Two Small Bags, Ten Million Dreams

 

CHILD

If you have to choose
If you really have to choose?
Who will it be?
The bear with one eye?
The monkey with the (green and) yellow tie? 
Would it be the Cat in the Hat?
Or would it be Nemo the fish?

WOMAN

We stood waiting, by the gate,
A bag in each hand -
Two bags, that’s what he told us
that’s what the man told us before
Just two small bags, no more;
That’s all, he said.

So I’m waiting, by the gate,
Two small bags, and ten million dreams
Some clothes, food for the journey, and something to drink
Wrapped up in plastic,
Enough for a few days, I think.

MAN

We left at night, or was it morning?
It was dark, anyhow.
Anyhow, it was dark.

WOMAN

The child stands there, waiting.
Next to the bag in my hand.
She waits.
She’s looking at me, trying to catch my eye.
I don’t look back,
I don’t feel like answering questions.
She looks away, at the road
Stares straight ahead, not saying a word.

MAN

Before sunrise, he said,
He said it would be before sunrise.
Any minute now,
The sun will come up, now the day will begin?

 WOMAN

Then she says, where are we going?
You don’t reply.
She says, where are we going?
You don’t reply.
She falls silent, feels betrayed
Already small, and now betrayed.
How many more bends are left in the road
Before the truck passes by,
On the long drive to the harbour.

MAN     

The hum of diesel, faint at first, then stronger,
I hear him coming over the berm,
If she cries now, I’ll hold her throat till she’s quiet.

WOMAN              

We watch him slowly lumber into view
Sputtering and staggering up the hill,
Brakes squeak, as if the truck itself is weak
Reluctant to go any further.
Just like us.
A man gets out,
A door slams,
The motor is left running
A door slams,
The motor is left running, in the night.
Running!

MAN     

We run, leap on board
It’s an effort with the child, an effort,
The child... it’s the child.

WOMAN              

And then we’re crawling on our hands and knees
Along an endless corridor of boxes
Walls of boxes, till we reach the end,
A space, two by two
For three of us.
Two by two
For seven days at least
The child is grinning, she’s excited.
With two small bags
And ten million dreams!

CHILD 

Mustn’t cry, mustn’t laugh
Mustn’t cough, mustn’t sneeze
Mustn’t wheeze,
Mustn’t sulk, mustn’t blink, mustn’t think.
No thinking, no blinking, no seeing, no being,
Being nothing, nearly, really
It’s a game, just a game,
Those are just the rules.

WOMAN              

Mustn’t cry, mustn’t laugh
Mustn’t cough, mustn’t sneeze
Mustn’t wheeze
Mustn’t sulk, mustn’t blink, mustn’t think
No thinking, no blinking, no seeing, no being,
Being nothing, nearly, really
It’s a game, just a game,
Those are just the rules.
And if we keep to the rules,
Follow and keep still
We’ll be OK, we will.
What do we get if we win this game, what’s the prize?
I say, our lives.

MAN

When I bang on the wall, he says, complete silence.
The checkpoint, complete silence.
That’s what he says, and that’s how we cross the border
We cross over the border, in complete silence.

CHILD

It’s not an easy question, but
If you have to choose
If you really have to choose?
Who will it be?
The bear with one eye?
The monkey with the Yellow tie
Would it be the Cat with the Hat
Or would it be Nemo the fish?

MAN     

Hurry up and choose.

CHILD 

I can’t, it’s too hard
My head hurts
I can’t choose. 

MAN

We know.
Now hurry up and choose.

MAN     

The price of freedom is impossibly high
An arm or a leg, or six thousand Euro.
When we arrive, things will be fine
Everything is possible and different.

WOMAN              

It’s dark. It’s bumpy.
My body shudders, judders,
His heart thumps against his chest
The quieter we are the more it thumps.
It’s cold. It’s night.
We piss in corners, like livestock,
We’re dirty, disgusting, what are we,
Filthy and dirty, shite, what are we, the smell,
If there is a hell, this is what it might be like.

CHILD 

This is the night my mother spoke of,
Night of endless hours,
Night going on for days,
And this is the sound my mother spoke of,
The sound of another time,
The dull sound of another time.

CHILD

It’s not an easy question, but
If you have to choose
If you really have to choose?
Who will it be?
The bear with one eye?
The monkey with the green and yellow tie?
Could it be the Cat in the Hat
Or could it be Nemo?
Why do I have to choose?
Why not take them all?

WOMAN              

There’s no room for them all.
And besides –

MAN     

Where we’re going,

WOMAN              

He looks at me.

MAN     

Where we’re going to,

WOMAN              

They have all kinds of bears,
Bears of all kinds,
More than you can imagine.

CHILD 

Nemo, I say.
Because Nemo always finds the way.
It’s difficult to choose.
Don’t worry kid, says the bear,
I understand. And anyway, I like it here.
The monkey ignores me,
Looks away with an angry stare
Like a mule or a stubborn donkey, stubborn monkey.
I pretend not to care but my heart breaks.

WOMAN

Final answer? Going, going, gone.
Sold, to the fish with the stripey clown-face.

MAN

There we are then. Nemo always finds the way.
Nemo comes. The others stay.

MAN

The smell in here. And the cold.
My wife whispers under her breath.
If God is everywhere, why not in here
In one of these boxes?

WOMAN

The cold, the dark, the smell.
The smell.
His breath is uneven, he gets panic attacks
He swallows, he moans, he coughs
Swears, sighs, cries
Thinks, blinks, breaks every rule
Smacks the wall of the truck with his fists
The icy truck wall just resists.

CHILD

Until finally, it is still.
Father lies draped across mother
His chest no longer heaving
She no longer weeping
I can still hear my breath
Quiet in the dark night
Nemo has gills, he’ll be OK
Nemo always finds a way.
Just me and Nemo
We’re awake and waiting
I’m waiting with Nemo
I’m waiting with Nemo
When will it be morning?
When will the sun rise and the day begin?
Will anyone find Nemo?
Is anyone even looking for him?
I’m waiting
With two small bags and ten million dreams!

 

Copyright Michael de Cock - Published for Artists #withRefugees – 20 June 2016 – World Refugee Day – www.brusselsjazzorchestra.com