“There is something wrong with everybody and it’s up to you to know what you can handle.” –Close Range
“Are you trying to kill yourself!?” Joseph threw a wrinkled newspaper at my face.
Catching it before it hit me, I quickly scanned the front page. As I read, a grin forced its way over my features. Trying desperately to stop smiling (so as not to make Joseph even more angry) I exclaimed, “They are calling me ‘Moses’! How cool is that?!”
“I ask again, are you trying to die?”
Joseph’s face took on a crimson shade and he growled, “Why? Maybe because this is now the third county with a warrant out for your arrest! How long can you keep this up before you get killed?!”
“I’m only twenty-one. My goal is five counties by the time I’m thirty. Think I’ll make the deadline?”
“Don’t say things like that! You shouldn't have a stupid goal like that. Why are you doing this? This isn't the path you should be following.”
Looking at him sadly, I sighed. “Joseph, what was I supposed to do? Leave those kids to die? Leave them to be sold over and over again from hostel to hostel? Twenty kids were rescued. The oldest is seventeen. Three of them were only six years old. So tell me again that I shouldn't do this.”
“Why can’t you rescue kids in countries where child trafficking is illegal? It happens all over, you could choose to go to any of those countries. Why here? It’s legal here. So now there is a warrant out for your arrest on the grounds that you were stealing other people’s property. This is the third country in a row! Why is it that the only countries you go to are ones that allow it? Why?”
Moving to the window, I brushed aside the curtain and gazed out at the gathering dusk. “Remember in seventh grade when we both said that child trafficking was wrong and we would dedicate our lives to saving these children? We swore a pact that day and have lived for it ever since. But now I realize that we are two very different people. I will admit that I have a problem. When my life is in danger I get a rush. I love adventure, I love living on the edge, I love being infamous and having people who want to kill me for doing what is right. It excites me, and I realize that there is something wrong with that. But you must realize that there is something wrong with you too. You are afraid to do what must be done, afraid that you will die during a mission, afraid of getting caught. We are two different ends of the spectrum. But instead of balancing each other out, we act like two oppositely charged magnets, pushing against each other and unable to reach a middle point. I love you Joseph, I always have. But it is time we part ways. Go to countries where you can do this work without breaking the law. I will stay here and continue doing what must be done. I don’t care if I break the law in the process, but I must do what I know is right.”
Tears glistened in my friend’s eyes as he sadly stated, “Well, I guess this is good-bye.”
He stuck out his hand but I ignored it and wrapped my arms around his neck instead. “I’ll miss you Joseph.”
“I’ll miss you too. Stay safe, then again… I know you won’t, so never mind.” Without looking back, my dear friend and colleague, the person who had stayed by my side since seventh grade, left the safe house and traveled down the road. Without regret and without dwelling on our past together, he left me. I never saw him again.
After Joseph was out of sight, I let out a saddened sigh and strode into the adjoining room. Gently, I shook the children awake.
“Get up.” I whispered, “It’s time to move on. We must leave now as the dark is gathering.”
When they had all managed to drag themselves off of the thin straw pallets they had been sleeping on, I joined hands with the youngest girl, Joy, who was barely six years old. My other hand grasped Xíwàng’s before she could wander off and get lost. Xíwàng’s name is Chinese for hope. Her name is a reminder for her since the small twelve year old child had been blinded recently when one of her customers had clawed her eyes in anger.
Twenty-one of us set out into the growing dusk. Twenty kids, three of which were pregnant, one who was blind, five who had been starved until they were barely skeletons covered in thin skin, seven who had lost fingers or toes to the huge machines in the factories, four with AIDS, and all who had been scarred by the horrors they had witnessed and been subjected to.
Traveling by night and hiding by day. Only fourteen of those kids made it to safety. There are always casualties during these rescues, some just can’t make the journey. But they would rather die on the run then live in slavery. For nine years I continued traveling, alone, to the most dangerous places in the world to try and rescue child slaves, the places where it is still legal. So no one was surprised when a couple weeks after my thirtieth birthday, I was struck by a stray bullet shot by our pursuers and died soon after. I had commenced successful raids on hostels in twelve countries and had warrants out for my arrest in seven. I had accomplished my goal after all.
Some people want to play life safe, be careful and live longer. I’m not one of those people. To be careful is to miss opportunities and in my work, to miss opportunities is often at the cost of many lives. I know that there is something wrong with me to think this way. But I know what I can handle. And I can handle going home (dying). Death is just another adventure and if you haven’t figured it out by now, I love adventure.