Foreign Anxiety

Stephanie Maldonado

© Copyright 2021 by Stephanie Maldonado

Photo by Victor Rodriguez on Unsplash
                                                 Photo by Victor Rodriguez on Unsplash

Medellín, Colombia.

The once upon a time home of Griselda Blanco and Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, infamous for the creative paths they paved in life. Idolized by those aspiring to follow in their footsteps, by those who enjoy a clever mind and a damn-good true story. Loathed by those who disagreed with their unorthodox ways and those who are first hand victims of their actions.

I grew up hearing all types of stories. A friend of a friend of a friend has alleged to have worked for one or the other. Another states she went to school with one of them and confirms said person was the bruised apple of the bunch. No matter the case, the one thing that’s agreed upon is that there’s always been a moral code: no women, no children.

As both a woman-ish and child-ish (a preteen girl), Medellín was my summer home. I felt safe enough to not worry about the tales I’d heard, yet scared enough to stay around my abuela and other family members. I’m not even of full Colombian descent. I’m also Puerto Rican, and most of all a gringa, born in the United States. Grandma was always sure to remind me that I stuck out like a sore thumb. Not only was I taller than the average Colombian female at 5’5.5”, I was also heavier and my hair was absolutely not pin straight.

Don’t draw attention to yourself nińa. God forbid you give someone the idea to kidnap you for a ransom we don’t have”, my abuela would occasionally warn.

Even at almost thirteen years old, when I was really just a kid who swore to know everything about anything, I dared not fact check my grandmother’s warnings.


One bright, adventurous morning Abuela and I hit up Explora Park for a day of beauty. We first visited the Jardín Botánico de Medellín, the botanical garden of Medellín. It was absolutely breathtaking and a definite recommendation to all who have the luxury of doing such.

After those phenomenal views, we headed over to the aquarium.

Long story less long, we were exhausted (quite minimally) and ready to go. We wait at the subway station for about ten Abuela Crap Talking minutes before the stop is overcrowded and the train actually arrives. Abuela is holding me by my bag strap. A man with shaggy black hair, denims and a rather large guitar case rushes past me, between granny and I. I’m pushed to take a step back. Abuela is on the train, I am on the platform. The train doors close.

And scene.

I swear I’m not being overly dramatic when I say that I felt the Earth crack. I mean I watched the train doors close. I watched my grandmother turn so pale, the sun couldn’t give her a run for her money. I watched the tears stream down her little round cheeks like it was the last time she’d ever see me. I watched my heartbreak in those couple of seconds.

All the while I reflected a scared little girl with crunchy curls, a new-ish Canon camera and not a single peso in any pocket. I didn’t speak the native language well enough, I had a super unnatural accent that would label me a tourist in a second. I felt the anxiety in my body build up until I was shaking.

Help Me Howard couldn’t help me in a foreign country. What the heck was I to do?


After about two full minutes of “Okay Stephanie, calm down. You can figure this out.” I had to weigh out the facts and options at hand. I had absolutely zero funds, meaning that no matter what, I would not be able to leave the train station at all. If I needed a train going the other way, I was to walk through. Under no circumstances was I to exit the station. I also didn’t want to give off the vibes that I was lost and out of place. That was the last thing I needed. Trying my best to blend in, I decided to get onto the next train and get off at the next stop. Totally normal and obviously our best chance at reuniting. Grandma had to be at the next stop, it was the only logical solution in my head.

At the next stop my heart pounds harder the closer we get, faster with every empty glance left and right. Where is abuela? Why isn’t she here? My mind races. Tears build behind my frightened brown eyes, but I see a faint fragment of hope. I see a Police Officer, last named Restrepo. This I can work with. I have Restrepo family members and today they will be my salvation. My means of finessing.

I walk up to Officer Restrepo and address him as “cousin”, as to demand his full unexpected attention. I tell him (in my best Colombian accent) how my poor little, old grandma was knocked onto the train without me and must be freaking out. I tell him that she’s wearing a red Polo shirt with capri jeans and wedge flip flops. I tell him everything so fast I barely understand myself. He grasps onto every detail I say and walkie-talkies every officer working the Metro until finally someone has a visual on her. He tells me she is currently sitting at the Industriales station in a state of panic.

I ride what feels like a thousand days and a thousand nights until I finally reach Estación Industriales. The station is jam-packed with pending riders, I don’t see abuela anywhere. I walk from one end of the station to the next when I finally see her. I see her matching polo and bright red face and we run to each other. She thanks God that I’m returned to her in one piece before she’s kissing, hugging and blessing me.

After we’re done hugging and crying, she tells me that she’s already sent out an APB via text to the entire family.

We spend the rest of the afternoon arms-locked as she tells the story over and over to anyone that will listen about the time I was “almost kidnapped from the subway”.

Stephanie is a music lover and poet from Northern New Jersey. When she's not living her best legal secretarial life, she's traveling the globe (pre pandemic). Her writing is best described as emotional, yet care free. A healer since birth. Hoping to inspire beauty and perseverance within every reader.  Stephanie is currently working towards publishing a collection of prose/poetry, as well as a line of children's books. Literature is often a luxury; when in fact, it should be a necessity, a priority. Her work is most recently published in The Magnolia Review, Secret Attic Press and The Asexual (AZE) Journal. Feel free to reach out to me via IG/Twitter: @NeverPracticed.

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