Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fear is a part of survival (December 2001)


      Saranda really missed Jack and Kathy. She hadn't seen them from the Citizenship ceremony. She only exchanged few words with Jack that evening. He was all fed up with George's nagging and worried about Kathy. She had no time to describe Kathy's mysterious appearance in front of the Council and promised herself to tell him about it later. But there was no later. Saranda sometimes absend minded picked up the phone to call him, but decided against it. Ded refused to buy her a mobile, which he called a modern teenager's disease. She hated the idea of having a conversation with Jack, with all her family around. Somehow it didn't seem appropriate.

    "Hey, are you deaf?" Dardon entered the living room: "Mum's calling you one hundred times, she wants you to take the finished hats to Dora's."

    "Sure," Saranda sat up hanging the phone down.

    "Who are you calling to?"

    "Mmm?" Saranda was still staring at the phone: "No one, and anyway none of your business," she stood up gazing out the window on the darkening sky: "Tell Mum, I am ready."

The bus rolled and wondered through the dark streets. She delivered the hats to the Abuh Ahmed's wife and stayed for a while to drink tea and pray. She supposed to work on the joined assignment with Doha, but excused herself with a headache. Doha observed her quizzically but didn't press any questions and Saranda was grateful for that. She turned around to see her standing sadly in front of the Abuh Ahmed's white house. Her white veil was flattering gently in the evening breeze. Saranda lifted her hand to wave, but it was too dark to see if Doha waved back. Oh, there it is. The bus stopped in halt and she quickly got off. She entered the station in a hurry and quickly jumped in the train leaving for Fremantle. Looking out the window on the passing lights of dark suburbs she thought about Doha again. She was a good friend btu there were things she couldn't understand. Saranda couldn't explain it even to herself, her need for freedom and acceptance. Not only among her Muslim friends, but everyone. The train stopped on the final station and she hurriedly jumped off. Walking through a cappuccino strip she tried hard to remember the name of the street where George lived. I think is this one, she told herself and turned to right. Looking at some lighten up appartments she thought about Jack. He would understand. Finally her eyes caught the familiar George's balcony. All she had to do now was knock on the door and say: "I need to see you, Jack." But it would be embarrassing. She knew she couldn't do it. While she yearned for Jack to notice her outside, there was also a part of her that dreaded that. It was a very strange thing that you could both want and fear something at the same time. Saranda stood there for a while starring into dimly lit window and then turned back.

Entering her home again she felt plainly stupid and tried to avoid the noisy living room, but Dardon crossed her path excitedly, before she had a chance to disappear in her room:

   "Guess what, Jack called you, right after you left, he wants to meet you tomorrow at 4 pm at some beach, he said something about a crab or something, you supposed to know which one."


   Jack was approaching her form the ocean, big waves splashed around him unnoticed. One look at his face told Saranda that something is wrong.

    "Hey, your board, mate," One of the passing surfers showed the surfboard to him. Jack's face lit up for a moment as he touched one thing he knew and understood.

    "There isn't any trouble at home is there?" Saranda asked carefully when he was close enough to hear her.

    "Yeah, I'm the trouble, I left Kathy in a deep shit to help my father to feel good about himself," he looked at her sharply, a thousand of drops from his wet hair were dripping on her shirt: "Is that answer your question?"

Saranda shuddered from cold: "Kathy doesn't need you, she told me anyway, she is happy for you to be back home."

    "How do you know?" He snapped back: "Why is she in hospital then?" Jack shook himself violently.

    "Was she injured in some accident?" Saranda asked in alarm ignoring the cold shower.

    "Yeah, the accident she directed herself."

    "What do you mean, was she upset because of that terrorist attack?"


     "September 11, they blame all Muslims for that," Saranda added sadly.

     "Oh, that stuff," Jack shrugged: "Can't say I've been following it."

They watched ocean in silence. Suddenly Saranda reaized what he meant: "She is in hospital because of drugs, isn't she?"

     "Bloody Freo Hospital, they didn't allow me to see her...cause she is in a critical condition and I am not her close family, bugger it," Jack kicked the sand and rushed up the hill leaving her behind.

Saranda ran after him talking to herself: "Why she keeps taking that stuff, that sort of things can kill you and anyway it's against ..."

     "Against what?" Jack suddenly turned to her savagely: "Your God probably, you know, that stuff is her God and only God she knows." He waved his hand impatiently" Anyway how could you understand, I have to go..." Jack turned around to continue in walking and his last words were lost in wind.

    "I try to see here," Saranda caught up with him: "Where are you going?"

Jack told her. The name meant nothing to her. Soem excellent surfing spot in Secret Harbour. She watched him to leave with others. Saranda looked around the deserted beach like she had been here for the first time. No, they had been here one time before, the three of them...but that was so long ago it was hard to imagine that it really happened.


Lost in her thoughts she left the beach behind and entered one of the side street. An old lady was watching her from her flowered front yard. Her pale eyes under the wrinkled skin were full of contentment. Saranda smiled at her wondering if she would ever find that peace.

At the far end of the street she was stuck in the middle of traffic noise and rushing people. The silver roofs of the hospital shimmered in the distance. Suddenly among the strangers she recognised the familiar dark face. The kind smile unveiled the missing front tooth.

     "Uncle Toby," Saranda waved excitedly rushing through the busy street toward him.

An approaching car stopped in a halt and annoyed driver shouted obscenities on her.

    "Mija Kajii's friend must be careful, there is no time yet for her to let her spirit go," he nodded thoughtfully and continued on his way to the hospital. Saranda nealry lost her breath trying to follow his lanky old figure in a shabby T-shirt and thongs. Once in the hospital hes swift walk changed to shuffle and Saranda watched in a surprise as he stood patiently near a reception desk, waiting for a busy receptionist to take notice of him. She ignored him for quite while. Finally he was instructed where to go and Saranda shyly followed him. The second floor was full of Aboriginal relatives who shouted greetings to Uncle Toby. He pushed her forward ignoring their suprised looks.

To Saranda's amazement he took the veil, she gave to him on her visit, from his pocket and waved at everyone: "She is Kathy's friend, Mija Kajjii's friend."

She entered the disinfected room with four hospital beds and smile embarrassingly at the lady lying on one near the door reading 'Women's Weekly.'

    "Saranda is that you?" Kathy waved at her from the bed in the corner rattling with her infusion tube:
"What the hell yu doing here?" She looked white as the room around her but her eyes were full of life as always.

    "Kathy, what's happened?" Saranda sat on the plastic chair next to her: "Are you all right?" She smoothed the blanket, avoiding look at Kathy's arms full of red patches: "Jack worries about you and your family..."

    "Yep, they are here all the time, I've shouted at them to leave me alone for a while as these stuffy ones constantly complain..." She spread her arm as wide as she could with the attached infusion to point on the three ladies on other beds, who tried to ignore her, changing the looks of discomfort over the magazines.

    "But why, Kathy why?" Saranda looked up closely at her.

    "Why, why, you nagging like auntie Annie," she suddenly turned to Saranda with her characteristic cheeky grin: "Listen to this," she coughed little bit to clear her voice and started to proclaim slowly: "These are my eyes, this is my brain I don't need to get hooked on any drug or alcohol to feel happy and relaxing."

Saranda nodded seriously and Kathy burst in a wild laugh.

    "You see, everything is fine, under control...I can stop if I want to..."

     "Do you?" Saranda kept looking at her closely.

    "Oh, stop nagging, drop it and tell me about Jack..."

    "Sorry girls to interrupt your conversation but it's time for a needle, excuse us," the middle aged nurse came in and swiftly started to close the white curtains around the bed without interrrupting her talk: "Kathy you and your lot have to understand the rules, no more visitors." Saranda jumped out of the seat and touched Kathy's hand in a hurried farewell.

    "Saranda," Kathy's voice changed suddenly sounding more like a little kid's plea for help: "I am scared."

    "Calm down, Kathy," the nurse kept talking to her soothingly while preparing an injection: "There is nothing as frightening as fear itself."

Without thinking Saranda took her golden chain off her neck and placed it gently in Kathy's opened palm: "Just be happy yourself again, this golden sun can help you, do you remember my story?"

Kathy starred at her without reply.

Saranda quickly turned around to hide her tears. Before leaving she looked back to see Kathy examining closely the golden sun. Her eyes shined strangely.

Saranda hurried down the corridor ignoring the group of Kathy's relatives still talking near the exit door. Uncle Toby was nowhere to be seen. The little black girl in a billabong worn out T-shirt pushed the glass door for her. She had Kathy's cheeky eyes and curly dancing hair, but her face was full of childish trust and innocence, which Kathy had already lost on her way to adulthood.

Once outside the hospital she took a deep breath and touched the empty place around her neck. Her Granny would understand. She would like Kathy to be free from the demons of the present and the past.

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