Since daybreak we have been staring listlessly at one another. The metal floor and the walls of the train are hot to the touch, and the bucket of water we passed around an hour ago has been emptied. That hasn’t prevented several of the children from tilting the bucket up to their mouths in case a drop was somehow missed. We ate, oat cakes and something resembling dried meat. I gave my cake to the child across from me, and my meat to the child’s sister. I am not a saint, I thought that it might make the two children sleep if their bellies were full, or at least more full than they have been for the last few days. I was wrong, they both still cry softly to themselves, and I wish I had eaten the cake and the meat. But their mother looked at me with tender eyes, and we smiled. In a place like this.
A place like this! It is the refrain of the man next to me, he repeats the sentence incessantly, talking to none of us, or all of us. It’s hard to tell, and I suspect it doesn’t matter. A place like this, he says. Could you believe it, and why us?
Why are we still alive, a man three people down and across from me asks. They always kill the men. Everyone knows that. These days they do. And it’s true, I nod as he speaks, but I don’t say anything. I don’t want to think about how I can hold the strange feeling in my mind of being confused about why I have not yet been murdered, but I can. It was surprising a day ago, but now it has become normal. I wonder: Why am I still alive? For what purpose and to what end?
The sun comes through slats at the top of the carriage. It close to noon. One of the crying children have fallen asleep. She is sucking her thumb. Her mother, whose name I do not know, presses her finger to the girl’s cheek, wets her finger from the child’s tears, and then puts her finger into her mouth. I watch her – what use, shame? – and I do not judge. I’m thirsty, too.
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The above piece of writing comprises part of my fragments project, some of which are available on this website. I intend to add new fragments piecemeal, not in any particular order, and as the occasion take me.