Papers Please

They’re brown round the edges.

They remind me of the white rose petals I once pressed so carefully in a volume of poems. I forgot them for all those years and then I opened up the book one day and found them edged with brown. It was as if their life had leached out as my hope faded.

That was the day I packed my bag with a few things to remind me of you: the jewellery, the little toy, that book of verse. I walked up into the van and handed over all that cash and all those miles later they handed me my papers.

Or rather papers with someone else’s name.

And now all I have left is the book with its fading petals. The toy is safe, don’t worry. It is tight in the arms of a lost, lonely girl, just a child, who was brought to join me one morning. The jewels are long gone, paying over the odds every step of the way.

And at the last moment, they left us here. Left us with other people’s papers, a teddy, a book of verse and no hope. They told us to wait. A man would come and look after us. I had not realised I was a fool until that moment.

He put us carefully enough in the car and drove up that narrow, winding mountain pass. Was the view beautiful? I don’t know, all I could see was the ugliness of my future.

What was I thinking when I attacked him as he drove along that lonely twisting road? Did I ever think I might kill myself and this poor child as well? Perhaps I thought that would be a better fate than the one he was driving us towards.

But somehow we crawled free, limping and bruised, while he has been shredded through the car’s windscreen and crushed against the rock face. The road is still deserted.

With trembling fingers I found his lighter and ignited his jacket and the seats.

Somehow I will find you. The girl is clasping the teddy you bought me, her thumb in her mouth, silent as always. I am hugging your book with its crumbling petals.

Our false papers are left on the car seat. The edges are first brown, then black, now blooming into red flowers of flame.

We will go anonymous and nameless.

But I will find you.

 

papers-please

Words and photograph copyright 2017 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

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