An Escape, In Sonata Form
6 August 2001
"You can't hold me here any longer", I said, "You just can't". The only sound I could hear over the ringing in my ears was the steady tempo of sweat dripping of my nose onto the floor. They'd held me for I don't know how long, occasionally moving me blindfolded from one camp to the next, carried like an unwilling deity on a rough hewn sedan chair from the old days. If only I'd bothered to learn some of the language before, I could have attempted to reason with them. Since my capture I hadn't heard them speak one word of English. I suppose it would go against all they believed, fought and died for.
I had only recently finished a good university, and had been a well-paid pinstripe temp-slave for long enough to afford to travel for a while. Followed a relatively worn track across South East Asia, and found that I had gone half way across the world, only to meet most of the pre- and post- university population of Great Britain. Only with better tans. No one seemed to have learned anything, and much of the conversation revolved around pining for Branston Pickle and Eastenders. And so I decided to go, by myself, that extra mile in each place I went, desperate for that sense of adventure, to actually achieve something for once.
The results of my escapades suddenly made it to the fourth page of the papers back home, when the Rebels captured me, and demanded the standard release of some of their comrades, and the usual autonomous and self-determined nation. With me stuck in the middle, the focus of all arguments between the two parties, and yet having absolutely no power to control events at all. It amused me to think of myself as the ball in a football match between two mis-matched sides. Well, it amused me, anyway.
In actual fact, it did not take that long for the Embassy to negotiate the terms of my release. I was to be taken to the nearest safe village where an escort was waiting, and the rebels were to receive amnesty from persecution, and free satellite TV for a year. They were pleased, and even gave me a necklace made from their previous hostage's teeth to remember them by. I still wear it to meetings now.
It took me a long and luckily paid for by insurance stretch of counselling to come to terms with my experience and re-adjust back to everyday life in the West. After all, I had spent a whole four and a half weeks in the jungle being carried around, not knowing what was to become of me - surely enough to rattle any normal person's self-awareness. Well, mine anyway.
I emerged a renewed man, and ready to launch headlong into the thrills of responsible adulthood. Given my background, it seemed logical to me and those around me that management consultancy was my calling. Varied work in varied places sounded attractive to me, not to mention and certainly very compelling salary and benefits package. And that is what I did.
My work did indeed take me to many places. By the end of my second year there, I'd travelled to most continents, and my air miles account was truly bulging. The firm looked favourably upon employees who were willing to travel, and as I had no strong attachments at home, it certainly worked well for me. While spending most of the year out of the country sounds thrilling to most and is a dream for some, I began to realize that it is not the life I had imagined it would be.
In a job like mine, you are trapped. Your prison cells are business class cabins, hotel rooms, conference centres, and client meetings. You are constantly jet-lagged, knackered or hung-over. And this time there is no Embassy to bail me out. Sometimes I even cried. Well, once.
But that is how I used to feel. Now I've been promoted, I can get my underlings to do the grunt work for me. I get to clinch most deals on the phone, and the clients now come to me, rather than me crawl to them. And afterwards, I like standing on the pavement outside a crowded bar with the other managers and a pint of Stella, eyeing up the hardbodies. I am the now the lord of my domain. The old feelings are gone now. I have escaped.