There is no place for you to sleep on the little, overcrowded boat. Even if there were, you would not be able to sleep. Your thoughts are with the people you left behind. You were the one chosen to go; your family, your friends, and the whole world you used to know remained behind. They put their hopes in you, so you have to make it.
The fear of the bombs stays with you. Not because the bombs can get to you anymore, but because they can get to all those you love that remained behind hoping you will make it, hoping you will be soon able to ask them to join you in that better place you are heading to.
The people around you are silent, waiting, hoping. Some mothers have their small children in their arms, squeezing them tight to keep them safe from everything that could come their way.
You are all going to a place you don’t know, filled with people that do not speak your language and do not want to see you or to welcome you. But the fear of rejection and discrimination is preferable to the fear of bombs and torture, of death. If only all those fears would completely disappear. As you hope to reach the shore and to finally be in Europe, you hope for your family to be safe and to find a way to eventually reunite with them somewhere peaceful.
Fear is a feeling we all know too well, but it is a very subjective one nonetheless. Some things we fear others face smiling and some things that terrify them we may find relaxing. But there are certain fears that get to most of us. One of them is the fear of torture. The fear of losing the ones close to us is another. The fear of death is also worth mentioning.
The refugees that are coming to Europe now, or at least most of them, have left their homes because of fear. As one of them put it, no parent puts his child on a shallow boat on the sea if the land is safer. But as dangerous the journey to Europe, it is still safer than the situation at “home.” It’s horrendous to think that there are some people that have to weigh the chances of dying at sea or dying in bombings or at the hand of some torturers. Sadly, that is the reality.
When you finally get to Europe the situation does not improve drastically. There is more safety now but there is no proper roof over your head and absolutely no certainty about what is to come next. A fear that you will be forced to return is eating away at you. You imagine yourself getting back home to the family that risked everything to send you away just to tell them that you have failed them.
You seek peace and the ability to live a normal life again. However, Europe is not that welcoming towards you. Nor are its people. Because Europeans are afraid too and they are fed fear every time they watch the news. They are being taught that you and all those like you are coming to threaten their way of life, to steal their jobs and to ruin the economic situations of their countries, which are not extraordinary anyway.
The European values are slowly starting to disappear, dissolved by fear and propaganda. The security you were hoping for turns to uncertainty and before you can try to get your family where you are, you have to be sure that you find a place for yourself first.
The news is not good. Some people with similar religious beliefs to yours have committed horrible crimes. For the people affected by their acts it doesn’t even matter anymore that those people were not even born in your country, but in Europe; now you are just like them in the eyes of those that are mourning and those that are afraid.
You understand them in a way. They have been hurt and are by all means trying to avoid a repeat of such a catastrophe. But you have to ask what you have done to deserve or what the children playing football with an empty bottle around you have done to be put in the same bracket as those murderers.
Never have you used violence, nor encouraged it. Perhaps you are not even religious at all. Nobody has time to listen. Nobody cares too much either. When they are trying to see the world through your eyes, and that happens very rarely, somebody delivers them a new dose of fear. Reason gets blurry. Logic becomes useless. Fear shuts the mind down, leaving only one idea: You need to fight or fly.
You wish to talk to someone and tell them this: Imagine you love to wear black and you wear only black. It’s who you are and you cannot see yourself wearing any other colour. You have no problem with people wearing colourful clothes; on the contrary you love to see others dressed in bright colours that suit them.
Every night you eat at the same restaurant. You’ve been eating there for ages and you know all the staff there, the chef and even the owner. But one night when you go there after work you are denied access. You try to speak with the staff, the chef, anyone but nobody cares to listen and they all simply want you to go away.
You are stunned but there is nothing much you can do about it so you go to the supermarket to get some microwave food. As you wait in line to pay for your food everybody looks at you with what seems to be hatred. You do not know any of these people and they do not know you but they all seem to hate you with passion. You pick up a newspaper to hide your eyes from their gaze and what you see on the first pages shocks you.
It says that a person dressed all in black started a fight and killed somebody in a restaurant and from now on all those dressed in black will be prohibited from entering restaurants.
You could stop wearing black but this is not really an option because, first of all, it’s who you are and, second of all, even if you did stop wearing black, nobody will believe that you truly changed. They will still see you as a threat as long as they have their “fear perspective on”.
As you look at the kids playing football with that empty bottle you wish you could tell somebody about this silly comparison. You think that, putting the problem this way, people would understand how wrong they are for judging you and putting you in the same category as horrible people that you yourself are disgusted and scared of, people you have ran away from your home to avoid. But there is nobody to listen to you and you don’t even speak the language.
You’d like to tell Europe that you are scared too, and that you are not with “them,” with the “enemy.” But you find yourself in limbo instead, in a sort of earthly purgatory, neither here, nor there.
Some journalists come to take pictures in the camp you stay in. The main attraction of today for them is a child who holds up a sign that reads “Sorry for Bruxelles.”
You have no idea what happened in Bruxelles.
William Alec is a full time writer, dreamer and art lover. He took to writing at age 14 and his latest novel is called A hospital for souls.
Illustrated by Lamiaa Ameen