An Aussie Fella Seeks His Tinderella: Columbia, part two.
You know those cliché ‘life flashes before your eyes’ moments? This was one of them. I’ve seen enough episodes of Banged Up Abroad to know what happens to dumb tourists overseas, and sure I wasn’t smuggling a kilo of coke up my ass but my terror was no less real. I didn’t have the money to pay for an exorbitant fine, I didn’t have any way to contact my mates if they took me to jail, and Laura was beside herself with nerves, tears welling up in her eyes. “I’ll handle this” I told her, and took a step forward to try and have a conversation with the irate Colombian cop.
I’d love to re-write history and say our discussion was based on respect, two men identifying a problem and solving it. That would be a criminal fallacy though. He shone a torch in my face and I straight up begged him to let us go. “I’m so sorry mate, please just let us go, it’ll never happen again. Just let us go back to our hostels please." My eyes kept darting off into the darkness to see where his partner had gone, turning around to check on Laura, the red and blue glare of their police lights still silently flashing in my eyes like the ultimate buzzkill, the harbinger of bad times. For a self-confessed Tinder fiend, this felt like the lowest ebb.
The policeman kept barking at me in unintelligible Spanish. I still had no idea what he was trying to say although I got a sense for what a bad puppy must feel like when yelled at. He doesn’t know what the words are, but that mother-fucking tone is bad news. He kept spitting out the word “gringo” with emphasis, as if trying to get me to admit I was a foreigner. I honestly didn’t know what he wanted me to say so I cracked, “Yes, Gringo, I’m Gringo, Australia. I’m from Australia."
He paused and I deadest lived a life in that moment of silence. I grew old and got some shitty job and watched my kids grow up, one did well for himself but the other was a disappointment, and the second he opened his mouth I was back in my own body again. He repeated my words, but with a subtle questioning inflection, as if he was asking me to confirm I was a tourist and that I was Australian. “Si, Si, Australian” I stammered back, some half ass attempt to do kangaroo arms really putting the final nail in my dignity coffin.
He nodded, put his torch down and I started to breathe again. I tried to walk away but he still wouldn’t let me, he shook his head and kept speaking in Spanish. I thought the whole kangaroo charades had sealed the deal so I was obviously confused. I spoke English, he spoke Spanish, this was not going to work. But, thanks to my man Steve Jobs and the kids who put his IPhones together in factories around the world, we found a solution. He got his IPhone out and opened Google translate. Phones, not just for Tinder, snapchat sexting and memes, now actually helpful too.
“Si, Si, Australian” I stammered back, some half ass attempt to do kangaroo arms really putting the final nail in my dignity coffin."
He leant over and tapped away on the screen, waiting a moment for the words to switch to English for my benefit, before showing me the result. The words rolled across my vision like that cheeky fucker Fate was typing them on an old-school typewriter himself… WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS FINE…
He went back to his screen to add more text…BUT NOT HERE
Once again, his head dropped to add text…THESE MEN…
“These men?” I thought to myself, what was he talking about, I was the only bloke here.
But no, I was not alone. Many of you will be putting two and two together right now and realising who he was referring to. Something I absolutely should have considered before getting Laura and myself into this debacle. As I processed what he was writing his partner came back, walking slowly and purposefully, and he wasn’t alone. Before him he led 4 men. The very same 4 men who I had rudely dismissed earlier. They walked in front of him and away from us towards his parked police bike. I never saw what happened to the 4 of them, because of what old mate Colombian cop wrote on his phone after that.
The total Google translate read “WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS FINE, BUT NOT HERE, THESE MEN, RAPE AND KILL”.
Jaw dropped, heart stopped. All those things that happen when you realise 4 men were with you on your Tinder date, watching and waiting in the dark. And that these policemen had not come screaming through the darkness to punish us, but protect us.
The minutes after that were a blur, and remain a little blurry even in hindsight. I can remember being escorted back to Laura’s hostel, then my own. The policeman ensuring we went home right away and separately. My mates were out that night, indulging in the sights and sounds of Medellin, so I sat on a hammock in an empty courtyard of a hostel a world away from my life in Australia and sipped slowly on a bottle of coke I found in the Pay as You Go Hostel fridge. Looking down my hand was shaking, and I’m glad it was.
It was a hell of a night and an experience I won’t ever forget. Laura, if you ever read this I sincerely apologise for putting you in danger, that one was all me. Lesson learned. I hadn’t found my Tinderella, instead I found a new appreciation for police and an even greater appreciation for Google translate. Medellin was once the most violent city in the world, and for one moment that night, it almost was again. True love had escaped me, but the sun would rise on another day and thankfully so would I. My search, would go on.
Alexander Porter is a 27 year old with a degree from Sydney University. Getting it in a frame is on his 30 before Thirty list. He has a Back to the Future tattoo and is available for party hire. When Alex isn't writing he is watching his beloved St George Dragons let him down, drinking flavoured milk and planning new travel adventures. You can follow him on instagram @alexander_le_great