The Passed Note Issue 6 February 2018 - Page 38

Inside, it’s hot and wet and close. Bodies press against me, and it feels like we are one quivering mess of humanity, filling the bottom of the boat. Hips and elbows and knees press and jostle for space in a place where there is none. I know these other bodies intimately; as intimately as I once knew that of my brother. But he isn’t next to me anymore. He got sick. His little body was so hot I could barely stand to touch him. We couldn’t cool him down. I can’t even think about the space where he was because someone else filled it so quickly, but it still feels empty sometimes.

Papa cried for a long time, but quietly. I don’t think he wanted me to hear but he was so close to me that I could feel the sobs that wracked his body. When he couldn’t cry anymore he kept telling me that I had to be strong and hold on. He kept telling me about the place we were going. He kept talking about the safe and the happy and the free. He talked until he couldn’t anymore. And now he isn’t here, and neither is the whole family I sat next to in the back of the truck on the journey to the boat. A lot of other people got sick, too and were taken out.

I lost track of any familiar faces in the dark, and now I am alone in crush of people, a room of strangers. I am both no one to them as they are everything to me and vice versa. Like the old man behind me. I can sometimes feel the bony protrusion of his spine, and with every heave of the sea my elbow pokes sharply into his ribs. He doesn’t complain but groans softly every now and then. And the woman who has been near me longer, and whose big, soft body first made me think she’d be warm and kind and giving, like Mama. She wasn’t, though. She ignored us, and said nothing when they took my brother; just spread out a little more.