Bucket Showers (Part 1)

“Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.” Moshe Dayan

There were three of them. I struggled to break free of their grip but it was to no avail. Two held my arms behind my back and the other one proceeded to repeatedly slam me into the side of the bed. They took a mattress off one of the beds, placed it on the floor and pulled me down onto it. Albeit in vain, I made many attempts to free myself. Two held me down while the other poured buckets of water over my face. Each time I managed to catch my breath, I was confronted afresh by this irrefutable, yet often unwelcomed, verity: 

I am not in control.  

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Two days later, they ‘accompanied’ me into the shower. As the sounds of my screams filled the space, they were interrupted by another noise. I opened my eyes briefly. Whether I did so out of shock or sheer disbelief, I am unsure. What my eyes and ears gave witness to in that moment will never be eradicated from memory. To intentionally inflict pain upon another is, in and of itself, an atrocious act. But for one to display evidence of enjoyment while doing so is such a divergence from that which my mind can conceive that any attempts to adequately describe it are futile. Perhaps this person forced upon themself a dissonance so strong, that the evocation of laughter was a necessary ingredient for it to be actualized. A mystery indeed; for I am not privy to the motives of human beings. 

My tears ask not why. 

My body needs no surveyance for the trauma it has endured. 

I have known since childhood that dark closets and spaces beneath beds were not where the real danger lies. No images conjured by the subconscious were parallel to what I experienced during my wake. So absolute is the fear engineered by human hands that an imaginary monster replicating anything of the like is outright ludicrous. 

Yet, somehow I find myself frequently disheartened and dismayed by the callousness of human kind. Surely, it was all supposed to be more beautiful than this. more loving than this. 

After a week of enduring that which I will not unveil in its entirety, I was allowed to call one of the two numbers I knew from recollection. Although I was unable to give voice to my encounters, I made it known that I no longer wanted to stay at this ‘recovery’ center. 

I had arrived at this place after experiencing a severe side effect to a pharmaceutical ‘remedy’. Until this point in my life, my knowledge of amnesia was derived from the perspective of television shows and cinematic productions. Had I known that the temporary erasure of my identity was a viable side effect of the medication prescribed to me, I would have reconsidered its consumption. Nevertheless, since rewinding of time is currently not in my realm of possibilities, I must make peace with that which has reached its completion. 

The next day I met Jose, also known as Antonio. 

“Everything will be okay.” He possessed a calmness to his voice that implored the trust of friends and strangers alike. 

I would go to his ‘recovery’ center until I was ready to leave. This readiness was as swift as the turning of a traffic light from yellow to red when punctuality to one’s destination is in jeopardy. 

But my departure was delayed exponentially (weeks) by the locks on the ‘bedroom’ door and chains on the front gate. I spent most of my time locked in a bedroom with ten women. This accommodation, if you could call it that, left much to be desired. The main bedroom consisted of ten sets of bunk beds and two toilets. There was no plumbing and the toilets could only be flushed with the aid of dumping water in them. They never gave us enough water to accomplish this task. 

“It’s just waste.” Squatting over a toilet filled with other people’s excretions, resisting nausea and finding ways to ‘adjust’ to the constant stench that penetrated the room and my nostrils, required a great amount of mental gymnastics on my part. The windows (small square holes in the concrete structure) were not effective for ventilation or sunlight. The bedroom was upstairs and the remainder of the facility was downstairs. This consisted of a kitchen, an outdoor eating area, a small open space, a room off the side where the other prisoners sometimes conducted ‘recovery’ meetings, another toilet and two ‘showers’. We were allowed to ‘shower’ every few days or so. They would fill buckets with water and we were each allowed one bucket and given time to clean ourselves. The dirt that accumulated on my body could never be fully removed. 

Being locked in the room for sometimes twenty hours a day waged war on my efforts to remain grounded. I did taebo movements, yoga and qigong in the small space between the beds. I spent hours meditating and focusing my mind on affirmations. 

I am loved.

I am resilient. . 

Everything is working out for my highest good. 

I am freedom. 

I came here for love. I won’t give up. 

I made several ‘requests’ to leave but they were ignored. One day I ‘informed’ a staff member to relay to the owners that I am an American citizen and that if they did not let me go I would report them to the embassy. Being that I was in Mexico alone and still inside their prison, I quickly realized this wasn’t the wisest route. Jose stated that if I attempted to leave (as if I could somehow magically remove the chains from the gate), he would call the police. Unaware of what connections he had to law enforcement, I made the conscious choice to ‘play nice’ until I could find an effective way to exit their premises. My requests to call my sisters were not only delayed but I was told by Jose that they did not want to speak with me. 

It was necessary for me to do a great deal of  pretending for the sake of my survival. I have no doubt that the delay of my departure was necessary for the financial benefit of the owners. I was personally driven to the atm by staff and owners (twice) so that they could collect ‘payment’. (Payment that had already been made by my sister.) 

After almost four weeks and strategic endeavors, I left Trad Centro. A few days after that, I left Mexico. 

I have not the energy or capacity to tell this story in its entirety. 

More will be revealed… in time.

If you would like to advocate for the women who are still in these conditions, I have a campaign with more information here: https://chng.it/wfh6Ryrckv

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