The Ostrich
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He really did look like an ostrich with his thin protruding neck and his long dangling arms. He walked head craned forward, raised eyebrows, wide tentative steps. His hair was light in colour, sticking out in a large Afro that swayed when he moved, matted flat at the back of his head as if he was too lazy to reach that far with his comb. It was when we were in our second year at University that he descended upon our class, after we had sorted ourselves out into groups, after we had set labels on each other. He should have been in his fourth year, but he lost two years when a speeding car knocked him down. His body healed, but his eyes were permanently damaged and they remained large, bleary and unfocused. They placed him in a world which he alone inhabited, where everything was fuzzy and everyone saw him as unclearly as he saw them.

'Why were your bags so heavy?' Majdy was asking.

'Because of the grapefruit I got you, bags of peanuts and the white plaited cheese that you like'.

'So from the land of famine you bring me food'. Again the sarcasm, the mocking tone but I knew he was pleased. They were things that he liked, things he secretly missed.

'It is not as bad as they make it out to be on TV here, or not in Khartoum anyway. Normal, I suppose, weddings, funerals, but still a feeling of depression. Everything is so expensive, the whole concept of money has changed. And everyone wants to leave. Every family I visited had someone abroad. In the Gulf, in Egypt, in America. Remember your neighbours Ali and Samir?'

'The ones with the white Mercedes'.

'Mercedes or not they're away too. Ali in Bahrain and Samir in Norway. Imagine Norway where he had to learn the language, and his sister and her husband are busy filling in forms to immigrate to Australia'. I laughed. It was like a scramble.

'That's what I keep telling you. There's no future back there and if people who were much better off than we were are not coping, how can we ever cope if we go back? I am doing the right thing, sticking it out here in any way that I can'.

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