[Media prompt] Italy migrant crisis: Charities ‘colluding’ with smugglers.
The Passion of Sienna
Sienna watched him climb the netting dangling over the side of the ship. He was bare chested, and his black arms were knotted with muscles as thick as the rope he scaled. She felt what her grandmother might have called a swoon, stepping back to watch him land lightly on the wooden decking. He looked at her.
“It’s true, then,” he said, speaking in thick English.
“What’s true?” asked Sienna, meeting his eyes with confidence. She was thinking what she herself knew to be true; that white men looked unfinished, incomplete, compared to blacks. That blacks were manly, more … more worthy.
“You Western women,” he said with a sneer. “You eat too much.”
And then he was gone, following the others tramping down below for water and a meal. If she was her grandmother, she would have fainted from the feelings washing over her. One of the American interns whose neck looked like it would snap under the weight of his dreadlocked head asked if she needed some emotional support. It took all she had not to break his arms and tell him that his concern made her sick.
Now came the hard part, but that was the captain’s job. Even so, the next few hours would be tense. If the Italian navy spotted them before landing, there would be problems. They had a half-a-dozen journalists travelling with them who could be counted on to get out the story if they were boarded. The right story. But these days, you could not depend on the right story alone. Brexit. Trump. Le Pen. Things had changed. She looked out over the dark water, the smell of salt melting into the musky odour of violent sweat stained men.
She saw him later, standing at the stern with five or six others. He wasn’t the tallest, but he was the leader. The others listened to him, hanging on his every word. She walked casually along the railing, one eye on the starless sky, the other on his group. When she got close he stopped talking.
“Go away,” he said, spitting loudly. “This is men’s business.”
She started to say something, a comeback about there being no place just for men, and that those days were over, but she stopped herself. She heard them laughing and talking in Somali as she retreated. She wondered what he would say when he made love to her.
Sienna went up to the bridge. The head of Migrant Care, Dr. Epstein, was there. He was talking to the captain, and as she stood waiting for them to finish the lights of Pozzallo blinked in the distance.
“Two hours,” said Dr. Epstein. “It’s going to be fine. Without you, none of this would happen.”
He was referring to her negotiations with the smuggler, the one who brought the Somalians into the Mediterranean. In their rickety little boats for five thousand a head.
“Not a problem,” she said.
But in her mind, she was already in the Somalian’s arms.