Ahram Online was kind enough to ask me to write a 2016 postcard to whomever I wished. I wrote this – which was four times the limit number of words. I guess I wanted to write a letter…
So here is the full version. An abridged version should be published soon on the Ahram Online website.
Happy new year, friends.
Dear little refugee girl,
I know you didn’t choose that. You were happy in your home, going to school in the morning, playing with your cousins in the afternoon. And then this war happened, and all the laughter disappeared, replaced with the sounds of explosions and of your father crying in his room. He tried to pretend he wasn’t, but you heard him, I know. You told me.
And one night, you had to leave your home. Your mama told you you were going to a nicer house, but you doubt it – since you’ve left, you’ve walked so many roads, your feet still hurt. You’ve crossed countries, sometimes on foot, sometimes on the back of a truck. You’ve had to sleep in small beds with all your family. Some nights you even slept in the forest, under the rain. Then one night, this horrible man, we call him the smuggler, put all of you with ten other families in a teeny tiny boat. He threw away your brother’s wheelchair, your mother’s insulin, and even your little pink backpack with your favourite doll. You wanted to cry but your mother squeezed your hand so hard to make you not. The bad man pointed a gun at your dad and made him pilot the boat across the water, as he jumped out of the boat and sent you into the dark sea.
The waves were so scary, weren’t they. And the water entering the boat made your clothes wet and cold. And all those people on the boat were shouting and crying. It seemed like this night would never end. And then you arrived to the other side, and that’s when I met you. You jumped from your boat into my arms, you crazy little one, even though we told you to wait! And you hugged me and I hugged you and you smiled. And I made funny noises and you laughed at me. And, after my friends helped you wear some dry clothes, we blew soap bubbles. And you knew you were safe. Your mama and daddy were smiling, too. For a brief moment I like to think you were happy.
I wish I could tell you it would all be fine from here on. But it probably won’t. Not for a while at least. You’ve got many roads to walk. You’ll share massive, smelly tents in refugee camps. Some angry uniformed men with guns will yell at you. You won’t know why they’re yelling. I don’t know either. I think it’s because you scare them. I know, I know, I think it’s silly too, that you would scare a big man with a gun. But grown-ups are silly. But there will be nice people too along the way. The world is like that. There are mean people and there are good people. It’s not a lesson you should have had to learn at such a young age, but you did. One of many such things you did along the way.
Things will get better. Eventually. Remember that. The absurdity of hope is what keeps us going. Be nice to your mama and daddy, because, like you, they miss their house and their bed and their friend and the view from their window. But more than all of this, they want you to be safe, and to have a future, even if it means that they might not have one.
I love you very much and I’m proud of you, you’ve been so brave. Hug your parents and your brother for me.
Your friend with the funny hat,