“What is your name?” I have no name. I have been told to forget it. I say nothing.
“Where have you come from?” The woman smiles at me. She has a small mouth.
“Africa.” I say it under my breath. Looking down.
“Which country?” She tries. I do not reply. “How old are you?”
Fourteen. Though I’m not sure. I am silent. We are in a small room. White walls.
“Why did you leave home?” I must not talk about it. But I see she is sad for me.
And suddenly I want to speak. “There was no food in my village. No job. My family is very poor. We hear about relative of neighbour who has gone to Europe. He will earn money to support family back home. I decide to go. I am desperate to go. I pay many dollars, lent to me by uncle. I will repay him when I get job.”
“Tell me your story.” She has blue eyes.
I need to tell this gentle person about my sad journey. About crossing the valley of the shadow of death. “I am willing to take the risk and pray to God to look after me. My cousin Ahmed also want to leave to find work in England. He travel with me many miles, many days to Gao, a lonely place. A bad place. Then we go across desert in truck. It is very dusty. After we have to walk for three days. At night. The sun is too hot in the day. My bottle of water is stolen. I am thirsty. In Libya we meet ‘Arabo’ man who finds us boat to cross the sea to Europe where there is work and money. He makes us pay more – all we have.”
“Then what happened?” she says. I see tears in her eyes.
“We see wide water and two small boats with many men. And boys. We are full of fear but must go onto boat. We do not want to die in the desert. We sit close together with big waves all around us. I feel sick for long time. Soon no more to eat or drink. Our engine stops. We see white ship come near and everyone shout and wave. It goes away. Ahmed and I are afraid. My mouth is dry. We wait to die as boat sinks. The sea is cold. Another boat comes near and I am pulled out of the water. I am saved. Thank you, God.”
The nice lady puts her arm round my shoulders. I move away. She smells like stale bread.
I have two questions. “Where am I?”
“You are in Lampedusa,” she says. “An island. You are safe here.”
“Where is Ahmed?” I whisper.
She does not reply.