The heat tangles between us, clinging onto our skin in syrupy droplets. My cousin presses into my side, fanning herself with an old newspaper. Arabic clouds together, and I try not to lose myself in the cursive writing, knotted with stories of bombs and deaths. The cries haunt me, bleeding every time I see another one of those blurry pictures.
“How much longer?” I groan to my aunt, who sits on my other side. It’s been ten minutes that we’ve been waiting in this small car. The driver, a thin teenage boy with wild curls, hums random notes to a song. He glances back, frowning, as I groan once more.
The cars tail behind each other, honking endlessly. There’s some shouting, a couple of greetings. The brick buildings that line the side of the road are painted cream, peeling from the decades. Some kids, dressed in shorts and soccer jerseys, climb around the cars, squealing as they chase each other through the burning thickness.
I shut my eyes, hoping for the car to move. The unknown lady who sits in front, wearing a purple headscarf and painted lips, keeps complaining to our driver, who just ignores her. I lean into my cousin’s shoulder, the heaviness weighing me.
Soft rapping at the half-open window wakens me. I turn, and suddenly face a pair of chocolate eyes. That’s all I can think, for a moment. I swim in their waves, awed at the beauty. Then I see the face: bronzed and smooth, smudged with scarlet and dirt. Tiny round nose, dried lips. Purple staining one cheek, a faint scar on the other. Frizzy curls matted with dirt spiral around the young face.
I rub my eyes, as she raps once more on the window. I hear her pleading in imperfect Arabic, pleading for a couple coins. For anything. Our driver just continues humming. I look back to my aunt, who doesn’t say anything. Dazed, I pull some crinkled bills from my bag and slide them through the window. The girl pulls them from me eagerly, willing God to bless me countlessly, and limps away to another car.
“A Syrian refugee,” My cousin whispers to me sadly. I don’t say anything back, watching the little girl beg in zigzags.
Finally, the cars ahead of us begin to move, and the woman in the purple scarf lets out an annoyingly long sigh. We drive past the brick buildings until they’re nothing but smudges of peach. I fall asleep with the sticky wind blowing into my face.
Hours later, when we get to our apartment, I sit beside my grandfather, watching him read the newspaper while I chew on dried dates. I read the headlines blindly, following the words as they hiss right back at me. My grandfather turns a page, folding it backwards, and I see a picture of a small boy. No older than the girl from before. Skinny. Blackened cheeks and a torn shirt. And then … the eyes. They’re everywhere. I’m drowning in these chocolate oceans.