Truth and silence

By Karima Qias

I put the last bite of my dinner in my mouth and kiss Ben. I have to leave immediately to catch the tram. ”See you later,” I say.

I hurry down the stairs and put on my shoes. I take long steps to arrive at the station on time. The timetable shows that the tram will arrive in two minutes. I look at the roundabout and then to my wristwatch. I raise my head. I see the tram curling up around the roundabout. It is the same tram me and my brother used to take to go to the city center. The tram stops at the station. I pull myself together and wipe my tears.

I get in and take a seat. I look through the window and see a young man waving at me.

– ”Ca va, mademoiselle ?” asks a lady who is sitting next to me.

– ”Oui, merci,” I answer.

As the tram moves the smile and gaze of the young man disappear, but I literally smell my brother’s overcoat. A few stops later I get off the tram and start to walk. I turn the key and open the door.

– ”Hey Kathrin, hello kids!”

– ”How are you dear?” Kathrin asks me.

– ”I’m fine,” I reply, but I am not sure I am saying the truth.

– ”Oh, I have to hurry. They had dinner about an hour ago. Take them to bed at about 8 o’clock, please,” Kathrin says.

– ”Okay, don’t worry.”

– ”Charlie and Mia, Karima is the boss and you have to listen to her, okay?” Kathrin continues.

– ”Okay mum, see you!”

Kathrin kisses them and leaves.

– ”TV time is over! Now please brush your teeth and go to the bathroom,” I say.

– ”No way! I want to see the movie,” Charlie says.

– ”Me too,” Mia adds.

– ”I’m sorry! Here is your toothbrush Mia, and this is yours Charlie.”

The kids are jumping up and down on their beds and ignore me.

– ”Charlie and Mia, it’s bedtime,” I say. And I remember how much I loved to play with my brother when I was their age.

They giggle and say, “No, it’s time to play.”

– ”But your mum said that I am the boss, you have to listen to me,” I remind them.

– ”No, we are the boss! You have to come and play with us,” they reply while playing and laughing.

– ”What?” I laugh at their sharp riposte.

It is already 9 pm and I have to catch the tram in an hour. The kids are still awake. It seems that I have to deal with them differently. I will play “the King of Silence” with them. We played this game the very last night with my brother. The night he had to leave. We could not sleep until dawn.

– “Alright, kids! Let’s play a new game,” I say.

– “Hurray! What game?” they answer cheerfully.

– ”It’s called ‘the King of Silence.’ You go to bed, lie down, and keep silent for as long as you can. Not one word! If you speak, you lose! Whoever keeps silent the longest is the winner.

– ”Okay!”

– ”Let’s start right now,” I say.

After two minutes of silence, Mia asks, ”Karima! When will mum be back?”

Charlie bursts into laughter. He turns to Mia and says, “You lost, loser!”

– ”I forgot,” Mia says.

– “No problem. We will play three times to see who is the real King of Silence. Let’s start again!”

After a few minutes, Charlie asks to stop the game because he needs to go to the bathroom. Meanwhile, Mia falls asleep. Charlie comes back and we play again. Kathrin wakes me up 15 minutes later. I had fallen asleep myself!

I have to leave the sweet world of childhood and step into a dark street that leads to the tram stop, to the world of reality in which I hide the memory of migration and separation.

26 August, 2022