Echolier

Running Away

Uel Gallien, Guest Writer

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My name is Sekani Morales, and I am seventeen years old. I live in the favelas of Brazil. Ten houses away from my hut is the separation wall, which is 55 miles long, 10 feet wide, and 20 feet high. Inside the walls, there’s always reggae music that’s blaring and gangs walk around nonstop. On the outside of the wall was where I used to live. My father Roberto Morales was killed by Amigos dos Amigos when I was nine years old. Amigos dos Amigos are one of the most powerful groups to roam Rio. Ever since his death, I have been distant to those who care about me. At a young age I never understood why my mom, Bella Morales, and I had to move from our nice home to the ghettos. I do not understand why my father never came back home that afternoon, and I still have not been told why he was their target.

****

The day is April 6, 2016. Another steamy, hot day to survive in the favelas. It is 6:00 am, and I’m laying on my brown cot waiting for my mom to call me to get up for school. We take showers in our backyard we share with four other families. I guess you could say I’ve gotten used to the faces, glares, and the cute smile that the Ramirez girl, Linda, gives me. She’s really pretty and every Sunday she brings my mom vegetables that she herself plants. I despise veggies, but she makes me like them.

I finish taking a cold shower, which feels good in the humid air. I get my book bag, say bye to my mom, run, and go to school. The name of my school is La Esperanza Secundaria, meaning hope, but it is everything but hope. School starts at 7:00, and I get to La Esperanza at 6:57. From my house to the school it takes me about 75 minutes, running, but if I take the short cut I’ll get there in 40. You see, the only way I can get to school on time and not raise suspicion is by climbing over the wall.

Yes, the separation wall that disconnects my past and future. Every time I jump over I am reminded of the pain that comes with it. I know it’s sounds dumb but not to me. I Lined up on the wall every two miles are guards. They carry rifles and machine guns. The Brazilian army is supplied with weapons by different gangs in the area. The government has been corrupt since the oil company scandal. I have climbed over, the wall many times without getting caught, so today will not be any different. I use the nearest ladder and look both ways before the climb over. As usual, it is safe. do not see anyone. I climb up the ladder and reach the top.

Suddenly I hear footsteps and there’s a soldier in front of me. “Hahaha,” he laughs, turns his gun toward my head. With the butt of his gun, he hits my head so hard I fall to the hard, brown, dusty ground. Trying to get up, I run and feel like if I’m going to fall every step. Drops of blood fall from my head to the floor. I need to keep going to be safe. Luckily, I make it to La Loa, which is where I work. Mr. Salasal, owner of the store, runs towards me as I collapse to the ground.

****

I am still at La Loa, but now I am in Mr. Salasal’s office. I try to sit up, but I put my head slowly back down. I touch my forehead and there is gauze’s all around my head. On my black shirt there is dry blood. “Ahh, your awake, mijo!” Mr. Salasal comes towards me with a tray filled with mangoes, strawberries and bananas. I see the worry and pain in his face. “El soldado hit you very hard. I was worried you might have a concussion,” he said.

While I told him what had happened, I stop to see the television in his room. “Senor, what is going on television?” I ask.

“I assume, Sekani, that you have never heard of the Olympics? It happens every four years. Different countries compete against each other in sports,” he says.

“Sounds like a waist of time,” I say.

I keep on watching, pretending that I do not care about the Olympics that are apparently held in my home this year. All of a sudden there are men representing eight countries, and all of them are in different lanes. The United States is first, South Africa, United States again, France, Jamaica, Canada, Ivory Coast, and once again Jamaica is in lane eight. The man in the sixth lane surprises is taller than all the others and just by watching him in the screen he seemed humble and confident at the same time.

They get in their blocks and this loud “boom” sounds and they are off. They run so fast that the camera is a little slow or it’s just probably that the connection in the store is bad but it does not matter. The feeling of seeing them run gives me chills and a rush of energy. Just like I had thought, the man in the sixth lane won, and it seems like if he was not really trying. The screen says his name is Usain Bolt.

****

Home at last, I walk into my brown door, and see my mom kneeling on our old rickety chair in the living room. Her eyes are closed and I assume she is praying. “Hola Ma,” I say. She opens her eyes and I see the worry in her face. Walking up to her I give her a huge hug. She is all I have left.

“Where were you? I was scared that you had probably died, and why is there dry blood on you,” she says. Tears fall from her ocean blue eyes.

I hug her more, and tell her what happened, but do not explain how I got hit by the soldier.

“Um, I just got in a fight at school.” By the look she is giving me, she knows the truth. “Ma I saw this event on a television today called the Olympics. There were these men racing against each other,” I say.

With a smile on her face she says, “ Sekani, your father was a sprinter. He was the fastest man in Brazil but greed and fame consumed him.” My mom has never talked about my father before. While trying to keep a straight face.

“You just decide to tell me this Ma?” I ask while tears start to fall down my dirt filled  cheek.

My mom says, “I see the way you sprint; the way you move you’re arms side to side. The same way your dad ran.”

“But mom, I am not ready for this.” I sob

“ Mijo, you can become better than your dad. The only way you can move on is to stop running from your past, Sekani Morales, and embrace it.”

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Running Away