Jones had always been a religious man. Or so he believed. He knelt in the cramped space and prayed. Prayed for his family, for his colleagues, for himself. When he had finished, he looked up and realised Sarah was looking at him, her expression one of disgust.
“Do you remember March 21st, 2014?”
Jones struggled to remember. March 21st? There was nothing special he could remember about any March 21st, let alone as far back as 2014.
“People were arrested for praying outside Scott Morrison’s office. You don’t remember that?”
He had no recollection.
“You were all hypocrites”, Sarah spat out. “Claiming to be Christians yet treating vulnerable people with unbelievable cruelty.”
Jones opened his mouth to vehemently deny any involvement in adverse treatment of asylum seekers at any time: he decided that may not be sensible. Whether people thought he was Chris Bowen or Scott Morrison really no longer mattered for both politicians were to blame for the deaths on Manus Island: the deaths, the injuries and the illnesses.
Sarah turned away. The hypocrisy had outraged her back then. It outraged her even more now.
Jones was hungry. Hours had passed since food had last been issued, yet he dared not ask. There was nothing to do. Nothing to read, nothing to write. No computer, no smartphone, no television. Space was at a premium. The pregnant woman was often in tears as were many of the little children. Sarah seemed to be one of the few sane passengers, but he wondered how sane he would be after a few more days of this. He took a sip of the precious water and tried to sleep.
Once his eyes closed, memories played like a movie in his mind. Images of the reports from Nauru and Manus Island flashed, as did images of frightened children and pregnant women. He cursed quietly to himself: why had Sarah brought these memories back? They had made the right decisions back then, they had been sure of it!
Maybe, Jones thought, Jimmy would have something he could do to keep busy. He needed something to occupy his mind. He secured his water ration as best he could and stumbled to the deck, cursing his bare, soft white feet. The deck was crowded from bow to stern. Some people were violently seasick, others were huddled in miserable groups, the fear palpable.
He saw Jimmy near the helmsman.
“Jimmy, is there anything I can do to help?” Jones ventured, “I need something to do to feel constructive.”
Jimmy stared at Jones, the distrust in his eyes clearly evident.
“It is best you stay out of the way. I’m damned if I know why Robyn even gave you a place on this boat. I wouldn’t have.”
Jones got the message and turned away. Robyn? The name was vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t remember why or when. Presumably the woman in the small house with the gun in her hand had been Robyn. But who was she other than a people smuggler? Jones stopped in his tracks and stiffened. It suddenly dawned on him he had used the services of a people smuggler. But she is saving us, he thought to himself, she is saving us. The reality of his situation compared to the reality of the people they had persecuted so long ago hit home.
Jones was an asylum seeker at the mercy of a people smuggler. His shoulders slumped and he felt a tinge of regret. The first of many he would feel in the days to come.
Continued at The rain seemed relentless