I came to this country, to a city full of opportunities, from the dark pit of depression.
I came from a place that had no hope, no dream, no inspiration. From a place that was as cold as a snowy Siberian winter, as hot as the summer of a Libyan dessert. From a city that had corrupt politicians, from a country that had a brutal dictator, from a world that had no law and order.
I came from an unforgiving hell in search of a heaven than none in my family had ever witnessed before.
“One big break, one big break,” I whispered to myself as I hopped onto a plane on my way to a bigger country, a better country, a country full of opportunities. I’d taken every last bit of savings my parents had. “There is going to be a miracle!”
I arrived. I passed through Customs and got to the city. I stared at the tall buildings with amazement. The roads were clean, the parks were beautiful and the women were to my liking.
Where I came from survival was the most important thing. Education, love, passion were mere words murmured by the highly privileged, those whose fathers took bribes and whose mothers wore expensive clothes. Those who lived in a well-furnished, well-protected, artificial part of the city free from all the filth the rest of the city produced.
The privileged knew their fathers as hard workers, their mothers as chaste. They had been told stories of how their parents crawled out of the dirty pits of the rest of the city and gained the positions they currently occupied.
But still the privileged felt very unfortunate, as unfortunate as the half-naked teenagers from the overpopulated slums, as unfortunate as the boys whose fathers abused them, as unfortunate as the girls whose neighbours raped them. They felt kinship with the jobless young men fasting to save money, the helpless and forsaken young mothers struggling. The privileged believed themselves to be equal in their suffering.
Despite having everything, they felt like they had nothing. Why? They didn’t know.
After weeks in the new city, I ended up in a tiny, cheap room that I shared with three other guys in a neighbourhood full of brown men and white police officers. The room had no window but a lot of smoke, no music but a lot of noise. It was not a place I wanted to come home to after a long day working for below minimum wage. I’d meant to save and eventually enrol in university, get a student visa, work my way to permanent residency and citizenship. Instead my visitor visa lapsed and I could barely scrape a living. I was a non-citizen in my country of hope.
As the days went by in a room where I could hardly breathe, laying on a dirty bed full of thirsty bedbugs, eating packet ramen and whatever was cheapest at the supermarket, changing jobs after not being paid and abused, I heard the news of people like me being deported. “There is going to be a miracle.” I kept muttering to myself. I needed there to be.
Where I came from the underclass of the city hated the privileged, blamed them, cursed them. They did not, as the privileged did, believe themselves to be equal in their suffering. Every time they saw them in their shiny clothes, their expensive cars, they seethed. When they saw the tall tidy shopping malls and nifty expensive restaurants from the outside, they felt a splash of anger taking over all of their senses. They remained half-starved; for food, for choice, for the humanity they’d never been allowed.
The underclass of the city felt cheated. Both those who were fortunate enough to go to work every day and those who weren’t alike prayed daily for the miracle that would make them rich one day, make them the proud father of a couple of spoiled teenagers, the husband of a beautiful, virginal young daughter of a rich powerful man, the owner of a couple of attractive mistresses. They dreamt of money and food and beautiful women, but most importantly, they dreamt of power, the only entity that allowed a man to survive in the unforgiving city. And I’d been one of them.
On a beautiful morning, when the sun was shining so bright it almost penetrated through the walls that shamelessly concealed the ugly secrets of my adopted city, I heard an unexpected knock on the cheap apartment door. I opened it with shaking hands and saw two police officers standing there, badge in hand, hard metal weapons in their holsters. I realised my time had come.
Before they could utter a word, I slid past them and ran. I climbed up the stairs. The officers followed me. They shouted but I couldn’t hear what they said. I ran, up, up, all the way to the roof, closer and closer to the cliff, repeating the same prayer I had all my life. I looked down from the roof of the 24-storey building. A miracle. I needed a miracle.
I saw the officers coming closer and closer. I felt them pointing a gun at me. Like a predator approaches her cornered prey.
I looked over the edge, looked at the officers, looked at the sky, looked at the gun, looked down over the edge again. I had a moment of clarity. I finally saw what my big break was. I understood what I needed to embrace. The miracle I’d waited for all my life had at last revealed her sweet self like a burlesque dancer reveals her curves. I finally had my way out. I smiled. I walked off the roof.