Even though I knew the anniversary was coming up, it still took me by surprise over the weekend when posts began to appear once more about Mawda. Two years ago, shot dead by the police in Belgium. Two years old. Two years old. I will never not be shocked, heartbroken, furious. Nearly more time has passed than she had on this planet. More time has passed than I was even in Calais.
When it happened, I had already decided to leave, but this consumed an already difficult few weeks. Mum was visiting, and before the news broke we’d set out to have a nice day trip to Ghent. But on our way, the motorway was blockaded in protest. Slowly over the course of the journey, the news trickled in. Ghent was lovely, but we didn’t last long. The news was too horrible.
Summer 2018 was a summer of grief, surging and crashing in waves, trauma, guilt and exhaustion. It was a summer of work, trying to move forward. But it was also a summer of joyous fun and incredible memories. I hold onto these like treasures, stand-alone signs that I would be ok. Things would be ok.
And they were. Summer 2019 was a joy. The first two months of 2020, incredible. So much promise for the rest of the year. In early 2019, I didn’t believe that plans later in the year would happen. In early 2020, I couldn’t wait for what was to come. They slipped through my hands, through all of our hands, washed away down the drain by the current pandemic. But the good times will come again, I know this now.
It’s now May 2020 and we’re two months into lockdown (and hurtling towards June). I can tell I’m triggered when I dream that I’m getting a ferry back to Calais, although I often manage to stop myself from actually going. I made it back last week though, across the Channel, to the warehouse, round the back towards the media caravan, greeted friends. But when I went into the warehouse, I was at a high school assembly. Distracted again, just.
We had to pull Info Bus out of Calais abruptly in March, but hopefully it will be back on the ground again soon. Plans are in motion. Solidarity with my friends still there, ploughing on.
Last week, a man died in hotel accommodation in Glasgow. Adnan. I sit at home in my parents dining room trying to make sense of it all from my work laptop screen. How do I respond as SRC. How do I feel. Do I know him. I’m writing about something I can’t see, surrounded by rolling countryside which I appreciate but which hasn’t changed in years. I’ve been spared much of what my friends and colleagues in cities are experiencing, but then, how can I write about what’s going on if I can’t see it. I have no answers. I don’t have my usual distractions. My thoughts swirl, get lost, intrude.
A warning sign. With triggers flying – Mawda, two years since I left Calais, this latest tragic death, the chaos of the past few months, the disappointment of a year unfulfilled, the pressure of work, to keep going, to stay ahead of what’s going on – it’s time to rest for a bit, take stock, breathe. I can’t distract myself through work when work is so closely linked. Looking forward to a spot of time off next week, even if it will mostly be spent on the sofa.