Three by Judith Dickerson-Nelson
Outside the Barbed Wire Fence
You crept out with the other boys in search of wood, sticks to carry, a means to cook the rice that kept you alive. When you slipped back inside, you heard the ruckus behind—crises of someone caught and pleading with soldiers. They made him dig a hole just outside the fence, making sure everyone could see, hitting him for being too slow. They buried him up to his neck, made a fire where he could watch, and boiled water. It would be too much to describe the scalding water poured over his head, the sound of his screams, skin melting, his face turned faceless, and you, young boy, turning away.
At Site Two Refugee Camp only Girls were Given Food
You were nearly twelve, on the cusp of becoming a young man if not for the persistent starvation that left you rake thin. Your high cheekbones and full, pouty lips made you look sensuous, and with your straight black hair grown out, you could pass. You wrapped a sarong around your small waist, your maleness hidden beneath, and set out to claim food for your family. You held the ration card in your long delicate fingers, a passport to life. Along the way, Thai soldiers watched and stopped a few who might have been your friends, might have been boys you played soccer with. Made to strip right there, they were discovered. Soldiers beat the children, treating them like stray dogs kicked for pleasure. You heard the crack of broken ribs and the screams of young boys at your back as you continued on the dirt path, hunger driving you past the fear you could not show in your eyes.
Roll up sleeping mats, gather what your family owns—rice bowl, utensils, the cooking pot and food rations left. Tie these possessions in a pack and prepare to run. Dusk comes fast and UN workers depart as light fades. Then the race commences, again. Bandits or soldiers—does it matter which—chase you and others around the camp, an insane game of cat and mouse where they steal what they can and rape who they want. You know that terror comes in many forms, and the insomnia that will haunt you for the rest of your life reminds that night stretches long and sometimes it makes sense to fear the dark.