2 : Jamil

"The sea isn't really blue you know."

A buzzing bee zoomed past and settled on a nearby flower, working carefully to prove she was not human and never would be, but most importantly would never choose to be.

"What do you mean?" someone else asked.

The 'someone else' was a slim youth, around the same age as the other boy, with khaki skin, short black hair and a face which could only be described as cheeky. He had his arm around the other and held him close in the dimming twilight.

"I dunno," said Saleem, "I just read it somewhere, I think it reflects the sky?"

"That's rubbish," the other boy laughed, "your head is so full of rubbish!"

He poked Saleem in the ribs and bit his ear lightly.

"Hey!" Saleem cried, "Lay off Jamil, just because I actually read books!"

"Pfft, books. Who needs them when they make everything into a film anyway? They ruin your eyesight do books."

"And watching films leaves your eyes completely intact does it? Wow, I didn't realise you used every sense but your eyesight to watch films Jamil, you really are a marvel!"

"Shut up," Jamil laughed, and kissed Saleem tenderly on the cheek.

Saleem lowered himself on the bench upon which they were sat in the park and lay his head on Jamil's lap. The other boy stroked his hair and gazed up at the sky as stars began to appear like sprites in the summer dusk.

"Do you ever dream Jamil?" asked Saleem, also looking up past the other boy to the twinkling stars.

"About what, my dear?" he asked, with use of exaggerated formal French.

Saleem sighed and held Jamil's right hand in his while the other one still ran itself through Saleem's hair.

"What life would be if we weren't us. If we were different people with good lives, who had reasons to smile and didn't have so many problems caused by other people."

A small bird flew into a tree behind them and began chirruping noisily.

"I don't understand," said Jamil, "We're in a rich country, with money and food to eat. Sure we have our problems but it's nothing compared to what we'd suffer if we were still living in Algeria. Fuck Algeria man, there's nothing for anyone there."

"You know what I mean," said Saleem softly with a sombre note to his voice, "They'll never accept us, what we are. No country between Turkey and Pakistan accepts our kind, and Algerians… well fuck, they're the worst."

"You talk about Algerians as if they're someone else, I hate to break it to you love, but you're one hundred percent Algerian, not even a trace of Moroccan or Berber blood to you."

Saleem hoisted himself up and spoke without looking at his companion.

"That's just it, I'm not one of them and probably never will be. I'm just…"

"…such a coconut!" Jamil finished.

"I'm not joking," whispered Saleem, standing up and began walking out of the park. Jamil got up and followed him and walked beside him.

The birds were making a complete din now and the occasional one whizzed above startling them a little in the cover of darkness.

"Look," said Jamil, slipping his arm around his partner's waist, "You have me, don't you? Don't I make it just a little bit bearable? Hmm?"

Saleem stared at the ground as Jamil leaned closer and pulled him forwards into an embrace.

"It's lucky I'm Algerian, my dear," he went on, "what Frenchman could understand us? We need to stick together, and remember I'll always protect you. Because you're mine for ever, and no one can take that away from me."

"You talk too much," Saleem laughed, but held the other's head in his hands and kissed him full on the lips there in the darkening street.

"I fucking love you, you little faggot," Jamil laughed, pulling the other closer for a second kiss.

Suddenly Saleem burst out laughing, and broke off from the embrace, holding onto a nearby fence to steady himself.

"What the hell is wrong with you, boy?" Jamil quizzed, "you lost it entirely?"

"It's… just…. th…th.. ," but he could not complete his sentence and fell to the ground in hysterics.

Jamil stood towering over him, with a face like a thundercloud.

"Oh, help me up," Saleem gasped, the laughter subsiding a little.

But Jamil just turned on his heel and began striding down the street away from him.

"Don't be like that Jamil!" he said, scrambling to get up and then running towards his lover.

Saleem was on the floor of his front room coughing and gasping as punch after punch came from above, hitting him in his already badly injured ribs as well as his legs and face.

His entire body felt like it was on fire.

"FILTH!" his father yelled, "DISGUSTING PIECE OF FILTH!"

His mother was screaming for him to stop and kept getting thrown back herself as she attempted to subdue her husband.


"He's your son!" Saleem's mother screamed.

Her husband turned round to face her and raised his arm as if he would strike her too but then dropped it and stormed out of the door.

On the floor a cockroach ran across the wooden floor and Saleem began to drift out of consciousness as he saw the cockroaches multiply and engulf him like a vast sea of dark brown.

He was on a train to Lyon.

In front of him was a parcel covered in red wrapping paper tied with thick brown string to contain the irregularly shaped contents.

The woman in front was eyeing the package with a hungry look upon her face.

Saleem stared back into her dark eyes and noticed her frayed, brown hair with hints of grey showing in places.

"Español?" she asked, finally breaking the silence.

He stared back at her, keeping silent. Regardless, she began speaking incessantly, pointing excitedly at the package in his lap and running her long fingers through her parched hair, which now appeared to be moulting all around her in handfuls.

Saleem opened his mouth but no sound came out.

His eyes opened and as the cracked white ceiling of a bedroom stared down at him, he realised that he had never even been to Lyon.