Seeing him smile, Malik asked ..... “Why smile, my friend?”
“Thinking if I’d ever felt as cold as this before, and remembering the sprouts” said Daniel.
“What are sprouts, my friend?”
“A vegetable, I don’t think you have them in your country ~ they are something like
يذكر الكرنب ? My Arabic is not so good”.
“I understand - like “little cabbages” my friend?”
Daniel nodded, holding his thumb and finger to show a round ball the size of a sprout.
“When I was a young boy – around 14 – I went sprout picking one morning. It was winter, and had been snowing ~
you know “snow”? like dry white rain? ~ and although I put on 3 layers of clothes I was so cold after only an hour or so – freezing fingers, runny nose, freezing ears, freezing toes – that I gave up and went home” …….. “
I was trying to remember if that was as cold as I feel now”.
“This cold different, my friend – is dirty cold, miserable, hurt your bones … you feel it 3 nights now – after many nights, like we have, you would know is different”.
Malik looked around and said “Right my friends?” then spoke rapidly in his own language, ending with a throaty laugh.
The others in the cell nodded, clutching their thin clothes more tightly around them.
“How long have you been in here now?” asked Daniel.
“Me, 43 days – him the same, him two month maybe, him maybe two weeks, him more than me, he here when I came, will be when we are gone – no-one for him, he is alone”.
Daniel sat quietly, remembering that morning in the field, and how the foreman had took pity on him and gave him a pound as he left, and said “Don’t worry, lad, it’s not for everyone – at least you tried it”.
He’d gone home, glad that his father was out at work, and told his mother that they had too many turn up so the youngsters were told to go home. “I see” she’d said, “then best do something useful in the garden, so you’ll have something to show your father and stop him asking questions”.
But it hadn’t worked. His father had been angry, called him a wimp, would never amount to anything, too fond of books and such, and, as usual, had thumped him and sent him upstairs.
I wonder what he’d think of me now – in jail in Jeddah for driving without an ikama and stupidly arguing with the police. Not much probably.
Malik touched his arm, and said “My friend, sit close with me, and we can help each other keep away the cold”.
Daniel shook his head, remembering what he’d seen last night, lying there awake, trying not to see.
“Do not worry, my friend – it is only to keep away the cold – you are too skinny - too white for me – like a chicken” and he laughed again.
He took Daniel’s arm and pulled him closer.
The next morning Daniel woke up still held in Malik’s arms. “You slept all night, my friend – no demons like the other nights”.
“Thank you” said Daniel, “you’re a good friend”.
“So one day you can remember this cold, my friend, and remember me, yes?”
“I will ..............
Malik, when do you think someone will come?”
“For you, maybe today – in Jeddah, 3 days to check every place - they send someone local - not foreigner, you could be gone today – send one like you, they keep you for another day for make them laugh .. make them smile”.
They came for Daniel later that day – not John or Abed but a local man that he didn’t know.
As he left the cell he turned to Malik and asked him if there was anything he could do for him, or bring in for him.
“Nothing - you bring they will take for themselves”.
“There must be something I can do” said Daniel.
“There is, my friend.