Susan E. Lloy
She’s uncertain when she left her country as the entire process has been a blur. There had been too much unquenchable sorrow, stress, and unknowns, still they were fortunate compared to others. Others who had never set foot on dry land again wishing for something better. It was in the summer when the winds were strong and currents manic, but the precise date has now escaped her. They straddled the high seas against the wind and wild currents, which tossed their craft around like a cork in a swimming pool. Her child was one of a clutch of frightened children. A girl of six with wide open eyes and long, dark hair. A sweet and prepared face for such a young thing with all the dangers that greeted them with hungry open arms.
Now she is in a camp, and the shelters that house her and her neighbours touch each other like a parade of soldiers, arm to arm. Her child went missing within a month of their arrival. No one saw a thing. Snatched up and taken by a gang or traffickers like so many others here. Three went missing that day while kicking a ball or playing some child’s game. The UN are interviewing with the help of the police, probing the disappearance of these three children as well as countless others in scattered camps across the country. And each time they visit they provide the same answer. No updates at this time.
The opportunists, that plague these camps, prey on the unsuspecting. Rana waits and cries and, on occasion, has to be apprehended by others when she attempts to drown herself in the sea that is blue and inviting and constantly calling her name. And, if she just swam until she no longer could, then it would be done. But Rana can’t give in. She must be here if her daughter returns, so this exit is something she can’t consider, at least for now.
She looks at every one with suspicion, save for her neighbours on either side. A tattered doll lies on the cot of her missing child. It stares back at her, forlorn and distant. Its round, blue eyes seem to be frozen in a shock-like state. Very much like herself. Every breath is already an accomplishment considering the misfortune and misery that has a strangle hold on her, which is unrelenting and merciless. Every day she, and the other parents whose children are also missing, get together and discuss their heartache and what can be done. They must rely on the police as they’re not permitted to walk around outside the camp. Feet and souls are confined to this place. This that has become home, yet has nothing of familiarity or comfort.
She tries to imagine her child eating nutritious food and playing in the open air, the sun smiling down while she eats an ice cream under the shade of a tree. She wears a pretty, patterned dress with cute animals, or watches a cartoon series on television. But Rana knows this isn’t true. She’s heard the stories and whispers from people who have known such tragedies and realizes the darkness that awaits outside this enclosure. Yet couldn’t this end differently?
She’s here now. After decades of living in another space. Territory that inhabited her every pore and memory. Her home of what seemed a thousand years. Her children said she can call this home now. Mavis looks around the single, solitary room with a bathroom off to one side and recognizes some familiar items. Her favourite recliner, framed photographs of loved ones. Some confined within squares she doesn’t quite know anymore, but they look at her with smiles and reassurances. There isn’t a stove to cook on. Just a bare counter with dying flowers in a vase and some snacks. Someone she doesn’t know asked her if she would like her to throw them away, but she replied–no leave them.
She does remember when she was a young girl moving from one base to another. Never staying in one place long enough to plant roots, make good friends or have any degree of nostalgia to hitch a ride with the next. Yet, the flowers, she does remember. From one country to another all the lovely flowers that grew on the outskirts of the bases. How she loved to bring them home to her mother who always acted surprised and arranged them in a prominent place in different windows for everyone to see.
There aren’t fields of flowers outside her windows. Just concrete and a parking lot. It wasn’t her children’s choice when they placed her here, but it was the only available spot. They try to make light of it when she asks why she is here. Oh, Mom, it’s nice here. Don’t you think? You don’t have to do anything. Everything is done for you here. Don’t you deserve this after all your years of doing for us?
She stares off to unknown horizons imagining herself as a young girl again. How time has sped. Now she is here in a space she doesn’t like or understand why exactly. Everything aches and is increasingly more difficult. They won’t even let her out the front door on her own. This prison. This cage that is now hers. How life has become so small. She can’t even make a cup of tea. If she could only move around a bit. Pick flowers, go for a coffee, enjoy a glass of good wine after the cinema. Meet a man.
It will take time to adjust to this space, but Lizzy expected this. How else could it be after so many years of cohabitation? She let him keep the house as she was the one who wanted a fresh start. Every crevice in that dwelling reminded her of him. Her new homestead is compact, but what more does she need? Lizzy won’t be inviting another in. Storing his socks and hobbies in her closets. Her friends say she can’t possibly know this at this juncture, yet she does. That part of her life is over and a singular one has begun.
She looks out at the expanse of the sea where it all began for her, her childhood turf. It’s limitless horizon and soothing rhythm. This is something she will never leave again. Her migration days are over. She must stay anchored to this place on this shore for the remainder of her days. Even though the fog layers this stretch of land with force and a relentless grip. Footsteps must be taken with care. But Lizzy feels safe here with the cold Atlantic winds and hard, blue water. All familiar markers of her youth. Especially when she reads about the misfortunes of others. The migrants who take such peril-filled escape routes on waters such as this and the hard realities of the ones who make it. Homes where no hats are hung and lives that become absorbed into the unknown.
Rana looks out from the refugee camp and sees a flock of gulls flying overhead and wants to leave with them. To where, she doesn’t care. Still, she is imprisoned here indefinitely with no freedom but a hope. Perhaps she will have news of her daughter soon and this keeps her feet solid on this foreign soil. A land where one is not easily welcomed. She looks out across the stretch of land that borders the east side of the camp. A grove of olive trees stands quietly in the field. She imagines picking olives and preparing simple fresh cooked meals. It’s so close she can imagine plucking one from a tree. Yet her feet are bound here. To this place that’s home now, but grasps none of its liberty. At this moment she knows it’s a good thing, for one step in any direction and her child is farther from her too. AQ