The Barbarians

It was dark now. Jacqueline hadn’t eaten since the flattened chocolate bar she’d found on the step outside the pharmacy. Her mother would have called it God’s will, the fortune of finding food just when it was most needed; just when she didn’t think she could stay upright any longer, here was food. The grace of God, her mother would have said. She would have said it for the fortune of the airplane. And she would have said it for the man with the truck. And the fruit pickers in Murcia. And the woman who had the brother who drove another truck. And the Senegalese girl in Alicante who helped her up when she rolled off the park bench in her sleep. Who took her home to her family, who fed her rice and chickpeas and gave her water. The grace of God, her mother would have said. For the woman who found her unconscious in the sand on a beach somewhere outside of Valencia, who walked her to the sea and cleaned her face with a dishrag smelling of glass cleaner, who bought her coffee and two sweet magdalenas. For the Moroccan men who were arrested while she walked undisturbed onto the ferry in Valencia, for the cove in Palma, where she found cardboard boxes and a dirty blanket folded on a flat stone. On and on her fortune went.

And for the man who’d beaten her on the beach? For the diarrhea? For the absence of food? For what had been done to her sister? We pay for our sins, for the sins of others. Anyway, we can’t understand.

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