Desemparats

They’ve gone, my husband and my son. In my mind’s eye, I can still see them waving in the distance, as the boat drifted further and further towards the horizon. And then they were no more.

 My baby and I are alone, and we wait to hear that they have arrived but I’ve lost count of the weeks, and the crossing should have taken just days. I’ve heard of boats not arriving, but that couldn’t happen to my Miran and Sami, could it? They have Allah’s protection. I pray, and they pray, five times a day and we lead good lives, remembering the Pillars of Islam, so we must wait patiently. For how long? another week, another month?

He left me with 100 euros, I can’t spend it, no one will change it for me, they think it’s fake money. We are hungry, this girl child will starve soon. The camp is full of rats and the grain has bugs in it. The toilets are a poisonous death waiting to happen. I have to walk three miles a day to get to a clean place, but then the heat bears down on me. My clothes are rags now, the girl is hungry and was crying all the time, but now today she has stopped.  That’s not a good thing, she’s giving up, missing her father and brother. I miss my men and feel frightened all the time. The men that wait for boats look me up and down, desperate to see if I have money. If they find my euros they will take them.

I have a wound on my leg that festers and this morning I scraped a worm from it. I am worried now, but must hold on to my husband’s smile and promise to send for me, as soon as they find work and save enough for us to join them in Europe. Italy, Greece? Anywhere will do if there is food and shelter over our heads. We need medicine as well. I bleed all the time and have no protection just grimy rags, my child has shit running down her legs. 

We must keep safe, I must keep the girl safe. If the aid workers see us, they may try to take the girl or lock us away and send us home to Syria. Ah, if only we didn’t have to leave Syria, but we would have been dead already if we’d stayed. I watched them kill my brothers and my Miran’s father. We had to leave.

There are thousands of people here, all hungry, all frightened and desperate. The boat price goes up every day and still people find the money and go. If I was a bad woman it would be easier, I could sell my body and make lots of money to get us to Europe. But it’s too late, even if I was a bad woman, no one would buy my body now, it’s full of insects and sickness. I must sleep, perhaps tomorrow I will hear from Miran that they are safe. Suppose they got separated, what would become of my son on his own in a strange land with nothing but a few words of English?  They wanted to pick grapes, work in farms or factories, anything, all hours if they could get it. They will get it, Allah is with them, we are good people and this pain will end, Insha’Allah.

This writing was inspired by a Picasso painting ‘The Desemparats, (the abandoned) displayed in the Musee Picasso, Barcelona.

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