It’s 9pm in San Salvador.
The streets are cast in dark shadows. A cool wind rustles tree branches and steel doors. I’m walking from my hostel to a store a few blocks away. Halfway there a man blocks my path. With one glance it’s clear what he wants.
Chiki-ton! Chiki-ton! I say with feigned bravado, throwing a limp fist against my chest.
He isn’t buying it.
“Donde? Donde? (Where)” he growls.
“Aqui, aqui (here). Julio Castelo es mi amigo. Chiki-ton!” my voice is quivering now.
He stares at me with the eyes of a shedding snake, twisted and glazed over. I can’t understand what he says next but I know what he wants, the 1,200 dollars in my wallet, the brand new phone, and probably even the apple in my cargo pocket.
Earlier that day I met up with my old friend Julio, the guy from my Funniest Man In El Salvador youtube video. He told me that there’s one guy on the block that’s no good. And that if I ever had a problem I should say Chiki-ton, which roughly translates as ‘I have family in this neighborhood.’ I now realized that this was that guy.
“Amigo, amigo. Mi hermano. Por favore,” trying to smile at him as if he were a good friend who I hadn’t seen for years.
He looks at me in bewilderment, and with slightly less aggression, but still he will not let me pass.
I place my arm amicably on his shoulder, which is at least a half-foot lower than my own. My legs slowly carry me forward. But just as my body becomes parallel to his, he starts to reach for my pockets.
“What the fuck!” My palms thrust him backwards. My eyes drill into his for what feels like minutes. I turn my back and begin walking.
Suddenly, just steps away from the bodega, I can see my own death. A cold steel point is sticking into my neck. He’s got me from behind. I foresee myself bleeding out on this poorly lit road. I hope travel insurance is going to cover this.
I grab his arm with lightening speed. My lips curl above my gums as I inch his hand away from my throat. I see the weapon. It’s not a knife but a long black nail.
My heart is exploding like an adrenaline fueled piston. I feel like a gazelle with a lion’s jaw around my neck. I haven’t fought anyone in years. Can I beat him?
My body is paralyzed. My eyes are fixated on the nail just an inch from my neck. I need to do something. I have to make a decision. My brain processes possibilities faster than a google search.
At the end of the block is an armed guard. I can see him looking at me but he’s either unwilling or too afraid to help.
Suddenly a panic filled rage engulfs every liter fluid in my body. A bright red burning curtain descends over my eyes. Electricity from the heavens surges through every muscle. The current continues into my throat. AAAAHHHHHHHH! I roar. I roar from the darkest depths of my soul. How dare he threaten my life!
I rip his arm away, spin him around and plow my fist right into his head. He stumbles back. I can taste his fear and I revel in it. I roar again and run at him, ready to use my entire body to eviscerate his being, but he scurries away between two cars like a rat scurrying back to the gutter.
I wait until I can no longer feel his presence. The red curtain lifts; I can see clearly again. I slowly make my way to the store. I apologize to the shop keepers for the commotion, and finally buy my Doritos and a couple of beers, at this point much deserved.
On the 3 block walk back to the hostel I feel good. I feel powerful. I have discovered and summoned a new and unbeatable strength from within myself. I can harness this strength now. I can use it to defends myself. I can use it towards all aspects of my life. I was tested and I survived.
Suddenly the rat scurries out in front of me. A sole street-light glistens across the steel blade in his right hand. Behind me I can hear footsteps.
The strength returns, and a rage filled roar, more intense than the last, bellows from my gut. I jump as high as I can, hoping to crush him into the ground but he swiftly side steps to the right.
“You want more!” I scream, sprinting towards him and his new rat friend. Again they scurry away into the dark of the night.
I curse at them in Norwegian, “ Fy faen jævla, helvete!” and let out one final “ahhhhhrrrrrhrhhgggg.” I can hear doors locking and animals running, and I know I have won again.