I have seen you before, hovering at the edge of the crowd, watching as if I was a rare specimen in a zoo. Does my burqa frighten you? Do you know under this black cloth that I am fifteen? I like to dance and listen to music with my friend Marim.
Marim’s father is rich and will send her to England in two years to study engineering at University. I ask Mama if I will go to University too, but she only sighs. I have heard her talking to Khalid Faizul. He is old and fat, and he stares at me. Marim says I should come with her to University, but I know I will never be allowed to make that choice. Khalid Faizul is rich, and he wants a young bride to bear him sons.
Take my picture and know that underneath this burqa I am not so different from you. But my life will never be my own.
The train gains momentum as it moves down the tracks. I am not so fond of trains as when I was a boy. Then they seemed like an adventure; now only a necessity.
I hear voices behind me. American voices. A girl says, “Mommy! Mommy! It’s just magical.”
“Hello, Monsieur.” A little girl with blonde ringlets and wide blue eyes appears before me. She gives me a wide smile. “What’s that?”
I smile. I have not smiled in a long time, and my muscles ache with the effort. “It is my treasure.”
Her mouth opens in an “O” before her mother leads her away with a quick apology.
I think of another child with dark hair and eyes. My joy. Gone for over seventy years now, she lives only in my heart. Taken from me by another train. Now I carry her mother, my last treasure, to meet her in the air at Treblinka.
They say that climate change stuff’s gonna get us in the end. Could be. Snow don’t lay right in the mountains no more. Weird kind ‘a fog comes over them in the spring. Real fast like. Sometimes it just creeps on you like your eyes is wrapped in gauze. Then the dark comes on and the world turns blue, and it seems like anything’s possible. Like that afternoon Earl and I was out. One minute the sun was bright and yellow in the sky; the next, the world was hidden behind a blue-gray veil.
That’s when we seen them. Walkin’ in the mountains, just across the Divide, we see the woman and dog, just walking. Earl even got his fancy binoculars to be sure. We called and called, just to see if she needed help, but the fog got real bad. When it finally lifted, well . . . she was gone. And her little dog too.