Dream October 2012
I was a gypsy child last night. My skin tanned by countless days beneath the sun of our forest. Only about 13 or 14.
When the soldiers come and separate us, I recall glimpses of running through the tall grass and beams sunshine turning my old memories white and hazy. They force the parents into the meeting tent and surround it with their guns. They tie the children together in rows between the trees. The boy I love sits beside me, his hand shaking in mine. His dark curls frame his face as he looks at me. Somehow, I am braver. I nod, not daring to speak as bombs explode on the hills near town.
For some reason, I know what will happen. I am cursed with wisdom too old to belong to a little girl. I know that this is war. I know the adults will be corralled in lines and shot in the head. I know by morning blood will soak the floor of our forest home. But my love is frightened and has no idea what lies before us all. The younger ones cry, the older ones swear under their breath. But my foresight casts a silence upon me and all I can do is turn my head up to the sapphire night sky. I try to count the white pinpricks of stars and squeeze his hand every few seconds to make sure he’s still there.
A large soldier comes strutting out of the tent. He is a mammoth, taller than any man I’ve ever seen. He wipes the blood from his hands with a handkerchief but he’s missed a spatter by the immaculate line of his blonde hair. He slowly walks down the aisle of children, looking down on us with contempt, as if we are slime beneath his boots, as if we are sickly animals he might catch disease from. He stops before us when he sees our clasped hands. His lips curl into a smile and he has more teeth than could ever fit into my mouth.
“Ah, the little gypsy has caught himself a girl.”
The man chuckles, amused by the sight of us dogs masquerading as real people. “Well, go on then, gypsy boy, make her a woman.”
The boy I love looks up to the man for the first time, not quite sure if he’s understood the monster’s thick accent.
“Hurry up, then. Hump the little bitch!” the man demands, the ice of his stare piercing through the warm eyes of the boy I love.
He shakes his head and looks into his lap, his hand shaking in mine. The smile drops from the man’s face. His eyes open too wide. He unholsters his weapon and points it into my face. The boy I love drops my hand at once and stands. The barrel of the man’s gun lies against my forehead and I am not afraid. The boy I love looks to me, tears welling in his eyes. I nod. He needs my permission to save my life this way. He walks behind me, puts his hands on my hips and moves his own in the way that makes the soldier cackle. He thoroughly enjoys watching the little animals pretend to fuck. He slaps his knee and hoots in a language we don’t understand. The boy I love holds my hips far enough away so I wont feel even a brush of his pants. But the soldier grabs a fistful of my hair and yanks me forward to double over. My boy does not boil with rage. He does not suppress an urge to fight the man for how he’s touched me, for what he’s done to us. He simply does what the man asks because he wants us both to live. The soldier grows bored of us and turns on his shiny heel to leave.
My boy and I fall into the cold grass. The silent tears slide down his cheeks and I look back up to the sky.
After some time, the sun rises. The soldiers have gone and more people come. They say they are there to help. They shuffle the children out of the bloody forest and lead us to a house. A mansion filled with other children like us, gypsies, outsiders, orphans. They bring us to the basement to shower and the boy I love is led away from me. We look into each other’s eyes, memorizing until we cannot see each other any more.
I stand under the stream but never feel wet. When I am done they hand me a white cotton robe. It is softer than a swan’s feathers and is a striking contrast to my own skin. I explore the house of refugee children, some play, some read, some cry in corners where they think they won’t be seen. And among a wall of finger paintings and clumsy drawings, I see scribbles in my own language, words from an old song our parents used to sing.
the lark’s song has died
and frozen the clover
my love has gone silent
the sweetness is over
Photograph by Julien Sister