Jasmine walked with me to the dining hall when we heard the bell. She spoke good English with a beautiful and clear accent. Before we met, i had never known or heard about any Country called Eritrea.
Not that i was so good with country names in Africa but i knew the popular countries such as Cameroun and Ghana and even the Sudan and Ethiopia she mentioned while we were at the field.
The Eritrea must have been a small country or new for me not to have heard about it.
“Why are you here?” Jasmine had asked me on our way to the dining hall.
I didn’t know if it was safe to tell her why i was there but since i figured out she was also a prisoner, i decided to tell her anyway.
“My friend and I were on our way to the Sea when we were arrested. They brought us here after the arrest” I had said.
It was as simple and short answer as it could have been.
“I am sorry about that” She had said.
Sorry for what? Why was she sorry?
She was also a prisoner.
“Thanks” I had said and kept quiet.
She had looked at me and said nothing; i did the same too.
When she looked me square in the face again, i felt she was expecting me to say something.
“What” I managed to utter.
“Would you like to know why i am here?” She asked politely with a smile.
Oh that, she wanted me to ask why she was there.
“Yes, please tell me” I said.
“Our country is at war with Ethiopia since last year” She said. “We have gained independence from them since 1993 but they haven’t allowed us to enjoy the new freedom. Their military men come to our villages and kill us, rape our women and burn our houses. Many of us ran to Kassala in Sudan and lived there. We hoped that things would be better so that we can return to our country but it became worse, so we started to come to Libya so that we can go to Europe from here too” Jasmine had said.
She clearly enjoyed talking.
It was difficult to tell her age but i suspected she was a little older than me.
Since i didn’t know all the places she had mentioned, i Decided not to embarrass myself by asking more questions but when we finished eating our food, she continued telling me how they were arrested.
“That is my sister there, and my brother” She had said while pointing at a group of four people standing together.
“We came all the way from Teseney in the Gash Barka Region in Eritrea. They have killed so many people there. My father decided to stay back and fight with the people, so we prayed for him and left. When we left Kassala, we took vehicles to Altbara in Sudan. They arrested us there and put us to prison but when a lawyer came, we were released and were told to leave Sudan. So we decided to go to Egypt through the Nubian Desert. But they arrested us again at Wadi. They told us that the Egyptian Army will shoot us if we cross the border. After trying three times to cross over to Egypt without success, we decided to come to Libya. We got to Al Kufra Libya after five days before our money finished. We were Arrested there and brought here. We have spent three months now but we hope …” she was saying.
“What, how many months?” I interrupted her.
The three months had suddenly caught my attention and shook my brain.
What did she mean by three months?
Did she actually mean that she and her family members had spent three months inside that facility?
If that was what she meant, then i could spend that too.
“Yes, three months. We have been here for three months but i heard that the President Ghadaffi had instructed the responsible authorities to release people from war zones with immediate effect. It means that we are going to be free” She smiled.
“But what is going to happen to me?” there is no war in Nigeria” I had managed to say with croaked voice.
She was honest enough. Rather than giving me a false hope like i was used to, she bluntly told me that she didn’t know what was going to happen to me.
That was it. There was no way i was going to stay blindly in a Libya prison without a slight knowledge of how long i was going to stay. It was never going to happen. I would kill myself as soon as possible. That was just the best alternative. As for spending one month there, not to talk of three months, that was never going to happen.
I was already in tears five minutes back before Jasmine realised i was no longer paying attention to her Geography lecture.
“Hey, why are you in tears, is everything OK?” She had asked when she found out i was crying.
She had asked if everything was OK.
How could she have said something like that?
How could everything be OK when i was locked up in a prison without any offence.
Or did i commit any offence.
Wait, i did.
I was going to venture into dangerous waters of Mediterranean Sea and was arrested for being an illegal alien in another Country.
What was i expecting that would happen to me if i was arrested?
Was i hoping that the Libyan authorities would give me a big hug for trying to cross the entire length of their Country into the Mediterranean Sea without authorization?
I brought all that was happening to me on my self and i figured out it was hard on me because i had never experienced such difficulties in my life.
Beside me was another human being who was in the same situation as me, even with some members of her family and yet, she was calm and hopeful.
As i cleaned my eyes with my handkerchief, i told Jasmine that everything was alright.
“I am Ok, just that i can’t imagine myself spending months here” I said.
“Hey, its Ok. Its better than being killed. You must give thanks to Allah for everything. You will be free someday and continue your journey” She said.
I thanked her and nodded as we walked back to the spot where we were throwing our ball aimlessly earlier.
Jasmine had helped me a lot in the three hours i already spent with her. She had been able to divert my mind from thinking about Nina whom at that very moment, had not come back to the facility.
I wasn’t even sure she would return.
” The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live”