Writers Abroad Magazine 6 May 2017 - Page 22

WRITERS ABROAD MAGAZINE: THE THIRD SPACE Joaquim grabs her hand. ‘What are you doing here, Amore?’ His voice croaks. His heart pounds. ‘You shouldn’t have followed. They call this the railway of death.’ ‘I couldn’t bear to see you go. I borrowed a man’s coat as disguise and tagged onto the back of the group you were taken away with.’ She gasps for breath. He wants to kiss her. ‘But I stumbled and missed the train. They stopped it to let me catch up.’ Her green eyes glint in the gloom. ‘It can only be fate that I ended up in the same wagon as you.’ He pulls her close, awkward in the confined space. The wave of joy that floods him is tinged with fear. ‘We must escape.’ Her lips brush his ear. ‘We’re together, Joaquim. That’s all I care about.’ As Angelica settles her head on his shoulder, he feels her tremble. He strokes her hair. He squeezes his eyes shut in an effort to concentrate. Together, but for how long, he wonders. ‘I’ll think of something.’ A spark of anger flames inside him. ‘I didn’t fight Franco’s fascists for nothing,’ he mutters. ‘The fight for freedom is not yet finished. I never left Spain to save my own skin.’ He softens his voice. ‘It was to save yours, Amore.’ His embrace tightens. Tears prick his eyes at his helplessness. Everything happened so fast; his name on the list, and Angelica’s arrival. A last frantic idea pops into his head. ‘Did you bring anything with you, Angelica?’ She lowers her eyes. ‘Only my lipstick and things. Nothing of use.’ Joaquim gasps. ‘Have you a nail file?’ Struggling to reach her pocket in the crush, she finally pulls out her manicure set and hands him the metal file. All night, the train rattles over bridges, through tunnels, past towns and cities, and races across open countryside – although they see none of it. All night, through the snoring, twitching and groaning of their fellow prisoners, Joaquim files away at the lock. His eyelids droop. His arm aches. He works on. The pale light of dawn glimmers through a crack as the rusty lock finally drops off. Joaquim slides open the door. Some of the overnight human stench rushes out. The countryside flies by at an alarming speed. Joaquim gulps in a lungful of fresh, cold air to give himself courage. He and Angelica share a long, silent look, then a kiss. Joaquim grabs Angelica’s hand. Together, they jump. The Rivesaltes Camp, near Perpignan in southern France, was built in 1938 for the military. In 1940 it was used as a refuge for Spanish refugees fleeing Franco’s dictatorship, and also as a transit camp for Sephardic Jews on their way north, via Drancy, to their final destination Auschwitz. 21 | MAY 2017