EMMA and her Sister

Emma and her SisterEMMA and her Sister by Maria Fokas

She watched me as I took pictures of the castle of St John in the old town of Rhodes. Dressed in a white dress-like costume, and white powdered make-up covering her face, she sat before the gates, waiting for the tourists to flip a few coins in her brown cardboard box. I could not but notice the way she looked at me, and then she spoke:








–          You can take a picture of me if you’d like.

–          What’s your name?

–          Emma, she said with a smile.

–          What are you dressed as?

–          An angel.

–          Take a picture of me, she said again.

–          Are you sure.

–          Of course I’m sure.

–          And what would you like in return, money?

–          No, not money, I want something for me.

–          I’m listening…

–          I want something to eat.

–          Any preferences?

–          Two gyros and two cokes.

And I headed for the nearest  food shop, I could find. When I got back, she seemed surprised to see me.

–          You came back, she confirmed.

–          Why wouldn’t I?

–          It’s common not to.

–          You think you have enough room for all this food?

She lifted her head and looked behind me in the distance.

–          You see that girl across the street playing her xylophone?

I turned around and saw a fragile little girl staring at us.

–          That’s my sister, you can give her one of the gyros and a coke.

And I did.

–          How old are you? I asked.

–          11

–          And your sister?

–          13

I don’t know why I asked, but for some reason, I felt the need to know.  I watched her take her food out of the bag, and begin to devour it. Her sister didn’t touch her food.  She just continued playing  her instrument. And then I felt the urge for more meaningless questions.

–          Where are your parents?

–          Around.

–          Do you go to school?

–          No, we don’t do stuff like that.

–          Why?

–          My dad says school serves no purpose.

–          No purpose? It helps you think.

–          Thinking brings about sorrow.

–          And dreams?

–          I dream every night.

I felt numb, and all the knowledge in my head could not help me make sense to her. I knew I had said too much, hoping that it meant something;  knowing that it did not. Two little girls sat across each other in a reality different from mine,….and, bystanders, observing them as  merely part of the landscape being photographed. I looked into her eyes and smiled, hiding the pain only failure brings on. And then she broke the silence.

–          What are you afraid of?

–          The list is long, I said.

–          Then I’m luckier than you, she giggled.

–          Aren’t you afraid of anything?

–          Only the cold, and hunger.

With a handshake we said goodbye. I felt a sadness knowing I will never see her again. What a peculiar thing to feel.

At the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights, two little girls sit opposite each other hoping for kindness…and millions more elsewhere – In a presence of a fate they cannot escape;

I hope for change – but I fear, it will never come.

© 2014 Maria Fokas

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