Kristy’s eyes screamed of horror. I squeezed her hand and lifted a palm up. “Look at my hand! Breathe with me, in...out...in...out”. She started with short sniffs. My hand set the rhythm. “In...out...in...out”. Kristy's look steadied and her shaking slowed a little with each breath."In...out...in...out”. Air was flowing through her lungs, painfully, but flowing. “You're doing great. In...out...in...out”, I said. The breathing exercise was paying off. Slowly, Kristy took control of her body and calmed down, breathing in longer sniffs."We're going to the hospital. I'll be right back", I faked a smile, put on my running shoes, and left the room. Please keep breathing.
We were 30 km from León; too far to call an ambulance. La Chichona was at the mechanic’s and even fully repaired, I did not trust her with Kristy’s life on the line. Think. At three in the morning, even the sea was sleeping. There was no one awake. No one around. No one to take us to León. A cab, I gotta find a cab. I opened the heavy blue door and dashed to my right.
The hotel where we spent our first night was at one end of the street. I crossed the first half-kilometer until the corner and peeked out...no lights. Fuck. The street to the highway was a three-kilometer stretch of darkness and silence. Five minutes later, I passed the blue door again, back to square one. I slowly came to a stop, panting.
What if she stops breathing? She’s the youngest, the one everybody loves and protects. She is your nakama. She trusted you. Sandra trusted you. Her family trusted you. What will you say to her mom? To her dad? Can you look into their eyes? Can you live with yourself? You can’t afford to be tired. You’ll run and you’ll keep running. You’ll keep fucking running.
So, I ran. I ran like I had never run before. I ran for my friend’s life. My legs felt heavier with every shock. Las Penitas was a never-ending nightmare. I kept running, scanning for life, the lights of a car, a motorcycle, someone, anyone! I reached a turn and heard faint music. There were people. There was hope.
Lactic acid strangled my calves. My lungs burned cold. I focused on breathing. One two; one two three. One two; one two three. My face was red and hot. My heart threatened to pop out of my chest. The music got louder. At the next turn, I saw a light: a house, a car, a silouhette in the night! One more minute. Hold it. One more minute.
Music came out of the house. A cab had its door open in front and one guy shoved his drunk friend in the back. I stopped the cab and claimed an emergency: my friend’s life was at risk. The less drunk guy argued that theirs would be too if they stayed here. I promised them I would get Kristy and pick them up in five minutes. They stepped out. The cab driver reversed like in action movies and bolted toward the blue door. I teleported upstairs. Kristy was still breathing.
She was utterly exhausted. We took our passports, wallets and phones, and sat at the back of the car. The taxi picked up the two drunks, flailing in the middle of the road, and we exited Las Penitas. One of the guys zoned out in the middle of his sentences. The other said I would need to drop him at the hospital first, and then to his mom for a good spanking. Kristy laughed. The drunks eased the mood.
We reached the Clinica Mercedes, downtown León, half an hour later. The emergency entrance was dark and empty. One lady sat still, barely conscious, behind the reception desk. She took Kristy’s passport and proceeded, with the speed of a three-legged tortoise, to register her in. We took Kristy in a room upstairs. They laid her down, put an oxygen mask on her face and a tube through her veins. Kristy breathed and slept.
I walked out. Dawn lit up the wide empty waiting room. There was a large wooden cross and the statue of a veiled woman next to it. I sat by the window and looked down at the city of León waking up. Beams of sunlight filtred through the window and lit up the saint; a radiant scene. My body caved in against the wall, and let go in a wet, salty, and grateful laugh.
I saved my nakama.