The Trespasser





       – A dozen baklavas, please – she ventured asking trying her best to sound intelligible in her incipient new language. She tried twice. Discouraged, she turned back to her friend, but did not find him by her side. The street was flanked by prolonged rows of portokali-canopied stalls whose groceries, sweets and hardware paraphernalia spilled over a narrow inner corridor packed with a majority of amblers who, inadvertently, frustrated the rush attempts of some few. She tried to spot him amid the bustle. There he was, talking with two policemen. She felt her heart clench. She left the stand and rushed towards him. He was smiling. – No worries – she thought to herself.  – Yes. Yes. I will go tomorrow for sure. Couldn´t do it in the weekend because the offices are closed. – Ok. Fine for this time. Bye. They left. – What happened? – They wanted the white card. I showed them and they told me it wasn´t valid anymore! I had completely forgot it has been six moths already. But I´m smart, you know. I realised it´s Sunday. So I am safe. For a moment they stared at each other, and then laughed. – Alright. Now I need your help with the man of the baklavas­.

She had arrived what she thought on time to help him and his mother prepare lunch. She was back in town for some days and all they were exited about the visit. She found them in the same room, the one at the far end of the hall. As usual, first they had coffee. As she raised the glass for the first sip, the scent of cardamom brought her back. It had not been more than a few months, but to her it seemed a long time ago.  They needed some tomatoes and coriander so he asked her to go grab them together. The weekly street market was just a few blocks away. – A dozen baklavas – she tried once more. After a brief tussle, unavoidable across those cultures that surround the Mediterranean, he paid. – Of course I wouldn´t have let you. Besides, he is a friend of mine. He works in one of those shops in the square. He owes me some favours. He still hasn´t paid me back the SIM cards I helped him to sell, back when we were both in the camp. Although he always brings me cigarettes. – I see. Nothing like reciprocity. I always wondered about the prodigious amount of smokes you take per day. They laughed.


So amused, so fond of each other, they headed back. Round the corner they came across a queue of people. – Are you hungry?   Let´s wait for a bit. She looked at him inquiring. – Oh! You didn´t know this place? They give croissants everyday. She looked at the people around. – I see… but I think I shouldn´t…­ – Come on. It´s free. It´s for everybody! At the queue, a lady approached them.   – Doctor told me she has the medicine for your mother. Go pick it up. – Great! Which doctor? MSF or the other doctor? – The one from the clinic. They left the croissant and set out to the place. The clinic was on the third floor of a rather dull housing block if it was not for the profuse-vegetated terraces along its perimeter. Some people were seated in the hall that served as a waiting room. The person at the desk, presumably the administrator, smiled at them when she saw him entering. – Let me go take your parcel. It arrived early this morning. The doctor says she should take one of the red ones twice a day and two of the whites before going to sleep. It was quite of a mess for the doctor to get those, but we are lucky, she finally made it. – Thank you so much. I was starting to worry. She has been so tired lately.

When they got back a laundry-van was by the entrance. Two washing machines and a tumbler were in motion shaking the blue-dotted vehicle. – Oh! I need to bring mine. His mother was not in the room. – She must have gone to the church. – To the church? Oh! I thought you told me you were Muslim – Yes. Yes. We are Muslim, but there are no mosques, so she goes there to pray. He took a bunch of clothes stacked in a box on the corner, went down and came back with a t-shirt and two shampoo bottles. – The guys in the shop told me we just received a new delivery of clothes, bathroom products and diapers, loads of diapers!

A bit drowsy, a bit uneasy, she found herself making her way back along the big avenue. Many of the lamps hanging from the net of cables that crossed over the street from side to side were off. It occurred to her that she could do that journey fully into the dark. An instant after, the slight unrest in her brought up another thought. The lunch had lasted the rest of the day. As usual when in his company, she had lost track of time the moment she entered that room of his and his mother. Today, in an area she had frequented a lot, she had discovered a city she thought she knew well. Until she had come back, her friend´s city had been mostly hidden to her  – she realised. She set herself the resolution of getting to know it during the days she had ahead. Yet, that little inner turmoil still did not go away.

Reaching her hosting neighbourhood, she found five policemen in her way. – Must have been riots tonight­ – she thought, and immediately found herself hesitating about whether to go through those men or not. The burden of fatigue at the end of the day determined her decision. – Should I have strayed away? – She thought at her doorstep. – What if I have missed another of his places? – She asked herself, going indoors.