The night I slept with refugees

by João Pimenta (Portugal)

Making a local connection France


Shining on a cold summer night that had forgotten to bring the heat promised by the calendars, stand next to us a small town hidden in the recesses of the Gallic maps where we forged, in claustrophobic and clogged fetid and hot trains, our journey. We looked at an Italy that seemed not to want to be within our reach and a night that would be short, not justifying paying for a hotel. We set a fallow place on a bridge to the train station, sheltered from the rain that soon fell, but not from the wind whistling as it passed through all the cracks that were there, together with a refugee family to which we asked permission to stay and exchange two mouthfuls of conversation. Uncomfortably covered in the pitiless wood that broke our backs, we saw them increasingly forced to be the epicentre of dichotomous controversial debates that never allowed us to see the human part of the case. They distinguished themselves by staying in that place with no choice, with the child sleeping in their arms, never knowing whether this would be the last country in their quest for a new home. "In a way, injustice creates in you a deep anger, as the nights pass, and you know it better, metamorphoses in an almost naive piety. Those exposed to the holocaust are the ones who forgive the most, even though they have the greatest right of revolt. "And time froze with the refugee man words. "What's wrong with your face?" He asked in his scratched English while hiding the indiscretion of such a question with his gaze nailed on a shameful sandwich. "So, did your girlfriend do this to you?" She was clearly bothered by the guilt that the woman's admiration reminded her for hours before, in an unconscious instinct of a game of knives, having made an arched knife motion, like reaping the wheat on my face, where it lacerated the flesh of my cheek, marking an eternal scar, covered with a huge sweaty, dirty dressing, running from the lip to the lower eyelid of my left eye. "I was helped, still inside the train where it happened, by a surgeon. Then I went to the hospital in Bordeaux and from there we took the train here. "After that, the weight of a bloody day walking took the best of me. We woke up at five o'clock the next morning and ran to catch the train that made us continue our journey. They stayed there, still sleeping. What happened to those people we offered food to and who, with a smile on their face and a cosy tenderness, sayed "No thanks. Ours is enough. "? I just hope it was enough.