Public Key (xxii)

That was the goal, then: to get away from them, and remain free.

I didn’t know if time was a factor. I decided to make it a factor. I gave myself until nightfall to be out of the guest-house, and on my way.

I couldn’t say in Madagascar. But I couldn’t travel in any way that could be traced. No airplanes. Nothing that needed a passport. Nothing that needed a credit card. I’d have to sneak into another country. Do it without getting caught – for at the very least, that was a crime, wherever you were.

I thanked my luckies that all the nearby countries had coastlines that made the US/Mexican border look like the Great Wall of China. Something told me that there were a hundred ways to sneak into South Africa. And a thousand and one for Mozambique – and as one went north, things only got better. Or worse, depending on one’s perspective.

But enough of that. First things first. I ran a full system update. I downloaded every program I could think of that I might want while I was on my way. I made sure I had movies and music and manuscripts enough to last me for a time. I downloaded a half-dozen eBooks about computer security, another handful on general topics of the computron and internets variety. I pulled how-to language guides for half a dozen languages. I even snagged an Anarchist’s Cookbook – then deleted it when I realized that I’d prefer not to be caught with that on my hard drive.

I wrote a nondescript note to my parents, set it to autosend three days later, and cut off my internet connection.

Then I remote-logged into the wireless router I’d been using and flashed the firmware. I didn’t know if this would help erase my tracks. Better safe than sorry. I was sure that its owners wouldn’t notice – I doubted I would have, even if I’d been looking.

I went upstairs and packed my things. That didn’t take long. Then I went to the corner store and stocked up on provisions, just enough to fit into my solitary suitcase. I bought jerky and hard bread and nuts and dried fruit. And two big bars of chocolate. And a bottle of rum.

And a bottle of liquid soap. Just like the last time I’d decided to cross the breeze.

I had about six grand in my bank account. I decided that now was a good time to have some cash on hand. I asked Rana if there was a bank nearby. She said that for five dollars one of her brothers would guide me. I almost asked him to get the money for me himself. I restrained myself. Not out of a lack of trust – but for a boy who called five dollars a prince’s ransom, asking him to hold six grand was just cruel.

I made it there before closing. It was located in the heart of the city, near the biggest hotels where Foreign Money came to lay its head. They didn’t have six grand in US dollars. I took two grand US, two in South African rands, one in Euros, one in GBP, and two hundred in ariary. This left me with a stack of bills as thick as my wrist. Walking back to the hotel with that in my pocket, I felt more nervous than I had since I was handcuffed to the table in the interrogation room.

When I got back safely to the guest house, all my agitation went away. No, not agitation: fear. And it was gone. I realized that I had begun to think of that little house as home. I realized also that, no matter where I was, if I took a deep breath I could master my fear. I could do this. I was my own man. I was just a guy on vacation. This wasn’t exile; this was an adventure.

So what if the world was out to get me? Worst case scenario, they got me. I didn’t really have anything to gain. I sure had nothing to lose.

I found Rana as ever behind the front desk. I slipped her ten dollars. She looked curious. I told her, if anyone asked, I’d just stepped out. She nodded. I asked her, if I’d wanted to get to the mainland, quietly, by sea, how I should go about it.

She laughed at me. It was a sad laugh. She pocketed my ten dollars, left her desk and took me to the far end of the room.

“Can’t fly?” she asked me.

I shook my head.

“Not coming back here.” It wasn’t a question.

I shook my head.

She sighed. “Fine. Cross to SA?”

“Sure,” I said. “Not a big terminal. Some small port.”

“Less likely to stand out in big port,” she said meditatively.

Wow, she was really giving my game her best attentions. She looked concerned for me. I realized she liked me. I realized I was an asshole.

Not the first time that had happened.

“Listen,” I said, but she held up her hand.

“Don’t tell me,” she said.

I decided to respect that.

“Go Morondava,” she said. “Or Toliara, or Antsiranana. Don’t tell me. Some ships. Some traffic. Find something. Can find something.”

“I hope so,” I said.

She looked at me for a long moment, then got up and left. Went past her desk, into staff-land, and disappeared.

I went upstairs and gathered my things. I considered taking a last shower, realized I was maybe being a touch melodramatic. In retrospect, I wish I’d taken the shower. Even if I’d done Hamlet under the water.

I gathered my things and went downstairs. Rana wasn’t at the desk. I considered leaving her a note, but couldn’t think of anything to say.

I took a moment to collect myself. Opened the door, and stepped into the wind.

 

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~ by davekov on 9 February 2011.

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