I ran up to the dinghy and deposited myself near the kind lady from next-door. She was the only one I knew. I didn’t know where my mom and dad were. I hadn’t seen them since a couple of weeks. They had told me to wait for them before they were whisked away by that scary looking man. But I knew that they would be waiting for me there where this kind lady was taking me. She had told me as much.
The boat was initially fun because it was made of plastic that bobbed up and down. When we got deeper into the ocean though, the tumult of the sea grew bigger and I was scared that the boat could topple over. I did not know swimming. My mother always wanted me to learn swimming but I wanted to play football. I wish I had listened to her then. Maybe I would not have been as afraid.
There were 80 of us on that boat. We were told that the journey was only for 5-6 hours after which we would reach our destination. As the day progressed, the sun came over our shoulders and all of us were sweating like pigs. I could see other boats around us often and like me, there were several kids of my age on those boats. Some though were heading in the wrong direction and I wanted to scream out to them to tell them to turn around and come with us. But for some reason, all the adults in our boat seemed only to sigh in response to that sight. The sight wasn’t pretty to be honest. Those boats – they seemed to have been at sea for a lot longer time. Maybe they had lost their way or something. The sea, to me, seemed like a dangerous monster and I longed to be ashore.
Hours passed and the land was nowhere to be seen. Whatever food the others had on was finished and we were all growing more anxious. I could see that because the adults were fighting a lot over small matters and some had jumped off to take a swim in the sea. But I never saw them coming back. Maybe they had transferred to another boat that could sail faster. Everyone was in a hurry after all.
Days passed with nothing to eat save for scruples and leftovers from the raw fishes that the kind lady passed on to me. I was initially thirsty but was prohibited from drinking from the sea for some reason. There were sick people all around me at this point and some had died of exhaustion and hunger and maybe, sea-sickness. I could tell because help was enlisted for those who had to be thrown off the boat. This helped us get some space on the boat though which was fine but I would have preferred them to live. Why die when you can live?
One day, as I woke up to screams and shouting, I saw land from a distance. I was surprised to see people around me crying and shouting out loudly for help because why shout now that we had reached where we wanted to go? Some had jumped off the boat in a hurry to reach the land.
We sat there in the same position for the next couple of days. I did not much understand why we could not cover that short a distance when we had covered so much. I was told that the land belonged to a different country and in order to go there we needed some papers of some sort. That the people who ran that country did not want us there because we were not citizens of that region and that we were considered a nuisance rather than human beings. If only we could get that piece of paper we would be able to live there and I would be able to reunite with my parents.
I wondered what it would take to get that paper. When I asked, I was told that we could not because we had not the money, nor a justifiable reason to visit the country. Apparently, the only way we could gain an entry was to prove that we did not intend to live there. Coming with all our baggages, and leaving behind everything that we had, this was difficult to prove. Even I understood that. I wanted to tell the authorities there that my parents were already there and that I wanted to go with them.
I saw a small boat coming towards us. The boat was sailing at a very fast speed and I smiled to realize that if we had that boat, we could have gotten here faster than we did. Maybe when I grow up, I would buy a boat like that and help people making the same journey. I would grow to be rich and would help my parents in any way I could. My papa always said I should try and make an honest living always and never hurt anyone else. That way, I am sure to be in the good books of Allah.
The men on the boat talked loudly with some of the passengers on our boat. I did not like the way they were talking for their hands appeared violent and angered. Gradually, the tone on the passengers shifted from angered helplessness to tragic frustration. I had no idea what was going on so I closed my eyes and slept again.
When I woke up, I found our boat again in the middle of nowhere. The sky appeared overcast and I could feel sprinkles of rain on my forehead. Was I allowed to drink the rain water? At home, I used to play around with the puddles in front of our door and my mama used to scold me when I caught cold. I asked the lady if I could open my mouth and drink the rainwater and she said that I could.
A little while later, it started to rain more heavily and the water around us became very frightening. I could not see beyond a certain distance now and I was afraid again about the boat toppling over. Instinctively, I clutched on to the lady and she responded by clutching tightly to me which was reassuring. Was she a swimmer? Would she be able to save me if the boat did indeed turn over?
Before I could ask her that question, a strong wind came through the other side of the boat and before I knew it, I had been deposited to the sea. I struggled to find the lady so I could affix myself to her but I could not see her anywhere. The people all around me were themselves trying to grab onto the boat which, at this point, was swaying like the swings. The taste of the sea water was very harsh and it bit into my throat. I could not help but drink the water even though I was not thirsty. With the rain pouring over my shoulders I was gradually sinking into the sea. With the occasional buoyancy, I could see that others, like me, were drinking the sea water by the gallons.
It was at that moment, that I lost consciousness. I don’t know where I am now, I only wish that others who take the journey like me knows that they should get that paper before they leave. After all, you need an identification to survive in this world.