When I was asked to contribute a piece to Paul Brazill’s Exiles: An Outsider’s Anthology, I was flattered, but it also elicited a wry laugh. I’ve been a long time lurker on the fringes of this rather fluid writing community made up of outsider crime and horror authors. But I’m also appropriate to the theme for another reason.
A year ago I quit my job in Los Angeles, gave away most of my possessions, and moved to the Yucatán in Mexico. I came here not on some wild whim to find myself, but with a sensible plan to start a business with beloved friends.
Staring down my first midcentury birthday, I feared the time had come to get serious about the future. I had been trying to write my novels and make a career narrating audiobooks while holding down a demanding full-time job for a decade. It wasn’t working, and that saying about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result seemed to apply specifically to me.
Our business idea was solid, our combined skill sets mighty, the market may well have welcomed our product had our business come to be. But Mexico had other plans for us. Just like ex-pats everywhere, we found that wherever you go, there you are. Unresolved issues reared. Circumstances conspired. Plans crumbled.
I was in a place where I didn’t speak or understand the language. There were hostile elements. I had very little money and no plan B. I didn’t feel I could go back, but the way forward was a complete unknown.
Still, my beloved friend was here. There were kind, patient people who spoke Spanish slowly and puzzled out my attempts to communicate with a smile. There were Mayan ruins to explore, and huge blue skies filled with glorious clouds to watch. There was time to sit completely still and listen to my characters, to hear my voice in their words.
While I waited to see how things would shake out, I started writing again.
I have always been an incongruous combination of blunt pragmatist and spiritual seeker. I am Mulder and Skully rolled into one. I try to walk the straight and narrow, but again and again I find myself off the beaten path. And that’s where I always find my truth, out there.
What looked like utter failure at first, has morphed into an opportunity to focus on the things I couldn’t manage on my own back home. I’ve started narrating again and have found my voice. I ended up in the right place to be myself. I am fortunate and grateful that at this point, my exile has turned out for the best.
My character, Agent Ramiel is not so lucky. He is an outsider by kind as well as by circumstance. He is a man who follows that straight and narrow path all the way to hell. He walks with his head up, but is unable to see the cliff’s edge ahead of him. He dutifully gathers clues and evidence, but fails to solve his own mystery. He gets the call, but the message is beyond him.
Exile is at the heart of most of my Bella Vista Motel stories, and even the characters who start out as insiders lose that status once they take a room there. Agent Ramiel is special, though, because he becomes an exile among exiles. So this story ended up being kind of meta. That amuses me.
I hope you enjoy my story, Agent Ramiel Gets The Call. I’m very pleased to have been included with such a talented group of writers. Thanks, Paul.
Bio: For the last fifteen or so years Pamila Payne has been living with a bunch of dead guys at a motel in West Texas. Like the characters in her stories, she’d really like to move on, see the world, go places. But she’s just like them. Anchored by love, worn down by circumstances and fascinated by how much there really is underneath it all.
So she keeps writing their stories and tells herself that someday, when she’s got this all out of her system, she’ll write deep, meaningful literature about… something else. In the meantime, you can find her at The Bella Vista Motel.