I hide, not too far from the water, underneath some plants. I had to choose between getting away and stopping making a noise as quickly as possible. But I am very thirsty and I have to pee. So after a little while I quietly get up to do my business and quietly climb up the steep slope. But when I spot the white van I panic. I go down again, but it’s so steep that I slip and slide down the bank. I manage to steer myself toward some thick thorn bushes and hide between them. My hands and arms have a million little cuts.
The fall was loud. He calls out my name and I realize he’s still down by the water. I curse myself for assuming he must have been up there by the van. I hear his footsteps and he walks past me, a little further and turns around and calls out ‘I’m leaving,’ though I don’t trust things.
I don’t know how long I stay hidden. I can’t call anybody because the screen of my phone still isn’t working. But after what seems like forever I climb to the top again. The van seems gone, but I do see a bright reflection of something so I go back down. I don’t really hide. Instead I stay halfway up the slope figuring I have a head start either way.
‘Hey girl,’ somebody says. I turn my head up. I am still not wearing my glasses, and I assume the worst. The voice sounds familiar and I panic again. I yell back that he should just leave, and that if he takes my bags out of the car there’d be no problems. I slide down the hill and find another place to hide. About 15 minutes later I walk up to where the car was, and as I climb up my left eye is nervously twitching. I first see my bags, then a small car and a guy standing next to it. He looks pretty spooked
‘Sister, it’s ok,‘ he says. ‘I have a wife and a little daughter.’ He looks all right, I cautiously stick out my hand to shake his. And he introduces himself as Roman. ‘Do you speak English?’ I ask. He shakes his head ‘no’, as I try to figure out how to best explain what just happened with my limited Russian.
We drive back to the nut farm and run into a shepherd along the way. They talk, the only word I understand is ‘pederast’. We get to the farm, where Roman works, and as we approach the guy who assaulted me drives away. ‘Is that him?‘ Roman asks. I wonder what he was doing there in the first place, but I’m mostly relieved I don’t have to see him again.
When we get there the farm workers are having lunch. Roman says something, but the only word I understand is again ‘pederast’. There’s a few guys working at the nut farm, about half of them speak Russian. Two guys do so particularly well: a guy in his twenties who seems like a real friendly and sweet guy, and and elderly guy with a good sense of humor. ‘I can drive you to Kvareli this evening,’ Roman says, and I take him up on the offer.
I head to the living room and try to read my book, but I get distracted. I start to wonder what the guy who assaulted me was doing at the farm just before I left. Did he know I was coming? Did he perhaps go to Roman panicked and asking for help? I get paranoid. I get up and check a few pictures hanging on the wall: they seem to be of a pretty average family, maybe the owner of the farm, but what if it’s some Texas Chainsaw Massacre thing.
I need to stop this thought pattern, so I go to the veranda where two guys, including the younger one, are just starting to shuck corn. I join in and afterwards the young guy shows me around. We walk into a two-storey building where the nuts are sorted. We talk. He makes 125 dollars a month, which is enough for himself but not a family, he says. We walk up a flight of stairs in a new farm building. I am alone with the guy and start to feel scared again. I try hard not to let it show. But I’m clearly still spooked.
When I get back I run into Roman again. He tells me that the guy who assaulted me is actually a relative of his. Earlier I had mentioned that I had taken a picture of the guy’s license plates and that I intended to go to the police. He seems pretty distraught by the prospect. So he asks me not to. I think it over for a minute and figure the guys at the farm seem genuinely nice, and I hope and suspect that the social repercussions will be strong in themselves.
Back in the living room I meet a guy who speaks perfect English. It turns out he’s the son of the owner of the farm. We hang out for a bit, before he drives me to Kvareli and drops me off at a hostel.