This is the small park that was right next to my childhood home. My friends and I used to spend many evenings there when we were teenagers. We’d watch movies on each other’s MP3 players and eat from a bag of microwave popcorn while owls hooted from the trees above.
We were gently rubbed with twigs. Skin was adorned with fallen leaves. In the darkness, crickets hummed. The stars shone through the redwoods’ branches.
Eight years later, I was again enveloped in darkness at a Montevideo, Uruguay park. Once again, leaves and twigs made contact with my skin. This time, though, I couldn’t hear the crickets or notice the stars. The details of nature were blurred, and replaced by the inner clamor of a fast beating heart and shock flooding through.
Parque Rodo was bustling with life during the day. I rode paddle boats with my girlfriend that year. I would eat crumbles of tortas fritas My Uruguayan housemate and I enjoyed ducklings with each other, as he shared his dreams to be a New York City dancer. With my English teacher friends, I would practice yoga on the grass. It would be a place to create positive memories.
However, that night was anything but.
One week earlier, I’d moved to Montevideo to teach English and become…