AN UNEXPECTED DOOR, Jairo Alfonso Ramos Jimenez

There are moments in life when fate inevitably, brutally, and ruthlessly forces us to take completely unexpected decisions that change our entire existence in the blink of an eye. Some say our fate is written from the very moment that God allows us to be born, and that he writes it straight on crooked lines.

I don’t understand why God wrote my fate in this way.

I lived quietly, in a perfect place, where we all knew each other and we could walk down the street without feeling any fear, even though our country was in the grip of a wave of violence that fortunately had not reached as far as our village.

Everything changed in an instant, overnight, in a second.

One day, strangers began to appear in the village. They visited the bars, drank, but didn’t talk to anyone – they just watched like vultures circling before they pounce on their prey. And that’s exactly what they did. One night they bared their talons, their weapons, and produced a list of persona non grata, according to them, who would have to leave the village within 24 hours or die for daring to disobey their perverse, inhuman mandate.

My name was on that list.

My mind raced to and fro, preventing me from understanding or accepting the situation. I wanted to protest, but my survival instinct and that typical panic one feels in the face of imminent death told me that my only safe option was to comply with the absurd, cruel order.

I barely had time to say goodbye to my family. My parents did not understand why I was on that atrocious, infamous list. I felt their tears like thousands of daggers piercing my body, relentlessly, without anaesthesia. I couldn’t face saying goodbye to my girlfriend, much less give her a final kiss.

I escaped on foot, through the brush, avoiding the bridle path that led to the main road. It must have taken only 20 or 30 minutes, but for me it was an endless nightmare that became more horrific with each passing minute. When I reached the main road, my fears only increased when I realised that there were no cars at that time of night. There was no one to help me escape from the hell I found myself in because some damn terrorists had taken over my village.

I felt powerless. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. Although it was dangerous to stay on the side of the road, I had no choice. I decided to take the risk and hid in the undergrowth to wait for dawn, hoping that some car would pick me up.

I was afraid, very afraid. I could feel death stalking me, relentlessly. I imagined the criminals following my scent like wild beasts hunting me down to deliver the final blow that would end my existence.

Finally, a bus stopped. I climbed aboard, nervously, not knowing exactly where I was going or when I would arrive; in the long run, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter where I was, because wherever I was, my heart would still be torn, bleeding, and longing for everything I used to be and was no longer.

When the driver announced “end of the line”, I got off the bus to face a fate that I had not chosen, but one I would have to deal with if I wanted to stay alive. I closed my eyes tightly, wishing that when I opened them, I would find myself back in my village and realise that this was just a dream, a horrible nightmare. But when I opened them, nothing had changed.

Reality was harsh. I was in a strange, faraway city, in a harsh climate for which I was totally unprepared.

Again, the same dilemma. Where to go? What to do? I didn’t know anything or anyone in this city. I couldn’t just go up to any stranger and ask for help. If I did, would they help me? I didn’t think so. I had to survive, no matter what. I checked my pockets, and found a bit of money that I used to buy some more appropriate clothing, and I rented a room in a modest hotel.

That first night away from my home was terrible. I couldn’t get to sleep, and the bed felt like a hot pan in which I tossed and turned, because as soon as I closed my eyes I was whisked back to my village and witnessed Dantesque scenes of violence and bloodshed. Mutilated bodies scattered around the streets and carrion birds flying overhead to pounce on them at any moment and pick them apart.

I lived through such dark moments those first few days . I kept thinking about my village, my people, and the life that was heartlessly snatched from me by a band of criminals; a life I wanted to get back at any cost. I thought the authorities could help me; but I was wrong. An official told me that I should forget about my village, because in that part of the country the dirty war had escalated and the death toll was mounting inexorably, despite the government’s efforts to stop the violence.

I knew that unless the government could restore peace in my village, I would be condemned to live as an exile for the rest of my life, it all came down to one word: survive. I would have to forget my way of life and adapt to a different culture, perhaps in foreign country, to avoid being caught in the sinister tentacles of the violent criminals that were intent on extinguishing my existence, against the will of God.

For several weeks, the idea of eternal exile rang in my head like the endless chimes of church bells. I wanted to forget it, throw it away, throw it the trash, but I couldn’t. What to do? Every day I spend away from my country, from my people, is an ordeal, a silent suffering that is eating me alive.

I am running out of options. The criminals are getting closer, leaving me only one way out: take a plane and fly, crying, to a country where I will be labelled an exile. I don’t know what welcome they will give me. I don’t know if I will be accepted or shunned. The only thing I know for certain is that I will be alive, and where there is life, there is hope.

The door of the plane opened.

The webdoc is financed by the programme Horizon 2020,
RAISD – Reshaping Attention and Inclusion Strategies for Distinctively vulnerable people among the forcibly displaced 

 This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 822688.