When I was a kid, blue skies meant swimming, and friends, and ice blocks, and staying up later because who goes to bed when the sun is still up? The only thing we feared was the end of the holidays; when we’d be forced to return to school. Looking back it’s clear to me how ridiculous that was – one, and it almost goes without saying, that’s not a fear; and two, it’s not like anything changed – we still spent the days with our friends; laughing, and playing, and doing whatever the hell it was we did back then. We certainly never glanced at the sky with apprehension and fear. And we didn’t pray for bad weather.
I met Naeem earlier this year. He and his sister were flown back to Australia by a missionary organisation who were sponsoring their asylum request. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the interview room were his eyes; they held pain and yet remained determined, they showed the responsibility he felt for his sister. I suppose I could just be projecting what I now know onto the memory, but eyes have a funny way of saying more than words ever can. He wore a smile, a true smile, not one put on simply because of the situation. I walked to the table, pulling the door closed as I moved. I poured a glass of water and offered it to him. His smile faded slightly as he observed the glass.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
“No, no… just memories.”
“Do you need a minute?” I offered. “No, I’m fine.” I was slightly surprised by how well he spoke English, “Your English is really good – did you study it in school?”
“My.. my mother would teach me. There was no school in my village.” Remembering the details from Naeem’s file, I felt a small stab in my chest hearing him talk of his mother – something I’m sure absolutely paled in comparison to the pain he and his sister must be feeling.
“Your mother, she was killed in the drone attack?”
“Along with most of my village, yes,” he remained brave, his voice not shaking at all. My eyes followed his gaze to his arm. There was a large scar running the length of it.
“Is that how you got the scar?”
“Yes. I am lucky.”
“That’s a very positive attitude to have,” I said.
“I am safe now, in your country. The drones do not fly here, and here is where I now live yes?”
There is a moments silence as I try to find the words. Any words really. How can we not take these people in?
This was written as part of a Writing Prompt “challenge” with two mates of mine, Luke and Mark. Our prompt this fortnight was “We’re all afraid of the skies now”. The piece needs work, a consequence of leaving it to the last minute - but deadlines are deadlines.
Naeem by Jamie Reid is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.