Evilcabamba Diary #2 – Miss piggy cries wolf!
In the story of The Three Little Pigs there was the one who made his house out of straw, the one who built from sticks and the last one who was (unfashionably) fond of red brick.
I have had reason of late to wonder about this story. First off, what’s the deal with making up nasty little tales to scare the wits out of the kiddies, herding them toward hideous architecture and demonising wolves? Secondly, what about those little pigs? Surely there are terrible repercussions from having your house blown in? And what if they were girl pigs? Would they have called the police? Or were they secretly askin’ for it ????
And then.. what would have happened if there was a fourth little pig… one who came home tired and bored from a Crappy New Year in the feral little pueblo of Evilcabamba to a house made of adobe, and shaped like a dome with nothing but candles and a little orphan dog to protect her when the Big Bad Wolf came huffin’ by?
In twenty years of world travel I can honestly say that until 2012 I had suffered no more loss than that one pair of sneakers that went missing on the beach in Peru after a long night of bad salsa. The only times I was ever in danger were in Turkey and South America. Some time around ’94 I was in the filthy little oil town of Coca on my way into the Amazon when the manager of my decrepid hostel got that certain look as he gave me the key to my room. I slept with the bed pushed against the door which turned out to have been a Very Good Thing.
Around 1999 I was in Bolivia with the great and tiny Australian Mountainatrix, Sue Fear, when two dark figures broke the lock on our door after midnight. Sue, who always slept with a knife, got rid of them before I had time to join the fight, and we both went back to sleep without even a cigarette.
Things have changed since those days. And it’s not because traveling has become more dangerous. The reason it’s not safe on the road and in the villages, mostly, is because of the people who are traveling with you!
Since arriving in Ecuador last May I have had stolen; one phone, one sarong, a cardigan, woollen wrap, about $200 and been accused of thieving, lying, being a slut, a whore, a bitch and a moaner who looks old and untoned and is prone to a scathing meanness toward raw food millionaires, idiot mystics and ridiculous middle-class pretenders who claim to be shaman. And that’s just what the expats have said to my face!
In part it’s because of this blog. But mostly it’s because of the types of folk that are washing out of the first world on a murky tide of poverty, dodgey mental-health, pensions, criminal records and the intoxicating sniff of a profitable scam. It’s the gringos you have to watch out for. Even the locals are scared of them. And if one should dare mention any of the skullduggery that abounds in places like once-charming Vilcabamba, one can reasonably expect the same outcome as when one upsets a nest of scorpions anywhere.
The townsfolk of Vilcabamba, like the grizzled folk who have invaded other sweet hamlets around the world, like to brag that people who don’t fit in are eventually removed by mystical forces. They love to gossip about how ‘missfits’ are ‘taken care of’ by a mysterious force capable of eradicating those unworthy of residence in their precious gringo-landias, while ‘chosen ones’ are allowed all the cheap beer, real estate and treacherous friendships their swollen livers can handle.
Those who have been ‘taken care of’ by Vilcabamba’s invisible immigration elite over the years have been murdered, disappeared, bashed, raped, frozen out or gone bonkers on bad drugs and beer. These hints that you are not welcome in ‘paradise’ are largely blamed, of course, on bad indians. But you only need to order a pizza at Charlitos and tune in to the word to find out that it’s the cowboys who are the problem.
Scary shit and bad mojo is hard to avoid in Vilcabamba. The locals know that, and have known it for ages, so at the end of the year, when dark medicine runs thick in the veins of those who have been smeared, shamed, slied, shafted or sidewinded, the people take the chance to exorcise their demons, redeem their villains and get as violently pissed as possible… to make it all go away.
It’s the same sort of thing we do all over the world… people dashing about from one limp party to another, hoping to be popular and to avoid their debtors and ex’s, people being asphyxiated by trillions of dollars worth of fireworks before spending the newborn hours of the smoky new year stuck in traffic, or vomiting into a toilet. People writing lists about getting rich, getting skinny, getting laid and going skydiving…. people wanting to be new again.
New Year’s Eve in Ecuador is a time for calling up the bad spirits, dark energies, and the nasty and the mean to celebrate, satiate and honour them so that good folk might live in peace and prosperity. The people in each village make puppets of bad sorts, shamed neighbours, thieves and no-goods to burn in the main square, on the steps of the church, at midnight to purge bad mojo and symbolise new beginnings.
This year at least half of the puppets to be burnt in Vilcabamba were effigies of gringos. Which the expats shrewdly ignored. There was still a sense of tragedy and gloom about the place after the failure of the world to end on December 21st, and the non-appearance of sexy intergalactic reptilians on which so many folk had based their online guru-status.
I had a pedicure, spent the afternoon in the hammock, exchanged Christmas gifts with Scott then went to town to see the crowds and receive my punishment.
To cut a long, repetitive and traumatic story short, let’s just say that the woman who left home in 2012 was not the woman who woke up in a room bespangled by shards of exploded glass, still echoing with the violence of a splintered door, twisted metal and the threats of her would-be rapist still curling and writhing about the white-washed walls of her little adobe bedroom.
This woman was tired. This woman was breathing shallow. She was wearing the clothes from the night before, flecks of glass in her hair, and a swollen tongue that would take no water.
She was the kind of woman now who would never again be Friends with a man who used a picture of a wolf as his facebook portrait. One who knows about certain mysteries; why women don’t scream when a violent man accosts them, why negotiating with a man who wants to rape you can make things much worse, why it’s hard to call the police and what it feels like to be helpless and tortured, assaulted, intimidated, threatened and screamed at knowing that your pain is an aphrodisiac to the Wooluf at your window.
In my own case, the rapist did not get in. He smashed my window with a rock which he placed against the panes he intended to shatter next, if I refused to let him in. “You choose,” he said, “We can do this the easy way, or the hard way. It’s your choice. You have 30 seconds.”
“You need to be taught the consequences,” he said. “There are consequences for women like you. There is no escape. Open the fucking door!”
Boom! Boom! Boom! The wolfman kicked the heavy door again and again. My teeth chilled as the wood splintered, I felt the adobe shudder but I never moved once. I never spoke. I never begged. I never argued or cried or screamed. I did not curse this man or appease him. I did not try to appeal to his better nature, I did not threaten him with a knife.
I faced him for almost five hours. I heard every word and watched every movement. I was a witnessing being with an invisible body, but I did not shrink an inch. I eased out of my self gently, and hovered beside my own form like a shadow. I became my eyes, witnessing. I became an electrical storm. I became a listening thing, receiving words like boulders which smashed strange glasses inside me, and kept coming from midnight until 4.30am. “Liar. Slut. Bitch. Fucking Bitch! I’m going to teach you about men. I’m going to teach you about life.”
I saw the man who would teach me, and I saw myself too… a small, unborn girl in the white uterus of an adobe dome. I saw my little dog, Honey, strangely quiet in her genius. She never left my side. I saw my altar in the moonlight-lit womb, every tiny detail of the balsa angel, her hands at prayer, the scuffs from her rides in my suitcase, the curve of her shoulders; the little Thai buddha candleholder I had unwrapped just hours before, her mirrored skirt picking up flashes of the wolfman’s torch and turning them into a tiny galaxy of stars in her lap; my clothes, hanging limp there without me, and a photograph of my three nephews in a tree, blonde boys to be one day blue-eyed men.
A stillness of superb radiance fell upon me. I felt the heaviness of my frail body, sweating for its survival, and the lightness of my witnessing self, riding on the gently overlapping tide of my breath. I felt again my love for a high school sweetheart, I felt the trust I had for my jungle healer with his deadly plant smoothies, I felt gratitude for my editor, my Aboriginal teacher, my best friends and lover… all men. All Good Men. All men I have struggled with in many ways, and who have shown me great respect and patience, even as I tested them. Who know the difference between power and violence.
“Where I come from we rape women like you, we teach them that lesson. How do you want it? The hard way? You Stupid Bitch! LET ME IN!”
The wolfman huffed and the wolfman puffed. He smoked endless chains of cheap cigarettes. He made phone calls to his brother throughout the night. He dared me to call the police. Call the police? How does one call the police in Vilcabamba? What is the emergency code for Ecuador? How will anybody find me in this remote little house in the forest?
I called Scott. He snuck down the rubbled streets out of town, over the rickety bridge, down along the river, over boulders and through the wilderness to hide in the darkness and watch over me.
He sent me a text, “I am here”.
The wolfman prowled the house, pushing every window, forcing every lock. He shone a light on me and rapped his ring against the window to force me to look him in the eye. That one eye that he used, a dead blue orb in a sagging hammock of greying flesh.
The wolfman and the American. What would happen? The wolf, despite his opinion of himself, is a weak man. He has injured legs, a sick liver, hepatitis. But as everybody knows it is precisely the sick that are the most dangerous… injured bears, starving sharks, short men etc.
I texted to Scott not to hit him. Not to hurt him. Why would I do that? Why do women do that? Is it because they secretly want this? Because they get off on the attention of men? Because there’s a power kick in this much unexploded ammunition?
When a friend, a man, asked me later why I didn’t just stab the guy, I was horrified to think of it. Could I live with being the victim of a rape thwarted only by a cheap metal lock that somehow managed to hold despite the twist and thunder? Could I live with the image of my own hand thrusting a knife into another? What about those eyes? If pain brought that chill blue to life I doubt I’d ever recover from the terror.
In the end Scott took him away. The Wolf was a pussy in his hands. He practically purred, then said it would be so much easier if the two of them smashed in the door, then they could rape me together.
What a drama! What a scene! But the most important part is still to come…
I spent two days afraid to leave the house in case the Wolf should see me in town and hurt me, in case the Wolf should get inside while I was out and lay in wait to ‘teach me’. When I did go in I asked four women for help. The first was an acquaintance, she said, “Well, in this town, because of how you write, people will no doubt say that you deserved it.”
The second, a friend of the Wolf’s family, she said, “AHo! I don’t want to get involved. Be careful. Think it through, you don’t want to damage the family business. Tell the police, but don’t tell me, I want to stay out of big stories.”
The third, the Wolf’s private counselor and healer, she held up her hand and said, “I don’t want to be involved. There are two sides to every story.” I pressed her about it, saying that since she was his ‘shaman’, she might also be his enabler, and she said, “If there’s any more trouble I’ll report him myself, I’ve been through this too.” And then she walked away. I heard later that she said I was “an angry type.”
The fourth spoke to Scott about it. She wanted all the details. She was asking for the facts. When she was satisfied she looked serious, because she is all about empowering women, and said, “Well, the way she dresses has been noticed.”
That really pissed me off!
In the end I decided to just let it go. A week later a tourist was raped in the street not far from my house. She did not report and when word got around the local women thought it ‘would be fun’ to learn self defence. The best form of which, they were told by the local American martial arts dude, was ‘to gauge out a man’s eyes with their fingers’, but better still, they said on facebook, was to carry a knife or a gun.
My landlord took $100 from the Wolf to repair the house, but only replaced the window and kept the rest for himself. The Wolf threatened me for 7 days by text but then wanted to be lovers. He said I had been an inspiring influence in his life but that I didn’t know a thing about men.