A few days after our walk up into the Cerro del Fontin, Cheryl surprised me by getting up when I did, a little after six. Sunrise was 7:20, and I had been heading out for my morning runs along the highway at 6:55, just after first light.
“I think I’ll go up with you and look at the sunrise,” she explained.
“OK, I’ll walk up with you, but you’ll need to get back on your own, you know. I’m going to keep running down the hill to the end of the sidewalk.”
We left La Betulia, and headed right, the only out of the cul-de-sac our B&B was in. Uphill about half a block was a road which made a sharp 90 degree turn, allowing us to keep climbing straight to the next street. There, we paused as I pointed out a few landmarks she would need to know when to turn back into La Betulia.
“See on the street sign pole there, it says ‘Es Mas Facil’? And over there, the community development office? This is the only turn you’ll have to make, to the right, first block after the busy street you’ll have to cross just uphill. I pointed out all these key landmarks to her, and waited to see if she understood. She seemed satisfied, so off we went, still trudging up the concrete hill towards the parking garage. There, we snaked under a corner, and emerged onto the ramp leading from the highway. Turning left, we hit the sidewalk, and continued up towards the stairs leading to the pedestrian overpass. I reminded her we had come that way on our walk a few days ago.
“OK, I’m going to start running now. The mirador is about a quarter mile ahead, just at the top of the hill. You can see the whole city, the sunrise, everything from there. Then just turn around and come back this way when you’r e done. When you get to the ramp, just follow it down to the street” – there was really only one way to go – “ and then head back across the busy road, turn right at the next street. Remember, Es Mas Facil?”
“Don’t worry about me, just go ahead and run, OK?”
“OK, I’ll maybe see you on my way back, or run into you as you’re heading downhill, huh?”
Off I went, plodding up to the mirador, then down about a half a mile to where the slope got really steep. I wanted to turn around and be sure to catch up with her, just in case she started to get lost.
But when I got to the Mirador, she wasn’t there. The sun still hadn’t risen over the eastern mountains, but the day was starting cloudy, without much color, and no promise of a real sunrise in the works. I figured she’d probably just looked around, realised there was no photo available, and got back home. It had been probably ten minutes, no more, since I had left her. I thought I would run into her soon as I headed back.
I trotted back down the way I came, growing increasingly concerned when I didn’t see her ahead of me. By the time I hit La Betulia, I was convinced something was seriously wrong. Like she had been kidnapped. I’d read about kidnappings of opportunity, where tourists, or even rich-seeming locals, are highjacked and driven to an ATM for quick cash, or held until their relatives can come up with some dough.
Nervously, I unlocked La Betulia’s front door, and turned right to say, “Hola” to the short, friendly cook staff, busily preparing that morning’s meal.?
“Me esposa es aqui” I tried. Heads nodding no.
In our room, I called her name. Nothing. I searched in her purse, and her phone. I was a bit relieved, because if she were kidnapped, my phone would have been useless, it not being turned on for foreign travel.
But hers was, and so I raced back out the door, this time running up the hill, all the way to the Mirador, playing out scenarios in my head. Should I call the Policia? Would Daniel, our “concierge”, know what to do? How would anyone find her in this maze of a city? Would she realise I had her phone, and get them to call me? How much money would they want? What would I tell our children? How had I let this happen; why hadn’t I just stayed with her at the mirador?
She wasn’t there again, nor anywhere along the route, even on the other side of the garage, where we had walked several days before. I ran back down to La Betulia, convinced I would need to go into emergency mode very soon.
Again, the service staff denied seeing her. But when I got back into our room, there she was – asking what had happened to her phone?
“I took it.”
“Why would you take my phone!!!?” she demanded.
“I thought you were kidnapped. When I didn’t see you at the viewpoint, and you were anywhere along the route back, and not here even, I took the phone and went back up to the mirador…I wanted to make sure the kidnappers could get ahold of me, you know my phone doesn’t work, so I took yours,” I breathlessly spit out.
She laughed, and returned the hug I’d started in relief. “I got lost. I guess I didn’t see where to turn. I got lost, and when I hit the T intersection, I knew I’d gone too far.”
“But how did I miss you?”
“I just turned around at the viewpoint, came down here, got lost, then found my way back about five minutes ago.”
“Well, I guess I know now how much I worry about you – how much I care for you. I don’t want to lose you, you know.”