Saturday, April 28, 2007

April 28, 2007 - Colon, Panama

Two gringos go for a walk in Panama City . . . It is raining, so they are wearing rain coats - his is bright yellow, hers is coral. The ground is muddy, and their feet are getting dirty in their flip flops. They are looking for a metal shop, on a curving side street off of a major thoroughfare. Parked at the corner is a lorry, filled with day laborers waiting to be hired for odd jobs. Further down a skinny, hard looking woman in dirty clothing sits on a bench, her head resting against the wall behind her. She watches them through narrowed eyes, as a shirtless man paces in front of her. Across the street, several men stand against a wall, sheltered from the rain by an awning. Traffic passes.

A police wagon throws on its lights and pulls to a stop next to the gringos in their primary colors. The woman keeps walking, trusting the police as much as the pimp behind them. One officer gets out of the truck and stands in the street, blocking the man's progress. The woman stops, feet sinking into the mud on the side of the road. The officer gestures for them to get into the truck. The driver speaks to the man in Spanish. He responds in English, gesturing that they are just going to a shop around the corner. "100 meters," he says. The driver pulls at his clothing, gesturing that they will get mugged. Then he draws his finger across his throat - or killed. The gringos thank him for his time and concern, but gesture that it is so close, just around the corner, they will walk.

The shop is closed. This is their second time on this street today, and both times it has been closed. She presses the button for the bell, but there is no movement inside the dark storefront. After the attention drawn by the police, the loiterers across the way are watching them more than before, or is it just their imagination?

They flag a taxi. "Albrook bus station, please," she says. To the mall, she means. To walk on a clean floor and be surrounded by security guards. Safe.

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