The street is full and people are walking me by like I am not there. In the first days I thought they didn’t see me. I thought they were busy, in a hurry, on the phone, but they are not. They are not seeing me on purpose. They intent to avoid me. Mohamad is walking up to them, raising his hand to them, begging them for anything they can spare. But they avoid him.
The language, the food, the clothes, the houses, everything is different here. When Fariq told me we were leaving Syria I objected. The war was still far from us and the children were too young to travel that distance. Besides, neither of us had ever crossed the border before. But Fariq insisted and we left.
I was 16 when my father choose Fariq for me, and he has been a good husband. I gave him four healthy children and he provided for us and kept us safe. He does not spend money carelessly; he does not lie and he honours his family and his religion. He is firm with the children and sets them a good example. In turn I respect and obey him.
His cousin got him a job in construction here, but he barely made enough money to feed himself, let alone me and the children. When he got injured no one helped him. The hospital turned him away. I went to an office his cousin knew about – a group of foreigners who sometimes gave money to Syrians – but no one spoke my language. When a stranger translated for me it seemed they wanted papers from the doctor before they gave me money. But the hospital had turned us away!
The children were hungry. My husband was in pain. When Fariq told me to bring Leila and Mohamad to the street and beg for money I objected. It was too dangerous. I pleaded with him, cried, begged, but Fariq insisted and we went.
Now Leila is finally asleep in my arms. She seems to get smaller every day, even her cries get weaker. I worry for her, and for Mohamad, but we need the money foreigners give him.
He comes to me. I see he is tired, I see he is hungry, he wants to go home. I tell him to go back to the street. To the cars. To the foreigners who ignore us. My son sighs, cries, complains but I insist and he goes.
— The names are fiction. The story is a combination of true events.