The young man stared at me. Like me, he knew that something was amiss. A young girl who no one knows who is wearing someone else’s shoes. The translator spoke to the girl, pointing to her shoes.
I saw the girl’s body freeze for a moment before she answered. The translator said, ‘She not know who shoes. She find shoes.’
‘Her clothes clean, she is stranger, she find shoes…?’ I didn’t know what I was getting at. The girl was perhaps seven or eight years old, she was clearly terrified and alone. I put a hand on her arm and she flinched.
‘Sorry.’ I put my hands up to show her I meant no harm. ‘Sorry.’ I looked to the translator. ‘Where are her parents or friends? Where is she from?’
The translator spoke to the girl again, a little harshly I thought. I wanted him to ask her her name. Without asking her, he said, ‘Nadia.’ He saw my confusion and explained, ‘I asked her before.’
‘Ok,’ I nodded. The bombing only started half an hour ago, but everyone was already suspicious of everyone else. Usually the suspicion kicked on later, after people had got to safety. But that was before Bosnia, before warfare changed. Before Bosnia; before traffiking and slavery. I should trust my fellow escapees.
Everything was quiet. Among us and beyond us.
‘Safe?’ I didn’t know why I looked to the translator. He didn’t answer, so I thought I would offer my name to cross a bridge towards him. ‘I am Mathilde. Who are you?’
He barely looked at me when he said, ‘Ahmed.’
Of course. That was not his name, and Mathilde was not mine.
This is the second part of this story. The third and final part will be posted tomorrow.