Time to Settle Accounts
August 20, 2011: Testing boundaries.
“The Iran hikers got eight years,” I said to Rob as he worked at his desk.
“Just saw that,” he said. “Sucks.”
“Do you think they were C.I.A.?”
“No — if they were C.I.A., they would have jobs as contractors or businessmen or something. They would be there on some sort of official business. They wouldn’t just be strolling through northern Iraq.”
“What do you think?”
I sat down on the carpeted floor and leaned against the wall. “I think they were probably hiking and vacationing like they say, but they probably got cocky and were just drawn closer and closer to the border. Like when I crossed the barbed wire fence last summer up in the hills in western Colorado.”
Rob shrugged at me, indicating he did not know the story.
“This was when I was driving to L.A. to give Mike the car. I pulled off the road to explore something called the ‘Trail of Time,’ which turned out to be this children’s tour about dinosaurs or something. But to the left was this solitary trailer, and then there was a mountain behind it, and for some reason I just had to walk out there. I grabbed my backpack, some water and granola bars, texted Mike my location just in case, and I started walking up the mountain. Got way up to where my car was pretty far behind me. There was a barbed wire fence, low enough to climb over.
“I was in sandals, which would have been bad if there’d been a poisonous snake. I don’t know specifically what the dangers were up there, and maybe there were none, but somebody decided to put the fence up, you know? Maybe there were animals I didn’t want to mess with, or hunters, or some kind of Deliverance thing happening. I got real quiet. You couldn’t hear the highway. I whispered into my tape recorder just to record the moment. It was stupid, but kind of thrilling. It was the furthest I’d ever been from another living soul.
“That was about a year after the hikers were captured. They were definitely on my mind out there. After a bit I came to a second fence, and it seemed silly to cross that one. I felt I’d pushed this luck as far as I could. So I went back.”
“So you think they were just testing themselves,” Rob said.
“Could be. They say the border was unmarked, but it’s not like they didn’t know Iran was there. And this is July of 2009, with the presidential protests in full steam, with Roxana Saberi just released. You know?
“I mean, let’s say you told me that somewhere between here and the alley, there was an invisible, electric fence. It could be one step in front of me or fifty feet, but it’s there in that direction. Do I really have to keep walking in that direction to see where precisely the fence is?”
“I get what you’re saying.” He shook his head. “Still, eight years.”
“Yeah. Eight years.”
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