3 Cuchillos

I took the Transmilenio from Profamilia to the end of the line at Portal 80. It was 10pm as I walked along the busy carrera and then over the steel and concrete foot bridge to the other side. I was returning to the apartment after seeing Diego, a good friend I had not seen since San Juan, Argentina in March of the previous year. Ines was working late at the dentisteria and had told me to expect her after 11pm.

I was about to take the short cut behind a row of apartment houses and across the basketball court and then to pick up the calle our apartment was located on, when I saw ahead a girl in the blue baggy pants of the dentist’s uniform. I followed her a step and realized it was Ines. She was back early. I hurried up and joined her as she neared the corner.

She smiled and we kissed. She told me how happy she was to see me. As we turned down our calle I put my arm around her and took her two bags, the heavy one containing her dentistry equipment and the other her lunch container. She told me she was very hungry and very exhausted and she rested her head on my shoulder.

It was then that someone ran up beside me and passed me along the brick wall to my right, and I knew instantly what it was, thinking first to hit him as he passed but hesitating, and now stopped in front of me is a youth with a knife drawn back near his ear looking to strike down at me with it. He is right in distance to jab or cross him quick, before he gathered himself, and then to run, but there is another guy and he grabs Ines from behind, pressing a knife against her throat. And then a third is beside me, his knife out, and there is nothing now to do but let them take what they want.

The two of them back me against the brick wall and grab the two bags of Ines’ I am carrying. At either side of me, knives drawn, they start groping at my pockets demanding my cell phone. The one is feeling the thickness of my wallet in my other front pocket and is fumbling to get it out with his one hand, holding the knife on me with the other. Then with my wallet and cell phone and the two bags the three of them run and are gone around the corner.

I go to Ines. She is unhurt. The other youth took her cell phone but strangely did not take her purse or her wallet. She isn’t crying and she seems very calm. She says she is alright. It must have been the two bags, particularly the dentistry bag, that drew them to us. She tells me this is the first time this has happened to her. I have never been robbed before either, I say. I have been cold-cocked and had a gun drawn on me but none of them ever got anything off me.

I held her close as we walked back towards the apartment. I ran it back through my mind, first thinking how stupid I was to have not been paying attention. So what if it was a Wednesday at 10pm? The street was well lit but it was empty and there were so many dark side streets. I should have been more alert. We might have had a chance to run. I tried to see what I should have done, but with three of them and the one getting Ines’ back there was nothing to do. The first guy who had run past, holding the knife in front of me, I might have popped him and surprised him, but even if I had gotten him down I could not have been sure Ines would have run with me. You couldn’t leave a girl behind.

She still had her money and credit cards and her insurance would replace the phone. There was only 15,000 pesos in my wallet and my fake credit card. Another 40,000 pesos remained safely hidden in the secret pocket inside my jeans. The phone they had taken from me was a cheap, beat up model with only a few credits left on the sim card. It seemed we had gotten out of it pretty good.

Later we were sitting in the kitchen of the apartment when Ines explained that the dentistry equipment they had taken would cost 3 million pesos to replace. She could not work at the clinic without it. She could not borrow or rent another dentist’s equipment. The cost of the equipment shocked me, but it shocked me even more how unemotional she was about it. She spoke calmly and wasn’t shaken at all. After all, it is only dentist’s equipment, she said.

During the night she awoke complaining of a headache, but in the morning the headache was gone and we held each other in bed and we made love and then she showered and dressed for work. We talked again about what had happened and she spoke of it as calmly as the night before. She wasn’t scared. It hadn't touched her. I walked her to the door and we said goodbye. It was alright to walk the calle during the day, but at night, returning from work, she would now take a taxi from the Transmilenio station at Portal 80.

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