Arrivals

I had finally arrived at my destination. My shoes were ruined, my trousers ripped, my jumper had two holes, right in front, that seemed to glare back at whoever was looking at me. One of my elbow patches was dangling from its place, about to do the big jump and run away. Underneath the jumper, my shirt, that had once been neat, white and starched, was now a very sad and inelegant grey yellow. Or yellow grey. Luckily I could not see my face. I knew when I last had a shave. I did not know when the next one would be. I felt it better be soon. Ditto for my hair. I had no idea how much it had grown, I only knew I felt my hair moving in the wind, for the first time in my entire life.

I was waiting around the luggage belt, together with the other passengers, even though I knew my suitcase was not amongst the others and would not end up appearing on the belt. I had no suitcase.  Still, I did not go away.  I remained there with the others. It felt good to be surrounded by all these strangers with whom I had nothing in common but the few hours we spent together travelling. It felt good to be blanketed by their small talk, their laughter. It felt good to hear children shout while running around, even the babies crying sounded like music to my ears. I needed their presence. I sat down amidst the crowd and took a deep breath.

So that was it.  I had made it? Or had I made it? Seriously? Can a man leave everything behind? Can a man start over again as if the Past had never existed? Can a man leave and expect to live when those dearest to him are either dead or barely surviving, or missing, or maimed?

There I was, sitting in this crowded hall, breathing, feeling some joy slowly creeping in; forcing itself a passageway through the dirt and into my pores. My shoulder and my neck were finally free of an invisible weight that had forced me to walk slouched with my head bent down for the last year and half.
There I was, walking taller and lighter. The body adapts faster than the mind. In my mind, I was still stooping.  Which made me a walking dissonance, trying to find my way in a sea of wrong notes. I was walking straight but I felt so out of place in this hall, surrounded by people who had no idea that across a border or two, they too would have been nothing but dead flesh. People oblivious to the fact that a mere hour away or two, they too would have been dodging snipers’ bullets and grenades while attending some dear one’s funeral.  Their children too would have had that blank face that under-nourished kids sometimes have. Lovers would have loved harder, knowing that it might all end before it even begins; lovers would have loved faster and stronger for they knew this to possibly be their only shot, the one shot that would need to encompass an entire existence: all the love, all the tears, all the pain, all the joy.

There I was pondering on all that, looking at those people returning home, freshly back from a holiday, happy, suntanned, smiling, relaxed. Some were upset because the queue was too long, or because one of their children had been trailing their jacket on the dirty floor, picking up the dust. Others looked bored. Lovers were jealous and fighting for a look, for a smile in the wrong direction.

There I was, a weightless, bearded marionette. My body free but dirty. My mind not yet. There I was trying to adjust, but not quite succeeding. There I was, looking at them, and at my ripped jeans. I was so busy and confused I did not notice the two officers making their way across the crowd, coming straight at me.

alex s david

(December 17th, 2013)

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