I had read about the growing number of racial slurs that have been taking place in different parts of England targeting immigrants in the aftermath of “Brexit”, I was afraid for Jori and had told her that she wasn’t allowed to walk or ride her bike to school and back any more, it wasn’t safe. We agreed I would drive or walk her to school and back every day until we left this country for good as soon as the school year was over. I was having a rough week, feeling emotionally low, with zero vitality, sleeping poorly and having vivid violent dreams. In most of my dreams Jori was lost or taken from me, I would wake up screaming, panting, gasping for breath, wet with perspiration, reaching out into the darkness and emptiness of my room.
In the day time, I tried my best to stay afloat, my concentration weak, my focus laboured and exhausting, my limbs felt heavy my physical movement almost painful, I’d peel myself out of bed feeling so tired as if I had been mountain climbing rather than resting! I’d try to go about my day, checking things off my list: contact shipping company to have all my paintings shipped to my new home in Dubai, contact utility companies, tell my GP I’m relocating, find best quote for the sale of my car, give unwanted items to charity, etc.
It was time to bring Jori from school, I drove to the spot where I meet her every day, outside the school gate, the children flowed out in large groups, at first I wasn’t worried, Jori always came out later than the other children, when I showed irritation about it in the past she said it always took her time to pack her things! But now I was a bit anxious! I saw almost all her friends pass me by walking towards their parents. I felt a knot in my stomach, the groups of children coming out of the gate were now patchy and infrequent. Where is she? I turned off the ignition and started to walk towards the gate, but if I go inside the school I might miss her somehow and we’d both be looking for each other in panic, she might not notice the car, she might think I hadn’t come for her! I began to pace back and forth worried, quick short breaths, my heart pounding, my mind switched on panic mode: something happened, something happened to my child, I dropped her off near the gate this morning but I hadn’t seen her (actually) enter the school, did something happened to her in the morning? My child! Where is she? There were no more children coming out of the gate now! I can feel my brain send an order for my feet to start running towards the school gate, but my feet were made out of lead! They were so heavy, everything was in slow motion now, it’s a dream my heart yelled, one of those awful dreams we’ve been having, we’ll wake up soon! But I didn’t wake up, as I tried to run shin splints shot spasms of immense pain straight to my heart each time my feet came in contact with the ground. There were people around, but I was completely alone, my throat was so dry, I was so thirsty, the sun seemed to burn the top of my head, how did the few yards between where I was parked and the school gate expand endlessly like this? Why can’t I reach the gate? Why am I not getting any closer? I’m trying so hard! I saw Jori’s teacher peer outside the gate with that “one last look to make sure all the children and parents are gone before I lock the gate”. I tried to say something, but no words would come, she saw me and immediately recognised me, she frowned, surprised that I was there! I tried to read her face, was she surprised because Jori had already left, or because she hadn’t been to school at all today? The latter was something beyond my ability to consider, the seconds were so slow, so vast, I opened my mouth, she opened her mouth “Are you Okay?”. “Jori” I said panting, gasping “I was supposed to meet here there, over there” I pointed, failing to keep my voice normal, quivering and shaking almost allowing my tears to choke me. “She didn’t say, she left.. maybe 10 minutes ago, I thought she walks home or rides her bike home?” I didn’t have time to explain that I had forbade her from doing so since this stupid political turmoil had begun and there was no short way to explain, so I just ran back to my car, I had to drive home, to see if she’s there, or half way there. The painful distance between the school gate and my car stretching before me once more, endless and mocking. I heard the teacher yell: “you can call the school of she’s not at home”, but that wasn’t something I could even think about! I don’t know how I got home, but I did and she was there, tearful, scared “I’m so so Sorry! Mummy, I only remembered you were picking me up after I had walked half way back.. I didn’t know whether to turn back and go to school or to just come here and wait, so I continued home”. I stared at her, my eyes bulging, every bone in my body shaking uncontrollably, the pain in my limbs crippling me, my mind trying to leap from “the most devastating thing that could ever happen, my worst, most horrible, most terrifying nightmare coming true” to “it’s okay, everything is fine” and it wasn’t an easy leap to make. My heart, my poor, sad, trembling heart, my tired heart, my weary already broken, already shattered, already bruised, already aching, already suffering so much, did what it does best; reassured me and kept me alive.