found friends, my compatriots, my fellow Americans. We sat around for hours because as soon as my husband arrived the conversation took a turn towards politics and the Haitian War. I felt as if I was with family. Captain McDonald and the three officers with him joined us for dinner that day and every Wednesday and Sunday from then on. I had been teaching my babies English because deep down I knew that someday we would be coming home and I wanted them to know at least the basic. My son could sing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ at the age of three and wherever they saw the American Flag they jubilantly and proudly shouted, “Mi Bandera, Mi Bandera” – “My Flag, My Flag.” Even they looked forward to Wednesday and Sunday afternoon because the ‘Tios’ – ‘Uncles’ would be coming over. They would practice their English words with them, tried to read their names on their badges, and respectfully and adoringly passed their hands over the flag on their uniform sleeves exclaiming, “Mi Bandera.” I waited anxiously for Wednesday and Sunday afternoon because my ‘family’ was coming over, and although they were virtual strangers, when they were near my loneliness dissipated. I also looked forward to their visit because in front of them my husband behaved like a perfect gentleman, and during those two afternoons and evenings I would not be slapped around. Many times I looked at the soldiers and asked myself, “What would they do if they knew that I am here against my will? Better yet, what could they do? Could they help me escape? Would they risk it all to try?” I never ventured to ask because I knew that they had jurisdiction in Haiti but not in Dominican Republic. I did not want to ask them and put them in the predicament of wanting to help me without being able to. Besides, I would always think of my husband’s wrath and the consequences at his hands if the Soldiers failed to rescue me. I was satisfied with their visit and felt safe when they were near. They became as family to me as the family that I was born into; they were the nearest and dearest that I had. I accepted the gift of having them and did not complain. The Soldiers kept inviting us to visit the American Military Base in Haiti, wanting to reciprocate and host us as we hosted them every Wednesday and Sunday. They would try to entice me by telling me about the bagels, croissants, muffins, danishes, and other delicacies that were not found anywhere on the island except at the American Military Base because they were shipped from home. They kept telling us to show up whenever we wanted, that we did not need an invitation, but always reminded me that they were at war, to have my American Passport ready to show the Guard at the gate quickly. As tempting as it sounded I would always tell them “let’s see” but I never promised. My husband wanted to go but he never went either, in order not to leave me alone with my babies. I would not go to Haiti because whenever we went to Dominican Republic on vacation my wonderful mother would tell me, “Hang on to God baby, remember you are going to be by the lion’s den; Haiti.” She was referring to the fact that Haiti’s main religion is Voo-doo and ours is at the other end of the spectrum; Christianity. I promised her that I would never cross the border and although by this time I was almost 36 years old, I always kept my promises to my mother. As appealing as visiting my people across the border to eat my food, listen to my music, and dance my dances sounded, and as homesick as I was, I never went. Today, 1½ years after meeting the American Soldiers, I know that I will have to escape through Haiti and thank God for my American friends. I know that my mother will understand that going via Haiti is the only way that I could take my babies home; she will understand and forgive me. It is easy to put it on paper today but the truth of the matter is that the passage across the border would not be easy and would be very dangerous. Women used to get gang-raped, beaten, and killed on that trail. When I remember the savage-like stories that I had heard and read on the newspapers, of how they found women chopped up into 2-inch pieces on that trail, I shiver and sit down. Once again tears roll down my face as I feel desperation taking over but know that I cannot let it. Growing up I had heard my father repeatedly say, “Desperation is the beginning of failure because once you become desperate you cannot think straight, you will most likely make wrong decisions, and you fail.” No, I cannot let desperation take over; I cannot let it! I stand up and with determination say, “I rather die trying to escape than continue sitting here hoping to die, as I have been; God be with me!” As I say those words I once again remember that my saintly mother was on her knees and felt sure that He would be with me. With renewed determination I once again ask myself the question that I had asked myself before, “Who can I trust?” To put together and execute a plan of such magnitude takes time and energy and I know that I do not have much of either. I know that I have to run around organizing my escape and cannot do so dragging three and four-year-old children with me. I also know that if I leave them with the babysitters I run the risk of someone from his family snatching them and taking them elsewhere in this massive Third World Country, where I would never see them again. “Who can I trust?” Again reality slaps me in the face and I know that there is not a soul that I can trust in the whole country. I live in a small town where everybody is my husband’s cousin; once, twice, or thrice removed, but cousins. It is going to be hard to put together a plan with such little time; it is going to be a feat to make it to the other side of the countries’ borderline; it is going to be quite a challenge to make it across without anyone noticing, telling him, or trying to stop me. Yet it all begins with my being able to run around ‘lining up all my ducks’ in preparation. I unknowingly open my mouth and say, “I can’t believe that there’s no one in this whole town that I can trust!” As I voice my thoughts one of the voices inside of me says, “There is someone. There is that elderly gentleman whom you sheltered on that cold, rainy night, who since then sees you as a daughter and your children as his grandchildren. That grateful soul is trustworthy!” This time the tears that roll down my face are tears of joy. Yes! How could I forget? The only person that my husband did not introduce me to, that I introduced him to, Lolon! In this country the Taxi Cabs are motorcycles called ‘Moto-Conchos’ and I run outside looking to stop a motorcyclist to send a message to Lolon. God was with me because just as I run outside a motorcyclist named ‘Mach,’ who had worked for me a couple of years prior, passed by. I hail him, give him $5.00 Dominican Pesos, and tell him to go to Lolon’s house and tell him that I have an emergency and need to see him as soon as possible. Ten minutes later Mach returns with Lolon, who gets off the motorcycle with a concerned look on his face and asks me if I am all right. I pull him to the side where nobody could hear me and come clean with the only person in this whole country whom I think that I can call my friend. After explaining the circumstances that had me there during those three years and telling him how my 15-year-old daughter desperately needs me at home, I tell him everything that had happened since my husband left that morning to Santo Domingo. I end by telling him that since it is impossible for me to get out of the country through Santo Domingo with my babies I would be going westward and leaving via Haiti. With tears rolling down his face he asks me, “My child, what can I do? How can I help you?” I explain that I cannot run around preparing my escape with the babies hanging on to my ‘apron’ and how I am uneasy about leaving them in the hands of the babysitters because they could be snatched by his family, never to be seen again. I explain that the only way that I could run around putting together my plan is if I am certain that my babies are safe. After telling him that he is the only friend that I have in the whole country, the only person that I think I can trust, I look into his eyes and ask, “Lolon, can you take care of my babies for me? Can you watch and protect my babies while I prepare my escape?” With tears still rolling down his face he tells me that it would be his pleasure and honor to take care of his grandchildren and that he would protect them with his own life. I put together a bag as he grabs my babies and hails another moto-concho. He sits with my babies on his lap, looks into my eyes and says, “My child, go run your errands in peace; I will protect your babies with my life. To take them away from me they would have to chop my head off because to slit my throat from ear-to-ear would not be enough, I would continue to fight them. Go in peace my child, and send someone for me and the babies when you have completed your errands.”
I kiss my babies and stand watching the
motorcyclist speed off, filling my nostrils
with dust, and turning my tears into mud.
I stare after them hoping, praying, and
imploring that I did not make a mistake
and that this is not the last time that
I lay eyes on my babies!