All the Time in the World

All the Time in the World

He knew they were coming; they had to come. And even though he desired to go on living, he didn’t know why. Animal instinct, he guessed. He’d face his fate with dignity, there was no other choice; you didn’t reason with these men, they had one mission: to kill him.

It had started over a year ago, when he’d moved to Merida from the Yucatan jungle, where he’d made a living for over ten years from the illegal trade in Maya artifacts. Before his move to the Peninsula, he’d made a good living in the United States selling Ancestral Puebloan artifacts, until the Feds cracked down on the trading posts, his main buyers. He’d discovered through exploration secret routes into ancient sites which he plundered without remorse; once the trading posts had been severely warned of their culpability in the illegal trade of Ancestral Puebloan artifacts, however, his trade was done. He moved to Mexico, and quickly resumed his trade in illegal artifacts. The authorities in Mexico were less determined, and he’d established secure shipping routes from Mexico to buyers in Havana. But he had gotten careless.

The men who hunted him now were not Federales, but rather evil men outside the law bent only on his destruction. He had provoked their ire by his plundering of Maya ruins. He’d known the risks, but he’d determined that the profits outweighed the risks, and he’d always told himself that he’d get out, once he had accumulated enough to live comfortably for the rest of his life. What he hadn’t counted on was the thrill he derived from his surreptitious undertakings; the money had become secondary.

The men who were coming now were Maya descendants, men who had grown up in the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula, men who knew hardship and terror, men whose grandfathers and fathers had known the constant strain of conflict. They were fearless, relentless warriors.

His only hope of survival lay in his escape back to the states, but this would not be easy. He’d been able to hide from these men in the dense Yucatan jungle, but he had grown weary of the jungle. Since he shipped the artifacts from Chetumal, he figured that that is where the danger of reprisal was greatest. When he relocated to Merida, he hadn’t counted on the warriors’ steadfastness. Inside a year’s time, they knew his whereabouts.

Inside his small hotel room, Daniel had been warned by the concierge of the three men who had come asking about him. Manuel had gone to Daniels’s room immediately to let him know that he’d put the three men off by telling them that the man they were looking for was not registered here. Daniel thanked Manuel. He closed the door, sat down on the bed, and looked around the small room; this is what his life had become. It’s all right, he thought, every life is reduced to the same thing.

He would face his fate; he’d had a good life. Maybe he should have lived more honestly, but, in the end, what did it matter? No life is remembered accurately – or for long. He stood, went to the small closet, put on his jacket, looked around one last time, and left the room. He walked down the short corridor to the stairway; elevators had always terrified him. In the jungle, things smothered him, the heat, blood-sucking insects, the dense growth of everything, but only inside an elevator did he find that he couldn’t breathe. He laughed. It is good that I can still laugh, he thought. He walked downstairs, past the main desk, into the bar. In midafternoon, the bar was empty. The bartender threw the dishtowel over his shoulder and stepped over to greet Daniel. “Good afternoon, Senor.”

“Good afternoon,” Daniel said. “A beer please, a tall draft beer.” The bartender poured the beer, looking in Daniel’s direction. “It is hot today.”

“It is always hot,” Daniel replied. “This is a hot country. I lived in a country once, a long time ago, that was cold; winters seeped into my bones; snow covered the ground for six months; when spring finally came, another month past before I thawed out. It was a cold country; this isn’t.”

The bartender set the beer in front of Daniel. “Have you been here long?”

“Too long.”

“And you plan to stay longer?”

“I have no plans anymore; plans change, so I don’t set much stock in them.”

“You have a point,” the bartender said. “Myself, I still rely on plans. I save my money to buy my own place someday. Working for someone else, on their schedule, crushes my spirit. If I don’t have my spirit, then I am not a man.”

Daniel thought about this: Was his spirit still alive? He wanted to believe that it was, but how do you know? I think, unless you are a fool, you know. He gulped his cold beer and wiped the foam from his upper lip. He’d always liked the taste of beer. He looked around the small barroom. “Quiet today.”

“It is early,” the bartender told him. Is it? Daniel thought. No, it is very late. But it doesn’t matter. Life ends for all of us one way or another. His life will come to an end – soon, and this worry will be behind him. Dying is an easy thing, worrying about death is a burden.

He looked at his watch, even though a big clock glared at him from above the bar. A nervous habit, he thought. 3:15. They would be back, he didn’t know when, but they would be back. They weren’t fools; they hadn’t for one minute believed Manuel’s story. They came here for a reason, not because they were fishing for information; no, they knew he was here. And they wanted him to know that they knew. It is the dance between predator and prey. He finished his beer; he could feel normal, alive, standing here at the bar, drinking a beer. This is what any other man might be doing anywhere else in the world. He had this in common with every other man. He wanted to feel this connection, if for the last time, even though he knew that he wasn’t like any other man. He lived with a death sentence; more likely than not, he guessed, there were other men who at this exact moment faced their deaths, too, but they were a handful. He thought about them, faceless, nameless men. What were they thinking? Did they have remorse? Probably not. Remorse for what? For having to face death alone? No, this is everyone’s penalty. Life comes with a death sentence. And our defense? It’s always the same: we did the best we could. Ha! A weak defense. It’s no wonder that we are left to face death alone. Every man gets exactly what he deserves: condemned to die without comfort, without pity, without any clear understanding of what comes next. His banishment is not only his punishment, but his mercy as well.

Daniel envied the three men who were coming; they thought only about one thing: his death. For a moment, they weren’t concerned about their own fates. He, on the other hand, was granted no peace of mind. Only while in the grip of conquest is the predator unconcerned about its own death. The hunter and the hunted are both in the throes of death, but one controls his emotions, one doesn’t. How would he face his death? As a hunter or the hunted? He had always tried to live as the hunter, but he’d only fooled himself. The hunter was coming for him now.

He ordered another beer; he wanted to hold on to his illusion for a while longer. Besides, the beer was good. And on such a hot day, the beer was cold. It didn’t cool the day, but it cooled his brain. It’s funny how we look at life, he thought, from the inside out. And, yet, we control nothing. Our world is the world we see, but, yet, it doesn’t exist for anyone else. It is our world alone. We cling so desperately to the notion that it is the same world for everyone. We are all magicians, he thought, fumbling through our bag of tricks for an audience that is watching the elephants. A long time ago someone told him that he wasn’t the center of the universe, so why worry about what anyone else thinks? For a long time, he held on to this belief; now, finally, he understood that that wasn’t the truth at all: he was the center of the universe. With each death, a universe disappears.

He heard the creak of the front door and hard steps across the hardwood floor in the lobby, but he was in no hurry to finish his beer; he had all the time in the world.






  1. You have done a powerful piece of writing grappling with resignation and death. I am still thinking about everyone as the center of their own universe and “with each death, a universe disappears”. Much truth in that.

    • Thank you, Bennie. You are always so kind. I truly appreciate your insightful comments.

  2. Wow, riveting … and yet the attitudinal rational is so calming. You certainly have a way with words, David. Enjoyed this piece!

    • Hello, Karen!

      Thank you so much, your comment meant so much to me. I hope everything is going well for you. I will send you an email soon in order to get caught up. Again, thank you. My best, David

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