Flight from Casablanca

May 12, 2020

What a pretty and wasted face! It sat on top of a neck all wrapped up in a burqa. I was tempted to rip the robes aside to look at the beautiful body that must be carrying that face. The baby kept looking up at her as if she couldn’t take her eyes off. She was trying to get the baby to sleep. After all, it was close to midnight. The flight to Ghana was supposed to take off at 1am and the passengers looked a spent and sorry lot. I kept popping mint after mint into my mouth in defiance of the smell I was sure would be rising from being up all night and having no one to speak to.

The girl holding the baby was part of a group. She refused to join them. There were four women and two of them had babies. They seemed to be wives of a man who wouldn’t show himself by staying close to them or speaking to any of them. I was keenly watching out for him but he remained resolutely hidden.

But she was spectacular to look at. Her face was a mass of emotions. She looked like a caged specimen, anxious for freedom but totally unsure how to bring that about. So, she would squeeze up her eyebrows in anger, and purse her lip in resentment. Her eyes darted from corner to corner looking for her route of escape. And all the while, as if her burqa and the harem were not enough prison, the baby gazed up, demanding attention. She gave her no food. Just swung her from arm to arm as if to say ‘I don’t know where to put you; I can’t put you down but I can’t let you stay in this arm’.

I felt truly sorry for her. In my suit, book open and spectacles perched on my nose pretending to read, I was sure we were kindred spirits in many ways. How I longed for escape from parts of my life that simply strangled! From the routine of driving three hours every day to and from work and not sure of when this routine it would end. From watching everything I ate or said because of the desire to achieve a certain result from good food. Escape from portions of my commitment to work and family, ministry etc etc. I was sure my eyes darted like hers more often than I had cared to recognize. But the moments of longing for escape can be all the more frustrating because the other parts of the same package are too good to put the entire bowl down.

I couldn’t walk away from my commitments to ministry when I knew that I love God with every heart beat. I was made to walk with God and I enjoyed prayer and being in church. Should I pretend disinterest in ministry so that I could spend the time on only myself? Take and not give back? Find excuses in work and home not to be and not to do?

And could I leave my job? My position was one of the few protected by the Constitution. And finally writing the judgment brought such a sense of contributing to right! What more did I want? Well, I wanted different many times and often. So my unnamed girl and I squirmed in our burqa and suit.

Escape. My mind was dragged back four days. I remembered the flight out to London from Casablanca, four days earlier. A gathering of young men was sifted out of the group queuing to board the flight like bad beans from a cup waiting to be cooked. They were obviously West African. Their bad? It had to be established without any doubt that they were not trying to escape Africa into Europe. So their papers were turned every which way. Quiz after quiz followed. I wanted to see the outcome. But the bus waiting to take the entire load to the plane had come so I had to go. I did not notice them on the plane. Were they set loose to continue the journey in better safety than many who cross by land and water? Or they were sent back to where they came from? I don’t know.

Then our flight was called. She joined her group but kept her body turned from them. In the plane, the three other ladies sat in one row and she sat three rows from them. I wondered how she got that seat since their boarding passes must have been given to them in a group. Well, she managed to. That is the important thing. This damsel seemed determined to escape and was doing it in little jumps.

When we reached Ghana, she walked with them into the bus and sat away from them in the bus. I smiled. Perhaps the answer lies here. Do what you have to do, live each day in your place, but find the little places of escape.

The next morning, I ate breakfast at the Golden Tulip. I went without a thought for anyone. I focused on salads and fruits to start with. Then hit it full time …. Croissants, milky coffee and a binge of sausages! Don’t wince….

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