January 11, 2017
Eleven days have passed since the night we left you at the shore. I miss you. Little Sheela misses you. Ammi doesn’t show it, but she misses you too.
She is so strong. A lot of vigour does not remain in her bones, and her hands shake when she drinks the murky water from the taps. Nevertheless, she works to keep the family going. She made some friends who lost their husbands like her, and they go around the city together, hunting daytime jobs.
She has aged by twenty-two years in these eleven days. Her face is sullen, and she seldom speaks. She is wane with stress and fatigue, and yet, she hardly sleeps at night. But then again, I am not able to sleep either.
I want to help her earn some money, but she refuses each time. “You’re a child,” she says about ten times a day. It antagonizes me, but also reminds me of the times I would ask you to let me help in the fields. That would calm me down, but it would also make me doleful.
So, I stay back with Sheela and teach her the Arabic alphabet. She is still four, and there is no place in London she will ever learn her mother tongue– even if the time comes when we can afford her school fees. We may never go back to Syria again, but we must be determined to keep our roots strong. Teaching her helps me stay composed, and takes my mind off of things. I start to worry less about my friends left behind in the village, if they’re still alive, or if they escaped. My heart skips a beat whenever I see a fellow Syrian in the crowd, hoping it is Salem or Ali.
But I still remain in anguish about other things. We don’t have shelter as yet, and the subway reeks of piss and crawls with an ever-increasing number of snatchers. I fear the bruise that is becoming black on Ammi’s cheek, and her back that seems more bent than the day before.
I wanted to go to the policemen and report it, but decided against it when one of Ammi’s friends went to do the same, and never came back.
Times are tough here. We are free, but not safe. Everything moves too fast— the cars, the people, the metros, and the thieves. I wonder how long we can keep pace with it.
Things would have been so much better if you were with us. Maybe we could find a way to get into a refugee camp, or maybe you could get a job at a grocery store. Or even if you didn’t, it wouldn’t matter. At least Ammi would’ve been happy.
It’s just so hard to accept that you’re gone, that we won’t have dinner as a family again. Ever since we left you, it feels like we have been driving a car with three wheels.
But don’t worry, Abba. I met some boys yesterday who told me of a special trade I could take part in. I’ll go out tomorrow after Ammi leaves for work. Maybe we will have more bread on the table this time. I will take care of your family.