“Shahkam, hurry! We mustn’t be seen! ” My mother said in an undertone.
“Wait, mama! I need my necklace!” I replied.
“You needn’t a necklace, Shahkam. You are a boy!”
“But mama, it is a gift! From the King! And I’m sure people in Canada wear them!” I pleaded.
“No! We must leave! We can’t afford to miss the ship. It’s our only chance to get out of Iran!” She sounded irritated.
“And sit in a refugee camp for a year.” I said testily. Then my tone changed. “Can we at least say goodbye to Grandmamma?” I sobbed.
“We can’t. But she left us a note.” She held out a battered envelope addressed “Farah and Shahkam”, and I began to sob harder.
“Shh…” She said as she raised her finger to her lips, then put her hijab back over her head. She took my hand and pulled me in close, and whispered faintly in my ear; “Let’s just hope this is worth it.”
There were people everywhere, bustling around trying to board the ship. I was tightly clinging to my mother’s arm, so I wouldn’t get separated from her. I was so scared, yet relieved to finally be leaving Iran. Sure, I would miss my extended family and my few close friends, but in the end, I think it’s worth it. I had no idea how long it would take to get there, but I knew it would be a long and hard road. The bustle continued, pushing me harder and further, tripping me up. We were getting closer and closer to the ship, and it really began to sink in that I’m leaving, forever. Only as I reached the ramp to the ship did I see that there were no railings, and so many people pushing. Beginning to panic, I tried to stop, to go back, though I knew I couldn’t. The ramps were only about 2m wide. I could hear the screams as some were pushed off, falling into the deep blue water.
I reached the ramp, observing that it was only a few pieces of wood nailed together. I tried to steer my mother and I towards the middle of the ramp. My heart was pounding hard against my chest. I didn’t want to fall. I pushed harder towards the middle before I was pushed forward. Thankfully, we were in the middle, although people either side of us were stumbling at the edge. We were pushed through, entering the side of the boat. I let out a sigh of relief and we were escorted down a hallway.
The interior of the boat had a strong, bitter smell, causing a burning sensation inside my nose, continuing down the back of my throat deep into the pit of my lungs. A large man was guiding us down the hall, taking us to our dormitories. We walked, and walked, and walked, the boat was like a labyrinth. Eventually, we reached a large room, with a huge iron door. The man stopped at the door and beckoned us forward, through to the room. It was dark and dank inside, and there was no furniture, only old, soggy looking mattresses. The man roughly cleared his throat before speaking. “My name is Amjad. While you are on this boat, you will stay here. Meals and amenities will come to you.”
I had no idea how many days I had been on the ship when...