He Lost his Smile to the Cartels
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Politics and Activism

He Lost his Smile to the Cartels

A year in the cartel's service destroyed him...

He Lost his Smile to the Cartels
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Down the street, we could see a figure approaching. It was a man, probably in his mid-twenties, slumped and trudging aimlessly. I’d seen his lonely figure wandering several times during our stay in the village.

“Victor,” the man said, as he neared us.


By the dim light of a streetlamp we could make out his features. We had known him once, in a nearby village, just a year before. He had been lighthearted, tossing jokes to the air and ready with a smile. But he seemed a decade older, and grim. I never knew eyes could actually lose their twinkle, except in illness, but that night I learned they could.

We asked him why he hadn’t joined us the past few days. We’d been exploring a nearby river in the mornings and helping out with a retreat in the afternoons. He had joined us in the past, but this time he had only trudged up and down the streets silently, day and night, staying away from the crowds at the retreat.

He had been looking for work when we last saw him, but, as he told us, found nothing that paid well enough. His options were to leave for the city and search there or work for a cartel that held high power in his village. He opted for the latter. He began as errand boy, and saw no harm. The pay was decent. But soon, the cartel leaders had him doing their dirty work. Drug deals weren’t the only deals that went down, he said, and grisly threats were never spoken without backing. But there was no pulling out. If he did, he’d endanger everyone he knew.

For months, he bore the constant horror but it became too much. He pulled out and fled to a different village. Now he couldn’t bring himself to focus on any one thing. He’d forgotten what it was to laugh or smile. So he just wandered around, in a half-daze, praying they wouldn’t find him or anyone connected to him, and trying to purge his mind of all the nightmares he’d witnessed.

That was years ago. After our brief talk near midnight, in the middle of a deserted street, we never saw Evan again. We talked to several of our mutual friends about him, but they all said they’d tried to reach out to him and found only coldness. I don’t know where he is. I don’t know if he ever recovered. I don’t know if he fled even further.

I’ve never seen a man more broken in such a brief time, and I still cry to think about it. And what's worse is that hundreds of Evans are made every month. Boys and men are tricked into carrying out the dealers' dirty work. Women and children are enticed into sex trafficking. Some make it out but get caught again. Others make it out, but end up like Evan. Only a few manage to recover and start their lives again.

*We'll call him Evan for discretion's sake.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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