We stand in the field in our uniforms, our identities wrapped up under our labels. Volunteers in our grubby jeans and colourful jackets and muddy Docs, van keys dangling from our necks, phones in steady hands filming. Filming the CRS and police in their riot gear, balding heads and covered identity badges, truncheons in hand, tear gas in pockets, filming us on their personal phones. In between, a group of young men, boys, bambinos, women, children, in black jackets and dark jeans, hoods up against the cameras, eyes stinging from chemical agents, ripped tents flapping in the wind. Another day and nobody achieves their objective, and nobody gives up.
The wind never fails though. It whistles through the flat muddy fields, spreading teargas and pain and anger.
A song comes on the radio. I’d love to say it is some profound little known gem, but this is French radio, and also this is me, so it’s mainstream pop.
I hope someday we’ll
Sit down together
And laugh with each other
About these days…
I picture a table, somewhere, in glowing sunlight, eternities from now. We sit, me and the officer who arrested me this time last year, and the boy from Eritrea who reached across the campfire last Sunday night to say he remembered me from then, grasping my hand and thanking me for the solidarity. And countless other individuals, lost souls who glare at one another across a patch of greying grass. Stripped back, no uniforms, no language barrier, no border, we talk, and we listen, and maybe even laugh at the futility of it all. Not just Calais, but all of it. When we’re all dead and gone and this is just yet another scar on the carcass of the Earth, maybe then we’ll talk.
But for now, we stand. We stand in the field of broken tents and broken dreams, our journeys meeting abruptly at this cold and tired intersection. We stand in a field in Calais and fight riot gear with our voices, paradoxically grateful for the laws which protect us and angry at the laws which force us to be in this situation, again and again and again and again and nothing changes. New faces in old, tired fields, old, tired faces in muddy mounds, death and boredom and just enough hope to keep everybody moving forward. Or trying to.
All we have is each other. The winter fades at long last into spring and the sun lights the exhaustion in our faces. We dance in a circle, and for a moment forget where we are. We sit around the campfire until 3am, drinking coffee. We drive around in the early hours of the morning, because nobody else will. We hug like old friends several times a day. We cry.
We feel small and sometimes that feels like a burden.
And other times, it’s a relief.
“When thinking about your reaction to the strikes on Syria start by listening to Syrians” – some Syrian perspectives to follow on social media as a starting point:
Featured image: Charlotte Head, Help Refugees